Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson’s Three Rules for Living Well: A Short and Succinct Life Philosophy

Reg­u­lar read­ers of Open Cul­ture know us to gush over our favorite celebri­ty cou­ples now and then: John and Yoko, Jean-Paul and Simone, Fri­da and Diego…. Not your usu­al tabloid fare, but the juicy details of these amorous part­ners’ lives also hap­pen to inter­sect with some of our favorite art, music and lit­er­a­ture. One cul­tur­al pow­er cou­ple we haven’t cov­ered much, sur­pris­ing­ly, well deserves the “pow­er” adjec­tive: Lou Reed and Lau­rie Ander­son, two per­son­al­i­ties whose influ­ence on the art and music of the last sev­er­al decades can hard­ly be over­stat­ed.

Has Reed’s rep­u­ta­tion at times been inflat­ed, and Anderson’s under­played? Maybe. She doesn’t get near­ly enough cred­it for the wit­ty, pro­found, mov­ing work she’s done, year after year (with one lengthy hia­tus) since the 70s. Reed’s career since the 70s con­sist­ed of more miss­es than hits. But put them togeth­er (in 1992) and you get a har­mo­nious meet­ing of Reed’s raw, gut-lev­el asser­tions and Anderson’s curi­ous, play­ful con­cepts.

Wit­ness their per­son­al strength togeth­er in the Char­lie Rose excerpt at the top of the post. Reed, who was often a dif­fi­cult inter­view sub­ject, to put it mild­ly, and who gained a rep­u­ta­tion as a bru­tal­ly unpleas­ant, abu­sive rock and roll diva (immor­tal­ized lov­ing­ly in Bowie’s “Queen Bitch”), comes off in this sit-down with Ander­son as almost warm and fuzzy. Did she make him want to be a bet­ter per­son? I don’t know. But Anderson’s short obit­u­ary after his 2013 death remem­bered Reed as a “prince and fight­er,” her longer obit as a “gen­er­ous” soul who enjoyed but­ter­fly hunt­ing, med­i­ta­tion, and kayak­ing. No rea­son he wasn’t all those things too.

When it came to music, Reed could pull his part­ner into the orbit of his sweet R&B songcraft, as in their duet of “Hang on to Your Emo­tions,” fur­ther up, and she could pull him out of it—like John Cale and Nico had done in the Vel­vet Underground—and into the avant-garde drone of her exper­i­men­tal scene (as above in the pair’s col­lab­o­ra­tion with com­pos­er and sax­o­phon­ist John Zorn). Just this past Spring, in one of the most touch­ing musi­cal trib­utes I’ve ever seen, Ander­son recre­at­ed Reed’s abra­sive screw-you to his record label, Met­al Machine Music, as a con­cep­tu­al art piece called Drones, lean­ing sev­er­al of his gui­tars against sev­er­al ful­ly-cranked vin­tage amps, let­ting the feed­back ring out for five days straight.

None of us can be Lou Reed and Lau­rie Ander­son; every cou­ple is hap­py, or unhap­py, in their own way. But what, in the grand tra­di­tion of min­ing celebri­ty cou­ple’s lives for advice, can we learn from them? I guess the over­all message—as Ander­son her­self sug­gest­ed in her Rock & Roll Hall of Fame accep­tance speech for Reed (above, in shaky audi­ence video)—is this: keep it sim­ple. Kansas State Eng­lish Pro­fes­sor Philip Nel points out Anderson’s “wise… thought­ful” words on the sub­ject of liv­ing well, deliv­ered in her speech at the 8:55 mark:

I’m remind­ed also of the three rules we came up with, rules to live by. And I’m just going to tell you what they are because they come in real­ly handy. Because things hap­pen so fast, it’s always good to have a few, like, watch­words to fall back on.

And the first one is: One. Don’t be afraid of any­one. Now, can you imag­ine liv­ing your life afraid of no one? Two. Get a real­ly good bull­shit detec­tor. And three. Three is be real­ly, real­ly ten­der. And with those three things, you don’t need any­thing else.

