Monthly Archives: January 2010

January 31, 2010

Disney Canon #25: The Black Cauldron (1985)


ADAM That felt like a He-Man cartoon.

BETH Yes, but a pretty nice one.

ADAM It felt like a He-Man two-hour special.

BROOM It was higher budget than He-Man ever was; it was the content that felt similar.

ADAM Do you remember Skeletor?

BROOM Of course. The horned king looked exactly like him. Which came first?

BETH Skeletor was earlier.

ADAM It also had the feel of an eighties cartoon in that the backgrounds felt like watercolor and the action felt like shrinky-dinks, pasted on.

BETH The backgrounds were a lot nicer than I thought they would be. I was really expecting this movie to be a lot uglier.

BROOM Chintzier.

BETH “Chintzier,” yes, because actually it was really ugly; or at least it had a lot of ugly things in it. And scary things.

ADAM Right, just like Snow White. I mean, we like that.

BETH Yes, but it was scarier than Snow White.

BROOM It wasn’t scary in an old warm-hearted “being scared is fun” way. It was scary in an 80s way.

ADAM Like, Freddy Krueger scary?

BROOM Sort of a Steven Spielberg scary — like Poltergeist. Or like Raiders of the Lost Ark, which it was very much like. It was! The effects around the cauldron were almost the same. The plot was really very similar. Except for the pig.

ADAM The pig was more like Frodo Baggins.

BROOM No it wasn’t!

ADAM No, it wasn’t, but the plot did feel like a Lord of the Rings knock-off.

BROOM There had been that Lord of the Rings animated movie in the 70s, right? I think that other people had beaten Disney to this world of adult, “serious” fantasy animation., and here Disney was venturing in that direction. It was certainly very different from anything that had come before. We’re really in an entirely different cultural territory here.

ADAM It was sort of charming. I mean, all eighty minutes I was awake. There were always things happening; there were no digression caterpillars.

BETH That’s true.

BROOM Yes, but it was confused about drama. A lot.

ADAM Yes: it had the climax in the first twenty minutes, and then it just kept climaxing and climaxing.

BROOM What would you say was that early climax?

ADAM When they escaped from the castle.

BROOM I guess. I basically understood what the progression of events was supposed to be, in the scheme of a movie like this. I meant more that there were a lot of sequences where the tone was confused, or where the music was a little confusing. Like, it was dark and foreboding right at the beginning, when he was still just innocently playing in the Shire. And then it was gloriously magical when they were basically meeting the Smurfs. Those weren’t the right choices.

BETH Was this rated G? That woman’s boobs, and all the beer and wine…

BROOM It was PG. But even so, the degree of horror still seemed high. The horned king’s face coming at you, and all the evil magic effects. It was really an effects-oriented movie.

ADAM They really did an excellent job on the green ectoplasm coming out of the cauldron. It was like Ghostbusters ectoplasm.

BETH All the special effects seemed lovingly done, like the backgrounds. The layouts, too — the actual design of the shots.

ADAM The way that the Fair Folk glowed.

BETH I thought that was really nice and atmospheric.

BROOM There were a lot of backlighting effects like that. The movie was really an effects showcase, whereas there have been almost no effects in any of the recent movies. Just one movie ago, in The Fox and the Hound, it really felt like they were trying to get through with the least possible animation, whereas here — uniquely, for the first time in several decades — it felt like the animators were doing something that they found exciting. Which is not to say that the final product was so great, but it certainly felt enthusiastic.

ADAM I had that feeling some in The Rescuers.

BETH Really? When?

ADAM I don’t know, in the swamp.

BETH With that, I thought they might have been having some fun but they weren’t necessarily really into it.

ADAM So what would you say was the last truly excited animation? Sleeping Beauty?

BROOM Yes, I think that might be it. And this movie had some things in common with Sleeping Beauty.

BETH The princess kind of looked like Sleeping Beauty.

BROOM This was the first time we’ve seen those really big 80s eyes.

ADAM They had a sort of manga quality. You know who she reminded me of? Luna Lovegood.

BROOM Because she didn’t pay any attention to what he was saying? What did her magic bauble do? What function did it serve? And also, where did it go?

BETH It was there at the end.

ADAM It abandoned them in the middle, but then it came back. This was fine. I totally would have enjoyed watching this as a kid: it had a lot of plot, and I wouldn’t have minded the failure of characterization.

