A US State Of Mind

The Arts


When I was a kid I was incredibly influenced by the American mindset. It wasn’t that I saw many Hollywood movies – I saw a few, but largely grew up with English comedies starring annoying idiots like Charlie Drake and Norman Wisdom, who seemed to have a new film out every week.

Rather it was American books, comics and magazines that filled my waking dreams. I couldn’t function without the latest issues of Mad and Cracked, Famous Monsters, Superman, Spiderman, and especially, probably more than anyone else, Ray Bradbury. Going back to his books now I can see just how brave and experimental he was, how enthralling and imaginative his world. Rereading them, they evoke a peculiarly unique American area of writing which we don’t really delve into in Europe – the endless fascination with childhood and its ability to influence and evoke powerful memories throughout our lives.

The result of this immersion in US pop culture was that I knew more American teen slang than a Bronx street gang. What struck me most was the sheer energy and positivity of American writers. Where we had enervating class warfare and complaining passive heroes, the US artists and writers were charging toward a dazzling new future.

For some reason I can’t explain, too many US comics are now written by sour-minded Englishmen, and I find the stories posturing and over-complex. It’s probably because I grew up with a sunny and simplified image of the US, and I don’t like to see that sullied. My father always said that he admired American writers because they explained things more clearly, and didn’t feel the need to dress everything up in the overly complex language that we post-Victorians tended use.

I don’t suppose Europeans are as heavily influenced by books as they once were, but many of my new US heroes are podcasters. If you’re not much of a podcast talkshow listener and want to catch something fresh, try Common Sense and Hardcore History from broadcaster Dan Carlin, now over 200 shows and counting here.

5 comments on “A US State Of Mind”

  1. Jamieson Stern says:

    Christopher, several years ago I worked as a “reader” for a hollywood production company. I was asked to read and review Calabash. I thought it was an excellent read and a riveting story. I recommended the company option the book and produce it as a film. Of course, this being Hollywood, all they wanted to know was how expensive/difficult it would be to make, so it didn’t go any further. I just thought you might like to know that I was moved and engaged and ultimately, influenced. I began work as an actor, but now write & produce myself. While not in your league as a writer, I have had some minor successes (3 films produced) and hope to continue evolving creatively and professionally. I see through the site that you’ve written quite a few books and will look forward to reading. Maybe we can turn one into a film someday?

    Best, Jamieson Stern

  2. Steve says:

    Yes, books, comics and magazines … Horror films from Hammer, and all of those “Fright Night” double features on Saturday night television – too young to know how truly awful they were, those movies about giant leeches, crabs and ants.
    They were all outside the box; and as a result….I still am.

  3. admin says:

    Jamieson – for the love of God please influence someone to make Calabash!!!

  4. Helen Martin says:

    Mad magazine was the commentary on our world. Loved it. That was back in the day when Americans were taught that their country was the land of opportunity, of innovation, of invention. That all good things would come out of The American Way. Positive thinking will get you quite a long way along a good road – look at the invention and innovation that came out of those 1950’s communities. After that those who wanted to take advantage, to profit, came forward and then the ones who said you had to produce cheaper than anyone else. That’s where we are and nothing destroys creativity like insisting on cheap and maximum profit. Get past that & perhaps Calabash will see the light of day.

  5. Alan Morgan says:

    Double-plus on Calabash. My favourite of your works.

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