Tuesday, October 31, 2017

South and West: From a Notebook by Joan Didion review / Back to the future of the US

South and West: From a Notebook by Joan Didion review – back to the future of the US

These prescient essays from 1970 record the California writer’s reflections as she travelled through America’s ‘gothic’ deep south

Peter Conrad
Monday 25 September 2017 10.00 BST

n 1970 Joan Didion – a good novelist but one of America’s great essayists – sentenced herself to a hardship posting. She volunteered to spend a month aimlessly on the road in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, thinking that her trip “might be a piece”. She never wrote the article; now, luckily, her notes have been unearthed, along with some later musings about California, where she then lived. The result is a little book with a chilling power of prediction. In the intervening decades, the isolated, somnolent rednecks Didion encounters – people who even back then before cable news fed on information that was “fifth-hand, and mythicised in the handing down” – acquired an inordinate political power because of demographic shifts; last year they had their revenge when, in collusion with rust-begrimed losers from the midwest, they elected a president.

The Last Love Song by Tracy Daugherty review / Joan Didion’s resurgence

The Last Love Song by Tracy Daugherty review – Joan Didion’s resurgence

‘Style is character,’ observed Didion, whose fanbase keeps widening. But what lies beneath that cool, unsmiling facade?

Laura Miller
Thursday 15 October 2015 12.00 BST

ore than with most other long biographies, reading Tracy Daugherty’s The Last Love Song feels like traversing a large continent on foot. The book passes through its own weather systems, from a crisp intro, depicting the youth of its subject, Joan Didion, in Sacramento, California, during the 1930s and 40s, through her fecund early working years in Manhattan and on into the hot, gritty, apocalyptic dog days of 1960s Los Angeles, whose bard Didion became. Then comes the greying climate of late middle age and the bare-branched present, leaving Didion, now 80, mourning the deaths of both her husband and adopted daughter, losses she wrote about in two of her most successful non-fiction books, The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue NightsThe Last Love Song has its share of dull stretches, too: periods of endless, flat landscape as Didion and her husband, John Gregory Dunne, host gourmet dinner parties with boring Hollywood celebrities, get involved in the production of mediocre movies and think deep thoughts about swimming pools and Vietnam.

Blue Nights by Joan Didion_Review by Julie Myerson

Blue Nights by Joan Didion – review

For all its fury and fragility, Joan Didion's harrowing account of her daughter's life and premature death is strangely anaemic

Julie Myerson
Sunday 23 October 2011 00.04 BST

realise as I write this that I do not want to finish this account." So wrote Joan Didion in the final pages of her memoir The Year of Magical Thinking. And no one who accompanied her on that raw journey of grief and loss could blame her. The memoir was completed in 88 days, less than a year after her husband, John Gregory Dunne, died from a heart attack. If ever a piece of writing sprang from an impulse to claw a loved one back from death's grasp, it was this one. And if "finishing" meant letting go in some crucial and final way, then what sane person would want to finish?

Sunday, October 29, 2017

George Saunders / What writers really do when they write

Master of a universe … Illustration by Yann Kebbi for Review.

George Saunders: what writers really do when they write

A series of instincts, thousands of tiny adjustments, hundreds of drafts … What is the mysterious process writers go through to get an idea on to the page?

George Saunders
Saturday 4 March 2017 08.00 GMT


Many years ago, during a visit to Washington DC, my wife’s cousin pointed out to us a crypt on a hill and mentioned that, in 1862, while Abraham Lincoln was president, his beloved son, Willie, died, and was temporarily interred in that crypt, and that the grief-stricken Lincoln had, according to the newspapers of the day, entered the crypt “on several occasions” to hold the boy’s body. An image spontaneously leapt into my mind – a melding of the Lincoln Memorial and the Pietà. I carried that image around for the next 20-odd years, too scared to try something that seemed so profound, and then finally, in 2012, noticing that I wasn’t getting any younger, not wanting to be the guy whose own gravestone would read “Afraid to Embark on Scary Artistic Project He Desperately Longed to Attempt”, decided to take a run at it, in exploratory fashion, no commitments. My novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, is the result of that attempt, and now I find myself in the familiar writerly fix of trying to talk about that process as if I were in control of it.

Tenth of December by George Saunders / A book to make you love people again

Tenth of December by George Saunders A book to make you love people again

Sian Cain
Monday 28 December 2015 14.00 GMT

The first time I finished Tenth of December was in a cafe in Notting Hill over a quite ordinary breakfast, and I cried. This is the only time, apart from childhood scrapes and relationship woes that I have ever wept in public – and this time, it was over a 30-odd page short story. In amongst the clash of prams and the chaos of jammy-fingered children, I sat with my ignored breakfast, a little wobbly-eyed, and thought about people.

