HITTING SHELVES #26: Soul Serenade by Rashod Ollison


Soul Serenade by Rashod Ollison comes out today!

It’s a coming-of-age memoir set in Arkansas in the 1980s. When his father returns from the Vietnam War “dead on the inside,” the author, who is beginning to understand his own same-sex attraction, dives deep into the music of Aretha Franklin, Al Green, and other soul luminaries, eventually becoming an award-winning pop music critic. Soul Serenade is about how great music can lift the despair of poverty and violence.

We asked the author one question.

How are you celebrating the publication of Soul Serenade? Continue reading

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HITTING SHELVES #25: The Unfinished World by Amber Sparks

The Unfinished World

The Unfinished World by Amber Sparks comes out today!

It’s a debut collection of uncanny stories that begin with lines like “Today is the opening day of werewolf season” and “Lancelot has been summoned out of sleep to find a secret kingdom.” Amber Sparks can do scary, she can do bizarre, she can do delightful–she can do anything. The Unfinished World is a string of jewels.

We asked the author one question.

How are you celebrating the publication of The Unfinished World? Continue reading

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Did You Hear? Breaking Me Down

New music! Sometimes old music. Music that we love!

I found this great synthpop from a group called Lo, and I enjoyed the hell out of the whole album, starting with “Breaking Me Down.” It reminds me of St. Vincent, Zero 7, and what Lady Gaga could do if she turned it down a notch or twenty. It’s also mixed to perfection, thanks to Mr. Darrell Thorp (and others), fresh off a Grammy win for his work on the Beck album. He’s a master!

Brook Reeder

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What Do We Owe the Fictional Dead?

The Privilege of Protagonists

One of the best books I read in 2015 was The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud. It’s an Algerian writer’s response to Albert Camus’s The Stranger—especially to the way Camus’s protagonist thoughtlessly shoots an Algerian man at the midpoint of that book, and nobody—not the shooter, not the author, not subsequent generations of readers and literary critics—stops to consider the humanity of that dead, fictional Algerian.

In Daoud’s novel, the idea that Camus treated the dead Algerian unjustly is practically a foregone conclusion, especially since the French have a history of abusing Algerians. But this is not a type of injustice that we typically think about. The Meursault Investigation accuses an author of abusing his own character. It turns a fictional death into a real-world injustice. That’s rather astounding. And it has big implications for storytelling in general. Continue reading

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The Day After MLK Day

MLK DAY 2016 Google

Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2016. People stayed home from work. The markets were closed. Some heeded the call to serve. There was a cool Google doodle and #MLKDay was trending on Twitter.

I remember in the early years of the Obama administration, when MLK Day often felt like a celebration. We were able to feel, for once, entitled to a little pride in our progress. Not just because of Obama, but because he brought in the most diverse cabinet and staff in the nation’s history. Because of the generation of kids whose first image of The President of the United States of America would be a black man. Because we could reasonably believe that our nation was entering the healing stage of a very bad, very long affliction.

The years since have felt like going into remission.  Continue reading

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The Boomstick Film Club: Two Step

Two Step movie

Watch it with us: Netflix streaming

I stumbled onto Two Step while trawling Netflix, and it turned out to be so tailored to my interests that I was embarrassed I didn’t know about it sooner.

Alex R. Johnson’s directorial debut focuses on two characters whose storylines converge halfway through the film. The first, James (Skyy Moore), is a socially awkward college dropout who inherits his recently deceased grandmother’s house and forms a friendship with Dot (Beth Broderick, better known as Aunt Zelda from Sabrina, the Teenage Witch), the middle-aged dance teacher living across the street. There’s a hint of G-rated May-September romance to their relationship, which stays endearingly innocent and believable largely due to Broderick. She invests her character with warmth and humor but never lets it spill over into floozy-with-a-heart-of-gold caricature.

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