Driving Big Star, Mary Ruefle’s Happy Birthday collage and cheating curators. 

Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation, published by Granta Books, shares five links to what she’s reading, watching, thinking about and loving right now.


1. Ben’s My Friend’, by Sun Kil Moon
Is it possible to write a song where the music is ironic, but the lyrics are stunningly sincere? That’s what this song seems to be; it’s embellished with odd saxophones and some flamenco-ish guitar, but it has this bit about calling home that somehow sucker-punched me.

My mom was good
But she sounded out of breath
I worry so much about her
I worry to death

Mark Kozelek covers a lot of ground in this song. It’s about friendship and competition and outrunning your own precociousness. But it’s also about just shutting up and doing your own work in the end. There’s something strangely hopeful about it and it keeps running through my head.

2. The Morgan Library in New York just started hosting photography exhibits and their first one, A Collective Invention: Photographs at Play, is super fun. There are over eighty works in the show and each one shares a visual or conceptual association with the piece on either side of it. It’s up to the viewer to tease out the links though you can cheat and read the curator’s notes if you want. There’s a collage by Ray Johnson, a still of Montgomery Clift as Sigmund Freud and a photograph of Lincoln being carved into Mt Rushmore among other treasures.

3. Watch Alex Chilton drive Chris Bell round the bend in the excellent documentary, Nothing Can Hurt Me.  (Then hole up and obsessively listen to all your Big Star albums again.)

4. All these great small presses have subscription deals now. If you sign up for Wave’s paperback one, you get all their new releases and some extras too. The last time I did it, I got a tiny box filled with individual cards that made up a Mary Ruefle poem called ‘Happy Birthday’. It arrived on my birthday, which was a coincidence, but still! I felt absurdly important. And if you like short books Melville House’s The Art of the Novella series is really cool too.

5. Writers No One Reads
I check this brilliant site all the time to find books that might have slipped through the cracks. Its mission is to highlight ‘forgotten, neglected, abandoned, forsaken, unrecognized, unacknowledged, overshadowed, out-of-fashion, under-translated writers’. The tag line: ‘Has no one read your books? You are in good company.’


Cover image by Samuel Jesse Vaughn, Printing and Bookbinding for Schools, 1914

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