Can you imag­ine Lou Reed as “real­ly, real­ly ten­der”? He cer­tain­ly was in song, if not always in per­son. In any case, these three rules seem to me to encap­su­late a per­son­al phi­los­o­phy built solid­ly on fear­less integri­ty and com­pas­sion. Dif­fi­cult to live by, but well worth the effort. And because I’m now feel­ing super warm and fuzzy about Lou and Lau­rie, I’ll leave you with the short WNYC inter­view clip below, in which she reveals her favorite Lou Reed song, which he hap­pened to write about her.

via Nine Kinds of Pie

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Lau­rie Anderson’s Top 10 Books to Take to a Desert Island      

An Ani­mat­ed Lou Reed Explains The Vel­vet Underground’s Artis­tic Goals, and Why The Bea­t­les Were “Garbage”

Lou Reed, John Cale & Nico Reunite, Play Acoustic Vel­vet Under­ground Songs on French TV, 1972

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Betty Davis’ Legendary and Long-Lost Recording Sessions, Produced by Miles Davis, Finally Released (1968–1969)

Bring­ing her down-home North Car­oli­na back­ground to the world of funk, Bet­ty Mabry spent a bet­ter part of the six­ties try­ing to make it big in the music scene, while also mod­el­ing to pay the rent. She ran in the same crowds as Jimi Hen­drix, Eric Clap­ton, and Hugh Masekela (who she dat­ed), and she wrote her own songs, sell­ing one to the Cham­bers Broth­ers, and then got a cou­ple of sin­gles on Capi­tol Records.

And then Miles Davis stepped in the pic­ture. First as a whirl­wind romance and mar­riage, then as a pro­duc­er who was going to launch Bet­ty Davis as the queen of funk (and refur­bish his image in the process.) He had already ded­i­cat­ed two songs to her and put her on the cov­er of his 1968 album Filles de Kil­i­man­jaroAnd now he was set to pro­duce her solo debut.

That album is final­ly being released. Bet­ty Davis: The Colum­bia Years 1968–1969 drops tomor­rowTo hear Light in the Attic’s video press release above breath­less­ly tell it, “music fans have long debat­ed the truth about one leg­endary ses­sion record­ed in 1969 at Columbia’s 52nd Street Stu­dios.” Per­son­al­ly I don’t know what was actu­al­ly debat­ed, but yes, Bet­ty Davis record­ed tracks for a funk album using mem­bers of Jimi Hendrix’s Expe­ri­ence band (Mitch Mitchell, drums) and his Band of Gyp­sies (Bil­ly Cox, bass), along with gui­tarist John McLaugh­lin, key­boardist Her­bie Han­cock, Har­vey Brooks on bass, Wayne Short­er on sax, and Lar­ry Young on organ. Teo Macero co-pro­duced with Miles Davis.

If this sounds like most of the band that went on to make Miles’ Bitch­es Brew (a record title sug­gest­ed by Bet­ty), then you’re right. It could be seen as a ses­sion that got the wheels spin­ning in Miles’ mind about a new direc­tion to take his own work. And it’s that moment that so fas­ci­nates music fans.

Colum­bia passed on the Bet­ty Davis album and buried it in its vaults. It would take four years until Bet­ty Davis was able to get a solo album out on her own terms. That epony­mous 1973 album and the two that fol­lowed were poor sell­ers, but earned cult sta­tus due to Bet­ty Davis’ unabashed and unapolo­getic sex­u­al­i­ty, fem­i­nism, and feroc­i­ty on stage—the same fac­tors that scared radio oper­a­tors and con­cert venues.

“She was the first Madon­na, but Madon­na was like Don­ny Osmond by com­par­i­son,” Car­los San­tana once quipped about her.

The Light in the Attic site has very brief clips from the songs on the new release, but since they are all from the open­ings of the tracks, they give lit­tle indi­ca­tion of the funky stew to fol­low, from the Cream and Cree­dence Clear­wa­ter Revival cov­ers (“Politi­cian Man,” “Born on the Bay­ou”) to her own songs. The CD and LP pack­age looks gor­geous of course, with lin­er notes and pho­tos.

Davis retired from music after her fourth album went nowhere but she is still around, and, accord­ing to the Light in the Attic web­site, a doc­u­men­tary is in the works on this influ­en­tial funky icon who needs redis­cov­er­ing.

via Boing Boing

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Miles Davis’ Entire Discog­ra­phy Pre­sent­ed in a Styl­ish Inter­ac­tive Visu­al­iza­tion

The Night When Miles Davis Opened for the Grate­ful Dead in 1970: Hear the Com­plete Record­ings

Rare Miles Davis Live Record­ings Cap­ture the Jazz Musi­cian at the Height of His Pow­ers

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

Physics & Caffeine: Stop Motion Film Uses a Cup of Coffee to Explain Key Concepts in Physics

Want to teach me physics? Make it inter­est­ing. Bet­ter yet, use a cup of cof­fee as a prop. Now you’ve got my atten­tion.

