The spell of words … a wonderful book in which a Booker prizewinner explains what makes classic short stories work so well.

This book is a delight, and it’s about delight too. How necessary, at our particular moment. Novelist and short story writer George Saunders has been teaching creative writing at Syracuse University in the US for the last 20 years, including a course in the 19th-century Russian short story in translation. “A few years back, after the end of one class (chalk dust hovering in the autumnal air, old-fashioned radiator clanking in the corner, marching band processing somewhere in the distance, let’s say),” he had the realisation that “some of the best moments of my life, the moments during which I’ve really felt myself offering something of value to the world, have been spent teaching that Russian class.”

Now Saunders has developed as essays some of the thoughts arising from those classes, and put them together into a book alongside the stories he’s discussing – by Chekhov, Tolstoy, Turgenev and Gogol. These essays aren’t anything like academic analysis. The questions that get asked in a reading-for-writers class are inflected differently from literary criticism – “Why did the writer do this?” rather than “How must we read this?” – even if they converge finally on the same points of appreciation, and the same questions of meaning.

Quelle: A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders review – rules for good writing, and more

For further reading here the link for a very nice interview with George Saunders about his new short stories collection „Liberation Day“ in the „Time“: https://time.com/6221432/george-saunders-liberation-day-interview/

What was it like to write stories after your intensive study of Chekhov, Turgenev, and other Russian greats?

There was a little bit of feeling inspired, because getting inside those stories really got me energized about the form—and also made me realize there were things within the form that I hadn’t tried yet. Those Russian stories are so good at creating feelings of confusion and ambiguity on the part of the reader, and at the end, they say, “All these things are true.” They just leave you in that space, going, “What am I supposed to believe?” And the story’s going to say, “Well, all of it.” So that’s something I’m trying to do.

In Liberation Day, it feels like you’re leaning even more into ambiguity, leaving space for the reader’s interpretation.

It might have to do with the times in which it was written, because the highest form of wisdom I could find to get through the last three or four years is to say something like, “Admit everything. Admit all sides of the issue. Admit my own confusion about what’s going on politically and with COVID.” And don’t try to do what I might normally do, which is to tilt toward optimism or a sort of facile accommodation. Life is complicated. Let’s leave everything in.

https://scribe.rip/@kiyoshimatsumoto/wabi-sabi-japans-simplistic-way-of-life-40fbb0ec3492

Wabi-Sabi is Japanese acceptance of imperfections as both meaningful and in their own way, beautiful — a refuge from the modern world’s obsession with perfection. Wabi-sabi is a concept of aesthetics, which helps us see the world in a whole new way. With roots in Zen as well as the tea ceremony wabi-sabi serves to remind us that everything in nature is impermanent, imperfect and incomplete. It promotes imperfection as the natural state of all things, including ourselves. A belief in wabi-sabi takes the pressure off the need to pursue perfection, allowing us to relax more in everyday living.

Here is a beautiful quote by Richard Powell, author of Wabi-Sabi Simple. “Wabi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect”.

This quote captures the essence of wabi-sabi and is a lesson for life. Life moves on whether we are ready for it or not. The fact we are here is a wonderful miracle. Let’s harness our strengths, our true nature — faults and all. And get moving. Love who we are. Your face will change. Your body will change. So too will your knowledge and abilities. Regardless of how we each look, think, or feel, we will always be us. You will always be you. I will always be me. And time will always move on.

Below a link for the traditional tea ceremony in Japan:

https://mai-ko.com/travel/culture-in-japan/tea-ceremony/japanese-tea-ceremony/

The founder of the tea ceremony Sen no Rikyu stated that the meaning of tea ceremony means being present at the moment and realizing that every moment only occurs once. His philosophy is known as ichi go ichi e : one time – one meeting. This phrase roughly translates as “every moment occurs only once” or “cherish every moment” or “once in a lifetime chance.” 

The tea ceremony is not about the taste. It is all about enjoying the moment and remembering that this moment will never repeat. We have to forget about everything and just focus on drinking tea in harmony. Even when two people meet in the same room and drink from the same cup, it is not the same moment. The tea meeting, which may seem like a simple routine, should be deeply enjoyed as that tea moment will never come back.

The director’s audacious new film about Auschwitz’s commandant was 10 years in the making. He explains how it was made – and the importance of finding light in the darkness

Quelle: Jonathan Glazer on his Holocaust film The Zone of Interest: ‘This is not about the past, it’s about now’

The environment in which kids grow up today is hostile to human development.

This article is adapted from Jonathan Haidt’s forthcoming book, The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness.

