-->
Books

The Storyteller Speaks: Rare and Different Fictions of the Grateful Dead

As well written as the stories are, perhaps the biggest enticement for readers will be the chance to glimpse one of the longest lasting subcultures in American history.

On April 4 and 5, 1995, something happened to me that I have yet to forget. It was on that pair of otherwise normal days (Tuesday and Wednesday, to be exact) that something took place in my city that had not happened in 15 years: the Grateful Dead came to town. I wasn’t a Deadhead by any means, but I owned a few records and liked them enough to scrape together my meager teenage finances to go to the show and find out, firsthand, just what – if anything -- I had been missing. I wanted to know why people would abandon the comforts of home to follow the band from town to town, living off the kindness of strangers for months at a time, just to catch the next show. I was not disappointed. There I got a glimpse into another culture, one similar to our own but at the same time wholly separate. Their world was so different from my own, so much more exciting, and though the fact that I was barely old enough to drive kept me from joining their world, I was thankful that they allowed an outsider to share it for a little while.

The tours came to an end four months later with the passing of Jerry Garcia but the culture survives to this day. Perhaps not as prevalent or as visible as they once were, tie-dyed-in-the-wool Deadheads are still around and what they are doing these days may surprise you. Deadheads are now politicians, executives, musicians and even academics. Robert G. Weiner has been doing academic work on the Dead for more than a decade now as the founder and head of the Grateful Dead caucus of the Southwestern Pop Culture Association. Something Weiner has been working on during this time is collecting the myriad of writings inspired by the Dead and he’s finally done it with the help of Gary McKinney and Kearney Street Books in The Storyteller Speaks: Rare and Different Fictions of the Grateful Dead. Weiner and McKinney compiled the works of authors, fans, and associates of the Dead into a volume as unique as the band and culture that inspired it.

The challenge with a book like The Storyteller Speaks is that what makes it so enjoyable also makes it difficult to describe to someone else. Calling it an “eclectic work” is a massive understatement; every genre, style, tone, and length is represented. The book kicks off in the horror vein, with the Philip Baruth penned “American Zombie Beauty” being a standout and one of the better examples of the type of zombie fiction that is so in vogue these days. The book then continues in a manner not too far removed from a Dead show, taking detours through a variety of concepts – fantasy, crime fiction, sci-fi, drama – but often returning to familiar territory. One of the more interesting of these detours is Dead lyricist Robert Hunter’s “Metaphor 101,” a cheeky but poignant look at politics, religion, and life itself.

Hunter’s inclusion ensures that any self-respecting fanatical Deadhead will pick this volume up, but it is worth noting that this book isn’t strictly for the Dead faithful. The Storyteller Speaks will appeal to anyone with a love of short fiction and the mix of authors and genres means that everyone should find something to like. As well written as the stories are, perhaps the biggest enticement for readers will be the chance to glimpse one of the longest lasting subcultures in American history. Some 15 years after Garcia’s death, Deadheads aren’t fading away, they’re thriving. This book gives an interesting and different type of insight into the Dead phenomenon – not a removed, clinical sociological analysis, but not one that’s strictly for initiates either. The Storyteller Speaks lets you have the full Grateful Dead experience minus the music. You might not trade in your car for a VW Bus and hit the road, but you will be thankful that you got to share the experience for a little while.

7

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

Scholar Judith May Fathallah's work blurs lines between author and ethnographer, fan experiences and genre TV storytelling.

In Fanfiction and the Author: How Fanfic Changes Popular Culture Texts, author Judith May Fathallah investigates the progressive intersections between popular culture and fan studies, expanding scholarly discourse concerning how contemporary blurred lines between texts and audiences result in evolving mediated practices.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Kuinka appeal to ornery Renaissance royalty with a joyous song in their infectiously fun new music video.

With the release of Americana band Kuinka's Stay Up Late EP earlier this year, the quartet took creative steps forward to deftly expand their sound into folk-pop territory. Riding in on the trend of moves made by bands like the Head and the Heart and the National Parks in recent years, they've traded in their raw roots sound for a bit more pop polish. Kuinka has kept the same singalong, celebratory vibe that they've been toting all this time, but there was a fork in the sonic highway that they boldly took this go-around. In this writer's opinion, they succeeded in once again captivating their audience, just in a respectably newfound way.

Keep reading... Show less

Merseybeat survivors, the Searchers made two new-wave styled, pop rock albums in 1979 and 1981. They covered Big Star, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty. What could possibly go wrong?

Imagine the plight of the Searchers in 1979. You've been diligently plugging away at the night-club circuit since the hits dried up in the late '60s, and you've just made a great, pop-rock record. Critics love it, but radio won't play it as they're too busy scrambling around to find bands that look like the Pretenders, the Boomtown Rats and Elvis Costello, but who sound like… well, the Searchers.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image