Categories
writing

“Some Notes on Enchantment” in HASH Journal

I have a new essay on the 2019 film The Lighthouse in HASH Journal, a new publication that I adore. This essay is part of my ongoing series on film and whiteness, all of which can be found on my Published Work page.

You can read the essay here.

Categories
writing

“Saving the Suburbs” in Newfound

I have a new review in the latest issue of Newfound. In it, I look at Jason Diamond’s book The Sprawl: Reconsidering the Weird American Suburbs in conversation with the 2017 film Suburbicon. You can read the review here, and better yet, you can read the entire issue.

Diamond’s The Sprawl is available through Coffee House Press.

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Uncategorized

Some Writing Around the Web

I had a number of things published in the past few days around the web:

For the Lunch Ticket blog, I wrote about what it means to sit alone in my room listening to music and how it connected me to the wider world. You can read it here.

For Issue IV of Variety Pack, I wrote a review essay about some books that have helped me learn how to grieve in a nation that does not grieve well. I considered Marion Winik’s The Big Book of the Dead, alongside Camus’ The Plague, Jesmyn Ward’s Men We Reaped, and Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking.

For The Adroit Journal, I reviewed Melissa Valentine’s wonderful memoir The Names of All the Flowers, which has stayed with me since I read it last July.

Thanks to all of you who choose to read.

– Ben

Categories
Uncategorized

“Once Again, the Western” in New Critique

I have a new essay, “Once Again, the Western” published in New Critique. In it, I consider Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood and how Quentin Tarantino, who once made a movie about Nazi-hunting, cannot face the Nazis of today because he shares in their anxiety.

This essay is the third in my series of what I refer to as Western Expansions, in which I consider the half-life of the Western film genre. The first, “No True West,” was published in Bridge Eight Press, and the second, “The Lone Star,” was published in No Contact Mag. Both can be found in Published Work.

Categories
writing

“The Lone Star” in No Contact Mag

For Issue 13 of No Contact Mag, I wrote about the Texan fear—and my sustained hope—of “turning into” California and how Westerns prove there’s less space between the two than Texas and John Wayne might like. I’m thrilled to be in this magazine, which you can read here.

“The Lone Star” was previously shortlisted for The Forge Literary Magazine‘s Flash Competition. Their encouragement gave me the final push I needed to find this essay a home.

Categories
reading

May Reads

This month, I finally broke my five-book rule, in part because I read some shorter books and also because I found myself bouncing between longer books. If you’ve missed any of my past months, you can find them here: January, February, March, and April.

Categories
writing

Look for the Pigeons, Make Way for the Lilies

Almost as soon as we caught wind that we would be staying in our homes for the foreseeable future, we started wondering what masterpieces might become possible. The story quickly spread around the Internet that, while quarantined, Shakespeare wrote King Lear. Newton was working out the early seeds of calculus, which, thanks, I guess? The point being, people saw a dire situation and started looking on the brightside, encouraging one another to take advantage of time at home as the potential ground where our own brilliance might manifest itself.

Categories
writing

Rejection Letters: A Personal History

Wherever this finds you, I hope that you are well and taking care during this difficult time. This week, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on what it means to be a teacher when there is no classroom, as well as how we each find ways as humans to take care of ourselves and be good to each other. I hope to share more about those reflections in the weeks to come, but I want to give myself space to articulate those thoughts in full. Right now, I want to stick with thoughts I’ve been considering for weeks, in an effort to preserve some kind of normalcy in the present moment. Hopefully it helps you in some way.

I feel like I’ve been thinking about rejection for my entire life. The ways that rejection from peers in grade school bred fear and mistrust into my core, the ways that I have worked to root out those poisons from my person and relationships. The ways that older generations criticize the millennial generation for being coddled through participation trophies, as if we do not face frequent and course-altering rejections from an increasingly unstable job market that offers no guarantees, as we were told while we earned multiple degrees and sunk ourselves into college loan debt.

The fear of rejection has led me to avoid various risks in my life, some I regret and some I am thankful to have dodged. As a writer, rejection is a constant source of anxiety for me, even as it’s an expected part of eventually being published. I studied writing in my undergraduate program, where a professor asked, toward the end of my time there, if I was going to apply to an MFA in creative writing. Paralyzed by the thought of rejection, I just told him that I was considering my options. He encouraged me to do so quickly, as deadlines were approaching, but I did not know how to tell him that I was too insecure at the time to try, that I had not seriously looked into anything.

Categories
Teaching

The 27th Line

Tomorrow my students will take their first round of STAAR testing in Writing, a subject I teach twice a day. The test is scored by their responses to 40 multiple-choice revising and editing questions along with 2 essays—one narrative and one expository.

Although the Writing test is one of three they must pass in the 7th grade (along with Reading and Math), it was important to me to communicate to my students that it doesn’t mean that much to me.