Cre­at­ed by Char­lotte Arene while intern­ing at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Paris-Sud’s Lab­o­ra­to­ry of Sol­id State PhysicsPhysics & Caf­feine uses a shot of espres­so to explain key con­cepts in physics. Why does cof­fee cool off so quick­ly when you blow on it? It comes down to under­stand­ing heat and ther­mo­dy­nam­ics. Why does cof­fee stay in a cup at all? That seem­ing­ly sim­ple ques­tion is explained by quan­tum mechan­ics and even New­ton­ian physics and spe­cial rel­a­tiv­i­ty. You might want to watch that sec­tion twice.

Shot image by image, this stop motion film took three long months to cre­ate. Pret­ty impres­sive when you con­sid­er that 5,000 images went into mak­ing the film.

Get more infor­ma­tion on the film, and even down­load it, from this page. And find more physics primers below.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

via Aeon

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Online Physics Cours­es

Free Physics Text­books

The Feyn­man Lec­tures on Physics, The Most Pop­u­lar Physics Book Ever Writ­ten, Now Com­plete­ly Online

World Sci­ence U Lets You Take Free Physics Cours­es from Lead­ing Minds in the Field

Ein­stein for the Mass­es: Yale Presents a Primer on the Great Physicist’s Think­ing

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The Philosophy of Bill Murray: The Intellectual Foundations of His Comedic Persona

“Bill Mur­ray is a nation­al, no, an inter­na­tion­al, no an inter­galac­tic trea­sure,” said Jim Jar­musch, who direct­ed him in Cof­fee and Cig­a­rettes and Bro­ken Flow­ers, when the actor won this year’s Mark Twain Prize for Amer­i­can Humor. But what, exact­ly, do we find so com­pelling about the guy? I launched into my own quest to find out after see­ing his per­for­mance in Rush­more (regard­ed by most Mur­ray schol­ars as a rev­e­la­tion of depth at which he’d only hint­ed between wise­cracks before), watch­ing every movie he ever appeared in. Sim­i­lar­ly rig­or­ous research must have gone into this new video on the phi­los­o­phy of Bill Mur­ray.

“Since replac­ing Chevy Chase on Sat­ur­day Night Live in 1977,” says nar­ra­tor Jared Bauer, “Bill Mur­ray has embod­ied a very par­tic­u­lar type of com­e­dy that can best be described as ‘iron­ic and cooly dis­tant.’ ” Bauer ref­er­ences a New York Times arti­cle on Mur­ray’s ascen­dance to “sec­u­lar saint­hood” which describes him as hav­ing had “such a long film career that, in the pub­lic mind, there are mul­ti­ple Bill Mur­rays. The Bill Mur­ray of Stripes and Ghost­busters is an anti-author­i­tar­i­an goof­ball: the kind of smart-aleck who leads a com­pa­ny of sol­diers in a coor­di­nat­ed dance rou­tine before a vis­it­ing gen­er­al, or responds to the pos­si­ble destruc­tion of New York City by say­ing, ‘Human sac­ri­fice, dogs and cats liv­ing togeth­er, mass hys­te­ria!’ ”

That mem­o­rable line makes it into “The Phi­los­o­phy of Bill Mur­ray,” as do many oth­ers, all of which spring from the actor’s sig­na­ture per­sona, which “stands slight­ly at a dis­tance from every­thing, enabling him to main­tain a dry­ly humor­ous com­men­tary about what’s going on around him.” Bauer places this in a tra­di­tion of Amer­i­can com­e­dy “dat­ing back at least to the vaude­ville days” and con­tin­u­ing through to Grou­cho Marx’s habit­u­al break­age of the fourth wall. He even con­nects it to 15th-cen­tu­ry Japan­ese play­wright-philoso­pher Zea­mi Motokiyo and, in some sense his 20th-cen­tu­ry con­tin­u­a­tion, Bertolt Brecht.

