"Reading Rainbow" and "The Atlantic Monthly" Come Back to Us
Now that people of Intelligent Mind are no longer freaking out so much about politics -- on one side or the other -- the world is ripe for fiction again.

The right needs fantasies to keep them strong in this age of paranoia and control. The left needs myths to keep them hopeful in the face of hostility and aggression. Reality just isn't good enough!

"I am afraid of President Obama. I will read a book about gladiator revolts or possibly rodent ice-wizards who ride space dragons."

"I am afraid of poultry-plant workers from Kentucky. I will read a book about gladiator revolts or possibly rodent ice-wizards who ride space dragons."

Whatever inch of the political yardstick you occupy, you will be happy to learn that two good things are happening in the world of American fiction: "Reading Rainbow" is returning to television and will be rebooted for a new generation, and "The Atlantic Monthly" is going to start publishing fiction again.

These two small tactical victories for the artful and confabulated are good news for all red-blooded Americans, whether these Americans qualify for godless health-care reform or not.

"I am afraid of rodent ice-wizards who ride space dragons. So I will write a book about my childhood in The South! I am a fiction writer!"


It appears that "Reading Rainbow" will be rebooted with more of an "internet" edge, but I feel like this is a mistake, and that the new angle that "Reading Rainbow" should take is to use fiction as a gateway into the marginalized, desperate, and terrifying.

It should be the only kid's show that visits prisons, mental health hospitals, and mortuaries. It should visit the Hell of the World with a book under its arm, dragging children along and promising to show them how things really are with a grim, world-weary determination to find the deeper truth.

The treat at the end is a piece of fiction that makes sense of it all.

After LeVar Burton interviews a death row inmate about his methods for abducting and killing children, THEN he will turn to the camera and tell viewers. "And that's why you should never talk to strangers or join the Cub Scouts. And now, here's Morgan Freeman reading "The Night Kitchen," by Maurice Sendak..."

Why sell fiction to children as anything less than the art that both opens your mind and then helps you deal with the new horrors of your functional imagination?


Regarding "The Atlantic Monthly": while I am happy they are recommitted to publishing fiction, they are going to have to work a fuck of a lot harder than releasing some shit for the iPhone or the Kindle and calling this a fiction section.

"We think -- we hope! -- we are seeing renewed interest in the short story," wrote James Bennet, "The Atlantic Monthly" editor. "Last fall, we started a digital fiction series, publishing to the Amazon Kindle two short stories a month by authors like Christopher Buckley, Curtis Sittenfeld, and Paul Theroux."

Basically, doing this is doing nothing, except putting money into the hands of Apple and Amazon, the world's biggest electronics and shoe stores, respectively.

Hey "Atlantic Monthly": fire your news department, use the money to hire some flash developers, and start making embeddable fiction widgets designed by real artists that feature audio files of short fiction from real writers.

Make it fun! Get some interviews! Maximize your resources! Find a jolly host who takes on the world with sly wit and who appears to have benefited in her life from reading fiction!

Go vertical: do podcasts, do internet publishing, and do print-on-demand. Fiction everywhere. Fiction coming out of the fucking walls. Kids getting fiction tattoos. Fiction overtaking sports and fashion on graphs full of jagged red lines labeled "importance over time in countries that matter." Fiction getting us into space, giving us something to do in space, making sense of our junked-up lives, healing wounds we didn't even know we had, making us smart enough to live in a world without borders, limits, or necessity...

In short, the new "Atlantic Monthly" needs to be more like the old "Reading Rainbow," and vice versa.

Posted by miracle on Tue, 30 Mar 2010 13:30:11 -0500 -- permanent link

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