Weekend Reading: October 30, 2015

Screening Room: ‘The Wonders’

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A sweet and strange offering from Italy, The Wonders opens this week in limited release. My review is at Film Journal International:

The state of the ramshackle Tuscan farmhouse inhabited by the family whose members dart and gambol all through The Wonders, Alice Rohrwacher’s sleepy one-ring circus of a film, perfectly mirrors their everyday state of affairs. It’s beautiful in its way but not exactly well-maintained. Nevertheless, it stays up, just like this family stays together even as many of their violently oppositional attitudes would seem to be pulling them apart…

Here’s the trailer:

Writer’s Desk: Writing as a Form of Reading

sontagreaderIt’s a truism that one of the best things new writers need to remember is to read. A lot. Not to imitate (though some of that is inevitable, especially at the start) but to understand just what writing is, and to see a book through two sets of eyes at once:

  • How is the writer able to make me respond this way?
  • How can I get the reader to respond, in any way?

In “Write, Read, Rewrite, Repeat Steps 2 and 3 as Needed,” Susan Sontag limns the linkage between the two:

First, because to write is to practice, with particular intensity and attentiveness, the art of reading. You write in order to read what you’ve written and see if it’s O.K. and, since of course it never is, to rewrite it — once, twice, as many times as it takes to get it to be something you can bear to reread. You are your own first, maybe severest, reader. “To write is to sit in judgment on oneself,” Ibsen inscribed on the flyleaf of one of his books. Hard to imagine writing without rereading…

Reader’s Corner: Still Declining

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A few items from the latest Pew Research Center study on American reading habits:

  • 72% of American adults read a book in the past year, down from 79% in 2011.
  • Young adults (18-29) more likely than older adults to have read a book in the past year.
  • Average number of books read by women in the past year: 14.
  • … by men: 9.

Weekend Reading: October 23, 2015

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Screening Room: ‘Steve Jobs’

Michael Fassbender as 'Steve Jobs' (Universal)
Michael Fassbender as ‘Steve Jobs’ (Universal)

jobs-book coverA few years back, Aaron Sorkin wrote a wildly one-sided account of Mark Zuckerberg’s rise to riches and infamy as the founder of Facebook, The Social Network. Now he’s (theoretically, at least) adapted Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs for another tale of a socially malformed but market-prescient innovator. It’s more even-handed about its subject, to a degree, but somehow far less interesting.

Steve Jobs is already playing in limited release and opens wider this week. My review is at PopMatters:

What Steve Jobs leaves us with isn’t a genius or even a particularly innovative business manager. One after the other, aggrieved former colleagues or family come for some kind of reconciliation or passive-aggressive score-settling, only to be hit with the paranoid, megalomaniacal verbal assaults [former Apple CEO John] Sculley calls the “Steve Jobs revenge machine”. On the surface this looks like an attempt to puncture the bubble of Jobs’s self-created genius mystique and show his seedy underbelly. But the film’s heart isn’t in it. Each time, Jobs gets the upper hand…

My 2011 review of Isaacson’s book is here.

Here’s the trailer: