What I'm Reading
The High Window, Star Wars Annual, The Atlantic
The High Window by Raymond Chandler-
I'm a big fan of Film Noir, a series of grim black and white films shot mostly on the cheap for a brief window of time after World War 2 (A few pre- 1945 films The Maltese Falcon, This Gun for Hire helped establish the trend.) The gritty pulp writings of crime fiction authors like Dashiel Hammet, James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler served especially well as templates for films in the genre. In addition to seeing the films, I've read Cain's most famous works on which they were based; The Post Man Only Rings Twice and Double Indemnity, both taught and sexy thrillers that last no more than 130 pages and whose big screen translations have become staples of the genre. I'm a big fan of Hammet's The Thin Man as well. Yet, before reading The High Window, I hadn't explored the writings of Raymond Chandler. Chandler's most famous works feature the chain smoking, disillusioned realist Detective Phillip Marlowe. While Marlowe's name might not be as famous as Sam Spade's or Mickey Spillane, I would argue that Marlowe has made a more indelible impression on the pop culture tradition of the anti-heroe with a moral compass that's right twice a-day than any other. Somehow Marlowe works when played straight and hard nosed by Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep but also free and easy going by Elliot Gould in Altman's ultimately respectful send up The Long Good Bye. A young man of thirty in the novels, the Marlowe personae also transcends age when played by an elder Robert Mitchum in the 1976 nostalgia film Farewell my Lovely. Every Picaresque outsider in modern film from Wolverine to Dr.House to Martin Riggs owes a debt to Chandler's character of Marlowe. The character's hard boiled inner monologue manages to turn a fairly perfunctory and far too labyrinthine plot with a rather contrived ending into what feels like profound musing on the confusion, needless violence and waste in the post industrialized, oversexed world of Los Angeles in the late 40's. More than the character itself Chandler pioneered that idea that the journey through the underworld is ultimately more revealing and interesting than the big reveal moment in which the mystery is supposed to be paid off. In that way films and books like The Big Lebowski, Burn After Reading and Inherent Vice. Chandler's work has left an indelible impression.
Star Wars Annual #2 by Jason Latour & Michael Walsh-
This is another well fashioned Star Wars yarn taking place during what must be a seemingly endless time loop between the events of A New Hope and the Empire Strikes Back. But with the rebooting of the expanded universe by Marvel comics in the wake of The Force Awakens I suppose I can find room in my brain for more post Episode 4 stories. This great little story is the type that would have been published by Marvel in the late 70's but without all the redundant dialogue bubbles and captions and the artwork is much more confident and streamlined than anything Howard Chakin or Carmine Infantino put out in that exciting time when the parentage of Luke Skywalker was still up for debate. To be fair, Walsh is one of these new school artists born in the late 80's straight out of deviant art.com who regularly updates his Instagram account with fun pop culture sketches, an artist who grew up awash in Star Wars merchandise and VHS tapes and most have a certain familiarity with these characters unlike the former teams who only had press kits and recollections of multiple cineplex viewings to work from. Walsh has a wonderfully fluid familiarity with these characters and is fantastic at crafting fun expressions and movement almost cartoonish in their execution, he's clearly of the Bruce Timm, Chris Samnee school, of which I am also a big fan. This is a great little comic, well colored and briskly written, the perfect diversion.
The Atlantic, "God's Plan for Mike Pence"- Mckay Coppins-
This is a juicy little expose of Mr.Pence, obviously the more salacious portions of the article should be taken with a grain of salt but the main gist of the piece- the parts that analyze the possible secret motivations of Vice President Pence in the White House are very plausible and compelling. Come for the gossip and stay for the Machiavellian musings. Like most people I'm rather ambivalent towards Mr.Pence, partly due to his defunct Bush-era social policies and boiler plate stance on many conservative issues that in the era of Trump seem like a throwback. The guy's got a winning smile and looks like Race Bannon from Johnny Quest but at the end of the day seems to be a pretty prosaic politician. Thankfully, the article isn't a self righteous expose of Pence's shockingly bigoted stances on social policy (stances that were common place even for Hilary Clinton until 5- seconds ago) but a surprisingly in depth analysis of Pence's speaking cues and facial ticks that may betray his ambivalence towards Donald Trump and examines his mostly unknown political career to prove that Pence's accepting of the VP slot was perhaps a more calculated decision than just a willingness to play second banana to The God Emperor. Coppins doesn't try to paint Pence as any sort of Rasputin type, rather she simply asks that we look past the buttoned up and affable exterior and into a man who is maybe more ambitious than he likes to let on.