BOOKS: America Agonistes

  NEW YORK TIMES: Once upon a time, there was a nation that saw itself as a beacon to the world. It would lead, as John Quincy Adams put it, by the gentle power of its example. If it all sounds a bit grandiose to us now, it did, too, to Graham Greene, the English author of the 1955 spy novel “The Quiet American.” Greene liked to complain that Yankees were “plump, smug, sentimental, ready for the easy tear and the hearty laugh and the fraternity yell.” He was particularly galled by American pretensions to purity in foreign affairs. “Innocence,” […]

EXCERPT: The Wichita Lineman Meets Joni Mitchell

  1971 On the surface, Joni Mitchell was a friendly, almost deliberately ordinary Canadian girl with a bright smile and a quick wit. But when it came to music and lyrics she had been blessed with a divine gift. I knew with no envy or jealousy that she was a better writer than I was. I envied her easy conversational phrasing that turned everyday banter into a new kind of song lyric. Her sensual guitar tunings delivered deep, dissonant yet compelling chords that, to use an expression by Linda Ronstadt, “rubbed.” Play that warm chord. I would sit with her and watch […]

BOOKS: The Gospel According To Saint Nick

  VICE: It felt like an extravagant gift from my past self when Stranger Than Kindness showed up in the mail. It’s an odd and substantial object—part art book, part memoir, part jigsaw artifact—by and about Nick Cave, designed to complement an exhibit about his work at the Royal Danish Library in Copenhagen. (The exhibit is described by the curators as eight rooms devoted to “a spatial, multi-sensory exploration of his many real and imagined universes.”) Like everything else, the exhibition is now indefinitely postponed, but the book more than stands on its own. Cave, who fled Australia for London […]


  BY SOPHIE BURKHOLDER A Catholic-raised Pittsburgh girl, Amy Rigby fled her steel mill hometown for New York, then in its mid-70s punk prime to attend Parsons School of Design. Soon shrouding her eyes in black liner, she quickly became a fixture at CBGB and fell into a crowd of downtown punk scenesters. Her love of music grew into a passion for making her own, first with bands like Last Roundup and The Shams, and later on her own. Her first solo album, 1996’s Diary of a Mod Housewife, received widespread critical acclaim in the press a few short years […]

NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Here It Even When You Can’t

  FRESH AIR: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is now the richest man in the world, with an empire that stretches from Hollywood to Whole Foods — and even into outer space. The new PBS Frontline documentary, Amazon Empire: The Rise And Reign Of Jeff Bezos, investigates how Bezos transformed Amazon from an online bookseller into a trillion-dollar business that’s unprecedented in its size and reach. Director James Jacoby, who worked with fellow filmmaker Anya Bourg on the project, calls the company an “inescapable part of our modern lives.” “It’s not just how the majority of Americans are shopping online,” he […]

BOOK REVIEW: And Shit Yeah It’s Cool!

  BY JON HOULON Indie rock.  I never understood that.  Independent of what?  Commerce?  I doubt it.  Your Drag City is the Capitol of a state called Filthy Lucre. Songs?  Yea, could be. I heard Tom Russell – one of the finest #OKboomer songwriters still plying his trade – say that the trouble with indie kids is that they don’t write songs but, rather, “soundscapes.” Ever try playing a Pavement ditty around a campfire?  It falls flat.  And, lord knows, don’t sing DCB over roasted marshmallows unless you want your pals propelled into a fiery furnace. My best guess is […]

EXCERPT: Postcard From The Edge

VULTURE: [Carrie] caused deep worry that was somehow hidden by the movie crews’ obsession with John’s addiction rather than her own. Carrie—younger than the others—was intensely fragile. She was generous, brilliant, witty, charismatic, caring—and deeply vulnerable: friends could see that. When they all got to the Belushis’ Vineyard house, “my brother was most concerned about her. He had to carry her limp body from room to room. I guess she was conscious enough that he didn’t call an ambulance, but he had a strong sense that she was really out of it.” It was during that spate of days on the […]

WORTH REPEATING: How I Became A Weirdo

  EDITOR’S NOTE: The following essay by Phawker almnus Elizabeth Fiend [pictured below] about her early days as a weirdo punk rocker/comic strip artist is included in THE BOOK OF WEIRDO just published by Last Gasp. Legendary in alt-comic book circles, Weirdo was a comics anthology created by R. Crumb in 1981 and ran until 1993. THE BOOK OF WEIRDO includes a comprehensive history of the publication, interviews with its three editors — R.Crumb, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, and Peter Bagge (of Hate fame) — and testimonials from artists that contributed over the years, including Miss Fiend, hence this essay. Robert Aline […]

REST IN POWER: Author Toni Morrison, ‘Towering Novelist Of The Black Experience’, Dead At 88

Illustration by Alexandra Compain-Tissier NEW YORK TIMES: In awarding her the Nobel, the Swedish Academy cited her “novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import,” through which she “gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.” Ms. Morrison animated that reality in a style resembling that of no other writer in English. Her prose, often luminous and incantatory, rings with the cadences of black oral tradition. Her plots are dreamlike and nonlinear, spooling backward and forward in time as though characters bring the entire weight of history to bear on their every act. Her narratives mingle the voices of […]

Win Tix 2 Freakonomics Radio Live @ Kimmel Ctr

Photo by AUDREY BERNSTEIN Freakonomics Radio, one of the ten most popular podcasts in the country, is hosting a live show at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia on June 6th and we have a pair of tickets to give away to some lucky Phawker reader. What’s that you say? “What is this *makes sarcastic air quotes* freakin’ nomix thing you speak of?” Oh brother, where art thou?!? Time to get your freak on. Here’s a brief history of time as it applies to Freakonomics from their web site: It began when New York journalist and author Stephen J. Dubner [pictured] […]

BOOKS: The Great Gritsby

  PHILADELPHIA MAGAZINE: Gritty is only four months old, but in that time he’s shown up everywhere. On wedding cakes, on Jimmy Fallon, on Christmas ornaments, on a fake (hopeful?) cover of Time magazine. So consider us highly un-shocked to discover that our favorite orange fur-ball made an appearance on some more fake covers: This time of the literary variety, thanks to a series of mock-ups by local indie publisher Quirk Books. MORE

BOOKS: The Importance Of Being Edward Gorey

  THE ATLANTIC: When the war was over, Gorey went to Harvard, where he set about the business of—as Dery puts it—“becoming Gorey.” His assistant dean found him to be a “queer looking egg.” But his best buddy was the poet Frank O’Hara, so who cares? There began the long coats, the many rings, the weary supremacy. He had crushes on other men. No sex, though, as far as Dery can ascertain, and no long-term companionship. Sedulous bachelorhood became the MO. Morrissey again: The hills are alive with celibate cries. Gorey moved to Manhattan in 1953 and churned out book […]

INCOMING: Massacre At Duffy’s Cut Book Signing

  BY JONATHAN VALANIA There is an old saying that goes: under every mile of railroad track is a dead Irishman. Locally speaking this is almost literally true. Back in the 19th Century, the Main Line was built on the blood, sweat and tears of Irish Catholic immigrants, who back then commanded about as much respect as Mexican migrant workers command today. Out near Malvern, under mile 59 of what was then the Pennsylvania Railroad and is today SEPTA’s R-5 line, beneath a stretch of track known as Duffy’s Cut, lies the bodies of 57 Irish railroad workers. What killed […]