Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


Good news for 2018 – #7

7. The availability of the arts will increase.

Incredibly, everything is available, and in 2018, the end of net neutrality notwithstanding, there will be more of everything, and it will all be available.

It used to be (he said, tugging on his white beard), that the available of culture, even pop culture, was limited. Television programs were on at specific times, books went out of print, movies were in theaters only briefly and then gone, newspapers had a one-day life, and all the live performance events such as concerts, and opera, and dance, and poetry readings, and standup evaporated immediately afterward. Let me take you back to why so many of us went to science fiction and comic-book conventions in the 1970s in particular:  Because it was in those screening rooms, which ran 24 hours throughout the convention, that you might actually get to see the Bruce Dern environmentally conscious science-fiction movie “Silent Running” or horror films like “Suspiria” or “Dawn of the Dead,” and because it was on the dealers’ floor that you could pick up the key issues you needed to understand the ongoing, intertwined, novelistic, Marvel comics series. Just how did the Hulk get out of the Leader’s all-encompassing jelly-like mold that turned the behemoth’s blows back against him? No idea if you couldn’t locate that missing issue.

But now everything is retained. And collected. And archived. And shared.

Although I think about this frequently, about the easy availability of, say, Wallace Shawn’s essays, which in an earlier time may have gone out of print or been impossible to locate, lurking on some dusty shelf in a bookstore in Cleveland, I was reminded again this morning because of this:  The Los Angeles Times devoted an entire glorious page of its Sunday Arts & Books section to a review of two new collections of Jack Kirby’s work, specifically his Fourth World omnibus (collecting all 1500+ pages of his early 70s Fourth World series), and archive collections of his Newsboy Legion series from the 1940s. (Here’s the review; it’s joyous, and well worth reading.) There are 59 individual issues that make up the Fourth World series; tracking each down and then paying for them all would certainly eclipse the cost of a mortgage payment — but now they’re available, all collected, in lovely hardback editions.

In addition to the joy that the easy availability of such treasures delivers, there is also another impact:  the ready availability of the arts increases the potential for thought and rootedness. We have not been mistaken, these thousands of years, in cherishing the arts and noting their impact on humanity. As Charles McNulty states (also in today’s LA Times), the arts provide a corrective, and especially to our current times, in forcing us to confront our lack of thought:

The humanities in higher education have been forced to defend their usefulness, as though college were merely a form of career training. But artists should liberate themselves from the worry of utility. The service they provide is so intrinsic to the flourishing of humanity that creativity shouldn’t ever have to justify itself.

McNulty is writing largely about the role of theatre — a generally unifying force which, new research claims, synchronizes the heartbeats of audiences. But his idea that coming together, and escaping the rigors of daily reality for the passions of creative unreality, forces us to think and to experience anew, applies across the board. There’s also a political component to this, as McNulty notes. The frisson of the arts — the slapping-awake that it provides — makes us harder to subdue. The Czech government pestered, surveilled, harassed, banned, and jailed playwright and essayist Vaclav Havel for 20 years of his life with no success; the struggle was resolved only by Havel becoming president of Czechoslovakia.

All of Havel’s works, by the way, are now readily available.


One Response to “Good news for 2018 – #7”

  1. Dan Says:

    Another Clue. A hint that Wochner will run in 2018!

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