Critical Cinematography for Fun and Profit, or, News for May at the Porcupine’s Quill

As you know, I have a deep and abiding love for stories of all sorts, and while my preferred way to consume said stories is (unsurprisingly) book format, I’m not too proud to admit that I am also be a fan of screen-based storytelling. At the best of times, I’m an indifferent TV-watcher, but these are most assuredly not the best of times, so I have been more frequently availing myself of the old boob tube of an evening. (Mostly to watch really mindless British reality TV I shamelessly call “crap telly”. Don’t judge me.)

astronomer looking through telescope
Anybody else find unexpected joy spotting “Easter eggs” or product placements in movies, or arguing about the “meaning” of the various cinematographic choices? No? Just me?

There’s something about pictures telling a story that is both calming and invigorating. On the one hand, it’s easy to passively consume a movie as background noise or as bubble gum for the brain—it’s something you can do absently, while looking at your phone or cooking or folding laundry or what have you. On the other hand, it can be very stimulating to spot “Easter eggs” or troll for hidden meaning in the cinematography of a particularly well-thought-out movie. Thinking about colour, direction of movement, facial expression, props in the background—all of these tiny details have been carefully considered and can sometimes offer a wealth of information for the discerning viewer.

It is very similar, indeed, to the process of “reading” a graphic novel. I am thinking specifically of George A. Walker’s hot-off-the-press book Mary Pickford, Queen of the Silent Film Era, a book that encourages us to translate our movie-watching skills to the book format. As you flip through the beautiful wood engravings and consider the silent movie-inspired title cards, you might find yourself trolling for meaning in the same way that a cinematographer—or a wood engraver—might. How do actors or characters communicate without sound? How can we read context? It’s a fun exercise, and I for one definitely learned a lot about how audiences might have approached silent films way back when.

And if I manage to reap the benefits of the boob tube in book form, well, so much the better!

What’s going on this month?


FairMay will see an ambitious attempt to print Ed Seaward’s debut novel, Fair. This poetic novel follows an innocent young homeless man, Eyan, living on the streets, parks and boardwalks of sunny Los Angeles. There Eyan finds himself caught between two disparate forces. On the one hand, ‘the professor’ reads to Eyan from Milton’s Paradise Lost and offers friendship and understanding. On the other, the sinister Paul and his gang of ‘eyeless boys’ use Eyan’s penchant for wandering the streets for their own ends. Tensions increase, tragedy unfolds, and Eyan must decide for himself the meaning of justice. Seaward’s debut effort is lyrical and touching and somehow finds just the right balance between despair and hope.

In Cyberspace.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay updated about any readings or Q&As taking place online.

In the world.

May 5th is National Teacher’s Day, a day many parents currently experiencing the joys of homeschooling are suddenly appreciating even more, amirite?

Entirely related to the above, May 25th is International Wine Day. You’re welcome.

And don’t forget, May is Short Story Month! Indulge your love of the oft-neglected short story by picking up a few solid examples of the genre. (If I may suggest: Rerouted; The Museum of Possibilities; The Dodecahedron.)

From the porcupette’s corner.

Does anyone else have a hard time remembering what month it is? The days are all blurring together and I’m finding it hard to concentrate. I recall doing a fair bit of editing this month, though it’s slow going, and I’ve also read a creditable number of submissions, if I do say so myself. Plus, I’ve read a truly shocking number of books in April (well, for me at least).

scholar sitting at writing desk and gazing out the window
This image speaks to me on a fundamental level. I am totally that nosy neighbour sitting at her desk and staring out the window watching people stroll down the sidewalk or pull weeds or shout conversationally across the road.

But it’s hard to feel as if I’m making progress for some reason. Perhaps it’s because all the days are feeling the same, and there aren’t really any outings or events to look forward to in general, much less bookish ones. Perhaps I’m just succumbing to the lassitude and lack of creativity so many are feeling right now. Whatever the reason for the foggy brain, I’m thankful at least to have some structure to my days, and to have something useful to do with my mind while the world stands still.

portraitThanks as always for your continued attention as we send along our regular if at times extemporaneous musings directly to your inbox each month. We hope we’re keeping you mildly amused!

Keep well, Quill friends,signature

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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.