Kate Braverman: Writing as a Criminal Act

by Rebekah Hall

We only just caught wind of this. Lucky for you, too, because it’s not too late; this is the greatest writer’s retreat you probably don’t know about: Kate Braverman is currently accepting applicants for a rare writer’s workshop—Writing as a Criminal Act—at her estate in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The darkly lyrical Braverman has the enchanting ability to slip her entire fist into the very center of human life and drag from it all that is deep and shallow. She captures the simultaneous emptiness and fullness of existence in a language that is at once raw and poetic, accessible and immersive, a perfect synthesis of rhetoric and image. She’s a longtime favorite of the Flatmancrooked crew, and I’m super excited to head out to Santa Fe with Kate and smear coyote blood all over my manuscript while howling at the stars and full moon with twelve other writer-criminals.  Come lie and steal with me!

From Kate’s website:

Writing as a Criminal Act

Santa Fe Workshop, September 25, 2010 Kate Braverman will teach a rare total immersion one-week writing workshop. Participants will stay at her retreat, write, howl with the coyotes, write, watch the sunset like a massacre across their faces, write, eat, write, witness the promiscuous moon leave her greasy streaks across the innocent sky, write, have nightmares and write.

Ms. Braverman is interested in the concept of Writing as a Criminal Act. As writers, we employ the methods of professional criminals. We break and enter, we rob, we assume aliases and false identities, engage in fraud, lie, omit, impersonate, autopsy the living, exhume the dead for interrogation and deny everything. Recognizing the full extent of one’s writing tools should be liberating. We will use them with the ruthless conviction of people willing to be incarcerated for their acts.

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Pure Trash/Seeing Harmony

by Aaron Davidson

(an FMC original)

The best part of Harmony Korine’s new film, Trash Humpers, was Harmony Korine’s introduction. It was the first west coast showing, at the Nuart Theater in western Los Angeles. An article in the Weekly piqued the interest of anyone still interested in Harmony Korine, enough people to sell the show out. My roommate read the article in line for tacos, and an hour later I caught a Facebook post from a friend getting rid of two tickets for reasons involving a bus station. I moved to LA a few weeks before, and this seemed like as good an option as any for a warm Friday in a new city.

The lights came up after the previews, and Korine shuffled down aisle to replace the Matthew Barney humanoids ghosted on my retinas. Korine thanked everyone for coming then explained that we weren’t really about to watch a movie, but “something else.” He said the Trash Humpers project manifested from taking photos of his wife and friends wearing “silly” masks and committing misdemeanor vandalism and other pranks around Nashville, including defecating in driveways and fornicating with trashcans.

Korine transitioned to an anecdote about a neighbor he doesn’t trust, the man that “invented the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure.” This guy, apparently, has trash bins full of VHS tapes in his backyard. One bin, according to Korine, had every hour CNN aired in 1988. Korine wanted to make something that might be found in such a bin, or (and I’m paraphrasing), “lodged far up in the guts of a Jonas brother.” The crowd ate this up.

Korine explained he couldn’t stay for the film, because he had “important people to meet.” (This was misheard by some, who thought he said “porn people to meet.” The idea of a Korine-helmed porn remains intriguing.) He offered to do a Q&A anyway. It didn’t matter that we hadn’t seen the film, Korine said, because for those who’d seen the trailer, the movie was “more of the same shit.” Big laughs. Read the rest of this entry »

Duet for Two Pens — Review of ‘Why Translation Matters,’ by Edith Grossman

Richard Howard  | The New York Times

Does translation matter? Edith Grossman’s new book argues that it does, right in the title, and she ought to know. “Why Translation Matters” (an extended essay, really) is one of the first texts in Yale’s energetic new series, Why X Matters, each volume of which is to present a “concise argument for the continuing relevance of an important person or idea.” Certainly when X equals translation, I can imagine no defender more qualified — or, as it turns out, more querulous — than Grossman, whose version of “Don Quixote” a few years back caused a sensation in the shadowy realm of newly translated classics, and whose ulterior dealings with Hispanic splendors, ancient and modern, have stirred even so mild-mannered an assessor of cultural accomplishments as Harold Bloom to proclaim her, ominously enough, the Glenn Gould of translators. (Read More)

As a Friend, by Forrest Gander

A D Jameson  |  Review of Contemporary Fiction

As a Friend is the short first novel by poet, translator, and essayist Forrest Gander; its four sections, intriguingly, read like chapters from four different books. The first section describes the central character Les’s birth in the hyperbolic style of a Southern gothic, while the third (and most sweetly powerful) records his girlfriend Sarah’s fragmented reflections on their relationship. The second and longest section sketches out the novel’s simple story, being a sequence of prose anecdotes narrated by Clay, a young man whose unrequited love for Les sets in motion the book’s culminating but oblique tragedy. Clay, true to his name, tells us that he’s imitating Les, remolding himself into the obscure object of his desire, though his mimicry exceeds his grasp: whereas Les slips easily through a lyrically romantic world of insects, birds, and flowers, Clay, sweating heavily, remains swarmed by gnats and ticks. (Read More)

