Bear with me here, I know that late posts aren’t accepted but I’m doing this one anyway, because I wanted to get it out before the Easter holiday weekend and the food service hell that it is engulfed my life, but I failed. So here I am anyway. Also, the title of this post doesn’t actually come from The Unwritten but rather from Rick Moody’s novel The Diviners but it is close enough to one of Mr. Bun’s lines that I felt it appropriate (that or I just love that line).
I also am going to outright state that I suck at Weekly Reviews because I’d rather just hone in on one topic and discuss the shit out of it. Well, maybe not that much discussion, but still. So today’s agenda is a response to a question posed by the illustrious Prof. Sample himself. Is the Unwritten just a collection of cheap literary references (paraphrased)? I couldn’t adequately answer this in class but having re-read both volumes I feel like I am a little more equipped for the task. The answer: No.
Well I guess I should probably “Show My Work” in the words of innumerable math instructors from my youth (whom would probably be tickled pink that I’ve managed to apply something they taught me for a “real world” purpose).
The Unwritten isn’t a collection of cheap literary references, it IS an ever expanding tapestry OF literary references. The difference is in the “cheap” part. Without them there would be no story. They would be cheap if the story itself could exist independent of literary references. Sort of like how the Xenosaga games for the PS2 don’t really need those Nietzsche quotes in their titles to work as a game or as a narrative and they could be considered guilty of a cheap use of a philosophical reference. But the Unwritten is more like an Austrian Death Machine song that use of lines from Arnold Schwarzenegger movies as their lyrics and thematic grounding point. That’s the entire purpose of their music. To re purpose shitty dialog into terrible yet awesome heavy metal. Without the reference there is no music (or a career for Quentin Tarantino). Without the literature before it there would be no The Unwritten. It almost seems like Sample’s friend just isn’t that into post-modernity. I can dig. As much as I love the mash-up of reference, genre, and style that marks the movement there’s always some asshole that takes it to far and ends up without a genuine work as a result (fuckin’ Jeff Koontz, lookin’ at you).
But I feel that Mike Carey (whom is, by the way, currently writing the best X-Men comic out at the moments) and Peter Gross have created a valuable work that does need these references to exist but is not itself without an underpinning of narrative that make them click in a satisfying manner. The influence of fiction on reality is a common theme amidst modern (or post-modern) creative types (almost as if they’re saying “Look at me, I don’t cure diseases but I still matter”) and it is a theme worth exploring. Because fiction, whether literature or hearsay, does matter and it does impact our lives. This para(theticals)graph hopefully illustrates that (there are too many of them, sorry) you can tell one story and a completely different one and have them both matter. Even if that matter is composed of highly dense mass of literary Easter eggs hidden in a story that, if removed, has several egg shaped holes that will surely cause it to fail a home inspection (what too many mixed metaphors too?).
I also find it interesting that Paul Cornell, the man who wrote the intro to Volume 2, lists his I’m sure famous to the Brits screen writing credits but utterly fails to mention that he also writes comic books. His Marvel comics miniseries Wisdom is actually quite excellent and even has to deal with the very same theme of the fantastic and fictional becoming altogether real (albeit his story involves Oberon and H.G. Wells and has a lot more punching involved).