The Boomstick Film Club: Dirty Pretty Things

Dirty Pretty Things

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Dirty Pretty Things could hardly be farther from what I expected it to be. The movie poster, featuring Audrey Tautou gazing at the viewer over her own bare shoulder, underscored by the film’s title in cut-out ransom-note letters, looks as though it was made for a snarky, stylized thrill ride full of snappy dialogue and gleeful misbehavior, which the early aughts were chockablock with. Instead, the film is a tense, harrowing look at the lengths people have to go to in order to survive in a new country. Tautou, whose star was on the rise after Amelie, isn’t even the main character. She’s pivotal to the story, but our guide through this world is Okwe (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a Nigerian immigrant with a dark past who makes a terrifying discovery one day at work.

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Did You Hear? Tennessee Whiskey

New music! Sometimes old music. Music that we love!

This is everything music should be: original, exciting, transformative and just fun!

These CMA performances with Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake are on their way to breaking the internet this week, and for good reason–holy crap, that is a tight sound. The vocalists are all at the top of their games (Timberlake put his 10,000 hours in long ago), the arrangements push the envelope on what you normally hear at an awards show, and the band is one of the tightest I’ve ever heard. I’m pretty sure everyone on stage just got reminded why they do what they do for a living. Do yourself a favor and listen to both of these.

Brook Reeder

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Non-Fiction by Non-Men: Patricia Beard

Patricia Beard

In the eighth of her series of interviews with women who write nonfiction, E.B. Bartels chats with prolific author Patricia Beard.

Patricia Beard has written nine books of nonfiction, including After the Ball: Gilded Age Secrets, Boardroom Betrayals, and the Party That Ignited the Great Wall Street Scandal of 1905 (Harper Perennial, 2004), Blue Blood and Mutiny: The Fight for the Soul of Morgan Stanley (William Morrow, 2007), and Growing Up Republican: Christine Whitman: The Politics of Character (HarperCollins, 1996). Most recently, Beard has published a novel, A Certain Summer (Simon & Schuster, 2013). Additionally, she has written hundreds of magazine articles and essays as the former features editor of Town & Country, the former editor-at-large of Elle, and the former styles features editor of Mirabella magazine.

EB: Why have you been drawn to writing nonfiction? Continue reading

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Sparks on the Page

Sparks on the Page

Stunning Sentences

Some people’s hearts beat faster when handed a bursting bouquet of flowers. For others, it’s chocolate. But for me, it’s metaphors. When I read one, something inside alights, as if a spark flew off the page. There’s a sense of surprise and also recognition, as if I’m simultaneously seeing something new and also recognizing something I’ve always known.

Gertrude Stein once wrote about the difficulty of writing in a period of late language, when readers have inherited so much good writing. It seems to me good metaphors are a way to address this late language problem.

A metaphor consists of an object (A) and an image (B), likening A to B, with B heightening the reader’s sense of A. “Simply stated, a metaphor is a riddle, since if the object is clear, the reader always asks how is A like B,” writes Stephen Dobyns in Best Words, Best Order. And who can pass up a riddle? Before you know it, your mind is scrambling to find the answer. To write a successful metaphor is to engage the reader and enlarge the story. Metaphors “float a rival reality,” writes James Wood in How Fiction Works. “Every metaphor or simile is a little explosion of fiction within the larger fiction of the novel or the story.”

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The Boomstick Film Club: For a Good Time, Call…

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Watch it with us: Netflix

It’s funny how the vagaries of living in New York have become a sort of cultural lingua franca for comedic movies—first romantic comedies like When Harry Met Sally, and now friendship comedies like Frances Ha. Life-changing, potentially humorous upheavals can happen anywhere, but New Yorkers always seem to be on the verge of changing jobs or apartments or lovers, at least according to Sex and the City, so using it as your comedic background automatically invests the story with a sense that anything can happen. For a Good Time, Call… is a sprightly comedy full of tropes that will be instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with Girls or Broad City or SATC, but it’s no less endearing for it.

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Upright Beasts by Lincoln Michel

Upright Beasts

FA review tag

A third of the way into Lincoln Michel’s imaginative debut collection, I was reminded of a phrase Lorin Stein once used to describe the work Donald Antrim, in comparing his work to that of John Cheever: “plausible magic.” The phrase suggests that an unbelievable—possibly surreal—scenario can arise from “believable” character action and reasonable narrative means. Plausible magic is ordinary life rendered strange through the author’s vision. A Venn diagram of those writers (along with the later, enigmatic work of Kazuo Ishiguro) might provide a contextual starter set for Lincoln Michel, whose stories are strikingly assured in their strange, sublime originality.

Let me just say this: I dug this collection. A lot.

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