“Music of the Trilobites”: Me in AmSpec

not really a book review!I read John Darnielle’s 2011 novel Master of Reality under the unfamiliar constellations of Australia—which was fitting, since the slender book is about being both physically and spiritually far from home. Master of Reality is an entry in Continuum’s “33 1/3” series of books about pop or rock albums. (The other books in the series tend to be straightforward critical studies.) I’ve never listened to Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality, but Darnielle’s diary of a 1980s te … [Read more...]

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The Mask of Obedience

Last year I wrote this really scattershot, unsatisfying post about "The Beauty of Obedience," rescuing obedience as a positive term and a category you're allowed to care about. I recognize that that post was not the tightest thing I've ever written, and in fact, I'm still kind of flailing around trying to talk about what a positive vision of obedience might look like, but here are yet more extremely scattered thoughts.I've been thinking about that terrific phrase, "the mask of command," and … [Read more...]

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“A Stillborn Child Leads to a Murder Charge”: Me at AmCon

on an awful, years-long case: In 2006, 15-year-old Rennie Gibbs became pregnant. She tested positive for marijuana and cocaine during her pregnancy. Her daughter Samiya was born a month premature, with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. An autopsy on the child found traces of a cocaine byproduct, and Rennie was charged with murder—or rather, with what Mississippi calls “depraved heart murder,” signifying an especially callous crime. Gibbs’s case has wound its way through the legal syste … [Read more...]

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Too Much Harmony: “Water by the Spoonful,” A Play About Friendship, Dissonance, and Humiliating Identity

Last night I saw Quiara Alegria Hudes's Pulitzer-winning Water by the Spoonful at Studio Theatre. It uses dissonant jazz as a metaphor for the disjunctions and collisions in our own lives, asking whether these discordant notes will ever resolve into harmony. The show tells two parallel stories: A young vet with PTSD fights with his cousin about how to mourn his dying adoptive mother, and members of an online support group for "crackheads" (their term, which is important, see below) strive to … [Read more...]

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“This Is the Beginning of the End of the War on Drugs”: Maia Szalavitz

at the intriguing new site Substance: For anyone interested in addiction and drug policy, the last year or so has been the most fascinating period in recent memory. Having kicked heroin and cocaine in 1988 and written about the subject ever since, I can’t remember a time when public opinion and actual policy have changed so quickly—and in such a rational direction.I’m not just talking about marijuana—although the fact that the Obama administration has allowed two states (Colorado and Washing … [Read more...]

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“Making Do”: I’m in Commonweal

with an actual review of Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City: Painfully conscientious, rule-bound, and motivated more by spiritual longings than by practical material concerns—these aren’t the terms in which most Americans think of low-income unmarried fathers. subscribers-only for now; I'll let you know if that changes. I had a more thematic piece on penitence in the book, not really a review, here. … [Read more...]

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Bet You Can’t Read Just One: Addiction/Recovery Link Round-Up

"International Geographic": I discovered that a lot of conditions which are simply a part of being an alcoholic are magnified by living in a foreign country. For example, the feeling of being terminally unique. In the town where I lived, I actually was extremely unique. There was nobody else like me. I got long stares at the grocery store, children stopped and pointed at me on their way to school. Every conversation began with, “Your nose is so big!” All the feelings I’d trained myself weren’t r … [Read more...]

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