Author Silas House blogs about writing, the writing life, books, movies, nature, religion, politics, and other things that generally concern conscious people. House is the author of the bestselling books Clay's Quilt, A Parchment of Leaves, The Coal Tattoo, Something's Rising, Eli the Good, and Same Sun Here. HIs novel Southernmost will be published in June 2018. Find out more about him and his writing at www.silas-house.com
There are so many mediocre (or downright bad) books, movies, television, and music that it's sometimes hard to remember that there is so much great art being produced these days. So, a list of things I've enjoyed very much recently.
Little Bee by Chris Cleave. This is the most powerful book that I've read in a long while. The plot is so intricate and wonderful that I hate to even describe it for fear of giving something away, so I'll describe it as being about a young Nigerian refugee who is living with a British journalist and the way their relationship is formed and how it blooms into a profound friendship. The novel is about much more than that, and opened my eyes to atrocities being committed around the world that I had absolutely no idea about. I loved Little Bee especially because it is that rare thing: a literary page-turner. The language is precise and beautiful and the pages fly by due to the feverish plot-driven pacing. I can't recommend this book highly enough, although I should tell you that it is not for the faint
-of-heart, despite its sunny cover.
Jonah's Gourd Vine by Zora Neale Hurston. I really did not think that any of Hurston's books could be as beautiful as Their Eyes Were Watching God, but this one comes very, very close. The life story of a man who tries hard to be good then falls victim to his own desires and makes a horrible mistake that marks him forever, this novel is almost Biblical in tone and rhythm (as the title suggests). With a cast of characters I will never forget and sense of place so palpable that I could feel the blistering Alabama sun on the top of my head while reading, Jonah's Gourd Vine is a book that I encourage everyone to read with a pen in hand so you can mark all the amazing passages. The book is full of dialect, which I love, but some people find it hard to read. Get beyond that and you'll find one of the most beautiful novels ever written.
Winter's Bone. I went into Winter's Bone with some hesitation. I knew that it was set in a rural place and that it involved "tough customers" as we call them, people who are involved in the drug trade and live way up in the head of the holler where they can see the enemy and the law coming. So, when you put rural people and the drug trade together in Hollywood, you usually end up with nothing more than stereotypes. Luckily this is an independent film, directed, written, and produced by people who understand the place and the people. In this movie the rural people refuse to be the victims, especially the main character, played with amazing strength and defiance by a Kentucky actress named Jennifer Lawrence, whose performance is already getting Oscar buzz. Besides the great performances and writing, what I loved most about the movie were perfect little details that showed up in the set design and costumes. There is a beautiful musical centerpiece in the film and it is all so real that it made me feel like I was right at home amongst people I had known all of my life. If you see one movie this summer, make it Winter's Bone. Also not for the faint of heart, and not a date or popcorn movie in any way...I tend to like dark stuff.
People sometimes ask me why I love True Blood so much. Well, this season has tested my patience to say the least, yet I still cannot look away. What I love so much about True Blood is that it's about ethics, about doing the right thing. The second season was a constant look at faith and the nature of God. The profound nature of the show is sometimes hidden beneath--and always buffered by--the campiness that it offers. Often I think the show goes farther than I need it to (that whole head-twisting scene? I could've done without that) and I am downright tired of seeing the female characters constantly put in jeopardy but I am sticking with it because in the end it's about Sookie trying her best to be a good person and to protect everyone she loves. It's vulgar and over-the-top and too bloody, sure, but it's also intelligent and addictive. I can't look away (but I still like Big Love better).
Besides the True Blood theme song, which I've posted above, here are some other songs I'm loving this summer. My most recent heavy-rotation playlist:
There are two places in
Southeastern Kentucky I think of as my true homes:the small community of Lily, in the foothills of Laurel
County, and, fifty miles east, Rockhouse Creek, in the lush mountains of Leslie
County.I will focus on Rockhouse
here, mainly because it is the dark, lovely topography of my collective memory,
but also because it is the epitome of Central Appalachia, the kind of place
that journalists-who-don’t-know-what-they’re-talking-about always zoom in on
with their statistics and opinions. In fact, Rockhouse is located just a few
miles from the communities that were recently the focus of a piece called
“What’s The Matter With Eastern Kentucky?” by Annie Lowrey in The New York Times that referred to Appalachia and the Deep South
as “the smudge of the country.” Well,
I am that smudge.My people are
that smudge.My homeland is that
smudge. And we are much, much more than that.In fact, we would fight for that smudge.Many of us have.Many of us have lain down to be
The March I was a year old, it rained for two weeks in the South. My mother tells me that she could never get my diapers dry because she couldn't hang them out on the clothesline (we didn't have a dryer, of course) and even when she hung them all over the house, our tiny little trailer was too damp for them to dry.
"Everything we had in the world was in that little trailer," my mother told me last night. At the time of the flood my father had been back from Vietnam about five years and worked as a mechanic in a local gas station. My mother was a part-time assembler at the refrigerator factory in the next town over. They worked all the time. I have very few memories of them being still. Our trailer sat snugly between the rise of the L&N railroad track and the normally placid waters of the Little Laurel River, which was now becoming swollen and violent. In other words, there was no chance we'd make it through fourteen days of continuous rain. They watch…
When I think of summer songs, I think of songs that would be good for a day out on the lake, or a long bike ride, or while enjoying my own back yard. Songs of summer tend to be more upbeat, lighter fare. So the larger culture's "Songs of Summer" tend to be more on the mindless, pop side...not that there's anything wrong with that. But I like something I can tap my foot to that also has a lot going on between the lines of the song and in the production as well. I couldn't resist throwing in a couple of ballads that I'm loving right now. I wanted to pick songs that have only come out recently, too. So below are the videos of my picks for this year's Songs of Summer, in no particular order. Or you can just go straight to my Spotify and listen to them there.