Things we enjoyed this week and maybe you will too? “Kubo and the Two Strings,” empathy, Brandon Sanderson’s writing lectures, Ted Hughes on writing, and the poem of the week: “These Poems, She Said.” They’re beloved!
“Kubo and the Two Strings” came out this week and it was as wonderful as I had hoped. I have a soft spot for tales, especially those meant for children, that are unafraid to engage with evil, and Kubo is not afraid at all. Besides its stunning aesthetic and music, this film investigates the purpose and construction of stories. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how our identities consist of stories that we tell ourselves, constructed out of memories looked at from a specific perspective. While my takeaway from this understanding of identity tends to be that identities are weak and malleable, Kubo chooses instead to emphasize the strengths of stories made out of memories. If you have a chance this weekend, see this film, if not just for Regina Spektor’s beautiful Japanese-inspired version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps at the end.
As a timely follow-up to Kubo's investigation of the reciprocal relationship between story and memory or identity, Independent wrote this week about a study supporting the idea that reading certain types of books and playing certain types of video games can increase one’s empathy. Many of us readers have known this all along, having lived many lives through stories, but it’s nice to hear this formalized. I find it surprising (or do I?) that “science fiction books . . . do not” appear to increase empathy and understanding. Though science fiction can often be more about the science and visions of progress than about character, I am of the opinion that a well-written character can be as effective in any genre, so don’t let this get you down.
If you read Sarah’s post this week about being willing to write the bad chapter (and if you haven’t yet, do so after you finish this), you’ll be glad to know that she found Brandon Sanderson’s lectures on writing, and now you can too.
Maria Popova at Brain Pickings.org shared some notes from Ted Hughes (husband of Sylvia Plath), advising his daughter on how to grow as a writer. He writes that:
“T.S. Eliot said to me “There’s only one way a poet can develop his actual writing — apart from self-criticism & continual practice. And that is by reading other poetry aloud — and it doesn’t matter whether he understands it or not (i.e. even if it is in another language.) What matters, above all, is educating the ear.”
What matters, is to connect your own voice within an infinite range of verbal cadences & sequences — and only endless actual experience of your ear can store all that is in your nervous system. The rest can be left to your life & your character.”
Accordingly, in order to educate our ears and develop our voices, here is the poem of the week, devastating, perhaps, to writers, but a favorite of mine (it's Will, by the way, hello): “These Poems, She Said,” by Robert Bringhurst. Supplement this with the beautiful audio version below, read by Christian Wiman during his interview with Krista Tippett at On Being.