Some of the debate about the movie Django Unchained goes right past me. I don’t think the problem is use of the n word. I think it’s the choice of subject matter and the manner in which that subject is treated. Spike Lee got it right: “American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. It Was A Holocaust.” Lee says he is not going to see the film and neither am I.

I avoid movies about the Nazi holocaust for the same reason. Most of them, for me, are cringe-worthy. It seems to me that anybody who thinks they can depict such events in a fictionalized version needs to ask some sober questions about what they are dealing with, and whether they are up to the task. It is a matter of respect for our dead, that we specifically work to avoid trivializing their lives, their suffering, their passing.

Stephen Elliot turns this into a debate about what is art, and about censorship. I don’t want Tarantino censored, I just won’t patronize his art/entertainment–and I’m not all that riveted to the question of whether it in fact is “art.” I don’t have to be–nor could I be–some kind of final arbiter of that point.

There are some exceptions to my blanket objection. Hotel Rwanda, for me, rose to the spiritual challenge of depicting real and horrific events in a respectful fictionalized version. Of course we need art, and artists, to address these huge events of our history. I don’t know how to debate the finer points of this issue where Django is concerned, I just know that for me, personally, it is not a film I will see, just as I have not seen most of the feature films which attempted to protray aspects of the Nazi holocaust. For me to follow you onto sacred ground requires a certain spiritual grounding, and I see no evidence of that kind of humility and respect in clips of Tarantino’s movie. Then again, that’s not why people watch his stuff, is it? And I do like some of his work.

A haphazard listing of some wonderful recent books from other small presses:

For(e)Closure, by Mary Weems, Main Street Rag
Abu Ghraib Arias, by Philip Metres, Flying Guillotine (reissue available soon)
Human-Carrying Flight Technology, by Chris Shipman, BlazeVox
Domestic Uncertainties, by Leah Umansky, BlazeVox
Hotel Utopia, by Robert Miltner, New Rivers
Further Adventures in Monochrome, by John Yau, Copper Canyon

I am forgetting a bunch of others. Email and remind me! It’s good to be back at work, but the entropy of the world at large, and specifically certain loved ones, continues to distract me. So please accept my apologies for what I’ve omitted, pass the coffee, and let’s get this new year of books into gear!

With love,