Aesthetic Leveling: Riot + Poetry (Part One)

“Leveler” was coined in the 17th century to describe those who tore down hedges in the Enclosure Act Riots. It was later generalized. As long as the working-classes have sought political and economic leveling these aspirations have been expressed in art and culture – from the social gospel of Matthew to the gestures of punk and early Hip Hop. Aesthetic leveling can be used in ways that divert class anger toward the wrong targets or toward personalized solutions. But it also can express movement toward proletarian consciousness. And the socially promiscuous artist – coming from, and historically mixing with, all classes – is often predisposed toward leveling (as well as a political volatility that produces the aforementioned variations).

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Miéville Does Minimalism

China Mieville’s novels are genre fiction at their best. They can be largely grouped into two broad categories: Twisted takes on British and European urban life (The City & The CityKing RatKraken) and kaleidoscopic, imaginative, and often Marxist fantasy and sci-fi adventures (The Bas-Lag trilogy, Embassytown). This changes rather drastically with This Census-Taker, Mieville's latest, which combines trace elements of magical realism and fantasy with the minimalism of authors like Hemingway and Cormac McCarthy. This odd mashup works to produce a narrative that is engrossing, thought-provoking, and perhaps excessively ambiguous.

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The Public Files of Larry Cohen

When Wes Craven died recently, most obituaries focused on his successful money-making Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream series. Very few even mentioned his earlier independent commercial films The Last House on the Left (1971) and The Hills have Eyes (1977), both of which later had higher-budget but undistinguished remakes. These early films belonged to the exciting and innovative decade of the 1970s when the ignominy of American defeat in Viet Nam and crisis of confidence in the White House stimulated many iconoclastic and radical commercial films now conspicuous from the mainstream by their very absence. Craven then belonged to a group of innovative talents such as Brian DePalma, Tobe Hooper and Larry Cohen, all of whom took over familiar generic conventions for their own particular critical perspectives.

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