C/O Charlotte Schwartz

Questions of literary expression and political tensions at the core of this alum’s debut novel  

Chinmayi Yathiraju, contributor

Amidst an enduring global pandemic and rising political tensions, one needs only scroll through social media to become uncomfortably aware of our precarious and shifting political climate. There are several difficult issues that arise in the face of this transition, including the effects of individual actions on our political atmosphere and the turning of blind eyes to social issues. These are the kinds of issues alumnus Luke Beirne explores in his debut novel, Foxhunt.  

Having grown up surrounded by books and a father who is a writer, literature has always been a constant in Beirne’s life. During his undergraduate studies, his passion for writing developed further when he took creative writing courses. Since then, Beirne has written in a freelance capacity and has been published in various magazines including the Hamilton Arts & Letters magazine. Foxhunt is his debut novel. 

Set in 1950s London, Foxhunt follows Canadian writer, Milne Lowell, who leaves Montreal to work for a literary magazine supporting free expression. However, with rising political tensions and the progression of the Cold War, suspicions about the magazine’s affiliations begin to rise, leading to disconcerting encounters and calling everything Lowell knows into question.  

The inspiration for Foxhunt came from Beirne’s undergraduate thesis project, when he first learned about the political affiliations of a major literary magazine and its role in perpetuating propaganda.  

The inspiration for Foxhunt came from Beirne’s undergraduate thesis project, when he first learned about the political affiliations of a major literary magazine and its role in perpetuating propaganda.

“I thought it was an interesting thing that one of the largest literary magazines in London at that time was being used for propaganda purposes. One of the things about that magazine was that people claim they didn't know . . . if they really didn't know that they were contributing to propaganda, how could their words be used for propaganda purposes?” said Beirne.  

During his years completing his master’s degree in cultural studies and critical theory at McMaster University, Beirne’s research led him to a similar story of another magazine from the United States. Fuelled by his interest in literary culture and his fascination with the history of the Cold War and political propaganda, Beirne began writing Foxhunt in the fall of 2018.  The novel took shape over the next three years, with much of his initial draft having been written at his home in New Brunswick.  

In researching the historical context relevant to his novel, Beirne was able to delve into the relationship between the Cold War and the professionalization of creative writing. He was intrigued to learn the University of Iowa’s writers’ workshop, which has inspired and offered the framework for creative writing programs and workshops across the world, had links to the Cold War.  

“I thought that it was very interesting, that the way that creative writing has been structured — and is still structured — has certain political implications,” said Beirne.  

While his previous works have centered around genre fiction, Beirne considers Foxhunt to be a distinctly character driven novel. Grappling with complex social phenomena and the development and spread of propaganda, this is a novel he hopes will stay with readers long after turning the last page.  

Beyond simply enjoying the story, Beirne hopes readers walk away with questions and can return to the story to find new insights and develop new interpretations.   

“People go along in their daily lives and don't think about the political implications of their actions . . . [This novel] is an exploration of themes that are relevant today in terms of passivity and ideology, political participation and how people get sucked into things,” said Beirne.  

“People go along in their daily lives and don't think about the political implications of their actions . . . [This novel] is an exploration of themes that are relevant today in terms of passivity and ideology, political participation and how people get sucked into things.”

Luke francis Beirne, author of foxhunt

Brimming with suspense, political drama and allusions to various literary works, Foxhunt is a rich and thought-provoking novel on the pursuit of creative expression as it is entangled with the surrounding political climate.  

Foxhunt will be released on April 1, 2022.  

C/O @goodmindsindigenousbooks

GoodMinds.com provides voices to Indigenous authors and their stories

By: Serena Habib, Contributor

GoodMinds.com is the largest Indigenous bookseller in Canada, but its impact extends far beyond that of a typical bookstore. It is a source of inspiration, a well of knowledge, a voice for Indigenous authors, an educational hotspot and a support for Indigenous communities across North America. 

Dave Anderson, whose spirit name is Wahwahbiginojii, is Bear Clan of Dene and Anishinabe descent born in Atikokan, Ontario. As an educator with a doctorate in Indigenous education, he has been involved with Goodminds.com on a number of projects and is constantly directing students and teachers to GoodMinds.com in order to help them learn about Indigenous peoples. 

