The Fretting Room
The January issue can be tough on an editor. The first few weeks of the year are always a fallow time culture-wise, as if there was some unspoken rule that we all needed a breather after exhausting ourselves on the overstocked artistic offerings of summer and fall, followed close on the heels by the run of festivities that stretches from Thanksgiving through New Years. (Gregg Allman, who returns to UPAC in Kingston on January 8, is a notable exception.) This leaves yours truly a bit of a nervous wreck in November and December, waiting to see what's added to the schedule at local venues for the upcoming year so we can write about in the January edition.
The universe is perfect, of course, so all an editor's fretting does is create a waiting room to contain his mental pacing until he can move on. (The fretting itself is perfect too, as our resident Zen mom, Bethany Saltman, who knows something about anxiety, will tell you; Flowers Fall, page 84.) And, as always, the press releases come in, and previews are assigned for the January issue. What's happening this month was certainly worth waiting for. Some highlights of our coverage:
After being closed for nine months for roof repairs, the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College opens on January 27 with "150 Years Later: Tina Barney, Tim Davis, and Katherine Newbegin." The show of photographs was commissioned by the college to celebrate its sesquicentennial, and it's a centerpiece of Modfest, the college's annual early year aesthetic eruption, which features over 20 performances and events. (Forecast, page 95).
As much as I tried to hate Amy Winehouse's 2006 hit "Rehab," I couldn't. Despite the excess of publicity surrounding the singer and her made-for-reality TV lifestyle, the record had an old school groove with a serious booty shake. The musicians responsible for that classic soul sound were the Dap-Kings, a Brooklyn-based outfit fronted by fiery Sharon Jones. Jones and the Dap-Kings are the vanguard of an R&B/soul revival that will tell Poughkeepsie what funking time it is on January 23 at the Bardavon (Forecast, page 105).
I've harbored a lot of crushes on girl singers in my time, but alt-chanteuse Neko Case is a rare blend of brains, beauty, and minimally contained feral instincts. Dig this lyric from "People Got a Lotta Nerve," on Case's recent Middle Cyclone: "You know, they call them killer whales / But you seem surprised / when it pinned you down to the bottom of the tank / where you can't turn around / it took half your leg and both your lungs / I'm a man-eater / But still you're surprised, when I eat you." You might not want to get too close when Case takes the stage at the Bearsville Theater on February 1 (Forecast, page 93).
You've Got Hate Mail
I'd like to thank the many readers who wrote in with short notes of support or posted comments online following the letter we printed last month by Ed Fertik, who claims affiliation with the Columbia County Tea Party. Mr. Fertik took exception to our "left-wing bias" and suggested that the magazine was best fit to serve as a doormat in a mud room. (It should also be noted that Chronogram, once you scrape the mud off, can do double duty as a starter log for the fireplace. Just roll it up nice and tight—the recycled paper and soy-based inks burn clean and hot.) Donna Oakes, owner of Cow Jones Industrials, a vegan boutique, penned a typical heartfelt response: "I have advertised with Chronogram over the last few years. After reading the last letter to the editor ("Perfect for Mud Rooms!"), I knew that I was advertising in the right place. Keep up the good work."
We've printed a couple of the notes (Letters, page 16), in addition to another missive by the irrepressible Ed Fertik, who laments the way we discriminate against financially successful people. I appreciate Mr. Fertik's close reading of the magazine, and it's wonderful to be able to provide a forum in Chronogram for opposing points of view. If you'd like to add your voice to the mix, just e-mail me at email@example.com or post a comment at Chronogram.com.
The publishing houses whose authors contend for prestigious literary prizes year in and year out are primarily based in New York, with addresses on Broadway or close to it. 2010 was no exception, save for the fact that Jaimy Gordon's gritty racetrack tale, Lord of Misrule, which won the National Book Award for fiction in November, was published by McPherson & Company, whose one-man operation is located just off Broadway in Kingston, New York. Bruce McPherson has been publishing small runs of important books since 1974, when he published Gordon's first novel, Shamp of the City-Solo. (The book's title alone fairly oozes a difficult-yet-bound-to-build-a-cultlike-following ethos.)
The award for Misrule is huge for McPherson (and Gordon!), propelling his imprint onto the national stage. Since Misrule was nominated, McPherson has been caught up in a whirlwind of promotion, capitalizing on the book's sudden notoriety. (Just before Christmas, Misrule was ranked a respectable No. 30 on the New York Times bestseller list.) But McPherson knows that buzz fades, and work—the pursuit of excellence that is a day in, day out affair, only rarely validated by laurels—remains. "Sooner or later, all this will be over," McPherson tells our books editor, Nina Shengold, who profiles the publisher this month. "And that will be good too." (Books, page 46.)