The World Beyond the Room

Room MovieThe most obvious analysis of Emma Donoghue’s Room, one of last year’s most heralded films, is on the basis of what it says about imagination.

In the film version of the novel, five-year-old Jack is provided a means by which to live his life through images, crafts, pictures, and stories. That would not be so extraordinary, nor his exceptional character so marked, if it were not for the fact that he has lived his entire existence closed up inside a small shed.

Jack’s mother, who was abducted seven years before by a sexual predator, is his co-prisoner in a world no larger than twelve feet square. But she has made the most of every inch.

A feat of maternal determination makes all of her efforts for him dual-purposed: she has him do exercises with her to stay physically strong, but also to provide him with some concept of distance and space; she has him read aloud from a book to give him an education, but also so that he can access a type of freedom that is otherwise denied; she has him mark his height upon a wall to gauge his growth, but also to give him something to look forward to—a time in which he will outgrow the room. [Read more…]

Evil’s Share

Johann Heinrich FussliIt has been said that one of the most effective means by which evil can have its way is to convince us that we are too abominable to love. It’s not a bad tactic. When our faults are catalogued back to us, the inventory is hair-raising and earth-shattering.

This is one of the methods attributed to demons, unsurprisingly; they shock the conscious self through the exposition of things it knows but won’t look at, has suspected but never acknowledged. This takes the self to a place from which it is loath to return. Amazed at the true level of its depravity, it exacts a self-imposed exile and seeks its own annihilation.

And yet, for all of the destructiveness wrought by the demonic motive, there is something searching about it as well—a hunger perversely akin to the longing of those who seek a better end. Evil desires its level, but can only destroy it in the attainment. A famous literary work supplies the example. [Read more…]

There Must Be a Word for This

Summer Country LandNow spring has come again, the season that’s best for hope. Post-Lenten promises are fresh as a baby’s breathing, and the failures that eventually spoil them are as far away as the height of summer’s heat.

Hope can make us believe in endings as well as beginnings, in the idea that we can accomplish the hard tasks of life and see them to the finish.

“It will get done,” says hope, settling a resolve into our hearts. “Despite all, it will get done.”

However, as usual, I get pensive about things coming to a close. When years of labor spent in achieving something are about to meet resolution, there’s part of me that puts on the brakes—not strong enough to stop the momentum, but strong enough to set my mind churning.

“What now?” becomes the question. Achievement ends purpose, and purpose gives meaning. When foundering around for purpose, we can’t help but feel disoriented.

I’ve heard people express what I’m describing along these lines: “Without what I’ve been doing for so long, I expect I’ll be a bit lost.” And that feeling is all the more profound when the end is an event more necessary than relished, more required than sought. [Read more…]

Better Call Saul

better-call-saul-netflixBetter Call Saul, a prequel to AMC’s milestone series, Breaking Bad, further establishes co-creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould to be among the most intricate moral thinkers working in the dramatic arts. Whereas the first series rendered the ethical decline of a dying man who makes something of a noble bargain with his conscience—attempting to provide for his struggling family by entering the methamphetamine trade—the second series focuses on an altogether different landscape of principles.

Instead of depicting the inch-by-inch, then mile-by-mile, depravity that follows a dubious but not wholly dishonorable decision, Better Call Saul illustrates the confluence of causes that can make a man see himself in a certain way. If Breaking Bad’s Walter White is “Mr. Chips turned Scarface,” as Gilligan described him, Better Call Saul’s Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman is Willie Stark turned strip-mall consigliere.

The series, now beginning its second season, is set in 2002, some six years before the action of Breaking Bad. As such, it gives the backstory on how Walter White’s outlandish shyster lawyer, Saul Goodman, becomes the man that he is. Goodman is the epitome of the ambulance-chasing, tasteless advertising (“Better Call Saul”) attorney, complete with a debased clientele and a shameless talent for truth perversion. [Read more…]

Good Enough to Tweet

facebook-home-social-contentIf you go to any restaurant nowadays, you’ll likely see something that at one time would’ve been considered absurd: People whipping out their smartphones, taking pictures of their food, then forwarding said photograph to their friends, families, followers, catfishes, and Craigslist Killers all over creation through a variety of social media.

“Suckling Duckling with Béarnaise Bilberries”? Gotta-get-an image of that on my Facebook wall.

“Filleted Fintail in Papillote, served on the Hubcap of a Ford Fairlane”? Snapchat that sucker. [Read more…]


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