Will Stephenson

Will Stephenson is the author of the series “Outskirts of the Southern Canon” on OxfordAmerican.org. His writing has also appeared in the New York Times Magazine, FADER, Pacific Standard, and the Paris Review Daily.

November 21, 2017

There are no great books about the Everly Brothers. No classic documentary films. Despite their influence on American pop music, which would be difficult to overstate, or the great, gaping beauty and sadness of their music, we are left with no lasting monuments to their catalog beyond the catalog itself. That, and—along with other personal tributes—this sad, ugly, perfect collage by Ray Johnson, who finished the piece by scratching large Xs across its surface, some weeks before filing it away in a box, folding over a thousand dollars in cash into the pocket of his windbreaker, and diving off a bridge that January night.

November 02, 2017

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

The problem of pain is one that has long troubled humans in general, but dentists, perhaps, in particular. The issue has vexed the field for centuries. By the late 1950s, general anesthesia in the dentistry community had come under intense scrutiny, given the widely reported numbers of unnecessary deaths. There was the sense that something else—something safer, less toxic, simpler—could be the answer.

September 14, 2017

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

One of the strangest and rarest books in Hannah’s catalog, Power and Light is worth the trouble of seeking out, not only because it is the only tangible artifact of the author’s adventures in Hollywood, but also for its humor and formal uncertainty—a “novella for the screen” is an accurate description.

July 27, 2017

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

I am lying in bed on the Fourth of July. The apartment is empty. A box fan is propped on the dresser, blowing cool air, though I can’t hear it. I’m wearing headphones and listening to Bohannon: Speaks from the Beginning. This is the audiobook memoir of Hamilton Bohannon. Not the audiobook of the memoir, in other words, but the audiobook memoir—it only exists in an audio format. He didn’t find it necessary to write down the details of his life. Sound is his medium, always was. So he speaks.

June 08, 2017

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

When Cash Money was started several years before by the brothers Baby and Slim Williams, Kilo G had been its flagship artist. He was only fourteen when he met Baby and Slim, too young to sign a contract; they’d had to take a ferry across the river to find his grandmother, so she could sign in his place. Before Mannie Fresh, before Lil Wayne—before the fleet of Bentleys and yellow Hummers that roamed the streets of New Orleans like an occupying army—there had been Kilo G.

April 20, 2017

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

One of the paradoxes of George Ellis’s career, in hindsight, is that alongside his run of cheap exploitation films, he maintained a parallel career as Atlanta’s first great arthouse film exhibitor. It adds a layer of complexity to his work, to know that his own taste was impeccable—he understood the full range of cinematic possibilities and would have seen exactly where his films fit into that spectrum. Around the time Demented Death Farm Massacre was hitting theaters, Ellis was introducing Atlanta to the French New Wave and the New German Cinema, hosting retrospectives of Chaplin and Bergman.

March 22, 2016

Reading Terry Southern’s letters, I wondered whether Southern would have really wanted to see it published, or whether that matters. I wondered whether I even liked Terry Southern anymore, having read it. More than once, as he apparently intended, I wondered, Well, is this true?

January 29, 2016

MC Shy D brought hip-hop to Atlanta. Or anyway, he brought Atlanta to hip-hop—in the mid-eighties, he was the first rapper from the city to break out of it, to tour the country and make a name for himself. He became an object of adulation to the whole region.

September 09, 2015

Sweet Jones: Pimp C’s Trill Life Story, the frustrating and fascinating new biography by Julia Beverly, is a bizarre document, and a necessary one: by the time of his death in 2007 at age thirty-three, Pimp C had become recognized as one of the most exciting and influential producers in rap, his drawling, raspy snarl one of the genre’s most iconic guttural expressions.

December 06, 2013
The Outlaws were evidence that the counterculture had finally breached the South and had begun influencing even its most native forms, a rare period of overlap, it seemed, between popular and redneck tastes (between the rest of the country and “country”).
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