Archive for the ‘Essays’ Category

The Best American Essays 2014 designated “Carlessness” a “notable” essay.

In “Carlessness,” which first appeared in Midwestern Gothic and subsequently was included in A Detroit Anthology (in modified form), I reflect on living without a car and places where that’s easy to do – as well as a place where it’s not.

This is the third time my work has been deemed “notable,” which amounts to a sort of honorable mention. Perhaps one of these years I’ll crash the “best” party.


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In the Belt Magazine essay “Greetings from Detroit,” I discuss why, and to some degree how, I write about one of my favorite subjects. (Hint: I search for the particular in the particulars.)


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I’m honored to have work in this anthology, forthcoming from Rust Belt Chic Press, alongside the likes of Grace Lee Boggs, Steve, Hughes, M.L. Liebler, Jamal May, Terry Blackhawk and editor Anna Clark.


Practice-Space will be hosting a launch party on May 31 at 7 pm.


For more info: http://beltmag.com/detroit-anthology/


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My piece “Nice Things about Detroit” was named a Notable Essay of 2012 in this year’s Best American Essays, edited by Cheryl Strayed and Robert Atwan. The essay first appeared in the May/June 2012 issue of The American Interest.

This is the second time something of mine was so designated. I was previously Notable for an essay that first appeared in Blood & Thunder and was subsequently included in my book Fighters & Writers.


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A professor once told me of his reaction to the idea of teaching Kurt Vonnegut’s work in college English classes. “What is there to teach?” he asked. He thought Vonnegut’s books were sufficiently easy to understand that readers shouldn’t need guidance to get through them.
Perhaps with the passage of time that has changed. Readers in the Vietnam War era of the 1960s and 1970s found parallels between their experiences and the World War II events Vonnegut depicted. Maybe young readers need to know a bit of history to grasp what Vonnegut was doing and why it resonated the way it did.
What they don’t need, I contend (and I think my old teacher would agree), is for anyone to rummage around in Vonnegut’s biography in order to make sense of his writing. Yet this is precisely what several misguided books do. I discuss the problems with their approach in an essay in Logos: A Journal of Modern Socity & Culture.

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Eric Hobsbawm’s obituaries invariably mention the historian’s “Age of…” series — The Age of Revolution: 1789-1848, The Age of Capital: 1848-1875, The Age of Empire: 1874-1914 and The Age of Extremes: A History of the World, 1914-1991. Those books do make an impressive set.

It was his essays, however, that I found myself returning to, having recalled Hobsbawm insightfully remarking on subjects I also chose to address. Open Letters Monthly, for instance, published (under a title I never liked) something I wrote about jazz festivals in which I cite Hobsbawm’s 1994 essay “Jazz Comes to Europe.” A piece I composed concerning Labor Day (forthcoming in Cream City Review) is informed by another essay collected in Hobsbawm’s Uncommon People: Resistance, Rebellion, and Jazz.

The Guardian reports that Hobsbawm submitted a manuscript to his publisher a few months before his death. It was a collection of essays.

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Critical Moment, a publication billing itself as Detroit by Detroiters, chose to include an article of mine in the summer 2012 issue. The title put above my piece, “Success at the Downtown Boxing Gym,” pretty much sums it up. The CM website has more details about the issue, including the release party at the Cass Café.

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The Metro Times added to its Detroit Music Map a short item about the Graystone, a venue where I spent much time as a teenager at shows, including some mentioned in the piece (Black Flag, Corrosion of Conformity, Die Kreuzen, the Descendents, Seven Seconds) and others unnamed (Suicidal Tendencies, Butthole Surfers, Gang Green, the Offenders and many more). It brought to mind an old essay of mine, published by Slow Trains Literary Journal, in which I reflect on both that hall and my 1980s Detroit punk scene experiences. Ah, the memories.

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Word came from Wisconsin in time (or close enough anyway) for the international workers’ holiday that Cream City Review will be publishing my “Labor Day Ironies” in a forthcoming special “Labor” issue. My essay surveys the origins of May Day and Labor Day and some attendant peculiarities, not the least of which is that Labor Day became a holiday only after a disastrous failure of a strike. The president who signed off on it did so only to mollify workers anger by the harsh tactics used to squash the labor action. A Pyrrhic victory if there ever was one, if you ask me, but some fascinating history all the same.


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The May/June 2012 issue of The American Interest contains my take on several Detroit-related books, including Scott Martelle’s Detroit: A Biography, John Gallgher’s Reimagining Detroit, John Carlisle’s 313: Life in the Motor City and Scott Lasser’s Say Nice Things about Detroit, among others. The first few paragraphs of the essay can be read online (follow link below), but I encourage folks to seek out the magazine in print because it also features photographs of the city by my father, J. Gordon Rodwan.




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