My Writing Portfolio

selected articles…

The Art of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah (pamphlet magazine, November 2013)

It’s been called the best song ever written, and if ever there was a ballad that worked hard for such a moniker it would surely be Leonard Cohen’s laborious Hallelujah. Though Rufus Wainwright has aptly deemed it an easy song to sing due largely to its adaptable quality, the legendary 1984 delayed hit was anything but easy to write. Cohen, the Canadian poet-turned-singer from whose brain the song was born, spent two years painstakingly composing the song, an event that led him to experiencing a breakdown in New York City’s Royalton Hotel. Cohen recalled himself in that moment… [Read more...]

The Search for Independent Female Characters in Literature (pamphlet magazine, September 2013)

Throughout the history of the arts we’ve seen the nature of female representation change with the advances of women’s rights and other results of the feminist prowess. Strong, fiercely independent female characters have appeared with more verve on the screen and stage; and while we’ve certainly had a host of inspiring female leads in our novels, one could argue that their stories – and, ultimately, their enduring messages – have remained somehow locked in the past. When we read the classics we often find that some of the most revered heroines, such as Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet, inspire us not to confine ourselves to the perceptions of others; they motivate us to embrace life on our terms and believe in our ability to achieve great things. But these vastly important messages often find themselves in the shadow…

selected book reviews…

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez (Literary Inklings, March 2014)

When one reads a classic there are a million extra ways to be surprised, because for so long preconceived notions have been quietly stewing in our minds about what sort of story the book is going to tell. Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera is just such a classic, first published in English in 1988 and an irrevocably iconic work ever since, second only to his Nobel Prize-winning 100 Years of Solitude. Yet in twenty-six years its story – the tale of Florentino Ariza’s devastating love and half-century of waiting for the beautiful Fermina Daza – will not be as instantly recognizable to readers, or as culturally ingrained, as the love stories… [Read more...]

Oleander Girl by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (Literary Inklings, March 2014)

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s Oleander Girl tells the story of Korobi Roy, a strong-willed and spirited young woman who, despite the deaths of her parents when she was an infant, has known privilege with her grandparents amid their sprawling house in Kolkata. Much to the delight of her grandparents, Korobi has found love with the doting but elusive Rajat Bose and will soon marry into a family among the upper echelons of society. Still, in the face of all her life’s joy Korobi is listless; she longs for the blessing of parents she never knew, dreams of the mother whose death was entwined with Korobi’s birth. No sooner have Rajat and Korobi announced their engagement than unforeseen events unleash a wave of trouble on Korobi… [Read more...]

I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira (Literary Inklings, February 2014)

In her new novel, I Always Loved You, Robin Oliveira takes the reader to Paris in the Belle Époque and tells the story of the tumultuous relationships between the radical impressionists, centering on Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas. She’s a sensible American with an untapped talent; he’s the master she’s always admired, whose work is more than paint. When Degas, uncharacteristically bewitched, begs an introduction, their lives are catapulted into a swell of emotional upheaval, of joy and loss and the bewildering elusiveness of love. With his genius Degas will guide her to her own profound talent, helping her to see beyond the meager veil of commercialism to redefine her experience of art; but with his maddening unpredictability, his impossible conceit, and his infuriating severity, Mary may find herself at the brink of breaking… [Read more...]

Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait by Kendra Bean (Literary Inklings, November 2013)

Although her name is universally synonymous with her groundbreaking roles as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind and Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, Vivien Leigh’s legacy as an actress radiates across a career that spanned three decades and singularly impacted the worlds of both stage and screen. From her industry-changing portrayal of one of the most iconic film characters of all time to her twenty-year relationship with Laurence Olivier, Vivien has always been a woman somehow trapped beneath stigmas, rumors, and ever-changing accounts. She battled manic depression in a time when the disorder was far from understood; she carried the weight of the world’s opinions over her love affair with the world’s greatest actor; and through it all, she remained deeply personal, selective in her career, and enigmatic in her public image. In Kendra Bean’s new biography, Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait, the details of Vivien’s life combine with rare and previously unpublished photos to present in full the true nature of Vivien Leigh… [Read more...]

