Beth Behrs talks the journey from 2 Broke Girls to her debut comic book, Dents – Entertainment Weekly

A comic book isn’t exactly the natural next step for two actors who have hit it on CBS and Broadway, respectively, but Beth Behrs and Matt Doyle are taking a blind leap into a graphic world they’ve been dreaming of entering for years.

Behrs, one of the titular heroines of CBS’s 2 Broke Girls, and Doyle, a Broadway leading man with credits like The Book of Mormon and War Horse under his belt, are childhood best friends turned co-creators of Dents, a new digital comic series launching May 13 on LINE Webtoon.

Set in a dystopian 2111, Dents follows the human side effects of a plague that wiped out half the earth’s population and resulted in a rise in the birth of identical twins (dubbed “dents”) who bear special, dangerous powers. Fourteen-year-old Eleanor learns she’s one of them and quickly finds herself forced to survive on the fringes of society with the other exiled Dents.

Speaking with EW, Behrs shares the roots of her 26-chapter comic book series and how she caught the comic bug:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did something like a comic book present itself as a new venture for you?
BETH BEHRS: It was three or four years ago, and Matt and I were having dinner here in New York, and he had told me about this dream he had about twins with superpowers. I remember just talking about it and thinking it would make a really good TV series or movie or something. That was kind of it. We talked about it like, “We should totally do that, someday.” And then a few years later, I started getting super into comic books because of Matt. He was reading Saga on the train, and then I read it, and I just became hooked. Then I met Tom Akel, who’s the editor of LINE Webtoon here in the United States, and he was talking to me about digital comics, and if I ever had anything… and I was like, “Well, it’s so interesting, Matt and I had this idea years ago and it actually would make a really good comic.” And here we are.

Did the story suddenly click in deeper with comics as a potential medium?
I think the idea of what you can do with a graphic novel is almost cinematic, in a way. I’m so happy that it is in this medium, because it’s been quite a challenge, but a cool and beautiful challenge. Matt and I have a very deep, emotional life and truth that we want to be a part of our lead character, Eleanor, and it’s challenging to get that across in five panels per page.

Do you still dabble in pursuing the idea beyond this form?
Ultimately, eventually, it could be everything! It could be a comic and a series and a movie. The ultimate goal is still there, too.

At least in this form, you get to tell your purest version of this story, as you want it told.
Exactly. It’s fun that we get 26 chapters and perhaps more if it goes well. We have the whole series broken out, all 26, but it’s crazy to do it bit by bit and make sure we’re getting in all the information that we need. It’s been super different for us. We grew up doing musicals together, so it’s kind of like the two nerdiest things: musical theater and comic books.

Did you find yourself tapping into your background, be it TV or theater, when breaking story?
Well, yes. A lot of the characters are based on people in our real lives, including, a villain [based on] someone that I had as my arch-nemesis.

Will he or she recognize that?
I don’t know. I kind of hope not, actually! But Matt and I are very passionate. We grew up in the San Francisco Bay area together and are both very passionate about the outdoors. It was such a part of our everyday life, being outside and hiking, so it was also really important for us to include the elements of our hometown. The Dents’ commune is set in Bolinas, which is a really small beach town beyond the Redwoods up in Marin County. It’s been fun to draw from our own life in that way, and the series includes elements of climate change, which was really important for us. We wanted to include sociopolitical elements into it, too.

What about your acting background? What layer does that add?
We’ve both been trained as actors, and we tell stories everyday for a living, so that’s definitely been influencing and challenging to get into a comic book. Luckily, we have an incredible artist that, Sid Kotian, who’s been basically the third voice in breaking all this, and he’s been amazing and wonderful at showing human emotion.

Was there a challenge in keeping this young adult-focused instead of adult?
Not necessarily. We knew we wanted a strong but young female heroine. We were inspired by the way The Hunger Games is technically YA, but everybody can find something to relate to in it. Matt and I love YA, and so yes, of course we thought it’d be great to have these characters live in a younger section of their lives, but there are also characters who are much older than me and Matt. We hope it’ll affect everybody.

What’s your writing dynamic like, creating this thing with your best friend?
It was his dream and his baby in his head, so I always defer to him. Making climate change a huge element was really important for me to bring in social issues. We’ve actually done really well in terms of helping each other break the story. I’m very impulsive, and Matt likes to sit back and think. But it was Matt’s brainchild, literally, because he had the dream, so I always defer to him. Also, because I’ve been a comic book lover for four years, and he’s been a comic book lover since he was a little boy, he knows the medium much better than I do, but we’re both fans, and we’re both really dedicated to telling the story we want to tell.

How did your 2 Broke Girls family react to your new project?
They thought it was awesome. Kat [Dennings] and Matt Moy, they love comic books. They thought it was really cool! They’re not surprised by me. I’m a huge nerd in real life. I’m very close to [my character] Caroline in some ways, but I’m also very far from Caroline in many ways. The other day I texted them that I was going to do a triathlon, and they were like, “Oh yeah, of course you are.” I like to keep it interesting and explore new challenges. Like a triathlon. Or a comic book!

