James Seay explores the geography of Panola County, Mississppi, where his grandfather would often go hunting—a land known as the Tallahachie River bottomlands. Seay realizes in writing about this land that his family had hunted in the same lands where Faulkner mined "scenes and features" for his famed Yoknapatawpha.
"To love a place from a distance is to embellish it with memory, desire, and myth. Why Don't You Come Home is a fantasy, a lyric, and a document of one of several returns to the place where I grew up. It is part of an ongoing exploration of a South that is both familiar and strange, both real and imagined."
In "Sky Burial," published in the OA's Fall 2014 issue, Alex Mar visits the Forensic Anthropology Center at San Marcos University (FACTS)—the largest of America's five body farms, where people donate their bodies to be studied for the benefit of science.
"It’s exceptionally difficult to talk about Haw—the newest record from Hiss Golden Messenger, the songwriting alias of M. C. Taylor—without talking about death, and Sunday morning seemed like as good a time as any for Taylor and me to get into it. We were seated outside at Durham’s Geer Street Garden, and in between forkfuls of grits I was trying to tell him about an interview I’d read with the Sri Lankan monk Bhante Gunaratana, in which Gunaratana suggested that death is constant, omnipresent."
An OA playlist: There are thousands of versions of the song “John Henry,” and every one, Greil Marcus argues in “Guitar Drag,” is “an affirmation of the power of a single African American to deny and defeat the white power set against him even if it costs him his life, but not his dignity, with the song rolling down the decades from the 1920s.” As a companion to the essay, Marcus offers this playlist, his choice of the versions of “John Henry” that stand out among the others.