Papeles inesperados — Julio Cortázar

Jay Miskowiec  Rain Taxi

Published twenty-five years after Julio Cortázar’s death, Papeles inesperados (Unexpected Writings) brings together a vast range of little-known texts by the Argentine author. Though not all technically “unpublished” works, many previously having appeared in newspapers or magazines, this trove varying in style and genre offers Cortázar fans and scholars a fresh look at his work. Co-edited by Carles Álvarez Garriga and Cortázar’s literary executor and former wife, Aurora Bernárdez, Papeles inesperados is among the most important books published in Spanish in 2009.

Jorge Luis Borges said that while Mexicans descended from the Aztecs, and Peruvians from the Incas, the Argentines descended from boats. That connection, closer to the old world than the new, has often set Argentines apart culturally from other Latin Americans. Even to call Cortázar an Argentine is incomplete. Born in Brussels in 1914, he grew up in Argentina but moved to Paris in 1951, where he wrote most of his notable work and where he died. While writers like Miguel Ángel Asturias and Gabriel García Márquez were forging a style that would become known as magical realism—based upon the very history of the Americas, where one need not look beyond the reality of this world to find the magical, the astonishing, the marvelous—Cortázar would be influenced by surrealism and the novelists of the nouvel roman like Alain Robbe-Grillet and Philippe Sollers, where punctuation and syntax were as important as words in conveying character and setting. (Read More)

Gods Are in Their Heaven, but All’s Not Right With World — Review of John Banville’s ‘The Infinities,’ ‘Elegy for April’

Janet Maslin  |  The New York Times

What does a writer do when he has already won the Man Booker Prize and can make copacetic use of words like preterite, spalpeen, goitrous and phthistic? In the case of John Banville, whose accolades also include the Guinness Peat Aviation award, the answer has been to take a pseudonymous flight of escapism into genre fiction.

So this Janus-faced author has two current novels: “The Infinities,” a convoluted marvel about Greek deities wreaking havoc in the household of a dying theoretical mathematician, and “Elegy for April,” the third installment in a crime series credited to Benjamin Black. As this very busy author told an interviewer, Banville writes meticulously; Black just writes fast. It’s a toss-up as to which of them has more fun.

“The Infinities,” a much merrier novel than its premise might suggest, is the exponentially more elaborate effort. It is derived from Heinrich von Kleist’s 1807 play “Amphitryon,” about the Theban general of the title. (Synergy alert: Mr. Banville has adapted Kleist plays for the stage, including this one.) And a character in “The Infinities,” an actress, is named Helen. In addition to the other classical allusions she provides, Helen has been cast in “Amphitryon” as Alcmene, a woman seduced by mythology’s best-known stealth lady killer, Zeus. (Read More)

The Extended Words: An Imaginary Dictionary, by Sid Gershgoren

Jenny Dunning  |  Rain Taxi

FLUG /fləg´/ n. 1. A substance reputed to wash haze from some, but not all, early mornings. 2. By extension, any act or word or image which clears ambiguous action and verbiage from any given group of co-terminous situations selected by chance or, barring chance, by outright chicanery.

You won’t find flug in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, or even in the OED. It’s a word from Sid Gershgoren’s “imaginary dictionary,” The Extended Words. Yet, like so many of Gershgoren’s inventions, once you’ve encountered it, it seems like a word English should have.

The author of four books of poetry, Gershgoren has compiled a list of plausible-sounding words, defined them, and provided invented quotations that demonstrate their use. The words range from pure whimsy—such as galisse, a shoe that knows where its wearer wants to go and how to get there—to barbed rants aimed at intellectuals and mass culture alike, as in synecdofuge, “a device used to expel verbal, long-range, parasitic reductionisms.” Some are onomatopoetic—pecta pecta, an often fatal stuttering disorder—while others, like ikristics (frozen particles of air indistinguishable from snowflakes) wear their etymology on their sleeves. (Read More)

The Secret in Their Eyes, Best Foreign Film

Peter Travers | Rolling Stone

Having just won the Academy Award as the year’s best foreign-language film, The Secret in Their Eyes has a decent shot at wearing down resistance to subtitled films. Don’t be put off. This spellbinder from Argentina will sneak up and floor you. It’s that good.

