How to write about gentrification in a setting

Jendella Benson’s debut novel, “Hope and Glory,” takes place in the London neighborhood of Peckham, (in)famous for its gentrification. As she approaches this setting with the same eye for world-building as writers of fantasy of science fiction, Benson learns something new about her own community.

In her contribution to Literary Hub, Jendella Benson dismisses the word “gentrification” as “cliché.” She writes, “It is a flat term that speaks of boxy rooms in new build apartments and nameless hipsters and craft beer.” Instead, her debut novel, Hope and Glory, seeks to characterize the gentrified (Benson herself can’t afford to live in the setting for her own book anymore), whilst acknowledging the systemic and institutional phenomenon of “gentrification” at the same time.

Although I haven’t experienced gentrification as a white American who grew up in the Middle Class neighborhoods of South Metro Denver, I’ve witnessed it firsthand. People can’t afford to live in their own communities, turned out onto the streets after one delinquent rent payment too many, where drugs are their only solace and crime is their only access to our society’s capitalistic resources for survival. I may not be the right one who can speak to it, but I call upon all the Jendella Bensons of the world to do it for themselves.

A writer of climate fantasy faces the future more fearlessly in her fiction

Rebecca Scherm began writing “A House Between Earth and the Moon” while pregnant in 2014 to ease her anxieties about the world her first child would inherit. Much like childbirth, the process was painful, but miraculous.

For many expecting mothers, the world today can strike the fear of God into the heart; for writers like Rebecca Scherm, that dread is an opportunity “not to calm myself, exactly, but to run my imagination all the way out, until it exhausts itself.” Contributing to Literary Hub, Scherm describes the creative process behind her science fiction novel, A House Between Earth and the Moon, which follows a family as they flee the dying planet for a space station in 2033. In forcing herself to research the realities of climate change she’d once upon a time avoided, Scherm writes, “This novel changed me from someone who writes about a need for change into someone desperate to bring those changes to life.”

As loath as I am to regurgitate pull quote after pull quote (especially in a blog post this brief), Scherm is the best writer I’d never heard of before today, and she deserves the same recognition as all the other women authors dominating the post-J.K. Rowling marketplace; Gillian Flynn springs most readily to mind as a worthy contemporary. Anyway, Scherm speaks for herself with more of a voice than anyone else could hope to capture, such as with the course-correction in lifestyle she outlines here: “I started down a path of climate activism through native plant gardening—for biodiversity, for carbon capture, for reacquainting people with the more-than-human world around them—and this path has felt like a kind of salvation.” Sometimes, meaningful action is as deceptively simple as the hope native plant gardening brings to a new mother, and Scherm has her own imaginative literature to thank for that “salvation.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning Anthony Doerr on his planning process

Doerr, who won the Pulitzer Prize for the modern classic “All the Light We Cannot See,” discusses with Julianne Gee of the Boise State University “Arbiter” how drawing engages him to write with greater complexity. Doerr briefly worked with their creative writing department.

After the publication of his latest book, Cloud Cuckoo Land, in September, Anthony Doerr sat down for an interview with The Arbiter in Idaho. Doerr is quoted as saying, “Growing up, you always think good novelists live in Brazil and Buenos Aires or Paris or they’re dead. Every day you have to give yourself permission and say, ‘You know, even though I live right here in Boise, it’s okay to try to make something that people might read in Brazil or in Paris.'”

We study Doerr extensively in the Master of Arts program for professional creative writing at the University of Denver; he is, without hyperbole, one of the most gifted authors working today, and you could do far worse than learn from his comedic timing in his sentences, or the grander storytelling structures he erects out of this acumen for the micro level. Like all masters of the written word, he knows how to make it appear as though he comes by this skillset naturally, but, during the prewriting phase for Cloud Cuckoo Land, he reveals he scaffolded the outline with a diagram. As for what inspired him to write with such wealth and depth, Doerr attributes it to his grandmother’s Alzheimer’s disease – “I just thought I’m going to try the most complicated thing I can try right now, while I still can,” he says.

The rhizome concept is represented as a tangled web of roots in this sketch.
This drawing of a “rhizome,” or underground root system, mirrors the intricacy of Anthony Doerr’s own “map” for “Cloud Cuckoo Land.” (Image Courtesy: The Arbiter).

A Russian writer calls on his contemporaries to resist Putin

With eight translations slated for his works in the Western world, Vladimir Sorokin, a Russian writer, encourages his fellow countrymen (and women) to combat Putin’s “fake news” with the truth.

Having left Russia for Germany three days before the invasion of Ukraine, Alexandra Alter of The New York Times writes that Vladimir Sorokin “seemed disoriented, but not surprised, to find himself facing what could be a long exile.” Beginning his career in letters as an underground Soviet author, English-language publishers are currently preparing eight new translations of his subversive works for Western audiences. An admirer of Dostoyevsky, Sorokin said in an interview last month, “A Russian writer has two options: Either you are afraid, or you write.”

