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Crying at the Movies

A Film Memoir
Madelon Sprengnether
"For years, I cried, not over my own losses, but at the movies. When bad things happened to me in real life, I didn't react. I seemed cool or indifferent. Yet in the dark and relative safety of the movie theater, I would weep over fictional tragedies, over someone else's tragedy."

At age nine, Madelon Sprengnether watched her father drown in the Mississippi River. Her mother swallowed the family's grief whole and no one spoke of the tragedy thereafter. Only years later did Sprengnether react, and in a most unlikely place: in the theater watching the film Pather Panchali, by Satyajit Ray.

In this fascinating memoir, Sprengnether looks at the sublime connections between happenings in the present, troubling events from the past, and the imagined world of movies. By examining the films she had intense emotional reactions to throughout her adult life—House of CardsSolarisFearlessThe Cement GardenShadowlands, and Blue—Sprengnether finds a way to work through her own losses, mistakes, and pain.

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“Sprengnether has created a vivid, passionate description of the therapeutic value of cinema.”—Library Journal

About the Author

Madelon Sprengnether is  Professor of English at the University of Minnesota, where she teaches critical and creative writing. She is the author of Crying at the Movies; a book of poems, The Normal Heart; a collection of personal essays, Rivers, Stories, Houses, Dreams; and she has co-edited a collection of travel writing by women, The House on Via Gombito.
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  • “In these insightful essays, even the writing itself is cinematic, as Sprengnether’s memories and quick film summaries meld into one another, making it seem as if the author hasn’t just seen many movies, but has actually lived one.”—Publishers Weekly
  • “Crying at the Movies calls forth the kinds of passion and vulnerability which are our most powerful weapons against hopelessness and fear. To use Film as Dreams and to enter those worlds on a visit of discovery is one of the more tender and brilliant ideas I have come across in a long time. And the underlying theme…finding a way to grieve and to live, to celebrate and mourn without denial…is the true nurturing of the survival magic that fights to live inside all of us. This is a beautiful book.”—Michael Lessac, director of “House of Cards”
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