Anderson described GoodMinds.com as an Indigenous way of doing business, with the purpose of helping Indigenous peoples and business grow economically due to disproportionate socioeconomic barriers faced.

The original vision for GoodMinds.com was to ensure there was a place where Indigenous authors could be supported and promoted. Founded over 20 years ago by Jeff Burnham and currently run by Achilles Gentle, the company’s owners have personally looked at every single book before choosing to sell it, ensuring it accurately represents Indigenous peoples in an honest and prideful way. Anderson described how each book will keep your mind growing in the spirit of having “GoodMinds”.

“Respect, responsibility and relationship: that's what GoodMinds is about . . .  Understanding our relations, understanding the knowledge of each other, respecting that knowledge and being responsible to do what needs to be done,” explained Anderson.

Another important part of GoodMinds vision is to support Indigenous libraries through their initiative, Supporting Indigenous Libraries Today. Since many Indigenous communities have neither libraries nor access to books, five per cent of every sale goes towards SILT.

In addition to selling books, the company speaks to students, libraries and schools. They also support Indigenous education in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. The company tries to ensuring libraries purchase Indigenous books from Indigenous booksellers and reach out to schools and their teachers to help with the delivery of educational concepts and issues relating to Indigenous communities. GoodMinds have also begun to publish works by Indigenous authors and present interviews and reviews with Indigenous authors on their YouTube channel in their collection, “13 Moons 13 Reads.”

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For Indigenous peoples, stories are a critical way of remembering and celebrating their life on this land. 

“We're learning our teachings again, we're learning to laugh again . . . The resiliency and the life that these authors bring in spite of what’s happened — that needs to be shared. There’s a vision . . .  there’s a life. And we need to celebrate that life,” explained Anderson. 

For non-Indigenous people, this is an important opportunity to finally listen to the stories of Indigenous peoples. We all can learn from these teachings and from the interactions of Indigenous peoples with the land we live on today.  They have been offering their teachings for 500 years to help us understand our land. It is time we embrace one another and learn so we can step towards a better future. 

“We are in a time of truth and reconciliation and educating everybody, understanding everybody,” said Anderson. 

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As an example, Anderon spoke about the climate crisis. There are a number of books about Josephine-ba Mandamin, a Water Walker who walked around all five Great Lakes, carrying a bucket of water and a staff, singing Anishinaabe water songs and honouring the water because of how important it is.

The stories about her and the reasons behind her actions can teach us how to value water and ensure that our future generations will have clean water. The lessons from these stories are applicable to every one of us. To further explain our relationship with our land and water, Anderson recalled a statement from a Cree Elder he had spoken to.  

“It’s about Kenanow. It’s about all of us. That’s you and me and the water and the plants and the animals and the land. It’s about all of us living together,” said Anderson. 

Reading one story is taking one step on a road towards learning and understanding our place and responsibility as human beings on this shared land. The path of learning is ever-expanding; every book illuminates a path to infinite more for us to discover.

GoodMinds’ catalogue feature lists so that every individual can find multiple books for themselves. Anderson also recommended 500 Nations and the Truth About Stories as places to start reading Indigenous work.

To complement university courses, there are books in every subject ranging from engineering, medicine, astronomy and many more.  The children’s books, novels and poetry collections also share wisdom from an Indigenous perspective that are beneficial for everyone to become more aware of. 

“It’s your first step on [your] road — your road to knowledge [and], to being. If you've taken that first step, it means there's something that has brought you here. And now, there's more . . .  There's so much for us to learn,” explained Anderson.

The truth about stories, as Anderson powerfully described, is that everything we need is in the story. GoodMinds provides us with these stories in a way that allows us to help our communities by making a purchase and by reading a book. Let us open a story and join hands and minds for a future of flourishing and friendship.

“It's a time when we live together and for us to share with you. [Y]ou can listen in and we'll grow together to build a better world, a world that we can be proud of to leave for our children [and] our grandchildren,” said Anderson.

