In the latest issue of The Believer, Nick Hornby interviews David Simon, cocreator of The Wire. I already loved that show, but now my admiration for Simon himself has grown even further. First of all, he points out that unlike The Sopranos and Deadwood, to which his show is usually compared, The Wire is not Shakespearean in inspiration but looks back to an older model: It's not about "the angst and machinations of the central characters" but about "doomed and fated protagonists who confront a rigged game and their own mortality. (…) The Wire is a Greek tragedy in which the postmodern institutions are the Olympian forces. (…) In much of television, and in a good deal of our stage drama, individuals are often portrayed as rising above institutions to achieve catharsis. In this drama, the institutions always prove larger, and those characters with hubris enough to challenge the postmodern construct of American empire are invariably mocked, marginalized, or crushed." The former member of the French Socialist Party in me cheered that one.
Another statement resonated with the current member of the media world in me: "Fuck the average reader. I was always told to write for the average reader in my newspaper life. The average reader, as they meant it, was some suburban white subscriber with two-point-whatever kids and three-point-whatever cars and a dog and a cat and lawn furniture. He knows nothing and he needs everything explained to him right away, so that exposition becomes this incredible, story-killing burden. Fuck him. Fuck him to hell." Simon then explains that he preferred "assuming the reader/viewer knew more than he did, or could, with a sensible amount of effort, hang around long enough to figure it out." What? Effort? You mean the reader has to work at something? Anathema in our world of easily digestible factoids!
So come on, fork out $8 for The Believer. There's more wisdom from Simon, plus goodies like Elizabeth Isadora Gold's essay on 1970s feminist novels (it actually made me want to reread Marilyn French's The Women's Room) and Victor Brand's introduction to the world of Boris Vian.