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:
Annotation Tuesday! Brooke Jarvis and “The Deepest Dig.” I love it when writers manage to make science lyrical. And that’s what Brooke Jarvis did with this piece about the new business of deep-sea mining. This description is like a dream sequence, with beautiful rhythm: “The only break from the darkness comes when the sub drops through clusters of bioluminescence that look like stars in the Milky Way. They’re the only way for Van Dover to tell, in the complete darkness and absence of acceleration, that she’s sinking at all.” New contributor Katia Savchuk asks Brooke some great questions, in the Q&A and the annotation itself.
The Soundtrack: So many songs to choose from! It could have been “Rolling in the Deep,” by Adele, which I’m a total sucker for. Or “Blue Ocean Floor,” by (the newly serious) Justin Timberlake. But I had to go with “How Deep Is the Ocean,” by Frank Sinatra (and I could have chosen many other singers’ versions). Irving Berlin’s lyrics are so simple, but so effective.
5 Questions: The Washington Post’s Eli Saslow and “A survivor’s life.” This is another installment in a very cool series we’re doing on Storyboard: Tomorrow’s journalists exploring the masters of today. And is this ever about a master: Pulitzer winner (and two-time finalist) Eli Saslow. I think Mizzou student Francisco Vara-Orta put it best in his lede: “In a media landscape quite dependent on quick takes on Twitter and videos transmitted by smartphones, Eli Saslow’s byline offers reassurance of the staying power of the written word. We know what follows will offer a depth of humanity that’s established him as one of America’s premier narrative-driven journalists – and provided proof to those inheriting the field that this art has not been lost.”
The Soundtrack: “Survivor,” by M.I.A. I thought this might be something Cheyeanne might listen to, and the lyrics might resonate: “Trying not to remember/My time in the fire/Cause I ain’t gonna tell ya/This war is ever over.” M.I.A. is so fierce, and I think Cheyeanne is too, even if she struggles.
What I’m reading online: I usually like to mix it up and not let one writer hog all the space in this column, but I have to give a shout-out for Eli Saslow’s latest piece in the Washington Post, “The White Flight of Derek Black.” Even in a vacuum, this story about a young white supremacist renouncing his beliefs would be compelling. But right now, with this ugly election season like the country’s id on a rampage and the superego AWOL, and people unashamed to spew hate speech, it belongs in the category of Must Read.
What’s on my bedside table: “Tales of a Wayward Inn,” by Frank Case. This is an amusing (but far from Dorothy Parker amusing) memoir of the hotelier behind the famous Algonquin Hotel in New York, home of the literary glitterati Round Table. It’s full of humblebrags (some of them not so humble), but I suppose he’s allowed. Was there been a greater concentration of talent in one place for such an extended amount of time? I suppose the Chelsea Hotel could be its punkish equal. Here’s what he has to say about Dorothy Parker, which galls a bit: “A young girl named Dorothy Parker was frequently at the Round Table, where she would simply sit, no and then saying something at which the others would laugh and that was the end of it. Who was to know that these remakrs of Dotty’s would prove one influence, not the only influence but certainly an influence, that was to dress and fashion the conversation of a whole nation?”
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: “Robert Johnson: King of the Delta Blues Singers.” Sometimes everything about an album is wonderful: the cover, the music (oh, the music), the liner notes. When this album was released in 1961, very little was known about Johnson, who died far too young and in obscurity. The liner notes tell us about the hunt for more information about the elusive bluesman, and include some of the great lyrics. But it’s the music that thrills. The hair on the back of my neck stands on end when his voice soars into an otherworldly place on “Kindhearted Woman Blues.”
If you 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.