BETH I would have needed to be at least nine.

BROOM I would have been too scared as a little kid.

ADAM I would have liked Gurgi just fine. Even though he was a real sniveling sycophant weirdo. I don’t think he deserved to be redeemed just because he killed himself.

BROOM What is the deal with that character archetype? Which as we said many times during the movie, is Jar-Jar Binks and Dobby, and obviously some relation to Gollum, too. It’s some kind of horrible slave-idiot stereotype, right? They always call the hero “master” and can’t speak good English.

BETH What was the first one?

BROOM It’s some kind of modernization of…

ADAM It’s sort of Stepin Fetchit.

BROOM Yes, that’s it. So why is that here? Do kids like that? Is it simultaneously supposed to be sort of like a kid?

BETH Yes, I think kids can relate.

ADAM Kids can laugh at that and feel superior to that.

BROOM I found it very hard to understand what he was saying.

ADAM I really liked making that voice as a kid! It was really annoying to everyone else.

BROOM There was definitely a lack of characterization, like you said. And it was an all-gimmickry plot — we kept saying how it was like a video game. But it did have a force of conviction behind its superficiality.

BETH I was expecting it to be worse than the worst that we’ve seen, and it was much better than that. It wasn’t the worst by far.

ADAM Not even in the bottom quarter.

BROOM You started off the conversation about The Fox and the Hound by saying that the only thing wrong with it was that it was all clichés. I daresay this was all clichés as well! A different set of clichés that we see far more often, in fact.

ADAM But it wasn’t the same kind of clichés.

BROOM I know! It was a whole new stock of clichés. Like you said, the same stock drawn on by He-Man, which was all about clichés eating each other. And in the course of this series, that change in type was refreshing to us. But I think that’s just because right now this set of clichés happens to feel new, not because these clichés are any more worthwhile. I think in the long run they’re probably less worthwhile.

[we read the New York Times review but by the time we’re done, we’re already gearing up to watch the State of the Union and have lost focus]


January 22, 2010

Disney Canon #24: The Fox and the Hound (1981)


BROOM That was not very good.

ADAM The thing that was bad about it was just that it was composed of nothing but clichés the whole time.

BETH That was one of the things that was bad about it.

BROOM Yeah. In fact, I think that was the thing I minded the least. The thing that I thought was bad about it was that it was not well done.

ADAM All right. Tell us the ways you think it was poorly done.

BETH In every respect.

BROOM It’s boring to have to list all the ways.

BETH I thought the color choices were strange and off in many of the scenes. I thought the outlining was weird — sometimes there were glow-y parts on the tops of the bodies that didn’t make sense. The zooming was also a problem.

ADAM It did sometimes have that depressing stationary effect that you used to see on The Smurfs.

BETH It looked like a bad Saturday morning cartoon. I know we’ve said that about something else recently.

BROOM We keep speculating that it has to do with budgets, but it really just has to do with planning, directing. The timing wasn’t right, the storyboarding wasn’t right.

ADAM The plotting was terrible.

BROOM The plot had problems that we’d seen before. I complained about Cinderella that we watched the mice for too long…

ADAM Here it was that caterpillar.

BROOM Just business for business’s sake.

BETH We had to watch them walking through the snow for a long time.

BROOM My only real thought about this movie is that it wanted to be Bambi. A lot of the recent ones seem to have been taking older ones as models to some degree, and this was clearly built on the Bambi model. And I think this actually has a more promising story than Bambi itself, which was just sort of about the circle of life without any more particular arc. This movie had a fairly interesting theme at its center. But it was presented with no artistry. There really were several times during the movie where I thought, “you know, this scenario could turn out to be interesting, or even moving!” But then they just didn’t have it in them. I felt like they just weren’t smart enough to do it.

ADAM It had a lot of weird — I know I’m always the person who says this —

BROOM Yeah, this one had it.

ADAM It had a lot of weird gay valences certainly, but it also had weird racial overtones. You know, this is usually the story about the slave boy and the massuh’s son, meeting on the road twenty years later and they won’t acknowledge each other, and cue the violins. The fact that it was set in the South, and the fact that it had a just-barely-Mammy owl character…

BROOM Is that story you just described something real? I don’t know what that’s a reference to, the slave boy and the master’s son.

ADAM It’s in Roots, isn’t it? I feel like I’ve seen that in several places.