McMaster alumna Elizabeth Ivanecky’s first book tackles questions of happiness

C/O Elizabeth Ivanecky

Happiness is a guiding light in our lives. It’s something we all aspire to but rarely, if ever, do we actually ask people if they’re happy. McMaster alumna Elizabeth Ivanecky is asking this question. Her new book The Child in Us: A Collection of Stories about Happiness explores her own search for happiness through the stories of influential people in her life.

Growing up in Dundas, Ontario, stories were always an important part of Ivanecky’s life. Her father initially inspired her love of stories by sharing stories with her and siblings before bed. It  had always been Ivanecky’s dream to be an author.

Ivanecky completed two bachelors of arts at McMaster University: one as a double major in English & cultural studies and history, the other in French studies. After graduating in 2018, she entered the job market and worked mostly freelance jobs, doing translation work.

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“After I finished university in 2018, I knew I needed to enter the job market quickly and so I just applied for whatever job I could get. But my brother was confused because he knew that I always wanted to be a writer and I'm applying for translation jobs, but those are the ones that I could get at the time. During my conversation I had with him he really pushed me to pursue my dream of being a writer, so that was the first thing that inspired this book,” explained Ivanecky.

Combined with this conversation with her brother, there were two other things that inspired her book. First was the song “The Child in Us” by Enigma, which really moved Ivanecky. Second was a quote from the late actor, Heath Ledger: “Everyone you meet always asks you if you have a career, are married or own a house as if life was some kind of grocery list. But no one ever asks if you’re happy.”

“I took that quote really literally and I thought I want to be that person that asked about people's happiness because I myself was going through moments after university where I realized I really need to do the things that make me happy,” said Ivanecky.

I took that quote really literally and I thought I want to be that person that asked about people's happiness because I myself was going through moments after university where I realized I really need to do the things that make me happy,

Elizabeth Ivanecky

She started the process of writing her book in 2019. First, she interviewed many of the influential people in her life and asked them what happiness meant to them. From there she refined her writing style, ultimately opting to use creative nonfiction to fully do justice to the stories she was sharing.

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The thread that unites these stories is the importance of channelling your inner child in order to find and remember happiness.

“My goal was that people reflect more on their happiness. I think after you read my book you really get a sense that there's no one right way to be happy in life and there's no one right path. We each have different paths toward our happiness and it's really just a matter of being intentional about your choices so that you can find happiness along the way in your journey . . . I include lessons at the end of each of my chapters so you learn different ways to find and remember your happiness and to channel the inner child within,” explained Ivanecky.

My goal was that people reflect more on their happiness. I think after you read my book you really get a sense that there's no one right way to be happy in life and there's no one right path.

Elizabeth Ivanecky

The Child in Us was published in December 2020 and is available on Amazon and through many local bookstores. The response so far has been very heartwarming and Ivanecky hopes that it encourages people to continue reflecting on their lives and their happiness.

“[Reflecting on happiness] allows you to experience joy more in your life and while you're never going to completely avoid sadness or these negative moments, it's just how you deal with these moments that really define you. I think when you also think about your happiness more part of that is thinking about how you cope with the negative in life which is also actually a big part of my books, is showing how people have coped with their unhappiness,” explained Ivanecky.

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Ivanecky thinks her book might be a good read for students in particular. 

“I think in today's day and age we just want things so fast and we think they come so quickly as well but even just thinking about my own life and all the people who I've interviewed, things take time. It takes hard work, dedication, passion, effort, all these things. It takes time for things to happen in your life, to achieve your goals and dreams. So I think this is a good read for students because it puts things in perspective for them so that they don't feel like they need to get everything all at once. They don't need to rush through life,” said Ivanecky.

It takes time for things to happen in your life, to achieve your goals and dreams. So I think this is a good read for students because it puts things in perspective for them so that they don't feel like they need to get everything all at once. They don't need to rush through life.

Elizabeth Ivanecky

More than that, she hopes that it will also remind readers to have hope.

“It's always important to have hope and I think that's always the tone of my book. It's a tone of optimism and hopefulness, so I wanted to make sure the reader felt they can like they can handle whatever life throws at them. I think it's good for students in that sense as well,” added Ivanecky.

Reflecting on our own happiness can give us direction in our lives as well as the strength to persevere in trying times. Books like Ivanecky’s The Child In Us offer insight into how others have found happiness and coped with unhappiness, helping us on our own journeys.

