When I was the Column One editor at the L.A. Times, I used to do a weekly note to readers that really made me feel connected to them. I met the coolest people through it, including a fabulous 80-year-old jazz singer who lived in a cabin in Laurel Canyon in the early ‘60s and now lives in a farmhouse in Sweden. (Can I have that life?)
So I thought I’d revive the tradition here, including the format. It’s a little list of some of the things I’ve been listening to and reading this week, either online or on actual ink and paper (or vinyl).
Story soundtracks: Two of my biggest loves are narrative journalism and music, and I’m lucky that my days are filled with both. When reading the stories, I get inspired by songs I think fit the article’s theme — a soundtrack. Here are a couple of this week’s story soundtracks:
The Michael Brick series (isn’t it but beautiful?) made me think of Springsteen: the same kind of stories about people just trying to live their lives, not asking for much, just a little bit of happiness every now and then. Both of them with an ear for everyday speech, and the soul of a poet. I put on the “Darkness on the Edge of Town” album first, but then decided “Atlantic City” fit the Coney Island trilogy the best.
And without comment, I’ll just say the Jane’s Addiction song “Ted, Just Admit It,” about the killer Ted Bundy, kept going through my head as I worked this 5 Questions about the director of “O.J. Simpson: Made in America.”
What I’ve been reading online: I worked with the talented Ashley Powers at the Times, and I’ve been following her work for The California Sunday Magazine since she left the paper. Absolutely loved the Coen brothers feel of the Vegas Plot awhile back, and am planning to feature her latest, The Man in the Woods, on this site soon. Equal parts spooky and sad, she sets the mood in the lede with this description of redwoods:
They’re Grimms’ fairytale trees: They render you small and disoriented, a child who’s wandered off.
What’s on my bedside table: Because Memorial Day is the starter’s pistol shot for WASP summer in New England, I thought I’d celebrate my first summer as a full-time Maine resident by reading some John Cheever. If you haven’t read “The Wapshot Chronicle,” you must! Consider this description of Mrs. Wapshot:
She was beautiful but when she tasted the water from the glass on her lectern she smiled sadly as if it were bitter for, in spite of her civil zeal, she had a taste for melancholy – for the smell of orange rinds and wood smoke – that was extraordinary. She was more admired among the ladies than the men and the essence of her beauty may have been disenchantment (Leander had deceived her).
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: “Aretha Live at Fillmore West.” My last live show in California before moving east was at the Fillmore, a great gig by the Last Shadow Puppets (the crazily gifted Alex Turner doing his best Elvis/lounge singer shtick). So it was very cool to discover this in my garage while packing up for the move. And who knew I’d ever like a version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water”?
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