Your heart, Bessie, is an autumn garage.
A waitress gave me this book in 2003. Then she disappeared.
Nena Daconte was almost a child, with the eyes of a happy bird, and molasses skin still radiant with the bright Caribbean sun in the mournful January gloom, and she was wrapped up to her chin in a mink coat that could not have been bought with the year’s wages of the entire frontier garrison. Her husband, Billy Sánchez De Ávila, who drove the car, was a year younger and almost as beautiful, and he wore a plaid jacket and a baseball hat. Unlike his wife, he was tall and athletic and had the iron jaw of a timid thug. But what best revealed the status of them both was the silver automobile whose interior exhaled a breath of living animal; nothing like it had ever been seen along that impoverished border. The rear seat overflowed with suitcases that were too new and many gift boxes that were still unopened. It also held the tenor saxophone that had been the overriding passion of Nena Daconte’s life before she succumbed to the disquieting love of her tender beach hoodlum.
The main thing was I learned how to inhabit my song.
Which means what?
Well. Singers can have a wide range of…it can be John Lydon and the Sex Pistols or you can have Dylan’s voice or Neil Young’s voice, all very very unconventional voices. But they were people who simply inhabited their songs, deeply, deeply, and very very well…so that when your audience heard you, you were convincing. What you were singing about was believable and convincing. That’s the key to a great singer. A great singer has to learn how to inhabit a song. You may not be able to hit all the notes, that’s okay. You may not have the clearest tone, may not have the greatest range, but if you can inhabit your song…you can communicate. There’s plenty of people who do the other things well and will never be great singers. In rock music, you have to be able to personify what you’re singing about.
Kylo says “We can end this, you and I. We can bring balance to the galaxy.”
Ray hesitates, then takes Kylo’s hand, finding her “place in all of this.”
Finn witnesses from off in the distance, and cries, and kills Phasma in rage.
Holdo pulls off her smash job.
Debris falls and injures Rey.
Lovestruck Kylo is incensed and unhinged when the [Empire] attacks the [Rebels] on Crait.
Luke, “the last Jedi,” sacrifices himself.
The [Rebels] escape, amid many tears.
Supreme Leader Kylo kneels at the bedside of unconscious Supreme Queen Rey.
Have the good guys lost?
Rey still has the books. Her bedclothes are gray.
She actually has a teacher to train her.
The tension between light and dark is preserved.
You leave the cinema bewildered, hopeful, having finally watched a worthy successor to The Empire Strikes Back, instead of a Disney movie.
296 words. Pay attention.
For many years, I’ve taught young writers that there are only two things that matter, two things they need to learn, and that the entire universe of literature is contained within those elements: images, and (honest) emotions. Now, it seems, I’ve been proven correct:
Notably, readers did not at all agree on what poems they found appealing, an outcome that supports the notion that people have different tastes; nonetheless, there is common ground—vividness of imagery and emotional valence—in what explains these tastes, even if they vary.
It’s always fun to see the academy catching up to that which artists and musicians have known for, oh, fifteen thousand years?
In the present day – when places called cafés are springing up everywhere, drawing in thousands of idle people with money to squander, when male and female students behave so shockingly in streetcars that it has become necessary to segregate them – men have lost all trace of that fervor that drove their ancestors to accept the most frightening challenges. Now they are good for nothing but to flutter their effeminate hands like dry, fragile leaves shaken by the merest puff of air.
…from Spring Snow, by Yukio Mishima, who in his 45 years wrote 34 novels, 50 plays, 25 short story collections, 35 books of essays, one libretto, and a single film, and who, upon completing his masterpiece Sea of Fertility tetralogy in 1970, led his own private militia to invade the Eastern Command of the Japan Self-Defense Forces, gave a speech intended to inspire a coup (for which he was brazenly mocked), then calmly walked into the commandant’s office, drew his sword, and committed ritual suicide.
Clearly, Mishima had issues.
Yet even so, it’s hard to deny the vision of a writer who could render the turmoil of a broken era so clearly in the flaming scarlet maples reflected on a calm pool of water.
There’s a dream I keep having, where my momma comes to me
And kneels down over by the window, and says a prayer for me
Got my own way of praying, but every one’s begun
With a southern accent, where I come from
…Thanks, Mr. Petty.
