Due to my unforgivable negligence, I have not updated this page in a few months. The world has turned in the interim period, however, and I have written. I have written about music, literature, politics, intellectual culture, and sexuality.
My new book, Barack Obama: Invisible Man, is now available!
The Chicago Reader recently summarized the book as following: The cultural critic’s new book Barack Obama: Invisible Man is, in a broader sense, about how America banged its collective head against Trump Tower after last year’s election, no longer able to believe in the kind of change Obama had brought to the Oval Office. He touches on issues not often raised, such as race, privilege, and Obama’s demeanor. Masciotra has previously written about John Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen, but needless to say this is his most controversial topic.
Jesse Jackson, as I have written before, is a largely unsung hero of the American story. More than nearly anyone else, he has enlarged the franchise for all Americans over the past forty years.
I recently sat down with Jackson in his Chicago office to discuss current battles over voter suppression and registration. Read my essay on the discussion at Salon.
I recently had the pleasure of spending time with songwriting legend, Steve Earle. We had a wide ranging conversation about music, politics, history, and love. Read my essay on the experience at Salon.
In a recent essay for Salon, I revisited the Bruce Springsteen masterpiece, The Rising. It is a record that grows even as its gains distance from its precipitating event, the attacks of 9/11. Read my summary and interpretation of the record at Salon.
I have not updated the site in an unforgivably long time, and the screams of rage and terror from the world have finally reached my window. I have heard the people’s demand.
Over the summer, I have written about identity politics, free speech, racism, Trump’s dangerous deference to military leaders on foreign policy, and perhaps most urgently, whether or not Ted Cruz is human.
I was a 13 year old boy when I discovered the music of John Mellencamp. His songs were my usher into the world of writing, art, and creativity. A continual source of powerful inspiration in my work and life, I wrote my second book, Mellencamp: American Troubadour, about his music, and the ideas that surround it. The impact and influence of Mellencamp’s music on my life is so large that, without it, it is impossible to conceive of myself.
On Memorial Day, I had the incredible thrill and honor of driving to Nashville, Indiana to visit John Mellencamp in his recording studio. We sat for a long, fascinating, and fun conversation in the same room where he and his band have made so many of my favorite songs since 1983. Then, I watched he and the band rehearse for their upcoming tour, playing “Pink Houses” and “Paper in Fire.” To add to the pleasure and amazement of the experience, I also met the beautiful and soulful Carlene Carter, and had the opportunity to have a discussion with her.
Mellencamp’s first words to me were, “It is a good book.” That simple, but profound compliment is one I will always treasure (He was referring to my work of biography and cultural criticism, Mellencamp: American Troubadour).
Here is an amusing exchange from our conversation that did not make my essay: After Mellencamp explained that audiences have jeered and heckled him several times throughout his career, he added that, “not once has anyone said anything derogatory to my face.”
“Really, why do you think that is?” I asked.
“Because they know they type of person that I am. Would you say anything?”
Mellencamp laughed. “Well, I’m an old man now. So, you could probably kick my ass. Fifteen years ago, you would have kept your mouth shut.”
I recently had the profound thrill of sitting down in conversation with Warren Haynes, the frontman of Gov’t Mule – a musical unit I recently called the “world’s best band.”
Haynes, a brilliant conversationalist, and I discussed the power and mystery of creativity, the need for personal innovation from artists, and the value of art in times of trouble.
In my new essay at Salon, I use the life of Steve Bannon, controversial and powerful advisor to Donald Trump, as a predicate to explore the problem of meaninglessness in American culture, and how often the search for meaning ends with a cure worse than the illness.
In my new column at Salon, I examine the idea of patriotism, comparing the liberal interpretation of American history with the right wing invention of it, and conclude that those who most obnoxiously wave the flag and shout love of country, are largely ignorant of American history and identity.