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№ 3: Dream Publisher, Bone Doctor, Jazz for God

Alex Payne
Alex Payne
5 min read

Table of Contents

I see you there, eyeing the calendar, thinking to yourself, "Just two more days without a newsletter and I can collect on that chocolate bar Alex promised if he didn't get the next issue out inside of January."

Well tough shit. Get your own chocolate bar, Doubting Thomas. At least while you're eating it you can, as always, enjoy something for your mind, your body, and your soul from this month's issue.

My Dream Publisher, and Yours?

something for your mind

What's better than finding a new favorite author? For me, it was finding my dream publisher, with a whole back catalog to explore.

I made my discovery, appropriately enough, in a bookstore: Portland's Parallel Worlds Bookshop, an aqua-walled nook on Alberta that I happened upon during a recent trip back to that city I've twice called home. Browsing, I picked up two petite volumes, identical in format yet with differing enigmatic cover art. These were Rogomelec by Surrealist-adjacent artist Leonor Fini and Samalio Pardulus by German journalist and literary multi-talent Otto Julius Bierbaum. Immediately taken, I asked the cashier if they had more from the same press. They did not, and so I looked them up.

Wakefield Press of Cambridge (the one beside Boston) is responsible for these two books, and for many others I've since ordered directly from them. Describing themselves as "devoted to the translation of overlooked gems and literary oddities in small, affordable, yet elegant paperback editions," they are doing, if not God's work, then the bidding of some benevolent and erudite archdemon.

I couldn't say how many other people out there are eager to read a fresh translation of the century-old Belgian short weird fiction of Jean Ray. All I know is that it's extremely my shit, and I'm so grateful that Wakefield is putting it out. Of the same general place and period, Paul Willems' The Cathedral of Mist was my reading highlight for January.

Not limiting themselves to dead authors, Wakefield also released celebrated French author Pascal Quignard's A Terrace in Rome. The short novel, published in its original language in 2000 and in translation by Wakefield in 2016, juxtaposes deeply researched (and deeply felt) historical subjects with austere contemporary prose in a way I wasn't previously convinced was possible.

I won't ramble on about all of Wakefield's wonderful offerings. What I'd like to know is: have you found your perfect publisher? Maybe a favorite record label or a never-miss movie production house?

My wife, for example, landed on Chelsea Green, "the leading publisher of books about organic farming, gardening, homesteading, integrative health, natural building, sustainable living, socially responsible business, and more," who on top of all that are employee-owned. Lovely. Very Nicole.

With evermore content spilling into the world, the value of curation only grows. Yes, presses and labels and so on are gatekeepers. Perhaps we need the gates. Digitization moots material scarcity as a production concern, yet our time remains finite.

Carry me to the Bone Doctor

something for your body

Let's say, hypothetically, that your pathetic meat body betrays you. Your back is all jacked up. You're downing muscle relaxers, and while they help, you can't drive or do much of anything productive and things on the pills are generally a bit wavier than you'd like for a Tuesday afternoon. You've had a heating pad semi-permanently affixed to your sacrum for like four days.

It's time to get help. Who you gonna call?

A chiropractor? You trust them? I don't trust them. My mistrust is not founded in evidence—even anecdotal evidence—but keeps me out of their offices just the same.

A physical therapist? After you get a doctor's referral, you're probably looking at appointments—a whole thing.

There's another option, one I wasn't aware of until a few years ago: an osteopathic physician. Mind, these are somewhat murky waters, as osteopathy historically embraced some practices that are now discredited, or at least relegated to the world of take-your-chances alternative medicine. What you're looking for, in the US at least, is a DO: essentially a doctor who has specialized in treatment of (and by) the musculoskeletal system, generally via gentle external manipulations.

Our daughter, born with torticollis, couldn't fully turn her head to one side. (Most likely, this was down to her having found a comfy spot in the womb and straight up chillaxed there in the months leading up to her birth.) A few easy visits to a DO sorted her out.

For me, a recent flareup of a recurring lower back issue was doused by our DO in three appointments. I simply laid on a raised table, receiving what felt like either the world's laziest or most subtle massage, and left with some recommended stretches. Quick, effective, and practical.

Consider a DO the next time your body acts up.

Jazz for God

something for your soul

Writing in The Guardian, author and Brooklyn College prof Moustafa Bayoumi eulogized the late jazz great Pharaoh Sanders, and then some. Writing several months after the saxophonist's death, Bayoumi skipped the obit boilerplate to focus on the importance of faith in the art of Sanders and his peers:

Islam offered these musicians an opportunity to reject the routine and brutal racism of America while also enabling them to explore themselves as full human beings and spiritual seekers.

Touching on other jazz legends whose work is filled with spirit and delivered in a devotional aspect, the piece serves as an ideal introduction to a corner of jazz one doesn't hear nearly enough. (I don't, at least, and I have jazz radio on all the damn time.) Bayoumi writes:

By the 1990s, jazz was also firmly ensconced in the ivory tower, featuring at prestigious arts institutions such as Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center.

As a teenager, I took a jazz appreciation course at the Kennedy Center, delivered over a long series of weeknights by Billy Taylor, then the Center's artistic director for jazz. Taylor covered his beloved field thoroughly, and with many charming anecdotes. Still, to Bayoumi's point, I don't recall hearing much from the spiritual set during that course.

Branching from jazz into hip-hop, Bayoumi traces the influence of Islam through to contemporary artists like Jay Electronica, whose 2020 A Written Testimony is still a frequent play for me. Read the whole essay and you might even learn a thing or two about slang you thought you knew.

If you're ready to check out some spiritual jazz, the archives of top-tier streamers NTS are a treasure trove. You could try this sonic collage from filmmaker Tania Feghali or this tribute to Pharaoh Sanders from Paul Camo, a DJ and graphic designer whose work graces jazz album covers.

And, like, you know about NTS, right? 'Cause if you don't, oh wow are you in for a treat. They've been broadcasting for years, running two stations simultaneously from various hip locales and making most (all?) of their old shows available, complete with all the metadata you'd want. No matter what you're into, NTS probably has several regular shows that touch on those and related sounds. It's 110% worth supporting them. I mean, their iOS app has CarPlay support. They're way too cool for that shit, but they did it anyway. Help 'em out.

And that's it for this month! Please do let me know if you have a favorite press. I'd love to link to a few next month.