"This is what set Geeshie and Elvie apart even from the rest of an innermost group of phantom geniuses of the ’20s and ’30s. Their myth was they didn’t have anything you could so much as hang a myth on." John Jeremiah Sullivan investigates more mysterious musicians in The New York Times Magazine. Bonus: You can listen to their music as you read. For more of Sullivan’s music journalism, read his piece on the origins of ska.
Rebecca Gayle Howell
“I Don’t Know Why I Love You” by Stevie Wonder
"While I was writing Render /An Apocalypse, I listened to a lot of old Motown – The Supremes, The Jackson 5 — it’s that beat, that drive, that hammer. It doesn’t quit. Doesn’t let you quit. But this Stevie Wonder song is the one. The man rides the climax until he falls off. He’ll scream before he’ll pretend something’s over when it’s not.
Render is a Southern agrarian myth. The protagonist wakes up in a landscape he’s forgotten how to survive, and the poems act as his instruction manual. “How to Kill a Rooster.” “How to Kill a Hog.” “How to Be a Man.” Mostly what the protagonist has forgotten is tenderness, but the animals try to remind him of it, even as he slits their throats. Reviewers have called the poems “brutal,” “gruesome,” “religious.” Maybe so. Unrequited love often is.”
— From Nick Ripatrazone’s “Liner Notes: A Poetry Playlist"
The other day, I saw Cornel West on television say that Lil Wayne’s physical body bears witness to tragedy. I don’t even know what that means, but I do think that Wayne’s artistic persona is a testament to damage.
Sometimes I worry that jazz has been ruined for the 21st century by caricatures of zoot suits and hirsute beatniks snapping away over black coffee, or has been relegated to the pathetic limbo of aural wallpaper at cocktail parties. It’s a shame that jazz doesn’t get the same kind of attention and mainstream buzz it used to.
"I submit that the kind of place Parker holds within jazz tradition is a little like what you would get if you mixed Beethoven with Jimi Hendrix. He was a game changer."
What happens when you put one of the biggest literary egos together with music’s biggest ego? A movie. Bret Easton Ellis is working with Kanye West on a film. “He came and asked me to write the film,” Ellis told Vice. “I didn’t want to at first. Then I listened to Yeezus…I thought, regardless of whether I’m right for this project, I want to work with whoever made this.” This is an interesting pairing because Kanye definitely isn’t a reader.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is almost as famous for being sampled on Beyoncé’s latest album as she is for her novel Americanah. With that in mind, she discussed her writing process, hair blogs, and what feminism means to her in Elle. “It means that I am present in the world, and that I realize that there is a problem with the way we’ve constructed gender,” she said. For more Adichie, read her 2013 Year in Reading post.