Weekend Reading List 7.2.15 (Holiday Edition) | Rock Candy

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Weekend Reading List 7.2.15 (Holiday Edition)

Posted By on Thu, Jul 2, 2015 at 12:47 PM

click to enlarge fireworks.jpg

Reading suggestions for the long weekend:

1) "No Union More Profound" (Oxford American)

A kind of prose poem, in which Little Rock poets Nickole Brown and Jessica Jacobs, featured in the Times back in April, respond to last week's Supreme Court ruling in the form of a series of letters to each other:

A turbulence of questions kept me awake: Were we considered married 20,000 feet in the air? Were we legitimate at 35,000? Or did it even matter all the way up there, the moon so close it was a giant porthole that rendered such questions laughable? And once we turned south, could we hold onto our joy, continue to celebrate after we glided over that black snake of the river below? Or how about seconds before the wheels came down and we landed with a dull thud back in Arkansas?

2) "The Man Who Saw America" (New York Times Magazine)

A profile of Robert Frank, "the world's pre-eminent living photographer," according to the journalist Nicholas Dawidoff. A contemporary of Jack  Kerouac and Allen Ginsburg, Frank emerged (and achieved a measure of art-historical immortality) with his 1958 photography book classic "The Americans." This piece is fascinating partly for its behind-the-scenes stories of the making of "The Americans," including Frank's transformational experience being arrested in Arkansas, which he says "darkened his artistic vision": 

At first, the South was to him ‘‘very exotic — a life I knew nothing about.’’ Then, in November 1955, Frank was traversing the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River, ‘‘just whistling my song and driving on,’’ as he says, when a patrol car pulled him over outside McGehee. The policemen’s report noted that Frank needed a bath and that ‘‘subject talked with a foreign accent.’’ Also suspicious were the contents of the car: cameras, foreign liquor. Frank was on his way to photograph oil refineries in Louisiana. ‘‘Are you a Commie?’’ he was asked.

Ten weeks earlier, Emmett Till was murdered a hundred miles away. ‘‘In Arkansas,’’ Frank recalls, ‘‘the cops pulled me in. They locked me in a cell. I thought, Jesus Christ, nobody knows I’m here. They can do anything. They were primitive.’’ Across the room, Frank could see ‘‘a young black girl sitting there watching. Very wonderful face. You see in her eyes she’s thinking, What are they gonna do?’’ Because his camera had been confiscated, Frank considers the girl his missing ‘‘Americans’’ photograph. Around midnight a policeman told Frank he had 10 minutes to get across the river. 

3) "Five Hostages" (New Yorker)

A new story by the great Lawrence Wright ("Going Clear," "The Looming Tower"), who here tracks the stories of five ISIS hostages (including James Foley) and their parents' efforts to band together to rescue them:

At certain key points, the F.B.I. forcefully shut down an investigative path that members of the Bradley team were following, usually with the explanation that they had to “deconflict” their effort with one that, presumably, the bureau was conducting on its own. “Swords get crossed,” the F.B.I. official noted. But people close to the scene saw little evidence that the bureau was investigating with urgency. After Jim Foley’s abduction, in November, 2012, it took two weeks for the F.B.I. to dispatch a pair of agents to Antakya to interview his friends.

4) "Sky High" (Virginia Quarterly Review)

An essay from the new issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review, in which writer Duncan Murrell offers both a memoir of his participation in "the most prestigious fireworks competition in the world," and a compact culture history of fireworks.

My fellow students and I treated one another as colleagues: There was the one man who used to set off pyro for England’s The X Factor; a gem hunter from Yorkshire who hoped to learn enough to avoid burning down his cricket club during its annual display; one insurance adjuster; two Scottish hardware-store owners looking to get in on the big weddings-at-castles fireworks business back home; a rock-show designer with a brand-new Iron Maiden tattoo on his forearm; and a young man expert in the theatrical flight systems that carry Peter Pan across stages worldwide. They were all, to a person, professionally or personally obsessed with spectacle and the means by which humans dazzle and mystify one another, even the one who was, categorically, the coolest insurance adjuster in the world. A final exam, and a practical firing test, and I was officially certified to join display-fireworks teams all over the world.

5) "How Video Games Changed Popular Music" (New Yorker)

From critic Hua Hsu, both a review of a new book about Koji Kondo’s seminal Super Mario Bros. soundtrack and an overview of the relationship between video game soundtracks and pop music. Also an excellent reason to revisit the Jonzun Crew's "Pack Jam":

We are accustomed to thinking about pop music in terms of its most familiar metadata: songs and albums, scenes and artists. But what about all the other, seemingly incidental music that gets lodged in our heads, from commercial jingles to sitcom soundtracks?

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