Twenty years ago, in rural Texas, 53 adults and 23 children were incinerated after a firefight with the FBI. The tiny sect of the Branch Davidians, and its charismatic leader David Koresh, was suddenly world famous. And, dead. Or was it? 20 years on Daniel Kalder revisits Mt Carmel, the notorious “cult compound” nine 9 miles east of Waco, and finds the Davidians reborn, and awaiting a fresh apocalypse…
Cartoonist David B. is ‘an exceptionally gifted artist who…reveals hidden truths inexpressible in another medium’. Quite a claim – but what think you?
In earlier installments of these BD reviews I have tended to focus on psychedelic science fiction, the bizarre, or indeed the barely coherent. I like that type of stuff, since I prefer comics that remain rooted in the disreputable origins of the medium while going much farther creatively. By contrast most of the “graphic novels” that get reviewed in the Guardian bore me: far too polite, lacking in violence and bad taste, cravenly begging to be allowed to sit at the master’s table alongside Ian McEwan novels. Yawn.
However it’s not all lunacy all the time round my house, and today I am highlighting an exceptionally gifted artist who even the most words + pictures resistant Dabblers might enjoy.
If you’re reading this, then you’re probably very scared. The world is about to end - on December 21st to be exact. No Christmas Turkey for you. Sorry, but it’s a fact: the Mayans said so. How did they know? Oh, something about calendars.
On the other hand, perhaps the world won’t end. I mean, it’s had so many opportunities already and-nothing doing. Why should the Mayans know more about the End Times than David Koresh anyway? Experts on Mesoamerica pour scorn on the apocalypse of 2012, just as St. Augustine rejected the claims of prophets 1500 years ago.
The most influential figures in the history of Catholicism have been converts. I think we can agree that Saint Paul, Saint Augustine and the Emperor Constantine are all pretty important guys, but not one of them was born into the church. In the UK likewise some of the most prominent Catholics started their spiritual journey elsewhere- Cardinal Newman, Gerald Manley Hopkins, Malcolm Muggeridge and Graham Greene for instance. Recently we have seen a certain T. Blair cross over to Rome, and he may even have given the Pope some friendly advice, helpful chap that he is. But there are many lower profile cases of conversion, and that list has some surprising names on it….
WOODVILLE, TEXAS: After a long wait in the visiting room of the maximum security wing of the “Gib Lewis Unit” Rosalio Reta finally arrived for our interview. Framed in the doorway, he looked about five feet tall, but projected an air of menace. The demonic face tattoos helped. That face was the last thing many people saw before they died, I thought. When he started talking, his voice was soft and mellifluous. He had dimples.
Until his arrest in 2006 Reta was a sicario, a hit man responsible for at least 30 murders in the USA and Mexico. He started at the age of 13, when he executed a man as an audition to join the Zetas, the paramilitary wing of the Gulf Cartel. His fluent Spanish and American citizenship meant he could operate on either side of the border without attracting attention. Reta boasted to police that he enjoyed killing: “I volunteered. ‘Me, me, me, me, I’ll kill them!’” Killing made him feel “like Superman.” He enjoyed the “James Bond game” of tracking his prey. This is why I wanted to interview him: you don’t meet such openly enthusiastic killers very often.
Mikhail Shishkin made his literary debut in 1993 and swiftly went on to win acclaim as one of the greatest living contemporary Russian writers. He is the first author to win all three of the major Russian literary prizes- the Russian Booker, the Big Book Award, and the National Bestseller Award- while his work has been translated into twenty five languages. In fall 2012, Open Letter will publish his novel Maidenhair, in translation by Marian Schwartz; while in 2013 the British house Quercus will publish Letter-Book in translation by Andrew Bromfield. In anticipation of his appearance at this year’s BEA, regular Publishing Perspectives contributor Daniel Kalder spoke to him about literature, exile and creating a new language.
You moved to Switzerland in 1995, when you were already in your mid thirties. Were you concerned that distance and detachment from Russia would alienate you from the language and subject matter? How did that “exile” affect you as a writer?