Ta-Nehisi Coates shares some early work from his upcoming run on Black Panther, and examines the inspiration reading comics had on his life and work as a journalist, and how, ironically, that inspiration didn't always translate well into tackling the Black Panther scripts.
...aside from hip-hop and Dungeons & Dragons, comics were my earliest influences. In the way that past writers had been shaped by the canon of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Wharton, I was formed by the canon of Claremont, DeFalco, and Simonson. Some of this was personal. All of the comics I loved made use of two seemingly dueling forces—fantastic grandiosity and ruthless efficiency. Comic books are absurd. At any moment, the Avengers might include a hero drawn from Norse mythology (Thor), a monstrous realization of our nuclear-age nightmares (the Hulk), a creation of science fiction (Wasp), and an allegory for the experience of minorities in human society (Beast). But the absurdities of comics are, in part, made possible by a cold-eyed approach to sentence-craft. Even when the language tips toward bombast, space is at a premium; every word has to count.
German has such great words that we just straight up steal some of them, Schadenfreude being a prime example. Bruce Duncan explores German compound words and the linguistic creativity and invention involved in their birth over at The Conversation. It's a quick and fascinating read.
Then there’s my own personal favorite, Verschlimmbesserung. This construction doesn’t just present contrasting concepts. It also employs a playful use of German’s grammatical structures to tie them together. The word begins with two verbs—verschlimmern (“to worsen”) and verbessern (“to improve”). It then conflates their prefixes (ver-), and adds the suffix (-ung) to turn it into a noun. This process compresses an idea that only a wordy English translation can unpack: “an intended improvement that makes things worse.”
Michael Wood wonderfully opens his analysis of Orson Welles (and five texts about the man) over at The New York Review of Books with this paragraph:
There is a special risk in writing about Orson Welles. The dimensions may get a little out of hand, as if they had to mime the physical size and imaginative reach of the subject. Patrick McGilligan’s excellent biography of Alfred Hitchcock takes 750 pages to cover the director’s life and his fifty films. By page 706 of Young Orson, Welles is about to start shooting Citizen Kane, his first full-length movie: he is twenty-five years old, and he lived till he was seventy. There is a thirty-nine-page postlude about the day and night of Welles’s death.
"Looking for Citizen Welles" is fascinating, especially the sections regarding his adaptation of Kafka's The Trial. "When K leaves the cathedral where the above conversation takes place, for example, the ornate portals and façade rise behind him in a kind of elaborate architectural mockery, a conflation of society, system, the law, and the church, but the effect is not political, doesn’t suggest the lonely individual betrayed by a heartless system; it suggests a mismatch between us and the elegant, indifferent world we have built for ourselves."
And as if Obama hasn't already done enough, now he has the gall to write the foreword for Fantagraphics' 25th volume of The Complete Peanuts. How is Mitch McConnell going to read Peanuts ever again?!