Weekend Reading: July 22, 2016


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Screening Room: ‘Ghostbusters’


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So, yes, there’s a new Ghostbusters movie. You may have heard about it.

My review is at Eyes Wide Open:

It’s bad enough when a classic film is sullied by a subpar remake. (Hint: anybody excited about the Antoine Fuqua The Magnificent Seven, be prepared for disappointment; at least the original, itself a Seven Samurai riff, had the good sense to relocate from Japan to Mexico and cut its own trail.) All those tens of millions of dollars spent, just to tarnish a good and enjoyable memory. Even more wasteful, though, is the hurling of good money and energy at revamping of a film that was, well, no classic. Like Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbusters

Here’s the trailer:

Quote of the Day: Money and Happiness


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In London’s pseudo-newspaper The Telegraph last January, for an article on personal finance, the interviewer asked Monty Python’s Eric Idle whether money can make you happy.

His reply:

No, but it can buy you things that do, like holidays and wine.

Writer’s Desk: Hemingway and the One True Thing


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Ernest Hemingway (photo by Lloyd Arnold, 1939)

Ernest Hemingway (photo by Lloyd Arnold, 1939)

Much of a writer’s life is taken up with various anxieties: Where’s the plot going? That paragraph seems a little flat, should I give it another shot? Is the check in the mail?

That means, then, that a lot of what constitutes writing is working through those anxieties, lassoing them to your work as needed.

In A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway described what he did when dead-ended on a story:

I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.’ So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say.

Once you have that one true thing, you also have your foundation.

Build from that.

(h/t Open Culture)

Weekend Reading: July 15, 2016


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TV Room: ‘The Night Of’


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Riz Ahmed in ‘The Night Of’ (HBO)

night_of-posterA long-in-development, eight-episode miniseries, The Night Of has the heft and snap of that rare crime novel which seems to have been written by somebody who has actually talked to a few cops and crooks in their time. That’s because it’s written by Richard Price, whose gritty, funny novels from The Wanderers to The Whites provide a kind of alternate history of New York.

What’s it about? In short, a good kid from Queens (Riz Ahmed) goes out when he shouldn’t, hangs out with a girl who fairly screams bad news, and ends up in a police station. For murder. John Turturro plays his low-end lawyer with a heart of gold; in a role that James Gandolfini originated not long before his death.

The Night Of is on HBO Sunday nights; check it out. My review is at PopMatters:

The world of cops, judges, and lawyers is one that sorts the people who come within its grasp. That’s at least the case in crime fiction like HBO’s darkly sparkling new noir miniseries The Night Of. It’s generally a binary thing, without much shading…

Here’s the trailer:

TV Room: ‘O.J.: Made in America’


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ESPN’s “30 for 30” series has been responsible for some of the better sports-themed documentaries of recent years (Peter Berg’s King’s Ransom, on the trade of Wayne Gretzky to Los Angeles; Ron Shelton’s Jordan Rides the Bus, in which Michael Jordan retires from the NBA to play minor-league baseball) by understanding a simple rule: Sports stories get more interesting the further afield they run from the sport in question.

Ezra Edelman’s sprawling five-part epic O.J.: Made in America follows that rule to a tee. It is not just a high point for the series, it’s one of the great long-form documentaries you will ever see.

It’s been shown on ESPN, had a brief theatrical run, and should be available on various streaming services soon. My review is at Eyes Wide Open:

“I thought he was a has-been.” That’s Marcia Clark, no sports fan, in Ezra Edelman’s O.J.: Made in America. She’s describing her reaction to hearing about O.J. Simpson being wanted for double murder. Clark would spend an incredible-to-believe nine months in a courtroom trying to put him behind bars for those murders. But given the portrait of Simpson that emerges from Edelman’s masterfully dense, dramatic, and journalistic five-part documentary, it’s likely that the one-time sports star and permanent celebrity wannabe would be more offended by Clark thinking he was a has-been than a murderer…

Here’s the trailer:

Writer’s Desk: Elie Wiesel


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NightWieselElie Wiesel, the concentration-camp survivor and immortal author who passed away this past week at 87 years old, was a writer for many reasons. Firstly, after being liberated from Buchenwald as a teenager and having no family left, Wiesel needed to do something to survive.

In the postwar years, he started working as a journalist when only 19 years old. His searing account of his concentration-camp experiences, Night, was first published in Yiddish in 1955 and later translated into multiple languages. Incredibly, it struggled to find an audience at first in a world that had mostly been unable to deal with the Holocaust in any substantive manner. Eventually the book was seen as a classic and went on to sell over 10 million copies.

Wiesel kept writing, well after he needed it to support himself. He gave a very simple reason for this in his book From the Kingdom of Memory: Reminiscences:

I write to understand as much as to be understood. Will I succeed one day?

As much as any writer could succeed in that massive undertaking, Wiesel did.

Reader’s Corner: Women and the New Noir


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meganabbottIt used to be that mysteries were a particularly men-centric corner of the publishing world. You had your Agatha Christie and later on Janet Evanovich and Patricia Cornwell. But while those authors could sell in the millions, the authors that many literary types preferred tended toward the male: Raymond Chandler and the like.

But more recently, in the post-Gone Girl era, that seems to have changed. Not only do female readers appear to be taking up more of the audience, and women authors occupying more of the bestseller positions in the genre, but the books are increasingly being critically recognized.

There’s good reason for that, argues Terrence Rafferty:

The female writers, for whatever reason (men?), don’t much believe in heroes, which makes their kind of storytelling perhaps a better fit for these cynical times. Their books are light on gunplay, heavy on emotional violence. Murder is de rigueur in the genre, so people die at the hands of others—lovers, neighbors, obsessive strangers—but the body counts tend to be on the low side. “I write about murder,” Tana French once said, “because it’s one of the great mysteries of the human heart: How can one human being deliberately take another one’s life away?” Sometimes, in the work of French and others, the lethal blow comes so quietly that it seems almost inadvertent, a thing that in the course of daily life just happens. Death, in these women’s books, is often chillingly casual, and unnervingly intimate…


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