Writer’s Desk: Render It Eternal

Even in fiction, when we’re writing, we are often reliving something something we already experienced. A thought, a view, a conversation, a stab of pain or shiver of beauty.

Part of the reason writers do that is simple: Fuel for the engine. But sometimes we write about an experience in order to go through it again, to remember what it felt like, get it down on paper, and let it some extent, live forever.

Anais Nin wrote in her diaries:

We write to taste life twice, in the moment, and in retrospection. We write, like Proust, to render it all eternal…

Screening Room: ‘A Star is Born’

My essay on masculinity, the movies, Westerns, and Bradley Cooper’s remake of A Star is Born ran today in Eyes Wide Open:

…instead of lashing out, sometimes the men just drop out. That’s the case in A Star is Born. On the face of it, this star vehicle doesn’t have anything to do with these stories of men marooned by modernity. The fourth iteration of William Wellman’s original 1937 tearjerker of a doomed celebrity romance double helix of fates, it has nary a firearm on offer and only the odd half-drunk bar fight in terms of violence. But in between all the melodrama about addiction, talent, and poisoned family trees, it’s hard to miss the lurking subtext about the place of men (well, straight men) in its world. In short: They just don’t seem to be hacking it…

Screening Room: ‘Burning’

In the newest movie from Korean director Lee Chang-dong, a stunted writer gets tangled up in a Great Gatsby-esque love triangle with a manic dreamer of a woman and a mysteriously quiet man of means.

Burning is opening this week in limited release. My review is at Film Journal International.

Here’s the trailer:

Writer’s Desk: Ha Jin on Patience

According to Ha Jin, the author of Waiting and War Trash among other books, there is something to be said for taking your time:

Be patient. Patience is everything.

I write everyday. When I have a large amount of time, in the summer, I can write a draft of a book and then when I teach I can edit and revise the book. Even though I work everyday, it doesn’t mean I write everyday. It’s impossible. It takes such a long time. It’s far from finished once you have a rough draft. Sometimes you just waste weeks and months. It happened to me a few times. I wrote 18 pages and realized it was terrible and had to start again. That’s why patience is everything.

Readers’ Corner: The Little Free Library

A Little Free Library in Luxembourg (photo by jwh)

In 2009, Todd Bol built a little wood box with shelves and a see-through door on the deck of his home in Hudson, Wisconsin. The micro-sized free lending library was a tribute to his mother, who was always welcoming neighbors inside.

According to the Star-Tribune:

So he built a few more boxes, selling one and giving away a few dozen more. Bol set a goal of 2,150 — to beat the number of Carnegie Libraries in the country. Less than a decade later, more than 75,000 dollhouse-size libraries have sprouted on front lawns in 88 countries.

Bol, who passed away this week at 62, may have done more than any other single person to expand book culture around the world in the past decade.

You can find your closest Little Free Library with this map here.

Screening Room: Flinty, Funny ‘Private Life’ Shouldn’t Get Lost On Netflix

The newest family comedy from Tamara Jenkins (Slums of Beverly Hills, The Savages) follows a literary New York couple in the middle of a years-long saga to get pregnant. The results are often funny, but not pretty.

Private Life opened at the New York Film Festival and is now on Netflix and in some theaters. My review is at The Playlist:

Does it matter that Tamara Jenkins’ newest movie, “Private Life,” is only getting one of those mini boutique theatrical releases at the same time being released somewhere into the unknown algorithm wilds of Netflix for the whole nation to see?…

The trailer is here: