Friday, August 03, 2012

Pop culture roundup: Gore Vidal on Tarzan; Bob Dylan's new LP; the Man from Krypton

Author Gore Vidal died earlier this week and, though famed for his great intellect, was never too high falutin' to enjoy some of the great pop cultural pleasures of life, such as Tarzan. Here's an essay Vidal penned, which details how the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs fired his youthful imagination.
When I was growing up, I read all twenty-three Tarzan books, as well as the ten Mars books. My own inner storytelling mechanism was vivid. At any one time, I had at least three serials going as well as a number of old faithful reruns. I used Burroughs as a source of raw material. When he went to the center of the earth a la Jules Verne (much too fancy a writer for one’s taste), I immediately worked up a thirteen-part series, with myself as lead, and various friends as guest stars. Sometimes I used the master’s material, but more often I adapted it freely to suit myself. One’s daydreams intended to be Tarzanish post-puberty (physical strength and freedom) and Martian post-puberty (exotic worlds and subtle combinaziones to be worked out). After adolescence, if one’s life is sufficiently interesting, the desire to tell oneself stories diminishes. My last serial ran into sponsor trouble when I was in the Second World War and was never renewed.
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Bob Dylan shares some details on his new album, Tempest, which is out in September.
The title track is a nearly 14-minute depiction of the Titanic disaster. Numerous folk and gospel songs gave accounts of the event, including the Carter Family's "The Titanic," which Dylan drew from. "I was just fooling with that one night," he says. "I liked that melody – I liked it a lot. 'Maybe I'm gonna appropriate this melody.' But where would I go with it?" Elements of Dylan's vision of the Titanic are familiar – historical figures, the inescapable finality. But it's not all grounded in fact: The ship's decks are places of madness ("Brother rose up against brother. They fought and slaughtered each other"), and even Leonardo DiCaprio appears. ("Yeah, Leo," says Dylan. "I don't think the song would be the same without him. Or the movie.") "People are going to say, 'Well, it's not very truthful,' " says Dylan. "But a songwriter doesn't care about what's truthful. What he cares about is what should've happened, what could've happened. That's its own kind of truth. It's like people who read Shakespeare plays, but they never see a Shakespeare play. I think they just use his name."

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Kid Robson remembers the "Man from Krypton" storyline from early Superman comics. I also miss the days when comics creators could subtly readjust a character's status quo without conjuring up some sort of "big event" to do so.

Picture sleeve parade: Carl Perkins - Jive After Five