This article has been edited as of Feb. 27, 2020

A previously published version of this article stated that Giroux phoned his daughter to ask about Casablancas. This has been corrected to state that he asked his son.

This article is part one of a two part series. Read part two here.

The latter half of the 2010 decade brought with it the rise of various right-winged movements throughout the world. Henry Giroux, a McMaster professor in the department of English and cultural studies, felt a sense of urgency; that the public needed to be educated in order to advance our democracy and combat the right side of politics. We recently had the chance to catch up with Giroux after he published his newest book, The Terror of the Unforeseen, which includes a forward by Julian Casablancas, lead singer of The Strokes.

INTRODUCTION TO CASABLANCAS:

In 2016, Giroux received a phone call from an agent asking if he knew who Julian Casablancas was, to which he responded, “No, I don’t”. He then phoned his son to ask who the mysterious rock star was.

Casablancas brought a film crew to Giroux’s Hamilton home and interviewed the professor about his work. This was the start of the duo’s friendship. Giroux then asked Casablancas if he wanted to write a forward in The Terror of the Unforeseen to open up his narrative to a much-wider audience. 

After the forward was written, Casablancas interviewed Giroux in front of a live audience at a  McMaster Library event at The Westdale Theatre (1014 King St. W.) on Oct. 24, 2019. The event was entitled “The Looming Threat of Fascist Politics”.

EARLY YEARS:

Giroux was born in Providence, Rhode Island, living in a working-class neighbourhood. He obtained a basketball scholarship from the University of Southern Maine and graduated from the university to become a high school teacher. He received a scholarship to complete his schooling at Carnegie-Mellon University, graduating with a PhD in 1977.

After becoming a professor at Boston University, Giroux began researching what education looks like at universities; what does it mean to get a university education

In 1981, Giroux’s research inspired his second book, Theory and Resistance in Education: a Pedagogy for the Opposition. In Theory and Resistance, he defends that education has become a privatized endeavour that does not prioritizes the public’s best interests, including the interests of students. This privatization has become apparent through the promotion of maths and sciences, and the undermining of social and behavioural teachings. Giroux concludes that universities are no longer producing public intellectuals, people who think and reason critically, with the absence of humanities and social sciences.

When Giroux went up for tenure at Boston University, everyone but the president of the University wanted to give him the teaching position. 

“[The president] was the east coast equivalent of Ronald Reagan, and a really ruthless guy.. he was denying tenure to everybody on the left [side of the political spectrum],” said Giroux.

Giroux moved to Miami University where he started the first cultural studies centre in the United States. He was then offered an endowed chair at Pennsylvania State University. When the opportunity came to apply to McMaster University, Giroux leapt at the offer and was hired in 2004.

THE TERROR OF THE UNFORESEEN:

Casablancas joined Giroux’s project because he saw the value in Giroux’s ideology.

“The idea for the book came out of a certain sense of incredible urgency . . . motivated by the election of Donald Trump and the rise of right-winged movements throughout the world,” said Giroux.

The author coined the term “neoliberal fascism”: a cross between racist ideology and a ruling financial elite class that disregards lower classes. This term is the basis of Giroux’s book, which describes how neoliberal fascism affects universities and media, along with how it has contributed to the creation of alt-right culture.

“I tried to take seriously the notion that politics follows culture, meaning that, you can’t really talk about politics unless you talk about the way in which people are experiencing their everyday lives and the problems that confront them,” said Giroux.

He believes that fascism never goes away, that it will always manifest itself in some context. Giroux used the U.S. as an example. The wealth and power held by the governing financial elite has created a state that does not care about the inequalities faced by most of its citizens.

Giroux links the above issues to the war on youth that much of his work has focused on, with the belief that youth are a long-term investment that are being written out of democracy.

CAMPUS POLITICS:

Giroux sees elements of youth being written out of democracy on our own campus. He also recognized that neoliberal ideology could have been a contributing cause to the province’s financial cuts to universities.

“The [ideal] model for education is now patterned after a business culture and with that, it seems to me, comes with an enormous set of dangers and anxieties,” stated Giroux.