George Saunders / Man Booker prize goes to second American author in a row

George Saunders

Man Booker prize goes to second American author in a row

George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo described as ‘unique’ and ‘extraordinary’ by head of 2017 judging panel
The American short story writer George Saunders has won the Man Booker prize for his first full-length novel, Lincoln in the Bardo.
The book is based around a real event: the night in 1862 when Abraham Lincoln buried his 11-year-old son Willie in a Washington cemetery. Imagining the boy trapped in the Bardo – a Tibetan Buddhist term for a kind of limbo – Saunders’ novel follows the fellow dead, also trapped in the graveyard and unwilling to accept death, who observe the boy as he desperately waits for his father to return.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Javier Marías / Books

Javier Marìas
by Javier Marías

Between Eternities

A new and exhilarating collection of writings from the author of The Infatuations and A Heart So White

Internationally renowned writer Javier Marias is a tireless examiner of the world around us, an enthusiastic debunker of pretensions of every kind, and a true polymath. This new collection of essays shows the full extent of his curiosity and wit, ranging from the literary to the philosophical to the autobiographical, from football to cinema, comic books to mortality to 'Why Almost No One Can Be Trusted'.

Javier Marías / A Spanish novelist, translator and columnist

Javier Marias

A Spanish novelist, translator and columnist

The Spanish writer is most well known for his original pieces and success as an author translating works from English to Spanish.

Javier Marias Franco a Spanish novelist, translator and columnist was born in Madrid on September 20th, 1951. Marias is most well known for his original pieces and success as an author translating works from English to Spanish. Probably not by coincidence, many lives of his characters in his novels revolve around the life of an interpreter or translator.

My writing day / Yaa Gyasi / ‘I write a sentence. I delete it. I wonder if it’s too early for lunch’

Yaa Gyasi
Illustration by Alan Vest


Yaa Gyasi: ‘I write a sentence. I delete it. I wonder if it’s too early for lunch’

The Ghanaian-American novelist tries to recreate the feeling of working on her award-winning debut in ‘the dungeon’, a dank nook in her first apartment

Yaa Gyasi
Saturday 28 October 2017 10.00 BST

recently had a prolonged phone battle over a desk I had ordered and not received. Online, it said the desk had shipped, but weeks passed and nothing. I would call, repeat my story to the customer service rep du jour and be greeted with commiseration, as though they too didn’t quite understand how their shop worked. Maybe they didn’t. All I knew was that, after a year of nearly nonstop book touring, I had got it into my head that I needed this desk in order to start writing again and the fact that I didn’t have it yet was sending me into hysterics.

About a month or so in, after being told a delivery date and then waking up that day to a note online that said my delivery date had been cancelled “per customer’s request”, I really lost it. I told the customer service rep that it was news to me that I had cancelled this delivery, to which she replied that they had called me and left a voicemail. That was news to me, too.
After the call, I cried for about an hour, which probably sounds crazy to anyone who isn’t a writer, who isn’t accustomed to the kinds of irrational bargaining and ritualising that accompanies a writing practice and, yes, a writing space.

Usually, my irrational bargaining goes something like this: I start working at around 10 if I’m feeling motivated, 11 if I’m not. I reread the work from the day before and/or passages that I think I got right in order to try to set the tone. I write a sentence. I read it aloud. I delete the sentence. I look at the clock and wonder if it’s too early to think about lunch. I tell myself that, if I can make it to 300 words, I can break for lunch. I write another sentence. This one I might like. If I’m lucky, it leads to a second sentence. I think: “What is the point of all of this? Is anyone truly happy?” I delete the second sentence. I check my email. I have 15 new ones. I respond to them in my head, but don’t actually respond. I write a few more sentences. I get seven new emails. These ones following up on the emails that I didn’t respond to a few days ago. I think: “What exactly does it mean for something to be ‘urgent’?” I plead with myself to write at least another 200 words. On the best days, I stop pleading, stop bargaining and watch-checking and fall into a rhythm so satisfying that I simply forget I’m working. So much of my writing day feels like well-digging. Sometimes I dig 200ft down before coming back up, dry. Every day I search for water.

The desk helps, now that I have it. I’ve stacked piles of books that I love on it to act as talismans. They help, too. The desk makes me feel like I’m going to work, even though work is located in a cramped but bright corner of my living room. I wrote much of Homegoing in a writing nook I set up in the Iowa City apartment my parents and I used to call “the dungeon”, because of how dark and dank it was. They had driven 11 hours from Alabama to Iowa to help me set it up. The desk I chose then was cheap and ugly, but I didn’t mind. It was my first time living by myself. Every day I would wake up in the dungeon, head to my nook, sit at my desk and feel proud and productive and contented. I’m trying to recapture that feeling.

These days, I’m away more often than I’m home. I’ve never managed to get any real work done on an aeroplane or in a hotel room. How do other writers do it, the ones who seem to have a new novel every year and are constantly on tour? I used to think of myself as someone with a great deal of discipline, but I lost it in the air somewhere over the Rocky Mountains. Now, instead of discipline, I have a desk, and every day that I sit at it I dig a little deeper. At some point, I get deep enough that suddenly, amazingly, I find it – the great rush of water that I had hoped and pleaded for.
Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing is published by Viking (Penguin, £8.99). To order a copy for £7.64, go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min. p&p of £1.99.

