LRR

April 22, 2014

Rizzoli’s Requiem

By Laurencia Ciprus in LRR

Rizzoli’s Requiem

They boarded up the Rizzoli bookstore on 57th Street. I really loved the place and am very, very sad. My Kindle will never go the distance as an adequate consolation prize. Why? Rizzoli conferred a sense of place and it was mine. It was an extravagantly beautiful home for incredibly gorgeous books and offered high, middle and lowbrow book freaks a landmark experience just by pushing past the fancy entrance. It was not only an architectural marvel adorned with period wrought iron, ornate plaster ceilings and abundant shelves reaching up to the gods, but the place just smelled great. It smelled of hope and possibility; the perspiration of inspiration and, of course – books – thousands and thousands of books. Rizzoli wore the perfumed angst of a million editorial choices: fonts and paper, ink and cover stock and on, and on and on. Touching the pristine covers, smelling the printer’s ink and appreciating the thousands of hours and decisions that go into the gestalt of one single volume was damned humbling. The book you finally selected, purchased and shepherded out that door became permanent memories.
Rizzoli facade
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Bookstores like Rizzoli are the fetishes of hardcore readers as casinos are to gamblers – enough is never enough. I have a friend who flew into JFK from India, lugging along four empty suitcases earmarked for books and although impossibly jetlagged, spent two days in Rizzoli’s buying books with equal fervor to her celebration of Diwali. We recalled that trip last week as we texted across the planet mourning the news of the closure. I’ll be hard pressed to find a worthy substitute for this ritual when she returns to the city next year.
The closure also reminds me of another literary experience on the left coast. City Lights Books in San Francisco – which happily remains in business with a strong pulse – was founded in 1953 by poet, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin as an incubator for Beat generation thinkers like Alan Ginsberg and as a self proclaimed “Literary Landmark” for alternative culture as a whole. I sincerely doubt that I would treasure my edition of “Howl” a tenth as much if I had purchased it with “one click” on Amazon. Each time I give it a read I recall the dusty spirituality of the place: of sitting on a rickety stool skimming anarchistic doctrines, breathing in the perfume of rebellion with the spice of counter culture suspended in the air. It was a abundant reward for the steep trek up Stockton to the outer edges of South Beach hidden in the fog and rain.
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So what is really lost when great bookstores are tossed the curb by rabid commercial developers who bolt the doors permanently shut? You lose the chance to get inspired by a total experience and not a virtual volume. You lose the chance to create a memory that re-ignites when a spine is cracked. You also lose another cathedral which maintains the
sacred reverence of the book – the simple book – which tragically, may end up as an artifact in another fifty years. Sit on the floor of a bookstore while you can. Close your eyes, touch a cover, feel the weight of words in your hand and riffle through pristine, knife edged pages. Breathe in deeply, commit it to memory and then do it again.

April 19, 2014

Travel Notes: Your Local Supermarket

By Nikki Barnhart in LRR

The literary journal Literary Bohemian features a section called “Travel Notes.” This is a space for the vagabonds of the world to publish their thoughts on their adventures, but LitBo’s editors refuse to publish anything typical, or cliche. Travel Notes doesn’t have to be for the European jet-setter; in fact, editor Collin Lewis notes, “we never publish typical travel stories. I keep hoping someone will submit Travel Notes about visiting their local supermarket.” Challenge accepted.

What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, as I walked across the street-lamp-lighted parking lot towards my friendly neighborhood supermarket. My step is accompanied by the ghostly clatter of shopping carts being pushed back into their rightful place in the store, by a sighing and red-vested boy. A woman in a shawl waits on a bench outside the store, under a sign declaring “Make Hummus Your Hero!” She is illuminated by the light of the store behind her, but she stares out into darkness. I turn my gaze away and proceed into the building, welcomed by the sliding doors. They make a whoosh and like that, I am swept up into a fluorescent lighted museum of sustenance, the neon fruit supermarket. It’s late now, and some departments have closed down, casting a darkness across the room. I walk around the islands of fruit, the days remains of still- hopeful baked goods. I think of what my mother used to tell me when I was a child, groaning at being dragged along for an afternoon of errands. “Supermarkets are small miracles,” she said, “so many people in the world don’t have access to aisles and aisles of food.” I see that now, I see all the promises the store declares. Its proud banners, its coupons and promotions. I walk through the empty aisles in front of me, the rows and rows of neatly stacked boxes and cans and packages, seemingly waiting for me, entirely at my disposal. Once in the dairy section, I saw a hand come from the back to push in a whole new row of milk – I was awestruck at this magic and it still fascinates me. There’s a safety in supermarkets, with the soft-pop playing over head, the hum of the refrigerators, and the cheerful, resounding beep of the register ever-reminding you that you aren’t alone. But there’s such an eeriness, and a loneliness as well. I remember that book “From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,” about the girl and her brother who ran away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to sleep among the sphinxes and the sculptures. A sleepover at a supermarket wouldn’t do so well, with the lights turned down, as the meat rotted, and the dairy expired. They’re waiting for us, but not forever. The eternity of the conveyer belts leads us astray – all promises run out.

(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the supermarket and feel absurd.)

April 15, 2014

Top Ten Screenplays

By Hilary Graham in LRR

April 15, 2014: Yet another rainy (almost monsoon-like) day in Storrs, Connecticut, home of our beloved Long River and the UConn Huskies. The weather outside is so stiflingly crappy, it seems like the perfect day to make yourself a cup of tea (Nyanka certainly recommends it, here’s why), curl up in bed, and read a screenplay. ‘A screenplay?!’ you say. Yes, a screenplay. Why are you so shocked? Or am I the only one who does that…? You act as if it’s abnormal.

