Midnight blue water rested at the horizon under a brightening sky, framing shafts of pine and fir at shore’s edge. Here on the southern tip of Lopez Island, off the coast of Seattle, the dawn air was cool and still, the only sound a few songbirds calling far away. I headed across the needle-packed yard toward a clump of pines. The bald eagle nest was right over there, Anya had said; she’d seen the chicks fledging just days ago, and they couldn’t be far away now.

I turned my binoculars toward the pines, eager to spot that huge platform of sticks three to five feet across. Eagles use the same structure year after year, weaving in more and more sticks for support until the whole can weigh a ton or more. Surely a nest the size of a mattress should be easy to find! I scanned the trees in one direction. Nothing. Puzzled, I looked the other way. No nest anywhere in sight.

Soon my neck stiffened from the upward gaze. I lowered the glasses and headed across the thick carpet of pine needles. The eagles would have to show up soon. Anya had said they were here, so I might as well wait.

Next Week: Paul Ryan dismisses every American not currently wearing an Ellsworth Toohey hoodie.

 

If there’s a more generous writer in America than Jonathan Evison, I haven’t heard of him. (Full disclosure: Evison was kind enough to blurb two of my novels. This ain’t about that.) This son of Washington, a New York Times bestseller for his sweeping epic West of Here has engendered good will the old-fashioned way: by working damn hard at what he does, being thankful for the opportunities, using his time and talent to promote other writers and being a beacon of optimism in a business that breaks hearts as a matter of course.

With his latest, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving (Algonquin), set to drop on Aug. 28, Evison unspooled for a wide-ranging, multi-day email interview about the new book, writing a smaller, more intimate story after the ambitious West of Here, working through the darkness, and what he might say to the 15-years-younger version of himself.

 

Author Slade Ham reads a story called When There’s Lightning. Produced by Aaron M. Snyder and Megan DiLullo. Executive Producer, Brad Listi. Music by Goodbye Champion.

If you can recall the first twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan, then you have a crystalline picture of the present state of the music industry: absolute carnage on all fronts. Record labels have begun suing people for illegally downloading new albums, while paradoxically, more and more bands, such as Green Day, are streaming their new albums for free. Technology has leveled the playing field, allowing anyone with a MacBook to release an album, and the price of gas continues to push more and more up-and-coming bands off the road because they can no longer justify driving a hundred miles to split $50 four ways. It seems like nobody’s making a living anymore, except the lawyers and maybe the toothpaste companies buying ads on American Idol.

An artist would have to be plumb crazy to walk away from a well-oiled support team and try to enter this fray alone. Right?

I accepted a job out past a boulevard named Rampart, the last name anyone would ever dream up as a short diagonal through Los Angeles, California. I crossed Rampart in the morning going east, retreating over the last stretch of continental pavement I’d traveled months before. The downtown by now looked exposed, without the fortified walls.

You spoke to thousands of people from all over the world for your book.  Do you have any favorite conversations that didn’t make it in?

 

I have many, but here are two that stand out. These calls came after my book went to press.

 

1)   I met an attractive, intelligent Canadian prostitute. Sera saw my “Lonely Jeff” flyer online. She was working at her brothel and called the number on my flyer to see if it really worked. We had a great first conversation. We’ve talked regularly since. Our conversations are candid and go everywhere.

Sera’s not the stereotypical prostitute. She doesn’t drink. Rarely uses drugs (mushrooms every few months at a heavy metal concert). She’s well-read (loves Poe and Dostoyevsky), educated, comes from a close-knit family. As a child, each Saturday, Sera would go to garage sales with her mother and “auntie”. Sera would drive them crazy by buying irrational items such as dried-up soap, socks with holes, skateboards with three wheels.

We drove across Colorado, Utah, a touch of Nevada, and Arizona. I brought several books with me to read on our road-trip to southern California—Blake Butler’s Nothing, Amelia Gray’s Threats, Anne-Marie Kinney’s Radio Iris, and Eileen Myles’s Snowflake / Different Streetsand though I was anxious for each of these new titles, for whatever reason, I started with Myles, reading Snowflake / Different Streets in the morning fog and afternoon sun of Santa Ana. From there, everything unraveled.

Ahead of a longer Killers concert documentary that legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog is directing, Rolling Stone premiered this exclusive Herzog mini-doc with the band on the magazine’s website today:

Who are you? I’ve never heard of you before.

I’m scared to quote song lyrics because I’m afraid I’ll be sued, but I defer to my first favorite song: Sometimes When We Touch by Dan Hill: “I’m just another writer, still trapped within my truth.”

Don’t sue. I have no money. Tell me this doesn’t make you weep on hands and knees, or long for some cosmic connection with another human being who happens to be a cross between an Italian mobster and a French painter, or a British rock star and a wild animal trainer. Just tell me. Don’t lie.

Prologue: Going Home with the Poets

New York City on Sunday, December 11, 1994

Madeline and I are walking home from the Nuyorican Poets Café, where these people with lousy day jobs, like waitressing or temping or sometimes dealing, read their poems, which are always about having really good sex or being a black woman.

We go there on Friday nights, always Friday nights, and we fold our legs beneath us on wooden floors, sipping cheap drinks and sweating under bare bulbs that make the place look ghoulish.

Next to us, the poets. Ahh, the poets! People of mystery, of magic, of words. We know they write quatrains and couplets on paper napkins at cafés on Sunday afternoons, stirring lattes, buttering croissants, consuming raspberry tarts—oh, we envy them their free verse!

Comedian Jim Florentine might well swing the biggest pair of brass balls in stand-up comedy—no small feat in a genre where bulletproof cojones are an occupational prerequisite. Most comedy and music fans know Jim from his duties co-hosting VH1’s That Metal Show, but Jim first crept into the pop culture limelight years before through recurring appearances on MTV’s subversive hit show, Crank Yankers. He has since appeared in myriad television shows and movies, and although Jim proceeded to win an Emmy in 2004 for his work on HBO’s Inside the NFL, his most enduring achievement may well be that this month, he released the worst comedy album of all time. On purpose.

I. Posting a Flyer

If anyone wants to talk about anything, call me (347) 469-3173.

—Jeff, one lonely guy

570-231-XXXX

So how did everyone get your number in the first place?

 

516-859-XXXX

Wow, I just saw your sign on a pole a couple days ago.

 

478-213-XXXX

Flyer guy?

 

347-441-XXXX

Jeff, can I call you?