It’s that bluegrass sound, but with a little bit more edge to it. It’s something I’d want to listen to, sound-wise, growing up in this area. The Appalachian culture and the way the people in this region talk, the sayings they have, it all lends itself to good songs. Everything they say is a song line.
…Kentucky singer-songwriter, Tyler Childers, in this Rolling Stone article, whose new album Purgatory was produced by the mush-mouthed sage Sturgill Simpson, as well as David Ferguson, sound engineer for Johnny Cash‘s iconic American Recordings, and which at times sounds as raw and haunting as Ray LaMontagne singing at a country funeral.
High heel lady spitting at the Nickajacks
Business man with a needle and a spoon
Coyote chewing on a cigarette
Pack o’ young boys going howling at the moon
…text can’t convey how good these lyrics are. “Sleeping On The Blacktop,” by Colter Wall, who even though Canadian possessed the good sense to name his EP “Imaginary Appalachia,” and who looks about ready to hike outta Bold Camp and go pick fights at a Wise County football game.
She’s certainly bewitched me
with her innocent airs.
As light as blown glass, her figure,
her bearing seems like a figure off a screen.
But she instantly frees herself
from the glossy lacquer background.
This little butterfly flutters and
settles with such silent grace,
That I am overtaken by the urge to pursue her,
Even if I have to tear off her wings.
Blue, blue is the grass about the river
And the willows have overfilled the close garden.
And within, the mistress, in the midmost of her youth.
White, white of face, hesitates, passing the door.
Slender, she puts forth a slender hand;
And she was a courtezan in the old days,
And she has married a sot,
Who now goes drunkenly out
And leaves her too much alone.
One of my father’s real social skills, however, was carving out space in a crowded bar. Someone would pivot slightly and there he’d be, one elbow on the mahogany, clearing somebody’s highball glass out of the way with a sophisticated sleight of hand, a twenty-dollar bill materializing in its place. Given this small opening he then managed somehow to look for all the world as if he’d been right in that spot since the building was erected. The illusion was so overpowering that those he displaced often apologized when they discovered him there.
He began to pace every room, like a happy lunatic, waving his hands and reciting the film in great shouts. We listened to him, dazzled, and it seemed we could see the images, like flocks of phosphorescent birds that he set loose for their mad flight through the house.
Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.
For those (like myself) who still read Twain with a kind of absorbing awe, and also those (not like myself) who read academic writing, I’m quite proud to point to this month’s issue of The Writer’s Chronicle, which features a lengthy work of mine titled “The (Magical) Voice of Community in Mark Twain’s The Mysterious Stranger,” in which I argue that Twain was America’s (and perhaps the world’s?) first magical realist novelist, and also that magical realism itself is little more than…well…how southerners talk.
In the clearing around the shack were high mounds of junk. There were stacks of bald tires, car bodies without hoods, rusted hubcaps, foaming car batteries, splintered wooden ladders, broken sheets of fiberglass, brown bed springs. It was interesting to look down from the top of the embankment at all that junk, because a lot of it you couldn’t even identify and it was fun to see if you could figure out what it had once been used for. Sometimes stray dogs found their way into that clearing and sniffed among the mounds, looking for the right place to lift a leg. When you tossed pebbles down from the embankment, they believed in God.
…from The Risk Pool, by Richard Russo. Years ago, my friend Ramon (a lanky man with a startling gaze, chaotic hair, and a philosopher’s taste in video games) handed me this book in a Hong Kong beer joint. It took me half a decade to read. The lesson, as always, which I should have remembered from the decaying, hungover afternoons of our youth in Southern China: when Ramon hands you a book with the both of his hands, read it immediately.
Strait’s version, the only one that most people will ever hear, is masterfully plain. He occasionally approaches a syllable from above, using a mournful grace note, but he has an easy, conversational way of putting a melody across, as if he were singing to keep from talking.
The first section of this New Yorker article on George Strait contains some of the most enlightened music journalism I’ve ever read.
He’s come to make love on your satin sheets
Wake up on your living room floor
He’s the last of the hard-core troubadours
…decades later, and this song still makes me want to start a band. Hard-Core Troubadour, track 2 from Steve Earle‘s 1996 album, I Feel Alright, which is Lesson #1 in Rock & Roll Songwriting, both for its lyrical content and for containing all five of the Top-5 Greatest Drum Punctuations in history.