'A Streetcar Named Desire' Review:Tennessee Williams, by the Book – Wall Street Journal

Baltimore

Give or take “Macbeth,” “A Streetcar Named Desire” might just be the most frequently performed large-cast classic play in America. No obvious reason exists for the perennial popularity of the unhappy story of Stanley Kowalski and the sisters DuBois: It is long, demanding, and emotionally complex to the point of elusiveness. Yet it seems we can’t get enough of “Streetcar.” Few seasons go by without its being mounted on or off Broadway, and every passably ambitious regional theater company sooner or later gets around to doing it. I’ve reviewed seven revivals of the play since 2003, and I could have seen a dozen more had I cared to do so.


So why hit the road to see it yet again? Because Baltimore’s Everyman Theatre is presenting Tennessee Williams’s best-known play in rotating repertory with Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.” You may not realize how unusual this is: It is now possible, for what is by all accounts the first time, to see live performances of the two most influential American plays of the postwar era performed by the same cast on the same stage on the same day. That’s big news, and good news.


Like Vincent M. Lancisi, whose exceptional “Salesman” I reviewed last week, Derek Goldman has given us a production that sticks to the Gospel According to Elia Kazan, whose 1951 film of “Streetcar” was no less closely based on his Broadway staging. The time is 1947, the place a sordid-looking two-room railroad flat in the French Quarter of New Orleans, and the characters are all pretty much as you remember them: Blanche DuBois (Beth Hylton) is a flirty, fluttery Southern belle who isn’t as young as she used to be, and Stanley (Danny Gavigan) is a working-class brute to whose physical charms Stella (Megan Anderson), his wife and Blanche’s sister, is in thrall. You’ll know your way, too, around Daniel Ettinger’s set, which recalls the not-quite-realistic tenement that Jo Mielziner conjured up for Kazan.

The tone, in short, is one of poetically heightened naturalism, and it is well suited to Williams’s purpose, which is to show how a person who refuses, like Blanche, to accept the irresistible claims of what William Blake called “the lineaments of Gratified Desire” must inevitably be destroyed by the resulting fissure in her soul. If you’ve never seen “Streetcar,” you’ll come away from this version knowing exactly what the play is about, and you’ll succumb with dark joy to its musky hot-weather spell—and to the acting of the fine cast. I especially liked Ms. Anderson’s straight-from-the-pelvis performance: You won’t have any trouble figuring out what she sees in Stanley.

Mr. Gavigan and Ms. Hylton, excellent though they are, don’t do anything surprising with their now-iconic roles. This may well be Mr. Goldman’s doing, in which case I wish he had broken with precedent by placing Blanche, not Stanley, at the center of the action. The more I see “Streetcar,” the surer I am that it is most convincing when she is portrayed as a strong but flawed heroine rather than a helpless victim. Kazan, by contrast, encouraged Marlon Brando, the first and most famous Stanley, to muscle his way into the spotlight, in the process throwing the play out of balance and setting a dangerous precedent for countless later revivals, this one included.

That’s not so much a complaint as an observation, whereas the music in Mr. Goldman’s staging really is problematic. Like all of Williams’s plays, “Streetcar” profits from the precisely gauged use of incidental music, but there’s too much of it here: Kelli Blackwell has been cast as a jazz-singing one-woman Greek chorus who strolls in and out of the action at key moments, singing well-known standards of the ’30s and ’40s in a contemporary style that clashes with the play’s period setting. “Streetcar” is a long play to begin with, and this version doesn’t need any excess baggage.

Don’t let these caveats keep you from catching Everyman’s “Streetcar.” The strengths of the production outweigh its occasional flaws, as does the fact that it’s running in repertory with “Death of a Salesman.” It’s easy to spot the differences between the two plays, but to see them performed in close succession underscores their commonality: Blanche, like Willy Loman, is the negation of the American dream, a woman who has pursued happiness in the wrong way and must now pay a fearful price for her mistake. The overused phrase “once in a lifetime” rarely stands up to more than casual scrutiny, but this is one of those rarer-than-rare occasions on which it is nothing more than the truth. It will likely be a long, long time before you get another chance to see “Streetcar” and “Salesman” done this way. Don’t pass it up.

Dream of 1000-acre park at Lake Kapowsin dying; developer envisions homes on lake's west side – The News Tribune

A Seattle businessman and rowing enthusiast who devoted some 30 years to a dream of creating a world-class rowing course and a 1,000-acre park on Pierce County’s Lake Kapowsin says he’s halting that quest.

In a letter to supporters of a regional park on the lake, William Pickard said he feared his proposal was undermining community debate on the state Department of Natural Resources plan to declare the lake the state’s first freshwater aquatic reserve. That designation, which would have prevented Pickard from building a rowing course, could pre-empt local management of the 515-acre lake.

Pickard’s decision came in the wake of a community meeting last month attended by nearly 100 people. Those who attended said no clear majority appeared to favor Pickard’s plan or that of the Department of Natural Resources.

“Having slept on it, I believe the right thing to do is to suspend any discussion of a park or rowing, and for me to go away,” he said. “That leaves the field clear for cooler heads who want to guide the debate back to a discussion of local control vs. the aquatic reserve.”

