You think you know Caroline Doctorow? “Something Pulls Me to You,” the opening track of the singer-songwriter’s new album, leaves behind flowery folk for Hank Williams lonesome. Backed by the loping twang of Pete Kennedy’s guitar, it calls to mind hunched patrons at a late-night New Mexico roadside diner, nursing their sorrows as much as their coffee cups.
Ever feel that modernity has gotten so strange you must be living on another planet? In “The Twinning Project” (Clarion Books, $16.99), Robert Lipsyte of Shelter Island posits a second Earth created by alien scientists to study evolution. But humans, as humans will, have made a mess of things (our stock-in-trade: war, starvation, genocide, environmental degradation), and the project is being abandoned — no more Earths.
It’s a safe bet Steve Jobs had no say in the design of the phone on my desk. It’s boxy, dull black and headstone gray, and dotted with plastic bubbles above obscure instructions like “Park Ret.” It embodies those dreary features of workaday life that can rip your soul from you like a shirt from a hanger.
One Monday it was dead. Its single sliver of red indicator light, a little reptilian eye that looks on me unblinkingly, no longer announced its readiness to receive.
The history that runs so deep on the South Fork is matched by a passion for it and, too often, by a willingness to destroy it. For notorious example, Wick’s Tavern in Bridgehampton, once catering to drinkers and gossips at the same Main Street intersection as two historic houses that made it to the 21st century, the Nathaniel Rogers House and the Bull’s Head Inn. Wick’s Tavern dated from the end of the 17th century yet was leveled in 1941 so a gas station could rise in its place. (It’s gone now, too, and won’t be missed.)
The logo of an angry, two-fisted bee on the padded wall beneath the basket was a nice surprise. It put me in mind of the pugilistic hornet on the screw tops of Mickey’s Big Mouth malt liquor, one of which I’d last drained not long after I’d last set foot in the Bridgehampton School — graduation day, 1985.
It has been well established that the Internet, for all its wonders, early on fell into the wrong hands and since then has tended to bring out the worst in people. Rage, for one thing, as Bill Henderson of Springs points out in his editor’s note for “Rotten Reviews Redux,” a new reissue of the Pushcart Press’s popular 1986 “literary companion.” Rage that when paired with the safety of anonymity leads to an explosion of dreck online the spray of which reaches even a Luddite like Mr. Henderson, who professes to own no computer.
The Other Matthiessen
He’s got the same long, patrician face, wavy hair, and, at least in his author photo, the familiar denim button-down. Not unlike a certain Sagaponack nature writer and Zen practitioner. Then, too, his just released debut novel spans “love in the ruins of the Mayan Yucatan” and “landscapes, rivers, and tidal estuaries” of the northeastern U.S., on to “the wayward collision of nature and civilization.”
To look behind the scenes of an event that you’ve come to look forward to, large or small, and find the efforts of one person holding it all together can be surprising. If, that is, it isn’t the new normal in this constrained age. Poetry Pairs at Guild Hall regularly brings top-flight readers here while adding a touch of the literary to that institution’s otherwise varied lineup. Thanks to Fran Castan.