Tag Archives: Lorrie Moore

For What Its Worth : ON STEPHEN STILLS

30 Jul




Highly regarded short story maestra, Lorrie Moore who is obviously a long standing Stephen Stills fan girl reminded me of how great  Stills is in her notice* of Stephen Stills: Change Partners by David Roberts, a new biography of the rock and roll guitar god. And additionally, Moore makes lucidly makes a case for the value of his accomplishments, having written great songs  (beginning with the hippie anthem “For What Its Worth”) and assembled some wonderful musical aggregations (Buffalo Springfield and variety of configurations including David Crosby, Graham Nash   and Neil Young) Manassas and more.



Stills brought a distinctive combination of country, folk, Latin, blues, and rock to every band he was in. One can already hear these influences converging in “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” (1969), a folk-rock love song written about Judy Collins, whose rousing coda has a strong Latin flavor, due to Stills’s overlaid vocal track. CSN performed it at Woodstock. Stills wrote songs of great variety of style and mood and composed quickly but unconventionally, often pulling together tracks he had recorded earlier in his studio before he knew where they might land—the equivalent of a writer’s notebook or a chef’s pantry. Stills liked to cook, both literally and figuratively, for his bands. “Carry On” was written in eight hours.



Stephen Stills performing on the Dutch television program Toppop, 1972           ( Vara Broadcasting Association)


Stills may be hobbled by arthritis—backstage he bumps fists rather than shakes hands with fans; he has carpal tunnel and residual pain from a long-ago broken hand, which affects his playing—and he is nearly deaf, but his performance life has continued. Drugs and alcohol may have dented him somewhat, forming a kind of carapace over the youthful sensitivity and cockiness one often saw in the face of the young Stills. Some might infer by looking at the spry James Taylor or Mick Jagger that heroin is less hard on the body than cocaine and booze, which perhaps tear down the infrastructure. (“Stills doesn’t know how to do drugs properly,” Keith Richards once said.) But one has to hand it to a rock veteran who still wants to get on stage and make music even when his youthful beauty and once-tender, husky baritone have dimmed. It shows allegiance to the craft, to the life, to the music. It risks a derisive sort of criticism as well as an assault on nostalgia.


Listen here…






The miniaturization (perhaps contraction is  more accurate?) of cultural horizons in the last few decades may account for the general  indifference to the great musicians who linger over four or five decades. It’s as if they thrive  outside the small -minded commercially driven  block buster mentality which has made performing precedent over recording. This may end up being a harder task than the boom years of the music biz, but performing is the great leveler and thats were players like Stephen Stills shine


My Coffee with Andre

3 May

I recently resumed my conversation with Andre Dubus Tres ( It began in 2001 here) which you can find here. We, of course chat about his new opus, Townie: A Memoir. He says some smart things about memoir and autobiography:

I think of my mother-in-law who lives with us, a beautiful lady. She’s 89. She was on the phone with someone and she said, “Well, he has written his autobiography.” Not my autobiography—that’s like a life story. Who cares about me? It’s a memoir, and my take on the memoir is that you can write 10 memoirs about a life. Twenty. You can write about having been a father. You can write about being a carpenter. Being married and divorced five times. Whatever your experience is.

That’s right. So there Lorrie Moore.

The Twain Shall Not Meet

18 Jan

This past year has seen an interesting expansion of the Mark Twain bibliography, not the least of which is Twain’s post humously published, unexpurgated autobiography (which surprisingly is in Amazon’s top 25.) And then there is the literary revision(exorcism) of the so called N word from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I say so-called because there appears to be great squeamishness about actually saying or printing the word nigger. Master story teller Lorrie Moore effectively trashes the Finn Revision (and does not miss an opportunity to take a pole at literary sacred cow To Kill A Mockingbird.

There have been books about Mark Twain’s other woman, his final years, his transformation as he journeyed West and a volume entitled God’s Fool, and this oddity—Twain’s Feast: Searching for America’s Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens, to list a few. One tome not to be overlooked in the current mini Twain boom is Twain scholar Joe Fulton’s The Reconstruction of Mark Twain:How a Confederate Bushwhacker Became the Lincoln of Our Literature (Louisiana State University Press).

Fulton’s thesis is simple and well illustrated—Clemens/Twain served asa second lieutenant in a Confederate militia, for two weeks, raising the issue of his loyalty to the Confederate cause and requiring a drawing out of the long and winding road along which Twain moved from being a pro slavery secessionist to being racially enlightened and our so called “The Lincoln of our Literature”. Fulton discovers and explicates hitherto ignored texts to chart Twain’s conversion or should we say enlightenment. Its a pretty good story and far more interesting than the stale notion that Clemens/Twain was always a paragon of enlightenment and rectitude. Something significant that famed Twain acolyte Bernard DeVoto seemingly overlooked.