BROOM I haven’t seen Roots. I thought this story was more like “two houses, both alike in dignity” — I thought it was modeled on more of a star-crossed lovers type of story, where they’re supposed to hate each other but they don’t. But of course Romeo and Juliet break the code, whereas these guys grow up and learn the code and then have to live by it.

BETH Yeah. What other stories are like that?

ADAM It’s in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, isn’t it?

BETH Yeah. It’s a common kid’s story, I guess.

BROOM I don’t think it is. It’s not a good message for kids. In a lot of ways it’s the least hopeful message. “Life is going to constrain you, and you should be ready for life to pull you away from the things you actually love.”

BETH But is that the final message? No.

BROOM What is the final message? I feel like this story deserved a tragic ending, but they didn’t have the guts for that, so it ended on a nothing note. I mean, were they reconciled or not?

BETH Yeah, they were.

BROOM I don’t think so.

BETH Well, they weren’t reconciled, they were just…

ADAM It was like when the Indian chief and the cowboy make a hand signal to each other over the rock just before they part in dignity but in separation.

BROOM Yes. They are not friends, but the dog will never kill the fox. Which is a wimp-out ending, because if he won’t kill him, might they not be friends? Apparently not.

BETH It’s a mixed message at the end, because the dog is thinking about what they said to each other about how they would always be friends.

BROOM Was the dog thinking that, or was it just echoing through the ages?

BETH That’s a good question.

ADAM I think the dog was thinking about it. The dog has a sad ending! He has to live with Amos and Chief, and there’s no girl dog for him.

BROOM For us to sympathize with both of two characters from different worlds, they needed to make the different worlds sympathetic, but they made the dog’s world “bad.” Hunters are bad. So when he becomes assimilated to his own world, he becomes a stranger to us.

ADAM He’s like Rolf.

BETH He is just like Rolf. Good one.

BROOM Except Rolf shouts! Rolf doesn’t do anything remotely heroic. He calls the cops. Rolf is lost, and this dog is not. But that’s how this should have ended. When they’re facing off against each other, we’re thinking, “this is what it’s come to!” But then, instead, there’s this deus ex ursus.

ADAM That bear was really unconvincing. It looked like the abominable snowman from the Matterhorn ride. But anyway — the dog was also the Heath Ledger character.

BROOM The whole movie was very Brokeback Mountain-y. When he shows up as an adult and they’re whispering because they don’t want to be heard, and he’s asking if they can still be friends. “Those days are over!”

ADAM That too ended, of course, with —

BROOM We haven’t seen it! We don’t know!

ADAM You didn’t? Well then never mind.

BROOM One of them dies, right?

ADAM What do you think?

BROOM One of them dies and the other one mourns.

ADAM No, it actually ends with an epilogue in 1997 and they’re having their commitment ceremony. Anyway, that’s what was interesting about this — it had little echoes of so many different movies. The ending was like — what I’m thinking of is the last scene of Dances With Wolves. The army is hot on their trail and they’re climbing the mountains into the beautiful snowstorm, and Kevin Costner turns around and looks at the sweep of the land: one last look before ascending into the past, you know.

BROOM Climb every mountain. That’s also like The Sound of Music.

ADAM And then all of the bits were totally stock bits.

BROOM The reliance on Warner Brothers routines was, again, sad.

BETH They already established that they’d decided to go that route.

BROOM But this had the first hanging-in-midair-because-you-don’t-realize-you’re-going-to-fall. That was a sad moment. And, as Adam said: “That’s a bird.” Good heckle. When I saw that, my heart sank: it’s come to this. That’s so blatantly another studio’s trademark bit. But when you’re a kid, you don’t take issue with that sort of thing. The world of cartoons has its own principles.

BETH Like the guy’s pants falling down when he shot the rifle.

BROOM To Hootenanny music.

ADAM Which was lifted bar for bar from The Rescuers.

BROOM No. That music was more fun than this. This score was really wretched. It was bad in every direction that it could be bad. Though I didn’t realize it at the very beginning. During the opening credits, when it was sort of misty and you just heard distant forest sounds, it was sort of atmospheric, and I thought, “this could be a little artier than usual!” But then it all went downhill as soon as there was any motion. That over-heavy orchestral approach at the very first notes of music seemed like it might be something ambitious, but it turned out just to be laziness.

BETH The music was full of wrong choices for the material.

BROOM Unconsidered choices.

