Thursday, August 27, 2020

The Final Solution: The Living Dead

This is a time of collective nightmares. There was the bubonic plague that was the backdrop for the imaginative escape of Boccaccio’s Decameron. The Spanish flu of l918 was the impetus for Katharine Anne Porter’s Pale Horse, Pale Rider. Stephen King dreamed up The Stand as did Steven Soderbergh, Contagion one of the hottest items on the streaming circuit. Now Hurricane Laura is reeking havoc in South Texas and cities like Corpus Christi where coronavirus has been peaking have to contend with a double morbidity of a high order. Might it be said that calamities like these out do the spells wrought by turbulent sleep from which you at least can wake up. Certain kinds of art derive from catastrophizing while other works are a response to the calamities that have or are already occurring. In the case of The Decameron the fictions are both the tales and the characters telling them. The one reality is the plague. Michael Crichton for example conjured up The Andromedia Strain, though fictions based on horrific fantasy always run the possibility of being even more horrifying than reality. It’s one thing to be scared by Night of the Living Dead or The Invasion of the Body Snatchers and another to actually come upon zombies or blank eyed trauma victims acting like them walking around the neighborhood. Is this the age of retribution? Is mankind paying for its transgressions, in life as well as art?

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