To write well, first tune out the clatter — if you can

by David Alm April 30, 2013

What’s the difference between good writing and everything else? At the risk of sounding pedantic, I’ll offer this: specificity. You have to know what you’re writing and why. This doesn’t mean you have to know the exact form your writing will take before you lay down the first sentence, but at the very least, you […]

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Speaking truth to power

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein February 13, 2013
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When we listen to our favorite musicians, click on a Youtube video, share a link, float on a sound cloud from one good song to the next, we don’t usually think about what it took to make that song available to us. If we’re at all connected to the music world, we might sympathize with the woes […]

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Searching, in vain, for an authentic experience

by David Alm July 3, 2012

In 1995, when I was 19, I drove from my hometown in Illinois to Washington State, where I had a job cooking for the summer in the Cascade Mountains. I gave myself a week to get there so that I would rarely have to take an Interstate. With a battered road atlas on the passenger […]

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When books begin to annoy

by David Alm February 23, 2012

Something strange is happening to me. When I read books now, I find myself getting annoyed with them about halfway through. This is an entirely unscientific observation, anecdotal at best, and sporadic in actual occurrences. But it’s happened a few notable times in the past year, and I’ve come to a conclusion that seems to […]

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Dylan’s art imitates… art.

by David Alm September 30, 2011

It’s been said that Bob Dylan, like Levi’s, is an American original. Only he might not be as original as he once was, if he was ever as original as people thought. The iconic troubadour isn’t talking, but to look at the evidence, it seems that Dylan has become a copyist of not inconsiderable talent: […]

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Moby’s vast domicile of loneliness

by David Alm April 29, 2011

It’s safe to say that Moby is pretty damn famous. While his popul arity m ay have peaked in the late 1990s, with the release of Play, that album nevertheless secured Moby a spot in the pantheon of techno gods. He has made millions in album sales, licensing contracts, vegan cuisine, and bottled teas. His […]

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Willie Nelson to sing for his freedom

by David Alm March 29, 2011

God love Willie Nelson. On his way back into the United States from Mexico last November, the 77-year-old country crooner was arrested for possessing six ounces of marijuana. Border patrol agents in Sierra Blanca, Texas searched Nelson’s tour bus after smelling weed wafting out of it, they say, which isn’t hard to believe — Nelson is […]

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The squad: goon 3

by Cynthia Newberry Martin March 24, 2011

Each chapter of Jennifer Egan‘s A Visit From the Goon Squad can  stand alone as a story, but united, these chapters took my breath away. I got chills as I discovered yet another connection between them: Characters who age and reappear. Younger selves revealed. Shadows filled in. Events alluded to that come to pass. The language […]

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Is there ‘aura’ in a replica, or, what would Walter Benjamin say?

by David Alm March 10, 2011

Eric Clapton’s Fender Stratocaster, Blackie, fetched nearly $1 million at auction back in 2004, with all its nicks, scratches, and cigarette burns. Seems like a lot, but hey, it’s ol’ Slowhand’s guitar. He really played “White Room” on it, really passed out while cradling it in his track-marked arms, really dragged it around the world. […]

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