Pickard’s proposal had called for creating a rowing course in the center of the lake for national, regional and international rowing competitions and youth training programs, and a large regional park encircling the lake for hiking, biking and other activities.

The idea faces another possible hurdle from a Texas-based company, which is exploring creating a large-lot subdivision on about 100 acres on the lake’s western shore. Sherwood Forest LLC has hired a Chehalis-based surveying company to lay out proposed lots and to begin the permitting process to allow lot sales.

If the Texas company carries out its plan, about 400 acres of uplands would remain for a park. Other land around the lake is owned by Tacoma Public Utilities, the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe and a large timber company.

But the state and the county don’t have the money to buy the land yet, and Pickard’s plan, which relied on the rowing activity to generate income and donations, wouldn’t work if the aquatic reserve were established.

DNR’s aquatic reserve plan and the rowing course are mutually exclusive because the aquatic reserve would preserve hundreds of submerged trees left when a volcanic mudflow swept down from Mount Rainier 500 years ago, killing the forest, blocking Kapowsin Creek and forming the lake.

Pickard and his allies proposed removing enough of those trees to clear a channel for rowing. Those trees would be relocated to other parts of the lake, where thousands more snags would remain.

DNR wants the lake to remain as a living laboratory and history book of the ancient eruption. Pickard says the lake has already been significantly altered by man. Early settlers chopped off the tops of those trees that were then extending above the water, and logging left thousands of logs littering the bottom of the lake.

Pickard, who was an intercollegiate rower and coach, said the lake has unusual properties that would make it a superior rowing course. The lake is largely sheltered from the wind and, at 2.5 miles long, is large enough to host several lanes of rowing.

Pickard’s proposal had attracted political support from the Pierce County Council and from several legislators. The park proposal had been included in the formal Graham Community Plan.

County Councilman Jim McCune, whose district includes the lake, said he thought the park was a good idea.

“It was a nice opportunity to use a private partnership to build a public park,” he said. But without Pickard, the idea could lose momentum. “Whatever happens, happens,” McCune said.

Pickard said he fears that without a source of money to buy the uplands, the shoreline could become dotted with homes and commercial developments.

According to preliminary plans submitted to Pierce County, Sherwood Forest LLC would divide its property into 10 lots. Most of the lots would be 10 acres with a central site of some 56 acres.

Sherwood Forest did not return calls seeking comment on their plans. County planners said the limited liability company has yet to schedule a conference to discuss its preliminary ideas for the property.

A lakeshore park could be possible under the Department of Natural Resources plan. The aquatic reserve designation would control activities only on the lake, not on the surrounding land. The state has said it would continue to allow fishing on the lake.

But Pickard says that the money to support the park will come from the on-water activities it supports, and an aquatic reserve would curtail those uses.

“The lake and the uplands can still — someday — be an awesome park,” he wrote to supporters. “… It may take many years — but at least without an aquatic reserve, the possibility will remain.”

DNR spokesman Joe Smillie said the state agency is scheduling further public hearings June 8 and June 29 to answer questions from residents about the aquatic reserve program. Locations and times for the hearings have yet to be set.

“There were a number of questions from the last meeting that we would like to answer,” he said.

Chelsea Wolfe's Sleepless Nights Led to 'Abyss' – Village Voice

Friday, May 6, 2016 at 1:45 p.m.

Chelsea WolfeEXPAND

Chelsea Wolfe

Shaina Hedlund

If you had to pick a reason why Chelsea Wolfe’s songs are so spellbinding, the inspiration behind her most recent record would be a great place to start. The dream-focused narratives on Abyss intertwine historically distant but philosophically related ways of understanding the human psyche: Greek mythology and Carl Jung. Since her debut LP, The Grime and the Glow, Wolfe’s fascination with sleep has manifested into a thematic collision between the realm of myth and psychology, and a consistent production style — ambient reverb, brooding bass, and haunting vocals — make her songs feel like many instances of the same recurring dream.

For Wolfe, solace is found in the dark. “To be honest, it’s not so much that I was inspired by Jungian theory, [as much I was by] a book by Carl Jung that became the catalyst for the album’s title and themes,” she explains. The text that influenced her earliest songwriting sessions for Abyss was Jung’s autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, published posthumously in 1962. The book surveys everything from Jung’s daily experiences to in-depth self-analyses of his fantasies and dreams. “I picked it up after I decided to start researching sleep and dreams more,” says Wolfe. “I’d had issues my whole life within that realm and had recently learned that there was a name for one of the things I experienced: sleep paralysis.”

The condition, in which a person becomes physically paralyzed while falling asleep or waking up, has been suggested as the explanation for a number of sleep-related mythologies from succubi to alien abduction. Coming to understand it spurred Wolfe to use it as the genesis for Abyss. “[In the book] there’s a dream Jung recalls experimenting with [and] the first line of the section is ‘I let myself drop’ ” says Wolfe. “That became the goal of my writing sessions: to drop into deep parts of myself I’d been avoiding. I was thinking about the mind as an abyss; as something very internal.” That sensation of descent and the psychosomatic aftermath of sleep paralysis is woven throughout the record, and listening to it feels sometimes like lucid dreaming, each song bleeding into the next.

