Hey guys! Watch as I read books LIVE from my bedroom.
I have not been blogging here at WCB for a few months, but that’s about to change.
Starting this week, you can expect regular posts from me, mostly about books, but also some things about films, art, and my personal life.
I just wanted to throw up this post right now just rid myself of the pressure of having to come up with some grand, extraordinary post to mark my return. Instead, I am quietly slipping back in.
It feels good to be back.
This is the first in what will be an ongoing series of weekly posts in which I present a new, noteworthy work of writing that is available for free on the internet.
This week’s featured title is Border Run by Shya Scanlon
Here’s the synopsis:
BORDER RUN is a dystopian story of love, loss and redemption set on border of Arizona and Mexico. Jack Lightning is the proprietor of a theme park about illegal border crossing. While trying to keep his business running smoothly and preparing, despite the suspiciously gathering Native American protesters across the street, for an annual fair on the grounds of his park, Jack’s ex-girlfriend Jo shows up, accompanied by a stranger who asks to use Jack’s land as a cover for smuggling a real illegal alien into the country–the clone of Che Guevara. As long-held secrets are revealed on the day of the festival, Jack’s allegiances will be tried, and he will face difficult decisions about his family, and his future.
Publisher: New Dead Families // 117 pages
Last week Dalkey Archive released three newly-translated books by Danilo Kiš.
I’ve read one of his earlier books from Dalkey Archive, A Tomb for Boris Davidovich, and it was a great collection of stories, so I’m really looking forward to these three new ones.
Two are novels and one is a collection of stories. They are all part of Dalkey’s relatively new Serbian Literature Series. And, of course, I can’t help but like their serial-style cover designs. So here is an introduction to these three books.Psalm 44
This is the last major work of fiction by Danilo Kiš to be translated into English, and his only novel dealing explicitly with Auschwitz (where his own
father died). Written when he was only twenty-five, it shows Kiš at his most lyrical and unguarded, demonstrating that even in “the place of dragons . . . covered with the shadow of death,” there can still be poetry. Featuring characters based on actual inmates and warders, Psalm 44 is a baring of many of the themes, patterns, and preoccupations Kiš would return to in future, albeit never with the same starkness or immediacy.
This is Danilo Kiš’s first novel. Written in 1960, published in 1962, and set in contemporary Belgrade, it explores the relationship of a young man, known only as Orpheus, to the art of writing; it also tracks his relationship with a colorful cast of characters with nicknames such as Eurydice, Mary Magdalene, Tam-Tam, and Billy Wise Ass. This bohemian account of one young man’s quest to find a way to balance his life, his loves, and his art is rich with references to music, painting, philosophy, and gastronomy.
The Lute and the Scars
Many of these stories are autobiographical. Others resurrect protagonists belonging to Kiš’s fellow Central European novelists. Against a background of oppressive regimes and political exile, readers will find that the never-ending debate between death and writing continues unabated in these stories—death as allegory or as a voluntary symbolic act, and writing as the one impregnable defense, writing as the only possible means of survival.
I’ve been busy this week, so I only got to watch two films. But they were good ones.Affliction
This film is based off the novel by Russel Banks. My acting teacher told me to watch this to take note of the role of the abusive drunk father, played by James Coburn, as a lesson on personalization, or ‘affective memory’, in which an actor uses people, memories, and emotions from their own life and experiences to create the character they play on film or stage. Coburn literally played his father for this role. The film also featured a great performance by Nick Nolte.
Wet Hot American Summer
I watched this film in a cemetery. Every Saturday throughout the summer, an event called Cinespia occurs in the Hollywood Forever Cemetary. They play the film on the side of a building, and hundreds of people lay out on blankets and watch it together. It was the first time I saw this film, and it was absolutely hilarious. It’s a parody of 80’s summer camp comedies, and it stars a lot of famous comedians and actors, including Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black, Paul Rudd, Molly Shannon, Ken Marino, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Joe Lo Truglio, and Elizabeth Banks.
This is the first in an ongoing series of weekly posts in which I discuss the films I watched throughout the preceding week.
