Category Archives: Essays

Between the History of Zimbabwe and the Future of America

By Nathan Deuel

We fell to our knees, high above a gorge, at an under-visited safari lodge beside one of Zimbabwe’s national parks. Our daughter was with her grandparents in Illinois. Our friends from Los Angeles stood there with us, mouths open wide. Bemused, or maybe proud, but surely aware he was the reason we’d come so far, our pal from Harare closed his eyes. The beauty we beheld was incongruous, after everything I’d read, and I was strangely relieved when I learned the river below swarmed with crocodiles. Back in America, it was just barely 2017. Continue reading

On “Traditional Ecological Knowledge” for the 21st Century

By Jon Christensen

There are different stories to be told about our relationship with nature, different understandings, different knowledge, still.

Tending the Wild, a new documentary on the traditional ecological knowledge of California Indians produced by KCET and Link TV, makes this abundantly clear. The documentary builds on the work of ethno-ecologist M. Kat Anderson and her book of the same title Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of Californian’s Natural Resources (University of California Press, 2005) through in-depth, personal, on-the-ground stories from around California about indigenous management of the essential trinity of fire, water, and food. Continue reading

What Happens When Young Adult Protagonists Grow Up?

By Jane Mendle

Anne of Green Gables makes a terrible adult.

Whimsical, imaginative, and open-hearted as a young girl, the 30-something mother of six has given up her writing and set aside her ambitions. As she bluntly explains, “I had wonderful dreams once” but “a busy mother hasn’t much time for that.” Instead, she frets about her marriage, agonizes about whether she is still attractive, and takes a vindictive pleasure that her husband’s glamorous college girlfriend has become “considerably stouter.” Continue reading

Touch Me

By Jon Boorstin

Trump won on November 8th. Then came our shock, our shame at getting this country so wrong, grief and despair. A few days later Leonard Cohen died. “You Want it Darker.” My wife, a cheerful person buoyed by hope, fought back. She saw web scuttlebutt on a Million Woman’s March and before it had a permit or a place or speakers, she booked her brother’s sofa in DC. Just another internet fantasy, but her own. Then she asked my opinion, knowing I’d boost her. Forty years on, we’re getting darker together. Continue reading

Leonard Cohen’s Art of Losing

By Oksana Maksymchuk

In a 1959 letter to Canadian publisher Jack McClellan, a 25-year old Leonard Cohen characterized his audience as “inner-directed adolescents, lovers in all degrees of anguish, disappointed Platonists, pornography-peepers, hair-handed monks and Popists, French-Canadian intellectuals, unpublished writers, curious musicians etc., all that holy following of my Art.” After he turned to songwriting and the circle of his admirers grew ever wider, the description remained surprisingly accurate. What bonds the groups on Cohen’s list is the sense of striving, an underlying — and mostly inarticulate — need. The 1960s, when Cohen emerged, was, after all, a moment for movements, and Cohen’s witty catalog suggested that even the misfits — scattered in their idiosyncratic pursuits — would have a movement of their own. Continue reading

Music Disownership in the Streaming Economy

By Thomas Klepacz

On January 9th, Spotify found itself in the public eye of an atypical arena. The Swedish music streaming company — whose public persona typically consists of lime-green odes to U2, Rascal Flatts, and gingerbread emulations of prominent rappers — engaged in greater Twitter-political-discourse by proposing a tongue-in-cheek offer to Barack Obama. As Daniel Ek, the founder and CEO of the company tweeted, “Hey @BarackObama, I heard you were interested in a role at Spotify. Have you seen this one?” Continue reading

John Gilmore (1935-2016): The Black Dahlia and the Bunco Artist

By Larry Harnisch

John Gilmore was a liar, a fraud, a con man, and a thief. The author of a string of “outsider” books — including the notorious Severed: The True Story of the Black Dahlia Murder — Gilmore also had a hair-trigger for lawsuits. If he hadn’t died in October at the age of 81, I would most likely have had to defend in court what I just wrote. Continue reading