Abyss was recorded on the Sargent House Farm, a music compound owned by Wolfe’s label and situated an hour outside Los Angeles, between the mountains and the desert. Holed up in a steel barn on the edge of the property, Wolf found inspiration in the unusual environment. “It was great to sing in that space as it felt very isolated and private so I could get free, but also it carried sound with a great natural reverb,” she recalls. It was a crucial break from her then-home of Los Angeles and had specific influence on the record — the beat for “Feral Love” and “Fight Light Gods” mimics the sound of the helicopters she heard nightly outside her window.

“The area I was living in before that was a chaotic, noisy neighborhood in a big old house with a lot of housemates,” she says. “My sleep paralysis got [really] bad in that living situation, but it also inspired me. Once I moved out to the middle of nowhere, [my mind] was finally quiet and the sleep paralysis stopped happening [as] much…. Then I was ready to fill all that quiet space with loud songs.”

As the frequency of Wolfe’s sleep paralysis episodes lessened, she turned her writing to Hypnos, the Greek god of sleep, who became the namesake of the album’s B side. “‘Hypnos’ was written for Abyss and record[ed] during the same session, but in the end it didn’t quite fit the flow of the album,” says Wolfe. “It’s a dream within a dream…about being willing to take on the burden of someone else’s darkness — a child, or a lover.” 

Released this past March, the seven-inch’s title track sounds almost like a lullaby. Although dark, its atmospheric reverb and crisp chords illuminate Wolfe’s lyricism. Paired with “Flame,” “Hypnos” mirrors her own experience with false awakenings and recurrent dreams, which she considers the source of her fascination with oneirology.

“When I was a kid I had this recurring nightmare-dream that was just a white room, and there would be an object in the middle of the room, like a telephone or a notebook, and the object would grow really, really large and fill the room, and then shrink extremely small, over and over like some Alice in Wonderland shit,” she explains. “It drove me mad. But maybe that’s where that perspective comes from.”

Chelsea Wolfe plays Music Hall of Williamsburg on May 8. Click here for tickets and more info. 

Inspirational book helps Hannan's Abbey Daniel settle nerves, win Division II girls state tournament – The Advocate

YOUNGSVILLE — With two holes standing between her and a state title, Archbishop Hannan freshman Abbey Daniel reached into her bag for some quiet inspiration before hitting her tee shot on the par 3 17th hole at Les Vieux Chenes golf course.

She’d just seen her lead dwindle to three strokes from six after her close friend Julia Johnson of East Iberville — who had won three consecutive Division II individual titles entering this year’s tournament— birdied two straight holes. Daniel was feeling the pressure, so she pulled out a red leather notebook with the word “dream” embossed in gold script on the front cover.

“ ‘I need to calm down, I need to focus, I can still do this,’ ” Daniel recalled thinking to herself. “I was reassuring myself.”

As Johnson and Loyola Prep’s Alden Wallace hit their tee shots to the green, Daniel stood off to the side and read the inspirational quotes she’d written in various colors of Sharpie. She calmed herself, strode to the tee box and knocked her shot onto the green.

Two calm pars later, the 14-year-old Daniel capped off a 1-under 71 to claim her first state championship.

When she holed out a short putt on 18, Johnson sprinted over and doused her with a bottle of water to celebrate, followed with a bear hug and words of congratulations.

“We don’t get to pour Gatorade on the coach or anything, so if you ever win anything big, you kind of hope your friends are about to dump water on you,” Johnson said.

Daniel finished the second and final round with a 1-under 72, giving her two consecutive days in the red after she finished with a tournament-best 5-under 67 in the first round. She beat Johnson, the runner-up, by four strokes.

But Johnson wouldn’t make it easy for Daniel.

After clipping tree branches on back-to-back approach shots on the par 5 15th, Johnson holed out a greenside chip for birdie to pick up a stroke on Daniel.

On No. 16, Daniel’s approach shot drifted left of the green, and she was unable to get up and down to save par. She carded her first bogey of the day as Johnson holed out a birdie putt.

The three-stroke swing in two holes prompted Daniel to bust out her dream book on No. 17. But she still had work left to do.

Though she landed her tee shot on the green, she still had about 40 feet left to the hole. Her birdie attempt raced past the cup, leaving her a little less than 10 feet to save par.

Daniel stared down the putt for a long time, backing away at least once to gauge the speed and break again.

“That was nerve-wracking,” Daniel said.

She went back in her mind to the advice her book offered.

“One of the quotes I read was, ‘It’s not whether you’re sinking putts, it’s whether your thoughts are allowing you to sink putts,’ ” Daniel said. “That was one of the big things. I just had to reassure myself that I’m going to make this.”

Daniel drained the putt to keep her lead at three strokes, then made another clutch shot on No. 18, chipping to within a few feet from behind the green, to win the championship.

“I’m really proud of her, she finished really strong,” Johnson said. “She played really clutch today, she definitely deserves it.”

Daniel said the title “state champion” has a nice ring to it, but that wasn’t her main takeaway from a tournament where she shot 6-under.

