Journey On

1. The Oxford Conference for the Book starts today. Some good stuff lined up as usual. Especially pumped for Kevin Young on Thacker Mountain Radio tomorrow night.

Here’s Kevin Young talking about Book of Hours on NPR recently.

And here’s his “Ode to Ol’ Dirty Bastard,” one of my favorite poems of his.


2. The Southern Literary Festival starts tomorrow. Lots of good stuff lined up for that, too. I’m teaching a fiction master class on Saturday morning at 9. I’ll be talking about writing advice from Richard Price, David Milch, Don Carpenter, Flannery O’Connor, Nelson Algren, and a bunch of other stuff. The Isom Student Gender Conference is happening simultaneously, and I can’t wait for Laura Lippman’s Friday keynote: “When Harriet the Spy Grew up: Feminism and the Second Golden Age of American Crime Fiction.” And the great Megan Abbott is giving the Southern Literary Festival’s keynote right after that.

3. Here’s a damn good profile of Killer Mike from The Bitter Southerner. He has a son named Pony Boy – that’s just the best.

4. That ’80s Dylan tribute is out. Hit or miss but worth it for these tracks: Craig Finn, “Sweetheart Like You”; Built to Spill, “Jokerman”; Hannah Cohen, “Covenant Woman”; and Elvis Perkins, “Congratulations.”

5. Angel Olsen – Live on KEXP. Man.

6. Spent Saturday at The End of All Music spinning the Merge reissue of one of my all-time favorite records, Richard Buckner’s Bloomed.bloomed

7. Clay Jones made a mix for Lent Magazine.

8. Download this: The War on Drugs at the Bowery Ballroom on 3/19/14 via NYC Taper.

9. Joe Hill said this about The Fall on Twitter the other day: “In a golden age of TV, Gillian Anderson drops a steely, quietly commanding performance [. . .] to match the very best of the day.” Completely agree. Easily one of the best things I’ve watched lately. Anderson is fucking incredible. It’s streaming on Netflix.

10. Rectify is also streaming on Netflix now. One of my top two or three shows from the last few years. Ray McKinnon rules.

11. Haven’t read much Harlan Coben – this Times By the Book feature really makes me like him.

12. Shailene Woodley was goddamn brilliant in The Spectacular Now, but holy shit, this is the funniest thing I’ve read this year.

13. Got to see David Gordon-Green’s Joe at a screening here in Oxford last week. Thought it was top-notch. His best movie since George Washington. Nic Cage and Tye Sheridan were damn good, but the non-actors stole it. Just a great take on one of my favorite books.

14. Tracklist for Songs: Ohia’s Journey On: Collected Singles.

15. Tumblr bullshit.

16. Other things I’m listening to: New one from The Hold Steady, Teeth Dreams, is killer. I was pretty lukewarm on Heaven is Whenever, so I’m glad to have them back.  Paradise of Bachelors just reissued Lavender Country – So damn good. Can’t stop spinning Bob Mould’s Workbook 25 from Omnivore. Got it on CD for the bonus stuff on the second disc. Been listening to Crooked Fingers’s Dignity and Shame for the first time in a long time. Almost forgot how goddamn perfect this song is:

17. Finally watched The Counselor last night. Thought it was way better than most folks said but also felt pretty let down. Couldn’t sleep and watched West of Memphis, too. A brutal and beautiful documentary. Finished it around 3 in the morning and got into bed next to my wife and son and just held them.




Dylan in the ’80s


Some of my favorite Dylan records – Oh Mercy, Infidels, Shot of Love, Saved, and Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 – are from the ’80s and I’ve been listening lately to a lot of stuff I’ve neglected for too long (aside from a few tracks here and there) – Empire Burlesque, Knocked Out Loaded, Down in the Groove, and Under the Red Sky. Looking forward to this tribute. Jonathan Lethem’s liner notes are killer.

“Most of these choices were likely to disenchant a thousand fans for every one they enchanted – specifically, of course, these gestures were destined to disenchant those who’d begun listening to Dylan in the ’60s and hung on through at least the first half of the ’70s. In retrospect, they were gestures of freedom as well as confusion, gestures of self-possession and self-reinvention, explorations of what exactly it meant to be an Icarus who’d survived and now had to become part of a small tribe inventing what it was to be an aging rock ‘n’ roller.” -Lethem on ’80s Dylan

Update 3/19: CBC is streaming the Dylan in the ’80s tribute album (h/t Largehearted Boy).


1. Read at Nightbird Books in Fayetteville last weekend. Hell of a good town. Had a great time. Thanks to Rachael, Cale, Katy, and everyone who came out. Thanks especially to Lisa at Nightbird. Also got to spend a little time at Dickson Street Bookshop. What a bookstore! Only had about fifteen minutes, but I found some great stuff. Impossible not to in that joint. Can’t wait to go back and spend a few hours there.

Reading at Nightbird Books.

Reading at Nightbird Books.

Haul from Dickson Street Bookshop.

Haul from Dickson Street Bookshop.

2. Thanks to John Stonehouse for this review of Gravesend, Gareth Price for this one, and Lee Durkee for this one.

3. My pal Jimmy Cajoleas interviewed Willy Vlautin over at Lent. A couple of choice quotes from Willy:

“You get beat up in life, and you get sucker-punched, and bad things happen. If you keep an open heart and don’t get bitter and you keep trying, then shit will break your way once in a while. I really try to believe that all the time. So I think the characters kind of reflect that.”

“And I tend to try to write as a fan. I’m a firm believer in being a fan of things. I try to write with blood, you know, with the things that haunt me the most.”

4. George Pelecanos is the guest programmer on TCM tonight. Showing two of my favorites, The Seven-Ups and The Outfit.

Here’s a thing I wrote about The Outfit for my ’70s crime movie blog. And here’s a thing I wrote about The Seven-Ups.

