Writer’s Corner: Dublin Writers Festival, Crime Time

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littlegirllost1One of the more interesting panel discussions at the Dublin Writers Festival was titled “The State of Crime”. In it, crime novelists Arne Dahl, Sinead Crowley, and Brian McGilloway held forth on everything from the state of Swedish society to whether or not they did any research with the police before writing their first books.

My writeup is at PopMatters:

As with many events at the Festival, the talk turned to writing mechanics. Moderator [Declan] Burke suggested that aspiring writers not try to put everything into a first draft. He preferred just banging it all out once, messy or not, and then going back and fixing anything from plot to characterizations on multiple later passes. Dahl suggested writing one short story a year in addition to novels, since the compressed space “sharpens your pen”. He also thought it helpful, and possibly even necessary, for crime writers to read Macbeth once a year…

Department of Weekend Reading: May 30, 2014

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New in Theaters: ‘We Are the Best!’

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Liv LeMoyne, Mira Barkhammar, and Mira Grosin in ‘We Are the Best!’ (Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

A trio of disaffected 1980s Swedish punks form a mostly tuneless band with one great should-have-been-a-hit song in Lukas Moodysson’s We Are the Best! It opens in limited release tomorrow after a batch of well-received festival dates.

My review is at Film Racket:

It’s assumed that the thorny flowers of punk need rocky, hostile ground to take root. Think of how the gone-to-seed, junkie-littered, class warfare cityscapes of late-1970s New York or Maggie Thatcher’s Britain bred those first mohawked shock troops. But that wasn’t always the case, as Lukas Moodysson’s slight but charming growing-up story We Are the Best! shows. Just as punk could flourish as easily in America’s sprawling, sunny suburbs as its bombed-out cities, its seething fury was also an enticing reaction to the complacent communitarianism of 1980s Sweden. The scrawny kids gelling their hair and scornfully twisting up their faces aren’t just angry about the miserable state of the world, they’re furious that nobody else seems to get it…

And here’s the trailer:

Writer’s Corner: Dublin Writers Festival, Day 1

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The annual Dublin Writers Festival, which just concluded this past Sunday, was an enjoyably low-key but nevertheless enthusiastic affair, mixing up writing workshops with talks and Q&As with authors and the occasional performance piece.

I covered a few days of it for PopMatters; here’s part:

This is Dublin, after all, which proudly carries its status as UNESCO City of Literature, and where the odd plaque on an undistinguished townhouse near St. Stephen’s Green reminds you that Bram Stoker lived there, and the Gate Theatre just happens to be staging An Ideal Husband by the Dublin-raised and -educated Oscar Wilde.
  
The event locations were mostly clustered within an easy walk of Temple Bar, making one conveniently never far from a restorative tipple. The offerings ran the gamut from workshop-like conversations with would-be writers to themed readings and music and poetry galas. By the end of even just one day, if you didn’t already have a novel or cycle of poems in the works, you would feel as though you were somehow missing out…

Other entries to follow soon.

New in Books: ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’

capital-cover1The most curious blockbuster book of 2014 has easily been Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Piketty’s a French economist who wrote a nearly 700-page book about the Western world’s history (and probable near-future) of economic inequality.

My review is at PopMatters:

[Piketty] thinks it’s actually a good thing that economists aren’t treated with as much respect in France as they are in the United States. This refreshing humility doesn’t keep the book from over-relying on a few points and concluding in too narrow a fashion. But Piketty’s conviction that economists normally don’t get it—in part, he suggests, because many of them are much better off financially than the average citizen—goes a long way towards attracting a readership that would normally recoil as violently from brick-like economics texts as Fox News viewers would from kale. Even with Piketty’s occasional stumbles, Capital in the Twenty-First Century is easily the book of the year. With agreeably clear prose and an aversion to orthodoxy, it grapples with mountains of data and wrestles them into a more manageably daunting form…

You can see an interview with Piketty here:

Quote of the Day: Celebrity ‘Journalism’

From the always perspicacious P.J. O’Rourke, who wrote recently on the through-the-looking-glass experience that is reading an entire issue of People, or even US Weekly:

The formula for celebrity journalism is to mix schadenfreude with celebration at about the ratio of gin to vermouth in a dry martini.

Department of Weekend Reading: May 23, 2014

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