“It was how I played this weekend which will really have an impact on my attitude in future tournaments,” Daniel said. “Before, I’d gone low, but I’d never gone as low as I did the first day. Now that I know that I can, hopefully I can start doing it consistently.”

Daniel was the only new champion on a day full of repeat winners.

Hammond Magnet junior Mary Frances Chauvin came back from a one-shot deficit to win her second straight state title with a 1-over 73 in the final round.

Sulphur (16-over 304) and Notre Dame (41-over 329) took home the Divisions I and II team titles for the second straight year as well.

Reese Witherspoon invites Patriots rookie receiver to join her book club – FOXSports.com

The NFL Draft produces many plenty of great stories every year, and many have nothing to do with football. We learned that once again this year when the touching background of new Patriot Malcolm Mitchell was discussed during the draft process.

For those who aren’t aware, Mitchell is a fantastic receiver on the field (he caught 58 balls last year for Georgia), but off the field he’s a coach’s dream as well. Malcolm actually struggled academically at the beginning of his career, but began to take school seriously, and by the end of his time in Athens, was actually a published author. His book, “The Magician’s Hat” is now available online.  

It’s an incredible story, one that was told, and retold throughout the draft process, and caught the attention of one, major celebrity in particular.

That would be Reese Witherspoon, who offered up an invite to Mitchell to join her book club a few days back.

Mitchell accepted, and from there, a friendship appears to have blossomed.

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That Thing You Think Is an Allegory Isn't an Allegory! – Slate Magazine

allegory illo.

Mike Dawson

I’m not much of a language stickler. I roll my eyes when people argue over the Oxford comma, and I couldn’t care less when someone says they “could care less.” As a descriptivist (rather than a prescriptivist), I’m mostly OK with seeing the meaning of words evolve and transform over time, because that’s what a living language does.

But we all have our weaknesses. There’s one particular error I see over and over, often in criticism, that sets my teeth on edge. That’s because it flies beyond being a simple misnomer and instead misunderstands and erases an entire literary tradition, a rich and wonderful one that flowered most gloriously in the 13th century. My gripe isn’t totally arcane, I promise! Just bear with me for a moment while I get medieval on those who abuse the word allegory.

What people usually mean when they call something an allegory today is that the fictional work in question can function as a metaphor for some real-world situation or event. This is a common arts journalist’s device: finding a political parallel to whatever you happen to be reviewing is a handy way to make it appear worth writing about in the first place. Calling that parallel an allegory serves to make the comparison more forceful. Fusion says that Batman v Superman is a “none-too-subtle allegory for the fight between Republican presidential hopefuls Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.” (It is not.) The Hollywood Reporter calls Zootopia an “accidental anti-Trump allegory”—this despite the fact that there is no literary form less accidental than allegory. The meaning of the word has drifted so far that even works that aren’t especially metaphorical get labeled as allegory: A film about artistic repression in Iran is a “clunky allegory” for … artistic repression in Iran.

Allegory or metaphor: The distinction might seem obscure and academic to many readers. Shouldn’t allegory be grateful to get any attention at all? Isn’t it just an archaic literary mode that nobody uses anymore? Yes and no. About the only people creating true allegories today are political cartoonists. But a culture never entirely discards its roots, and allegory, which first appeared in the waning years of the Roman Empire, is one of the foundations of Western literature. Maybe if we understood it better, we’d realize how much we owe to it. Besides, the allegorical imagination lives on, just not in the places where critics think they see it.

An allegory, in short, is not just another word for a metaphor. In essence, it’s a form of fiction that represents immaterial things as images. It calls attention to what it’s doing, typically by giving those images overtly thematic labels, like presenting the Seven Deadly Sins as a procession of people named Lust, Sloth, Pride, and the rest. The most famous allegory ever written, John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, was published in 1678, making it a holdover; allegory saw its artistic heyday in the Middle Ages. Yet The Pilgrim’s Progress was a colossal hit; for two centuries, it was the second book purchased by any Protestant household affluent and literate enough to own its own Bible. Everyone read about the narrator who falls asleep and dreams of a man named Christian fleeing the City of Destruction while bearing a heavy burden (representing the knowledge of his own sins) on his back. A figure named Evangelist instructs Christian on how to reach the Celestial City, a long journey past such perils as the Slough (swamp) of Despond and the Hill of Difficulty, where people with names like Mr. Worldly Wiseman and Hypocrisy attempt to lead him astray.

The low opinion in which allegory is now widely held can be blamed on The Pilgrim’s Progress. The book is pious and manifestly didactic, although I can testify from experience that a young-enough reader can still find it an entertaining adventure yarn. Adults, apart from some very devout Protestants, tend to experience its sermonizing as oppressive. When critics call a work of art an allegory today, and especially when they use adjectives like clunky and none-too-subtle, they invoke this aspect of The Pilgrim’s Progress; they mean a story that imposes a single, conspicuous interpretation on a reader or viewer. Allegory lectures. As the critic Northrop Frye wrote, “The commenting critic is often prejudiced against allegory without knowing the real reason, which is that continuous allegory prescribes the direction of his commentary, and so restricts its freedom.”

