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Pull the Trigger, Punch the Zoom
By lisa ryers (Dec 6, 2007)
As any documentarian knows, even the rawest material requires the director’s unique voice of organization. In a Michael Moore film, we expect to see his burly form stumbling somewhere. Barbara Kopple allows her subjects, striking labor forces, to speak for themselves with close-ups that linger for spates of time. Ross McElwee used the path of Sherman’s March to investigate his own personal longings and between interviews we hear him moaning off-camera, and witness him bleakly staring into mirrors. Ken Burns will, well, pan and diffuse a lot. There is no such thing as the ritual standard, yet all are “documentaries.” More
Long Live the Gadfly!
By jesse nathan (Nov 22, 2007)
The Gadfly, as described by Plato in reference to Socrates ’critical stance toward the Athenian political scene, represents, perhaps, the earliest articulated example of a Muckraker. Though the term "muckraker" didn’t come into the language until American writer Upton Sinclair burst on the scene with his industry-busting The Jungle in 1906, a long tradition of Gadflies -- both before and after Sinclair -- have combined the illuminating light of the whistleblower with the prose of good letters. More
"It’s So You" at Black Oak Books
By jesse nathan (Nov 9, 2007)
Adolescence reviles containment. Put more precisely, uniforms are anathema to every teenager. Fashion is, after all, self-expression -- and no demographic rejects limits on its self-expression more arduously than youth. San Francisco poet and activist Michelle Tea recalls with unrepentant vigor her own version of the classic struggle against the schoolyard powers in the introduction to It’s So You, the Seal Press anthology she edited. More
Political Poetry at the Sacrifice of Art
By jesse nathan (Sep 14, 2007)
Sam Hamill’s newest book, Measured By Stone, comes to us from a press devoted to political creative writing. Curbstone Press describes itself as “a publishing house dedicated to multicultural literature that reflects a commitment to social awareness and change,” a place that publishes “creative writers whose work promotes human rights and intercultural understanding.” It should not be surprising, therefore, that Hamill’s book brims with barely contained -- sometimes outright angry -- political lyrics. More
Down Under Comes On Top
By lisa ryers (Aug 17, 2007)
Wasn’t it Gore Vidal who said, “Sydney is the city that San Francisco thinks it is”? In Australian short story writer David Malouf’s milieu, Australia is probably the country that California thinks it is. Malouf’s characters shift between urban and rural settings, always conscious of their man-made habitats: houses are made of pinewood and sandstone, kids play on warm bitumen. Here we see buddleia to be noticed, quince to be picked and blackfish to be angled. But like the reality of today’s California, people constantly converge on one another, parents on children, teenagers on playmates, in-laws on well-meaning couples. More
The Education of Today’s Sushi Chef
By lisa ryers (Aug 3, 2007)
Following an injury that extinguished her soccer avocation, twenty-year old Kate Murray found herself in search of her next big love. Sushi helped her body recover and nightly visits to the sushi bar lightened her spirits. Soon she began thinking about sushi in a professional way: as an opportunity to parlay to others the joy she got out of the sushi experience. It could also end her string of dead end jobs. So says her biographer of this point of her life, Trevor Carson, in his new book, The Zen of Fish: The Story of Sushi from Samurai to SupermarketMore
A Children’s Book for Twenty-Somethings
By lisa ryers (Jul 6, 2007)
If you remember how Norman Juster’s classic juvenile novel The Phantom Tollbooth started, you will remember that the bored character of Milo finally notices a box that says: "For Milo who has plenty of time.” Once he opens the box, he constructs the tollbooth therein along with one of the signs: “Please have your destination in mind.” More
A Bedtime Story for the Brave
By lisa ryers (Jun 8, 2007)
There is a line towards the end of The Big Girls that comes from an unlikely source. The speaker is Angie, the Hollywood starlet who is counseling her boyfriend during a time of parental duress. She tells him that her acting teacher taught her that you must take responsibility before you can become an artist: all choices are meaningful only if you are responsible. Angie is not deep. Her most vivid memory is perhaps of learning how to cook ham with Coca Cola. She is not a “Big Girl” but she aspires to be one. More
Discovery through a Roadtrip
By lisa ryers (Apr 27, 2007)
Dissecting Eric B. Martin’s new novel challenges the reader in precisely the same way analyzing a good piece of drama does. Writer/director David Mamet’s take on this is that the bad play marginalizes the audience as “other” while the good play involves the audience as a participant by somehow creating empathy with the principal characters. Martin’s novel, The Virgin’s Guide to Mexico accomplishes this empathic strain. More
Thinking Outside the Hatbox
By lisa ryers (Apr 12, 2007)
Thirty five years ago, Alix Kates Shulman published her first novel entitled Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen (1972). An immediate best seller, the book worked in tandem with Fear of Flying (1973) to give millions of married women pause: is my marriage really satisfying? How did I get here? Should I leave? Ex-Prom Queen was one of the first books where a woman revealed rights of passage that were decidedly un prom-like: date rape, marital rape, infidelity, illegal abortions -- all in the same year that Roe vs. Wade was being debated in the Supreme Court. More
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