10 Famous Poems That Appeared in Film

For decades, Hollywood has looked to the annals of literature for inspiration. Literary adaptations are more popular than ever, but poetry is still largely untapped. Films like Ken Russell’s Gothic and Jane Campion’s Bright Star center on famous poets, and there are some great movies based on poems, but we’re looking at the appearance of poetry in films — instances where characters and narratives are reflected in poetic works, recited in the movies themselves. Here’s a video scrapbook of poetry in movies. Feel free to continue adding to the list with your own video examples, below. … Read More

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How to Make It: Sarah Gerard Funds Her Debut Book Tour Through Kickstarter

This is the first entry in a new series that looks at contemporary publishing through the lens of how new books are written or made, especially by younger writers, and how these writers “make it” over the hurdles set by a competitive industry.

Sarah Gerard’s debút novel, Binary Star, won’t be released until next January, but already several young, established authors—including Kate Zambreno, Jenny Offill, and Justin Taylor—are offering their praises. The novel tells the story of a young woman who struggles with anorexia, and the road trip she takes across America with her alcoholic boyfriend. I’d also mention that it deals with veganarchism and the birth and death of stars. … Read More

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Not Graham Greene: On Denis Johnson’s ‘The Laughing Monsters’

“I’m not trying to be Graham Greene. I think I actually am Graham Greene,” Denis Johnson told his editor before turning in the manuscript for his new novel, The Laughing Monsters. The novel takes place amid the maelstrom of corruption in modern day Africa, often in Sierra Leone, where Graham Greene ventured to write The Heart of the Matter. Greene’s own wanderlust precipitated his recruitment into the British secret service, so it’s not a surprise to find Johnson’s new book awash in the language of espionage. Nor is it the first time: Johnson’s National Book Award-winning Tree of Smoke featured CIA agents in Vietnam; The Laughing Monsters deals with the exploits of a corrupt, half-Scandinavian NATO operative named Roland Nair. One starts to wonder if Denis Johnson isn’t also a CIA or NATO recruit, but, then again, his father did work for the U.S. State Department. … Read More

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In Praise of Literary Failure

I’ll be honest: I’m baffled by the contemporary mania for the slogan “fail better.” Sure, in context, I appreciate Samuel Beckett’s famous line, but I can’t shake the notion that it comes from a piece called Worstward Ho. “Ever tried,” he writes, “Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” The way it’s often used today, “fail better” implies that we’re lurching and stumbling, toddler-like, toward a better world. But the speaker in Beckett’s fiction isn’t moving toward success; he’s moving worstward. If we take the Oxford English Dictionary’s first-order definition of failure as a “lack of success,” we can appreciate that to fail better is to screw up more drastically, more spectacularly than ever before. To “fail better” is to lurch and stumble ever closer to the abyss. … Read More

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The 35 Best Books by Cinema’s Greatest Auteurs

It’s an old standby that if a person is truly a master at one thing, he’s probably not great at much else. But when it comes to cinema, the auteur’s role is to be good at everything — sound, writing, camerawork, etc. — while also maintaining an overarching vision. So it isn’t surprising that there are so many great books written by cinema’s most famous (and infamous)… Read More

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National Book Award Finalists Announced

Book awards season! We had our Man Booker Winner announced yesterday (not an American, the commonwealth is safe, etc.), and… Read More

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2014 Kirkus Prize Finalists Announced

Hey! It’s a book prize that actually offers a significant amount of money to the recipients, and the list of… Read More

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10 Evocative Southern Gothic Films

Southern Gothic cinema owes a lot to the great Tennessee Williams, whose stunning stage plays became evocative films. Works like A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof introduced moviegoers to the steamy South, revealing its sinister side. Trading the grand for the grotesque, Southern Gothic cinema was born from the literary genre made famous by authors like Flannery O’Connor and Harper Lee. These films brought the genre’s penchant for sex, secrets, and betrayal to the big screen. Williams is currently the subject of a Film Forum retrospective. Inspired by his Southern Gothic style, here are ten films that capture the dark heart of the South. … Read More

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What Do This Year’s Wildly Disparate National Book Award Longlists Mean?

If you like awards, this week has been super-fun, between the MacArthur “Genius” Grants (shout out Alison Bechdel!) and the National Book Awards’ longlists in the young adult fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and fiction categories. … Read More

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