Things I Remember

I’ve been re-reading Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen this weekend, in anticpation of Zack Snyder’s upcoming film (warning: link re-sizes your browser). Ironically, the sense of nostalgia the work tries to elicit—for the supposedly more innocent comics (and times) of the 1940s and 1950s—is not the nostalgia I experience. I’m simply too young. I instead experience a nostalgia for the period when Watchmen takes place, 1985. The fear of nuclear annihilation was never something I felt palpably. I was thankfully too young for that as well. I could sense the fear, and sometimes the outright paranoia, in the world and some of the people around me. That paranoia dribbles and oozes through the the pages of Watchmen, coating the characters and distorting everything. There is so little hope in this book, and so much despair. How sad is it that these are my “simpler times”?

In the book we see headlines of the Soviet army moving swiftly through Afghanistan (the notion of anyone moving swiftly through Afghanistan is laughable, in this day and age) and into Pakistan, bringing Cold War tensions to almost unprecedented heights. We already trade stories about where we were on September 11th, 2001. I wonder if one day people of my generation will also trade stories about where we were and what we were doing when the Iraq war began. I remember where I was. My friend Jon and I had gone for lunch to a pub in downtown Waterloo called Fáilte. There was a big screen television in one corner, and Jon and I watched as the first American bombs fell on Iraq. At that moment I felt a shame like I’d never felt before, like I never thought possible. I felt ashamed to be a human being. We hadn’t intended to make it a drinking lunch, but after watching the news we felt it necessary. Nostalgia is a complicated emotion, and sometimes, like now, I’m not entirely comfortable with where it takes me. I think, however, that we ignore complicated emotions at our own peril. It was in part a dismissal of complicated emotions in favour of uncomplicated ones that led us down this path to begin with. There is a great movement now to embrace some amorphous concept of hope. Overall I think it’s a good thing, but what I hope, is that we will learn to embrace our complicated emotions, and not repeat past mistakes by clinging to the promise of a single word rather than working to make that promise a reality.

This is why I read, to seek Harold Bloom’s difficult pleasure, examine the complexities of my nature, perhaps even become a better version of myself. Perhaps it’s why I can be so hard on contemporary Canadian writing. I see tremendous potential for depth, sophistication, and ingenuity, and it’s not being realized. Is this naïve of me? It’s a shame that so many of our literati (Iron Maggie in particular) are so dead set against acknowledging the value and contributions of genre fiction, which Watchmen most certainly is. I only hope that Zack Snyder can live up to the challenge; Moore’s shoes are quite difficult to fill.


Writer. Editor. Critic.

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