“Pro Wrestling (With Angels)”: I review the new Mountain Goats album

at AmCon: CDs of “Beat the Champ,” the new album from indie folk/rock band the Mountain Goats, come with a small white sticker proclaiming: THIS RIGHT HERE IS AN ALBUM ABOUT PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING. I guess they had to get the ironic disclaimer out of the way: Yes, this is a weird thing to do, roll with it please. If you do roll with it you will find an utterly unironic tribute to the wrestling heroes of singer/songwriter John Darnielle’s childhood—and one of his band’s best albums. … [Read more...]

Toller Cranston Skates for Mexico: A Fever Dream

One reason I loved the Mountain Goats' new album Beat the Champ so much is that it speaks about a kid projecting his own emotional turmoil onto the storytelling sport of pro wrestling, in a way which deeply resonated with my experience projecting my own emotional turmoil onto the storytelling sport of figure skating. If I made my own sports concept album it would be Toller Cranston Skates for Mexico, and it would be about, mostly, the Lillehammer Olympics, which allowed skaters who had left … [Read more...]

Leaving Addis, Losing DC: Dinaw Mengestu’s “Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears”

I can't remember the last time I read a novel where I was the villain.The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears is a novel about the thwarted romance between a failing shopkeeper from Ethiopia and a white divorcee whose mixed-race daughter comes into the convenience store after elementary school to read The Brothers Karamazov. Two people who have fled their past lives come into D.C. right at the moment that the money started to pour in; before they can get their bearings, the tidal wave of … [Read more...]

From “The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears”

When the train rushes above ground, we've already crossed into the outskirts of the city. The buildings, old brick factories and warehouses, are all marked with the familiar bright red and yellow bubble letters of Disco Dan. The name is everywhere, tagged onto the side of the tracks, buildings, and rusted water towers. A running billboard competing with the ads for Schlitz malt liquor and used-car lots. Disco Dan--offering nothing but himself and his vanity--has them all beat. For as long as … [Read more...]

Mother, Church: A Gay Catholic Life

This is an interview I did with my friend Peter. I wanted to talk to him because he's lived through a tumultuous period in Church and American history and come through with his faith and sunny disposition basically intact. How does somebody end up as a faithful, practicing, openly gay Catholic in his 50s? (Warning: The answer is pretty long! This is a super-long post really.)I met with Peter in his apartment. The background for our conversation was the sound of opera arias and Cole Porter … [Read more...]

From Edward P. Jones, “Root Worker”

Long before they reached 1st St., N.E., Glynnis found that so much had changed, disappeared, but everything that was important to white people remained. (from the collection All Aunt Hagar's Children) … [Read more...]

“Choose to Stay” (Or, Virtute the Cat Contemplates Her City)

One reason I love the Weakerthans is that their songs are set in their hometown. The louder you yell “I Hate Winnipeg” the more I know which city holds your heart. So let's listen to "Reunion Tour" and get emotional. Welcome to Washington, DC! The local time is 1987. Like every other week I meet somebody who says, “Oh, wow, I've never met anybody from DC before.” Guess these people's race! I meet people from DC all the time; you can probably guess their race, too. (I think I've been a gentrif … [Read more...]


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