Letter from the Editor: People of Interest

Ho Lin

Ho Lin: People of Interest

What does an action TV show on a major network have to do with what ails us in 2013? Maybe more to the point, what does an action TV show on a major network have to do with anything?

That's the conundrum this author faces when explaining why he's glued to Person of Interest. It's easy to get hooked on the particulars if one wants to dismiss the show, and the fish at the end of this hook is an especially succulent hambone: vigilante anti-hero Reese (Jim Caviezel, giving good deadpan) battles criminals and would-be criminals with a seemingly endless arsenal of guile and automatic weapons, his exploits aided by reclusive billionaire computer genius Finch (Michael Emerson, who will always be Lost's Benjamin Linus to us), who has created a machine that integrates electronic surveillance from around the world and can effectively pinpoint specific individuals who will be involved in violent crimes (as either perpetrator or victim) before they happen. In short, it's just the type of fascist rigmarole you'd expect from Jonathan Nolan, who co-wrote the last two Christopher Nolan Batman movies.

And yet, despite the action-thriller quotient, and as the title of the show indicates, the series is more interested about people. One week we gain a glimpse into Reese's black ops past, and recognize that no redemption awaits him (yes, noir still exists, thank goodness); another week we see the consequences of a bad cop trying to make good, but coming to the inevitable conclusion that his best function is to remain bad in the service of doing good. Taxi drivers, orphaned inner-city kids, journalists, harried civic judges, out-of-work construction managers, stock market traders hung out to dry: all of them potential criminals or victims, forever in flux, for even the most all-knowing machine in existence cannot predict on which side of the ledger they will fall, all of them part of the great melting pot of New York City, from the ritziest Park Avenue penthouse to the scuzziest little super-mart down in Brighton Beach. Watching Person of Interest is akin to watching little universes unfold, where good and bad is beside the point, where one is jazzed by the potentialities of these characters from every walk of life, where preordained fates collide with circumstance, freedom and possibility. Institutions are suffused with apathy and corruption, the compulsion to sink into the haze is strong, and yet the show is defiantly on the side of the people who populate this landscape, saved and sinners, including our Mr. Reese and Mr. Finch, as they trudge on towards an uncertain future that may contain something resembling dignity or grace. Sounds like 2013 to us.

You can be sure that our contributors in this issue are also of the moment: We are happy to expand our video section to include performances from our ongoing Caveat Lector salons, from Philip Fried's wry poetry straight from New York City to Marvin Heimstra's delightful skewerings of convention. Katya Cengel's excerpt from her memoirs as a journalist in the Baltics is nothing if not an ode to possibility, while fellow editor Christopher Bernard's short story is fragrant with surveillance, transgressions, and above all, curiosity about the world (we can easily see the narrator sitting down for tea with Mr. Finch and asking, What's it all about?).

In our poetry section, Ace Boggess plugs into the 9-11 mood that still haunts us all a dozen years later, John F. Buckley neatly peels back surface appearances to get at the raw underneath, while Judith Ann Levison throws all caution to the wind in "Marry Me," endorsing a future where grace is indeed an option. Speaking of options, this author includes a film treatment titled "Trio" in this issue, in which three characters in three different stories enjoy a multiplicity of identities and narratives, each as elusive as a gust of wind at the seaside town where the action takes place.

We recommend you conclude your spring tour of this issue with the music of Ian Robertson, whose guitar explorations place a meditative full-stop on all our wanderings. We trust and hope our universes of musing will inspire you, at least while we continue to live in a world where our futures cannot be perfectly predicted, and the present is a woolly ball of confusion that can be regarded with a grimace and a smile.

Ho Lin is a principal and co-editor of Caveat Lector. His work can be read, viewed, and listened to at holin.us.