Art and Literature for Troubled Times

OK, that post title might be a little pretentious. But I’ve been seeing a lot of stuff on the internet over the last month about art and literature, with relation to “our current political/cultural situation,” and enough of it is interesting to me that I thought I’d toss together a post.

I’ve previously mentioned Philip Roth’s “The Plot Against America.” And of course 1984 has gotten a lot of attention. (And, speaking of Orwell, a school in Connecticut has removed Animal Farm from their curriculum, right when we need it the most.)

WNYC this week has been asking people to post about their current reading & watching habits on Twitter, using the hashtag #CulturePack. That’s gotten some interesting responses, in the areas of relevant non-fiction, relevant fiction, and pure escapism. (One popular answer is Harry Potter books and movies, which I think falls into both the relevant and escapism categories, if you think about it.)

The New Yorker just published an article called The Books We’re Turning to Now, which I haven’t read yet, but should be interesting.

Going a little further down the road of dystopian fiction, William Gibson’s The Peripheral has been mentioned a lot lately. Gibson himself has compared the current administration to the concept of the klept from his book. The Peripheral is actually the only Gibson novel I haven’t read yet. (I should fix that soon.)

And to work a little black humor into all of this, here’s a comic strip about how 2017 is looking a lot like a 1990’s cyberpunk dystopia. Speaking as someone who read a fair amount of cyberpunk in the 90s, this is pretty accurate.

Meanwhile, on the art front, MoMA is hanging some works by Muslim artists to protest Trump’s entry ban. This seems like a pretty minor thing to do, but it’s important, in a way, and it’s appropriate, for a museum. MoMA’s exhibit Insecurities: Tracing Displacement and Shelter is relevant too, but just closed. Maybe they should have kept that going for a few more months.

As for me, I’ve been reading The New York Times and The New Yorker a lot lately. Though I’m not just reading the “current events” stuff: I’ve also been reading long-form stuff, digging into older articles on art, literature, and what-not. (And, yeah, I know that makes me sound like a typical East Coast liberal. Guilty as charged, I guess.)

For escapism, I’m still reading a lot of the DC Rebirth comics. I keep trying to talk myself into dropping one or more of the ones I’m buying regularly, but I haven’t managed to do that yet. They’re all still pretty good and worth reading.

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