But what influ­ence best explains Mur­ray’s dis­tinc­tive onscreen and increas­ing­ly per­for­mance art-like off­screen behav­ior today? Maybe that of his one­time teacher, the Gre­co-Armen­ian Sufi mys­tic G.I. Gur­d­ji­eff, who, as Mur­ray’s Ghost­busters co-star Harold Ramis put it, “used to act real­ly irra­tional­ly to his stu­dents, almost as if try­ing to teach them object lessons.” He taught what he called “the fourth way of enlight­en­ment,” or — more fit­ting­ly in Mur­ray’s case — “the way of the sly man,” who can “find the truth in every­day life” by remain­ing simul­ta­ne­ous­ly aware of both the out­side world and his inner one while not get­ting caught up in either. The sly man thus exists between, and uses, “the world, the self, and the self that is observ­ing every­thing.”

Bauer sums up Mur­ray’s unique­ness thus: “He turns the usu­al style of Amer­i­can comedic irony against itself, or against him­self,” lead­ing us to “iden­ti­fy not with Bill Mur­ray’s char­ac­ter, but with Bill Mur­ray, who dis­tances him­self from the stakes of the nar­ra­tive.” But whether play­ing a char­ac­ter, play­ing him­self, or some­thing between the two, Mur­ray seems as if he knows some­thing we don’t about the stakes of life itself. “I’d like to be more con­sis­tent­ly here,” he once said to Char­lie Rose, who’d asked what he wants that he does­n’t already have. “Real­ly in it, real­ly alive. I’d like to just be more here all the time, and I’d like to see what I could get done, what I could do, if I was able to not get dis­tract­ed, to not change chan­nels in my mind and body.” A uni­ver­sal human long­ing, per­haps, but one Mur­ray, the ulti­mate sly man, has come to tap more deeply into than any per­former around.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Lis­ten to Bill Mur­ray Lead a Guid­ed Medi­a­tion on How It Feels to Be Bill Mur­ray

An Ani­mat­ed Bill Mur­ray on the Advan­tages & Dis­ad­van­tages of Fame

Bill Mur­ray Reads Poet­ry at a Con­struc­tion Site

Bill Mur­ray Reads Great Poet­ry by Bil­ly Collins, Cole Porter, and Sarah Man­gu­so

Bill Mur­ray Gives a Delight­ful Dra­mat­ic Read­ing of Twain’s Huck­le­ber­ry Finn (1996)

Bill Mur­ray Sings the Poet­ry of Bob Dylan: Shel­ter From the Storm

Watch Bill Mur­ray Per­form a Satir­i­cal Anti-Tech­nol­o­gy Rant (1982)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

23 Hours of H.P. Lovecraft Stories: Hear Readings & Dramatizations of “The Call of Cthulhu,” “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” & Other Weird Tales


Image by Lucius B. Trues­dell, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

H.P. Love­craft has some­what fall­en out of favor in many cir­cles of hor­ror and fan­ta­sy writ­ing. Just this past year, after much debate, the World Fan­ta­sy Awards decid­ed to remove his like­ness from their stat­uette. Because, quite frankly, Love­craft was not only a big­ot but a com­mit­ted anti-Semi­te and white suprema­cist who loathed vir­tu­al­ly every­one who wasn’t, as he put it, “Nordic-Amer­i­can.” This includ­ed African-Amer­i­cans and “stunt­ed bra­cy­cephal­ic South-Ital­ians & rat-faced half-Mon­goloid Russ­ian & Pol­ish Jews, & all that cursed scum,” as he wrote in a let­ter to fel­low writer August Der­leth. The state­ment is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of many, many more on the sub­ject.

Were these sim­ply pri­vate polit­i­cal opin­ions and noth­ing more, there might not be suf­fi­cient rea­son to read them into his work, but as sev­er­al peo­ple have argued con­vinc­ing­ly, Lovecraft’s opin­ions form the basis of so much of his work. Chi­na Miéville, for exam­ple, writes “I fol­low [French nov­el­ist Michel Houelle­becq—hard­ly known for any kind of polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness] in think­ing that Lovecraft’s oeu­vre, his work itself, is inspired by and deeply struc­tured with race hatred. As Houelle­becq said, it is racism itself that rais­es in Love­craft a ‘poet­ic trance.’”

