Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture. What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.

It can be easy for fans, and especially those of us under a certain age, to get caught up in a writer or musician or director’s latest offerings and make our judgements based on those,  but one of the most illuminating things that I have found I can do is visit an artist’s earlier works.

I’m currently on a personal mission to watch every Coen Brothers movie in order, and my appreciation for them has grown exponentially. Where I previously found their movies entertaining character studies, I have found myself really enjoying their journey from the simple brutality of Blood Simple to some of the more whimsical outings like O Brother Where Art Thou? While still maintaining my deep love for Fargo.

Similarly, I recently re-watched Christopher Nolan’s first film, Following, and was reminded that so many of his Nolan-isms have been with him since that first outing, which features a non-linear storyline, a bit of a twist ending, noir themes and some seriously intricate plotting.

In the world of fiction, writer James McBride is receiving a lot of love for his latest novel, Deacon King Kong, and I’m hoping some of his newer readers attracted by his inclusion in some big-name book clubs seek out his first book, The Color of Water, his memoir about his identity as a black man and the identity of his mother, a white Jewish woman. It’s extraordinarily powerful, even 24 years after its release.

While it can be easy for us audiences to always want to seek out the latest at the library and on Netflix, it can be immensely rewarding to seek out an artist’s fuller library… especially since a lot of artist’s early offerings highlight many of the same themes they continue to wrestle with throughout their later careers, as well.

I’m Evan Rook.