A Southern Journey from the Summer 2019 issue.
In the Tampa exurbs, splashed across the side of a half-occupied strip mall, is a vast mural depicting the Victorian art critic-cum-philosopher-cum-political economist-cum-painter-cum-social reformer John Ruskin. He gazes out at an expanse of concrete and asphalt, most of his jaw coated in white paint to conceal an underlying scrawl of graffiti. It seems like a high-brow joke, to paint one of the nineteenth century’s leading critics of capitalism and industrialization to preside over a hollowed-out commercial landscape of accountants’ offices, pet grooming businesses, and laundromats. But this is Ruskin, Florida, after all, the town founded in 1908 that bears his name. And despite its appearance—“an interstate exit,” as one nearby resident described it to me—this place was once a radical experiment in utopian socialism, though it’s a lousy bet that many people around could tell you so.
A feature essay from the Fall 2018 issue.
Prine radiates a sense of well-being, along with a sort of amused nonchalance toward potential disaster. This is a good thing, because the Coupe, as it turns out, has no passenger-side safety belt. Or rather it has the shoulder belt, but the thing on the seat into which it is supposed to latch is missing. I noticed this awhile back, and it worried me for a few minutes. But then I thought, If you’re going to buy the farm it might as well be in a ’77 Coupe de Ville with John Prine.
A Points South story from the Fall 2018 issue
In the evenings, after the day’s rain, my grandfather drove through Starke counting cars in the lots of other motels, doing the math and feeling like a winner. For guests visiting family members held in the nearby state prison, home of Florida’s electric chair, he offered a special rate, either out of sympathy or, envisioning the stream of customers who would return once a month, good business sense. (Probably both, my mother says.)
A dialogue between Sarah Viren and Clinton Crockett Peters
I’ve always been drawn to the misfits because they’re not beautiful, because they’re stinky, because people kind of hate them and dislike them. Essays seem perfect for this subject matter because they are so amorphous, and there’s a long essay tradition of cataloging the weird, going back to Montaigne and cannibals and Sei Shōnagon and “Hateful Things.”