Lovecraft’s xeno­pho­bic loathing begins to seem like an almost patho­log­i­cal hatred and fear of any­one dif­fer­ent, and of any kind of change in the nation’s make­up. It goes far beyond casu­al “man of his time” atti­tudes (and increas­ing­ly, of our time). F. Scott Fitzger­ald lived dur­ing Lovecraft’s time. And Fitzger­ald had the crit­i­cal dis­tance to sat­i­rize fanat­i­cal big­otry like Love­craft’s in The Great Gats­by’s Tom Buchanan. All of that said, how­ev­er, it’s impos­si­ble to deny Lovecraft’s influ­ence on hor­ror and fan­ta­sy, and almost no one has done so, even among those writ­ers who most vehe­ment­ly lob­bied to retire his image or who found his pres­ence deeply trou­bling.

World Fan­ta­sy Award win­ner Nne­di Oko­rafor writes about con­tem­po­rary authors hav­ing to wres­tle with the fact “that many of The Elders we hon­or and need to learn from hate or hat­ed us.” Win­ner Sofia Samatar, who want­ed the stat­uette changed, exclaimed, “I am not telling any­body not to read Love­craft. I teach Love­craft! I actu­al­ly insist that peo­ple read him and write about him!” In a short essay at Tor, sci-fi and fan­ta­sy writer Eliz­a­beth Bear expressed many of the same ambiva­lent feel­ings about her “com­pli­cat­ed rela­tion­ship with Love­craft.” While find­ing his “big­otry of just about any stripe you like… revolt­ing,” his work has nonethe­less pro­vid­ed “a pow­er­ful source of inspi­ra­tion, the foun­da­tions of it like Hadrian’s Wall; full of mate­r­i­al for min­ing and repur­pos­ing.”

It’s not par­tic­u­lar­ly unusu­al to find such ambiva­lent atti­tudes expressed toward lit­er­ary ances­tors. All artists—all people—have their char­ac­ter flaws, and to expect every writer we like to share our val­ues seems naive, nar­row, and super­fi­cial. But Love­craft presents an extreme exam­ple, and also one whose prose is often pret­ty ter­ri­ble: over­stuffed, over­wrought, pre­ten­tious, and archa­ic. But it’s that pulpy style that makes Love­craft, Lovecraft—that con­tributes to the fever­ish atmos­phere of para­noia and alien­ation in his sto­ries. “He’s a mas­ter of mood,” Bear avows, “of sweep­ing blast­ed vis­tas of despair and the bone-soak­ing cold of space.”

That much of his despair and hor­ror emanat­ed from a place inside him that feared the “ges­tures & jab­ber­ing” of oth­er humans does not make it any less effec­tive­ly creepy or hyp­not­ic. It just makes it that much hard­er to love Love­craft the author, no mat­ter how much we might admire his work. But per­haps Love­craft was such an effec­tive hor­ror writer pre­cise­ly because he was so ter­ri­bly afraid of change and dif­fer­ence. As he him­self wrote of his par­tic­u­lar brand of super­nat­ur­al hor­ror, or “weird fic­tion,” as he called it: “hor­ror and the unknown or the strange are always close­ly con­nect­ed… because fear is our deep­est and strongest emo­tion.” One need­n’t be a pho­bic racist to write good hor­ror fic­tion, but in Love­craft’s case, I guess, it seems to have helped.

Just as much as the work of Isaac Asi­mov, or Robert Hein­lein, or Gene Rod­den­ber­ry resides in the DNA of sci­ence fic­tion, so too does Love­craft inhab­it the organ­ic build­ing blocks of hor­ror writ­ing. Hor­ror and fan­ta­sy writ­ers who some­how avoid read­ing Love­craft may end up absorb­ing his influ­ence any­way; read­ers who avoid him will end up read­ing some ver­sion of “Love­craft pas­tiche,” as Bear puts it. So it behooves us to go to the source, find out what Love­craft him­self wrote, take the good over the bad, even “pick a fight with him,” writes Bear, “because of what he does right, that makes his sto­ries too com­pelling to just walk away from, and because of what he does wrong… for exam­ple, the way he treats peo­ple as things.”