The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan (Literary Inklings, August 2013)

Jenni Fagan’s debut novel tells the story of Anais Hendricks, a fifteen year-old Scottish orphan being transferred to a juvenile facility known as the Panopticon. Considered a secure home for teenage offenders, the Panopticon is a prison to its young residents; a circular building observed by an unknown audience in a watchtower, the rooms with doors that can be closed – and locked – by only the staff. At the time of her transfer, Anais has been apprehended by police, found with blood on her skirt while a policewoman lies in a coma. An orphan since her birth, Anais has been moved from home to home with such frequency that she disbelieves a true family ever existed for her; she is an experiment, she tells the reader, created only for the purpose of being observed by people she cannot see – people from whom she is convinced she’ll never escape… [Read more...]

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian (Literary Inklings, January 2013)

In 1915 Elizabeth Endicott, a spirited young American, arrives with her father in Aleppo, Syria, as part of a Boston-based organization whose mission is to aid the struggling survivors of the harrowing Armenian genocide. Amid the throes of World War I, hundreds of thousands of Armenians are being quietly massacred and, stationed at the American consulate in Aleppo, Elizabeth finds herself a rare witness to the tragic circumstances of a civilization being driven out of its own existence. As Turkish soldiers and gendarmes briefly usher in the barely-living women and children who have survived thus far, Elizabeth and her comrades do their best to administer food and medicine and otherwise preserve the preciously frail lives. During her plight she meets Armen, a young Armenian man spared the swift death so many have suffered… [Read more...]

The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields (Literary Inklings, November 2012)

In the first decade of the 1900s Edith Wharton’s name begins to rise amid the literary world as her novel The House of Mirth sees great success, thanks in part to the aid of her devoted secretary, her former governess and greatest friend, Anna Bahlmann. Living with the Whartons as a servant and yet held in a companionable station to both Edith and her husband, Teddy, Anna lives at the brink of two very different worlds, viewing Edith’s high society success from a position affording her no rank or attribution. Anna, though, gives no thought to her own recognition; she is interested only in lifting up her closest friend to the best of her ability. When Edith, struggling in her midlife, famously embarks on a tumultuous affair with the young journalist Morton Fullerton, the two women find their friendship precariously threatened by Anna’s disapproval. Edith claims that she never loved her husband, and as Anna’s heart solicitously goes out to the kindly, simple Teddy Wharton a new chasm is marked in their friendship… [Read more...]

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (Literary Inklings, June 2013)

Published in 1905, The House of Mirth was the novel that launched Edith Wharton’s name as a celebrated novelist several years into her occupation as a writer. An instant classic, it remains one of the pillars among her bibliography of more than fifty works. Why it took me this long to read it, I’ll frankly never know. The novel tells the story of bold, ethereally beautiful Lily Bart whose impassioned desire for all things luxurious in life clashes with her meager income and single status. Marrying rich seems to be her only option, and that excludes from her a future with Lawrence Selden, the handsome and inadequately-financed lawyer with whom she feels most liberated to be herself. Scurrying through the maddeningly treacherous formalities of the social sphere, Lily must learn to hoist herself up amid the unkind words and devious schemes of people disguised as friends… [Read more...]

Day of Honey by Annia Ciezadlo (Literary Inklings, February 2012)

In 2003 journalist Annia Ciezadlo accompanied her Lebanese husband, Mohamad, to Baghdad where he was sent to report for an American newspaper. They went first to Beirut where they met Mohamad’s family, then back to New York where they were civilly married, and eventually on to Iraq: the honeymoon. Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love and War is Ciezadlo’s spectacular account of her journey into a country at war, of the people she met along the way, and of the food that brought them all together… [Read more...]

selected film and television reviews…

Salinger: A Film by Shane Salerno (PBS American Masters) (Literary Inklings, January 2014)

A special director’s cut edition of Salinger, Shane Salerno’s documentary of author J.D. Salinger, premiered on PBS this week in the States as the landmark 200th episode of the celebrated American Masters series. Being a great fan of Salinger’s writing, I was excited to hear about the film’s theatrical release back in September, but sadly I never got the chance to see it. So, catching it on TV was a thrill. Salerno spent the better part of a decade and several million dollars of his own money making Salinger happen, compiling interviews with over 150 people and undoubtedly toiling over unfathomable amounts of research. The result is, as Salerno himself said, a film that gives the viewer unprecedented access into the world of the enigmatic, reclusive author… [Read more...]

