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 or 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:
How Tom Wolfe got his status obsession. I was reminded of that Dr. Seuss story about the Sneetches with the coveted stars on their bellies (and the sad Sneetches with no stars, until suddenly the reverse is true) when I read this piece on Tom Wolfe and the origins of his obsession with status. As David A. Price writes: “Wolfe’s nonfiction and fiction alike treat status competition as the mover of just about all human actions. Even many of the phrases he has contributed to American vernacular — like “good old boy,” “masters of the universe” and “pushing the envelope” — have their origins in status competition. (The latter phrase, originally “pushing the outside of the envelope,” made its way into “The Right Stuff” after he heard test pilots using it.)”
Soundtrack: Popular, by Nada Surf. This is one of those sneak-up-on-you bands. You don’t think about them much, and then you realize you’re coming back to them again and again, and they’ve become a stealth favorite band. If you don’t know the album “Let Go,” go find it. A near-perfect album.
“I like aliveness, whether it’s miserable or whether it’s ecstatic.” Here at Storyboard, we like to feature different forms of storytelling, like the oral version that’s really taking off in coffeehouses and other spaces around the world. The Moth is one of the movers in this world, and Daniel Gross talked to one of its performers, Rebecca Nesson, about the process of adapting a personal ordeal into a public performance. She says: “I experience live storytelling as a really brave thing that people do, when they get up there and they share something so personal. When you’re in the audience, it’s a very friendly, supportive environment where people respect the risks that the storytellers are taking.”
Soundtrack: “Confessions,” by Violent Femmes. I saw the band at Coachella a few years back, and they played their debut album, including this song, in its entirety on the 30th (gah!) anniversary of its release. I’m guessing that most of the Millennials at the festival didn’t know that Gnarls Barkley’s “Gone Daddy Gone” was a Violent Femmes cover. Come to think of it, maybe a lot of them were too young to even know the Gnarls Barkley cover. Can I say “gah!” again?
What I’m reading online: I’m on holiday, and arrived in Scotland as Britain was dealing with near-daily crises of Shakespearean levels in the wake of the country’s shocker vote to leave the European Union. The fallout from Brexit has claimed one party leader after another. The one that had drew the most Shakespearean comparisons was the treachery of Conservative politician Michael Gove in dispatching the prime ministerial hopes of his longtime ally, flamboyant former London Mayor Boris Johnson. (Gove was portrayed, variously, as Iago to the blondest Othello in history, MacBeth to his scheming journalist wife, and Brutus to a stabbed-in-the-back Caesar.) I kept wishing for a great narrative on the arc of their friendship from Oxford days to the moment it all ended in tears, but I never found one. I did, however, find a funny piece in the Independent on how their days in the Oxford debating society set it all in motion:
“You’ve got a point actually,” is the one thing you cannot say, even if you know your arguments are rubbish because you scribbled them on your napkin at dinner, and can’t quite read the second bit because you are drunk. The key is to keep people entertained.
What’s on my bedside table: The house I’m renting has possibly the best library of any vacation cottage I’ve ever stayed at. When I saw the cover to this original copy of “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” I knew I had my perfect holiday read. How about this for a classic Bond line:
If there was one thing that set James Bond really moving in life, with the exception of gun-play, it was being passed at speed by a pretty girl; and it was his experience that girls who drove competitively like that were always pretty — and exciting.
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. But not this week — I’m traveling. So how about one of the songs I’m hoping to hear live (even better than vinyl!) at this weekend’s T in the Park music festival in Scotland? Miracle Aligner, by the Last Shadow Puppets, the side project of Arctic Monkeys front man Alex Turner. He pairs up with Miles Kane (in the biggest Brit music bromance of the decade) to produce shimmering 60s-style pop, complete with absolutely lush orchestration.
If you want to suggest story soundtracks of your own, or just want to chat about storytelling or music, you can reach me at email@example.com. Or you can find me at @karihow on Twitter.