CWW Alumni News: “The One Tip that Changed My Life” by Nannie Flores

Nannie Flores at the Château de Verderonne in Picardy, France

Nannie Flores, an alumna of the 2014 Château de Verderonne Yoga & Writing Retreat in Picardy, France, writes a haunting and powerful new essay, “The One Tip That Changed My Life” for Ideiya Magazine.  In the essay, Flores tackles the taboos associated with writing nonfiction, trauma, illness, and its aftermath.  In the essay, Flores writes:

Write as if your parents were dead.” In retrospect, there was something ominous and sinister about this piece of writing advice. At the time, it seemed harmless. So I took the tip when I was in college.

While in university, I wrote two one-act plays that touched on themes such as virginity and physical and verbal abuse in relationships. My parents watched the play, and they applauded along with the audience. The writing tip worked.

On the ride back home, when all the hype was over, they made sure to say they were proud of me, but that they disapproved of certain elements in my works. “Relationships are meant to be healthy,” Mama said. Papa gave his usual silent nod.

But what’s done is done. I have already written it and I didn’t need to ask for their approval…”  

Read the full essay on Ideiya here.

Nannie Flores is a playwright and nonfiction writer based in the Philippines.  Her essays and articles have appeared in EntrepreneurCosmo.ph, ABS-CBN News, Ideiya, Spot.ph, and Philippine Daily Inquirer.  You can follow her on her blog, The Fancy Delight.

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CWW Summer in Granada 2017 Nonfiction Faculty Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich’s memoir, “The Fact of a Body,” featured in Vogue

We are delighted to announce that our Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Summer in Granada, Spain Writing Retreat (August 2-6, 2017) Nonfiction Instructor, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich has been recently featured in Vogue for her highly-acclaimed memoir, The Fact of a Body.  In the Vogue article, Julia Felsenthal writes:

At the start of her riveting new memoir, The Fact of a Body, lawyer turned writer Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich describes a famous case that illustrates the legal principle of proximate cause. A woman named Helen Palsgraf stands on a railway platform, waiting for the train that will take her family to the beach. Nearby, a young man leaps to catch another departing train. A conductor reaches out to pull him aboard; a porter gives him a boost from behind. In the process, a package he’s holding containing fireworks falls from his arms and detonates. Down the track, the explosion causes a baggage scale to fall on top of Palsgraf. It’s a Rube Goldberg–worthy domino effect, but how do we decide who is to blame? “The causes, in fact, are endless,” writes Marzano-Lesnevich. “The idea of proximate cause is a solution. The job of the law is to figure out the source of the story, to assign responsibility. The proximate cause is the one the law says truly matters. The one that makes the story what it is.”

In June of 2003, Marzano-Lesnevich, then a Harvard law student, was beginning a summer internship at a death penalty defense firm in New Orleans, when she encountered a case that altered the course of her life. As an introduction to the firm’s work, a lawyer played the interns a decade-old tape, in which a client, a Louisiana man named Ricky Langley, confessed to the murder of his neighbor, 6-year-old Jeremy Guillory. After that confession, Langley had been convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death; then, years later, the verdict had been overturned, his case tried again, and he’d been sentenced by a new jury to life in prison…

There are no easy conclusions in The Fact of a Body, but there are many moments of profound revelation. Marzano-Lesnevich’s memoir is a braided narrative, weaving together Langley’s story and her own. She plays with the concept of proximate cause, untangling the long string of events that led her to Ricky Langley, and the long string of events that led Ricky Langley to Jeremy Guillory. But the book is actually something of a tribrid, with a third strand that’s about the act of braiding itself: how a story evolves in the telling; how each storyteller decides which facts are important, projects her experience onto the events and the characters (here, quite literally, the author allows herself to imagine details of Langley’s narrative that aren’t captured in the record). Most provocatively, Marzano-Lesnevich forces us to question how all of those factors work when applied to the legal system. What are cases but stories? What are trials but showdowns between competing versions of the truth? What are lawyers, and judges and juries, but people who do what people always do: superimpose their own perspectives onto the matter at hand? What part can empathy play in a criminal justice system predicated on the delusion that there’s one version of the truth, one set of facts, one story?

Read the complete review & interview on Vogue, and sign-up for our Summer in Granada, Spain Writing Retreat (August 2-6, 2017) with Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich by June 1, 2017!  Apply here: cww.submittable.com

Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich’s first book, THE FACT OF A BODY: A Murder and a Memoir, has been released by Flatiron Books (Macmillan) in May 2017, as well as from publishers internationally. The book layers a memoir with an investigation into, and recreation of, a 1992 Louisiana murder and death penalty case. For her work on the book, Marzano-Lesnevich received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and a Rona Jaffe Award, and has twice been a fellow at both MacDowell and Yaddo. Other scholarships and fellowships received include those from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Millay Colony for the Arts, Blue Mountain Center, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, Djerassi Resident Artists Program, the Studios at Key West, Vermont Studio Center, and the Alice Hayes Fellowship for Social Justice Writing from the Ragdale Foundation. Her essays appear in The New York Times, Oxford American, Iowa Review, Hotel Amerika, The Rumpus, and the anthologies True Crime and Waveform: Twenty-First Century Essays by Women, among many other publications, and were recognized “notable” in Best American Essays 2013, 2015, and 2016. She was educated at Harvard (JD), Emerson College (MFA), and Columbia University (BA) and now teaches at Grub Street, a nonprofit writing center in Boston, and in the graduate public policy program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.  She is a nonfiction faculty member at the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Summer in Granada, Spain Writing Retreat (August 2-6, 2017).

Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Recommends: Summer 2014 Literature & Film

the_master_and_margarita_by_confusedlarch-d5y4f47

We at the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop hope all of you are planning to have a nice summer. Whether you use this summer to relax, to work, or to start something new, we hope you choose to use the summer days and nights to the best of your abilities. However, if you need a little help finding new books to read and new movies to watch, we’re here to help.  Our staff has compiled a list of books and films we’d like to share with our audience. We’ve got a wide variety of genres and topics on our list, so we hope you check these books and films out and discover something new.  A special thanks to Rita Banerjee for her help with editing this list, and to our contributors, Rita Banerjee, Alex Carrigan, Gregory Crosby, Elissa Lewis, Jessica Reidy, Ian Singleton, Kathleen Spivack, Christine Stoddard, Diana Norma Szokolyai, Megan Tilley, and Roxy van Beek, for their recommendations!  – Alex Carrigan (Curator)

CWW Summer 2014 Lit Picks:

Gone_Girl_(Flynn_novel)Gone Girl  by Gillian Flynn
(Recommended by Rita Banerjee)

This is the novel I wish I had written.  Gillian Flynn’s writing is stylistic, clever, and full of wit and menace. Every word of Flynn’s novel from her first sentence to her last is gorgeously crafted and razor-sharp.  Gone Girl centers around the story of Amy and Nick Dunne, a supposedly happily married couple about to celebrate their 5th wedding anniversary.  Following the 2008 Stock Market crash and the ensuing Great Recession, Amy and Nick are forced to move to North Carthage, Missouri after losing their jobs in the glittery, larger-than-life publishing world of New York City.  The novel, told from alternating points of view follows the fairy tale beginning and then increasingly volatile relationship between Amy and Nick.  Flynn does a masterful job of capturing Amy and Nick’s distinctive voices, psychology, and increasingly dark secrets, and her essay on the “Cool Girl” is a magnificent, and to-die-for moment in the novel.  To add insult to injury, Amy’s parents are the perfect married partners and are in a decades-long happy romance.  They are also authors of the children book series, Amazing Amy, which presents a parallel but laudable version of Amy’s own life, that is, “Amazing Amy” never makes the wrong decision or encounters grievous hardships whereas Amy Dunne’s life seem punctuated by increasingly harsher realities.  The novel begins on the morning of Amy and Nick’s 5th wedding anniversary when everything seems normal, mundane, and annoyingly routine until Amy Dunne goes missing.  And we find Nick, who spends too much of his free time contemplating size and permeability of the Amy’s skull, as the prime suspect.

EmmaGoldmanEmma Goldman: Revolution as a Way of Life
by Vivian Gornick
(Recommended by Rita Banerjee)

For anyone who has read The Situation and the Story: The Art of the Personal Narrative, you know that Vivian Gornick is a rock-star in the contemporary creative writing scene.  She is a master of the personal essay and definitely one of the most fluid, honestly intellectual, and vividly personal non-fiction writers out there.  In Emma Goldman: Revolution as a Way of Life, Gornick traces the life and times of Emma Goldman and how Goldman, a young Russian Jewish émigré who came to the US in 1885, not knowing a word of English and only enough Yiddish and German to communicate with German and Jewish intellectuals in New York City, became the little anarchist that could.  Under the tutelage of Johann Most and radicals from the Lower East Side, Goldman became a great orator, a supporter of worker rights and basic human rights for all, and most of all, a successful practitioner of civil disobedience.  Her speeches in support of anarchy, free love, and ethical labor conditions drew hundreds of thousands of supporters in New York, Chicago, and even in California before she went on to stump in Europe, the UK, and Canada.  Jailed for her anarchist sentiments, Goldman quickly learned to read, write, and orate in English while serving time.  She also successfully subverted the hierarchical order of her prison and subtly promoted communal rights.  Overall, Gornick’s biography of Goldman is witty, full of vivid imagery, and so well-crafted that the revolutionary zeitgeist of Emma Goldman’s life and times leaps off the page and completely surrounds the reader. Emma Goldman is intriguing as a character, a thinker, a revolutionary, and a refusenik.  Perhaps what makes her so enchanting and so commanding can be summed by her own motto: “If I can’t dance, I’m not coming to your revolution.”