With Putin’s right-wing ideology penetrating democracies around the globe (perhaps most alarmingly in the United States, where Trumpism almost sparked an apocalyptic war against China), Sorokin’s words ring true not just in Russia. Indeed, President Vladimir Putin, dictator of the Russian Federation, compared himself to transphobic English author J.K. Rowling in his own condemnation of “cancel culture.” As Putin’s propaganda spreads worldwide, all literary artists must meet misinformation with the truth, or else watch their respective cultures enter the future while returning to a regressive past, much like in one of Sorokin’s stories.

“The Los Angeles Times” ranks Ennio Morricone’s ten greatest film scores

Randall Roberts of The Los Angeles Times writes, “Serving as sort of whimsical, opinionated Greek chorus — one that could turn dark and sinister in a flash — his work played a co-starring role.” (Image Courtesy: The Los Angeles Times).

Ennio Morricone died yesterday in Rome at ninety-one years old, according to The Los Angeles Times. Staff writer Randall Roberts describes him as not only “the most important film composer of the twentieth century,” but “also the busiest.” Roberts lists his top ten scores as: Sergio Leone’s Trilogia del dollaro; Gillo Pontecorvo’s La battaglia di Algeri (1966); Sergio Sollima’s La resa dei conti (1968); Dario Argento’s Il gatto a nove code (1971); Bernardo Bertolucci’s Novecento (1976); Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978); John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982); Roland Joffé’s The Mission (1986); Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables (1987); and Quentin Tarantino’s The H8teful Eight (2015).

Tens of thousands sign petition to block film starring Michael Jackson’s daughter as Jesus

The late pop superstar Michael Jackson’s daughter, model and actress Paris Jackson, was cast back in April alongside Bella Thorne and musician Gavin Rossdale in a film called Habit, according to The Guardian. Jackson is to play a lesbian Jesus, complete with “a nose ring, tousled waves and a traditional robe,” while Thorne will portray “a street smart girl with a Jesus fetish [who] gets mixed up in a violent drug deal and finds a possible way out by masquerading as a nun.” One Million Moms is circulating a petition against the production, which has attracted sixty-nine thousand signatures.

The cast of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” reunites

In the season finale of the YouTube series Reunited Apart with Josh Gad, the core cast of John Hughes’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) joined together for the first time in thirty-four years, according to NBC Chicago. Matthew Broderick, Jennifer Grey, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Cindy Pickett, Lyman Ward, as well as Ben Stein all hopped onto a Zoom call with Gad. Broderick, who hadn’t seen Ruck in at least fifteen years, told Gad about how he hurt his knee before shooting the parade scene, before the cast went on to act out iconic scenes from the cult classic.

Eddie Redmayne and Daniel Radcliffe respond to JK Rowling’s transphobic tweets

Fantastic Beasts star Eddie Redmayne has joined “Harry Potter” himself, Daniel Radcliffe, in condemning JK Rowling’s recent transphobic social media posts, according to The Guardian. Redmayne – who played Lili Elbe in Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl (2015), the first known person to undergo sex reassignment surgery – says, “Respect for transgender people remains a cultural imperative, and over the years I have been trying to constantly educate myself.” Similarly, Radcliffe says, “Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations, who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo or I.”

Black Criterion Collection pictures to stream without a subscription

daughters
Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust (1991), Maya Angelou’s Down in the Delta (1998), Shirley Clarkson’s Portrait of Jason (1967), Agnes Varda’s Black Panthers (1968), and Kathleen Collins’s Losing Ground (1982) are among the movies that will stream for free on the Criterion Channel. (Image Courtesy: IndieWire).

On Thursday, the Criterion Channel has joined the likes of A24 and Bad Robot in coming out to help support the fight against systemic racism, as well as advocate police reform and support for protestors throughout the United States, according to IndieWire. In an email from Criterion president Peter Becker and CEO Jonathan Turell, the company announced a $25,000 initial contribution, in addition to an ongoing $5,000 monthly donation, to organizations that back Black Lives Matter. Criterion will also lift the paywall on titles from Black filmmakers and white documentarians who have captured the Black experience, available on their homepage.

A list of films celebrating Pride Month

Between violent confrontations with police in protests over George Floyd’s death, the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as record unemployment rates, there is little to celebrate about this year’s Pride Month, according to The New York Times. This isn’t to say all Pride events are canceled or postponed, because many can still be enjoyed online, such as virtual drag shows, benefit concerts, and, of course, “entertaining and evocative” films about the queer community and its history. Seven of these movies are: Arthur J. Bressan Junior’s Gay USA (1977); Greta Schiller and Robert Rosenberg’s Before Stonewall (1984); Christopher Ashley’s Jeffrey (1995); Gus Van Sant’s Milk (2008); Matthew Warchus’s Pride (2014); Robin Campillo’s BPM (Beats Per Minute) (2017); and David France’s The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017).