We’ve pre­vi­ous­ly brought to your atten­tion sev­er­al online Love­craft archives, such as this com­pi­la­tion of Love­craft eBooks and audio­books, and these many fine drama­ti­za­tions of Love­craft’s sto­ries. Addi­tion­al­ly, you can down­load many of Love­craft’s sto­ries and let­ters pub­lished in the sem­i­nal hor­ror and fan­ta­sy mag­a­zine Weird Tales. And in the Spo­ti­fy playlist above (down­load Spo­ti­fy here if you need it), you can hear The H.P. Love­craft Com­pendi­um, 23 hours of read­ings and drama­ti­za­tions of Love­craft’s creepy short sto­ries and novel­las, includ­ing The Shad­ow Over Inns­mouth, “The Dun­wich Hor­ror,” The Whis­per­er in Dark­ness, “The Call of Cthul­hu,” and many, many more. How­ev­er repug­nant many of Love­craft’s atti­tudes, there’s no deny­ing the pow­er of his “weird fic­tion.” As the playlist advis­es, “you might want to leave a light on when lis­ten­ing to these chill­ing per­for­mances.…”

This playlist will be added to our col­lec­tion, 1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

H.P. Lovecraft’s Clas­sic Hor­ror Sto­ries Free Online: Down­load Audio Books, eBooks & More

Hear Drama­ti­za­tions of H.P. Lovecraft’s Sto­ries On His Birth­day: “The Call of Cthul­hu,” “The Dun­wich Hor­ror,” & More

Down­load Issues of “Weird Tales” (1923–1954): The Pio­neer­ing Pulp Hor­ror Mag­a­zine Fea­tures Orig­i­nal Sto­ries by Love­craft, Brad­bury & Many More

H.P. Love­craft Gives Five Tips for Writ­ing a Hor­ror Sto­ry, or Any Piece of “Weird Fic­tion”

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Laurie Anderson’s Top 10 Books to Take to a Desert Island

Her avant-garde per­for­mance art endeared her to the New York art world long before she dat­ed, then mar­ried, one of the most influ­en­tial men in rock and roll. Her work has at times been over­shad­owed by her more con­ven­tion­al­ly famous part­ner and col­lab­o­ra­tor, but after his death, she con­tin­ues to make chal­leng­ing, far ahead-of-its-time work and rede­fine her­self as a cre­ative force.

No, I don’t mean Yoko Ono, but the for­mi­da­ble Lau­rie Ander­son. In addi­tion to her exper­i­men­tal art, Ander­son is a film­mak­er, sculp­tor, pho­tog­ra­ph­er, writer, com­pos­er, and musi­cian. Her sur­prise elec­tron­ic hit “O Super­man” (above) from her debut 1982 album Big Sci­ence, “warns of ever-present death from the air in an era of jin­go­ism,” writes David Gra­ham at The Atlantic.

Ander­son her­self explains the song as based on a “beau­ti­ful 19th-cen­tu­ry aria by Massenet… a prayer to author­i­ty. The lyrics are a one-sided con­ver­sa­tion, like a prayer to God. It sounds sinister—but it is sin­is­ter when you start talk­ing to pow­er.”

“O Super­man” speaks, mock­ing­ly, to Amer­i­can mil­i­tary hege­mo­ny and to a par­tic­u­lar his­tor­i­cal event, the Iran hostage cri­sis. As such, it is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of much of her work, meld­ing clas­si­cal instincts and musi­cian­ship with elec­tron­ic exper­i­men­ta­tion and a dark­ly com­ic sen­si­bil­i­ty that she often wields like a crit­i­cal scalpel on U.S. polit­i­cal attitudes—from her huge, five-record 1984 live album Unit­ed States (with songs like “Yan­kee See” and “Demo­c­ra­t­ic Way”) to her 2010 project Home­land.

One of Anderson’s most recent pieces, Dirt­day, “responds,” she says above, to “a very trag­ic sit­u­a­tion… a decade after 9/11… so much fear. Dirt­day was real­ly inspired by try­ing to look at that fear… almost from a point of view of ‘what is it when a whole nation gets hyp­no­tized?’” Her art may be polit­i­cal­ly oppo­si­tion­al, but she also admits, that “as a sto­ry­teller, I find my ‘col­leagues’ in pol­i­tics, you know, a lit­tle bit clos­er than I thought.” The admis­sion belies Anderson’s abil­i­ty to incor­po­rate mul­ti­ple per­spec­tives into her com­plex nar­ra­tives, as all great writ­ers do. And great writ­ers begin as read­ers, their work in dia­logue with the books that move and shape them.

So what does Lau­rie Ander­son read? Below, you’ll find a list of her top ten books, curat­ed by One Grand, a “book­store in which cel­e­brat­ed thinkers, writ­ers, artists, and oth­er cre­ative minds share the ten books they would take to their metaphor­i­cal desert island.” Her choic­es include great com­ic sto­ry­tellers, like Lau­rence Sterne, and chron­i­clers of the lum­ber­ing beast that is the U.S., like Her­man Melville. Oth­er well-known nov­el­ists, like Nabokov and Annie Dil­lard, sit next to Bud­dhist texts and cre­ative non­fic­tion. It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing list, and if you’re as intrigued and inspired by Ander­son­’s work as I am, you’ll want to read, or re-read, every­thing on it.

Skip on over to One Grand to read Anderson’s com­plete, wit­ty com­men­taries on each of her choic­es.

Also check out, UBUweb, which has a nice col­lec­tion of Lau­rie Ander­son­’s ear­ly video work.

via The New York Times Mag­a­zine

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Pat­ti Smith’s List of Favorite Books: From Rim­baud to Susan Son­tag

David Fos­ter Wallace’s Sur­pris­ing List of His 10 Favorite Books, from C.S. Lewis to Tom Clan­cy

David Bowie’s Top 100 Books

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Hear 230 Episodes of Escape: Classic Radio Dramas of Stories by Ray Bradbury, Edgar Allan Poe, H.G. Wells & More (1947–1954)

“Wor­ried about the price of but­ter and eggs? Fed up with the hous­ing short­age? Want to get away from it all? CBS offers you Escape!” These words open Octo­ber 1st, 1947’s broad­cast adap­ta­tion of “The Most Dan­ger­ous Game,” Richard Con­nel­l’s safari cul­ture-sat­i­riz­ing short thriller about a New York big-game hunter en route to Rio who falls off his yacht, swims to shore, and soon finds him­self evad­ing an eccen­tric Cos­sack aris­to­crat who hunts human beings for sport on his own pri­vate island. Not exact­ly the sort of mate­r­i­al that takes all one’s cares away, but Escape, it seems, had its own def­i­n­i­tion of escapism.

Orig­i­nal­ly air­ing on CBS radio between 1947 and 1954 — time that, with­out a reg­u­lar spon­sor, it spent in eigh­teen dif­fer­ent time slots — the pro­gram’s 230 episodes took mate­r­i­al from all over the lit­er­ary land­scape: Ray Brad­bury’s “Mars Is Heav­en,” Daphne du Mau­ri­er’s “The Birds,” H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine” (among sev­er­al oth­er of his tales), F. Scott Fitzger­ald’s “A Dia­mond as Big as the Ritz,” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Lost Spe­cial,” and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Ush­er.” You can lis­ten to almost all its broad­casts, which mix then-new writ­ers in with the estab­lished or already can­on­ized ones, at the Inter­net Archive. (Stream all the episodes right above or find them here.“Escape brings togeth­er every­thing that was good about old-time radio dra­ma rolled into one,” say the notes there, call­ing each episode “a micro dra­ma care­ful­ly planned to cap­ture the lis­ten­er’s atten­tion for thir­ty min­utes.”

“Many of the sto­ries were lat­er reused by more high pro­file shows such as Sus­pense, but on the whole the Escape ver­sions were of equal qual­i­ty and some­times more dra­mat­i­cal­ly focused and atmos­pher­ic. When Radio Life wrote ‘These sto­ries all pos­sess many times the real­i­ty that most radio writ­ing con­veys,’ it hit the nail on the head.” At the time, the show’s cre­ators must have con­stant­ly wor­ried that all their spon­sor­ship trou­bles and time-slot changes would keep the show from last­ing, but even lis­ten­ers now, more than six­ty years after the Gold­en Age of radio and with our own con­cerns about egg prices and hous­ing short­ages, can find in it a qual­i­ty of escapism still unmatched by most pop­u­lar cul­ture.

