Thanks to so many of you for your kind words in response to my last newsletter, about my dog Malcolm. With a couple of exceptions, I’ve not been able to reply individually, but I read them all and I especially enjoyed the photos of your dogs!
Also by way of follow-up: My mention of Wynton Marsalis in an earlier issue yielded an email from Patrick Rhone — a Minnesotan with New Orleans roots (I guess he just moved up the Mississippi a bit) — with a link to a really wonderful blog post of his. Don’t miss this one!
Here in America, our disagreements seem pretty fierce these days, but they don’t run quite as deep as the people who make their money from encouraging us to hate one another other would have us believe. For instance, on free speech we disagree less on core principles than on the best applications of those principles – or so I argue in this blog post.
I also wrote a bit about English’s one-syllable words.
Today we commonly speak of “round-robin” tournaments or other sequences, but the phrase originally described a method of signing a controversial letter: with the names written in a circle, so no one could be singled out as the ringleader or chief signatory. (That would be hard to do digitally: in an online letter you could randomize the order of the signatures, but for any given viewer there would still be a sequence, and that could be consequential for the people who turned up at or near the top of the list.)
From a Things Magazine collection of book cover art – the woodcut sure looks like Eric Ravilious’s work, though I don’t know if it is. Here’s a later version of the same book:
And if you like book covers, don’t miss Things Magazine’s Pelican Project – hours and hours of delight.
I always get annoyed when, on the death of a celebrity, people rush to social media to pour out praise and claim agonizing pain. If that singer was so important to you, I always think to myself, how come I have literally never heard you mention him? So maybe it would be a good discipline for us to think about the people we’ll really miss when they’re gone – especially if they’re somewhat advanced in years – and praise them while they’re still with us.
With that in mind, let me ask you a question: How many of us really grasp how great a songwriter Carole King is? Or another question: Do you know how many songs written or co-written by Carole King have charted on the Billboard Top 100? Let me write the answer out for you: One hundred and eighteen.
Always underconfident as a performer, King was content for many years to focus on writing for others. But when she started adding soul and gospel touches to her mastery of pop songcraft, and let her voice loose, the result was a masterpiece: Tapestry (1971). Here she is from 1973 performing live, and magnificently, a tiny piece of pop perfection from that album: “Home Again.”
And here she is in 2020 – now the world’s sweetest Jewish grandma – offering us a new take on the same song. Bless you for that, Carole.
I was just able to spend a couple of healing, restorative days with my friends at Laity Lodge (co-sponsors of this newsletter). So I guess I had some Country Walks and am now Home Again.