Writer’s Desk: Published and Discarded

Book remainders and throwaways are a boon for readers. They lead not just to new discoveries but also access sometimes to desired purchases that are now suddenly available, whether marked down to $5.98 on a bookstore table or sitting out on a Brooklyn stoop for free.

That doesn’t mean that the author has to be happy about witnessing it, as in the cover illustration that graphic novelist Adrian Tomine did for the New Yorker:


Where I live in Brooklyn, there’re always a lot of books being set out on the sidewalk, and there’re also a lot of authors walking around the neighborhood … I’ve had the experience of seeing stacks of New Yorkers with my cover out on the street, though I haven’t seen my books put out—but then, I also don’t have a giant photo of myself on the back cover.

Screening Room: ‘Experimenter’

Stanley Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard) and his 'shock' machine in 'Experimenter' (Magnolia)
Stanley Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard) and his ‘shock’ machine in ‘Experimenter’ (Magnolia)

At Yale in 1961, researcher Stanley Milgram began a long-term, wide-ranging experiment on obedience and authority that would actually—and for once, this isn’t hyperbole—shock the world with its conclusions. That’s the story of Michael Almereyda’s daring and (yes) experimental film Experimenter, opening this week.

My review is at PopMatters:

[Milgram] put a volunteer in a room with an officious research assistant and called them “Teacher”. He instructed Teacher to ask questions of a “Learner” in another room, a man they could hear but not see, a man they were told had a heart condition. Teacher administered a series of apparently escalating and painful electric shocks to Learner, and to continue no matter how many times Teacher heard Learner grunt and shout in pain. Teacher was free to leave whenever they liked … Many volunteers squirm with hesitation. Some ask the assistant if they will be responsible for whatever happens. Most of them deliver shock after shock, long after Learner has begged to be let out, and then fallen quiet…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Room’

Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay in 'Room' (A24)
Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay in ‘Room’ (A24)

Based on Emma Donoghue’s award-winning 2010 novel, Room is the story of a young woman being held captive in a small room with her five-year-old son, who has never seen anything of the world outside the room.

Room opened this week and is looking like an early favorite Oscar favorite, at least for Brie Larson as the mother. My review is at PopMatters.

Here’s the trailer:

Weekend Reading: October 16, 2015

The Rocky Horror Picture Show - Wallpaper #1

Quote of the Day: Books vs. Guns

Speaking at a fundraiser in California last week, President Obama mused about the “choice” that America appeared to be making:

It’s not just mass shootings. It is the daily shootings that take place in cities across America. It is easier [in some low-income neighborhoods] to buy a gun than buy a book.

Screening Room: ‘Bridge of Spies’

Mark Rylance and Tom Hanks glare like they mean it in 'Bridge of Spies' (Dreamworks)
Mark Rylance and Tom Hanks glare like they mean it (Dreamworks)

In Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, based on a tangled and fascinating true story, Tom Hanks plays a New York lawyer who gets swept into a Cold War scandal when the CIA needs help rescuing a U-2 spy plane pilot shot down by the Soviets.

Bridge of Spies opens everywhere this week. My review is at Film Journal International:

Bridge of Spies sits at the lit-fuse junction of Cold War paranoia, the legal ethics of treating enemy combatants, the dividing of Berlin, and nuclear holocaust. But the work of three screenwriters—Matt Charman and Joel and Ethan Coen—one of the era’s most astute directors of thoughtful popular cinema, and even Mark Rylance and Tom Hanks operating in pitch-perfect sync can’t wrestle this incredible, fact-based but ungainly moralistic spy saga into shape…

Here’s the trailer: