Monday, August 29, 2005

Planet Simpsons

I recently read the Canadian book Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Documented an Era and Defined a Generation by Chris Turner, which began life as a magazine article a decade or so ago (now yellowing in my archives). Although the message of the book is refreshing and often entertaining, Turner's lengthy summarizing of the plots of what seems like hundreds of Simpsons episodes is tedious. One can just watch the episodes, which are shown endlessly on TV. The book reminds me of Greil Marcus's contention of an "old, weird America"- perhaps he means people that agree with him, in his book Lipstick Traces. At the end of his book, Turner writes "Right around the time I'd begun to suspect that my society was a very large and powerful machine moving steadily in the wrong direction, The Simpsons entered its Golden Age to vividly chart the movements of the beast and the chinks in its armour." So are all those Simpsons viewers (a very large number) or fans of The Firesign Theatre (a ridiculously small number) an antidote to the wayward beast? If only works of art had that power. The book is worth checking out of your local library, if only for Turner's relentless optimism and the fervour of his belief in the redemptive (for America Inc.) power of the show.

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