Books

Melville's Prophecy of America in 'Pierre'

Herman Melville decided to follow-up the confounding labyrinth of a novel, Moby Dick with a true mind fuck of a work, the novel Pierre; or the Ambiguities (1852). He wanted to take risks, even with a sick wife and a new baby and negative reviews piling up for his whale novel. Unfazed, he locked himself in a room for hours at a time, barely eating, eager to mine the delicate strata of his creative psyche within the character of the young precocious Pierre. This "Kraken" of a novel was meant to surpass Moby Dick through its sheer linguistic versatility (which it does) whilst at the same time endear him anew to critics and general readers. It did not. Dismissed by disgusted critics, ignored by his readers who only wanted to read novels about sailors and Polynesian topless hotties, the work ultimately did him in, permanently damaging his writing career (already faltering like a snake-bit cow) from his whale novel.

In Pierre, Melville vitally connected the America's disintegration by capitalist greed, prophesying its ultimate negative impact on the dynamics of the American family. The family unit weakened, the community fails begetting a cesspool of economic/spiritual/ physical decay. Melville keenly addresses the offensive grandstanding of our nation's leaders, of "political institutions" who "in other lands seem above all things intensely artificial". It is America that seems to "possess the divine virtue of natural law; for the most mighty of nature's laws is this, that out of Death she brings Life". Yet, for Melville, there lies hope in the individual staying strong among the defeated: "if in America the vast mass of families be as the blades of grass, yet some few there are that stand as the oak; which, instead of decaying, annually puts forth new branches." Right on Herman...

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

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Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

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Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

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A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

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Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

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