After several years of living in Mississippi but not feeling it was my “place,” I decided to deal with the uneasiness by exploring the state, still largely rural and agricultural, through a series of road trips.
Exploring and photographing is a personal journey for me to better understand the past and present, and in time the images may reveal more of this place where I now live.
From the new spring issue: "Fire Behavior" by Rachel Monroe examines the town of West, Texas, in the aftermath of last April’s deadly fertilizer plant explosion.
What I had to learn first was that you’re not finished fighting a fire once the flames are out. The real work begins when the immediate danger is over. What’s underneath stays hot, until you bring it out into the open. Even then, the smoldering lasts for a long time.
Photograph: "Fox," from the series Smoke from Another Fire (2004) by Jody Fausett
Longtime OA readers ought to recognize the now-famous name of Nic Pizzolatto, writer and showrunner of HBO’s True Detective—his short story “Wanted Man” was featured in our New Orleans issue in 2008. It was selected for the Best American Mystery Writing the following year.
The opening lines of “Wanted Man” show the same industrial southern Louisiana setting as True Detective. Precursor?
There are two rivers that flow through Washington, D.C. The Anacostia is the Essau of the two, the overlooked twin—grittier than the Potomac, less loved, feared even. Its eight and a half miles are a ribbon of neglect, abuse, and possibility, flowing through a neighborhood that shares its name. Anacostia experiences strong segregation—approximately ninety-five percent of its residents are African American—unemployment rates are close to twenty percent, and it maintains a reputation of poverty, crime, and underdevelopment. For many in D.C., the river serves as the proverbial set of railroad tracks, with a right side and a wrong side. To those living west of it, anything “east of the River” might as well be a different country.
Have you ever bought a brand-new book that cost ten thousand dollars? Probably not—but if you have, there’s a reasonable chance it was made by Craig Jensen, one of the world’s greatest living bookmakers. Craig operates Booklab II out of San Marcos, Texas, and for thirty-five years he has been making some of the most beautiful books you’ll ever see. Collaborating with artists, writers, museums, and designers, Craig has amassed the kind of library that libraries drool over.
Maybe the least expected of the factors that went into making ska in those years, and the one many would argue that most nearly approached it in sound, leading most directly to its birth, came not from Jamaica at all, or even from the Caribbean, but from West Tennessee, and more specifically from South Memphis, and more specifically than that, from the band called the Beale Streeters, and most specifically of all from the right hand of their pianist and sometime singer-songwriter, a Memphis native named Rosco Gordon.
Rosco Gordon (Shown in the photo above with Sam Phillips and Butch the whiskey drinking rooster) was one of the great Memphis blues pianists. But did he also accidentally invent Ska? John Jeremiah Sullivan investigates. From our Tennessee Music issue.
To celebrate, we’ve got two major deals running from now ‘til Monday. Get all four 2013 issues of the OA for just $25! Or get four of our most popular music issues (2003, 2006, Arkansas, and Alabama) for $25! Complete your OA collection, give them to your friends and neighbors, or use them to woo your true love. The possibilities are endless.
And so the burning question: How did they do it? How did Keats and Lennon create at an unmatched rate and quality? We all might naturally ask these questions, though artists, writers, and musicians can be forgiven if they ask them with a certain greedy, eager need. What chemicals must come together to create this sort of explosion? And can we try it at home?
From the ages of nine to eleven, I worked as a spy. No one paid me, nor did I report my findings to any higher-ups. I discussed my cases with my partner, who went by code name Mountain Chicken Mother of the Buddha. Mountain Chicken also happened to be my identical twin sister, and during morning recess or summer afternoons at the neighborhood pool we let lifeguards, teachers, and stray dogs in on our findings. Eventually, the Department of Labor, the U.S. Postal Service, the Virginia State Police, and the State Corporation Commission got involved. Our next-door neighbors were indicted in September of 1998 by a federal grand jury, Joe Bob on eighteen counts and his wife, Jeannie, on fifteen.
The area surrounding Sardis Lake is a place where literal, fictional, and familial histories collide. Investigating the land my grandfather and great-grandfather documented years ago, and the heart of William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, I seek to add my own narrative to this rich historical site.
It’s hard to talk about Memphis music without mentioning the soulful delta folk sound of Sid Selvidge. His version of “That’s How I Got to Memphis” is included with our Tennessee Music issue, and it is one of our favorite songs.
The ocean looks greener than usual and gets gray in the distance where it meets the sky. When I can’t stand the heat anymore, I head toward it, but Jess holds me back by my wrist. We’re waiting for Poppy.
She’s wearing the new suit, we know, because it’s missing from the quilt rack we hang our suits on to dry. She could be watching us, I say, even though I can’t see her anywhere and the island isn’t big. I’ve had enough waiting around. I’m starting to feel sick from the beers and not enough water, and I just want to take one dive—just one. We are on the hottest sand, the sand above the high-tide water line, the sand that never gets cool because it rarely gets wet. Even the empty bottles are sweating.