Tuesday New Release Day
New this week: Flings by Justin Taylor; We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas; The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar; Sweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik Clark; The Undertaking by Audrey Magee; Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher; and a new translation of a French children’s book by Lydia Davis. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great Second-half 2014 Book Preview. Support The Millions: Bookmark this link and start there when you shop at Amazon.
The film focuses on Daniel McGowan, the son of a Brooklyn cop who experiences a “sense of mourning” once he becomes aware of mankind’s many environmental sins. He participates in multiple acts of arson as ELF cells launch a freelance sabotage campaign against lumber mills, logging equipment, horse corrals, meat-packing plants, genetics labs, tree farms, even ski resorts. Hovering over the film is a question: Are these activists terrorists, as the government would have us believe, or are they avenging angels performing a vital service, as they themselves believe? Curry, to his credit, refuses to offer a tidy answer.
I only returned to reading thrillers a few years ago when I started to write my own series, and, much to my surprise, something fundamental had changed. The new breed of thrillers were no longer set within the geography of the Cold War but located all over the globe—in Thailand, North Korea, Kenya, and Marseilles.
And something else was radically different. During the Cold War, the conflicts that powered the thriller were rooted in ideology: Le Carre’s Berlin and Greene’s Havana were mainly backdrops against which the clash of the superpowers was played out. The new thrillers were not focused on ideology but on place; it was the peeling away of layers of culture and history that gave these novels their impetus.
It could almost be a writing workshop prompt: tell a story, do it in six words, go for the wow effect — and that’s exactly what the Ritz-Carlton wants. Recently, the hotel company launched a campaign inviting social media friends and followers to provide six-word stories about their Ritz-Carlton experiences with the hashtag #RCMemories. The company calls these stories “Six Word Wows,” and the campaign, if one were to believe the corporate website’s press release tagline, is “Paying Homage To Classic Ernest Hemingway Line.” “Which classic Hemingway line?” we might ask. “If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them”? No, Ritz-Carlton is referring to the probably apocryphal anecdote that when bet he couldn’t write a story in six words, Hemingway replied, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
#RCMemories does not really pay homage to Hemingway, and it’s certainly not art for art’s sake, but like any writing exercise, the Six Word Wows provide a formal frame to display the unwieldy sprawl of human experience. What’s important is that we remember Hemingway’s advice to, “Write the truest sentence you know.” In that spirit, here’s a Six Word Wow: Our stories. Their profit. Share wisely.
In 1968 Italo Calvino published 14 reasons why we should read the classics, and his list still feels relevant. After all, “a classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.”
Is it possible for a group of characters to be too charismatic? If so, that was my only real objection.
My Two Italies is a hybrid memoir, both a recollection of personal experience and growth and also a scholarly look at the long-standing divide between Italy’s north and south — the north characterized by wealth and culture, and the south by poverty and crime. For Joseph Luzzi, the divide is personally felt.