The intrusion of smartphones and social media are not the only changes that have deformed childhood. There’s an important backstory, beginning as long ago as the 1980s, when we started systematically depriving children and adolescents of freedom, unsupervised play, responsibility, and opportunities for risk taking, all of which promote competence, maturity, and mental health. But the change in childhood accelerated in the early 2010s, when an already independence-deprived generation was lured into a new virtual universe that seemed safe to parents but in fact is more dangerous, in many respects, than the physical world.

My claim is that the new phone-based childhood that took shape roughly 12 years ago is making young people sick and blocking their progress to flourishing in adulthood. We need a dramatic cultural correction, and we need it now.

Quelle: End the Phone-Based Childhood Now

„All of Us Strangers“ (2023) by Andrew Haigh based on the novel „Strangers“ by Taichi Yamada, last scene:
HARRY
How long will this last?
A beat. A memory of something Adam’s Mum said to him.
ADAM
I can’t answer that. I suppose we
don’t get to decide when it’s
over.
(then)
For now, why don’t I just hold you
a bit longer.
Harry looks as if he may be about to say something but
decides against it. They don’t need to declare their
love. Actions are enough.
Harry turns over and lets Adam hold him from behind. The
same position Harry was in downstairs. But now he is no
longer by himself.
HARRY
(barely a whisper)
It’s so quiet in here. I never
could stand how quiet this place
was. Will you put a record on?
ADAM
What would you like?
HARRY
You choose.
The piano introduction to THE POWER OF LOVE by FRANKIE
GOES TO HOLLYWOOD starts to play. We don’t need to know
how. Adam whispers with the opening words.
ADAM
I’ll protect you from the hooded
claw / Keep the vampires from your
door.
Harry smiles.
As the song builds, Adam holds Harry tighter, comforted
at last, cared for at last, no longer strangers. Harry’s
breathing slows.
“Love is the light, scaring darkness away”.

While All of Us Strangers was tricky, both tonally and as a story rooted deeply in internal experience, another challenge of the project for Alberts was figuring out how to grapple with the way in which the protagonist ends up “slipping between these worlds of the 1980s and contemporary London” in the story.

“We wanted the audience to feel dislocated, but anchored, not mired in confusion, but consistently questioning, is this real? Is this not real?” says the editor. “I feel like you always want to have an audience ask those questions, and you want to keep them active, and to keep putting the puzzle together. But when you’re creating a film that is essentially a bit of a puzzle, it’s always a question of, is this puzzle going to fit together? Because you can create a puzzle that doesn’t quite fit together, and people are just like, ‘I don’t know what’s going on.’”

This is often the case, Alberts says, “in early cuts of films,” though All of Us Strangers was “delicate editorially,” on the whole, and could have easily been steered in the wrong direction.

Part of the goal for Haigh, as far as the viewing experience, was to leave his audience looking inward and asking themselves questions of their own lives in the aftermath. “We wanted the film to live on and linger on in their minds, so that asking those questions reveals stuff about their own lives and stuff about their own stories,” he says, “stuff about the people they’ve loved in their lives and the people they’ve lost.” https://deadline.com/video/all-of-us-strangers-editing-andrew-haigh-jonathan-alberts-interview/

And what the hell is the ending about?

In the last scene of All of Us Strangers, Adam and Harry cuddle up together on a bed. Harry asks Adam to put on a record, and without him doing so, The Power of Love by Frankie Goes to Hollywood comes on – Adam was watching an old Top of the Pops performance of it from 1984 when Harry came knocking at the beginning of the film. The song contains the deeply romantic declaration “I’ll protect you from the Hooded Claw / Keep the vampires from your door”; in a (to him, unconscious) allusion to the lyrics, Harry had told Adam, as the older man turned him away, “there’s vampires outside my door”.

Now Adam and Harry can truly love, console, protect and care for each other, but it’s a brutally bittersweet image as it’s happening in some kind of supernatural realm, not real life. As the camera gets further and further away from the spooning lovers, it depicts them as one of a constellation of stars in a night sky, perhaps the other lonely strangers of the film’s title.

