Even if I am not able to remember the pitter-patter of my little feet on the rug-covered hardwood floor anymore, I still recall this comfortable feeling I had sleeping over at my grandparents. The times I woke up in the morning in my room, climbed out of my bed, sneaked across the hallway to my grandparents’ room, and came to a stop right in front of my grandmother’s bed. I looked straight at her face, her eyes still closed. It never took more than a minute before she opened them, smiled at me, and said, “Good morning, my little darling.” Read more
ollywood, 1936: Monroe Stahr (Matt Bomer), co-founder of the Brady American film studio, has just begun shooting a film about – and dedicated to – his deceased wife and well-known actress, Minna Davis (Jessica DeGouw). Suffering from a terminal heart condition, the young production chief has set his mind on finishing the project – the ‘baby’ as he calls it – as quickly as possible. However, Stahr’s ‘baby’ seems doomed to become a stillbirth: “This one won’t do at all,” says German consul Georg Gyssling (Michael Siberry) in a meeting with Stahr and studio boss Pat Bradey (Kelsey Grammer). Stahr is Jewish. A movie about a celebrity who was married to a Jew “offends the racial sensibilities of the German people,” as Gyssling puts it. The German Reich has just passed a law that forbids the import of any movie that contradicts Nazi ideology. Bradey – along with most other studio bosses of the time – considers it a financial risk to produce a movie that cannot be exported to the big German market. The production of the movie so near to Stahr’s heart comes to a harsh halt; the blank check Bradey offers his protégé as compensation seems like a cold comfort to Stahr.
But then Bradey’s daughter Cecilia (Lily Collins), who has set her sights on Stahr as well as the movie business, presents the disappointed filmmaker with an interesting and provocative movie idea. Using the blank check, Stahr intends to bring the idea to life with Cecilia as the producer –albeit against the will of his boss. Read more
Recently, I attended a memorial service for an old friend. Peg had led a long and accomplished life before her final years of excruciating pain and frustrating helplessness, so while we mourned her loss, we were there to share the joy of having known her. Peg was a firm atheist, a founding member and generous supporter of Atheists United, but most of her time was spent riding the horse trails that she loved, so it didn’t surprise me that I was the only person from the freethought community at the invitation-only event.
Her oldest son led off with a long remembrance, and then various friends and family shared anecdotes and enumerated Peg’s many contributions to the community. Peg’s involvement in freethought wasn’t mentioned. It was not that people were avoiding controversy; Peg’s colorfully negative opinion of Republicans was fondly recalled. Still, even in liberal Southern California, atheism is a whole different measure of controversy.
1960: Donald Draper (Jon Hamm) holds a high position in a renowned New York advertising agency, has an ex-model wife he calls “Betts” (January Jones), two kids, and a beautiful home. However, that is just the outside view of the protagonist’s life that is as multi-layered as the show itself. In the course of the decade-spanning seven seasons of Mad Men (2007 – 2015), the viewer gains revealing insights behind the so very appropriate facades of Don Draper and his fellow (m)ad men – and one (m)ad woman. Despite Don Draper being the show’s center, there are several plot lines being followed, for instance that of secretary Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), who against all odds and conventions of the time aspires to a career that goes beyond wearing a tight dress, getting coffee, and operating a typewriter “simple enough for a woman to use.” Read more
As an American writer living in Germany, I care deeply for both countries. It is a strange time to do so, as powers-that-be in Germany and would-be powers in the States do all they can to reverse traditional roles these two powerhouses have maintained in my half-century lifetime and beyond. There’s a sense of vertigo trying to recall which is the so-called old world and which is the new. Read more
In the second half of the interview, we turn our attention to Saloma Miller Furlong’s Bonnet Strings: An Amish Woman’s Ties to Two World (2014), the succeeding installment to her ex-Amish memoir Why I Left the Amish (2011). Both books depict and reflect on the struggles to put the past behind and embrace an unknown future. In Bonnet Strings, however, before being able to seize the chance to find true happiness and love in the world beyond the Amish, Furlong feels compelled to return to her former community after coming face-to-face with a vanload of relatives and Amish community members in Vermont. Once in her old surroundings, she tries yet again to “wear Amish” and reconcile her rebellious nature with the Amish mindset.
In contrast to the autobiography and its ‘one shot’ at a self-referential non-fictional narrative, serial memoir affords the writer the opportunity to revisit some of the same memories or reflections discussed in an early work from a later perspective or experience. Bonnet Strings opens with just such commentary.