Monday, September 22, 2008

Jonathan Lethem on The Dark Knight

"After a long summer spent laboring in the salt mine of a novel-in-progress," Lethem ventured out to the multiplex to see this year's biggest film. Here are a sampling of his thoughts on the pic, as expressed to the NYTimes and its readers:

No wonder we crave an entertainment like “The Dark Knight,” where every topic we’re unable to quit not-thinking about is whirled into a cognitively dissonant milkshake of rage, fear and, finally, absolving confusion.

It may be possible to see the nightly news in a similar light, where any risk of uncovering the vulnerable yearnings, all the tenderness aroused by, yes, the seemingly needless death of a promising young actor or of a brilliant colleague, all hope of conversation between the paranoid blues and the paranoid reds, all that might bind us together, is forever armored in a gleeful and cynical cartoon of spin and disinformation. Keywords — “change,” “victory” — are repeated until adapted out of meaning, into self-canceling glyphs. Meanwhile, pigs break into the lipstick store, and we go hollering down the street after them, relieving ourselves of another hour or day or week of clear thought.

Beneath the sniping, so many real things lie in ruins: a corporate paradigm displaying no shred of responsibility, but eager for rescue by taxpayers; a military leadership’s implicit promise to its recruits and their families; a public discourse commodified into channels that feed any given preacher’s resentments to a self-selecting chorus. In these déjà vu battles, the combatants forever escape one another’s final judgment, whirl off into the void, leaving us standing awed in the rubble, uncertain of what we’ve seen, only sure we’re primed for the sequel.

If everything is broken, perhaps it is because for the moment we like it better that way. Unlike some others, I have no theory who Batman is — but the Joker is us.

To read Lethem's full review/political diatribe, click here.