Perhaps Frye was right, and what we resent about allegory is the way it makes thematic analysis superfluous. You can’t really congratulate yourself for ferreting out the moral of Christian fighting his way through the fancy city of Vanity Fair or the mining town named Lucre. Should a book or a film present its argument so simply that even a child can discern it, what’s left to talk about? Merely language, story, and imagery—all the pleasures that art is made of.

Do we even know how to read such a book anymore? C.S. Lewis thought not. He wrote the definitive treatise on the form in 1936: The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition. We know Lewis today as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia and as a writer of Christian apologetics, but before all that he was a sensational literary critic—and I mean sensational literally. Perceptive, erudite, and witty, he also wrote with an infectious vividness about the experience of reading, of mingling with an author’s mind and imagination. Here’s how he described the allegories of Martianus Capella, an influential writer of the early fifth century:

The philosophies of others, the religions of others—back even to the twilight of pre-Republican Rome—have all gone into the curiosity shop of his mind. It is not his business to believe or disbelieve them; the wicked old pedant knows a trick worth two of that. He piles them up all around him until there is hardly room for him to sit among them in the middle darkness of the shop; and there he gloats and catalogues, but never dusts them, for even their dust is precious in his eyes.

Lewis’ apologetics can be parochial, but his criticism flings open its doors and windows to welcome in any writer with even a wisp of distinction. Most remarkable of all, his scholarly works are never, ever incomprehensible or boring, even when they concern the most tedious literature. (Lewis’ biographer, A.N. Wilson, wrote that his one great fault as a critic was his “enthusiastic generosity” toward authors “who are not really as interesting as he makes them sound.”)

A medievalist, Lewis was forever defending the Middle Ages from the glib notion that they constituted an intellectual and artistic fallow period between the classical world and the Renaissance. (He is completely convincing on this point.) We often fail to understand the beauty of medieval art, he argued, because we experience the world and our place in it so differently from the people of that time. We can’t appreciate medieval allegory until we make a concerted effort to imagine what it was like to inhabit the world as they saw it, as a divinely ordered universe in which “certain sympathies, antipathies, and strivings [are] inherent in matter itself.  Everything has its right place, its home, the region that suits it.”

Lewis traces the origins of allegory to a period in late antiquity when, for undetermined reasons, the Western concept of a virtuous life changed profoundly. In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle described virtue as a skill to be learned by practice, until it becomes not just second nature, but an end in itself. “The man who does not enjoy doing noble actions is not a good man at all,” he wrote. You don’t become a good cook by conquering your desire to cook badly; similarly, you become a good man by simultaneously acquiring the expertise and reaping its rewards.

The emerging idea that virtue instead results from an ongoing inner battle against our own worst impulses was not exclusively Christian, but it fit perfectly with the Christian belief in humanity’s fallen nature. We’re so familiar with this concept of the psyche as a theater of struggle between opposing forces that it’s difficult to conceive of a time when it was relatively new, the time when allegory was born. “To fight against ‘temptation,’ ” Lewis writes, “is also to explore the inner world; and it is scarcely less plain that to do so is to be already on the verge of allegory.”

Yet today we associate allegory with a lack of the “round” fictional characters we value most, characters whose believability resides at least partly in their internal conflicts. This is a standard set by the novel, a relatively recent literary form that (for the most part) aims to produce a naturalistic depiction of the world. Allegory doesn’t work that way. The characters in allegories like the 13th-century poem Roman de la Rose, or Edmund Spenser’s 16th-century masterpiece, The Faerie Queene, are “flat” by contemporary standards, possessed of only a few traits and behaving with inhuman consistency.

But, as Lewis demonstrates in a long, virtuosic reading of Roman de la Rose, this is because they aren’t actually meant to be characters. Instead these people, the objects they handle, and the spaces they occupy all represent aspects of the self. Roman de la Rose describes the courtship of a noble maiden by a courtier. Like many allegories it is framed as a dream, a sign that we’ve entered into a psychological interior. The lover seeks the Garden of Love, where he meets such clashing figures as Mirth, Companionship, Pride, and Shame. The lady herself seems strangely dematerialized because, as Lewis observes, “her character is distributed among personifications.”

But, Lewis hastens to add, an allegory is not merely an equation to be solved, leaving you free to “throw aside the allegorical imagery as something which has now done its work.” Allegorical reading requires sustaining both image and meaning in the reader’s mind, as equally valued components of the work. “It is not enough,” Lewis writes, “to see that the dreamer gazing into the fountain signifies the lover first looking into the lady’s eyes. We must feel that the scene by the fountain is an imaginative likeness of the lover’s experience.” We must be able to see the sparkling water and the shining eyes at the same time and recognize them to be facets of a singular, layered understanding that includes the recognition of other, abstract qualities as well, such as the purity of her spirit.

The literate people of the Middle Ages were experts at comprehending art in this way. They routinely compounded vast amounts of meaning into certain ideas or motifs, partly because they were always attempting to integrate the cultural legacy of classical paganism into Christian theology. For them, “Venus” signified multiple things simultaneously: a planet, a Roman goddess with a set of stories attached to her, a literary figure, the image of feminine beauty, the force of erotic love, God’s will manifested in the fruitful union of a man and a woman, and so on. Christianity formed a bedrock for this way of thinking, but no one of these is the “true” meaning of Venus to which all others can be reduced. Their characters may seem “thin” when compared with those in a great novel, but their images are much fuller and richer.

