Writer’s Desk: Don’t Stop Now

Tags

, , , ,

benjaminbnf

The great Walter Benjamin once postulated the 13 rules necessary for the writer to make a go of it with their craft. It’s a smart, detail-fixated, and lengthy list, which you can review in full here.

They’re not all for everybody—”Avoid haphazard writing materials. A pedantic adherence to certain papers, pens, inks is beneficial” is a tad on the fussy side—but the following items seem relevant to just about any ink-stained wretch out there:

  • “Talk about what you have written, by all means, but do not read from it while the work is in progress. Every gratification procured in this way will slacken your tempo.”
  • “Consider no work perfect over which you have not once sat from evening to broad daylight.”
  • “Never stop writing because you have run out of ideas. Literary honour requires that one break off only at an appointed moment (a mealtime, a meeting) or at the end of the work.”

It is likely that a broader belief in the concept of “literary honour” would serve the writing classes well.

Weekend Reading: December 2, 2016

Tags

, , , ,

readingcomic

Screening Room: ‘Bobby Sands: 66 Days’

Tags

, , , ,

bobby_sands_66_days

Bobby Sands: 66 Days is a sharp new documentary about the IRA hero’s world-gripping 1981 hunger strike and how it encapsulated the feverish passions of the Protestant-Catholic “Troubles.”

It’s playing now in limited release. My review is at Film Journal International:

Northern Ireland was still convulsing after years of strife. As Byrne’s dense weave of televisual archive footage shows, the form of battle ranged from peaceful marches to assassinations and running street skirmishes pitting gangs of rock- and Molotov cocktail-armed Catholic youth against British soldiers and a primarily Protestant police force. But for a few details, the footage of a city in free-fall could have been shot anywhere from Berlin circa 1945 to Aleppo today: children playing in burnt-out cars and rubble-strewn fields, the few standing walls covered in political graffiti…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Things to Come’

Tags

, , , ,

thingstocome1

Isabelle Huppert plays a philosophy teacher whose life gets thrown for a loop in Mia Hansen-Love’s brilliant new drama.

Things to Come is opening this week in limited release. My review is at Film Journal International:

After taking a detour into the vagabond world of dance-music DJs with the disappointingly blah Eden, Mia Hansen-Løve returns fantastically to form with Things to Come. It’s the kind of urbane, Éric Rohmer-inflected drama that the still-young writer-director has been turning out for a few years now and hopefully will continue to make for decades to come. There are any number of filmmakers who can make stories about Parisians with matters of the world and the heart weighing them down. But few approach them with the kind of questing emotional honesty that Hansen-Løve specializes in…

Here’s the trailer:

Writer’s Desk: Keeping the Demons at Bay

Tags

, ,

thelottery1

Shirley Jackson considered herself an odd person. This hardly makes her unique among writers. But see what she had to say about its relationship to her writing:

The very nicest thing about being a writer is that you can afford to indulge yourself endlessly with oddness, and nobody can really do anything about it, as long as you keep writing and kind of using it up, as it were. I am, this morning, endeavoring to persuade you to join me in my deluded world; it is a happy, irrational, rich world, full of fairies and ghosts and free electricity and dragons, and a world beyond all others fun to walk around in. All you have to do—and watch this carefully, please—is keep writing. As long as you write it away regularly, nothing can really hurt you…

Weekend Reading: November 25, 2016

booksfortheholidays

Screening Room: ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’

Tags

, , , ,

kubo3

A young boy with one eye and a magical way with his guitar. A monkey sage with a wicked sneer. A giant beetle samurai. Moon gods and legend and beautiful vistas. You can find all that and more in the magical Kubo and the Two Strings, one of the year’s great films, available this week on DVD.

My review is at Eyes Wide Open:

Coming of age stories are a dime a dozen in the animated movie business. Or at least, they used to be. In 2016, it’s all about animals. From Finding Dory to The Secret Life of Pets, The Angry Birds Movie, Storks, Zootopia and the forthcoming Sing, anthropomorphized animals riddled with highly adult worries and neuroses (particularly about their jobs; a lot of these critters work) rule the screen. Travis Knight’s mythological quest, the stop-motion animation Kubo and the Two Strings, though, ignores this trend entirely and blazes its own fabulist trail…

Reader’s Corner: Michael Chabon’s ‘Moonglow’

Tags

, , , , ,

moonglowMy review of Michael Chabon’s latest novel, Moonglow, which is hitting stores tomorrow, is at PopMatters:

Chabon starts Moonglow in a great, glowing gush of reminiscence and incident. The narrator character that he has created for himself adheres to the broad outlines of his biography, though one who keeps himself surprisingly small in the background; no Philip Roth-ian excavations of the self to be found here. Instead, Chabon places himself at the bedside of his grandfather who is near death in the late-‘80s. This is just after The Mysteries of Pittsburgh has come out, and Chabon is there to hear the tales of his grandfather’s life. They come pouring out in a rush, “Dilaudid was bringing its soft hammer to bear on his habit of silence”…

Screening Room: ‘Manchester by the Sea’

Tags

, , , ,

manchesterbythesea1

For his followup to the brilliant, if barely released Margaret, Kenneth Lonergan delivers a fistful of melancholic comedy in the surprising, deftly written Manchester by the Sea, which stars Casey Affleck as a man coming apart under the weight of multiple tragedies.

Manchester by the Sea is playing now. You probably will not see a better written or acted film this year. My review is at PopMatters:

“It’s not a good disease.” Diagnosed with cancer at the start of Manchester by the Sea, Joe Chandler (Kyle Chandler) asks his doctor if there are any good diseases. “Poison ivy,” she replies, with the barest hint of a grin. At that, Joe’s wife Elise (Gretchen Mol), furious that they’re joking at a time like this, storms out of the hospital room. Elise might be best advised not to watch Manchester by the Sea, a nearly perfect example of how to weave humor throughout tragedy…

Here is the trailer:

Writer’s Desk: Never Too Late

Tags

, , , , , ,

grass-sheri-tepperThe incredibly prolific, frequently short-listed, and well-loved science-fiction author Sheri S. Tepper (Grass) passed away on October 22 at the age of 87. Tepper had a full non-writing life which included being executive director of Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood in Colorado, yet still managed to publish dozens of novels late in life.

John Scalzi noted that Tepper came to writing late in life:

Aside from her considerable talents as an author, Tepper stands as a reminder that it’s never too late to write. Tepper didn’t publish her first novel until 1983, when she was in her 54th year of life; she wrote something like 40 total, the most recent published in 2014. It’s never too late to write; it’s never too late to write a classic novel; it’s never too late to be a great writer, whether or not the genre has entirely caught up with you yet.

So remember that if you ever start thinking it’s too late to begin writing. As long as your fingers can find the pen or keyboard, or your voice can make it to the dictation program, it ain’t over.

(h/t: Shelf Awareness)