Arguments Worth Having

Art = Absurdity = Provocation = Contemplation = Wisdom = Love

Seven & S-21 at Prick of the Spindle

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Museum of Genocide S-21, Phnom Penh, Cambodia



In 1979, the Vietnamese drove the Khmer Rouge out of Cambodia and, in the United States, the motion picture Alien took repugnance to another cinematic level…

thus begins my essay on genocide and pop culture, Seven and S-21, published at Prick of the Spindle. Earlier the essay placed as a finalist in the Faulkner Competition, the first half was published by Drunken Boat in 2009. Many thanks to Prick of the Spindle nonfiction editor Cynthia Reeser, who accepted and guided the piece with suggestions that made a stronger final version. The essay covers a transformative experience in Cambodia in August of 1998, one that has changed how I look at pop culture’s love affair with horror.

Some places I’ve been

Top row: Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil. Machu Picchu, Peru. Karachi, Pakistan. Second Row: S-21, Phnom Penh – Angkor Wat, Siem Riep – National Museum, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Third Row: Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Lake Titicaca, Bolivia. Kisoro, Uganda.

I do not think travel or visiting other countries is necessary to put into context the world, yet what happens elsewhere relates to the prosperity of the West…I’ll raise my daughters, as much as possible, to compare, contrast, and hopefully grow in character and benefit from an awareness of universal concerns. Hey, we’re damn lucky. And so, in a cheery photo finale, the Vietnamese monk Quang Duc:


Written by Caleb Powell

December 25, 2010 at 6:55 am

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