The thing about the Christmas season that I enjoy the most is that out of any other time of the year it is the most backwards looking. There is no other time of the year (at least for Americans) outside of extremely regional cultural heritage festivals and perhaps Easter that things from yesteryear are brought back into the public consciousness and it actually be paid attention to in such a big mainstream manner. Classic film, swing jazz and big band, Old Hollywood glamor, ballet and all things “antique” or vintage and Victorian frilled are suddenly very important for 5 or so weeks and onto New Years. Suburban homogeneity is punctured with yesterday or even the ghosts of suburbia past come to visit just the same.
The sheer paganism of the traditional customs, decorations and foods of the season is enough to send my heart a flutter but the season’s various “styles” of nostalgia; Colonial, Victorian, 1920’s and 30’s Christmas and 50’s-60’s Christmas and now 80’s and 90’s era “Age of Nintendo” type nostalgia provide a “pick your yesteryear” type of holiday.
One of my favorite types of Christmas, which is common in Britain and the UK but not so prevalent in the warm and fuzzy “Santa Claused” (since the 1930s) USA, is the “Gothic” side of Victorian Christmas traditions. A Christmas Carol ring a bell? Unlike the US where Halloween is the season for ghosts and spirits and telling spooky tales; Christmas is actually the “time to scare” and Victorian Christmasases with their obsession with the supernatural often had lots of fortune telling parties (pouring hot lead into kettles of water to tell fortunes) and ghost stories among other little things amidst their Christmas party frivolity.
In the spirit of all things “sort of” creepy and the macabre and charming I will be offering three great “antique” reads still published by NYRB in case you have some hankering for things a bit less sweet;
His story delves into a tale of the area where long ago poor and desperate villagers, tormented and tortured by their local baron, a former Teutonic Knight, are tempted by the Devil to help complete the impossible tasks the baron has ordered of them. There is, of course, a catch; a unbaptized baby (what else?). The villagers; including all the men flee and run from the offer. All but one, a farmer’s wife named Christine stands up to the Devil and considers the offer if only to save them all. She makes the deal with a kiss upon her cheek; but as the villagers have babies and instantly baptize them; a a mark in the shape of a spider starts to appear where the kiss was planted upon her cheek. Then come the spiders. Forewarning; heavy Christian symbolism and it’s not terribly feminist though I do think this story and the actions of the main character, Christine could again with a bit of a revisionist feminist stance and re-write could really transform this old parable. But it’s still worth reading if you enjoy some creepy crawly action.
3. Autobiography of A Corpse by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky
Russian short stories. If that doesn’t prepare you in knowing it’s going to be strange then I’m not sure I can adequately prepare you. Magical realism meets surrealism dunked in the special Eastern European sensibility and aesthetic and a heavy dollop of “SCIENCE! PHILOSOPHY! MATH!” sour cream; the fingers of an acclaimed pianist’s hand decides to bolt and spend the night roaming the city, a story about a man whose lifelong dream is to bite his own elbow, stories about eccentric mathematicians and fairytales about cracks, The Land of Nots. The whole kitchen sink (well not really but that’s what it feels like)
What makes these gleefully macabre and matter-of-fact is the precise delivery of Sigizmund’s prose. It’s eccentricity and sense of self really shines through. I can’t say recommend it enough for a fun, but in a very literate manner.
Short, sweet, wonderful prose for stockings that like a little bit of bite. Check them out!
Have a GREAT holiday!
Staff Writer/The Doctor
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So, Variety announced today that Gal Gadot has been cast as Wonder Woman in the upcoming “Man of Steel” sequel, that will also feature Ben Affleck’s debut as Batman.
This has been confirmed by director Zack Snyder, who said “Not only is Gal an amazing actress, but she also has that magical quality that makes her perfect for the role.”
Look, I’m just gonna jump right into my reactions, if you don’t mind.
Well, obviously, WONDER WOMAN IS GOING TO APPEAR ON THE BIG SCREEN, FINALLY. And, the casting of an Israeli actress is pretty awesome, it’s great to see a non-white woman get to show some Wonder.
I know a lot of people were reacting with “WHO?” when Gal’s name came up, but I think that’s a plus. Even Lynda Carter herself once advised Hollywood to “cast an unknown.” I like having an actress without anything iconic to compare her role as Wonder Woman to.
Wonder Woman is making it on screen, yes, but as a supporting role in a movie primarily focused on Superman and Batman. She’s not even being mentioned in the tentative title while the two boys are. It reeks of sticking her in the movie to appease audiences without having to do the “risky” thing and give her a solo origin movie because, everyone knows, female-fronted action movies with well-established characters are doomed to fail.
Oh, by the way, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” has made $297 million in two weeks and broke a Thanksgiving weekend record previously held by “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
Also, there’s the big question of Zack Snyder being at the helm again. Snyder’s record with female characters isn’t necessarily great. The man made “Sucker Punch” for crying out loud and defended it as “empowering,” proving that he has the most tenuous, superficial, male-gaze friendly grasp on the concept of female empowerment possible.
THE EH, MAYBE:
While I’m all about Gadot’s casting, I’m seriously hoping she plans to put on some muscle before filming begins. I don’t think it’s impossible, look at the transformations of Seth Rogen and Chris Pratt for roles in action movies. Wonder Woman is first and foremost a warrior, and I don’t care what nationality or color your actress for the role is, if she doesn’t have notable muscle tone, I can’t buy her as an Amazon.
Really, this is just all knee-jerk reactions to the news. We won’t know anything for awhile, and I’m waiting until we see the first leaked set pictures, promo images and trailers before I really decide on anything. And the truth is, I’m probably not going to flock to theaters for this, no matter how much I want my Wonder Woman fix. I still want her in a solo film, giving her the spotlight and letting her show the world the wonder that she truly is.
Ashly is an IHO Geek writer and is trying to be rational about this casting news. You can try to ruffle her feathers on Twitter @newageamazon.