Category - Arts & Culture

Diary

LRB, By Ben Lerner, June 18

In ninth grade English Mrs X required us to memorise and recite a poem and so I asked the Topeka High librarian to direct me to the shortest poem she knew and she suggested Marianne Moore’s ‘Poetry’, which, in the 1967 version, reads in its entirety:

I, too, dislike it.
Reading it, however, with a perfect
contempt for it, one discovers in
it, after all, a place for the genuine.

I remember thinking my classmates were suckers for having mainly memorised Shakespeare’s 18th sonnet whereas I had only to recite 24 words. Never mind the fact that a set rhyme scheme and iambic pentameter make 14 of Shakespeare’s lines easier to memorise than Moore’s three, each one of which is interrupted by a conjunctive adverb – a parallelism of awkwardness that basically serves as its form. That plus the four instances of ‘it’ makes Moore sound like a priest grudgingly admitting that sex has its function while trying to avoid using the word, an effect amplified by the awkward enjambment of the second line and the third (‘in/it’). In fact, ‘Poetry’ is a very difficult poem to commit to memory, as I demonstrated by failing to get it right on any of the three chances I was given by Mrs X, who was looking down at the text, my classmates cracking up.

My contempt for the assignment was, after all, imperfect.
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How a Movement in Chile Is Transforming Film Worldwide

Wired, By Sam Fragoso, June 12

Chances are you haven’t heard much about The Stranger—it’s been hard to pick up any frequency other than “Jurassic” this week—but director Guillermo Amoedo’s unnerving sophomore feature is worth your attention. On the surface, it’s an atmospheric genre movie about a bearded nomad out to kill his lost wife, who shares his thirst for human blood. But that’s just the story. Deeper down, in its marrow, it is the embodiment of filmmaking in Chilewood—a movement of indefatigable artists who are poised to change how movies are made in 2015.

The term “Chilewood” refers to an emerging camp in its eponymous country where genre films are being made by a myriad of talents and attracting high-profile names like Eli Roth and Keanu Reeves. And the etymology of the catchy name originates with its creator Nicolás López, who dropped out of high school at 15 to produce a show for MTV Latin America and never looked back. “When I was 10 years old I used to direct short films with my friends and we called that Chilewood,” says López. “Now I’m 32 and I’m still playing with my friends, but this time, the movies are longer.”

It’s true: At 32, López has written and directed seven feature length movies, attracting like-minded artists from around the world to come and work in Chile. The Stranger, hitting theaters and VOD today, is just the latest offering to come out of the movement López started as a kid. Here’s everything you need to know about Chile’s most fascinating new moviemakers.

Every burgeoning movement, filmic or otherwise, needs a raison d’etre. For Chilewood, that purpose is simple: “We want to make genre movies that we want to see for the entire world,” says Eli Roth, an instrumental player in the movement’s growth. Since joining the Chilewood camp in 2012 with Aftershock, Roth and co. have been largely successful in crafting those genre pictures for the masses. They’ve done so by constructing, from the ground up, their own methodology. “We can take bits and pieces of the best from all the different systems,” says Roth, “and really shoot however we want.” For Roth, this means moving away from the studio system, where he believes “things get overdeveloped to death and are very star-dependent.” In Chile, they prefer to “go on instinct and not second guess ourselves,” says Roth. “We take chances and cast new faces.”

Can Reading Make You Happier?

The New Yorker, By Ceridwen Dovey, June 9

Several years ago, I was given as a gift a remote session with a bibliotherapist at the London headquarters of the School of Life, which offers innovative courses to help people deal with the daily emotional challenges of existence. I have to admit that at first I didn’t really like the idea of being given a reading “prescription.” I’ve generally preferred to mimic Virginia Woolf’s passionate commitment to serendipity in my personal reading discoveries, delighting not only in the books themselves but in the randomly meaningful nature of how I came upon them (on the bus after a breakup, in a backpackers’ hostel in Damascus, or in the dark library stacks at graduate school, while browsing instead of studying). I’ve long been wary of the peculiar evangelism of certain readers: You must read this, they say, thrusting a book into your hands with a beatific gleam in their eyes, with no allowance for the fact that books mean different things to people—or different things to the same person—at various points in our lives. I loved John Updike’s stories about the Maples in my twenties, for example, and hate them in my thirties, and I’m not even exactly sure why.

But the session was a gift, and I found myself unexpectedly enjoying the initial questionnaire about my reading habits that the bibliotherapist, Ella Berthoud, sent me. Nobody had ever asked me these questions before, even though reading fiction is and always has been essential to my life. I love to gorge on books over long breaks—I’ll pack more books than clothes, I told Berthoud. I confided my dirty little secret, which is that I don’t like buying or owning books, and always prefer to get them from the library (which, as I am a writer, does not bring me very good book-sales karma). In response to the question “What is preoccupying you at the moment?,” I was surprised by what I wanted to confess: I am worried about having no spiritual resources to shore myself up against the inevitable future grief of losing somebody I love, I wrote. I’m not religious, and I don’t particularly want to be, but I’d like to read more about other people’s reflections on coming to some sort of early, weird form of faith in a “higher being” as an emotional survival tactic. Simply answering the questions made me feel better, lighter.

