Grace Paley’s Midrash on Happiness (Humanistic Judaism Magazine, fall 2019)
"The more I read Paley, the more I think about her, the less I find her to be 'extraordinarily accepting.' She literally and literarily protested through her entire life. That’s what makes her such great company."
I contribute regularly to Early Learning Nation, an initiative of the Bezos Family Foundation. Some examples:
Otis Taylor: Blues Contrarian (Journola, 2020)
He and Carol, his wife of 34 years, live in a modernist landmark—a round glass house designed by Tician Papachristou. (Not exactly what you picture when you hear “house of blues,” is it?)
There Was an Incident: A Conversation with Millicent Dillon (The Awl, 2016)
"I knew the incident, being told about the boy on the sidewalk. It had happened to me some years before and remained in my mind as intangible and strange as well as demanding of attention. At the moment of hearing it, strangeness suddenly leaped out of ordinary life, insisting on recognition."
The True Story of the Bad Luck Painting (The Believer, 2008)
“Do you want it?” I asked Catherine.
“No, you should keep it,” she said. “Now you can get rid of the Bad Luck Painting.”
“I don’t have bad luck,” I protested.
“You don’t have good luck,” she answered.
Changing Places: Jamie Bennett Is Using Art as a Tool for Social Transformation (NY Observer, 2014)
"The irony of this particular body part appearing in the paper is that Mr. Bennett, 41, has the least sharp elbows in the cultural universe."
Robbie Fulks, In Color (Journola 2017)
“Writers like you don’t talk about music enough. It’s always about the words, the subject, the process. But music is most of it.”
A Dirty Dozen Dirtbombs Facts, and One Opinion (Journola 2015)
Mick Collins, the undisputed leader of the band, sings, plays guitar, and dreams up half-baked concepts for their albums, like covering techno classics or manufacturing fake bubblegum classics. He’s also—spoiler alert—a furry fan.
A Honky Tonk Dissident in Wales (Journola 2015)
Jeb Loy Nichols is his real name, and he’s just about the polar opposite of that other Jeb you’ve been hearing about. “I've lived my whole life having to repeat my name,” Nichols said to me in an e-mail. “Maybe Mr. Bush will raise awareness of those three letters: J E B.”
Forgotten Songs: The Case of Scott Fagan and Stephin Merritt (Vinyl District 2014)
The coincidences between the father and son, who never met until a few months ago, might raise some eyebrows but probably fall short of uncanny.
Amazing Graces: Tales from the Life of a Song (Bridge Magazine, 2003)
Vague enough and powerful enough to fit any size or kind of personal crisis, “Amazing Grace” endures in contexts far removed from its eighteenth-century origins.
I Used to Think Jazz Mattered (Vinyl District, 2014)
In nearly every other facet of existence I was irreverent and lackadaisical. It’s the fact that I was capable of such earnestness that stays with me today.
"$1000 Wedding": Gram Parsons's Faulknerian Mini-Opera (Perfect Sound Forever 2001)
What starts as a mournful wedding progresses toward the climax of a joyful funeral.
What Ever Happened to Madeleine Peyroux? (Perfect Sound Forever 2003)
What if a singer opens her mouth in 1996 and 1926 comes out?
Kenny Millions: "I Would Go Anywhere" (Perfect Sound Forever, 2002)
In those days, New York was hard-core heavy- the whole rip-off junkie scene.
Painted from Memory: Vera Klement's Prolific Retirement (Chicago Reader, 1999)
Klement shows me a recent painting, not of a sunset but of a dead body. She had come upon an accident on the street; an African-American boy had been hit by a car. "It was the first time I'd seen a dead body, and I just knew immediately that he was dead--he wasn't just unconscious. I painted the boy first. Then I didn't know what to do. Something had to go there"
Dylan in 1974 is as American as Dylan in 1967 is as American as Tupac Shakur is as American as Marilyn Manson. His great achievement lies not in getting one voice exactly right but in getting so many so right.