CWW Granada 2015 Faculty Member Peter Orner Featured in New York Times’ “Modern Love” column

peter-ornerPeter Orner, a CWW Granada 2015 fiction faculty member, writes about finding love and losing love and how even the most potent memories can vanish and change with the passage of time.

In his recent New York Times “Modern Love” column, “We Were In Our 20’s and Didn’t Have A Clue,” Orner looks back at a brief, passionate relationship he had in his 20’s in order to examine, “…the way people edit the details of their lives.” Orner shows how even though the passion and the heartbreak might fade, the instinct to reclaim these emotions and revisit the past never does. Time is the true subject of Orner’s essay; how it expands and contracts, how it has the ability to turn a happy memory into a sad one.

Even in his 20’s, when he claims to “not have a clue,” Orner recognizes that time is not exactly on the side of the couple when, after a discussion about moving in together leads nowhere, he writes, “I wasn’t going to press the issue, what was obvious was obvious. It had everything to do with time.” Eventually, Orner is able to think back on this memory without sadness, observing that his impulse to reach out to this woman now feels, “more like an obligation to a defunct emotion than something I actually wanted to do.”

Read Orner’s column here.

Advertisements

CWW Summer in Granada Writing Retreat Faculty Alexander Chee featured in The New York Times

Last year author Alexander Chee joined the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop as our fiction instructor for our 2016 Summer in Granada, Spain Writing Retreat. Now Chee has been chosen as one of four authors to share stories of how love and travel intersect for The New York Times’s debut Love Issue. The his essay, “In Spain, Secrets and a Possible Betrayal,” Chee recounts traveling to Granada during the summer with a former boyfriend, referred to as M. in the piece. In the essay, Chee writes:

M. loved poets, wrote poetry, sometimes wrote me poems, and his favorite poets all seemed to have met violent or tragic deaths, including Lorca. The day we visited Lorca’s house in Granada, we found the whole of it kept much as it was when he was there. I noticed the roses in the vases were almost gone, ready to be replaced, while roses bloomed outside. I imagined the poet had planted them, or at least tended them, but I didn’t want to ask in case it wasn’t true. I can still see the shrug as the tour guide said, “Yes, he was the son of a wealthy man,” a detail I wrote down in my notebook, along with how we all then looked at the beautiful wooden desk that seemed like a boat. I didn’t know why the guide said that and still don’t. Just as I don’t know why a book of his poems on the desk that day was open to “Poet in New York” — his other city.

Lorca’s murder had made him Granada’s presiding ghost. If his body had vanished at the hands of fascist murderers, he was everywhere there now, his face and words on mugs, T-shirts, restaurant menus and graffiti nearly anywhere you looked.

Unlike M., I already spoke Spanish. I needed to go to Paris and London to research my second novel, so we planned a summer trip across Europe to combine our aims, beginning with me in London and Paris, where he would join me, then Granada, beginning in July and concluding in late August…

M. had chosen our apartment because it was opposite the Alhambra, the magnificent historic Moorish palace on the hill across from our neighborhood, the Albaicín. The Darro ran between us. Our roof patio was opposite a simple mirador with a fountain, where there always seemed to be people playing guitar and smoking marijuana, with whom we exchanged waves. The apartment was simple and clean, its magnificence concentrated in the patio view of the palace and the city. Each room was on a different floor off a spiral staircase, the apartment as winding as the hill it was on. We left and returned by climbing a series of winding footpaths and side streets, and if I was confused, at night, I was always able to follow the guitar music home…

M.’s days at the school began early and were long, and left to my own devices, I would write for a few hours and then walk through the side streets, where I mapped the ancient cathedrals, most of which had been mosques before the expulsion of the Muslims, and then had the traditional breakfast of bread with tomate, a fresh tomato purée on toast, and olive oil. In Granada, there are usually two kinds of olive oil on the tables to put on, it seemed, anything you ate, but especially for this.

Read Alexander Chee’s full essay on his summer spent writing in Granada here.

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Summer in Granada Writing Retreat will take place from August 2-6, 2017.  Located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Andalucía, Granada is one of the gems of Spain and has inspired writers from Washington Irving to Salman Rushdie to Ali Smith. Let the old city stimulate your writing with its winding streets, Moorish history, and evocative landscapes.  Work on your existing manuscript, or look to the beauty and warmth of Granada to inspire all-new projects.  During the retreat, we will be staying at the Hotel Guadalupe, just a short walk from the Alhambra.  The retreat offers multi-genre workshops, as well as craft seminars and time to write. The faculty includes award-winning writers Tim Horvath, Alexandria Marzano-LesnevichRita Banerjee, and Diana Norma Szokolyai. Genres include fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.  The cost of the retreat is $2950, which includes tuition, lodging, and daily breakfast.  Apply at cww.submittable.com by May 1, 2015!

“HOME/SICK” – a play by CWW Instructor Stephen Aubrey & the Assembly debuts in Los Angeles tonight!

Cambridge Writers’ Workshop instructor & playwright, Stephen Aubrey, has written and produced a play with The Assembly Theatre called “HOME/SICK.”  “HOME/SICK will debut tonight in Los Angeles, and will run from June 9 – July 3, 2016 at the Odyssey Theatre.  In the New York Times, Catherine Rampell has praised “HOME/SICK,” a play about the Weather Underground, for its “cutting-edge young theater collective… By the end we have witnessed a sort of sociological big bang, when this tight, angry ball of political energy suddenly bursts and disbands irreparably.”

“HOME/SICK” is the story of a handful of political activists and leaders from the 1960s student movement who seized control of Students for a Democratic Society in protest to the Vietnam War and the government’s repression of those seeking equality domestically. In doing so, these activists reshaped the society in the name of overthrowing the United States government. Believing violence to be the only means to transform American politics and society, these passionate idealists accelerated a movement to a revolutionary fervor, but left a country behind.  Tickets for the play are available now at the Odyessey Theatre in Los Angeles.

Praise for “HOME/SICK”:

“An intelligent and dynamic package…The ensemble’s connection with one another is the truest homage they could offer to the memory of the collective they have clearly, though reservedly, come to admire.”  – Jason Fitzgerald, Backstage

“Impressively researched and clear-eyed, home/sick shows us the Underground’s internal contradictions, and we see Bolshevik passion lapsing into self-delusion and then flaring up again, until we are unsure what to admire and what to deplore.”  – Helen Shaw, Time Out New York

“This is a group of brilliant artists who will, without question, make their mark in the world of theater for a long time to come.”  – Hillary Bettis, OffOffOnline

 

Our Summer in Barcelona & Granada Nonfiction Faculty David Shields feat. on PBS / KCTS 9 for War is Beautiful

WarisBeautifulYes, of course, from Homer to Mathew Brady to Robert Capa, war photographers have aestheticized war, but nothing prepared me for the hundreds of full-color pictures that appeared on the front page of The New York Times from the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 until now. At least once a week I would be enchanted and infuriated by these images, and I wanted to understand why, so I recently spent many months reviewing every page A1 war photo over the last 4,500 days. This is what I learned. This is why I no longer read The New York Times.” David Shields, War is Beautiful

In an interview with PBS/KCTS 9, Shields, a former “life-long subscriber of The New York Times,” discussed his motivation for writing War is Beautiful: “As the Homeland Security slogan goes, ‘If you see something, say something.’ I felt like I was seeing something and I felt compelled as a democratic citizen to say something.”

In War is Beautiful: The New York Times Pictorial Guide to the Glamour of Armed Conflict, bestseller David Shields critiques over a decade of “extraordinarily beautiful and. . .little war-like” war images.  The book contains 64 full-color photographs featured on the cover of the Times between 2001 and 2013.  During the interview, Shields states, “The book is meant to be problematically beautiful. I mean to ask of myself and my fellow citizens and fellow readers how much beauty are we prepared to swallow in the name of glorifying war.”  Watch the interview in its entirety visit PBS/KCTS 9.

Author photo of David Shields, 2012.David Shields is the internationally bestselling author of twenty books, including Reality Hunger (named one of the best books of 2010 by more than thirty publications), The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead (New York Times bestseller), and Black Planet (finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award). Forthcoming from Knopf in February 2017 is Other People: Takes & Mistakes. The recipient of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, Shields has published essays and stories in the New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, Esquire, Yale Review, Village Voice, Salon, Slate, McSweeney’s, and Believer. His work has been translated into twenty languages.  He is teaching at the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Summer in Barcelona and South of France (July 18-26, 2016) and Summer in Granada (July 28 – August 5, 2016) Writing Retreats.