Find oth­er vin­tage radio dra­mas in our col­lec­tion, 1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear 90+ Episodes of Sus­pense, the Icon­ic Gold­en Age Radio Show Launched by Alfred Hitch­cock

Hear 22-Year-Old Orson Welles Star in The Shad­ow, the Icon­ic 1930s Super Crime­fight­er Radio Show

Dimen­sion X: The 1950s Sci­Fi Radio Show That Dra­ma­tized Sto­ries by Asi­mov, Brad­bury, Von­negut & More

X Minus One: More Clas­sic 1950s Sci-Fi Radio from Asi­mov, Hein­lein, Brad­bury & Dick

Hear Ray Bradbury’s Beloved Sci-Fi Sto­ries as Clas­sic Radio Dra­mas

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

President Warren G. Harding’s Steamy Love Letters

If you know some­thing about Amer­i­can his­to­ry, you know that War­ren G. Hard­ing (1865–1923) will nev­er appear on Mount Rush­more. He died dur­ing his unpop­u­lar first term in office, tar­nished by the Teapot Dome scan­dal and rev­e­la­tions of an extra­mar­i­tal affair. Hard­ing once appar­ent­ly said, “I am not fit for this office and should nev­er have been here.” And his­to­ri­ans tend to agree. Con­sis­tent­ly polls rank­ing the per­for­mance of Amer­i­can pres­i­dents put him at the bot­tom of the list.

His­to­ry might, how­ev­er, look more kind­ly upon Hard­ing’s love let­ters, the byprod­uct of his wom­an­iz­ing ways. Before tak­ing office, Hard­ing fathered a love child with Nan Brit­ton, a woman 31 years his junior. He also car­ried on a 15-year affair with Car­rie Ful­ton Phillips, a friend’s wife, to whom he start­ed writ­ing let­ters in 1910. And what let­ters they were. Here’s one from Jan­u­ary 28, 1912:

I love your poise

Of per­fect thighs

When they hold me

in par­adise…

I love the rose

Your gar­den grows

Love seashell pink

That over it glows

I love to suck

Your breath away

I love to cling —

There long to stay…

I love you garb’d

But naked more

Love your beau­ty

To thus adore…

I love you when

You open eyes

And mouth and arms

And cradling thighs…

If I had you today, I’d kiss and

fon­dle you into my arms and

hold you there until you said,

‘War­ren, oh, War­ren,’ in a

bene­dic­tion of bliss­ful joy.… I

rather like that encore

dis­cov­ered in Mon­tre­al.

Did you?

And anoth­er from Sep­tem­ber 15, 1913, which John Oliv­er play­ful­ly mocks above:

Hon­est­ly, I hurt with the insa­tiate long­ing, until I feel that there will nev­er be any relief untilI take a long, deep, wild draught on your lips and then bury my face on your pil­low­ing breasts. Oh, Car­rie! I want the solace you only can give. It is awful to hunger so and be so whol­ly denied.… Wouldn’t you like to hear me ask if we only dared and answer, “We dare,” while souls rejoic­ing sang the sweet­est of cho­rus­es in the music room? Wouldn’t you like to get sop­ping wet out on Supe­ri­or — not the lake — for the joy of fevered fondling and melt­ing kiss­es? Wouldn’t you like to make the sus­pect­ed occu­pant of the next room jeal­ous of the joys he could not know, as we did in morn­ing com­mu­nion at Rich­mond?

Oh, Car­rie mine! You can see I have yield­ed and writ­ten myself into wild desire. I could beg. And Jer­ry came and will not go, says he loves you, that you are the only, only love worth­while in all this world, and I must tell you so and a score or more of oth­er fond things he sug­gests, but I spare you. You must not be annoyed. He is so utter­ly devot­ed that he only exists to give you all. I fear you would find a fierce enthu­si­ast today.

Orig­i­nal­ly unearthed by his­to­ri­an Fran­cis Rus­sell in 1964, the let­ters were donat­ed to the Library of Con­gress, where they remained under seal until 2014. You can find scans of the orig­i­nal War­ren G. Hard­ing-Car­rie Ful­ton Phillips Cor­re­spon­dence on the LOC web­site. (The LOC also pro­duced an infor­ma­tive video on the exchange.) Read tran­scrip­tions of the best let­ters at The New York Times.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

James Joyce’s “Dirty Let­ters” to His Wife (1909)

Dear Immanuel — Kant Gives Love Advice to a Heart­bro­ken Young Woman (1791)

Ernest Hemingway’s “Love Let­ter” to His “Dear­est Kraut,” Mar­lene Diet­rich (1955)

Read Beethoven’s Lengthy Love Let­ter to His Mys­te­ri­ous “Immor­tal Beloved” (1812)

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