Just in time for the weekend, here’s a little list of some of the things I’ve been listening to and reading this week, some of it online — Storyboard included, natch — and some of it on vinyl actual ink and paper.
Two of my biggest loves are narrative journalism and music, and I’m lucky that my days are filled with both. When reading stories, I get inspired by songs I think fit the article’s theme — a soundtrack. Here are a couple of this week’s Storyboard articles, and their soundtracks:
Annotation Tuesday! The Shadowy World of “Involuntary Celibates.” When Elliot Rodger went on a rampage in Isla Vista, I remember reading some of his rants and being chilled to the core — as a woman, yes, but also as a human being. He identified as an “involuntary celibate,” or incel, a community filled with men — and they are almost all men — who don’t have sex, but not by choice. In this annotation, April Reese talks to writer Peter C. Baker about his profile of a young man named Michael, and Baker’s fascination with the margins of society. He says, “It’s not necessarily that the characters are on the margins, but they reveal something about the existence of the margins.”
Soundtrack: “Creep,” by Radiohead. If there ever were an anthem for the incels, this would be it. A lot of people see the song as purely self-loathing. It’s that, yes. But it’s also a song filled with anger at the object of his desire. I still get goosebumps when I hear it, especially when Thom Yorke’s voice lowers at “I want you to notice when I’m not around,” and his falsetto at the end. (Oh, this is the album version, so if you have tender sensibilities, watch out for the lead-in to the chorus. But it’s so superior to the lame “you’re so very special” of the radio version.)
“Why’s This So Good? Charles P. Pierce on Michael Brick and Deadline Writing. The mark of a truly gifted journalist is one who can be a beautiful writer on longer features and on deadline — as Pierce writes, “Writing well and writing fast always has been what newspaper reporters have for poetry.” Michael Brick was clearly a poet. Consider the closing to this deadline story, which could have been a run-of-the-mill story about a cop killer’s conviction:
Outside, there was applause. The uniformed officers descended the escalators, an uninterrupted stream of royal blue, back to the streets of Brooklyn and the coming night.
Soundtrack: “Rush,” by Big Audio Dynamite. OK, so Mick Jones’ follow-up band can’t compare to the Clash. (What can?) But this song makes me happy, especially the goofy little groove in the middle of it.
What I’ve been reading online: I’m not what you’d call a regular reader of Collector’s Weekly. In fact, I’d never heard of it before. Who knew it did longform journalism? And speaking of who knew — I had no idea that the original makers of Oneida silverware belonged to a commune that engaged in, ah-hem, “‘complex marriage,’ believing that loving, open sexual relationships could bring them closer to God.” I mean, who wouldn’t read a story with the headline, “The Polyamorous Christian Socialist Utopia That Made Silverware for Proper Americans”? Two days after I read this, I was having brunch at a local cafe and happened to notice my silverware. Yes, Oneida. You’ll never look at it the same way again.
What’s on my bedside table: The other day I stopped into a cool, independently owned bookstore in Rockland, Maine, called Hello Hello Books. It has that great mix of new books and vintage books and a tightly edited selection of creative-types magazines. I couldn’t resist getting e.e. cummings’ “POEMS 1923-1954.” As a newly returned New Englander, I loved feeling the line that runs from Emily Dickinson to cummings, who seems like a 20th century successor to his fellow Massachusetts poet. One sonnet I happened upon, one of the “Unrealities,” has clear echoes of Dickinson, with its theme of love and loss, and especially its closing lines:
Then shall i turn my face, and hear one bird
sing terribly afar in the lost lands.
What’s on my turntable: Although I spend most of my time listening to music on Spotify, sometimes I want to hear the needle touching down on vinyl. This week’s vinyl: Khachaturian’s “Gayne Ballet Suite,” performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Sometimes I buy vinyl solely for its cover, and that was the case this week when I saw this 45 in the local thrift store for a dollar. The graphic design of the sleeve, with its echoes of Soviet realism, reeled me in. But the clincher? Not one but two see-through red vinyl discs inside. Bliss. (Oh, although I’m not a classical music listener in general, the record was quite beautiful.)
If you want to suggest story soundtracks of your own, or just want to chat about storytelling or music, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can find me at @karihow on Twitter.