So is Adam also dead? I don’t think Haigh means us to think that he is. I think the image says that love is strong enough to smash the boundary between life and death, and that it’s our only defence against the infinite darkness that surrounds us, something Adam has come to understand after spending a lifetime running away from his own desperate need for human connection. Now, I think I may have something in my eye …
https://www.theguardian.com/film/2024/jan/26/all-of-us-strangers-sex-death-ghosts-and-that-ending-discuss-with-spoilers

Much of All of Us Strangers’ emotional power comes from the brutally repressed Adam attempting to dispel his feelings of shame and isolation in order to be seen and loved for the person he truly is. To this end, he takes the opportunity, denied to him by their death, to come out to his mum and dad, separately. His mum is shocked – “Isn’t it a very lonely life?” – and worried about Aids. His dad, not unkindly, says: “We always knew you were a bit tutti-frutti.” Says Haigh: “The coming-out scenes are about the importance of being known. It’s very hard to move through life if you feel you’re not understood. And if you’re not understood, you feel you’re alone.”

Adam asks his father why he would never come into his room to comfort him when he was crying after being bullied at school – something else Haigh suffered. “I was about nine, and the kids around me knew something was different about me before I really did,” he says. “So you’re like, ‘I don’t understand why you’re calling me these names.’ But they could feel it somehow. When my mum saw the film, she was like, ‘Is this what happened to you?’ And I was like, ‘Yes.’ If you’re a queer kid, you don’t want to tell your parents you’re being bullied, because they’re going to think you’re different, and that’s the last thing you want. It’s the hardest thing, sometimes, about being queer within a family – you’re not like your parents and you have a secret.”

As its narcotic, dreamlike feel sets in, All of Us Strangers increasingly wrongfoots the audience. “I saw the film as a spiral, and it kept getting woozier and stranger,” Haigh says. Adam starts to get feverish, which is unexplained in the film, though Haigh points out that it happens after his mother mentions Aids. “I think all of us gay men of that generation know that every time we had a bit of a sweat if we were having sex with other people, we were suddenly terrified that we were going to have HIV,” Haigh says. “A swollen gland was not just a swollen gland. I wanted to have that trickling under the surface, that Aids is another fear that Adam has buried. I’m telling a ghost story – what are the things that haunt him?”

Although the film has a particular, queer point of view, Andrew Haigh believes its universal themes make it accessible to everyone. “All of us are children, a lot of us are parents, a lot of us are in a relationship or not finding love. Look, I want 15-year-olds to see this movie, not just people our age. If I had seen this film when I was 15, it would probably have made a big difference to me.”
https://www.theguardian.com/film/2023/dec/29/a-generation-of-queer-people-are-grieving-for-the-childhood-they-never-had-andrew-haigh-on-all-of-us-strangers

Seit einigen Jahren setzt sich der Wiener Comiczeichner Nicolas Mahler mit der Hochkultur auseinander. Als Freibeuter im Meer der Weltliteratur macht er sich ein Werk nach dem anderen zu eigen. Zum 100. Todestag von Franz Kafka sind gleich zwei Arbeiten von ihm erschienen. Bereits im Vorjahr konnte ich mit ihm über Faszinierendes und Skurriles in Leben und Werk des Prager Schriftstellers austauschen.

Quelle: »Jeder hat sofort ein Bild von Kafka«

A journey into Wim Wenders’ meditative cinema: Perfect Days, a breath of fresh air that celebrates the extraordinariness of the everyday through a personal visual and auditory reflection, capturing the landscapes of Tokyo’s working class and the philosophy of the hic et nunc. A photograph of Komorebi, the natural phenomenon of sunlight filtering through the trees.

Hirayama embodies the quintessence of Komorebi (木漏れ日), a japanese word describing sunlight shining through the leaves of trees, creating overlapping layers of light and darkness; a powerful metaphor for the central theme of this meditative cinema: a way to recognize and surrender to the invisible and transcendental beauty of the here and now.

“At a certain point in his life, Hirayama decided to leave a condition of extreme privilege for a simple life, cleaning toilets, and he does it with pleasure; he is happy. He lives modestly as a service person, invisible to others, but he sees everything. The routine is not a burden for him; instead, it gives him a lot of freedom. In our lives, the term ‘routine’ often carries a negative connotation, but he experiences it as a ritual, and each time he performs it as if it were the first.” (Wim Wenders)

Quelle: Perfect Days – EN – Muse

I’m very pleased to post a draft of my forthcoming essay with Professor Woodrow Hartzog (BU Law), Kafka in the Age of AI and the Futility of Privacy as

Quelle: Kafka in the Age of AI and the Futility of Privacy as Control

John Warner stellt mit Blick auf ChatGPT die Frage, was am aktuellen Schreibunterricht eigentlich erhaltenswert ist und was wir getrost über Bord werfen können. Beitrag in Deutsch und Englisch (post in German and English).

Quelle: Was erhaltenswert ist, wird bleiben – ChatGPT und das Schreiben im Unterricht (Gastbeitrag John Warner) – Unterrichten Digital