ADAM Just exclamation points everywhere.

BROOM He just played the action through scenes where we didn’t care about the action, and it felt like he had never met the characters, like he had no idea what the movie was about.

BETH Part of the problem was that there was just so much music. The editors should have just cut it out.

ADAM It was bad and distracting to have all of the Disney voices.

BROOM There was still Pat Buttram in there, but who else?

ADAM Well, Tigger and Piglet.

BROOM Oh, that’s right.

ADAM I liked that the owl was “black woman.” I thought it was going to be the owl from Winnie the Pooh, but it was actually “black woman.” But then she was “black woman” only just barely this side of, like, picketing-the-movie-theater.

BROOM The laziness of that character — who lives on — is inexcusable. What did her Fat Black Mama-ness contribute to anything? The writers didn’t even know what she would say other than “Big Mama’s here…” They envisioned the cliché and they couldn’t manage to write lines for her or give business to her. When she sang a song, it wasn’t a song that “fat black woman” would sing, so it was terrible.

ADAM They needed someone to sing all those torch songs, and they needed to mark it as being set in the South.

BROOM They weren’t torch songs. And then she was strutting around jauntily — she wasn’t even moving like a fat black woman. She was just an owl doing a lot of borrowed business that they didn’t understand.

BETH I like that you wanted her to be more realistic.

BROOM She should have been more characterized. Those black crows in Dumbo might be offensive stereotypes, but at least they’re doing exactly the business that goes along with that stereotype. It gives them character. She didn’t have any character!

ADAM Yes. It was so obviously stock that her sidekick was basically Joe Pesci. It didn’t make any sense.

BROOM You know, that little guy was animated with a little extra punch, which made me think that it was being handled by one of the animators who would go on to be the next generation at Disney. His motions were a little extra snappy, which would later become the norm.

ADAM Everyone say one nice thing about the movie.

BETH Okay: I liked the old lady character, because you don’t usually see old ladies taking care of foxes.

ADAM Though you do see pathetic lonely old people.

BETH But she’s not pathetic. I liked that she had gumption and shot out the radiator of the man’s car, and then made friends with him because she’s a loving person.

BROOM I… during the bear fight scene, didn’t know what was going to happen, and was genuinely watching with sincere interest to see what would happen.

BETH I thought that too. I thought, “I don’t know if they’re going to fall into the waterfall,” and wasn’t really expecting it to happen.

BROOM And isn’t that the experience we would ask of any movie? That we would want to watch it to see what happens in it?


BROOM Well, I had that experience during that sequence.

ADAM I enjoyed being able to call what was going to happen, in like eight different scenes. That was comforting. It’s nice to see Vixie make the exact same face that the lady fox makes in Bambi, and do the exact same number on him, right down to his response. It’s not like a Tex Avery “awooogah!” but it’s the Disney version: he looks disheveled and eye-popped.

BROOM When was the first take where someone else reaches out and closes someone’s dropped jaw? We’ve seen it before, right? Actually, you know what? I think I know it from The Little Mermaid, so this might have been the first time. Wait, I have another happy thing to say, sort of: I enjoyed that this movie presented its shoddiness so clearly and so early that we were able to cross the line and just heckle it.

ADAM I think that this really may be the nadir.

BROOM Nope. I don’t think so. I think Oliver and Company may be more painful. But also a more amusing thing to heckle for us because it’s from right in the thick of our benighted childhoods.

[we read the Times review]

BROOM I think Vincent Canby was correct in pretty much writing it off completely.

ADAM I don’t think you could make this movie today, because I think you have to understand the basics of fox-hunting, and I don’t think modern kids would know. You’d have to have a voice-over explaining: “In olden times, hounds hunted foxes…”

BROOM You could show it in a moving title sequence.

BETH You really think that in 1981, kids would know?

ADAM Yeah. I feel like the world has become more urban. Even in the thirty years we’ve been alive, things are different.

BROOM I think you’re describing the thinking that would probably prevail at a movie studio, but would be wrong. Kids could understand it, but yes, this movie wouldn’t get made because nobody would trust that they could.

ADAM They could be made to understand it, but it’s not a piece of furniture in kids’ minds.

BROOM But you understand the premises of any movie because you’re watching the movie. You understand Star Wars without someone having to explain what a lightsaber is or how it works. You see it happen on the screen!

ADAM I guess. I’m just sure it would strike kids as antiquarian and weird.

