Friday, June 6, 2014

Arkansas Times Recommends: 'Nutshell Library,' Custom Knives and Minnie Riperton getting attacked by a lion

Posted By on Fri, Jun 6, 2014 at 3:44 PM

click to enlarge Maurice Sendak
  • Maurice Sendak

Arkansas Times Recommends is a weekly series in which Times staff members (or whoever happens to be around at the time) highlight things we've been enjoying (or, in Max's case, not enjoying) this week.

Before I had a kid, I expected, as an avid reader, that reading to him would be one of the great pleasures of fatherhood. It is often. But it can also be drudgery. There are a lot of terrible childrens books out there. Even classics that I'd argue deserve a place in the pantheon of great children's books like Richard Scarry's "Cars and Trucks and Things That Go" grow tedious after the 100th read. Not so, at least after about 50 reads, with Maurice Sendak's "Nutshell Library." This isn't a novel recommendation, I realize. It's a classic. But I suspect that there are a lot of folks, like me, who didn't grow up with it because maybe their parents thought the collection of four tiny (4 inch by 2 inch) books were too weird and dark. There's one about a boy who threatens to eat a menagerie that's taken over his room. One about alligators who pretend to be lions and do other strange things. One is a fairly psychedelic ode to chicken-soup. And one is a morality tale about an apathetic boy and the lion who eats him. Of course that's the sort of stuff a lot of kids like. And it's definitely what I like. Also, Sendak's sense of rhythm is so good. I don't think I'll ever tire of reading lines like, "as night began to fall, a hungry lion paid a call. He looked Pierre right in the eye, and asked him if he'd like to die." — Lindsey Millar

You know Hattori Hansu, the guy in "Kill Bill" who Uma Thurman goes to see so she can talk him into making her a sword that can cut God for her roaring rampage of revenge? If you ever need a sword like that, save your money for a ticket to Okinawa and go see Jerry Fisk over near Nashville. Jerry might, in fact, be the world's greatest maker of edged weapons. He's surely the world's greatest at Damascus steel.

Here's how you make Damascus steel: standing before a roaring blast furnace on the very doorstep of hell, you take a bunch of layers of various plain ol' steel, and then you heat 'em red hot and hammer them together until they are welded into a solid bar. When you have whupped it down to half the thickness it was when you started, you fold the bar in half and you do it again. Red hot, hammer down, fold. Red hot, hammer down, fold. You do that 500 times — along with some other tricks and secrets that only the Master knows — and you've got Damascus steel, which looks like frozen moonlight on water.

What I'm recommending today isn't a trip over to Nashville to buy one of Jerry's knives. Being the best in the world has its privileges and drawbacks, and Jerry's waiting list for a knife, last I heard, is seven years long. Get on Jerry's naughty or nice list today, and Santa will make delivery in 2021 (unless you're active-duty military, in which case you get bumped to the top of the list). What I'm recommending, instead, is the gallery on his website. In particular, I'm recommending that you go look at this chef's knife, which is in a Damascus pattern called "Tears of the Wounded," and which I find it so goddamn beautiful it makes me want to cry just looking at it. That an object like that was made by a plain ol' human being instead of Hephaestus at the forge should give all of us hope that — whatever you're trying to do — perfection, or dang close to it, is possible if we just keep going through the parts when we aren't doing so hot. — David Koon

In the fall of 1982, the writer Ian Frazier moved from New York to Montana, where he didn't know anyone or have any connections or roots whatsoever. He was trying to write a "novel about high school," and instead wrote "Great Plains," a travelogue-history-memoir hybrid about the broad, empty, flat region at the center of the country, a place he describes as being "like a sheet Americans screened their dreams on for a while and then largely forgot about." He spends most of his time driving — going to tourist spots and reading local newspapers and meeting interesting people. The historical research must have been staggering, but it's well hidden: Chapters are personal stories that alternate between, say, a hitch-hiker  Frazier picks up in Wyoming and a reconsideration of Sitting Bull's legacy, and it's seamless. No sections could be described as "detours" because every section is a detour. 