AnnVeronicaAnn Veronica by H.G. Wells
(Recommended by Rita Banerjee)

H.G. Wells may be best known as a master of science fiction and stories which exam what seems ordinary but uncanny, but his novels of social realism and turn-of-the-century politics in England deserve much praise and definitely a favored spot on your shelf.  H.G. Wells, who received Emma Goldman during her travels to England in the early 20th century, was part of the political left.  Ann Veronica, which examines the consequences of capitalism, England’s suffragist movement of the 1900s, and emergence of the “New Woman” in British society, is undoubtedly one of Wells’s most radical, thought-provoking, feminist, and best novels.  The novel centers on the story of Ann Veronica, a young 22-year-old woman, who studies biology at a university in London and who is continuously reprimanded for her exerting her own free will at her father’s house.  Ann, thus, decides to leave the suburbs and her childhood home behind to carve out a career and independent life for herself in London.  In London, Ann faces a series of increasingly terrifying social obstacles–from trying to rent an apartment on her own as a single woman, to securing a job for herself, to continuing to individually fund her college career, to her encounters with paramours and the well-meaning but chaotic world of radical suffragists.  Ann takes each problem she faces in stride, and her choices and life story are unpredictable and incredibly refreshing.  Ann, who may have been based on Wells’s own lover, Amber Reeves, demonstrates how well Wells can create feminist, complicated, and dynamic female characters who are both emotionally realistic and intellectually captivating.  As E.M Foster notes on “[Wells’s] power of observation stronger – he photographs those he meets and agitates the photos.”  With Ann Veronica, Wells has captured the dreams and desires of a young girl in the turn-of-the-century, and has found a away to agitate her narrative into a captivating, three-dimentional hero’s quest.

the-kennedy-chronicles_coverThe Kennedy Chronicles: The Golden Age of MTV Through Rose-Colored Glasses
by Kennedy

(Recommended by Rita Banerjee)

For anyone who grew up in the Golden Age of MTV when the network still used to air music videos and was a bastion for American alternative culture, new voices, and underground bands, this memoir by Kennedy, that in-your-face, pajama-d, combat-boot wearing, off-the-wall feminist VJ is a must read.  In her memoirs, Kennedy takes shows us what life was like on Alternative Nation and behind the Moon Man.  She gives us behind-the-scenes tours of MTV luminaries like Jon Stewart, Tabitha Soren, and Kurt Loder, and shares some amazing reveals about Trent Reznor and NIN, Billy Corgan, Radiohead, Björk, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam.  In recalling her escapades, Kennedy writes, “I did all of these things because that’s what you do when you’re twenty and wild and living in the moment in a special universe where your future may be uncertain…and it sure as hell is fun to relive those passionate, earnest moments when music mattered and timed stopped.”

cww one hundred yearsOne Hundred Years of Solitude
by Gabriel García Márquez

(Recommended by Alex Carrigan)

This novel by the late, Nobel prize winning author tells the tale of the Buendía family over seven generations in the South American village of Macondo. The novel is filled with tons of unique characters and features many incredible scenes of magical realism. At the same time, it’s more than just a tale of magical realism. It’s also a look at Columbia in the 20th century, adding in events from Márquez’s life such as plantation strikes and war and giving them new context in a village where it can rain for years and gold butterflies can follow a young mechanic at all times. If you’re looking for a story about humanity with a magical twist, this is one for you.

cww kitchenKitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
(Recommended by Alex Carrigan)

This novella is about a girl named Mikage who moves in with a friend and his transgender mother after her grandmother dies. It’s a short and sweet love story about the importance of family and food. It’s a fairly simple story, but it’s also an interesting tale about loss and how important human relationships are. The version of the book I read also had a second story by Yoshimoto called Moonlight Shadow, which is just as good and just as adorable. That story is about a girl whose first boyfriend dies in an accident, and how her encounter with a strange woman gives her one last chance to see him. They’re both really great stories to read, and they both have incredible descriptions of Japanese food, so check it out.

cww art of crueltyThe Art of Cruelty by Maggie Nelson
(Recommended by Gregory Crosby)

Absolutely vital cultural criticism that’s balanced and insightful without pulling punches (or gratuitously throwing them). Anyone who has wrestled with the representation of violence in art, or pondered our culture’s attraction to cruelty, should read Nelson’s book.

 

 

cww motherlandsMotherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals
by Patricia Lockwood
(Recommended by Gregory Crosby)

Lockwood is one of those astonishing poetic voices that walks the tightrope of the sublime and ridiculous, and somehow always manages to stumble into the sublime just when you think she’s going to slip the other way. Her second book of poems isn’t for everybody, but it’s absolutely worth a look.

 

cww yoga boook 1Yoga Mind, Body and Spirit
by Donna Farhi

(Recommended by Elissa Lewis)

This book gives a gentle approach to yoga that is easy to incorporate into everyday life.  Farhi explains simply the seven basic priciples of movement that you can apply to every yoga posture. You will find a selection of at-home yoga practices with nice photographs and illustrations.

 

cww yoga book 2The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
by Sri Swami Satchidananda

(Recommended by Elissa Lewis)

If you are interested in yoga philosophy this is a good place to start.  The yoga sutras are like the “bible of yoga”.

 

 

 

cww yoga book 3Chakra Yoga: Balancing Energy for Physical, Spiritual, and Mental Well-being by Alan Finger
(Recommended by Elissa Lewis)

Chakra yoga will teach you to balance the subtle energy centers of the body.  The use of mantra (sound) and yantra (visualisation) and pranayama (breath) are like the tools in your toolbox to help you dive right into your meditation practice. It is written by my amazing meditation teacher, Alan Finger.

cww artists wayThe Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
(Recommended by Jessica Reidy)

This is a creativity workbook that takes a positive, Jungian approach to dissolving creative blockages and opening yourself to creativity, productivity, and career happiness. It’s a great way to work through your hang-ups and move on with being an artist. Cameron is a successful screenwriter, director, and producer who teaches creativity workshops for all types of artists.

cww bones
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
(Recommended by Jessica Reidy)

This is a book of writing exercises and advice from esteemed writer Natalie Goldberg. She takes a Zen-approach to writing, inspired by her years of study with Zen Master Roshi. Her meditative approach to writing lends itself very well to the kind of yoga/writing balance we cultivate on the retreat.

 

cww parisParis Was Yesterday by Janet Flanner
(Recommended by Jessica Reidy)

This is the first book of Flanner’s collected “Letters from Paris” from her days as the Paris correspondent for The New Yorker, covering the years 1925-1939. The other book, Paris Journal covers post WWII 1944-1955. Her letters were meant to give Americans in New York an understanding of Parisian culture, and both volumes are a gorgeous walk through historical Paris filled with political, artistic, and socialite gossip, intrigue, and commemoration. This will acquaint you with Paris’ cultural history and will ultimately prepare you for understanding France’s nature of the moment.

cww maidenhairMaidenhair by Mikhail Shishkin
(Recommended by Ian Singleton)

The story begins with interviews by Swiss immigration authorities of Russian-speaking asylum seekers. Their stories become the narrative itself, and within the first chapter we are in Vlad the Impaler’s time. Other texts enter into the narrative, including the journals of a Russian chanteuse, Izabella Yureva, an epic by Xenophon, and voices from the Russia-Chechnya conflict. As the novel goes on, these narratives interweave more and more.  (I wrote an essay about this book here.)  Because of its odd interweaving of different texts, I recommend it for the summer, when readers might have more time for a slow read of a complex but beautiful narrative. Also, it is contemporaneous, considering how much Ukraine and Russia’s involvement with it have been in the news lately. It discusses the naive view the West often takes with regard to Eastern Europe.

cww tenth of decemberTenth of December by George Saunders
(Recommended by Ian Singleton)

These are the latest stories by Saunders, in which he has taken his self-help/lolz/Orwellian Newspeak language to a further degree. His penchant for futuristic dystopic moments shines through, but he also uses this language to describe the lives of those inundated with it–namely, the lower to lower-middle classes of the United States, such as those in upstate New York. The story “Escape from Spiderhead” depicts a not-too-distant futuristic prison, where various drugs are tested on the inmates. It’s not hard to believe such a thing would happen in our country. The protagonist’s particular story, why he ended up in prison, in the “spiderhead”, is as well-executed as any writer of straightforward realism might have put it.  Because of his ear for contemporary American English, in all of its interesting and unfortunate mutations, I think Saunders is an important writer to read. The language he satirizes might be completely different in 10 years.

nabokovSpeak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov
(Recommended by Kathleen Spivack)

Nabokov wrote this memoir first in English, then again, wrote the whole thing again in Russian. And then he wrote the final draft in English all over again. before submitting a word to the New Yorker, and to his publisher.   Each sentence is resonant and beautiful, and the story as a whole is amazing.  You feel his great mastery of vocabulary, his delight in the nuances, ans a great swathe of Russian history  and memory.  Makes one  understand why Nabokov is still considered one of our greatest writers.

cww love and darknessA Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz
(Recommended by Kathleen Spivack)

This poignant memoir was first written in Hebrew, and translated into English by Nicholas de Lange.  A very readable translation, the book deals with Oz’s experience of Israel, the first kibbutzim, what it meant for his family to be settled  there during chaotic but formative times. It is the story of the writer, and of his family, and their experience of displacement and belonging. A very important book whose secret’s are revealed slowly and with great subtlety.

cww goldfinchThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
(Recommended by Christine Stoddard)

I recommend Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, this year’s Pultizer winner in fiction, because it is a tale of rebirth that explores the human fascination with art. Theo’s rebirth raises questions about the mind-body connection that are sure to inspire yoga novices and experts alike. The story’s central motif of a painting seems so relevant for a group about to study in the shadow of Paris, one of the art centers of the world.

cww bell jarThe Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
(Recommended by Christine Stoddard)

I also recommend Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. Perhaps use Esther as a case study. She faces plenty of challenges as a frustrated Mid-Century woman longing for independence. She even ends up in an insane asylum. How might her life have been different if she felt truly encouraged to write meaningful things? How might have yoga and meditation empowered her? Would you recommend any particular writing and yoga practices to her?

cww helpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett
(Recommended by Christine Stoddard)

Kathryn Stockett’s The Help reminds me of a more positive version than The Bell Jar in some ways. While the novel is also about a young female writer to-be, what I love about Skeeter is that she learns to think beyond herself, beyond her own story, and use that as an impetus to write, get published, and make a difference. She rallies up the black maids of Jackson, Mississippi to disclose what it’s really like to work for white families in the Jim Crow South. This is no easy feat, but with Aibileen, her childhood friend’s maid, Skeeter gets the attention of Harper Collins—and her whole town. This is a good book for writing students looking for hope (sans corniness.)