According to Giroux, universities used to operate as public good; however, this is no longer their priority. Instead, universities are constantly worried about their bottom line, due in part to neoliberalism. This is especially evident in the elimination of or lack of funding for programs and courses that bring in less money for universities. Giroux cites the example of liberal arts education, which he believes is vital for every student to obtain. He believes this field teaches students a general understanding of our interactions with the world and how to become a socially responsible citizen; however, Giroux believes that liberal arts are being neglected in favour of teaching science and math.

While he understands that universities run deficits, this need to meet the bottom line can open the door for them to become influenced to opt-in to privatization and corporate influence. Giroux believes the only type of influence major corporations should have on campus are in the forms of sponsorships to allow the university to carry out its business as students are neither clients nor products.

“We have an obligation as educators, not to prepare students for just the work, but to prepare them for the world and what it means.” 

When asked about the Ford government’s stance on OSAP cuts, Giroux believes that the government has a limited notion of investment, likely stemming from neoliberalist ideals.

“You don’t invest in students, for them to return profits . . . you invest in students and do everything you can to make sure that they can distinguish between meaningful work and meaningless work; that they can have some vision of the future that’s rooted in democratic values, that has some sense of compassion for what it means to live in a world in which we’re completely interdependent.

The Terror of the Unforeseen is the 71st book by Henry Giroux. 

“I write because I believe that writing matters, I believe that elevating ideas into the public realm may help change the way people view the world,” said Giroux.

Stay tuned for part two of this series featuring our interview with Julian Casablancas.

 

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Photo C/O Sarah Noltner

cw: this article references eating disorders/disordered eating

Body Brave Canada is a charitable organization that provides resources and support for individuals struggling with eating disorders/disordered eating. On Nov. 10, they will be holding a Book Swap at The Spice Factory (121 Hughson St. North) in order to being the community together and raise awareness about their work. There will be a reading by local author Anne Bokma for her new book, “My Year of Living Spiritually: From Woo-Woo to Wonderful” and a pop-up shop for the body-positive clothing brand Mettamade

Julie Shea, the chair of Body Brave’s Board of Directors, says that she hopes the event will help people realize how important it is to have adequate resources for eating disorders/disordered eating. 

“Eating disorders are sometimes not given the validation that they need to have. They’re a very serious mental health disorder and I don’t think enough people realize how serious and prevalent they are, and that they have a 10% mortality rate. This is in our community. There are people dying in our community, there are people suffering in our community, and there are no resources,” said Shea. 

Body Brave Canada seeks to fill the gap left by traditional health care. They offer a number of accessible options and resources, both in-person and online. 

Mettamade is a manifestation of the good work Body Brave has done for the community. It was created by mother-daughter duo Carol Davies and Morgan MacDonald, both of whom have worked with Body Brave in the past. They create clothing that is more forgiving for people who struggle to shop and find clothes that fit. They have designed a sizing system based around gemstones instead of numbers. Rather than a size eight or a medium, you might be a topaz. The fabric is bamboo-spandex, making it both comfortable and sustainable.

“When you wear them it’s like giving yourself self-compassion,” said Davies. 

Mettamade frequently collaborates with Body Brave and donates a portion of their sales to the organization. For the Book Swap, 50 per cent of the proceeds will be donated to Body Brave. 

“We’re giving back to a group that was instrumental in my daughter’s recovery,” said Davies. 

Mettamade was in part created to make more forgiving clothes for MacDonald while she was struggling with an eating disorder. It was during that time that she and Davies started to work with Body Brave. MacDonald wasn’t able to find resources elsewhere, but Body Brave helped her. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/B4j2oHtHiCo/

The Book Swap takes place this Sunday Nov. 10 from 2 p.m.-5 p.m. at The Spice Factory. Tickets are $20 each. Bring five books with you and take five away. If you are interested in supporting Mettamade, they have a few pop-up shops coming up this month and a brick-and-mortar store in Westdale. 

“We need people to know we’re here, and to support the cause,” said Shea. 

To find out more about Body Brave Canada, you can take a look at their website or drop by the Book Swap. If you or someone that you care about is struggling with disordered eating and are not sure where to turn, reach out.