I bought it over the weekend at Fayetteville's cavernous Dickson Street Bookshop and am not very close to finishing it, which is nice. In an interview with The Believer ten years ago, Frazier said, "I really like pieces where you start at the beginning, and as you get farther and farther you realize this person has no idea what he’s talking about. It’s a defining kind of moment as a reader. It’s like you’ve gotten in the back of a taxicab and you realize the cab driver is completely lost and is just driving. It’s that kind of helpless but thrilling feeling. You’re being taken somewhere." That's what it's like to read "Great Plains." — Will Stephenson

Two years ago this Monday I got married in New Orleans to Grace (featured in this week's Arkansas Times). Lots of stuff happened but one of our favorite moments during the ceremony was singing "Want You to Know" — the best song by the best psychedelic soul supergroup you've maybe never heard of, the Rotary Connection. "Want You to Know" is just about the perfect song and features one of my all-time favorite performances by the one-of-a-kind force of nature Minnie Riperton. My recommendations: 1) listen to "Want You to Know" over and over and sing along with folks that you love and 2) when you go down the Google/YouTube rabbit hole with Rotary Connection and Minnie Riperton (and that is definitely something you should do) make sure not to miss the time Minnie got attacked by a lion (see below — 1:10 mark, but the whole interview is great). Also, 3) if you get married, get married to someone who can play "Want You to Know" on trombone still wearing her bride's dress. Worked for me. — David Ramsey


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Will Stephenson

  • A Q&A with Peter Guralnick

    On writing biographies, Elvis, Charlie Rich and more.
    • Apr 14, 2016
  • Ruthie Foster comes to South on Main

    Also, Mumford and Sons at Verizon, 29th Annual Ozark UFO Conference in Eureka Springs, Fantastic Cinema and Craft Beer Festival at Riverdale and Melanne Verveer at the Clinton School.
    • Apr 7, 2016
  • Goodbye to all that (Arkansas edition)

    What I'm trying to say is that I'm quitting the Arkansas Times — this is my last week — and not because I hated it, but because I loved it so much.
    • Apr 6, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Staff Picks: Netflix and Chill, Benji's pasta fresca, Creedence Clearwater Revival and more

    The podcast Design Matters, published by Design Observer, is celebrating its 10th year and they are revisiting some of their best episodes from the last decade. I just finished this week's replay of the interview with the Scottish born illustrator Marion Deuchars. At the end of the wonderful interview, her two young sons are invited into the studio near where they pitch in some of their own thoughts on art and, in particular, drawing in the art books their mother created for children and adults.
    • Aug 28, 2015
  • Guest Mix: Rural War Room

    World wide weird duo Rural War Room (Donavan Suitt & Byron Werner) is celebrating 10 years of broadcasting and production here in Little Rock and abroad. RWR Radio on KABF 88.3 FM (10 p.m. Tuesdays or anytime on their website), features the duo alternating records in an effort to surprise one another.
    • Sep 14, 2015
  • Your new flags of Little Rock

    BRASHER: Hello Arkansans, this is the first piece from us, Brasher and Rowe and we are some dudes who work in downtown Little Rock and we eat lunch and just talk about all the exciting things around here.
    • Sep 18, 2015

Most Shared

  • World leaders set to meet in Little Rock on resource access and sustainable development

    Next week a series of meetings on the use of technology to tackle global problems will be held in Little Rock by Club de Madrid — a coalition of more than 100 former democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world — and the P80 Group, a coalition of large public pension and sovereign wealth funds founded by Prince Charles to combat climate change. The conference will discuss deploying existing technologies to increase access to food, water, energy, clean environment, and medical care.
  • Tomb to table: a Christmas feast offered by the residents of Mount Holly and other folk

    Plus, recipes from the Times staff.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.
  • Fake news

    So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.

Visit Arkansas

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans

Most Viewed

  • Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers come to Verizon Arena April 23

    Tom Petty announced in a sketch on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" last night that he and his longtime band The Heartbreakers, will be reuniting for a 40th anniversary tour with Joe Walsh, and the tour will stop at Verizon Arena April 23, 2017.

Blogroll

 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation