Monday, April 13, 2015

Great Books + Films (2015)

"The part of art which is art, and not device, unshackles us from usefulness almost entirely. It emplaces us far into those impractical conditions that nonetheless feel to us somehow essential: laughter, contemplation, wonder, tears."

-Jane Hirshfield in Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World

The following books and films - some new, some older - have met the above "impractical conditions" for me so far this year.


Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness
Art on Fire
Suspended Sentences
The End of Days
O. Henry Prize Stories (2014) 
Do Not Deny Me
An Innocent Abroad: Life-Changing Trips from 35 Great Writers
101 Places Not to See Before You Die
Paul Bowles' Travels: Collected Writings
The Accidental
Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent
The Sheltering Sky
The Time of the Assassins
The Ten Thousand Things
H is for Hawk
Elegy on Kinderklavier
The Dream of a Common Language
Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary
Harlequin’s Millions
Happy Are the Happy
The Seventh Day
Without You There is No Us
Belfast Noir
All Days are Night
How We Are
The Interpreter
Refund: Stories
The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: Stories
Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays
The Charterhouse of Parma
Traveling in Place: Armchair Travel
City Beasts: 14 Stories
A Bad Character
Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932
Girl in a Band
Mozart in the Jungle
A Season in Hell
Blue Angel
Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens
Wolf Hall + Bring Up the Bodies
The Girl Next Door
The Scapegoat
Irma Voth
Lost Illusions
Giving Up the Ghost
Beyond the Chestnut Trees
Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World
Munich Airport
When We Were Orphans
Alys, Always
On the Move: A Life
The Long-Winded Lady
Hausfrau: A Novel
Haiku: Basho, Buson, Issa
Milosz: Selected and Last Poems
An Artist of the Floating World
Girl at War


The Vanishing (original Danish version)
The Cold Lands
Foreign Letters
The Duel
Donkey Skin
Naked Lunch
Bay of Angels  
Sophie Scholl: Final Days
Umbrellas of Cherbourg
An Unreasonable Man
The Heiress 
Level Five
Abuse of Weakness
For a Woman
I Am Yours
Mon Oncle 
The Silence
Now, Voyager
Oranges and Sunshine
A Man Escaped
Pan’s Labyrinth   
Polanski’s Macbeth
Get On Up                                                              
Nine Lives                                                              
A Night to Remember
My Own Private Idaho
Force Majeure
Bird People
Fugitive Pieces
Silent Light
The Strange Little Cat
Olive Kitteridge
The Little Bedroom
Place of Execution
Art and Craft
If You Don't, I Will
The Babadook
Winter Sleep
Mr. Turner
The Nun

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Leaving Berlin

I've just started reading Joseph Kanon's Leaving Berlin and it occurred to me that five years ago yesterday, I left New York City for Berlin, where I spent six months (in Schoneberg and in Prenzlauer Berg), connecting with artists, learning German, writing about art and culture, and traveling throughout the country. (Please see Leipzig, Unter den Linden, Potsdam, In East Berlin, Biking the Berlin Wall, and History Lessons for some of my observations.) Six months isn't that long in the grand scheme of things; I have spent much longer periods of time in other cities/countries, but somehow, Berlin takes up more space on my brain's hard drive. At the risk of sounding too eerie, I think it's because of the ghosts you encounter in unexpected places in every corner of the city. It is this juxtaposition of the past with the present that I experienced in 2010 that Alex, the protagonist of Kanon's novel, experiences when he revisits the city of his birth in 1949.

Thank you to the lovely guys at St. George's New & Second-Hand English Bookstore in Prenzlauer Berg, for all the book recommendations. I read about 50 in all during my stay, many of them set in Berlin - Fatherland, Alone in Berlin, Stasiland, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, Berlin Stories, Berlin Diaries, The Weimar Culture, and Berlin - The City and the Court. Being physically and historically immersed in the past and present of a place makes for a lasting imprint no matter where, and is undoubtedly why Berlin continues to haunt me.