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The Grateful Dead Literary-Industrial Complex Is A Long, Strange Trip All Its Own

The Grateful Dead are with us, always—in the past year, inescapably so. In our modern, retromaniacal culture, their benevolent aims and DIY apparatuses, from ticketing to merch to bootlegging, have long been a refuge for their fans. And 2015 peaked with the band’s latest, greatest, and allegedly last full…

The Water Knife's Dystopian Future Is Terrifyingly Plausible

Any neo-noir story worth a damn is haunted by some large and invisible system whose presence is a struggle enough to comprehend, let alone try to fight against. That looming entity can vary from politicized drug wars (The Cartel and The Power Of The Dog) to ambient ’70s malaise (Inherent Vice) to predatory government (

The Road To The Three-Year Swim Club's Olympic Glory Starts In A Ditch 

Duke Kahanamoku is perhaps best known as the father of surfing, but he’s also one of the best swimmers of all time. He participated in three Olympics (it would’ve been four, if not for the wartime cancellation of the 1916 Berlin games), and served as an alternate for the 1932 U.S. water polo team. He won five medals,…

The Comedians Is The Deep-Dive History Stand-Up Comedy Deserves 

For close to a decade, Kliph Nesteroff, a former stand-up comic from Vancouver, has been exploring the underbelly of showbiz, and especially comedy, history, mainly for WFMU’s Beware of the Blog, the New Jersey freeform radio station’s online home for longform ephemera. Though the writing was clearly unedited (and…

Jason Gay's Little Victories Is The Perfect Advice Book For People Who Never Take Any 

I don’t really believe in advice. That’s not to say other people can’t teach you anything useful about how to live, but sweeping, external principles handed down from on high are useless. It’s one thing to flesh out your personal moral code with examples from other people’s lives, but swollen mantras about Focusing On…

How A Brief History Of Seven Killings Embodies The Real Jamaica

Jamaica’s biannual Calabash International Literary Festival is held in Treasure Beach, on the southwestern coast of the island. It’s the kind of stereotypically beautiful place most people—especially tourists—think of when asked to picture Jamaica. Once a year, the town setting hosts readings from writers like Zadie…

How To Escape From An Automobile Trunk, According To An Ex-Navy SEAL 


Retired Navy SEAL Clint Emerson conducted special ops all over the world for 20 years, attached to the NSA and the now-famous SEAL Team Six. He learned some highly specialized skills along the way, and he’s now collected them in a pocket guide entitled 100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operative’s Guide to Eluding Pursuers,…

How To Deliver A Devastating Elbow Strike, According To An Ex-Navy SEAL

Retired Navy SEAL Clint Emerson conducted special ops all over the world for 20 years, attached to the NSA and the now-famous SEAL Team Six. He learned some highly specialized skills along the way, and he’s now collected them into a fast-paced, pocket-guide entitled 100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operative’s Guide To…

John Seabrook's Pop-Music Treatise The Song Machine Is Half Wrong, Half Boring

Don’t bore us, get to the chorus: John Seabrook’s The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory (Norton) is one of the most frustrating music books in memory. You will learn a lot from this book; unfortunately, a lot of what you’ll learn is inaccurate. And all too often, what’s not inaccurate is vitiated by Seabrook’s wan…

Purity Went To Communist East Germany And Found Itself

We’ll move further along in Purity in just a moment. First, I want to relay the story of what happened the first time I opened the book up after the last dispatch, in which I discussed how much truer and more knowledgeably written Jonathan Franzen’s one-paragraph description of Santa Cruz’s weather patterns rang than…

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Who Really Hits The Homers In The Kid Who Only Hit Homers? The Depressing Message Of Matt Christopher's Classic Book

Is The Kid Who Only Hit Homers a fable about the value of teamwork? Or is it a tale of using magic to get ahead, in which Babe Ruth is to Sylvester Coddmyer III as the devil is to Robert Johnson? The book, Matt Christopher's 1972 chef d'oeuvre, introduced the world to young Sylvester Coddmyer III, the kid who only…