Okay so maybe it is a little weird. Why spend the time reading endless dialogue and bland descriptions when I can just enjoy the film? It’s probably in part just because I’m strange and love movies, BUT it’s mostly because I love watching the way dialogue can move a plot and tie everything together. In my previous post, I discussed how greatly the large number of contributors influence the final interpretation of a ‘novel-to-screen’ film; the movie inevitably creates a different vision than an individual reader might. The film’s production team have the same affect on a screenplay: the final product is going to be a conglomeration of 100+ peoples’ interpretation of it. The script contains the bare bones of what the film actually becomes, so reading it allows you to see what’s there before those one hundred different people got their hands on it. What’s the benefit of this for me? First off, frankly I find admirable how much characterization and development these writers can pack into such little space and description. Second, as someone who’d like to make something of a career out of writing, I find script reading generates new ideas on how even small lines of dialogue can work to mold a character or plot.

But maybe you don’t plan on going into a career of writing for film, or are unwilling to scan through hundreds of pages of script. It’s still cool to be able to appreciate how the dialogue molds the film and be aware of the carefully structured plot. Plus, screenwriters don’t get nearly enough recognition. I laid out ten films (in no particular order) that make it easy to appreciate their witty or poignant dialogue and multilayered plot structure.

 

1. Annie Hall (1977)

Written by super-star director Woody Allen (winner of the Cecil B. Demille award for Lifetime achievement) and Marshall Brickman, the film follows protagonist Alvy Singer as he tries to figure out the cause of his failed relationship with Annie. The humorous and poignant conversations between Alvy and Annie create bold, three dimensional characters and whimsical, clever situations.

2. Pulp Fiction


Picking just one Quintien Tarantino film for the list was more challenging than I can say, but Pulp Fiction was the definite winner. The dialogue is electric with its witty wisecracks, and the three stories weave together seamlessly (not to mention the visuals stylistically unmatched).

3. Some Like It Hot

Billy Wilder is one of the most iconic names in script writing history, and Some Like it Hot is, in my humble opinion, his most emblematic piece. Cynical, satirical, and hilarious, the script creates dry humor in the face of ridiculous situations.

4. Casablanca (1942)

I felt that I had to include at least one classic in this list, although I may have included Casablanca regardless. The Epstein brothers (Julius and Philip) use the dialogue throughout to create a deep nostalgia and affection for Rick and Ilsa’s lost love. Rick’s repeated phrase, “Here’s looking at you kid,” works to tie the both the story and the characters together. (Not to mention the film’s final lines are some of the most frequently quoted ever).

5. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)


One of my all time favorites, this film works to examine the inner workings of a dysfunctional family. Michael Arndt dialogue is charming and whimsical, but also poignant and touching. The parts each family member fulfills within the unit is so dynamic and realistic, even just through their patterns of interaction.

6. In Bruges (2008)

Great film that I discovered during over winter break this year. It’s a little known black comedy starring Colin Farrell which follows the story of a hit-man in hiding. The writing is quick, snappy, and utilizes underplayed humor. Reading the script helped me catch some of the jokes that got lost in Farrell’s quick Irish accent. (Beware Profanity!)

7. Talk to Her (2002) Habla con Ella


The film is written in Spanish, so I had to find a translated version, but even still: WOW. Pedro Almodovar presents an unflinching and haunting portrayal of miscommunications between men and women, and the inability to manage loss with love.

8. Good Will Hunting (1997)


Alright, I must admit that I have a soft spot for both Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (and their adorable freaking friendship!!), so that may have earned them a spot on this list. Regardless, the script’s portrayal of Will slowly opening up to Sean Maguire is an exquisite exploration of psychotherapy and the resistance many feel towards revealing suppressed emotions. Plus “how you like them apples”? Such a great line.

9. When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Since I only picked one Woody Allen film, I chose another that was clearly influence by his honest and quirky style. Although I personally find Harry’s big confession of love a bit cliche, the rest of the film is an honest inspection of imperfect friendship that grows into an imperfect love. Harry has huge commitment issues, Sally doesn’t quite ask for what she wants, but their relationship is realistic in all its flaws. Nora Ephron does a wonderful job of creating lovable, eccentric characters that hop off the page.

10. City Of God (2002) Cidade de Deus


This one is also a foreign film, this time out of Brazil and told in Portuguese. With its interweaving plots, the script explores the violence and mayhem created by drug culture in Rio de Janeiro. What puts this film on my top ten list is its truly unique storytelling method. The screenplay’s strange control of story amid this constant switching of character lines replicates the hectic, dangerous lifestyle these characters must adapt to for survival.

Bonus:

Memento: You read this far, so I suppose you deserve an extra treat. Plus, this was so close to being in the top ten because its such an awesome idea. However, story structure is a little wonky. Rewatching the film, I notice several plot holes (which many have attempted to explain, but I’m not buying it). Regardless, it’s still a film I recommend watching (or reading!!) that will have you guessing until the end.

 

If this post piqued any interest in reading some screenplays, Simply Scripts has a great collection of award winners!

April 12, 2014

Third Time’s Charm

By Juliemarie in LRR

A special thanks to HTML Giant for bringing UConn’s literary journal to the Final Four. Also congrats to the University of Florida, University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Kentucky. We love you guys.

Click the bracket if you want to read the article:

lrr bracket

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