To say we are obsessed with the latest Jason Isbell album, “The Nashville Sound” is probably a bit of an understatement. We’ve loved all of his music, but this album is a masterpiece. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve listened to it over the last few weeks. You should listen to it right now.
Our current American climate is creating some powerful art. I know that some feel that it is a naive, liberal thought that art can create change, but art of all kinds gets me through a rough world – always has and it always will. It keeps me sane.
On the Daily Show this week Isbell said that folk music, “hearkens back to a time where we made up songs so we don’t forget our stories.” We are living in crazy, anxiety-provoking times. Unforgettable, deranged times. Isbell captures all of this in beautiful songs – a singer/songwriter for our generation.
In “White Mans World” Isbell sings:
I’m a white man living in a white man’s world
Under our roof is a baby girl
I thought this world could be her’s one day
But her momma knew better
This song gets you in the gut. Isbell GETS it.
America elected a man who when asked at a speaking engagement by a woman how to “go about creating the capital that I need to start my business when all I have is my knowledge and my dream.” Trump’s response: “Meet a wealthy guy.” Of course, this is just one annoying thing among so many disgusting comments about women that the Predator in Chief has made (the latest being a tweet about a morning talk show host’s facelift and another saying awkward things to an Irish reporter about her smile). The President looks at a woman and he sees a body, not an equal.
The part of all of this that upsets and unsettles me the most, that shakes me to my core, is that people see behavior like this as a sign of strength and normal (although not all will admit it). Bullying, cajoling, talking this way about and to people – a certain group of people identify with the slimy swagger and the tactics. They identify with the underlying fear and insecurity that some people have of powerful women & people of color. They voted for a man who is “normalizing” all of these horrible traits. That is the part that has horrified me the most throughout all of this.
We are currently living in an alternative universe where scientists, the press/all news (except Fox & Friends & Hannity & Breitbart), judges, the FBI, the pope, actors and actresses – basically everyone except the administration – tell “fake news” because they are mad because their candidate did not win. Lucky for us we have an honorable, honest president whose twitter feed gives us solid facts (Obama bugged the WH, the murder rate in our country is the highest in 49 yrs, no administration has accomplished more in 90 days, largest inauguration day crowd EVER, etc, etc.). Lucky for us, we have a masochistic bully in charge of America (the former leader of the free world) who will make America great again.
America needs to read a fucking book…here’s a few:
Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen won the Pulitzer Prize last year – it’s so incredible. I feel different after reading this book about a Vietnamese refugee at the end of the Vietnam war. The narrator is “a man of two minds” who is constantly caught between different worlds and ideologies. It’s a different side of the Vietnam War narrative, and it should be required reading. Love this line: “Refugees such as ourselves could never dare question the Disneyland ideology followed by most Americans, that theirs was the happiest place on earth”
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett explores complicated family dynamics and ordinary life. Patchett is a master story-teller, and I love everything she writes. Good beach reading.
Girls by Emma Kline – This novel was last summer’s hit book, but I didn’t pick it up because it seemed like yet another book about a Manson-like cult. When I finally read the book, I enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would. Prickly, impressionable young girls getting caught up in messed up stuff. The writing is great, even though we know the basic story.
Ill Will by Dan Chaon will scare you to pieces. Like all of his books, this novel shifts around from narrator to narrator. I especially loved that technique in his incredible first novel “You Remind Me of Me” . Ill Will is so creepy, and so un-putdownable. It addresses the terrors of heroin, death, paranoia, delusions, memory, serial killers. I stayed up late to finish it, and then I couldn’t sleep. Read it during daylight hours.
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti reminded me of an Alice Hoffman book with the beautiful imagery and flawed, wounded characters and New England setting. Alternating between the past and present, at the heart of the story is the love a father has for his daughter and his need to protect her from his past.
Autumn by Ali Smith takes place in England during Brexit, but it’s really a meditation on time and memory. A short little novel that won’t appeal to everyone, but will stick with you if pick it up.
Exit West by Mohsi Hamid is a must-read novel about refugees and trying to live a regular life, and love someone, in the midst of chaos. The book incorporates magical realism into a story about our common humanity and the will to keep going when everything is taken away piece by piece.
Upstream by Mary Oliver. If you love her poems (like I do!), pick up this collection of essays and get transported to a world where words and nature matter.
Have you started listening to the “Nashville Sound” yet? If no, go listen to it from start to finish.
Isbell sings in “Hope the High Road”…
I know you’re tired
And you ain’t sleeping well
And likely mad as hell
But wherever you are
I hope the high road leads you home again
To a world you want to live in
There can’t be more of them than us. There can’t be more.
Trump may be in charge now, but the future is female.