 

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Our Arts & Culture editor Andrew Mrozowski sits down with former Governor General of Canada, Right Honourable David Johnston, to chat about his career, tips he has for students and his book "Trust: 20 Ways to Build a Better Country".

In humour, the want to stay fresh and unique should always be present. If you steal jokes or concepts, you are deemed a plagiarist. If your topics lack originality, you are uninspired.

What separates a good comedian from a great comedian is how well they can make relatable events extraordinary and how they communicate its amusement and uniqueness without losing what the audience identifies with. Peter Unwin’s newest novel, Searching for Petronius Totem, finds this balance with Hamilton flair.

The basic premise is grounded and simple. The main character, Jack, retreats to a rooming house in Hamilton, then sets off across the country find his life-long colleague who has disappeared after his memoir was revealed to be filled with lies. There is also some understandable tension between Jack and his wife, who will likely shoot him on sight should he ever return home. Nothing is too out of the ordinary when it comes to a premise, and would make a decent novel with that base to work with.

However, the more substantial situation at hand is what will likely catch your attention. The world is being taken over by a multi-national Fibre-Optic Catering business that creates chicken-like food matter that flies. It is absurd.

“There’s a certain sort of repetitive quality to novel writing now. It tends to tell the same story with the same degree of earnestness, and I definitely did not want that. I wanted something that broke the mold,” said Unwin.

It works because of the attention to detail given to the basic premise. Even aspects as seemingly minor as the main characters being from Hamilton and a decent portion of the book taking place in the city have consistent influences throughout the novel. The dialect, how each character is perceived and the mannerisms of those characters are all affected.

“There’s a hierarchy of hipness or something about where we stand. Hamilton’s sort of gloriously outside of that hierarchy. Middle finger, we don’t care where we stand, we’re the Hammer, and this is us.”

As Jack travels across the country, this manages to come up time and time again. The reputation that Toronto and Ontario has plays into the book’s humour on top of these mannerisms.

Even though Hamilton is portrayed as being outside of that hierarchy, there remains resentment when people misinterpret where the characters are from or stereotype them as a result. It becomes a clever and realistic gag that comes up consistently in the middle of preposterous situations.

“People are proud of where they’re from regardless of how small the town is or how ugly. And that sort of pride in place, like when Jack goes to Vancouver, he just thinks Vancouver is a backwater. He’s from Hamilton. It could never be as good as Hamilton.”

This attention to detail remains present in its absurdity. This Hamilton influence continues to be a key factor in larger-than-life situations. It becomes a way of interpreting edible flying mechanical chickens as a metaphor, and most of the humour can hit home even when it does not initially feel like you can identify with it.

“To a large extent, the book is about things coming to an end, like a dystopia, end of the world type of book, getting there. And also, in a sense, the end of the novel or the death of the novel. You set this within Hamilton, it’s fair to say it has this reputation that’s passed now, is a city that’s suffered from this breakdown in industrialized industry.”

Honestly, it is unknown if someone outside of southern Ontario or Canada would find the novel funny. While you could relate through other points, this is a home-grown and tailor-made novel for its audience, and it is unapologetic about being locally focused.

It is not for everyone. However, considering you are reading an Arts & Culture article in a student newspaper that attempts to cater all of its content for the students of McMaster and the Hamilton community, it is likely that you will like it.

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By: Hess Sahlollbey

If my tickets were refundable, I would’ve left the theater after five minutes and asked for my money back. What should have been a simple grudge match between two orphans before they team up to face a greater evil is encumbered by a lengthy and superfluous political story and abstract metaphors.

While Man Of Steel was an effective introduction to Superman, Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice can easily be surmised as Warner Bros. attempt to address the faults in Man of Steel. While technically a sequel, it rehashes the same themes, ideas and symbolism but with a much darker tone. This over-reliance on previously used material is what ultimately causes this movie to fumble out of the gate. The darker tone also adds a sense of hopelessness that creates an unattractive package.

Zack Synder is a man who’s not unfamiliar with adapting comics to the screen. His past credits on 300, Watchmen and on Man of Steel easily prove that. However a poorly measured ambition to pay homage to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Dan Jurgens’ The Death of Superman is what ultimately led to the direction losing its way. Snyder’s view is clearly on that depicts Superman as a poorly stitched together Christ­-figure, while Batman comes off as a billionaire fascist.

