Book Review: High Dive

High Dive: A Novel by Jonathan Lee (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. 336 pp) Jonathan Lee is a British writer whose recent fiction has appeared in Tin House, Granta, and Narrative, among other magazines. High Dive is his first novel to be published in the United States. He lives in Brooklyn, where he is an editor at the literary journal A Public Space and a contributing editor for Guernica. Tick Tick Tick The ticking time bomb represents a compelling metaphor. If a story opens the door to a timed explosive, the resulting narratives and character development exist in half-life. How much does it really matter when everything explodes? Some stories establish the time bomb narrative in subtle ways. A… Read More →

Film Review: Green Room

Green Room

Green Room written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier (A24, Broad Green Pictures, Film Science, R, 95 min) Starring Anton Yelchin, Joe Cole, Alia Shawkat, Callum Turner, David W. Thompson, Eric Edelstein, Macon Blair, Imogen Poots, and Patrick Stewart. A Tough Genre to Master When it comes to uncomfortable viewing, the horror/suspense genre takes the cake. The viewer knows most of the characters aren’t going to make it; the question becomes the “why” and the “how” of the demise. The difficulty of the genre lies in replicating realism. Most days, killers aren’t stalking groups of friends a la I Know What You Did Last Summer. The writer and director must think carefully about the best possible way to conjure a scenario… Read More →

Film Review: Arrival

Arrival

Arrival written by Eric Heisserer, directed by Denis Villeneuve (21 Laps Entertainment, FilmNation Entertainment, Lava Bear Films, PG-13, 116 min) Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, and Michael Stuhlbarg. On Love and Loss Better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. We speak this platitude in times of grief as a way of consolation for the saddest of these. In times long past (or auld lang syne given the holiday season), we may find some truth in these words. In retrospect, difficult times can help form us into the strong and bold individuals with a rich inner life. But surely, we never choose suffering. Nevertheless, it’s a product of our experience, the equal and… Read More →

Book Review: Plot & Structure

Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell

Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot that Grips Readers from Start to Finish by James Scott Bell (Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books, 2004. 240 pp) James Scott Bell attended the University of California, Santa Barbara and studied writing with Raymond Carver. He graduated from the University of Southern California law school. He teaches novel writing at Pepperdine University and has published numerous articles and books in many genres. New Year’s Resolution While many will wake up on January 1, emerging slowly from the drunken revelry surrounding the final day of 2015, they’ll don some running shoes and get to work at that weight loss resolution. The changing calendar offers opportunity for something new. When better to enact… Read More →

Television Show Review: Fear the Walking Dead: Season 1

Fear of the Walking Dead Season 1

Fear the Walking Dead: Season 1 created by Dave Erickson and Robert Kirkman (AMC, Circle of Confusion, Symbound, Valhalla Entertainment) Starring Kim Dickens, Cliff Curtis, Frank Dillane, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Mercedes Mason, Lorenzo James Henrie, Rubén Blades, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Sandrine Holt, and Colman Domingo. I Know Too Much It’s odd to know more about a show’s universe than the characters do. Structurally, most stories—whether on the page or on the screen—provide the rules for engagement. These cues let the reader/viewer understand the kind of story they are perceiving and they set expectations for what lies ahead. These rules point out the hero and the villain. They suggest what you should find funny and what should be serious. And, they dictate expectations… Read More →

Book Review: American Pastoral

American Pastoral by Philip Roth

American Pastoral by Philip Roth (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. 423 pp) Philip Roth is a novelist born in Newark, New Jersey. He attended Bucknell University and earned his M.A. in English literature from the University of Chicago. He taught at the University of Iowa, Princeton University, and the University of Pennsylvania. Roth has earned numerous awards during his career including, the National Book Award, the National Book Circle Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and the Franz Kafka Prize. Plot and Structure I’m reading a book on plot and structure. It provides a fascinating look under the hood of narrative and story. One revealing item that now seems self-evident surrounds the differentiation between literary fiction and popular fiction. I… Read More →

Book Review: The Rise & Fall of Great Powers

The Rise & Fall of Great Powers

The Rise & Fall of Great Powers: A Novel by Tom Rachman (New York: Dial Press, 2014. 400 pp) Tom Rachman was born in London in 1974 and raised in Vancouver. He attended the University of Toronto and Columbia Journalism School, then worked as a journalist for the Associated Press in New York and Rome for the International Herald Tribune in Paris. His first novel, The Imperfectionists, was an international bestseller, translated into twenty-five languages. He lives in London. Onions Have Layers Life is like layers of sediment in a canyon. Each layer is completely different. Its materials are unique to the era, weathering storms and earning a history. Stacked together, these layers make the geological formation we call a… Read More →

Book Review: Infinite Jest

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Infinite Jest: A Novel by David Foster Wallace (New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 1996. 1,104 pp) Born in Ithaca, New York, David Foster Wallace was a regionally ranked junior tennis player in his youth. He earned a degree in English and Philosophy from Amherst College, winning the Gail Kennedy Memorial Prize. Later, he earned a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Arizona. Wallace taught literature at Emerson College, Illinois State University, and later became the Roy E. Disney Professor of Creative Writing and Professor of English at Pomona College. Over the course of his career, he earned a MacArthur Fellowship, the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction, and the Lannan Literary Award. Wallace died in… Read More →

Television Show Review: Girls: Season 2

Girls Season 2

Girls: Season 2 created by Lena Dunham (Apatow Productions) Starring Lena Dunham, Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, and Zosia Mamet. Spoilers for Season 1 apply. Halcyon Days Are you ok with change? For many, change is the devil. We all wish for halcyon days, a verdant time where everything exists in a perfected state. When a life altering circumstance occurs, we often long for the days of yore, for a period when things were less stressful or easier. With the second season of Girls, I am beginning to see changes—ones I’m not certain are good for the show. I don’t think I’m ok with change. Girls and Their Boys Season 2 begins shortly after the concluding events of Season 1. Hannah… Read More →

Television Show Review: Boardwalk Empire: Season 2

Boardwalk Empire: Season Two created by Terence Winter (Home Box Office, Leverage Management, Closest to the Hole Productions) Starring Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, and Kelly Macdonald. Real People Do you ever feel like characters in television series lack depth? On one side, they exist as a funnel for catch phrases and pithy one-liners. On the other side, characters represent philosophical systems. Their mannerisms and dialogue feel stunted, unusual, and unreal. Why is it so difficult to write real people? Boardwalk Empire seems to do it well. The Power Play of Atlantic City Season Two begins with James “Jimmy” Darmody (Michael Pitt) conspiring with his father, the Commodore (Dabney Coleman), and Elias “Eli” Thompson (Shea Whigham) to remove Enoch “Nucky” Thompson… Read More →