BROOM It was already supposed to be folksy and old-timey. What state did this take place in?

ADAM Tennessee. I don’t think that Mickey Rooney was a very good choice.

BROOM Totally inappropriate! To play a hot seventeen-year-old?

BETH Yeah, that was weird.


January 3, 2010

Morris: Early Romances

William Morris (1834-1896)
The Hollow Land and Other Contributions to The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine (1856, posthumously collected and published 1903)

I rolled 895, which drops me in the William Morris range. Since I haven’t read anything by him, my system has me then fall back to his first entry: 891: Early Romances.

The first question as always is: what does Harold Bloom mean by this? Well, “Early Romances in Prose and Verse” is the title of a 1907 Everyman’s Library volume. Seeing as Bloom lists “Poems” as a separate entry under Morris’s name, I felt justified in skipping the Verse; that’s for another time, somewhere far off in the mists of my infinite, random future. This leaves the Prose. A bit of research reveals that the prose items in the Everyman’s volume had been collected earlier as “The Hollow Land and Other Contributions to the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine,” and that this collection is itself to be found in Volume I of Morris’s Collected Works, which unlike the other sources linked above is available at my local library. See above for the requisite scan of its completely unlovely binding.

I note its unloveliness because loveliness was one of Morris’s principal concerns, and bookmaking one of his chosen crafts. Take a gander at any one of the obsessively lovely volumes from his Kelmscott Press, which I gather to have been the birthplace of the entire modern tradition of the small press, and thus of the whole wide world of print geekery. All the fussy fetishes that constitute our present-day idea of “beautiful books” would seem to stem from here.

While the posthumous collection that I read definitely wasn’t up to Morris’s own flowery standards, it was still laid out with a certain ostentatious typographical dignity. (See the linked title above for a look at the interior.) My personal response to preeningly aristocratic type layout is to be at once enthralled by it and distracted from the content. Poems laid out in all their beautiful limpid pellucid lambent limpidity (to quote Nabokov) often impress and charm my eye and then proceed to leave no impression as poetry. I’m open to the beauty, but it’s not literary beauty. Nor is it a particularly apt complement to literary beauty; it’s as though the swimsuit and talent portions have been misguidedly combined. And compared to actual thoughts, type design is pretty thin stuff. It’s important that your typography not be more put-together, more cared-for, than your words themselves. So say I, anyway; there are large swaths of the bookstore that seem to disagree with me.

William Morris, I suspect, would also have disagreed. His attitude seems to have been that type design is no more and no less important than textual content; that they are both mediums for conveying aesthetic experiences, impressions, vague Romantic what-you-may-call-its. (Mind you, I infer this almost entirely from reading these stories; I did hardly any further research.) The fantasy of his dreamy medievalist writing is not just complementary but actually equivalent to the fantasy of his dreamy medievalist designs.

When I first encountered Lord Dunsany, the phrase occurred to me that reading his super-saturated fantasy stories was “like eating sweet brains.” I never had the chance to share this image with anyone, so I’m pulling it into service now. It applies to Morris too, though where Dunsany’s writing feels unwholesome in its purity — like the refined precipitate of fantasy; freebased fantasy — Morris’s feels unwholesome in its abundance, its boundlessness. It stretches on and on, disinterested in narrative; it wants only to prolong itself. The writing revels neither in words nor events but in its own atmosphere, which it exists solely to continuously renew — like a fog machine. I got the sense that Morris wrote not with the ambition to create discrete works, but rather to open a window on a certain precious configuration of unreality, and that having once gotten it open, his aspiration was simply to keep it open.

Morris’s writings are manifestly the work of a great wallpaper designer. His art aspires to the condition of wallpaper.

What else is one to make of a passage like this?:

The Abbey where we built the Church was not girt by stone walls, but by a circle of poplar trees, and whenever a wind passed over them, were it ever so little a breath, it set them all a-ripple; and when the wind was high, they bowed and swayed very low, and the wind, as it lifted the leaves, and showed their silvery white sides, or as again in the lulls of it, it let them drop, kept on changing the trees from green to white, and white to green; moreover, through the boughs and trunks of the poplars we caught glimpses of the great golden corn sea, waving, waving, waving for leagues and leagues; and among the corn grew burning scarlet poppies, and blue corn-flowers; and the corn-flowers were so blue, that they gleamed, and seemed to burn with a steady light, as they grew beside the poppies among the gold of the wheat. Through the corn sea ran a blue river, & always green meadows and lines of tall poplars followed its windings.

