Best Books & Fabulous Films

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Storytelling: Of Geniuses and Maps

By Kai-Arne Zimny

What makes a piece of fiction successful, apart from a good portion of luck? Well, some writers deem the craft of ‘plotting’ essential for creating fiction that goes somewhere, while others prefer to write from the seat of their pants and are likely to dread the prospect of their art being anything less than inspiration, talent, and vision.

Let me introduce you to two writing guides that might offer some perspective on the initial question. First, let’s visit someone who claims that both ‘pantsers’ and plotters are on the wrong track because …

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An Homage to Diversity: Jim Jarmusch’s Night on Earth (1991)

By Michaela Keck

Released in 1991, Jim Jarmusch’s Night on Earth is clearly not an American classic in the sense of belonging to the golden age of Hollywood. As an art film that aims to counter commercial Hollywood films, however, Night on Earth has acquired the status of a classic independent film by now. While the film’s production was comparatively inexpensive, it nevertheless impresses with a top-class cast of actors, including Winona Ryder, Gena Rowlands, Armin Mueller-Stahl, and Roberto Benigni as well as its reassuringly weird film music by Tom Waits.

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Letters to a Young Writer – Some Practical and Philosophical Advice for Newcomers to the Trade

By Kai-Arne Zimny

“Nobody can advise you and help you, nobody.”

This is how writing instructor, novelist, and screenwriter Colum McCann starts his Letters to a Young Writer (2017). But if no one can help you write, why bother reading a book that has “writer” and “advice” in its title? Well, let’s read a few letters and find out.

Photo Credit: Kai-Arne Zimny

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Ira Wagler’s Serial Memoir Broken Roads: Returning to My Amish Father

By Sabrina Völz

I know the monsters that lurk in the recesses of the mind and in

the dark corners of the heart. I know, because I deal with my own demons

of what was and what might have been. I’ve heard those voices calling in the night.

I understand, because I poked my head through that door and looked around a bit.

And I gotta say, it’s not a terribly scary place. I wasn’t frightened there,

in that room where death is. I understand why people go there.

And I understand why people chose to stay there.

Ira Wagler, Broken Roads, p. 187-188

Growing Up Amish, Ira Wagler’s New York Times bestseller has sold some 185,000 copies since it first appeared in 2011. A writer whose first book makes that list has much to live up to. Some writers never make it past the first book, while others end up wishing they had only written one. And if I am honest, I have to admit that I was somewhat concerned about what I would do if I didn’t like Ira Wagler’s new book. After all, he’s been to my university twice, and over the years, I’ve got to know and appreciate him. The book is not quite what I had expected, and it is truly different in a few key ways from his first publication.

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The Mandalorian

By Kai-Arne Zimny

You’ve probably already heard that The Mandalorian was nominated for 15 Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Children’s Program. And even if you weren’t familiar with the term Mandalorian before, chances are you’ve seen one: Boba Fett, the green-armored bounty hunter in the classic Star Wars film is a Mandalorian, a member of a clan-based society within the Star Wars universe known for their code of honor and warrior ways. We never saw Boba Fett’s face, he didn’t say much, and he didn’t take up much screen time. All this didn’t stop him from becoming a fan favorite back in the day. But would such a character work as a protagonist of a series?

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Star Wars – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

By Kai-Arne Zimny

[Author’s note: This review is spoiler free.]

A year has passed since the events of The Last Jedi (2017). Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is Supreme Leader of the evil galactic regime called The First Order and still strangely drawn and connected to his enemy, the last Jedi and resistance fighter Rey (Daisy Ridley). But not everything is as it seems, and we soon realize who’s been pulling the strings all along.

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