While Man of Steel gave hints to Superman being regarded as a messiah, the symbolism and metaphors in that film were subtle. In BvS however, the references are overly pleasant and forced. One element that allowed Man of Steel to succeed was the solid story-arc. Clark Kent/Kal-El struggled and grew with a culminating scene where he overcame severe odds, defeated the evil Kryptonians and ultimately found his place as Earth’s saviour. Batman V Superman, however, doesn’t have a plot that can be recounted in a few sentences because there simply isn’t one. It’s a string of beats that are poorly tied together to form an abstract narrative. Multiple convoluted plots in the story falter near the middle of this film because the acts also fail to smoothly transition from one to the next. Superman and Batman find themselves in a situation where they must fight each other and only stop when a CGI Doomsday shows up.

A poor plot could be forgiven by strong characterization, but BvS mostly comes up short in that aspect too. Superman is a character that’s simply there but has no presence. The bulk of his scenes see him engaging in self-loathing and are a regression from all the emotional development he had in Man Of Steel. He has the least amount of dialogue and spends the majority of the film transitioning from one place to the next, gathering what is often irrational advice. Henry Cavill gives a paper-thin performance with no depth. It’s a stark juxtaposition to his endearing performance in Man Of Steel.

When Ben Affleck was first announced as the new Batman, there was significant backlash online from fans. Even I was unsure whether or not he could pull it off, but his was one the stronger performances in the film. While Batman’s methods of crime fighting were questionably brutal in comparison to previous depictions of the Dark Knight, Ben Affleck easily blurs the line between himself and the character. Jeremy Irons is equally delightful as Batman’s trusty butler, Alfred. His portrayal of Alfred sees him as more of a hand’s on mechanic, while also delivering some of the wittiest lines of dialogue in the film.

andy_review_bvs2

Jesse Eisenberg who takes on the role of Lex Luthor, is a different story. While at first he appears as a Mark Zuckerberg-type billionaire with a sinister agenda, his ramblings make his character come off as more cuckoo. Historically the character has been portrayed as a super-genius obsessed with greed and besting Superman. In BvS however, his motivations aren’t just unclear, they’re non-existent. Eisenberg’s most captivating scenes are those where he operates silently because his conversations are filled with nonsensical biblical and theological ramblings. This dialogue again ties back into the movie’s overabundance of depthless symbolism.

The real star of this film however was Gal Gadot. She is an absolute show-stealer anytime she’s on screen. Gadot’s depiction of Wonder Woman is sexy, mysterious and most importantly sparse. She has few scenes in the movie but always leaves you wanting more. Gadot’s role in the film is the only place where Zack Snyder seems to be aware that less is more. It should also be noted that it’s the first depiction of Wonder Woman on the big screen and sets the bar very high for whatever comes next. The same can also be said of Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa and Ray Fisher who all appear as Barry Allen/Flash, Arthur Curry/Aquaman and Victor Stone/Cyborg respectively. We get brief peeks that leave us wanting more.

Despite months and anticipation and millions of dollars of marketing, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is ludicrous in its reasoning and plot. A film whose purpose is to launch an expanded cinematic universe, the film has slivers of brilliance, but does everything else in the most inefficient manner possible.

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At the recommendation of a friend, I started 2016 with a series called All For The Game. The first book was free on iBooks, and the other two books in the trilogy were less than a dollar each.

Although I was confused why they were so cheap, I didn’t pay much thought to it. It wasn’t until I was halfway through the second book in the trilogy that I found out it was self-published, and at that point the occasional typos and the unexpectedness of the character backgrounds started to make sense. A particular one was that the trilogy, in the barest of summaries, features a sport loosely based on lacrosse. In this case, however, the author took some liberties and applied her own changes. The most significant changes were that each team can be open to both male and female players, and that each team can contain a mix of both. In fact, one of the founders of the sport itself is a woman.

This was information I tucked away for further musing until earlier this month I stumbled upon another self-published book, The Posterchildren. It’s a superhero story with a POC main character and diverse sexualities throughout the board. A friend informed me, after I’d started telling them about the book, that the author had gained a substantial following in the fanfiction community, and that the book itself was largely influenced by already existing material from the DC Universe.

