Klavan On The Culture

Klavan On The Culture

A Real Talent: Steven Knight

August 12th, 2015 - 9:07 am

And now a word about the culture.

In the arts, success and quality are completely unrelated. That is to say, great works are sometimes hits, and sometimes failures and likewise trash. Great artists are sometimes hailed, sometimes ignored and likewise hacks. A reasonably well-educated person alive in England in 1819, say, when Wordsworth, Coleridge, Blake, Keats, Shelley and Byron were all alive and working, would probably have read only one of them with pleasure, and heard of three of them at most. Only time ultimately sorts the great from the good and bad.

So it is with today’s books and movies. There are popular and unpopular good ones and popular and unpopular bad ones — and no, it’s not just a matter of taste, I’m afraid; but that’s an argument for another day.

Today, I just want to point out one top notch talent currently working mainly in the crime genre. They know his name in the offices in Hollywood, but the general public hasn’t heard about him anywhere near enough.

Steven Knight is a screenwriter of the very first rank. His best work, so far, is Eastern Promises, a crime genre classic directed by David Cronenberg and starring Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts. And if you’re not watching his historical British gangster series Peaky Blinders on Netflix, you are missing one of the best things now on the small screen. Locke, starring the great Tom Hardy, is also good. It’s an experimental film that Knight both wrote and directed and it’s small — all you see for the entire movie is a man driving in a car talking on the phone! — but it’s riveting, a writing tour de force, and great fun to discuss afterwards.

Dirty Pretty Things, is a good and underrated film, directed by Stephen Frears. Redemption, a Jason Statham action flick, is a fine entry in the genre (most Statham action flicks are better than other action flicks). Closed Circuit didn’t quite hold together for me, but the writing was intelligent throughout.

In general, of course, screenwriters don’t get the credit they deserve and take more of the blame than they should (all right, I’m prejudiced). For a long time, even I kept referring to Steven Knight as “that guy with the name like a chess piece,” as in, “Yeah, I think that was written by that guy…  you know… with the name like a chess piece… king… knight…”  But now that I realize how good he is, I’ve been keeping an eye out for him and you should too.

If you haven’t seen Eastern Promises, see it. If you’re not watching Peaky Blinders, watch it. And if you have a spare 90 minutes, take a look at Locke. This guy really knows what he’s doing.

The Last Trump (Post by me)

August 9th, 2015 - 1:10 pm

Last time I wrote about Donald Trump, I received comments that read to me like this:

“You’re an establishment elitist, Klavan! We’re angry, you hear? So we’re going to vote for a liberal RINO who’s sure to get Hillary Clinton elected! That’ll show em! Yeah!”

Fortunately, I managed to convince myself that such comments came from lefty trolls pretending to be conservatives because to believe for even a moment that some conservatives might actually be thinking at the level of lefty trolls pretending to be conservatives…  well, that way madness lies.

And really, I’ve said everything I have to say about Trump and, more importantly, Jonah Goldberg and Kevin D. Williamson at National Review have said everything I have to say about Trump. But I do want to add one quick addendum to my previous comments.

Donald Trump’s candidacy is a creation of the mainstream news media in the same way that Godzilla is a creation of a reckless nuclear blast: it’s an unintended side effect of a destructive cloud. In this case, we’re talking about a news media cloud of lies, a cloud in which the president of the United States can corrupt both the IRS and the Justice Department, leave our people dead in Benghazi, effectively deal weapons to Iranian terrorists and repeatedly ignore the constitutional structures that keep us free, all without consequence…  but if Marco Rubio takes a sip of water during a speech, CNN wonders if that’s a “career-ender”?

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Just a couple of observations on the debate. Despite reporting from the Los Angeles Times and even the Wall Street Journal saying the debate was fractious and that Trump dominated, that isn’t what I saw. Conservative filmmaker Jeremy Boreing got it right in his excellent post-debate piece for the Hollywood Reporter:

Thursday night was — against all odds and the prevailing narrative in the media — a real victory for the Republican party.

What was framed in the lead-up as an embarrassing glut of meaningless candidates revealed itself to be, for the most part, a serious and diverse field both in terms of policy and demographics.

What many expected to be a fireworks show between a fractured and fractious party and its unlikely reality star frontrunner was actually a largely civil exchange of ideas. Finally, a party often criticized (especially by conservatives in Hollywood) as impossibly deficient in stagecraft and presentation managed to introduce nine articulate, polished and thoughtful candidates – and Donald Trump.

Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, John Kasich and Mike Huckabee all helped themselves and looked good, I thought. Ben Carson ought to get out: It’s painful to watch a great man out of his element. Rand Paul ought to get out: He’s nuts. Chris Christie ought to get out: He hugged Obama and, no, I don’t forgive him either. I wish Jeb Bush would get out, but I’ll just have to wait.

A comment on Carly Fiorina. She did great not only in the pre-debate debate of the second tier but also in the spin room, where she gave Chris Matthews a much-deserved high heel to the eyeball. I’ve been reluctant to praise Fiorina because I thought she was sort of a no-show in her 2010 Senate run here in California. I met her briefly at the time and, while I had no negative impression of her, I didn’t have an overwhelmingly positive one either. But she wasn’t just great on Thursday. She’s been great ever since she started running. Honest, fearless, smart and politically wise. People keep saying condescendingly that she’s about to have a boomlet or become “flavor of the week.” Maybe. But I’m beginning to suspect she might be in it for the long haul, and could even end up on the ticket, if not in the lead position. I like her.

I’ll try to say more about Trump next week. For now, my previous comments stand.

With the debates about to begin, Bill Whittle and I discuss whether Republican candidates should have to perform in exploding chairs like the villains in Thunderball so that the process of elimination can be more immediate and entertaining. Well, duh, obviously. But we discuss some other things as well:

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Loving Animals, Loving People

August 3rd, 2015 - 11:25 am


My dog is dying, after a long life of beaches and forests and affection. She is one of the sweetest, gentlest, most enthusiastic creatures I’ve ever met, my friend and companion for nearly fifteen years. So even before the news and social media degraded and humiliated themselves by going into hysterics over the death of Cecil the lion while covering up or excusing Planned Parenthood’s butchery and sale of human babies, I’ve had cause to reflect on human-animal relationships.

It in no way detracts from the goodness of my dog nor diminishes my devotion to her to observe that there’s a measure of narcissism in the love of animals. Our pets demand any number of little attentions from us, but they will never ask us to change our opinions. They will never challenge the validity of our inner worlds with their own.

Those competing inner visions humans have — other outlooks; conflicting opinions — that’s what narcissists can’t stand; that’s what really offends them. It’s not enough for a narcissistic tyrant that you do what he says, you also have to profess what he believes. It’s not enough that you leave him alone, you have to bake the cake for his wedding too. Narcissists can’t abide the Other. Competing inner worlds drive them to insane levels of cruelty, brutality and even murder. Animals never pose that problem for them. That’s why so many people who preen themselves on their love of animals are such rotten imbeciles when it comes to other humans. The PETA types who assault people for wearing fur, say. Philosopher Peter Singer who believes a baby may be morally killed but not a dog. Such love of animals is not love at all; just narcissism made flesh.

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Pop culture website Forces of Geek has named my novel Werewolf Cop as one of the “25 Must-Read Books of the Summer.” That’s “Must-Read,” dig, so it’s not a suggestion, it’s an actual command! It’s a good list, chock-full of other books that are not written by me, but what we’re trying to focus on here is the book that actually is written by me. The list describes the book and then concludes with a segment called Why it’s on the list? The answer:

Um…Werewolf Cop set in a real police procedural.  Um…YES!

Okay, that may not be the most articulate review I’ve ever received, but it gets high marks for enthusiasm. Here’s a little more from one of the latest Amazon reviews:

The always-excellent Andrew Klavan spins a new yarn reminiscent of his earlier work, classics such as The Animal Hour, The Scarred Man, and Don’t Say A Word, page-turning novels of gut-wrenching suspense, with psychological plot twists that seem to come out of nowhere, brutal, violent realism, and third-act, wide-eyed resolution that make his books nearly impossible to put down.

Horror fans, especially fans of classic horror, will be especially riveted by the saga of detective Zach Adams… Probably the best author of psychological horror on the market, Klavan delivers on all cylinders… The characters are realistic and interesting, the action is vigorous, and the twists are so stunning at times that you’re forced to read the book a second time in order to understand just how brilliantly you were set up.

And did I mention it’s a must-read. As in must. So since you have no choice, stop procrastinating.

