Synecdoche, New York and the Problem of Writing Realism

Taipei Writers Group

Spoiler Warning: This post discusses the content of the film Synecdoche, New York, including many plot details.

I recently watched for the first time and fell in love with Charlie Kaufman’s film Synecdoche, New York. The film is heavily layered with themes, but one which stands out to me on each repeated viewing is the difficulty of creating a “true-to-life” work of art.Throughout the film playwright Caden Cotard (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) struggles to make good use of his MacArthur Fellowship and create a stage play which will be a “piece of brutal realism and honesty.” Initially, Cotard focuses on coaching his actors to realistically convey the emotions and daily struggles of their characters, but over the course of the film his vision expands as he strives to create a perfect reflection of the real world within his expansive warehouse set, complete with doppelganger actors playing himself, his family and…

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The Book of the New Sun and the Importance of Craft in Fiction Writing (also, Something about Rereading)

Taipei Writers Group

As a person with an almost unhealthy craving for novelty, I do not often revisit media, even media that I genuinely enjoy. Often I will begin a re-read of a book, a re-watch of a movie or TV show, or a re-play of a video game of which I have fond memories, only to become disinterested and bored once the initial wave of nostalgia has passed. The only books which I have re-read completely tend to be either:

a) assignments for school, which I have had to dissect and mine for quotes and citations

b) books which I have read for research, to better absorb the information

c) philosophy books (or philosophically dense novels) which are difficult to understand on the first reading

or

d) books which I appreciate as much for their craft as for their storytelling

Books belonging to group (d) may not even be my favorite stories…

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