Life writing – which includes a wide spectrum of sub-genres such as (auto)biography, memoir, letter, diary, (digital) life stories, and oral histories – has a long tradition in the U.S. and is becoming more and more popular all over the world. An abundance of artifacts compiled by famous, semi-famous, and not-at-all-famous people fill public libraries, private bookshelves, research centers, social media, hard drives, and websites. And that’s actually not even surprising since writing and/or talking about ourselves is a deeply rooted cultural practice and comes very naturally to most human beings. We do it all the time: We tell a significant someone how our day was, we put together our résumé when applying for a new job, we talk about childhood memories with siblings or a close friend. However, talking and writing about ourselves in an academic context and, to boot, in a foreign language is a completely different story.
While her neighbors rush down the street to catch the school bus, 14-year-old Lilah Hadden starts her school day at home. After spending the morning on math and creative writing with her mother, she takes a violin class online, finishing her day with independent reading. For two years now, homeschooling has worked well for her. “I’m getting to … learn more of what I actually want to learn about,” Lilah says, noting that she’s particularly passionate about music. But if it weren’t for the pandemic, the idea to school at home would never have crossed her mind.
Covid-19 forced students around the globe to learn without physically going to school, as entire states and countries went through long periods of lockdown. It’s sparked new interest in homeschooling alternatives in places ranging from Des Moines, Iowa, to Hamburg, Germany, where homeschooling has been banned for over a century. Students have discovered that alternative school arrangements can offer more flexibility to manage differences, pandemic stress, and distractions.
Michael Fassbender, Marisa Tomei, and Alexandra Daddario: What do these three actors have in common?
You may not know all of them, but what you need to know is that they’ve all played a character from a book or a comic, and that they don’t look like their book-alikes at all! For some people, this may not be relevant, but for book fans, who’ve lived side-by side with their fictional characters, it’s highly important that an actor who somewhat resembles the protagonist in the book plays the role. I’m an avid reader, and whenever the rights to one of my favourite books are bought, I begin to think about the perfect actor who would best fit the role.
Robin Wall Kimmerer’s presence is magnetic. Stepping out to the podium at the 2014 Bioneers Conference – an annual forum for topics like climate change and human rights – her silver hair hangs loosely, framing a pair of leather earrings decorated with small pink flowers. She greets the crowd with a large smile, and when she speaks, the room falls silent and the audience listens closely:
“Let us begin today with gratitude … of food to eat, of sweet air to breathe this morning, the preciousness of water, the companionship of clouds, and geese, and sugar maples. Gratitude for each other, for the privilege of our work together, and for the original peoples in whose homeland we meet, and for the more-than-human beings with whom we share the earth.”
Such poetic and tender, prayer-like words come as a surprise for some when they realize that these are the words of a scientist and professor.
Have you ever felt like not watching movies for a while just because you saw one that’s so damn good you knew watching anything else after it would just disappoint you? This is the spell that Mulholland Drive has cast on me.
David Lynch’s 2001 movie was chosen by a BBC poll as the best of the 21st century, yet for me, it’s more than that. For me, it’s the definition of art. Maybe that makes me too much of a New Formalist, but I do believe that what counts in a work of art is not the ‘what’ but the ‘how’. Lynch takes what could simply be a lesbian love story and explores its other dimensions – jealousy, toxicity, rivalry, and betrayal – while at the same time intertwining it with a Hollywood dream. Though this is fascinating, it’s not what sets it apart. What ‘does’ set it apart is how Lynch tells this story in the form of an unnerving, haunting, surrealistic, Freudian mystery/thriller.
It’s so easy to take peace for granted, when we have it.
In my 2012 book, The Great Game: Berlin-Warsaw Express and Other Stories, the character Cal, an American writer living in Berlin, commits the sin of lamenting peace as dull. Boarding the train for Warsaw at Zoo station, looking out his window as the Reichstag and Brandenburg Gate slip by, he reflects on how “concrete, barbed wire and gun turrets had been replaced by a currywurst stand, shoe stores, and other unremarkable trappings of the everyday. Everything looked so normal, as if people had never argued let alone fought here. The graveyard of communism and fascism looked beautiful with its flowers and its river in the sunshine.”
But Cal – named for his safe, privileged, native California – was frustrated. “The banality of today’s prosperity be damned,” he thought. “‘Orson Welles was right about the cuckoo clocks.’ On this day, Cal was not interested in sunshine, flowers and rivers. He wanted shadows, smoke and bastards. He wanted danger.”