The old Church had been burned, and that was the reason why the monks caused me to build the new one; the buildings of the Abbey were built at the same time as the burned-down Church, more than a hundred years before I was born, and they were on the north side of the Church, and joined to it by a cloister of round arches, and in the midst of the cloister was a lawn, and in the midst of that lawn, a fountain of marble, carved round about with flowers and strange beasts; and at the edge of the lawn, near the round arches, were a great many sun-flowers that were all in blossom on that autumn of the day; and up many of the pillars of the cloister crept passion-flowers and roses. Then farther from the Church, and past the cloister and its buildings, were many detached buildings, and a great garden round them, all within the circle of the poplar trees; in the garden were trellises covered over with roses, and convolvulus, and the great-leaved fiery nasturtium; and specially all along by the poplar trees were there trellises, but on these grew nothing but deep crimson roses; the hollyhocks too were all out in blossom at that time, great spires of pink, and orange, and red, and white, with their soft, downy leaves. I said that nothing grew on the trellises by the poplars but crimson roses, but I was not quite right, for in many places the wild flowers had crept into the garden from without; lush green briony, with green-white blossoms, that grows so fast, one could almost think that we see it grow, and deadly nightshade, La bella donna, oh! so beautiful; red berry, and purple, yellow-spiked flower, and deadly, cruel-looking, dark green leaf, all growing together in the glorious days of early autumn. And in the midst of the great garden was a conduit, with its sides carved with histories from the Bible, and there was on it too, as on the fountain in the cloister, much carving of flowers and strange beasts.

Clearly one should not read such things. Either one is not sympathetic to its ends and susceptible to its effect, in which case it is an inexcusable embarrassment — or else one is sympathetic and susceptible, in which case it is deeply unwholesome. This is where my image of the sweet brains comes from. As a reader of such stuff I do my best to play both the skeptic and the addict, which gives the work its essential profile of seduction/repulsion. A vampiric metaphor would do just as well: Whatever I’ve just been drinking, it’s delicious… wait a minute, is this someone’s neck?

Just as the pre-Raphaelite painters probably deserve credit for inventing the RenFaire worldview, it should be acknowledged that Morris here seems to lay the groundwork for Tolkien (and, beyond him, all manner of nonsense). He shows us how to grind myth and history into a nostalgia sausage, which, on second taste, may not have any actual myth or history in it. In a way, his priorities embody the essence of Romanticism: things are important only for how they make you feel, and once you have a grip on those feelings, pump them up as much as you possibly can. You know that feeling of yearning you have when circumstances separate you from someone you love? Well, what if every concept in that sentence (i.e. “you,” “feeling of yearning,” “circumstances,” “someone you love,” “love”) were holy, royal, illuminated in gold leaf, placed in a sacred vault on top of the highest mountain, haunted, eternal, etc. etc.? Now that’s what I call artistic!

If you are foolhardy enough to take the stories seriously, that hypnotizing Tristan und Isolde effect of nauseating emotional elephantiasis is ever-present. Many of the pieces follow knightly characters through long dream-like lives (and ghostly afterlives) full of moral murk and confused unfurled-banner bombast, against which a single fleeting instant of hyper-chaste love is agonizingly juxtaposed. It is an attempt to multiply romance by infinity. But all this is only what Morris does distractedly, reflexively, while in the front of his mind he’s really only concerned with describing the garland on the bower over the queen’s head. The result is both obscene and blurry. And honestly, that has its place in my aesthetic palate. It certainly had its place in Poe. I just wish Morris had had the formal restraint to make it effective. If you’re going to take this trip, you want the good shit. This supply comes from an old-timey apothecary with an unreliable druggist; ingest at your own risk.

These stories were the product of a period of youthful, bright-eyed self-publication by Morris and friends in their early twenties (in the form of the short-lived Oxford and Cambridge Magazine), and there’s always a charismatic impression of sincere self-delight running under the surface, even as that surface itself is generally a thicket of impenetrable affectation. Nonetheless, tedium set in rather quickly for me, since the medium was the message and one story was about as good as the next. If you relished the passage above (from “The Story of the Unknown Church”) then maybe you’d enjoy this. In which case I also recommend avoiding it.