‘Tis the season of gift giving, and we’ve already given great suggestions for art, movies, and video games. But what about the avid reader? When it comes to books, the choices can be overwhelming. From nonfiction, fiction, to graphic novels, this year has unleashed an endless selection of great options to fill those bookshelves. Stephen King released two novels and a short story collection in Elevation, The Outsider, and Flight or Flight, making for easy gift options for the Constant Reader. But for those who already are up to date on King’s works, or want to branch out further, these 10 books make for excellent gifts for the horror loving reader in your life.
I first heard of the Magical Negro from author Steve Barnes during a Clarion East Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop discussion in 2001. He explained that a Magical Negro was a black character—usually depicted as wiser and spiritually deeper than the white protagonist—whose purpose in the plot was to help the protagonist get out of trouble, to help the protagonist realize his own faults and overcome them.
As I sat there listening to Barnes, I realized with dismay what bothered me about several of Stephen King’s novels. Several of his greatest works hinge on Magical Negroes and, furthermore, the result was a propagation of racial stereotypes.
To fully understand how deeply King’s Magical Negroes affect, it’s best to first look at the history of the Magical Negro. Sometimes called the “Magic Negro” or the “Mystical Negro,” the term “Magical Negro” typically references characters in film and dates back to the 1950s, around the time of the film The Defiant Ones .
In this film, a white man named John “Joker” Jackson (played by Tony Curtis) and a black man named Noah Cullen (played by Sidney Poitier) are convicts on a southern chain gang. When they escape because of a bus accident, they make a run for it. The going is slow because they’re shackled together by a thick chain and both are also full of racial assumptions. At first, they hate each other; they argue over which way to go and Joker’s use of the word “nigger.” But in the end, after many trials and tribulations, they become friends. When Cullen is able to jump on the moving train, Joker can’t make it. Cullen then sacrifices his own freedom to help Joker. And so the first famous Magical Negro was born.
Much more recently, in 2001, during a discussion with students at Washington State University, film director Spike Lee popularized the concept by renaming it the “Super-Duper Magical Negro.” He was referring specifically to John Coffey (played by Michael Clarke Duncan) in The Green Mile and Bagger (played by Will Smith) in The Legend of Bagger Vance.
Both films are about a white man whose moral and emotional growth is made possible by the appearance of an almost angelic mystical black man. In The Green Mile, Coffey eventually dies after effecting great change on the white protagonist and just about everyone else around him. In The Legend of Bagger Vance, Bagger (whom the author of the book said was based on the Hindu deity Bhagavan Krishna) leaves as mysteriously as he arrived, once Rannulph Junuh’s life is back on track. Both characters, John Coffey and Bagger, are only important in relation to the protagonist of each story.
In 1973 Salvador Dali published his cookbook Les Diners des Gala (Diner for a Gala) in which 136 recipes over 12 chapters are printed with his ubiquitous collages, pictures of the bizarre creations and photos of Dali himself with world class chefs. The food itself isn’t really that odd, with recipes like ‘Roast side of Beef and vegetables’ and “Lobster Tail in Tomato Sauce”, what is truly iconic are his presentations.
I have always aspired to be a party host, watching countless episodes of Martha Stewart Living, The Barefoot Contessa, and Nadia G’ Bitchin Kitchen. I’ve always aspired to be dressed in my finest, cooking course after course of unique and delicious meals for my friends. Right now it seems a little far-fetched, I live in a compact 1 bedroom apartment, with a small dining room table that is currently covered in burlesque costume ephemera. But I still pick up items for the eventual parties I will throw, items like plates, cups, serving bowls, silverware or what else would add to the over all atmosphere. I have the goal of throwing regular parties so crazy, with artists, thinkers and influencers that it becomes legendary. Until then, I will just continue to pin food ideas in my pinterest board and continue collecting pieces for my future parties.Continue reading “Have a Surrealist Thanksgiving with Salvador Dali’s recipes”
From the neon-drenched noir of Altered Carbon to the technophobic Black Mirror, dystopia is all over mainstream entertainment these days—and considering the current political climate, it’s easy to see why. But when was the last time you watched a utopian show or movie? Unless, like me, you’re watching Star Trek on repeat forever, it’s probably been a while since your imagination took a trip into a better world.
Everything we struggle with today, from climate change, to human rights abuses, to police brutality, is paralleled and explored in countless fictional dystopias. And for many people, this is a welcome outlet for their frustrations. But the more reality starts to resemble the dystopias on our TV screens, the more we need another kind of story. Utopian fiction dares to hope that we can, and will, be better. And I don’t know about you, but I could really use that dream right now.
At the beginning of The Haunting of Hill House—the 1959 Shirley Jackson novel upon which Netflix’s 10-part series is based—Eleanor Vance takes a car (her sister’s; stolen) and sets out on a journey with the scantest possible information. She has been invited to a house, possibly haunted, by a man she doesn’t know, because she had a childhood encounter with a poltergeist.
Unlike Netflix’s family-centric adaptation, Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House involves the meeting of four strangers—Dr. Montague, who has contrived the trip; Luke Sanderson, heir to Hill House; Eleanor; and a young woman named Theodora—who find themselves in a house beset by escalating psychic disturbances. This is a ghost story in which ghosts are seldom seen; a horror story without gore. If horror relies on acts of transgression to deliver its chills, then The Haunting of Hill House is uniquely attuned to the transgressive implications of wearing another person’s clothes.
Eleanor sets off to Hill House armed with gloves, a pocketbook, a light coat. These are sensible items, appropriate to her dull New York City life. She’s someone who would choose neutral, non-assertive hues. Camel, maybe. Dark brown. Navy blue. But on the back seat, concealed in her suitcase, are clothes Eleanor has bought herself specifically for the occasion. They are clothes that embody the kind of person she wishes to be: a bright red sweater, red shoes, and even—“excited at her own daring”—two pairs of slacks. This impulse is a familiar one. Who hasn’t, on the precipice of a holiday, recklessly bought a wardrobe’s worth of aspirational clothing? You imagine you will be different. More relaxed. You will be lighter, prettier, more at ease. You will be the kind of person who drinks brandy. You will make new friends. It’s easy to be seduced by this kind of thinking. New clothes offer the possibility of reinvention.