March 01, 2019

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?

 

March 19, 2019

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.

February 27, 2019

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

Every prepper magazine carried an article on water, mainly because there are a lot of overpriced devices out there for gathering, purifying, and transporting it. This gave me a sense of ease because as a rural man, I have my own well and am not dependent on external sources! My mitigation was fleeting—the pump runs on electricity. Just like that, I became a selfish, uncaring, deficient man, dependent on the power grid. A section on “Clean Water Wares” gave me serious concern due to its opening line:

With very few exceptions, water is the most important element required to survive an extended emergency. 

 

September 04, 2018

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 does the Lord feel about lard? Would God be annoyed that his power of mercy is used to peddle apparel? No, I concluded. The phrase is intended as funny, and one thing is certain: God has a sense of humor. Otherwise, where did ours come from?

 

September 04, 2018

Sarah Winchester and the legacy of living with guns 

It’s difficult to understate how the repeating rifle revolutionized killing, of both animals and man, as it brought the world from the single-shot muzzle-loaded rifle to a gun that could hold multiple cartridges and fire two shots per second. It’s the “gun that won the West.”

October 08, 2018

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.

June 12, 2018

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

Consumption of worms is widespread throughout the world among many disparate cultures, particularly in Canada. (The French confine themselves to eating snails.) This tradition extends to contemporary America, especially with children. My son ate worms. As a child I ate them when I felt left out or had my feelings hurt by other kids. Worms were an early comfort food. Eventually a folksong emerged from the hills based on my predeliction. Untold fortunes have been made from the song and I never saw a penny of royalties!

June 12, 2018

Reading Florida. 

You see one thing when you look at the state from a distance, but if you come closer, dig deeper, you always find something else. This probably has something to do with Disney World, but it also relates to the entire construct of Florida—the mythology of the state as a paradise preserved in time just for you.

March 13, 2018

Notes on the manuscript containing James Dickey’s essay “The Kingdom of the Other.”

Dickey was terrified of living an unexamined life, and he employed this technique, the imagining of the Other—the beings and places which were remote from his own biographical self—as a necessity to fuel creation, both in his writing and personal life.

March 13, 2018

An Omnivore essay by James Dickey, previously unpublished, from the 100th issue.

The point I would make here is that so much of the mind is just chucked away, discounted, overlooked, junked. The real use of the imagination begins precisely with the recognition that this is happening: the recognition that all one’s inner life matters, from the most habitual modes of thought to the most secret, and the recognition that each of us carries within him his own symbolic drama, never completely understood, but always glowing with the potential of meaning, the meaning of life itself, of our life, of human life as we have known it, each from his own vantage point.