 

Der Spiegel features Rita Banerjee’s “War is Beautiful: An Interview w. David Shields”

DerSpiegelOver the holidays, Germany’s Der Spiegel and Perlentaucher: Das Kulturmagazin featured Rita Banerjee’s piece from Electric Literature: “War is Beautiful: An Interview with David Shields.”  On Shields’s new book and Banerjee’s interview, Der Spiegel wrote:

“Etwas skeptisch liest Tim Parks im Blog der NYRB den neuen Essay von David Shields “War Is Beautiful”, der die New York Times anklagt, mit ihren Kriegsfotos den Krieg zu ästhetisieren. Ganz von der Hand weisen kann Parks das nicht: “Es ist beim Durchblättern dieser Fotos kaum zu leugnen, dass sie ihre Gegenstände mit voller Absicht ästhetisieren – und auf den Betrachter somit anästhesierend wirken. Das sind Glamour-Bilder, gemacht, bewundert zu werden und keine Dokumentarbilder, die der Gewalt und dem Horror Unmittelbarkeit geben… Kurz: Wir sind weit entfernt von den nüchternen Schwarzweißbildern, die den Vietnamkrieg in der selben Zeitung illustrierten.” Parks Gegeneinwand liegt in einer Frage: “Ist es uns überhaupt möglich, dieser Verwandlung der Bestie in eine Schönheit zu entkommen?” Rita Banerjee hat schon im November bei electricliterature ein Interview mit Shields zu dem Buch geführt.”

The text can be translated as:

“In the NYRB Blog, Tim Parks somewhat skeptically reads the new essay by David Shields, War is Beautiful in which [Shields] accuses the New York Times of aestheticizing war with their war-photos.  Parks cannot totally dismiss [Shields’s claim]: “When leafing through these photos, one can scarcely deny that they [NYT] with full intention aestheticize their materials and in doing so, anesthetize the viewer.  These are Glamour-photos, made to be admired and are not Documentary-photos that give immediacy to horror and violence… In short, we are far from the sobering black and white photos of the Vietnam War, which were depicted in the same newspaper.”  Parks’s counter-argument lies in the question: “In this transformation of the beast into beauty, is it possible for us to escape at all?”  Rita Banerjee already conducted an interview with Shields about [his] book via Electric Literature in November.”

Read more about Der Spiegel‘s culture and media reviews here.

“War is Beautiful: An Interview with David Shields” – Rita Banerjee, Electric Literature

WarisBeautifulEarlier this month, I sat down with David Shields to interview him about his new book, War Is Beautiful: The New York Times Pictorial Guide to the Glamour of Armed Conflict (powerHouse Books 2015). During our conversation, Shields spoke about the New York Times’s use of sanitized, sensually inviting front-page photography to glamorize the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; these photos—in Shields’s view—desensitize readers to the cruelty and violence of these wars.

David Shields is the author of international bestsellers and critically acclaimed books, including The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead (Knopf 2008), Black Planet (Three Rivers Press 2009), and Reality Hunger: A Manifesto (Knopf 2010), which argued for the obliteration of the distinction between fiction and nonfiction, the overturning of laws regarding appropriation, and the creation of new forms for a new century. Over the past several years, Shields’s work has become increasingly political.

Rita Banerjee:  The images of war in the book are very provocative. For example, in the Nature section, in the photo where you’re looking at a beautiful field of flowers and then you see the helmet of a soldier, it’s shocking. It grabs you. And even in the “Paintings” section, many of the images are so aesthetically inviting.

David Shields:  They look like Abstract Expressionist paintings. They might as well have been painted by Rothko or Pollock.

RB:  Reading War is Beautiful, you realize how cleaned up American media is. It’s weirdly Puritan, weirdly sanitized.

DS:  It’s quite striking how this process happened over the last couple of decades. First of all, the rise of digital culture so that a picture could be sent instantaneously from the battlefield to the Times. Second of all, the advent of color photography on page A1 (starting in October 1997).

In the book’s afterword, Dave Hickey points out how serious and great war photography was from Mathew Brady in the Civil War all the way through Robert Capa during World War II and, say, Tim Page in Vietnam. And basically what happened during World War II was the rise of something he calls the “swipe photograph”—the quick photograph that conveys a quick, blurry image; for example, Capa, with his famous picture of a fallen Spanish soldier during the Spanish Civil War. And then what Hickey argues is that with the rise of Abstract Expressionism, people like Diebenkorn, Rothko, Pollock, Gerhard Richter, the swipe image became a huge part of Abstract Expressionism. And now war photographs are not based on what the war photographer is actually seeing in war. Rather, he or she is trying to reproduce Abstract Expressionist tropes—swipe-image gorgeousness.

