May 27, 2015

When people ask, why read short stories? I want to say: stories teach us to be noticers the way directions once taught us to be noticers. We sit down with a short story and know we’re going to get somewhere in a single sitting. The details are what will get us there.

May 22, 2015

People have gone to Texas for many reasons. In the past, people went because they were running from something, such as Johnny Law or Jerry Influenza, while others went to get rich by digging in the ground for valuable commodities, such as oil and Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders. As for me, I came to Texas for a much less noble reason, which was to try to be a writer.

March 26, 2015

The most obvious thing I have in common with Charles Wright is myopia. When we were children nearsightedness was rare enough to inspire playground humor—the kids who wore glasses were “Four Eyes” or “Mr. Magoo.” Wright, seventy-nine, still wears them and is invariably photographed behind them—his eyes, unlike his poetry, giving nothing away. But if any poet has looked harder and seen  more of this world—seen it literally, tree by tree, bird by bird, moonrise by moonrise—and responded to it in verse more distinctive and indelible than Wright’s, I’m waiting to see the poetry that proves it.

May 20, 2015

Shelley and Chief burst through the trees across the pasture. It was the end of a hot day of riding at the stables near our home in Tampa. My sister had gone out there with a friend and, as usual, she was one of the last to return. Shelley would turn fifteen that summer. She never took to softball or cheerleading; she was deeply in love with horses. Our divorced parents recognized this, and Chief—a deceivingly handsome bay with some quarter horse in him—was her prize.

March 12, 2015

Early in 2014, Lewis Hyde, the author of The Gift, came to Jackson, Mississippi, to visit with others who volunteered to spend a handful of months in 1964 teaching and canvassing in the most violent province of Dixie. This was not like most reunions, for people at such events don’t normally talk about the first time they suffered police harassment or were tailed by the Klan, and they don’t screen a movie that was recently made about their experience and then discuss the ways in which the film felt authentic or not.

March 03, 2015

William never intended for anyone to read these diaries. He kept his record in a cipher of his own design, fashioning shapes and symbols to conceal the terse fragments of his life. Presumably, he took the key to his coded diary to his grave. 

February 19, 2015

An interview with Amanda Shires.

I was trying to be on my own in Lubbock, playing my own songs, but I guess people didn’t see me like that. It was my fault, because I had to pay my rent, so I was still taking sideperson work, which kept me from being known as just that. I had written some songs with Thrift Store, but it was never an idea that I could do it on my own, solo, until Billy Joe told me to. He even said, “There’s no loyalty in side work. This week, fiddle is cool, but next week, it might be a dobro, and then where will you be?”

January 15, 2015

The amount of blood pooled up on the Deep Ellum street that evening in March 1931 shocked even those city folk who labored with pig stickers and hooks at the Dallas stockyards. A drunk man bleeds faster, more voluminously, than a sober one, and the heat radiating from the earth that Saturday would have hurried along the lifeblood—an unfortunate confluence of factors.

January 27, 2015

On April 28, Dust-to-Digital released No More Good Time In The World For Me, a two-CD set of Bruce Jackson’s recordings of J.B. Smith. Revisit producer Nathan Salsburg’s article about Smith and his work songs, from our Texas music issue.

January 07, 2015

Many people have the vague idea that Roy Orbison’s life was marked by tragedy, and that was why he hid his eyes behind dark glasses and sang so many songs about crying, feeling afraid, and dreaming of happier times. This actually gets the cause-and-effect sequence of Orbison’s life all wrong. It turns out that he wrote those terribly sad songs first, then he started dressing in black, and only later did his life fall apart.