LifeofPoetryThe Life of Poetry by Muriel Rukeyser
(Recommended by Diana Norma Szokolyai)

I came across this book at the Paris Press booth at AWP this year, and it was wholeheartedly recommended by a representative of the press, as their very first book they printed.  Paris Press brings new life to out-of-print books by women.  Once I started reading it, I did not understand how such a landmark work could even go out of print–it is a classic.  Rukeyser brilliantly illustrates what poetry has to do with democracy, and how necessary it is in our lives.  She furthermore illustrates how we can use poetry to empower ourselves and ignite our beliefs.  An eloquent and essential work of literature that contemporary writers should read.

shadowsIn Praise of Shadows by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki
(Recommended by Diana Norma Szokolyai)

This essay on the Japanese sense of beauty, written by a Japanese novelist, is daring and riveting in its style.  The reader is taken on a journey to restaurants lit by candlelight and lanterns, darkened puppet theaters lit only by gas lamps, and other places where shadows play a part in the beauty of the scene.  Tanizaki compares the flood of modern, electric lights with the dance of dim lighting and shadows honored in old times.  Although at times, there are sweeping generalizations made about “Western” aesthetics, I can sympathize with the author’s disdain for an overall contemporary obsession with illuminating places with sterilizing lights.  Moreover, the author’s reflections on aesthetics are written with exquisite details that offer deep insight.

Page 3 - AlexandriaThe Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell
(Recommended by Diana Norma Szokolyai)

Recommended to me by the Estonian poet Elo-Mal Toomet some years ago, The Alexandria Quartet is a tetralogy of novels reflecting on a set of events before and during WWII, told from three different perspectives in the first three novels, with the fourth novel set six years later.  When she saw me reading it, my former British landlady informed me that it was, in fact, a beach read craze in the sixties.  However, Lawrence Durrell’s novels (published between 1957-1960) promise so much more depth than the contemporary “beach read.”  As intertwining love stories are told against the backdrop of the fabulous city of Alexandria, the reader is taken on a journey of breathtaking inner and outer landscapes. Each paragraph is so masterfully crafted that it could be a prose poem in itself.  The work, which has received critical and commercial success, is a thrilling exploration of relativity and reality, and is considered to be one of the first examples of quantum fiction.

FirstFictionFirst Fiction: An Anthology of the First Published Stories by Famous Writers
(Recommended by Megan Tilley)

This is a great summer read, mostly because you can pick it up and put it down again without worry. Its a compilation of the first short stories published by authors, as the title indicates, which makes for some very interesting reading. Some are a lot worse than expected, and some show clear marks of their later genius.

 

cww house leavesHouse of Leaves by Mark Danielewski
(Recommended by Megan Tilley)

This book is not light reading. An experimental fiction novel that toys with ideas of time, fear, plot, reality and God, it is one of the more interesting books to come out of the early 21st century. It’s hard to describe, but if you’re interested in unique experimental fiction that doesn’t flinch in taking inspiration from past, surrealist fiction and combining it with lush modernism throughout two concurrent plot lines, House of Leaves is for you.

cww madmenCity of Saints and Madmen by Jeff Vandermeer
(Recommended by Megan Tilley)

Another collection of short stories, these are all set in the same world of Ambergris. Realistic fiction with strong magical themes, one of City of Saints and Madmen’s many strengths is how original it is – I’ve never come across anything like it. Gritty, dark, and sometimes outrageously funny, City of Saints and Madmen is entertaining to say the least.

 

cww animal dreamsAnimal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver
(Recommended by Roxy van Beek)

Animal Dreams follows Codi Noline as she returns to her hometown to take care of her father. Codi deals with feelings of alienation, as well as some trauma from her past, all while blending Hispanic and Native American themes.  Major themes include family, Arizona, culture, birth, and loss.

 

cww belovedBeloved by Toni Morrison
(Recommended by Roxy van Beek)

Beloved follows a former slave named Sethe who suspects her home is haunted by the child she chose to kill rather than let be recaptured by slavers.  Major themes include slavery and ghosts.

 

 

 

cww his dark materialsHis Dark Materials Trilogy
by Philip Pullman (The Golden Compass; the Subtle Knife; the Amber Spyglass.)
(Recommended by Roxy van Beek)

His Dark Materials is set in a parallel world where human souls are materialized as animal forms, and follows Lyra Belacqua as she travels across parallel worlds uncovering secrets of how the multiverse works.  Major themes include religion, philosophy, and parallel universes. (DO NOT watch the film instead).

 

cww snakesSnakes & Earrings by Hitomi Kanehara
(Recommended by Roxy van Beek)

Snakes and Earrings follows a girl named Lui as she descends further into the underground youth culture of Japan, starting by splitting her tongue.  Major themes include Japan, youth culture, and violence.

 

 

cww asleepAsleep by Banana Yoshimoto
(Recommended by Roxy van Beek)

Asleep is a collection of three stories by Yoshimoto. Each story centers on a woman narrator and has similar themes about sleep, love triangles, dreams, and death.  Major themes include emptiness and femininity.

