The website Music Tomes – an interesting online journal dedicated to covering books on music – recently interviewed me on my forthcoming book, Mellencamp: American Troubadour (University Press of Kentucky).
In my new essay for the Daily Beast, I defend English Departments against the boneheaded belief that college students have no need to read narrative prose. In doing so, I also write about the techno-buffoonery and anti-intellectualism sweeping the country. The lowering cultural standards are particularly visible when major journals defend them.
As I begin the essay:
It is easy to observe the sad and sickly decline of American intellectual life, through the cultural and institutional lowering of standards, when prestigious publications promote the defense, if not the celebration, of lower standards.
Writing recently in TheNew Republic on the seemingly inevitable death of the college English department, James Pulizzi represents the shortsighted techno-boosterism and foolish progressivism that is rendering American culture increasingly superficial and frivolous.
“Within a few decades, contemporary literature departments will be largely extinct,” Pulizzi submits before predicting that “communications, composition, and media studies will take English’s place.”
Rather than expressing anxiety, or at least, worry over the impending destruction of one of the only mechanisms for introducing young Americans to a pillar of art, human history, and the Western tradition, Pulizzi credulously asks, “Why should college students read narrative prose when they get their fill of stories from television, cinema, and interactive video games?”
The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once famously indicted the cultural condition of “defining deviancy down.” As standards migrate from the mountain to the basement, the formerly vulgar, indecent, and stupid becomes the norm. One can easily see how eventually thinkers like Pulizzi will delete a few words from their rhetorical question to simply ask, “Why should college students read?”
Bloomsbury Publishers recently announced that they will publish my book on Metallica’s self-titled record, more commonly known as The Black Album, as part of its much celebrated and acclaimed 33 1/3 series.
For the book, I have already interviewed the principal players in the making of the album, including current members of Metallica – James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, and Kirk Hammett, former bassist Jason Newsted, and Metallica’s former producer, Bob Rock.
The book is a must read for Metallica, metal, and hard rock fans, as I will give up close and personal details, received personally from the band, into the making of The Black Album, and I will examine the importance of Metallica’s music, along with the philosophical depth it possesses.
For more information read the official announcement at the 33 1/3 page.
It is nearly impossible for me to measure the influence that the work of David Mamet – one of America’s greatest writers – has had on my thinking, my ideas, and, I hope, my writing.
Needless to say, I was thrilled and honored to spend 90 minutes with the literary genius and giant on the phone. The Federalist has published the result of that conversation – an essay that ranks among my best work, and one that I am very proud to have written.
The essay, because of Mamet’s brilliance and wit, contains so many gems of insight that it really becomes required reading.
I am particularly happy with the essay, because it truly gets to the essence of Mamet’s philosophy and personality. We spend time discussing his greatest work – Glengarry Glen Ross, American Buffalo, Edmond, The Verdict – along with his newest book, Three War Stories.
We also spend time on his political conversion from liberalism to libertarianism, which is similar and influential on my own same ideological travel route, and on his early life on the streets and in the theaters of Chicago.
It is my hope that the large swath of people who will continually find Mamet’s work worthy of study will use my interview and profile as a source of knowledge for many years.
Last weekend, on the Sabbath, the Daily Beast published an article I wrote after interviewing an inspirational man named Jerry DeWitt.
DeWitt is a former Pentecostal minister, who after years of study, wrestling with doubt, and finding that his personal experiences could not justify his faith claims, left the church and discovered he was an atheist.
The community he loves and cherishes of DeRidder, Louisiana does not look too kindly on heretics. He planned to live a quiet life of introspection and secular employment. A strange series of circumstances led to his outing as an atheist, and rather than run, he decided to stand strong and tall in defiance against hatred and commitment toward honesty, authenticity, and secular advocacy.
While celebrity atheist provocateurs, like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, write bestselling books from the comfort and friendly quarters of elite universities, DeWitt is taking heavy fire in one of the most ballistic battles of the culture wars.