Ricardo Darin is brilliant as Benjamin, a criminal-court investigator who is tormented by the unsolved rape and murder of a young bride in 1974, and by the military junta that devastated his country around the same time. We watch as Benjamin and Sandoval (the superb Guillermo Francella), his alcoholic partner, work with the victim’s husband, Ricardo (Pablo Rago), to identify the killer. Photos, especially those revealing the eyes of the killer, play a major role in the discovery. In a thunderously exciting chase scene through a Buenos Aires stadium during a heated soccer match, Benjamin and Sandoval hunt their prey, only to find him given shelter by the corrupt government of the new Argentina. (Read More)

DIRTY SECRET: 4 “Genre” Novels Worth Your Time

I’m not entirely sure why I was asked to write this or to generate this list.  I haven’t read a lot of what is considered “genre” fiction although I’m gaining greater breadth in this area these days.  It’s probably because I’m less snooty about books than is the venerable editor.  There’s also the possibility that I simply know more about various types of writing than he does – but that’s a question for another time.  In no particular order, and having made a vow not to type the name of a famous character whose initials are “H.P.,” I give you my four favorite “genre” works.  One of the best things about these books is that half of them have at least one sequel; there’s nothing like seeing a character get juicier the longer you know her!
1. Outlander (and its sequels) by Diana Gabaldon.  First of all, Gabaldon’s protagonist, a young British woman fresh out of nursing on the battlefields of World War II, is one of the most complex heroines I’ve ever met.  She’s bold and brave, smart and sassy, but not to the point of being a caricature, which is rare.  Gabaldon writes solid fiction that moves at a perfect pace most of the time and she has fewer annoying writers’ foibles than most.  The historical part of the storyline tends to drag a bit around the fourth and fifth works in the series (particularly The Fiery Cross, which I didn’t finish) but the pace picks up again in the sixth novel.  I like these books so much that I’m actually re-reading the first one right now even though it’s been only six or seven months since I read it the first time!
2. White As Snow by Tanith Lee.  Fans of fantasy and sci-fi have altars built to Tanith Lee and I can see why after reading this book!  Her storytelling is vivid yet surreal and the darkness of the tale just gets deeper and deeper until you begin to wonder how much darker it can get.  The happily-ever-after isn’t a given in this story – not just because the original Snow White story didn’t have a happy ending but also because the characters are far too interesting – lurid, even – to allow something so trite.
3. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith.  Somehow I imagine that Jane Austen would appreciate this story were she living today.  I have tried to read Jane Austen and the only one of her novels I’ve been able to slog my way through was Mansfield Park.  I’ve watched the BBC movie version of Pride and Prejudice, though, and Grahame-Smith has hit on every key point with such exactitude that I kept laughing out loud while I was reading.  The illustrations enhance the experience.  It’s fantastic to see Miss Elizabeth Bennett kicking a little ass.
4. The Golden Compass (first in a trilogy – published in the UK as Northern Lights) by Phillip Pullman.  Preadolescent Lyra Belacqua, our recalcitrant heroine, is one of the greatest characters in all of fiction.  She makes mousy Meg Murray of A Wrinkle in Time appear spineless.  Pullman has garnered acclaim for this trilogy because the writing is vibrant, the theme compelling – and he has been the target of religious groups who dislike his portrayal of religion. I find his secular message to be a beautiful paean to humanism.
Genre gets a lot of heat, which is peculiar considering such literary travesties as The Confederacy of Dunces not only being published but winning prizes. Seriously? As the great Chabon might say, “Don’t genre hate, congratulate.” I mean, reading Beckett is well and good, but it just isn’t any fun.
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The Good The Bad The Weird

Derek Elley | Variety

East meets West meets East again, with palate-tingling results, in “The Good the Bad the Weird,” a kimchi Western that draws shamelessly on its spaghetti forebears but remains utterly, bracingly Korean. More than two years in production, and at a reported $17 million the most expensive South Korean movie to date, fifth feature by genre-bending helmer Kim Jee-woon (“The Quiet Family,” “A Bittersweet Life”), centered on a trio of treasure-seekers in 1930s Japanese-occupied Manchuria, looks headed for through-the-roof local biz, hunky returns throughout Asia and piquant specialized B.O. in the West, in the right hands.


Though the movie raises the bar yet again for South Korean tech expertise and ambition, as well as launching the K-oater subgenre, it’s not the first “oriental Western” (as it bills itself on closing credits). Last year, Takashi Miike’s “Sukiyaki Western Django” pioneered a fusion-style J-Western, and Chinese fifth-generation director He Ping already had two cracks at a C-Western with “Swordsman in Double-Flag Town” (1991) and “Sun Valley” (1996). And the original spaghetti Westerns of the 1960s were partly inspired by Japanese samurai movies, anyway.

In the first of many references to Sergio Leone’s “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” central trio is introduced one at a time, though without onscreen captions to ID them. First up is “the Bad,” black-suited, spiky-haired bandit leader Chang-yi (Lee Byeong-heon, “A Bittersweet Life”), who’s hired by a pro-Japanese Korean businessman (Song Yeong-chang) to retrieve a valuable treasure map from a train. (Read More)

April 25, 2010 | Posted in: film reviews | Comments Closed