Paddling to Walter Inglis Anderson’s Horn Island—a feature essay from the Fall 2019 issue.As we paddled, my awareness inverted, a shift in perspective that would continue for the entire journey. Though we were headed south, the world was tilted, and as on Anderson’s map, Horn Island was the North Star.
An Omnivore essay from the Spring 2019 issue.
Due to his health, Leon Redbone can no longer be interviewed. In a way, he’s become a version of the old-time musicians he so admired, about whom little is known: You can only reach them through recordings, archival materials, and the accounts of other people. Longtime friends and band members tell me they knew never to ask about his past. Others say they were sworn to secrecy, and intend to keep the secrets. His own family members say they know little about his early life.
Male romantic friendships in art and life
Everything about my reading and living felt belated. I’d missed by one hundred fifty years the cultural context that somehow explained my intimacy with Luke Henry better than I could, and my education in nineteenth-century romantic friendship came too late.
On the architecture of white supremacy
Let us look again, now, at this beautiful house, read it this time as a series of universally legible signs for white supremacy. You arrive on horseback and wait outside a gate—the first of several barriers, both physical and human, that must be passed through to reach the master—and enter onto a private road that takes you through a cathedral-like apse of oaks, arranged to express the planter’s dominion over the natural world. From this road, you do not see the functional buildings—kitchen, smithy, stables—nor the quarters for the people the planter enslaves; those are small, unpainted, off to the side. The planter’s house stands alone at the end of this archway of boughs, a telos and a temple. Great white columns rise two stories from their plinths, supporting a pediment that drags its tip against the sky. It looks for all the world like a Roman temple. And who lives in temples but the gods?
The pieces of Johnny Greene, an Omnivore essay from the Fall 2019 issue.
Johnny used place as a recurrent theme, along with displacement. As a journalist, he was fascinated by communities, by groups of people and the environments which shaped them. As a person, his roads always led back to Alabama.
Could Lucy Negro Redux beckon a new era for ballet?—an Omnivore essay from the Fall 2019 issue.
I believe artwork is more interesting—and will invite new audiences—when a wide swath of people are allowed to tell a variety of stories. There’s just one issue here: most ballet audiences don’t come to the theater to think about representation. Ballet is a form of escapist entertainment that celebrates the athletic prowess of the human body, and the fact is, the bodies on stage are usually white.
A feature essay from the North Carolina Music Issue.
I wanted to start with the wild weeds and the creaking wood on the front porch, walking up to Nina Simone’s childhood home in Tryon, North Carolina. I wanted to start where she started, imagining her daddy playing jazz standards on the piano, her mama cooking something good and greasy in the cramped kitchen with siblings zooming around. I envisioned myself, like Alice Walker looking for Zora Neale Hurston’s unmarked grave, shouting Nina in the derelict home, hoping somehow she would appear, gloriously phantasmagoric, and answer all of my incessant probing questions.
We both loved Gary Stewart, and we both loved Grace.
My wife Grace’s father was a big man. He wasn’t much more than six feet tall, but I think folks thought of him as taller because he carried himself large. He tried being a hippie once, he said, but couldn’t abide the non-violence (too many people needed to get their asses kicked). At the first job he ever had, on a ranch, he got a business card with his official title: COWBOY. He kept that card. He wore a cowboy hat and cowboy boots. He had the best hunting dogs in Levy County. For a while he ran a sawmill. For a while he was a watermelon farmer, then a beekeeper, then he raised buffalo on the family farm. That’s just a small sampling. His name was John. He went by Chuck.
Anne Spencer’s ecosystem of art and activism
As I read, I fell in love with Anne Spencer’s fierceness and wit. In some ways, she reminded me of my own grandmother—a voluble woman, gardener, and scrawler of notes on the back of lists. Finding Spencer’s scraps, I felt the same sort of matriarchal literary presence amid the dailiness of domestic life: glimpses of how an ambitious, literary-minded woman might manage a house.