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Showing posts from 2014

Favorites Books Read in 2014

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I normally don’t post a Best Books of the Year list because I so rarely read books that come out during a particular year.I’m not much on reading whatever the big hyped book of the moment is (in fact, all the hype usually turns me against a book).This year I read dozens of books and out of them only a handful were released this year.But despite all of that I wanted to talk briefly about the books I loved reading this year…three of which were actually published in 2014…and also about the books that weren’t published this year but that I really loved reading.
Favorite reads of the year that were published in 2014:
All the Light We Cannot See-Anthony Doerr.So many trusted friends of mine loved this book so much that I caved in and picked it up, too.I was quickly swallowed up by the world of WWII era occupied France and came to care deeply for all of the characters, but especially the main two:Werner, a young German boy who gets swept up in the tide of Nazism and loses all of his dreams w…

Favorite Music of 2014

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My top ten in alphabetical order:
The River and the Thread-Rosanne Cash's meditative travelogue of the South gets better with every listen.  

Self-titled-Hozier.  What a voice, what a songwriter.  His massive hit "Take Me To Church" was worn out this year but the album as a whole is a masterful debut and cements his place as one of the most important new artists out there today.  


Wildewoman-Lucius. My daughter introduced me to this band and I've been loving them ever since.  Seeing them live is wonderful but they're one of the rare duets who translate just as beautifully to recordings.  I love the 80s vibe mixed with soul and country.  Music that is joyous and poignant. 

Lost on the River-The New Basement Tapes.  A supergroup composed of Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford (Mumford & Sons), and Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), and produced by T Bone Burnett, takes some of Dylan's best lost lyric…

Favorite Movies of 2014

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Boyhood-Profoundly moving and incredibly real.My favorite thing about it is that characters like this so rarely get featured in films—working class people doing their best to make it, parents who try their best and fail anyway, kids who are better than they might appear to be.And the “trick” of it—following the same boy for twelve years of his life—is much more than a trick, managing to instead articulate what it means to grow and change and become one’s self.


Birdman, Or, The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance-I was mesmerized by this movie from the first moment until the last, wondrous shot.While giving us the illusion of one long continuous shot for almost two hours, it is more an experience than a film. Deep and thought-provoking without ever being pretentious. It is very funny, very moving, incredibly performed, beautifully-written, and I thought it was flawless filmmaking.Phenomenal.


Calvary-Besides Birdman, this is the movie I have continued to think the most about.  Rooted by a bea…

The Magical Virtual Blog Tour, Or Something

A couple of weeks ago, I was recruited to participate in the Virtual Blog Tour that's been making the rounds on the interwebs in which i was to answer four questions.  Here's my contribution:

1. What are you currently working on?

I am doing a full revision on my sixth novel, Little Fire, which I thought I would have done a year ago.  I never could get it exactly the way I was hearing it in my own head and so I kept rewriting it until finally I think it does what I want it to do.  This is the most rewrites I've ever done on a novel, I believe, but probably because it's hugely thematic and covers a pretty big canvas although it takes place over a relatively short period of time (about two years).  It has three very distinct settings:  Middle Tennessee during the devastating 2010 flood, a road trip across the modern American South--a place of truck stops and dying towns, busy interstate exits and long stretches of nothing but hardcore gospel on the radio, of roadside memori…

Why I'll Take "Happy Valley" over "True Detective" Any Day

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Several trusted friends were adamant that I watch HBO’s series “True Detective” and I did, finding myself immediately pulled in by its atmospheric sense of place, lyrical writing, and powerful performances.Much of “True Detective” was absolutely heart-pounding to watch, driven by haunting performances and nail-biting suspense.I greatly appreciated the way it showcases rural people as being intelligent and possessing a strong work ethic (almost anytime a rural character is shown they are working, whether it be sweeping a porch or pulling in fishing nets—this in stark contrast to the way country people are usually shown on television, as shiftless and lazy).
I loved watching it but I found myself increasingly troubled by some aspects of it throughout. I felt the show sometimes bordered on misogyny.All of the women were either whores or saints (in fairness, the only real leading female character—whose role can be boiled down to “the wife”—eventually becomes a sort of combination of thos…

The Matter Is You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About

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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 arrested fo…