Monday, September 22, 2014

Update 2 - The Preface

This is not me writing. This is St. Jerome.
I am not this awesome.
Some Thoughts

This week y’all get a draft of the book’s preface. I decided it was important to get this piece of writing down (however much it might change in the coming months) specifically because I am about to embark on a bunch of preparatory reading and research (as mentioned in last week’s update).

Regardless of how much the reading will influence my thinking (and therefore the book) I have to begin with an idea of where I want to go, and writing the preface is an attempt at that. The blog itself, of course, had a theme and a direction to it, but writing a book is different. Writing a book is a lot more like writing a single article on the blog than it is like writing the blog itself. This is because it has to hold together a lot more closely. A book is a single whole, and as such it should say something as a whole.

The blog is a lot more like an ongoing conversation. The book is like a single statement in a much bigger ongoing conversation.

So I have to keep in mind why I’m reading Aristotle and Coomaraswamy and Camus (maybe, I haven’t decided about him yet) because I’m not really going to them to hear what they have to say. I’m going to them to ask for help clarifying what should say. And, in that case, I really should know what kind of things I want to say in the first place.

Given the above explanation, the draft preface I wrote seems pretty darn general. Does it really help do what I’m talking about? I think so. It really serves the same purpose for me as the author as it does for the reader: it gives a warning about what’s ahead. It gives some notion of the scope and intentions of the work.

It’s a little vague because it’s just the beginning (in more than one sense at the moment). I can see myself coming back to the draft again and again as I start hammering out the structure of the sections and chapters, deciding what arguments need to be made and where they need to go, etc.

And remember, I’m eager to hear your comments! Is the draft helpful? Unclear? Let me know what you think.


This book is about pop-culture.

But, it’s about pop-culture like a road atlas of New Jersey is about New Jersey. This book is not an attempt to understand pop-culture as a whole, or analyze pop-culture academically. It is a collection of suggestions, arguments, and observations intended to help people make good use of pop-cultural artifacts (movies, books, comic books, music, video games, memes, YouTube videos, YouTube comments, etc.)

Good is to be understood here in a broad and philosophical sense. I don’t mean economically profitable, furthering to a career, or even necessarily helpful in conversing with aficionados of this or that “sub-culture.” I mean good for human beings: useful in finding and delighting in beauty, doing and understanding good, knowing and believing truth.

So, this book is not about pop-culture. It’s about raiding pop-culture, stealing its stuff, and using it for mankind’s purposes.

One reason for this focus, and avoiding the academic style analysis, is that I am not an alien. I am not an impartial observer of human activity. I am a doer of human activities who has a real and immediate stake in how things go down and how I use my time, and so are you. I have no desire that either of us should act otherwise.

Another reason is that I’m not sure “pop-culture” exists.

I am certain that you exist (I’m confident I’ll have at least one reader – thanks, honey). I’m even certain that the live-action Ninja Turtles movie from the ’90s exists. But whether a single, unified, coherent being called “pop-culture” exists that somehow contains and is made up of a bunch of things and opinions and activities, that is a question I couldn’t answer at the moment, and one I’d need a good reason to answer at all. We’re dealing with a poorly defined syndrome and the least, a massive and obscure monster at the most, and whether it’s a hydra or a hurricane, we can look for ways to asses and deal with it.

In light of all this: this book is for everyone. It does presume a certain amount of experience with, and even enjoyment of, things like action movies, adventure stories, and dance music. It also presumes a belief in right and wrong, a meaningful universe, and mankind having a place in that universe. I will have to touch on these things explicitly, at least early on in the book, but they will underlie the whole thing the whole time.

The most I hope for is that people read this book and then go about watching movies, playing games, and going to anime conventions with an alert and active mind, making the most out of everything and letting nothing be in vain (even when it’s clearly frivolous).

The least I hope for is that it won’t lead anybody wrong, and might piss someone off enough to get them talking.

© 2014 John Hiner III

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