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

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

If you are unfamiliar with Texan Kevin Russell, the singer/songwriter and guitar, mandolin, and ukulele player who lately goes by the nom de pluck Shinyribs, as does his brilliant funking, picking, and punking band, it is totally misleading for me to introduce you, as I just did, as if he were a man of constant sorrow. In fact, Russell—clad in his pistachio green, or orange plaid, or lip-blotting pink/red booty-shaking suit, and backed by a core of ticking, riffing sidemen, the Tijuana Trainwreck Horns, and the Shiny Soul Sisters—leads one of the finest party bands around and, when called for, a heckuva crowd rousing conga line.

Celebrating the idiosyncratic genius of Thelonious Monk, born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, on October 10, 1917.

In a remarkable 1963 appearance with Juilliard professor and friend, Hall Overton, at the New School in New York, Monk demonstrated his technique of “bending” or “curving” notes on the piano, the most rigidly tempered of instruments. He drawled notes like a human voice and blended them (playing notes C and C-sharp at the same time, for example) to create his own dialect. Overton told the audience, “That can’t be done on piano, but you just heard it.” He then explained that Monk achieved it by adjusting his finger pressure on the keys, the way baseball pitchers do to make a ball’s path bend, curve, or dip in flight.

One month after Hurricane Harvey, Episcopal Priest Bertie Pearson visited Aransas Pass, Texas, to document the disaster. He found a city in ruins, as if it “had been lifted up and shaken, sending homes, boats, and trees flying in all directions.”

A kind of connective tissue linked my country’s most African city with an African moment that seemed stunningly American. The pallbearers danced, the band played, the mourners walked and swayed alongside while men and women pressed yet more naira bills on the sweat of our bodies—a symbol of respect and goodwill.

It was around this time that my father and his friends started a gang. They were all blanquitos from Condado: Yasser Benítez, Claudio LaRocca, Tommy Del Valle, and Juanma Thon. On the night their gang became official, they downed a bottle of Bacardi, then smashed it into pieces and used a shard to cut their arms. Then they rubbed their wounds together, so the blood passed from arm to arm.

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

Collectively, the students’ work forms a nuanced, intimate portrait of communities as they struggle to survive. The completed videos are presented to local residents—there have been screenings in municipal buildings, town commons, baseball fields, churches—and hundreds of people attend. Feedback is near universal: In listening to the stories of their fellow residents, audience members have gained a deeper understanding of the impact of political, social, and cultural issues on their family, friends, neighbors, and fellow community members.

Editor's Note: We are saddened to learn of the death of rock & roll legend Tom Petty on Monday, October 2, 2017. He was sixty-six. Revisit Holly George-Warren’s interview with Petty from our Fourth Annual Southern Music issue in 2000.

Since his 1976 debut, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, there have been ten mega-selling Heartbreakers albums, two triple-platinum solo releases, a six-CD box-set retrospective, and the soundtrack to an Ed Burns film. In the 1980s Petty played in the Traveling Wilburys, a young’un among legends Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, and George Harrison, and the Heartbreakers themselves have collaborated with Dylan and Johnny Cash, among other luminaries. Through it all, Petty’s roots have continually poked through his earthy pop-rock, most obviously on 1985’s Southern Accents, with its elegiac title track and anthemic “Rebels.” 

 

In Fair Bluff Evan Simko-Bednarski explores a North Carolina town “in danger of simply fading away,” struggling to recover from the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. The flood and its destruction come after the one-two punch of the tobacco and textile industries crumbling in the 1990s. As one resident put it, “The town was dying. The hurricane just sped us up by ten or fifteen years.”

Sketches of Tennessee.

From the time I was about ten years old, my mother and I put in our time by visiting with Irma for an hour or two every day. We’d bring her the Enquirer and Star and try to cheer her up by pointing out the most salacious stories and the home remedies for arthritis. Sometimes she’d enlist me to rub her back, and I’d perch monkeylike on the back of the couch, kneading her knots as she growled, “I could hug yer neck fer that.”

An installment in Chris Offutt’s Omnivore column, Cooking with Chris. 

Nothing is as powerful as the extraordinary jolt of a teenager’s first love. It’s like seeing the world after a double-cataract surgery. Life is suddenly exquisite. Each leaf becomes the bearer of unbearable beauty. Romeo and Juliet were so deliriously happy that they embraced murder and suicide as an ideal solution. I didn’t go that far, but I fell deeply and totally in love with Kim.

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

From the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University: To introduce our first story for The By and By, a writing-and-audio narrative around the new book The Blood of Emmett Till, we asked its author, Timothy B. Tyson, to reflect on the overwhelming response to the book since its release, why the story of Emmett Till continues to resonate so profoundly.

In That Land of Perfect Day is the culmination of Brandon Thibodeaux’s eight-year long residency in the towns of the northern Mississippi Delta, including the United States’ oldest completely African-American municipality, Mound Bayou.