When life is at its most confusing and unpredictable, humans try to gain what control they can over their circumstances—a natural response that doesn’t always yield success. Mary South’s short stories feature characters who try and fail to repair the losses in their life through technological means. The dystopian regime in Rachel Heng’s debut novel responds to people’s fear of aging by relentlessly regulating their behavior—leading some citizens to rebel in self-destructive ways.
Art is one place where people do have complete control, and that power can lead to freedom. By providing an escape into worlds where she could make the rules, writing fiction helped Ottessa Moshfegh overcome depression and an eating disorder. The filmmaker Ingmar Bergman’s memoirs reveal how a regimented daily routine gave him space to confront his most challenging feelings and channel them into his work. And the songwriter Alexis Taylor found creative fuel in recognizing—and embracing—the things he couldn’t predict or change.
Every Friday in the Books Briefing, we thread together Atlantic stories on books that share similar ideas.
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Solitude and self-discipline: Ingmar Bergman’s recipe for art
“You have to control the creative energy that you’ve got. You have to discipline yourself to fulfill it. And that work only happens alone.”