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John Benditt in conversation with Nancy Pearl - University Bookstore Wednesday, February 25th, 7:00pm
Heather Hartley (Paris Editor): It might be too late to be in a Fellini movie, but the next best thing just could be listening to Nino Rota’s super cool, astonishing music. From the 1940s on up through the 1970s, Rota composed evocative and unforgettable music for loads of films including scores for Visconti, Zeffirelli, Coppola and more. Kick off your sandals, grab an icy, bittersweet Campari and turn on tracks from La Dolce Vita, 8 1/2, or Amarcord, the next best thing to being in Roma—either celluloid or city.
Lance Cleland (Workshop Director): Without question the highlight of my July was the Jess Walter Experience. I had been a long time fan of his work (The Zero) remains my go to recommendation for people who claim they don’t enjoy “literary fiction”) but had no idea the man could walk on water. Teaching at our Writer’s Workshop for the first time, he proceeded to take all our money at the poker table, consistently drain deep three pointers and running floaters during the afternoon pick-up games, and did the splits in the middle of a Karen Russell induced dance circle. Oh, and he also just happened to give one of the most insightful and humorous lectures we have ever witnessed at the workshop. Is it any wonder then that August begins with a copy of Beautiful Ruins on my nightstand and his Teen Beat poster tacked to my wall?
Meg Storey (Editor, Tin House Books): I will be forever grateful to the friend who recommended Rebecca Lee’s debut story collection, Bobcat, to me. Within the first few pages, I knew it was going to be a book I wouldn’t want to end, and so I limited myself to one story a day to stretch out the experience as long as possible. I won’t attempt to summarize the collection, but I will say that each story is equal in the beauty of its prose and the strength of its emotional wallop, each story devastating in its own original and haunting way. I know this is a collection I will return to again and again and I hope to read more of Lee’s work very, very soon.
Tony Perez (Editor, Tin House Books): A new R. Kelly single dropped this week and it’s everything I want from him. His last two albums have been more in the neo-soul vein–which is fine, admirable–but I’m happy to hear that his forthcoming Black Panties may be something of a return to form.
Diane Chonette (Art Director): After hearing so much hype about the revived series, Arrested Development, my husband and I recently started watching. It’s surprising that I hadn’t caught on to it earlier since it takes place in Orange County, California, where I grew up. There are many things that are funny to me because of that; the banana stand at the Fun Zone, living in the model tract home, the socialites of Newport Beach; but the show is simply hard to resist anyways with its offbeat characters and the ongoing absurd yet strangely intelligent humor. We have some catching up to do before we can weigh in on the success or failure of the latest season. Stay tuned.
Jakob Vala (Graphic Designer): The 2008 documentary I Think We’re Alone Now introduces two of Tiffany’s biggest fans. Yes, that Tiffany. While most of the world has long forgotten the 80s pop star, Jeff Turner (known as the Samurai Fan) and Kelly McCormick have been fostering Feelings of Forever All This Time. Turner and McCormick are not just super fans. Both are fixated and delusional in their adoration—while Turner frequently boasts of his (imaginary) status as Tiffany’s BFF, McCormick earnestly dreams of a Radio Romance. This is a fascinating, sad and, ultimately, sympathetic look at obsession.
Holly Laycock (Tin House Marketing Intern): This month, I immersed myself in the phenomenal career of the Rolling Stones even more than I normally do. My father remains one of their biggest fans, and due to his adoration for the band (or simply his inability to grow tired of listening to the same albums over and over), Some Girls and Sticky Fingers in particular are engrained into the sound of my childhood. So, for his seventieth birthday this year, I have been combing the wide array of Stones paraphernalia available on the web (music, DVD’s, collectibles, trivia, etc.) to surprise him with. I just finished watching the latest DVD, Crossfire Hurricane, which shows lots of previously unseen footage of the Stones throughout their career with commentary from the big four, as well as some interviews with Brian Jones. The music is fabulous, their lives are incredibly interesting, but the most fascinating thing for me was watching the film and thinking: “How different the times were!” Seeing footage of screaming fans in the early days, their exile in France, and the pandemonium at Altamont was like watching a historical documentary that my dad actually lived through (maybe not directly, but seriously, the way we listened to them growing up makes it feel personal). I will admit that I’m a sucker for retrospectives like this, but Crossfire Hurricane will give you plenty of satisfaction.
Veronica Martin (Editorial Intern, The Open Bar): I recently re watched the film Lore after having screened it at the Portland International Film Festival and, just as I felt after seeing it the first time, I can’t stop thinking about the lyricism of its images and story and I can’t stop thinking about braids. Lore is an Australian-German WWII film set in 1945 and truly one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen in the last year, just as aesthetically devastating as its narrative. Lore, 15, the eldest daughter of a wealthy German family, whose parents have been jailed for Nazism, is responsible for bringing her brothers and sisters from their bucolic life in small town southwestern Germany to a relative’s home in Husum Bay, where, just after Germany’s defeat and re-zoning, it is illegal to cross from one zone to another. We meet her just as she looses the privileged life she’s grown up with and then watch as she flickers in and out of morality and rashness and desperation, in and out of insanity and a new sexualized self, during the long and dangerous trip to the farmhouse just outside of Hamburg. In these moments of despair and filth and ash, of sheer hopelessness and panic, Lore will turn around and scrape herself together for the day with elaborately perfect braids that seem to pull her cheekbones high and set off the pale of her face, hovering somewhere between child and an identity more adult. How much hope can be distilled in the maintenance of appearance, in the cleanliness of a face, in the simple act of braiding one’s hair, the great equalizer of elegance?