Jun 232018

Octavia Butler’s novel tells of a modern black woman, drawn back through time to save a slave owner’s young son from drowning before returning to her own time. Over the course of the novel she will be drawn back to save the boy repeatedly, will watch him as he grows older. Because time moves at different rates in the two narratives, the protagonist is never sure how long she’ll be trapped living as a slave. Sometimes it’s years. And when her white husband travels back with her in the middle section of the novel, he finds himself trapped alone in the past and grows old there while only a few days pass for his wife.

I didn’t know Butler and didn’t know what to expect, but this book is writing of a very high order. I started reading and couldn’t stop, finishing the novel at a breakneck pace over the course of a single evening. It was that powerful.

Mar 092014

Steve McQueen‘s latest is the best movie I’ve seen in a long time. Beautifully photographed and constructed. I especially like how shots were established as static photographs that movement and action seeped into. A technique that emphasized the visual beauty of the film while thematizing the way life went on and around the horrors of slavery without reacting to it.

Two examples: the barred window to Solomon’s cell seen from outside, but when he eventually walks up to the bars, the camera looks up and away to the city lights in the distance; and the long shot of Solomon, near-hanged and on tip-toe, as after a few moments, other slaves slowly walk into or through the background to do their daily chores.

I gave Shame a hard time for it’s ending, but both it and this film operate on the (very blurred) boundary line between art and popular art. Very few of the other films right now seem to aim for anything but the popular.

And on a selfish note, this film is a great resource for when I’m teaching slave narratives in my lit course this Fall.