In Brief

Number of desks: one

Hours writing: never enough

Cups of coffee: zero; never drink it

My writing day

Thus Bad Begins by Javier Marías review / ‘A demonstration of what fiction can achieve’

Javier Marìas

Thus Bad Begins by Javier Marías review – ‘a demonstration of what fiction can achieve’

An unhappy marriage reflects the trauma inflicted by years of fascist rule in a probing novel from the celebrated Spanish author

Hari Kunzru
Friday 26 February 2016 07.30 GMT

This is a grubby c ountry.” So says Eduardo Muriel, a producer of B-movies, to Juan, the narrator of Thus Bad Begins, the latest novel by the revered Spanish writer Javier Marías. The grubbiness in question is the taint of decades of rule by the fascist victors of the civil war, the franquistas who have revenged themselves upon their Republican colleagues and neighbours, leaving many of those not dead or in prison unable to pursue careers or support their families.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Willem Dafoe / 'I'm not supposed to be in this movie'

Willem Dafoe

'I'm not supposed to be in this movie': Why Willem Dafoe took a left turn so late in the game with The Florida Project - Kernels podcast interview

A fortnightly deep dive into film and television
25 October, 2017

How do films make you feel? The Independent gets personal about cinema and TV with actors, directors, cinematographers and other people from the continually evolving world of "content" in a new fortnightly podcast hosted by Culture Editor Christopher Hooton.

"I'm not supposed to be in this movie." A character actor with an extraordinary filmography, Willem Dafoe sits down to discuss why he's taken such a left turn and defied "traditional career wisdom" so late in his career with new indie The Florida Project, which mostly stars non-actors. He also talks about his theatre work with The Wooster Group, how he feels about all the superhero blockbusters and why he's still "scared to death" when starting a movie.

Matt Damon and Russell Crowe 'helped kill 2004 story' on Harvey Weinstein's misconduct

Matt Damon and Russell Crowe 'helped kill 2004 story' on Harvey Weinstein's misconduct

A journalist claims The New York Times spiked an article about the Weinstein allegations 

Jacob Stolworthy
Tuesday 10 October 2017 08:39 BST

Update: Damon has since denied these claims in a statement to Deadline with journalist Waxman later endorsing his comments.
In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein controversy currently rocking the world, it's now been alleged that the sexual harassment allegations against him could have been exposed over a decade ago in an article that it's claimed was spiked following pressure from notable Hollywood stars.
It's been alleged by The Wrap founder Sharon Waxman that she investigated the accusations of sexual misconduct against Weinstein 13 years ago while reporting for The New York Times in 2004.

She claims this piece was cut from the paper due to both The Weinstein Company’s presence as an advertiser and alleged meddling by major Hollywood players including Matt Damon and Russell Crowe.
For her investigation, Waxman was following Fabrizio Lombardo, the Italian head of Miramax, whom she says “knew nothing about film” and was merely hired “to take care of Weinstein's women needs.”
Waxman alleges that Damon and Crowe, who had previously worked with Weinstein on films including Good Will Hunting and Cinderella Man, called her “directly” to refute these reports, something she claims led to the gutting of her finished article being gutted.
Waxman wrote on The Wrap: “I was devastated after travelling to two countries and overcoming immense challenges to confirm at least part of the story that wound up running last week, more than a decade later.“
The New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet has since issued a statement regarding Waxman's claims, saying: “I wasn’t here in 2004. But it is unimaginable to me that The Times killed a story because of pressure from Harvey Weinstein, who was and is an advertiser. After all, The Times is an institution that has published investigative reporting that caused our Chinese-language website to be blocked in China.” 
Harvey Weinstein reportedly sent an email pleading with Hollywood executives to help him save his job (Getty)
The top two editors at the time, Bill Keller and Jill Abramson, say they have no recollection of being pressured over Ms. Waxman’s story. And her direct editor, Jonathan Landman, suggested she didn’t have it nailed. The story we published last week took months of work by two experienced investigative reporters. It included the on-the-record accounts of numerous women who were harassed by Mr. Weinstein. It also included the fact that Mr. Weinstein paid settlements to keep women from talking. 
“I’m sure Ms. Waxman believes she had a story. But if you read her own description, she did not have anything near what was revealed in our story. Mainly, she had an off-the-record account from one woman.”
Actors ranging from Jennifer Lawrence and Meryl Streep to Mark Ruffalo and Jessica Chastain have criticised Weinstein both for his alleged behaviour and his statement in response to the allegations.
The latter also deemed the alleged claims about Damon - her co-star in Ridley Scott film The Martian - as "heart shattering."

Streep, who has collaborated with Weinstein on several projects, called the producer “disgraceful” and stated she did not know about his allegations of sexual misconduct.



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