This got me wondering, then, if an author needed to self-publish to guarantee that their book, which features people of colour identifying as members of the LGBTQ community, will be published. I think the answer might be yes.

Some mainstream authors look down on what Forbes is now referring to as “indie publishing.”

Of course, there are non-self-published books out there featuring diverse characters. That’s not to say, however, that the world of fiction isn’t lacking at all in diversity. The LGBTQ genre of fiction mostly features gay men, and a significant share of the genre are stories with unnecessarily tragic endings to cater to a teenage audience ready to gobble it up and cry about their doomed OTP. There’s also always the well-written coming out stories, and while some of these stories are needed, it doesn’t make sense that the genre is, quite literally, defined by coming out and tragedy. It doesn’t make sense that, while the rest of the YA genre gets yet another girl-falls-in-love-with-bad-boy series, the LGBTQ genre continues to struggle with redefining itself with other aspects of fiction such as lesbian superheroes. As a consequence, some authors have to resort to self-publishing to incorporate some diversity into a genre that’s overshadowed by mainstream stories.

Some mainstream authors look down on what Forbes is now referring to as “indie publishing.” A lot of the publishing process can be credited to the editors and publishers themselves, but I highly doubt it’s fair to dismiss self-published authors for that reason. Yes, there might be typos and awkward parts due to lack of professional editors, and it might be hard to find these stories without it being through a recommendation. However, no matter how much more diverse the fiction world is beginning to get, it will still be difficult for some authors to find the grounding they need to provide the representation they can. Getting published is hard enough as it is, and harder still for authors trying to release protagonists identifying with the asexual spectrum and sports with strong female players playing alongside “the boys.”

We shouldn’t look down at these self-published authors and scoff at them. There might come a time where self-publishing is the new mainstream, but I hope that, if that time does come, diversity and representation of minorities will have been properly incorporated into mainstream fiction.

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Being in university, we’ve all grown accustomed to reading research papers and academic studies. Unless you’re taking English or literature courses, your novels are probably collecting dust or waiting to be read during a break. But when that time comes around, you’re so tired of reading that you’d much prefer an activity that doesn’t involve consuming long passages of text for hours on end. Last year, when I was drowning in scientific papers and textbook readings, picking up a novel felt less like a leisurely learning experience and more like a waste of time — something that would distract me from my other courses. Reading fiction is often associated with entertainment rather than learning, however — as I have discovered — it is probably the most eye-opening and true-to-life literary genre.

The amount of reading required in our academic careers can be overwhelming. It’s easy to see why some people would underestimate seemingly superfluous genres. We think of fiction as basic stories of monstrous creatures and magical Greek islands, when really these tales have a lot to teach us about the world we’re living in today. The Odyssey cannot be reduced solely to a king battling various mythical monsters on his journey home. What are the lengths someone will go to return to their family? When a great hero is on his knees begging to go home, one can’t help but be reminded of the importance of loved ones. Fiction does not solely provide entertainment; it teaches us lessons about our world and ourselves.

It is probably the most eye-opening and true-to-life literary genre to exist. 

Reading literary fiction can even improve our empathy. It asks us to step into a character’s life and understand his or her choices. In Frankenstein, the creature is presented as a monstrous being, undeserving of love from the perspective of his creator. The novel challenges us to consider the perspective of multiple characters, including the creature. We are asked to be active readers and assume different roles as the narration shifts from character to character. Despite subjective interpretations of the piece, every reader undoubtedly learns how to relate. If we can step into a fictional world and empathize with characters we come to know in the span of two hundred pages, we can apply that skill to our own lives. The way you form strong bonds with people and connect with others depends on your ability to see the world through their eyes.

So is fiction a waste of time? It doesn’t detract from your schoolwork. It enhances your perspectives and critical thinking by allowing you to see the world in a new light. You cannot come away from a few hours of reading unchanged. When you read fiction, consciously or not, you relate differently to your own life. Whether you have to escape to Ithaca, or pay a visit to Victor Frankenstein’s laboratory, you gain insight into humanity. Even if you may not recognize it, you are learning.

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