My Response to Mike Huckabee

July 28th, 2015 - 8:15 am

Corrupt News Media Rule #42: “Whenever a Republican says something we consider untoward, every other Republican is required to respond to it. Whenever a Democrat says or does something patently corrupt, destructive or idiotic…  Look over there!  Transexuals!”

So it is with Governor Mike Huckabee, who recently discussed President Obama’s Iran deal with Breitbart editor-in-chief Alexander Marlow. Huckabee said: ”This president’s foreign policy is the most feckless in American history. It is so naive that he would trust the Iranians. By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.”

Since everyone who has ever voted Republican will be asked to give a response to this remark, here’s mine:

“I am absolutely shocked that Governor Huckabee would make reference to the Holocaust when discussing a deal that endangers the lives of six million Jews. Why, it’s so absurd — Jon Stewart ought to make one of his funny faces about it. God, I love those. Are they hilarious or what? Just because the president wants to virtually guarantee nuclear weapons to a regime dedicated to Israel’s destruction, that’s no reason to go around getting all Holocausty about it. It’s a completely ridiculous comparison. For one thing, these are totally different Jews we’re talking about killing here. And for another thing, Adolf Hitler was evil. President Obama is just narcissistic and morally obtuse. So when these Jews die, it’ll be different. Okay, not for them, but I mean for us, later, when we make excuses about it. Governor Huckabee should apologize at once. Especially for those music segments on his old Fox show.”

That’s my opinion. And I mean it to sting, by golly.

The Left Embraces the Logic of Fascism

July 27th, 2015 - 9:53 am

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The logic of fascism is this: “Your X constitute[s] an act of violence, so I’m justified in using violence against you.” For X, you can fill in just about anything except actual violence. Some of the more popular choices are: “Words; Opinions; Positions; Race; Presence; Borders; Jewishness.” Once you equate any of these things — anything — with violence, once you feel justified in committing violence in response, your actual positions no longer matter. You’re a thug. You’re a fascist. You’re a tyrant, petty or otherwise. You no longer have a place at the discussion table.

Violence is not in the same category as any other human interchange. Our right to life and safety is our first right and the one on which all others depend. Free speech, religious freedom, freedom of the press — none of these means anything if people are allowed to hurt or kill you for them. That’s why every civilized system of law recognizes: Violence is justified only as a response to actual or threatened violence. You can say the most awful things to me, but if I can’t show that real physical violence was a reasonable threat, I can’t legally respond with force.

Even the logic of fascism understands this — and seeks to disguise it by labeling as violence what is not violence at all: your words, your opinions, your race, the fact that you’re a Jew.

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Good News and Bad from the NR Cruise

July 25th, 2015 - 10:11 am

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Back from the National Review cruise to Alaska — or at least, on my way back in Seattle’s Sea-Tac Airport. It was a genuinely good time and in many ways not what I expected. The highlight, of course, was when Rob LongJonah Goldberg and Kevin Williamson came dancing off the ship in sailor suits and started singing Comden and Green songs (the video’s above). All right, that didn’t really happen, but a man can dream, can’t he?

I was thinking there’d be a lot of gloom and doom and Obama-has-destroyed-the-country and gay-people-are-getting- married-and-it’s-the-end-of-civilization-as-we-know-it and so on. And there was some of that, but a lot less than I feared. Euro MP Daniel Hannan, whom I’ve always admired, kept braving the frowning faces in the audience here and there to remind people that life is getting better for most people and that, even with Obama dragging us down like an anchor, the U.S. economy continues to grow.

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North To Alaska

July 17th, 2015 - 9:08 am

I’m off to Alaska on the National Review Cruise next week (pictured above). These cruise ships often make it difficult and expensive to get online so I may not be able to file. In my absence, you can get all the Klavan you want in fictional form. For adults, there’s Werewolf Cop, recently reviewed here, as:

One of the most clever uses of being a werewolf that I have ever read… Don’t start this book late at night because you are going to want to finish it before you go to bed. A high-octane suspenseful thriller.

For the young and young at heart, there’s Hostage Run, the second book in my MindWar trilogy, just reviewed at Redeemed Reader, where they said:

While Mindwar was very good, Hostage Run is even better.  Character development, nail-biting suspense, and action keep readers on the edge of their seats, and the ending?  You will have to read and see!

Those should keep you busy until I return to annoy you with more of my opinions!