 

 

 

cww god small thingsThe God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
(Recommended by Roxy van Beek)

The God of Small Things is set over a period of time in India, following a pair of fraternal twins as their lives are shaken by the changing times in India, as well as through class and social discrimination.  Major themes include India and family.

 

 

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CWW Summer 2014 Film Picks:

the-workhorse-and-the-bigmouthThe Workhorse and the Bigmouth
(2013, dir. Yoshida Keisuke, Japan)

(Recommended by Rita Banerjee)

The Workhouse and the Bigmouth, or Bashyauma-san to Biggumausu in Japanese, is a wonderful contemporary comedy-drama about two young screenwriters trying to making it big on the mean streets of the publishing and media worlds of Japan.  The story centers on the aspirations of 34-year-old Michiyo Mabuchi and 26-year-old Yoshimi Tendo as they compete with one another and try to break into the screenwriting world of Japanese film and television.  Michiyo, who has been taking creative writing workshops and screenwriting classes for the past ten years but has yet to be published or to be successful, is our frustrated, anti-hero workhorse.  Yoshimi is the self-proclaimed screenwriting genius and Wunderkind, who finds himself facing a blank screen when he finally sits down to write his first screenplay.  Together, they exchange diatribes, work philosophies, and ideas about what makes a good story work and what can make a writer fail.  Overall, Yoshida Keisuke’s film gives us a wonderful insight into the contemporary creative writing world of the Japanese, the fierce competitiveness of the Japanese publishing and media industries, and how much courage and sheer determination it takes to become a noteworthy and successful writer.  (Recommended for writers and dreamers everywhere).

AranyerDinRatriDays and Nights in the Forest
(1970, dir. Satyajit Ray, India)
(Recommended by Rita Banerjee)

Aranyer Dinrātri, or Days and Nights in the Forest, is a comedic and lovely story on what can happen on lost weekends by Satyajit Ray.  The film is based on a story by the Bengali modernist poet and historical novelist, Sunil Gangopadhyay, and focuses on the adventures and mishaps of four young male friends who decide to leave their stiff, box-wallah office jobs in Kolkata behind to spend a week-long vacation in the forests of Bihar.  The four men, who come from middle-class backgrounds, transpose their classist views onto the Santhal communities they meet in the forest.  They also meet two lovely young women who are vacationing in their summer cottage nearby, and missed connections, summer picnics, and one very memorable memory game ensue.  Ray, who is known for his socially realist films and participation in the Parallel Cinema movement of South Asia, is a masterful storyteller and lyrical cinematographer in this film.  Days and Nights in the Forest is a must-see of anyone who has wandered out in the wilderness in the middle of the night, contemplating a mid-summer night’s dream.

BroenThe Bridge (2011-, dir. Bjorn Stein and Charlotte Sieling, Denmark/Sweden)
(Recommended by Rita Banerjee)

The Bridge was recommended to me by my partner, and is a thrilling mini-series that’s perfect for summer nights.  The story begins at midnight when the lights on the bridge between Sweden and Denmark suddenly go out, stopping all traffic.  The black out is unexpected but ordinary, until the police notice a woman lying on the road, directly in the center of the bridge.  On closer inspection, it appears to be a dead body, and there’s surveillance footage indicating that a black car dropped her off on the bridge precisely at the time when the lights went out and traffic had to be halted.  It looks like an ordinary murder, and the commuters, stuck on the bridge, become more agitated as they wait to be let across to the other side.  A woman is in an ambulance trying to rush her husband from Denmark to Sweden but is stuck behind the traffic barrier lines, and as she yells towards the detectives to hurry up, the wind begins to pick up.  That’s when the detectives from Denmark and Sweden note that the dead woman’s body has been sawed in half directly across the invisible cartographic line that separates Sweden from Denmark.

the_master_and_margarita_by_confusedlarch-d5y4f47

The Master and Margarita (2005, dir. Vladimir Bortko, Russia)
(Recommended by Rita Banerjee)

If you haven’t read Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel, The Master and Margarita, go out to your local library, bookstore, ebook dealer, etc., and grab a copy now!  The novel focuses on three intersecting storylines.  The first narrative involves the atheist, political dissenter, and editor Mikhail Alexandrovich and his young friend, Ivan Nikolayevich, a poet who goes under the pen-name Homeless.  The second narrative is set in the ancient Roman Empire and follows the conflict between Pontius Pilate and Jesus Christ, a young, charismatic political and religious dissenter.  The third follows the story of a writer, simply called the Master, and his muse and married lover, Margarita.  Thrown into this mix is the strange, foreign “Professor W,” his oddly attired traveling companion, and a vodka-drinking black cat that seems to be able to do magic tricks and perform menacing acts.  Set during 1920s and 1930s during Russia’s Soviet reign, this novel and mini-series blend political satire, commentary on ethics and spirituality, the writers’ role in society, and elements of the uncanny and the fantastic into a witty, comedic tale.  The mini-series stars a wonderful cast of talented actors, and is a must-see for anyone who’s a fan of modern Russian literature and theatre.