Last week I decided to watch every Criterion Collection film. They currently contain more than 600 releases in their catalog. It’s a project that will take me years to complete, but will be made considerably easier with the aid of the Los Angeles Public Library, where I have been able to find many Criterion DVDs, including the first film I saw this past week:Simon of the Desert (The Criterion Collection)
Directed by Luis Buñuel, this short film (45 minutes) is a compelling story of an ascetic who spends his life standing on a pillar in the desert in a act of God-worship, while the devil relentlessly tries to tempt him down. It’s a satirical allegory about religious conviction, and it was damn entertaining.The Tree of Life
This film was easily one of the best boring movies I have ever seen. It was not bad by any means. In fact, I think it was great. But man was it s l o w. Quiet and slow.
The Passion of Joan of Arc (The Criterion Collection)
I saw this on the British Film Institute’s list of 50 greatest films. The whole film was shot entirely in close-ups, usually of people’s faces. It was from 1928, and so it’s the oldest feature film I’ve seen thus far, as far as I can remember.
Bottle Rocket (The Criterion Collection)
This is the first film from Wes Anderson, and it’s one I’ve been wanting to watch for a long time now. It’s also the film that introduced the careers of Luke and Owen Wilson. I absolutely loved it.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (The Criterion Collection)
I liked it, but it didn’t come close to Bottle Rocket. Still, I really enjoyed it.
I was anticipating this film before it came out because it is an adaptation of the eponymous novel by Richard Yates, and though I have not yet read the novel, I am familiar with Yates and his work, and so I was expecting to like the film. I put off seeing the film for so long because a friend (who had not even seen it) had told me that it was not that good. I don’t know why, but I took their word for it. I finally watched it last night and I regret putting it off for so long. It was absolutely incredible. Great directing, great music, great costumes, and great performances by not only Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, but also Michael Shannon as well, whom I really like and was not expecting to see in the film.
Open Letter books is not only one of my favorite publishers of international literature, but they are one of my favorite publishers of any kind of literature. They repeatedly put out great works from authors that, often, I have never even heard of. This is why I am an eager subscriber to their catalog. Almost every month I get their latest book in the mail. This month I got Children In Reindeer Woods By Kristin Omarsdottir.
Children in Reindeer Woods is the first book by this Icelandic novelist to be translated into English. It has been getting some great critical coverage online, but what excites me most is the absurd synopsis:
Eleven-year-old Billie lives at a ‘temporary home for children’ called Children in Reindeer Woods, which she discovers one afternoon, to her surprise, is in the middle of a war zone. When a small group of paratroopers kill everyone who lives there with her,and then turn on each other, Billie is forced to learn to live with the violent, innocent, and troubled Rafael, who decides to abandon the soldier’s life and become a farmer, no matter what it takes.
If you’ve read Children In Reindeer Woods what did you think of it? What is your favorite Open Letter book?
In December I got a gift card to Barnes & Noble. It contained exactly the amount necessary to pre-order the two books books I had been most excited for. They were the two brand new books by one of my absolute favorite living authors: Brain Evenson.
I read the first book, Immobility, in one sitting over the course of a Saturday afternoon. It’s a novel published by TOR, and it was awesome. If you’re a fan of Evenson, than you will most assuredly like this book. It is like the lovechild of Last Days and Baby Leg.
The second book, Windeye, is a collection of stories published by Coffee House Press. Evenson’s previous collection, Fugue State, is, story-for-story, the tightest and most solidly impressive book of stories I have ever read, and his The Wavering Knife, is a near second. This is why I am so excited to read Windeye.
If you have already read Windeye, what is your favorite story from it? What is your favorite Brian Evenson story or book?
Conjunctions is one of my favorite literary magazines. Their issues are themed. They just released their latest issue, #58, titled Riveted: The Obsession Issue. As usual, it is filled with so many great writers.
The very generous Gabriel Blackwell is offering to give away a copy of the brand new Conjunctions:58 to one lucky person. All you need to do is answer this simple question in a comment on his blog.
I am already a subscriber to Conjunctions, so I really don’t need another copy (though an extra would be nice because why the hell not, right?) However, I think it would be best to get this great publication into the hands of someone who does not already have a copy.
So head over to Gabriel’s blog and leave a comment for your chance to win.