Thank you for taking this workshop. I wanted to take some time here to recommend a few films I like and a few books I like that touch on that strange territory where everything seems to be normal in the world, but on closer inspection there is a sense of awestruck exuberance to the work. Something not quite right but nothing sinister afoot. I won’t drown you in recs, I’ll just offer a few. Please sound off in the comments if there is something you would also recommend, whatever it may be. — Bud
Fair Play by Tove Jansson — the story “Fog” of course comes from this ‘novel’ but I find the whole book to be exciting and just as good. Check it out from NYRB.
The Summer Book by Tove Jansson — another NYRB release (I am a fan of most of the NYRB classics and think it is a great way to read widely and across sensibilities, often in volumes of slim translation). In this novel a little girl goes to a remote island in Finland to live with her grandmother and father as they grieve (but do not dare speak of) the death of the girl’s mother. A++
Going After Cacciato by Tim O’Brien — a Vietnam war novel that explores the nature of combat in absurdity and sincerity, where clowns are forced to act like serious as a heart attack and the mission just gets more and more absurd as they track a missing man from the platoon out of the war zone and farther and farther across the globe.
Potted Meat by Steven Dunn — In this collection of vignettes, a young man comes of age in West Virginia and imagines what his life could be like if ninjas took him under his wing but what if the ninjas just turned out to be crack heads? This book is just as good as House on Mango Street, which if you haven’t read, that’s a nice one too.
The Koker Trilogy by Abbas Kiarostami. A series of three films that take place in Iran, about a small village and how its people intersect with the art and distortion of reality created by the filmmaker himself. In Where is the Friends’ House, a little boy goes on an epic quest to get his homework book from his friend in a neighboring village. In the next film, And Life Goes On, an actor plays Kiarostami as he searches for that title boy actor in the village from the first film after it is devastated by a major earthquake. In the third film, Through the Olive Trees, another actor plays Kiarostami as he directs the second film in the trilogy — all of this adds up to a hall of mirrors and a house of cards that I found incredibly moving. I watched all three on The Criterion Channel.
Daddy Long Legs by The Safdie Brothers — what would happen is an episode of Seinfeld was centered around Kramer having children and trying to be a good father but maybe not being so equipped to do so? In this charming film, a single dad takes his kids for the weekend and they try to fit into his life but he (spoiler alert) gives them too much drugs and they slip into a coma but he hopes they wake up and goes about his usual business — so what then?