Book Review: Calypso

Calypso by David Sedaris

Calypso by David Sedaris (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2018. 272 pp) David Sedaris is an American humorist and the author of Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, among many others. He graduated from the School of Art Institute of Chicago and currently lives in West Sussex, England. When You’re Here, You’re Here When you’re here, your family. Or as a comedian suggested in his faux AI take on Olive Garden, when you’re here, you’re here. The sentiment from either slogan pushes for the value of place when building relationships. For families, aging scatters family members to the wind. Kids grow up, leave their parents, chart their own path. So, then… Read More →

Film Review: Coco

Coco

Coco written by Lee Unkrich and Jason Katz, directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina (Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios, PG, 105 min) Starring Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renee Victor, Jaime Camil, Herbert Siguenza. Life Transportation My favorite thing about reading fiction? The ability to transport into the life of another human being. There’s something special about a novel’s internalized point of view that builds empathy for people too often labeled as “other.” Visual storytelling is a little more difficult. Humans inherently read their unconscious biases into what they see. No matter how pious, virtuous, or philanthropical someone might be, too often a viewer can’t move beyond a skin tone. This sad reality, from… Read More →

Book Review: Pops

Pops by Michael Chabon

Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces by Michael Chabon (New York: Harper, 2018. 144 pp) One of the most celebrated writers of his generation according to The Virginia Quarterly Review, Michael Chabon was born in Washington D.C. He earned his B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh and his M.F.A from the University of California, Irvine. Chabon published his first novel, The Mysteries Of Pittsburgh, from his master’s thesis at the age of 25. His third novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union won Chabon the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award. The Hardest Job Parenting is the most challenging thing I’ve ever set off to accomplish. While my second son may have… Read More →

Television Show Review: The Americans: Season 6

The Americans Season 6

The Americans: Season 6 created by Joseph Weisberg (FX Networks, Amblin Television, DreamWorks Television) Starring Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Keidrich Sellati, Holly Taylor, Noah Emmerich, Costa Ronin, Lev Gorn, Brandon J. Dirden, and Margo Martindale. The Typical Script The anti-hero drama follows a tried-and-true script. Main character breaks bad, for certain clearly defined reasons. The viewer can sympathize with the anti-hero’s position. If written well, the anti-hero possesses rock-solid motivations and even though a viewer might cringe at the challenging elements of the character (you know, murder et al), the viewer roots for the anti-hero even if this person is “bad.” Given this script, the conclusion of such narrative must include just desserts. If the anti-hero doesn’t pay for his… Read More →

Book Review: The Children’s Crusade

The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer

The Children’s Crusade: A Novel by Ann Packer (New York: Scribner, 2015. 440 pp) Ann Packer was born in Stanford, California and attended Yale University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She has received fellowships from the Wisconsin Institute of Creative Writing, the Michener-Copernicus Society, and the National Endowment of the Arts. Her work has earned her many prizes, including the Kate Chopin Literary Award. She divides her time between the Bay Area, New York, and Maine. From Milk to Solids The shift from childhood to adulthood offers a profound sense of understanding about the pressures of parenting. The circumstances and behaviors once labeled oppressive and unfair become notes of grace, understood in intention. Parenting is difficult. It makes sense when… Read More →

Film Review: The Breadwinner

The Breadwinner

The Breadwinner written by Anita Doron and Deborah Ellis and directed by Nora Twomey (Aircraft Pictures, Cartoon Saloon, Mélusine Productions, PG-13, 94 min) Starring Saara Chaudry, Soma Chhaya, Noorin Gulamgaus, Laara Sadiq, Shaista Latif, Ali Badshah, and Ali Kazmi. A Hypothetical Nightmare Imagine for a second a hypothetical nightmare. You, by your appearance alone, are unable to enter the public sphere. The marketplace, the agora where locals buy and sell goods is off limits. What would you do, especially if the government does little to support the marginalized and the least of these? Would you risk punishment or death to find food? Or would you wither away at home, hoping for charity? Fortunately, many people in America never need to… Read More →

Film Review: A Ghost Story

A Ghost Story

A Ghost Story written and directed by David Lowery (A24, Sailor Bear, Zero Trans Fats Productions, Ideaman Studios, R, 92 min) Starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara. I Will Follow You into the Dark Reflections on the afterlife can leave unsettling inferences unsaid. If heaven is more than just a place on earth, then what will we do? With whom will we spend time? How does a consciousness known only in the linear encounter and operate in the infinite? In my younger years, I always feared the afterlife my faith tradition composed. The notion of sitting in God’s glory and worshipping forever seems utterly dull. But, compared to eternal damnation, I guess a boring existence is an upgrade? The ghost… Read More →

Film Review: The Big Sick

The Big Sick

The Big Sick written by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani and directed by Michael Showalter (Amazon Studios, Apatow Productions, FilmNation Entertainment, Story Ink, R, 120 min) Starring Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, and Ray Romano. In Consideration of Social Pressures What will they think? Why are social pressures so demanding of our thoughts and actions? Isn’t it odd how human beings avoid decisions with clearly pleasurable results if only because the inner life of another might disapprove? Have you ever stopped to consider how many experiences and relationships have been lost to the hypothetical judgment of a friend or relative? Why do we do it? Why, for all that is good and holy, does it ever matter what… Read More →

Book Review: Freedom

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Freedom: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2010. 576 pp) Jonathan Franzen is an American author. He graduated from Swarthmore College with a degree in German. Franzen has received widespread acclaim for his book, The Corrections. He has won the National Book Award and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. He lives in New York City and Santa Cruz, California. Realism Nut Crackers Realism is a tough nut to crack. Especially in literary fiction where the growth of the character is largely internal, too many convenient turns in a plot illustrate sloppiness and remove the suspension of disbelief. How often have you noticed a convenient plot detail in a television series where said event doesn’t… Read More →

Book Review: The Nix

The Nix by Nathan Hill

The Nix: A Novel by Nathan Hill (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. 640 pp) Born in Iowa, Nathan Hill earned his BA in English from the University of Iowa and his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Hill’s debut novel, The Nix, was a finalist for the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction from the Los Angeles Times. Hill’s writing has been published in The Iowa Review, Agni, The Gettysburg Review, The Denver Quarterly, and Fiction. Hill is an Associate Professor of English at the University of St. Thomas and lives in Naples, Florida. History Written through Familial Relationship That person is someone’s daughter. The phrase often emerges in conversation where one party hopes to place… Read More →