Her2013PosterHer (2013, dir. Spike Jonze, USA)
(Recommended by Rita Banerjee)

Finally, one last must-see film for the summer.  Her, directed and written by Spike Jonze, is a visually stunning and emotionally lyrically film about what happens to human beings when they literally fall in love with technology.  The lush warm hues of the film, gorgeously crafted sets, and lit panels, which mimic the shades of camera filters, draw the viewer into the protagonist’s emotionally vulnerable world.  Set in a beautifully designed, architectural near-future, Her centers on the story of Theodore Twombly, who has separated from his wife and is facing an imminent divorce, and who works full-time writing personal letters for clients who cannot write anything personal themselves.  Lonely and disenchanted, one day Theo stumbles upon an exhibit advertising an even more personal operating system–something that’s more than a computer or secretary, but promises to be an avid companion and close friend.  Intrigued, Theo buys this new OS, which after asking him a series of too-close-to-home questions, installs itself into Theo’s life as the with the voice of Scarlet Johansson as the OS named “Samantha.”  Soon Theo and “Samantha” start developing a closer bond, and Theo finds himself falling in love, not with a machine, or a piece of code meant to replicate a human being, but with a persona and human being that cannot really exist.

cww beforeBefore Trilogy (dir. Richard Linklater, Before Sunrise, 1995; Before Sunset, 2004; Before Midnight, 2013, USA)
(Recommended by Alex Carrigan)

A series of movies with a new film released every nine years, Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy follows American Jesse and French Céline at different stages in their relationship. It starts when they meet in their twenties on a train and spend a day in Vienna (Before Sunrise), cuts to their thirties when they finally reunite in Paris (Before Sunset), and continues on to their forties when they’re on a family vacation in the Greek Peleponnese (Before Midnight).  Each movie is better than the previous, and each film takes a different approach to showing the relationship. No film takes place over any longer period of time than a single day, but in the time shown, we get a clear idea of the characters, while also listening to some really great dialogue. The leads are fantastic, especially Julie Delpy as the effervescent Céline. I recommend watching these movies fairly close together just to see how the characters, the actors, and the director grow with the story.

cww naked kissThe Naked Kiss (dir. Samuel Fuller, 1964, USA)
(Recommended by Alex Carrigan)

This movie follows Kelly, a prostitute who gives up the trade to settle into a normal life in a quiet town. While she tries to adjusts to her new life as a nurse and romances the wealthiest man in town, she finds there are things in life she can’t escape. She begins to realize the corruption and evil that lays dormant in the small town she’s made her home, and she’s made it clear she won’t tolerate it. What follows is a tale of vengeance, feminism, sexuality, and death.  This movie was really daring for the time, and it’s a prime example of neo-noir. Constance Tower’s Kelly is a total badass, and she’s honestly one of my favorite female protagonists ever. It’s a film that attacked some really serious subjects at the time, but did so in a very smart and reasonable way, creating a very atmospheric drama with an incredible leading performance.

cww talk to herTalk to Her (dir. Pedro Almodóvar, 2002, Spain)
(Recommended by Alex Carrigan)

This is a movie about two men whose lovers fall into comas. Benigno is a hospital orderly who falls in love with a dancer and imagines a relationship with her as he cares for her in the hospital, talking to her comatose body and acting as though she is fully conscious. Marco is a sensitive journalist and writer of travel guides whose bullfighter girlfriend is gored by a bull in an accident. The two men meet in the hospital and bond over their similar circumstances. These involve long talks about love, family, dreams, and regrets.  The movie starts off as a good meditative drama, with a fairly benign friendship displayed, but suddenly twists for the unexpected. Once the twist happens, the film changes drastically, and the characters and story are never the same. The film is Almodóvar’s masterpiece, and it’s one of the best films to come from Spain.

cww only loversOnly Lovers Left Alive
(dir. Jim Jarmusch, 2013, USA)
(Recommended by Gregory Crosby)

Jim Jarmusch’s latest is a touching, sardonic, poetic portrait of addiction and marriage that’s only incidentally a vampire movie, brimming over with dry visual wit instead of buckets of fake blood. The cast is top notch, especially Tilda Swinton, who is so… so… well, Tilda Swinton.

 

 

cww duneJodorowsky’s Dune
(dir. Frank Pavich, 2013, USA)
(Recommended by Gregory Crosby)

A documentary about the ill-fated attempt by cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky at adapting Frank Herbert’s Dune—it’s the sort of film that reminds you why you ever wanted to make art in the first place. Visionary, fascinating, hilarious.

 

 

cww gadjo diloGadjo Dilo (The Crazy Stranger)
(dir. Tony Gatlif, 1997, France)

(Recommended by Jessica Reidy)

This film set in Romania, is an honest look at the trials and joys of rural Romanian Romani (“Gypsy”) life through the eyes of a French gadjo (non-Romani person, or stranger) who is looking for his deceased father’s favorite singer. He meets Sabine, a resilient outcast in her community, and becomes involved in her tragedies and her dreams. The Roma are an ethnic group originating in India in the 11th century who then became nomadic because of persecution. Roma are better known as “Gypsies,” although that word is both incorrect and offensive to many (though some Roma choose to reclaim the word). The film draws complex Romani characters with beautifully human yearning and motivations where, in film, usually Romani characters are one-dimensional stereotypes. (In French, Romanian, and the Romani language Rromanes, but mostly French).

cww steal a millionHow to Steal a Million
(dir. William Wyler, 1966, USA)

(Recommended by Jessica Reidy)

Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole are beautiful and funny together in an art heist/romantic comedy set in Paris. That’s enough reason to watch it.