5. I’m reading Per Petterson’s I Curse the River of Time. Goddamn.

6. A few things I’m really excited about re: Record Store Day:
a) All that’s happening at The End of All Music here in Oxford (where I work part-time)
b) Songs: Ohia’s Journey On: Collected Singles
c) This 7″ from The Delines, Willy Vlautin’s new band (as well as their forthcoming LP, Colfax)

7. Jason Molina passed away a year ago yesterday. Still tears out my guts that he’s gone. Here’s an essay I wrote for The Rumpus about how much his work has meant to me.

8. Happy St. Paddy’s Day. This is just about my favorite song/poem ever. And this performance drops me every damn time.

9. Recently picked up one of my favorite movies, Rolling Thunder, on Blu-Ray. Watched it with pals Ace Atkins, Jack Pendarvis, and Megan Abbott for our movie night on Saturday. Ace’s wife, Angela, shared some North Carolina moonshine with us. Best thing I’ve ever had. No kidding. Was having some killer wisdom tooth pain and it got cured. After a killer dinner and the moonshine, we rewatched the Root Beer Guy episode of Adventure Time (Jack writes for the show and voices RBG). Then we settled in for Rolling Thunder – I think I was the only one who’d seen it before – and it was goddamn wonderful.  Shout!Factory did a great job with the Blu-Ray. John Flynn is a hell of a good director but there were times when the movie looked as beautiful as a William Eggleston photo. And Linda Haynes, well, we all got a little obsessed with Linda Haynes.



Linda Haynes in ROLLING THUNDER.

Linda Haynes and William Devane in ROLLING THUNDER.


Mad and Drunken Joy

Blog Tour BannerHosho McCreesh’s A Deep & Gorgeous Thirst was one of my favorite books of 2013, the kind of poetry collection I don’t stumble across that often, the kind that hits like a freight train and makes me want to drink and drink and be alive forever. It’s a book that feels a lot like being bombed with pals on a night when nothing can go wrong. These poems pass in a wonderful blur: glasses and bottles are lifted, good times are had, rough times are dealt with, the world is pieced together.

Here’s a favorite passage from an early poem: “It’s a slow, easy night, / a safe night even, / and the lights of the city / glister like remnant embers / of all you’ve burned away / in your mad and / drunken joy.”

And here’s another one: “You’re all righteously / shit-faced, and even though / you all have jobs and school / and responsibilities tomorrow, / no one gives a shit tonight, / tonight you’ve all said / to hell with worrying / and even if you’re / hungover, you figure / you’ll just deal with it / tomorrow.” These poems get inside exactly what it means to feel like that.

I could go on and on, just picking lines and passages that I fucking love. It’s hard to read these poems without a bottle in front of me. It’s like knowing my friends are out at the bar and I’m stuck at work. Okay, shit, here’s one more: “And the truth is / things just made more sense when, years ago, / everyone kept a bottle / in their desk, or they / carried a little flask, or / had a couple cocktails / at lunch, or, on a hot / afternoon they’d / order a beer / if they needed one, / or a Tom Collins, / or maybe a salty dog, / just something to / take the stink of / goddamned work / off the day, / just to put the / shine back on the / afternoon, / and just to feel like they were alive / again amidst all / the dull and / incessant / doom.”

It’s not that there’s no pain in these poems. The loss of a close friend haunts the narrator and and he’s filled with regret about all that he’s missed, but it’s a relief to have someone write an extended ode to booze like this. It’s not about the narrator’s life going down the crapper. It’s about love, about the wonder and mystery of drunkenness, and it gets it right. Sure, I’ve had some dark days under the bottle – and so does the narrator – but mostly drinking is about joy and hope and communion.

A Deep & Gorgeous Thirst is a beautiful book about something we too often see portrayed as the source of all bad luck and trouble. It’s goddamn uplifting. Now, fuck it, I’m going to the bar and I’m bringing these poems with me and I’m letting them sing straight to my drunken heart.

Author Photo


Also, in honor of A Deep & Gorgeous Thirst and this blog tour, McCreesh and I kept track of everything we drank this past weekend:

And McCreesh is giving away a DrunkSkull Survival Kit (50 bucks worth of prizes). The Kit includes:
-a copy of the book
-a recycled wine-bottle glass with the DrunkSkull logo on it
-a jar of Fiery Gardens Artisan Jams & Jellies,
-a DrunkSkull fridge magnet,
-some stickers
-temporary tattoos
-a coaster
-a patch

Here’s the Giveaway link.

DrunkSkull Survival Kit


Seeking With Groans

I’m going to be in Fayetteville, Arkansas this weekend. I’m giving a keynote, “Seeking With Groans: Revival and Redemption in Walter Mosley’s RL’s Dream,” on Saturday afternoon at the University of Arkansas’s Annual GSE Conference. And I’m reading from Gravesend at 6:30 at Nightbird Books. Really pumped for this. Thanks to old pal Rachael Price for making it happen. If you’re nearby, it’d be swell to see you.

A few other things I’ve been meaning to post:
1. Here’s Gravesend in the window at Square Books. So fucking cool to see (and to have the best cover).

2. Here’s a noir bookmark the Oxford Public Library made up. Ha. Not sure how I wound up on this list but I’ll take the hell out of it.


3. Bummed to miss AWP, especially the reading I was supposed to do at Left Bank Books with Scott McClanahan, Noah Cicero, Patrick Wensink, Stephen Graham Jones, J. David Osborne, and a bunch of other great writers. But it was nice to see this shot of David at the book fair pop up on Facebook over the weekend.


4. Also really swell to see a quote from my L.A. Review of Books review of Richard Lange’s Angel Baby on the cover of the forthcoming paperback edition.

angel baby