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Showing posts from 2008

Best Music of 2008

I never understand people who say “There’s just no good music these days.” Obviously they’re not looking in the right place, because there is a wealth of great music. The thing is that the vast majority of it is not being played on the radio, and certainly not on any of the cable music channels like MTV, VH1, or CMT.

My college roommate, with whom I have stayed in touch although we hardly ever see each other any more, was telling me the other day that he still listens to Nirvana, U2, and Pearl Jam all the time mainly because he hasn’t grown—musically, at least—since we left college way back in the Gulf War era. Now there’s not a thing wrong with any of those groups, but I quickly went about the business of educating him that there was another way, that there was too much great music out there, just waiting for a listen.

In my job as a writer, I travel all over the country, and everywhere I go people ask me things like who my favorite author is (too many to pick, but right now I’d have t…

A Poem for the New Day

5 November 2008

Remember when we were little how we would lie up there
on that ridge and watch the clouds? We had been raised to feel guilty
about everything. Had been brought up to fear the Rapture.
We worried all the time about the possibility
of blasphemy, or that we would be possessed by the devil.

They did not tell us that we didn’t know anyone
who wasn’t just like us. They did not tell us that there
was a whole other world out there, and other kinds
of gods and fears and joys and songs to sing. We knew not what we
did. We could have never imagined a day like this, a day

a giant awakes from an eight year slumber, fists unclenched.
Bones popping as legs stretch. The giant says aloud, to no one,
to everyone: “Alright, it’s time to get out of this bed.
It’s time to get up and get started.” We could not have ever
thought the thrill of hope such an attainable thing, right

at our fingertips, a little bird that has lighted on our knee,
waiting and ready to be cupped up by our scarred hands.

State of Grace

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A note: I've named this essay "State of Grace," but these might be its alternate titles: Or, A New Kind of Book Review, Or, I ramble aimlessly for a few pages to try and articulate why I love the work of Marilynne Robinson so much.


I finished Home by Marilynne Robinson a couple weeks ago and I'm just now able to talk about it because I've been grieving the fact that I turned the last page. A bit dramatic, I suppose, but then again, how can anyone overstate the way it feels when a book moves you and changes you? There isn't enough hyperbole to do justice to that sensation. And the most amazing thing is that I've felt the same way about each of Robinson's three novels.

I was introduced to Robinson's writing late: I was in my early thirties before I ever read Housekeeping. It remains among my favorite books. I've never read another book that captured so accurately what it feels like to be different, to be weird, to be a writer. The book is not abou…

First, Rethink

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I’m by no means a perfect environmentalist. I’m still driving a vehicle that uses too much gas. I still automatically reach for the light switch even when I don’t absolutely need it. I still love to load up and go for road trips even when I don’t have to. I’m an American, and we Americans love our independence, even if that means driving a big old truck all by ourselves to the post office one mile away instead of walking or riding our bicycle.

But I’m trying my best to become better on all these counts, and to me that’s the main thing all of us should do if we want to be part of the movement to be conservationists and to be better stewards of the land.

One thing that I am really proud of is that I’ve become an avid recycler. The biggest factor in this process has been that a regional recycling center was recently opened at my county seat. Lots of people just don’t have a recycler close by. But if you do, I encourage you to start recycling. It’ll make you feel better.

Our recycling center…

This Is Not Nowhere

When I was a child, I thought the ridge above my house was the center of the universe, the middle of everything. It might as well have been, as I had all that I needed there: trees, a creek, the sky, a pasture. Here I could run as fast as I wanted, or holler at the top of my lungs, go to sleep with my good dog Fala as a pillow, even pee outside. Basically, I could do all the things I could not do at home.

As far as that goes, my little town had everything I needed, too. People who loved me, my school, the Laurel River, which supplied us with endless enjoyment (swimming, skipping rocks, ice-skating), my Aunt Dot's store, which was well-supplied with plenty of candy and pop, and so on. Occasionally we needed to go to Knoxville or Lexington, but usually only when someone was nigh death and had to be shipped off to one of the hospitals there. We cared nothing for malls or fancy restaurants or things of that nature. As far as I was concerned the only reason to go to the city at all was …

A Conscious Heart

The following is the text from Silas House's speech "A Conscious Heart" which was given at the Appalachian Studies Association Conference in Huntington, West Virginia on March 29, 2008. There have been so many requests for the speech that we've decided to post it here. The speech will be published in the next issue of The Journal of Appalachian Studies. For permission to use the speech please email TgMedia Publicity at tgmedia@bellsouth.net .

A Conscious Heart
Appalachian Studies Association Conference
Keynote Address

I cannot, in good conscience, speak at a conference of Appalachian Studies with a theme of “the road ahead” and not talk about mountaintop removal and how it threatens our future, although it’s a topic that we’ve all been hearing discussed over and over again lately. In glancing over the conference program, I see mountaintop removal listed many times. But it is something that so threatens the heart of who we are as a people and a place that it really …

On God's Creek

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The older I get, the more I want to stay in my little writer’s shack beside God’s Creek. Down there I can see nothing but woods on one side and the steep field on the other, where the only sounds in winter are those of the woodpecker who, early of the morning, drills and prods the huge, dead oak which stands like a gray monument across the creek, and the sound of the hickory branches that tap against my tin roof when an icy breeze moves through. If I stop typing and moving and shut down completely, tuning myself into the world, there are more sounds, of course. Far back in the woods, the crunch of leaves (a squirrel, most likely; a fox, I hope). The longing bark of a lonesome dog, way over the ridge. The bubble of the spring-fed God’s Creek, quiet in wintertime, especially the winter after our worst drought, but living now at least: moving, whispering. The barely discernable—but there, yes, there—creak of the floorboards under my weight, the almost-lost complaints of the walls, which …