Daniel Magariel is a fiction writer from Kansas City. He has a BA from Columbia University, as well as an MFA from Syracuse University, where he was a Cornelia Carhart Fellow. One of the Boys is his first novel. Daniel shares five things he’s reading, watching and thinking about right now.
1. The aesthetics of dread
When the Manhattan Project scientists – half-mad from years of grinding out atomic-level discoveries in the race to beat Germany to the bomb – emerged from their Los Alamos lab one morning, they looked up in terror at a strange bright light in the sky. Among the scientists was an astronomer who reassured the group that it was only Venus.
After one particularly humiliating performance in Kansas City, a young Charlie Parker is said to have secluded himself out in the Missouri Ozarks where he worked furiously to improve. When he returned to the jazz clubs several months later, glimmers of brilliance in his improvisations, people acknowledged that the saxophonist had spent his summer ‘out in the woodshed’ or simply ‘woodshedding’. The term underscores the obsession, isolation and time necessary to bear down on one’s work, but also the optimism that by woodshedding we might perhaps demystify the genius that came before us.
3. Words of ‘wisdom’
An inscription on the wall of the library I pass almost daily: ‘Read with simplicity, humility, and faith; and seek not at any time the fame of being learned.’ The quote is attributed to theologian Thomas à Kempis, author of The Imitation of Christ. What wonderful advice he has for both readers and writers alike, and if consumed with a taste for sarcasm, how distant is the time when learned-ness might have paved a path to fame?
4. Kubrick’s marginalia
I went to see this Stanley Kubrick exhibit in Mexico City, where I am currently visiting. Nearly all his thirteen films were adapted from novels, the authors of which sometimes wrote the screenplays themselves. Nabokov turned in a behemoth 400-page script of Lolita and was sent back to his writing desk with Kubrick’s revisions, while Arthur C. Clarke’s adaptation of 2001: A Space Odyssey was near-perfect. Stephen King’s screenplay of The Shining was rejected outright, the director then electing to write the adaptation himself, along with Diane Johnson. Kubrick’s marginalia in his copy of King’s novel reaffirms the singularity of the director’s craft and clarity of vision.
5. Ambrose Bierce (in many forms)
In preparation for this trip to Mexico I reread the Old Gringo by Carlos Fuentes, an extraordinary novel based on the disappearance of Ambrose Bierce. I followed up Fuentes’s book by finally leaping into Bierce’s shimmering Civil War Stories. Both belong on the short shelf of great books about war.
Image © Craig Stanfill