From the sedulous to the surreal in cultural context


Senses of Place, MoS 2015

December 16, 2015

  Note: This is the fourth and final installment of our MoS Best of 2015    Matters of Sense covered the final season of Mad Men, the world of books and bookstores, and the sordid politics of 2015.  As we wrap up our annual review, we come to the sweet spot: our fascination with senses of place.  LG… Read More ›

A Trip to ZZ Top’s Tejas

Stepping into an album cover can be a surreal experience. One of my personal favorite ZZ Top albums is Tejas. Released November 1976, Tejas followed hit records Fandango! (1975) and Tres Hombres (1973), as well as earlier blues-rock offering Rio Grande Mud (1972) and the nearly eponymous ZZ Top’s First Album (1971). ZZ Top’s fifth long… Read More ›

New South Cocktail: The Terroir of the Jack & Coke

  Some call it a Jack & Coke. I like to think of it as a “Chattanooga.” Chattanooga sits at a gap in the Appalachians on Interstate 24, just southeast of the Cumberland Plateau. Balanced on the Georgia-Tennessee border, Chattanooga was once known as Ross’s Landing, a site where Cherokee Chief John Ross operated a… Read More ›

Gunning the Throttle for the Llano Estacado: The Epistemic Amarillo

    The academic life is an itinerant one, and sometimes you find yourself moving to a place you never anticipated. This July I found myself packing up my stuff, for the fourth time since finishing my doctorate in mythical pre-crash 2008, getting ready for a 968-mile move to Amarillo, Texas. Unofficial capital of the… Read More ›

The Sensory Historian in the Jungle: An Interview with Adam Mack

  Author Interview Q: Your book, Sensing Chicago, has just been published by the University of Illinois Press, as part of a series, Studies in Sensory History. This isn’t the first time, however, that you’ve published scholarship on the senses. When and how did you get interested in the field of sensory history?   A: I… Read More ›

The BeltLine: A Life Saver?

  Hyperbole about the Atlanta BeltLine is a balloon that keeps rising. The public-private partnership funding the construction of miles of trails and parks while fueling a real-estate boom (at least along the Eastside Trail) has become a cultural juggernaut. Atlanta’s national cachet, self-confidence, and the mystique of the BeltLine are now tightly braided. Despite incisive… Read More ›

Don Draper Lands in the ATL

      Admit it, you always knew it would end with Don Draper meditating in California, his back to the ocean in a yoga pose surrounded by sedulous hippies. Our last glimpse of Don at the conclusion of Mad Men certainly made a lasting impression.  The hard-living ad man pulled out of an epic late-season tailspin… Read More ›

Independent Bookstore Day 2015

  Every collector knows the probably apocryphal story of the nineteenth-century composer and bibliophile Charles-Valentin Alkan, found dead in an avalanche of his own books, crushed when his shelves upended onto him. Like the sex addict who suffers an aortic catastrophe during coitus, Alkan, at least, died smiling. William Giraldi, “Object Lesson: Why We Need… Read More ›

LOVETOWN: Welcome (Back) to Asheville

April: an auspicious moment for a sojourn to Asheville, North Carolina, the “Sweet Cesspool of Sin.”  A homecoming of sorts, a return to the scene of previous stories about the tyranny of choice confronted by the AVL’s pleasure-and-inspiration seeking visitors and the national media’s interest in the Appalachian “Beer City USA.”  Also a return to a lovely Airbnb… Read More ›

“Rejoice”: Readers, Books, and an End to Literary Sexism

  For a great writer, Jonathan Franzen has certainly distinguished himself as a scold.  A conservationist, Franzen’s recent essay in The New Yorker stirred controversy for seeming to reproach those who concentrate on climate change.  Hostile to Twitter, Franzen is also no friend of genre writing: Most of what people read, if you go to the… Read More ›


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