Lewis would surely argue that it is the modern reader who, viewing allegory as reductive, shows a lack of subtlety. In a great allegory, the imagery is not a code for the underlying theme; it is every bit as important as theme. Perhaps the greatest allegory, Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, offers a case in point. Lewis was Spenser’s foremost champion, rescuing the Elizabethan poet from near-obscurity and restoring The Faerie Queene to the canon—to the dismay of many undergraduates but to the delight of others. Lewis first read the epic poem as a boy, devouring it as a tale of brave knights battling dragons, giants, and wicked enchanters against a sylvan landscape splashed with gore. A grasp of the religious and political implications of such figures as the beautiful but nefarious lady Duessa (an allegory for the Catholic Church) or the Redcross Knight (who embodies the spirit of England) would come later, but many generations of readers have been well-satisfied with the surface alone.

The Faerie Queene is a vast, ravishing spectacle—one that contemporary readers can find pretty inaccessible due to Spenser’s use of language and diction that is deliberately archaic, even for his own time. (Ben Jonson, a near contemporary, complained that “in affecting the ancients Spenser writ no language.”) Fortunately, an unabridged audiobook, masterfully narrated by David Timson, released late last year makes the poem much more readily intelligible for a new or returning reader. The Faerie Queene is a pageant of one gorgeous, trippy vision after another, from the Garden of Proserpina, the queen of the underworld, (every blossom, leaf, and fruit in it is coal black) to the adventures of “the famous Britomart,” a female knight every bit as valiant as our beloved Brienne of Tarth. And while many of Spenser’s allegorical concerns have become obsolete, it only takes a scene like the Redcross Knight’s encounter with shaggy, gaunt Despair as he crouches in his cave, surrounded by the knights he has persuaded to kill themselves, to remind a reader of the form’s potency.

Spenser’s Despair calls to mind the dementors, the most terrifying monsters in the Harry Potter series, although J.K. Rowling’s specters are not so much personifications of depression as allegorical deployments of it. This is where the spirit of allegory lives on, in novels and films when the action feels as if it is taking place inside one person’s head. Sometimes a superhero comic or film slips into an allegorical mode, less by mimicking some timely political situation than by creating an antagonist like the Penguin, who resembles an updating of the medieval allegory for greed. The Hero’s Journey, a staple of screenwriting courses and, alas, the model for so many mediocre films, is really just an allegorical narrative slapped with the more palatable label of “myth.” Yet the contemporary artworks most redolent of allegory’s heady psychic atmosphere are both archetypal and dreamlike: the novels of Haruki Murakami and the films of David Lynch, to name two examples. These stories partake of what Lewis describes as “the perennial strangeness, the adventurousness, and the sinuous forward movement of the inner life.” They are more enigmatic and chaotic than medieval allegory, but ours is a more confusing and disordered world.

The 11 fanciest presents given to Princess Charlotte, ranked worst to best – For The Win

Princess Charlotte is a princess, so of course famous and powerful people from around the world have showered her with presents during the first year of her life (the list comes from PEOPLE). Given that my name is also Charlotte, I think I am uniquely suited to pass judgement on the caliber of these gifts. And, given that today is her birthday, it makes sense to do this right here, right now.

SO, herewith, a definitive ranking of the best 11 presents Princess Charlotte has ever received, as decided by someone also named Charlotte.

11. Cloth diapers

Princess Charlotte’s aunt Pippa gave her a set of biodegradable diapers made from something called “natural mull cloth.” I’m sorry, but what child is like, “Yes, please give me what is essentially an all-natural toilet, thank you so much, I am so grateful.” No child. That’s a present for her parents. Or the servants, in this case, because she’s A PRINCESS.

10. Fancy silk figurines

Chinese President Xi Jinping gave Princess Charlotte silk figurines of characters from the 19th century Chinese novel, Dream of the Red Chamber. Nice idea, and as someone named Charlotte, I will say that I would’ve enjoyed these as a child, but the literary reference seems a little too obscure for a one-year-old, if we’re being honest.

9. A blanket made out of special wool or something

The Australian government gave Princess Charlotte a blanket for her crib made from Tasmanian merino wool. Cool, but it’s not cashmere, soooo….

8. A book of fairytales

British Prime Minister David Cameron gave Princess Charlotte a copy of Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales. I loved these stories when I was little, so, as someone also named Charlotte, the princess probably will too. But given the other swag coming next on this list, this still ends up at number eight.

7. Charlotte and the technicolor dream coats

The king and queen of Bhutan gave Princess Charlotte two beautiful hand-made coats. I’d be jazzed if someone gave me two hand-made coats, and my name is Charlotte, so I would know.

6. A silver rattle

The President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, and his wife, Señora Angélica Rivera, gave Charlotte a rattle, which is something she can actually play with, and it’s made of silver, so that’s cool.

