An installment of Chris Offutt’s Omnivore column, Cooking with Chris.  Big Bad Breakfast’s official slogan is “Lard have Mercy,” and I own one of their souvenir t-shirts. Recently I began to consider the words more carefully. Could it be sacrilegious? How… by Chris Offutt | Sep, 2018

An installment in John T. Edge's Points South column, Local Fare. When I began reading and thinking about Dixie Vodka, I didn’t want to gallop toward a conclusion. I aimed to plod, to listen, to map the paper trail of… by John T. Edge | Jun, 2018

A short story from the Fall 2018 issue. He saw no need to damn a place just on the face of it; he figured there must be a flower blooming somewhere in West Memphis, though he had seen no sign… by David Wesley Williams | Sep, 2018

A feature essay from the Fall 2018 issue. Why was my great-great-grandfather always referred to as “Robert Singleton, the Civil War veteran who lost his leg at Murfreesboro, then went on to become Clerk of the County Court” rather than… by Danielle Chapman | Sep, 2018

 A Letter from the Editor, Fall 2018. I was struck by a phrase written by Jelani Cobb for the New Yorker, which characterized our former president as “a man who grasps history as the living context of our lives.” This… by Eliza Borné | Sep, 2018

A Points South essay from the Fall 2018 issue For the past year, five Vanderbilt researchers and historians, myself included, have collected oral histories related to this site—a Union fort largely built by enslaved and free African Americans, many of… by Kelsey Norris | Sep, 2018

A featured short story from the Fall 2018 issue. Our distant ancestor Harriett Moss made a living painting portraits of dead children. But before her career began in earnest, she sketched only cows. It was her husband, Thomas Moss, who… by Lee Conell | Sep, 2018

A Points South story from the Fall 2018 issue “I just have this fear every day that somewhere there’s another load going to the landfill of the only known copy of something that helped change American music,” Darden told me.… by Will Bostwick | Sep, 2018

A feature essay from the Fall 2018 issue. I first devoured Robert Gipe’s books and plays because I wanted to understand Appalachia. I was searching for deeper insights than the victim-blaming bootstrap narrative espoused in J. D. Vance’s best-selling book,… by Beth Macy | Sep, 2018

November 21, 2017
Everybody wants to be Southern but don’t nobody want to be Southern, too. To enjoy the culture, to have gentrified ham hocks, but not to deal with ham hocks’ relationship to slavery or slavery’s relationship to the present and future. Folks want the fried chicken and Nashville and trap country music (an actual thing) and sweet tea, but they don’t want Dylan-with-an-extra-“n” Roof or the monstrous spectacle and violence in Charlottesville or the gross neglect and racism after Katrina. No one wants the parts of the South that make America great again.
November 21, 2017

That Hell was born and raised not in some dark and edgy urban enclave but in the rolling hills of Lexington, Kentucky, can feel incongruous. It’s too soft, where he comes from—too genteel. Yet having emerged from a region Hell considers a Nowhere—not in the ugly or pejorative sense, but in the empty sense, a place that was just like any other place, a blank place—allowed for wild self-creation later on. These are ideas that repeat for Hell: blankness, voids. He is someone who understands how to make something from nothing.

November 21, 2017

A girl was singing in one of the houses we passed. The sound rose up on the wind and out of the brownstone and out of the window down to us on the air. This girl behind that fluttering window curtain was an odd bird whose song I craved. I walked slow and deliberate to try and catch every note. I wanted to tell Glory to hush. This moment felt important to me, like I had just discovered some world for the first time, but Glory kept talking and kept walking. Knowing that I’d miss the end of that song, that I’d never know how it ended, made me want to cry. 

November 21, 2017

Interviews with Dwight—at least mine—always occurred on Dwight Time and largely in Dwight Space. About two hours before that first phone interview, Dwight called to apologize and say his day was crazy. Could we reschedule? I said sure, we set a time a few days later, and then he proceeded to talk for at least another hour.

November 21, 2017

An interview with Les McCann from the Kentucky Music Issue. 

All through high school the band teacher and I were very good friends. He received tickets to all the bands and brought me to concerts. I was in perfect heaven. I never said no to anything. And my mother was a fake opera singer. She’d listen to the opera every Sunday while she cleaned house and wooooo, oh my God, it was great! Everybody was into something. Right across the street from our house was the Elk’s Club, so every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night you’d hear a beautiful organ trio playing. 

November 21, 2017

I used to imagine the Holy Ghost as a fog that slept in the rafters of our church. I thought our music, singing, and shouting woke the Spirit. When It looked down and saw us, It was reminded of how lonely It was, how much It loved the children of God. Like the wind, the Holy Ghost wasn’t visible, but we could still feel Its power. It gave those It touched the ability to speak in tongues, the word of God pouring out of their mouths in garbled consonants and rolling vowels. 

November 21, 2017

A Points South essay from the Kentucky Music Issue. 

Over Labor Day weekend last year I called a distant cousin, Mitch Cundiff, to ask if he could take me to Paradise. The old town is just a few miles from his home in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, where my grandmother grew up. He told me he was happy to, but there was nothing there to see. “It’s like the John Prine song says,” he explained. “They hauled it away.” 

November 21, 2017

A Points South essay from the Kentucky Music Issue. 

The last time I heard Jimmy Raney play was at Bellarmine College in Louisville. To know that a master like Raney had gone deaf was to know that a Rembrandt was burning. He played alone because he could no longer hear well enough to play with others.

November 21, 2017

In Lexington, where I’m from, a federal medical prison stands on the town’s west side. Far off the main road, it does not ask our attention as we drive home from the Kroger’s or Goodwill—another sight among many in our urban pastoral. Not so long ago, this building held the nation’s attention as the world’s leading drug rehabilitation center, constructed to save civilization from the addict, and the addict from himself. Though, if the United States Narcotic Farm is today known for anything other than its eventual failure, it’s for the legendary figures who came there.

November 21, 2017

A Points South essay from the Kentucky Music Issue. 

The station’s first transmission was of the revered union ballad singer Nimrod Workman offering a lyrical good-morning salute to “all of my people”—and WMMT 88.7 FM has been an inclusive and surprising notch on the dial ever since. It broadcasts at 15,000 watts from the center of Appalachia, beaming out from the highest-elevation transmitter in the state and serving the heart of coal country via an elaborate system of translators that bounce the signal up remote hollows, from Clay County, Kentucky, in the west to the coal counties of Southwest Virginia in the east, and bleeding over into the mountainous edges of West Virginia.