All of these pictures from the New York Times are remarkably hollow and bloodless, composed, and abstract. All of these photographs have come, to a staggering degree, from art history.  These pictures are beautiful but dead.

RB:  I was really struck by your commentary in the beginning of War Is Beautiful. You raise the point, Is the Times complicit in selling a certain kind of narrative to the United States? That is, the Times promotes its institutional power as a protector or curator of a death-dealing democracy. Who is responsible for it? We all are. We are all inscribed in that death-dealing democracy.

Maybe that’s why we’re so accepting of capitalism as well. We don’t see the devastation. If people are dying of chemical poisoning in an Apple factory in China, how much do we care? The same with Iraq or Afghanistan. As Americans, we’re so used to the idea of distance. When the political world is distant from us, not only are we desensitized and numb to it but it’s almost as if we’re watching cinema or playing in a video game; there’s even a certain aspect of pleasure in a weird way. We have power and yet we’re at such a great distance from what’s going on and what’s going down.

DS:  I try to make this emphatically clear via the book’s opening epigraph from Edmund Burke: “When danger or pain press too nearly, they are incapable of giving any delight, and are simply terrible; but at certain distances and with certain modifications, they may be, and they are delightful, as we every day experience. The cause of this I shall endeavour to investigate further.” Capitalism, distance, aesthetic pleasure, drone voyeurism are all part of one complicated cocktail. You’ve summarized it very well; it’s clearly capital that’s driving all this. We take pleasure in the privileged distance that capitalism buys.

Read the rest of the interview on Electric Literature.

New Release: The Dismal Science by Peter Mountford

DismalSciencePeter Mountford’s second novel, The Dismal Science (Tin House, 2014), was recently reviewed by The New York Times.  We are proud to have had Peter read with us in Seattle in our A Night at the Victrola Reading.  Since graduating from the University of Washington’s MFA program in 2006, Peter’s short fiction and essays have appeared in The Atlantic, Best New American Voices 2008, Conjunctions, Salon, Granta, ZYZZYVA, and Boston Review, where he won second place in the 2007 contest judged by George Saunders. He’s currently a writer-in-residence at the Richard Hugo House and at Seattle Arts and Lectures.

The plot follows D’Orsi as he quits the bank in a “kamikaze’s strategy” over a seemingly small argument with a colleague, about funding for Bolivia if the leftist Evo Morales wins the presidency. D’Orsi is being asked to cut off aid, putting politics above the bank’s mission. Because of his daughter, her activist colleagues, boredom and grief, “exhausted by the bank’s bloated ineptitude and inefficiency,” D’Orsi gives the story to his best friend, a reporter for The Washington Post. Its publication causes a spectacular and very public blowup, unfurling D’Orsi’s career and life. “It had an appealingly straightforward quality: He resented the bank and despised himself for participating in its work, so he torpedoed himself into the bank.” – Martha McPhee, The New York Times

Novelist Peter Mountford featured in The New York Times Magazine

mountfordPeterCongratulations to Peter Mountford, a good friend of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop and an excellent fiction and nonfiction writer, whose piece, “Life in the Group Room” was recently published in The New York Times Magazine.  Peter Mountford originally read ‘”Life in the Group Room” at “A Night at the Victrola,” an AWP 2014 Reading sponsored by the Cambridge Writer’s Workshop.  Thank you Peter, for sharing this brave and provocative piece with us!  Peter Mountford’s debut novel, A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), won the 2012 Washington State Book Award and was a finalist in the 2012 VCU Cabell First Novelist Prize. In its full-page review, The Seattle Times wrote: “Debut novels don’t come much savvier, punchier, or more entertaining…the work of an extraordinary talent.”  His second novel, The Dismal Science, was published in early 2014 by Tin House Books. For his work on The Dismal Science, he was awarded a 4Culture Grant, a grant from the city of Seattle, and the Corporation of Yaddo’s Wallace Fellowship for a Distinguished Writer.   Since graduating from the University of Washington’s MFA program in 2006, Peter’s short fiction and essays have appeared in The Atlantic, Best New American Voices 2008, Conjunctions, Salon, Granta, ZYZZYVA, and Boston Review, where he won second place in the 2007 contest judged by George Saunders. He’s currently a writer-in-residence at the Richard Hugo House and at Seattle Arts and Lectures.   Peter grew up in Washington, DC, apart from three years in Sri Lanka during the early stages of the Sri Lankan civil war.