 

 

cww budapestThe Grand Budapest Hotel
(dir. Wes Anderson, 2014, USA)
(Recommended by Ian Singleton)

This is a great film, a bit darker than Wes Anderson’s last, and an inviting homage to the work of the Austrian-Jewish writer Stefan Zweig. His genteel humanity was a perfect antidote to the brutality of the Nazi regime, and one can’t help but think of the world’s contemporary wars and violence seeing that depicted in the film. But it’s not sentimental–like Zweig’s life, it ends up as a tragedy.  This is a good film for the reasons mentioned above, but also because Anderson is stepping out of his Joseph Cornell-ian cuddly kunstkamera and taking on some very serious subject matter. At the same time, he’s still having fun, especially if you watch the credits until the little Russian dancer comes out.  The works of Stefan Zweig are also highly recommended.

cww amelieAmélie (dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001, France)
(Recommended by Christine Stoddard)

Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie is a must, if not a cliché, for its magical Parisian love story and gorgeous production design.

 

 

 

 

cww 400 blowsThe 400 Blows
(dir. Francois Truffaut, 1959, France)

(Recommended by Christine Stoddard)

François Truffaut’s 400 Blows (Les quatre cents coups) is a classic coming of age film set right in Paris.

 

 

 

cww hedgehogThe Hedgehog (dir. Mona Achache, 2009, France)
(Recommended by Christine Stoddard)

As for the unexpected, I suggest The Hedgehog (Le hérisson) by Mona Achache for a more recent release by a female director. It is an enchanting story of an 11-year-old who decides to commit suicide until she discovers the world of literature through a surprising new friend. It, too, is set in Paris.

 

 

KorkoroKorkoro (dir. Tony Gatlif, 2009, France)
(Recommended by Diana Norma Szokolyai)

During WWII in France, a young boy, Claude, follows a Romani (Gypsy) family after he is orphaned.  With a deftness unlike any other director, Gatlif captures the tragic situation of Romani people during this difficult time, as well as their resilience of spirit and ability to make what is heavy a little more lighthearted.  As itinerant people are pursued by the Nazis, French people of the Resistance attempt to help the Romani family, but ultimately, their freedom is at stake.  In addition to great storytelling and acting, the movie includes a wonderful soundtrack typical of Gatlif’s films.

The-Dance-of-Reality-Poster-1000WThe Dance of Reality
(dir. Alejandro Jodorowsky, 2013, Chile)

(Recommended by Diana Norma Szokolyai)

I saw this film at Landmark Sunshine Cinema in the village recently and found it in a word: STUNNING.  Visually captivating, the narrative focuses on the autobiographical childhood years of legendary, cult film director Alejandro Jodorowsky   Using elements of magical realism and masterful storytelling, Jodorowsky recounts the story of his family in the harsh, anti-Semitic political climate of Chile in the 1930s.  Alejandro’s father in the film is played by his son in real life.  His mother is played by soprano Pamela Flores, who sings all of her lines in true operatic fashion, creating both comedic and deeply moving effects as she interacts with the other characters, who speak to her normally throughout the film.  At times self-mocking and hilarious, and at other times deeply mystical and insightful, this film is now on my list of “most magical films of all time.”

moodindigo_poster_lowres__largeMood Indigo
(dir. Michel Gondry, 2013, France)
(Recommended by Diana Norma Szokolyai)

This one is on my wishlist, as it hits American theaters on July 18th, so I have not seen it as of yet.  The synopsis on IMDB is ” Wealthy, inventive bachelor endeavors to find a cure for his lover Chloe after she’s diagnosed with an unusual illness caused by a flower growing in her lungs.”  The trailer makes the film look very promising, and I am a fan of Gondry’s previous films Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep.  Also, actors Romain Duris and Audrey Tautou seem to have a convincing on-screen chemistry.  The film is based on the 1947 novel Froth on the Daydream by Boris Vian.

cww the fallThe Fall (dir. Tarsem Singh, 2006, USA)
(Recommended by Megan Tilley)

Taking place in a hospital in the early 20th century, an injured stuntman tells a little girl a fantastic story which is shown with stunning cinematography. As the movie progresses and the man’s mental state becomes more unstable, the worlds of the story and the hospital start intertwining.  It’s a visually unparalleled movie with excellent story telling and a phenomenal cast.

 

cww shadow vampireShadow of the Vampire
(dir. E. Elias Merhige, 2000, UK)
 

(Recommended by Megan Tilley)

A fictionalized rendition of the filming of the classic vampire film Nosferatu, this film is a breath of fresh air in the stuffy world of cliche vampire films. Filmed in both black and white and color, it follows the film crew of Noseferatu as they make the iconic movie. Strange things keep happening on set, and it seems that maybe the movie’s star is hiding a dark secret…