Douglas Wolk

  • Soul Witness

    For most of Stax Records’ initial run, from roughly 1961 to 1975, its headquarters on Memphis, Tennessee’s McLemore Avenue was the capitol building of southern soul. It wasn’t just a record label, but the headquarters of a creative movement: the place where an integrated (in multiple senses) cluster of artists and businesspeople created a new kind of popular music, sold it to the world, and tried to unite their divided community by example.

    That’s a compelling story, and Robert Gordon’s well placed to tell it: He’s a historian of Memphis music, and the codirector of a 2007 PBS documentary

  • culture July 18, 2011

    The iPad Could Revolutionize the Comic Book Biz—or Destroy It

    American comic book fans live for Wednesdays. That’s the day the new issues arrive. Every major American comic book publisher uses a single distributor, Diamond, to ship boxes of their latest releases to roughly 2,200 comics retail stores across the country. The shop owners—or their minions—put that week’s crop of Batman or X-Men or Buffy the Vampire Slayer on the shelves, and then the fans arrive. A lot of them go to the same store every week, where they have a “pull list” on file, books they’ve asked to be set aside so they’ll never miss a single pulse-pounding issue. It’s a tradition.

  • Messiah Complex

    Ambition is an attractive quality in a book, and Adam Levin’s first novel, The Instructions, is Napoleonically ambitious, a 1,030-page brick wrapped within a metafictional conceit. The book is, supposedly, a 2013 edition of a “scripture” by protagonist Gurion ben-Judah Maccabee. The first half has been translated from English into Hebrew and back into English, retaining, due to its “translingual” immutability, its original wording. This is only one of the miracles attributed to this text and to Gurion, who spends the better part of the book steadfastly insisting that he’s not the Jewish Messiah,

  • Stitches

    Like many contemporary memoirists, David Small had a lousy childhood. He was a sickly kid (illness, he explains, was “a way of expressing myself wordlessly”); his mom was cold and distant, and he once walked in on her canoodling with a local hipster lady; his dad was taciturn and mean; his grandmother was physically abusive. There was a lot of hostile silence in his house, and Small ended up contributing to it inadvertently: When he was fourteen, an operation for a cancer his parents refused to tell him about left him with only one vocal cord and no voice. (He later regained the ability to

  • Pixu: The Mark of Evil

    Every haunted house has the same damn problem. Somebody’s violated a taboo, and until that sin is expiated, the stain of corruption spreads steadily through the sinner’s abode. In the case of Pixu: The Mark of Evil, the stain is literal—a raggedy black scribble that grows like kudzu across an apartment building’s walls and ceilings, snaking its tendrils through the empty space around objects and infecting everything and everyone in its path. It’s a visual conceit more than a narrative device: a trick that ties together four concurrent, linked horror stories by four cartoonists. Becky Cloonan,