NPR has created a nice collection of audio RSS feeds (podcasts) by topic and/or program. Among them is a feed for segments about books. I’ve added it to the Book News via RSS collection of book news feeds. Here’s the whole collection.
I just got off the phone with Liane Hansen of NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday. The show asked me to be a part of their Summer Reading series, which asks a guest each week what they’ve been reading, what they’ll read next, and what they’d read if they had all the time in the world. Hopefully, I don’t sound too nervous (it was my first time on the radio – a little nerve-wracking). But if you want to tune in, it’ll be on midway through the show’s second hour tomorrow. The segment will be posted on their website as well, so I’ll post a link here after it airs.Update: You can now listen to the segment online if you missed it on the radio.
Tonight’s installment of the Pacific Standard Fiction Series here in Brooklyn features two top-flight novelists: Joseph O’Neill, author of Netherland, and Hari Kunzru, author of My Revolutions and The Impressionist. Books will be for sale on-site, and drink specials will be chosen by dartboard. The reading starts at 7 p.m. at Pacific Standard, between Bergen and St. Mark’s. Hope to see you there!Bonus links: James Wood reviews of O’Neill and Kunzru in The New Yorker.
The Millions recently published guest contributor Ed Simon’s list of nominations for America’s national epic. Ed had included Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited; editor Lydia Kiesling ruthlessly cut the entry, feeling that it was too cute to cross genres. Now that the Nobel Prize Committee has upheld Ed’s judgment, we run his argument in its entirety below, with our apologies for denying his prescience. As the Laureate says, “We’re idiots, babe.”
Highway 61 Revisited (1965) by Bob Dylan – There is a temptation to claim that when it comes to Dylan, the greatest epic isn’t any individual album, but rather the entirety of his collected output, or maybe even better, the substance of his very life. After all, his story is almost absurdly archetypical American, a tale of rugged individualism and self-invention in which our young hero went east rather than west. His is a story about young Robert Zimmerman, suburban Jewish kid from Hibbing, Minnesota, hitch-hiking to Morris Plains, New Jersey, where he received a folk benediction from the hillbilly Okie troubadour Woody Guthrie dying from Huntington’s disease in a state hospital. As a result, he acquired the bardic name Dylan and moved to Greenwich Village where he would reinvent American music. Performing for half a century and with 37 albums, Dylan reconciles American contradictions more than any other performer before or after. He has been the firebrand revolutionary singing for civil rights and the reactionary Christian fundamentalist revivalist; he played folk modeled on the oldest songs in the English language and he went electric; though as he put it with characteristic impishness at a 1965 press conference, he primarily thinks of himself “as more of a song and dance man.” While the argument could be made for several different albums as Dylan’s American epic, it is Highway 61 Revisited which most fully embodies the grandeur and the shame of what the word “America” means – it is prophetic in its evocations. He riffs on Genesis when he sings “God said to Abraham, ‘Kill me a son,’/Abe says, ‘Man, you must be puttin’ me on,’” but as in the original God is serious, so is Dylan’s, continuing with, “Well Abe says, ‘Where do you want this killin’ done?’/God says, ‘Out on Highway 61.’” The songwriter’s genius for what critic Greil Marcus has called “the old, weird America” understands that collapsing biblical history into American is a fundamental strategy for expressing the strangeness of this country. Why shouldn’t Mt. Moriah be on America’s most iconic highway? In his lyrics, which skirt just this side of surrealism, there is a panoply of strange characters, including Cinderella, Bette Davis, Albert Einstein, Cain and Abel, Eliot and Pound, Ophelia and Robin Hood (just to present a smattering). Dylan’s lyrical logic is myth logic, but all the better to be recounted in the language of dreams. The road is the medium of the hero’s journey, and Highway 61 isn’t the only one on the album; there’s also “Desolation Row,” where “They’re selling postcards of the hanging,” calling forth nothing so much as America’s brutal racial legacies. And of course there is the opus “Like a Rolling Stone.” The electric masterpiece whose performance Pete Seeger tried to prevent at Newport by attempting to cut the electrical cables with an axe, the track which inspired a concert-goer at the Manchester Free Trade Hall to scream out at Dylan, “Judas!” – the rock song which birthed rock music. A six-minute long evocation of wounded friendship, rage, and rebellion. How does it feel, indeed?
We’d like to introduce you all to our new intern, Ujala Sehgal, who beat out 50+ other applicants for the position. Ujala lives in Manhattan and recently left a nascent career in corporate law to travel and focus on her writing. Her first full-length piece, about negotiating one’s limitations as a reader and writer, has been published today. Welcome Ujala!
As previously discussed, I’m moving to Philadelphia this week, and then Mrs. Millions and I are heading to a wedding in LA, so don’t expect to hear much from me until about a week from now. However, I will be putting up any posts I get from contributors, so stay tuned.Also, recommendations on fun Philly stuff are still welcomed in the comments of the post linked above.
I’d like to welcome another new contributor to The Millions. I worked with Patrick Brown at the book store in Los Angeles for a couple of years, and when I moved to Chicago, he moved to Iowa. Above this post, please enjoy the first of what I hope will be many contributions from Patrick.