Sunday, July 26, 2009


Jewish shouting: the last gasp, the club mix

As I'm well aware, there's not much more to say about the Jewish shouting mix. After the initial nudge from Melville House, the yappy little artifact made its way around the world, with coverage in the Guardian, the New York Times, the National Post, Gawker, and Harper's. There were hospitable responses from around the Web, with Jewish bloggers in the pole position: I tip my hat (or yarmulke) to Tablet, For Zion's Sake, and Jewlicious, from whom I've borrowed the stellar graphic in this post. Flavorwire and American Short Fiction flagged me down for short interviews. My pal Katy Evans-Bush at Baroque in Hackney sent up an amusing signal flare. And outside the English-speaking world, the Dutch, Germans, Romanians, Swedes, Italians, and French weighed in with presumably pungent commentary. (Say, what does merdique mean?)

So what's the purpose of this post? Well, after several weeks of tinkering, I finished the nine-and-a-half-minute Jewish Shouting Cantina Club Mix. It's got lap steel, church bells, a danceable beat suitable for your next bar mitzvah or Rotary Club meeting, and (again) the inimitable vocalise of Philip Roth. You can listen to it or download the convenient, spill-resistant MP3 file here. As always, feel free to pass it along: sharing is caring. And now I will resume normal broadcasting. I promise.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009


The joys of Liebling

Over at CJR, I chat with Pete Hamill about the joys of A.J. Liebling, whose work has recently been reissued in two fat volumes by the Library of America. The older writer's raffish universe of lowlifes, bookies, flacks, and grifters (not to mention the elected governor of Louisiana) was already vanishing by the time Hamill began his career as a journalist. But there was a brief overlap, and a momentary pressing of the flesh in 1962. Here's a sample bit:
Marcus: Questions of style aside, then, what did you take away from him as a young reporter?

Hamill: His delight in the raffish. My second year at the Post, I pulled the 8:00-to-3:00 shift, covering Broadway. I’d go to Lindy’s, where I would nurse a single cup of coffee because I was broke, and talk to the press agents and the flacks. These were the kind of characters that Liebling would write about. By 1962, of course, they had mostly disappeared. They had gone to Vegas to do legally what was illegal in New York.

Marcus: So you caught the tail end of that scene.

Hamill: I did. But it taught me to pay attention. Once I found a house detective at the Hotel Taft named Tiptoe Tannenbaum. If Liebling didn’t invent him, Runyon did.
You can read the whole thing here. The conversation sent me straight back to Liebling's work, always a good thing. I read the first page of "The Earl of Louisiana," his 175-page portrait of Huey Long's kid brother, and just kept going. I defy anybody to turn away after this opening salvo:
Southern political personalities, like sweet corn, travel badly. They lose flavor with every hundred yards away from the patch. By the time they reach New York, they are like Golden Bantam that has been trucked up from Texas--stale and unprofitable. The consumer forgets that the corn tastes differently where it grows.

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