Author Silas House blogs about writing, the writing life, books, movies, nature, religion, politics, and other things that generally concern conscious people. House is the author of the bestselling books Clay's Quilt, A Parchment of Leaves, The Coal Tattoo, Something's Rising, Eli the Good, and Same Sun Here. HIs novel Southernmost will be published in June 2018. Find out more about him and his writing at www.silas-house.com
Discover Something New Everyday: The Challenge
This is a story I've told many times before:
Writer James Still, the author of classics like River of Earth and The Wolfpen Poems, was in his early 90s when I, a boy in my mid-twenties who didn't know anything about anything, asked him a naive and earnest question: "How can I become a better writer?" Mr. Still thought about it for a long time, then looked just past me with his haunting eyes. "Discover something new everyday," he said.
I've made a conscious effort to try and do that ever since, and it's an exercise that has changed my life.
So, with that in mind, I'm going to try my best to post a new discovering here everyday for the next month. If I'm able to do it, I might try for another month, and another. I'm not always near a computer so if that's the case then I might miss a day or two. I'm not going to devote myself to it so much that it kills my own writing day, and I'm not going to let it take over my life a la Julie and Julia. But I am going to try my best to post a new discovery every day, and I hope that you will join me in doing the same. Even if you can't post a comment to my blog saying what you've discovered then you can do it for yourself. In a notebook, a journal, a wipe-off board, in your head.
The main thing is to discover, so that's what we're setting out to do.
1. News of the World. Paulette Jiles's short and beautiful Western was deeply moving and it is one of those rare books of which I can honestly say that every single sentence is a gem. Absolutely the novel of the year for me.
2. Mothering Sunday. Graham Swift wrote this elegant and stunning 192 page novel. Its shortness emphasizes just how masterful it is because in just a few pages Swift creates an entire world and gives us big themes like class, the power of storytelling, and loss, all delivered in prose that is erotic, economical, and powerful.
3. Raymie Nightingale. Kate DiCamillo wrote one of my all-time favorite books, Because of Winn Dixie, but this one is almost as good. A look at the definitions of friendship, family (chosen and blood), and the desire to be a good person. I absolutely loved it.
4. Miss Jane. Full disclosure here: the author, Brad Watson, was one of my mentors when I was studying for my MFA. But that doe…
I jumped the gun on my favorite albums of the year because I hadn't heard these gems when I composed my list. These were released in 2013 and are among my favorites, too.
Ben Sollee's The Hollow Sessions is a beauty that finds Sollee covering artists like Tom Waits, Otis Redding, Paul Simon, Fiona Apple, Gillian Welch, Harry Belafonte, and others. The album was recorded in a little house situated in a Kentucky holler and conjure up the rural summertime with birds, wind, crickets, even water wending their way into the music. Sollee's cello and vocals are in top form and this piece of land brings out the best in him. In the press kit he says: “It’s a place to recharge and be still between the manic pace of the road. Over the years I’ve written songs, ballets, and ﬁlm scores while visiting and thought it would be a special palce to share, at least sonically. We really featured its voice on the recordings. It is a magical place and I tried to let it conduct me.”
1. Manchester by the Sea is a heartbreaker that feels so real you leave the cinema feeling as if the story has happened to someone you know well and care about. I think it also boasts the best performances of the year in Casey Affleck's heartbroken handyman and Michelle Williams as a woman doing everything she can to survive. Rarely does a film so well use sense of place as this one. It was written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, who also made You Can Count on Me, and--a favorite film of mine--Margaret, an underrated masterpiece inspired by a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem.
2. Sunset Song. Terrence Davies is one of the most acclaimed filmmakers ever yet this film didn't make much of a splash in America. It should have, as it is the film that has most haunted me this year with its sweeping scenes of farmers working their fields or the rising chorus as they stroll to church (as shown in the short scene I'm embedding below). It's a film that uses words like "g…