Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Recovered American Classic: "The Lost Weekend" by Charles Jackson (An Interview with Charles Jackson Biographer Blake Bailey)

Novels are often overshadowed to the point of near oblivion by successful film versions. Forrest Gump. The Silence of the Lambs. Kramer vs. Kramer. Midnight Cowboy. In the Heat of the Night. True Grit. The Graduate. Would anyone think of this as a list of novels?

Similarly,The Lost Weekend  is remembered today, if it is remembered at all, as an Oscar winning 1945 film directed by Billy Wilder and starring Ray Milland as a struggling and not so young anymore writer on a harrowing, five-day drinking binge in Manhattan.

The even harder hitting novel The Lost Weekend by Charles Jackson, upon which the movie is based, was published seventy years ago this month, in January 1944. The Lost Weekend sold a half million copies in its first few years of publication, was translated into several languages, and made its author famous, at least for awhile.

Jackson and his novel have recently emerged from the shadows. Vintage Books has brought out a trade paperback edition ofThe Lost Weekend. Also, a superb biography of Jackson -- Farther and Wilder: The Lost Weekends and Literary Dreams of Charles Jackson -- by Blake Bailey was published by Alfred A. Knopf.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

TCR Story of the Month for January -- "Translating Kun" by Inderjeet Mani

Inderjeet Mani
The Committee Room is pleased to offer "Translating Kun" by Inderjeet Mani as TCR Story of the Month for January.

"Translating Kun" is set in Thailand, which Mani calls a "land of bars and Buddhism" and nights "full of heady tropical scents with the chatter of humans and insects riding on the breeze." Employing a dreamlike mood, the story looks at the very different realities of a pleasure seeking expatriate writer and a hardworking Thai woman with whom he is involved.
Inderjeet Mani studied creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania, at Bread Loaf, and at Harvard. He has been published in Eclectica, BLIP Magazine (now New World Writing), 3:AM Magazine, Drunken Boat (Finalist for the Pan Literary Award, also one of storySouth’s Million Writers Award Notable Stories of 2007), Nimrod (Finalist for Katherine Anne Porter Prize), WIND (2003 Short Fiction Award), Word Riot, Asia Writes, The Deccan Herald, and various other venues. His books include The Imagined Moment, which analyzes time in fiction. Mani is also one of the people behind the Solpix lit-film web portal.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Healing Power of Fiction: "The Novel Cure" by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin

"This is a medical handbook -- with a difference," begins the introduction to The Novel Cure, a comprehensive guide to bibliotheraputic treatments to help alleviate physical and mental pain.

What is bibliotherapy?  "The prescribing of fiction for life's ailments," is the definition provided by The Novel Cure authors Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin. Berthoud and Elderkin are both members of the faculty at The School of Life, a London-based international organization founded in 2008 by essayist and philosopher Alain de Botton, that is devoted to developing emotional intelligence through the help of culture.

Suffering people have long turned to non-fiction self-help books for assistance. But fiction? Can reading fiction really help cure what ails you? Berthoud and Elderkin unequivocally say yes. "Our belief in the effectiveness of fiction as the purest and best form of bibliotherapy is based on our own experience with patients and bolstered by an avalanche of anecdotal evidence," they write in The Novel Cure. "Some treatments will lead to a complete cure. Others will simply offer solace, showing you that you are not alone. All will offer temporary relief of your symptoms due to the power of literature to distract and transport."