Read about his important story and inspirational work on the Daily Beast.
The always excellent Front Porch Republic has posted an excerpt from my new ebook, Against Traffic: Essays on Politics and Identity, called “Deleting The Individual: Big Data and Presidential Campaigns.” The excerpt is a good introduction to the collection of essays.
Readers who have followed my work since the publication of my first book, Working On a Dream: The Progressive Political Vision of Bruce Springsteen (Continuum Books), in 2010 have likely noticed that my politics have shifted in various directions. The role of any thoughtful and thinking person must include closely observing new developments in history, politics, and sociology, obtaining new information and insights, and adapting accordingly. Citizenship requires the citizen to always move like a quarterback in a scramble – ducking and dodging oncoming opponents, reacting with agility and speed to changes in the play, and remaining steadfast in the commitment to advancing one’s priorities and purpose.
In my new collection of essays, Against Traffic: Essays on Politics and Identity, I write about my own personal and political development, and how I escaped from the enclosed ideological cell of big government liberalism to find the free territory of individual freedom, neighborhood empowerment, and communal enlivenment. The new and exclusive title essay deals with the events that shaped my politics, and shows how I became a proponent of what Norman Mailer called “Left Conservatism.” I now take equally from the left and right, and I criticize both left and right – in the process claiming the inspiration of figures as diverse in range as Cornel West, Bob Dylan, Albert Camus, Gore Vidal, Stanley Hauerwas, Pope Benedict, and the aforementioned Norman Mailer. The new collection of essays demonstrates how a strong individual can move against traffic – creating one’s own identity and using one’s own intellect, heart, and spirit as cartographer.
Most of Against Traffic is new material – the grand title essay and an introduction, but the book also includes my previously published letter challenging President Obama’s supporters, and my previously published essays on the death of American Empire, and the “dangerous alliance of big business and big government.” It closes with my eulogy celebrating the life and career of Gore Vidal.
The description on Amazon is as follows:
Against Traffic: Essays on Politics and Identity is a compelling and provocative collection essays from one of America’s most versatile and forceful young writers. David Masciotra, who writes about pop culture for PopMatters, literature for the Daily Beast, politics for Front Porch Republic, and religion for Relevant, turns his clear eyes, powerful intellect, and large imagination toward the fiasco of American politics. What follows is a blistering attack on the clichés of the left and right, and the superficiality, tribalism, and frivolity of the American political scene.
In the title essay, Against Traffic, Masciotra takes readers through his deeply personal and political travels from the ideological trap of big government liberalism to the open ground of neighborhood empowerment, communal enlivenment, and what Norman Mailer called “Left Conservatism.” The essay also deals with the importance of literature, the arts, existential Christianity, and localism in the formulation of an edifying politics, citing figures as diverse as Albert Camus, Cornel West, Gore Vidal, and Pope Benedict.
Masciotra shoots through the delusions of most pundits by indicting both big government and big business. President Obama, the liberals who have defended his disastrous policies, and the Republican Party are all undressed as equally culpable in the destruction of the American community and family. The political solution that Masciotra offers will surprise and please anyone concerned about the maximization of freedom and the empowerment of the everyday person.
Against Traffic: Essays on Politics and Identity not only issues brilliant commentary on American politics, but also examines how independence, rebellion, and liberty are possible in an American culture committed to groupthink, party loyalty, and conformity.
Against Traffic, which in addition to the grand title essay includes an open letter challenging President Obama’s supporters, an examination of the death of the American Empire, an exploration of the “dangerous alliance between big business and big government”, and a eulogy celebrating the life and career of Gore Vidal, is a must read book for Americans fighting to free themselves from the shackles of America’s dysfunctional, and often diabolical, political system and culture.
It is a unique work of insight into how Americans can resist the restrictions of American politics, and live with strength, courage, and conviction.