In an historical first, the President of the United States sits down to interview an American woman writer about her life and work

From The New York Review of Books:

The President: Well, as you know—I’ve told you this—I love your books. Some listeners may not have read your work before, which is good, because hopefully they’ll go out and buy your books after this conversation.

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Marilynne Robinson, Gilead (1980)

I first picked up Gilead, one of your most wonderful books, here in Iowa. Because I was campaigning at the time, and there’s a lot of downtime when you’re driving between towns and when you get home late from campaigning. And you and I, therefore, have an Iowa connection, because Gilead is actually set here in Iowa.

And I’ve told you this—one of my favorite characters in fiction is a pastor in Gilead, Iowa, named John Ames, who is gracious and courtly and a little bit confused about how to reconcile his faith with all the various travails that his family goes through. And I was just—I just fell in love with the character, fell in love with the book, and then you and I had a chance to meet when you got a fancy award at the White House. And then we had dinner and our conversations continued ever since.

So anyway, that’s enough context. You just have completed a series of essays that are not fiction, and I had a chance to read one of them about fear and the role that fear may be playing in our politics and our democracy and our culture.* And you looked at it through the prism of Christianity and sort of the Protestant traditions that helped shape us, so I thought maybe that would be a good place to start. (more…)

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The Irish Modernist writer James Joyce was born on this day in 1882

From the James Joyce Centre, Dublin:

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James Joyce

He was born at 41 Brighton Square, Rathgar, at 6 o’clock on the morning of Thursday 2 February 1882. He was baptised on 5 February at St Joseph’s Church, Terenure Road East, when his godparents were his maternal grandmother Ellen McCann, and Philip McCann. His birth wasn’t registered until 20 March, when his name was mis-recorded as James Augusta Joyce.

2 February is Candlemas Day, which Joyce thought gave his birthday some religious significance, and it’s also Ground Hog Day. He claimed to have the same birthday as his friend James Stephens, the Irish author, and was born in the same year as Wyndham Lewis, Frank Budgen and Eamon de Valera. (more…)

The New Yorker film critic puzzles over the Academy’s choices [Read More]

The Austrian filmmaker discusses his approach to adaptation in an interview with The Paris Review
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Michael Haneke

Luisa Zielinski (Interviewer)

Still, tell me a little more about the process of adapting literary works for the screen. The Piano Teacher isn’t the only example in your oeuvre. There’s also your made-for-TV adaptation of Kafka’s Castle. What struck me about the latter is that it’s almost aberrantly faithful to the novel.

Michael Haneke

The Piano Teacher was the only time I adapted a novel for the cinema, and that in itself was something of a coincidence. I didn’t write the script for myself, but for a friend who had acquired the rights. My friend tried for ten years to secure a budget for the film, but it didn’t work out. In the end, I was persuaded to direct the film myself, even though that hadn’t been my original intention at all. I agreed to do it on the condition that Isabelle Huppert play the lead role. And she did. (more…)

Author of Wittgenstein Jr and the Spurious trilogy of novels describes Bernhard’s devilish sensibility

Thomas Bernhard is a kind of figurehead for many authors, I think. I’m reminded of what Henry Rollins said of Mark E Smith in a documentary about The Fall:

He really is that guy you really hoped you could be. If you were in a band, you really don’t want to care what people think, but you do. And you really want to crank out a record every nine months, but you can’t. And you’d love to keep surprising people and baffling your critics by every third album turning out your best music.

Bernhard’s reclusiveness from the literary scene, his intransigence, the barbed acceptance speeches he gave for literary prizes, make him an exemplar. He just doesn’t care what the literary world thinks. At the same time, he writes and writes, one masterpiece following on the heels of another. (more…)