5. Teddy bears and booties and stuff

The Prime Minister of New Zealand gave Charlotte a bunch of teddy bears, baby blankets, and booties, all made from Stansborough wool. No idea what Stansborough wool is. I even Googled it and I’m still confused. But the princess is one, and what one-year-old doesn’t like teddy bears?

4. A snowsuit and a huge donation in her name

A Prime Minister of Canada (PEOPLE wasn’t clear whether this was Justin Trudeau or his predecessor Stephen Harper) gave Princess Charlotte a snowsuit, a book, and made a $100,000 donation in her honor to Immunize Canada. Little kids love snowsuits and they look like tiny, adorable little Michelin men in them, so even if the princess isn’t jazzed about this, I am, so it ends up at number 4. And $100,000 is just a boat-load of money for a good cause, so way to go, Canada.

3. a puzzle and a replica of Bo The Dog from the Obamas

This is an awesome present. Really proud of my country right now. As a Charlotte who loves puzzles and the Obama’s dog, I fully endorse this present. Thank you, America.

2. A rattle from her grandfather

Princess Charlotte’s grandfather Prince Charles gave her a willow rattle woven by an Irish basketmaker. High on sentimental value. Very touching. Goes at number two.

1. a blinged-out rattle

The American business Natural Sapphire Company gave Princess Charlotte a 18k white gold rattle with diamonds, rubies and sapphires on it valued at around $45,000. That is a killer baby present. She will be so fancy when she gnaws on this. I, Civilian Charlotte, am jealous of Princess Charlotte for this one. If you’re out there, Natural Sapphire Company, and want to send one of these to me, DM me on Twitter for my address.

It's OK to be a comic newbie at The Perky Nerd – Los Angeles Times

For female fans of comics and coffee — and those who love them — Burbank got a whole lot perkier last week with the opening on Magnolia Boulevard of The Perky Nerd. Buoyed by a tweet from “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” star Ming-Na Wen, and in-person sales of drawings by “Deadpool” movie-credits designer Justin Harder, the female-friendly new establishment drew crowds out the door … of all genders.

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The store, which serves bottled cold brews and coffee beans because selling hot coffee requires an entirely different set of permits, is the brainchild of Tiffany Melius, an actress who came to comic-book fandom when the Marvel movies prompted her to investigate what female characters existed beyond Black Widow and Catwoman.

She got hooked on Ms. Marvel (the Carol Danvers iteration, she stresses), but was intimidated by many of the comic stores out there, which often live up to the stereotypes seen on such TV shows as “The Big Bang Theory” and “The Simpsons.”

North Dakota author Larry Woiwode printing newest book with antique letterpress – Grand Forks Herald

Larry Woiwode, of rural Mott, said he plans to be there while college students with ink-stained hands print a small, artisan-style book of his poetry on a museum press in a small rural town.

The presses will be cranked today and Saturday and, God willing, the ink dries, and, even if it doesn’t, Woiwode will read from “Land of Sunlit Ice” at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Bismarck Public Library.

Woiwode said he’s excited about the process, especially the idea of using a museum-piece press to print these poetry chapbooks in a day and age when digital technology rules the printing world.

“All books are becoming artifacts and soon will be museum pieces,” he said.

The 200 or so chapbooks — so called for their small size when they were hawked by chapmen on the street long ago in Europe — will be numbered, signed by the author at the reading and could be collectible one day, Woiwode said.

It will contain the best gathering of 14 of his poems, recent and past, to appear in a single collection, he said.

North Dakota State University students will be printers of this first edition using antique letterpresses dating from the 1920s at the Braddock News Letterpress Museum in Braddock.

Larry WoiwodeThe students will hand feed the pages one at a time through engraved plates, use antique wire stitchers to bind the 32-page books and trim them on a ’40s-era paper cutter.

Allan Burke, a newspaper publisher in nearby Linton and founder of the letterpress museum, said firing up the old presses for a student project is his dream of how the museum should be used.

“I believe it’s beneficial for students of all ages, third grade through college, to have a hands-on chance to learn about the history of communication and to create it with 100-year-old machines,” Burke said.

Suzzanne Kelley, the students’ professor, has a more prosaic thought about the experience, which will require a very quick turnaround from the printer’s shop.

“I’m hoping the ink is dry,” Kelley said of Woiwode’s reading.

“My class is so excited to use these antique presses. It’s so tactile, smelling the ink, and getting a feel for how books used to be made,” Kelley said. The letterpress museum is located on the grounds of the South Central Threshing Association and presses are run at least once a year during the fall threshing show.

Burke said local volunteers helped prepare the museum for the students’ project, installing a furnace and fans to warm the building and help dry the pages when they roll off the press.

He said the letterpress could be used by artists and folks interested in hand-printed works, including announcements or invitations.

“I’m hoping others will use the presses over time,” Burke said.

The students are enrolled in Kelley’s Introduction to Publishing class. They stenciled and printed the chapbook covers on an even older press, dating from the 1890s at the Hunter Times museum newspaper at Bonanzaville in Fargo.

Kelley is also editor in chief of the North Dakota State University Press and “Land of Sunlit Ice” will be among its published works.