Understanding Art: The Hidden Lives of Masterpieces (The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower, June 2013)

Recently, the Louvre gathered together all of the works from several of the world’s most legendary painters – Raphael, Rembrandt, Poussin, Watteau, and da Vinci – and displayed them in unprecedented fashion for the art industry’s most notable scholars, historians, restorers, scientists, and curators. The works were taken out of their frames and set onto easels, at eye level with absolutely nothing between them and their viewers. These select visitors were given the unbelievably rare opportunity to witness these works intimately, to explore the canvas on both front and back, and to ruminate on the details of the paintings with their colleagues. The event was called Study Days, and the Louvre asked filmmakers Stan Neumann and Juliette Garcias to capture it all for archival purposes. Later, however, Neumann and Garcias decided to put the footage to use by creating a series of documentary films: the result is Understanding Art: Hidden Lives of Masterpieces, which invites viewers on an unparalleled journey… [Read more...]

The Hollow Crown: Henry V (PBS Great Performances) (Literary Inklings, October 2013)

The final chapter of The Hollow Crown premieres this week on Great Performances (check your local listings) and concludes what has been quite an epic miniseries event. The saga of adaptations has traced England’s history through the eyes of Shakespeare’s plays, from Richard II through Henry IV and the young life of Prince Hal, whose reign we now see unfold as he’s crowned the titular Henry V. In the film as in Shakespeare’s play, the story picks up where Henry IV, Part II left off: young and newly crowned, Henry takes the thrown of an England left in turmoil and unrest from its civil wars with the rebels. As he struggles to present himself to his subjects as a king despite his unruly and very public youth, Henry is also faced with the possibility of war against France. The events of the story eventually lead to the Battle of Agincourt and Henry’s marriage to Princess Katherine of France, a union which will join the two countries together upon the birth of their son…. [Read more...]

The Hollow Crown: Henry IV, Part II (PBS Great Performances (Literary Inklings, October 2013)

As the epic miniseries event The Hollow Crown continues on Great Performances (Friday, 9pm), the story of Henry IV concludes with Shakespeare’s sequel play, Henry IV, Part II. Though the follow-up play was at large less celebrated than its predecessor, its dramatic story and engaging character developments offer opportunities for some of the memorable performances for which Shakespeare’s work is known. Here the story picks up where Part I left off, with much of the cast reacting to and carrying on after the Battle of Shrewsbury. King Henry has returned to being mostly disenchanted with his son, Prince Hal, the latter of whom has made attempts to change his ways and behave more like a future king. Meanwhile, Hal himself has grown disenchanted with Sir John Falstaff, the bawdy criminal knight who is responsible for leading Hal down a unruly social path. Hal and Falstaff are certainly the pillars of the story, with their lives running parallel to each other’s as their personal plots unfold. As Hal struggles with the weight of his future and his duty to the king, Falstaff’s mischief is interrupted by his own mission as a captain in the king’s army against the rebels… [Read more...]

The Hollow Crown: Henry IV, Part I (PBS Great Performances (Literary Inklings, September 2013)

This week The Hollow Crown continues on Great Performances (Friday, 9pm on PBS) with its second chapter, adapting Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I. Taking place years after Henry Bolingbroke deposed Richard II and claimed the crown, the story now follows King Henry’s turbulent reign as he must struggle against a rebellious uprising and his own disappointment with his son, Prince Hal, who notoriously behaves more as a drinker and debaucher than as a future king of England. Fueling the rebellion are the Percys: the Earl of Northumberland, his brother the Earl of Worcester, and Northumberland’s warrior son, Hotspur. Considered a ruthless soldier with a fiery determination, the King wishes that Hotspur was his own son rather than the unsuccessful Hal. But Prince Hal is more valiant and self-aware than even the King can imagine, and as he is given high command of the King’s army against the rebels – aided by his friend, the perpetually drunk Sir John Falstaff – Hal vows to meet Hotspur and defend his title, his honor, and his place in his father’s esteem… [Read more...]

The Hollow Crown: Richard II (PBS Great Performances (Literary Inklings, September 2013)

This week celebrates the premiere of The Hollow Crown, a four-part miniseries collectively adapting four of Shakespeare’s history plays. The miniseries, which airs on PBS as part of the network’s Great Performances series (Friday, 9pm), begins first with Richard II before following through with, Henry IV, Parts I & II, and Henry V for four consecutive weeks. Being a lavish and quite epic production, it boasts just such an impressive cast; in this week’s premiere Ben Whishaw plays the titular King Richard while Patrick Stewart and David Suchet take on the roles of the king’s uncles, the dukes of Lancaster and York, respectively. Rory Kinnear plays the king’s cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, and the future King Henry IV. Rounding out the cast are David Morrissey, James Purefoy, Clémence Poésy, Tom Goodman-Hill, and Tom Hughes. Together they are directed in the adaptation by Rupert Goold… [Read more...]