We had some satisfying back-and-forths over e-mail, with Berthoud digging deeper, asking about my family’s history and my fear of grief, and when she sent the final reading prescription it was filled with gems, none of which I’d previously read. Among the recommendations was “The Guide,” by R. K. Narayan. Berthoud wrote that it was “a lovely story about a man who starts his working life as a tourist guide at a train station in Malgudi, India, but then goes through many other occupations before finding his unexpected destiny as a spiritual guide.” She had picked it because she hoped it might leave me feeling “strangely enlightened.” Another was “The Gospel According to Jesus Christ,” by José Saramago: “Saramago doesn’t reveal his own spiritual stance here but portrays a vivid and compelling version of the story we know so well.” “Henderson the Rain King,” by Saul Bellow, and “Siddhartha,” by Hermann Hesse, were among other prescribed works of fiction, and she included some nonfiction, too, such as “The Case for God,” by Karen Armstrong, and “Sum,” by the neuroscientist David Eagleman, a “short and wonderful book about possible afterlives.”

A New ‘Wrinkle in Time’

Madeleine L’Engle’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ has sold 14 million copies since its publication in 1962. Now, a never-before-seen passage cut from an early draft is shedding surprising light on the author’s political philosophy

The Wall Street Journal, By Jennifer Maloney, April 16

Madeleine L’Engle, the author of “A Wrinkle in Time,” resisted labels. Her books weren’t for children, she said. They were for people. Devoted to religious study, she bristled when called a Christian writer. And though some of her books had political themes, she wasn’t known to write overtly about politics. That is, until her granddaughter, Charlotte Jones Voiklis, came across an unknown three-page passage that was cut before publication.

The passage, which Ms. Voiklis shared with The Wall Street Journal so it could be published for the first time, sheds new light on one of the most beloved and best-selling young-adult books in American literature. Published in 1962, “A Wrinkle in Time” has sold 14 million copies and inspired a TV-movie adaptation, a graphic novel, and an opera. Meg Murry, the novel’s strong-willed misfit heroine, has been a role model for generations of children, especially girls. Now, Jennifer Lee, the co-writer and co-director of the Oscar-winning animated film, “Frozen,” is writing a film adaptation for Disney.

A witches’ brew of science fiction and fantasy, Christian theology and a hint of politics, “A Wrinkle in Time” has long been considered influenced by the Cold War. It explores the dangers of conformity, and presents evil as a world whose inhabitants’ thoughts and actions are controlled by a sinister, disembodied brain.

Many readers, then and now, have understood the book’s dark planet Camazotz—a regimented place in which mothers in unison call their children in for dinner—to represent the Soviet Union. But the passage discovered by L’Engle’s granddaughter presents a more nuanced worldview.

In it, Meg has just made a narrow escape from Camazotz. As Meg’s father massages her limbs, which are frozen from a jarring trip through space and time, she asks: “But Father, how did the Black Thing—how did it capture Camazotz?” Her father proceeds to lay out the political philosophy behind the book in much starker terms than are apparent in the final version.

He says that yes, totalitarianism can lead to this kind of evil. (The author calls out examples by name, including Hitler, Mussolini and Khrushchev.) But it can also happen in a democracy that places too much value on security, Mr. Murry says. “Security is a most seductive thing,” he tells his daughter. “I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the greatest evil there is.”

A poem for Tuesday

Faces in the Street

Henry Lawson

They lie, the men who tell us in a loud decisive tone
That want is here a stranger, and that misery’s unknown;
For where the nearest suburb and the city proper meet
My window-sill is level with the faces in the street —
Drifting past, drifting past,
To the beat of weary feet —
While I sorrow for the owners of those faces in the street.
And cause I have to sorrow, in a land so young and fair,
To see upon those faces stamped the marks of Want and Care;
I look in vain for traces of the fresh and fair and sweet
In sallow, sunken faces that are drifting through the street —
Drifting on, drifting on,
To the scrape of restless feet;
I can sorrow for the owners of the faces in the street.

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George Carlin’s Website Relaunched With Rare Recordings

Celebration of comedian’s legacy coincides with a photograph of the comic being placed in the National Portrait Gallery

Rolling Stone, By Daniel Kreps, March 28, 2015

The National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. added a new piece to their collection Friday when they affixed a photograph of George Carlin to their prestigious walls. To celebrate the late comedian’s newest achievement, George Carlin’s official website has dug into the legendary comic’s vaults and unearthed rarely heard recordings from throughout Carlin’s career.

The Smithsonian holds a twice-a-year contest to determine who will be featured in a special “Recognize” wall there. This time the contenders were comedians: Carlin, Ellen DeGeneres, and Groucho Marx.

Detroiter Philip Levine, working-class poet laureate, dies at 87

Detroit Free Press – Not all of Philip Levine’s poetry was about his hometown of Detroit, but a lot of it was. And as this son of Russian immigrants rose from the streets to win the Pulitzer Prize and even become poet laureate of the U.S., his literary voice never stopped pulsating with the sweat and soul of the blue-collar city where he was born. Levine, whose poetry sang of the triumphs and tragedies of the working class, died Saturday at his home in Fresno, Calif, less than a month after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was 87.

Levine spoke about the influence of Detroit on his work in a 2011 interview with the Free Press. “You grow up in a place and it becomes the arena of your discovery,” he said. “It also became the arena of my discovery of the nature of American capitalism and the sense of how ordinary people have no choice at all in how they’re going to be formed by the society. My politics were formed by the city.”
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Que Sera, Sera

Greece is rebelling in the streets and the halls of government.
Spaniards are following suit in the streets – government’s not onboard but it may not matter.
The Euro is tottering and NATO is a lot shakier than it wants to admit (it’s in denial).
Sanctions are failing. Banksters fear jailing – or poverty or the guillotine.
Control is slipping here at home – it’s desperation that’s making the PTB escalate repression.

Times, they are a-changin’

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