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Robby was gone and, for all Helen knew, he wasn’t coming back. He didn’t even look over his shoulder as he thundered through the doorway and disappeared into the unforgiving street. She’d never seen him so out of control. The shattered lamp. The overturned desk. In the thirteen years since they met, he’d never shown signs of violence or aggression, especially toward her. Even at the most overwhelming moments in their marriage, he’d shrug and say “Well, if that’s the worst thing that happens to us today, Princess, we’re doing all right.”

The original story was written for an event held at the Pump House on October 2, 2018. Read the full piece here.

Lessons on Love & Landscape

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How refreshing to encounter a memoir so full of nuance and self-awareness that the writer emerges as a compelling protagonist in his own narrative. With an emotional setting triangulated among Iowa City, New York City, and Venice, Marc Nieson’s memoir Schoolhouse: Lessons on Love and Landscape (Ice Cube Press, 2016) forges a path through the complex topographies of family, community, and love.

Read the whole piece here.

Rust Belt Boy: Stories of an American Childhood

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Seldom do site-specific memoirs link author to hometown so completely they become indivisible in the mind of a reader. More than three decades after leaving Pittsburgh for Boston, Paul Hertneky, an Ambridge native, revisits the hills and valleys of western Pennsylvania in Rust Belt Boy: Stories of an American Childhood published this spring by Bauhan Publishing. It is hard to imagine young Paul growing up anywhere else.

The original was published on June 29, 2016. Read the full review here.

Off the Record, Vol. 13-589

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“This autumn, Pittsburgh has become a Midwestern metropolis full of pop art exhibits. For the past month, the city has declared custody of a giant rubber duck designed by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman. The duck has generated millions of dollars for the local economy and brought in tens of thousands of visitors to the region. In mid-August, in conjunction with the Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh, yarn enthusiasts from all over the world donated blanket-sized knitted panels that were sewn together by volunteers and draped over the Andy Warhol (7th Street) Bridge for a month-long exhibit called Knit the Bridge.”

The original article was published on October 20, 2013 by atU2.com. Read the full version here.

Off the Record, Vol. 13-573

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“It is primarily for this reason that I was pleased to see Bono address the issue of U2’s tax status during Tuesday night’s broadcast of The Meaning of Life with Gay Byrne. In a frank conversation with one of country’s most influential and respected television personalities, Bono called it very ‘churlish’ of his countrymen to be critical of U2 acting like a business. He described Ireland as a ‘small rock’ which greatly benefitted from low corporate tax rates through the late 1990s thus saving the economy from drowning. He went on to argue that while critics might call U2’s philanthropic involvement ‘idealistic’ (he thinks it is ‘pragmatic’), it is entirely unrelated to good business sense. In essence, the band is where it is today as a result of rigorous management (‘Paul McGuinness is the Winston Churchill of rock) and praiseworthy administration. The path U2 has followed is not only legal, he emphasized, it is within ‘the spirit of the law.'”

The original article was published by atU2.com on June 30, 2013. Read the full version here.

Tearing Down the Walls That Hold Them Inside: U2 and the Irish Desire for Transcendence

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“In Race of Angels: The Genesis of U2, rock critic John Waters insists that, because two of the band’s four musicians were born outside of the country to British parents, there is nothing fundamentally Irish about the band from Dublin. Subsequently, in their critical essay “Irish Culture: The Desire for Transcendence,” literary theorists Walentina Witoszek and Patrick E. Sheeran argue that Irishness is characterized by the longing for and rejection of transcendence, a quest that is responsible for much of what is compelling and influential in Irish art and life in the twentieth century. The pair contend that the Republic’s post-colonial condition drives the Irish need for autonomy, that insanity and religion are the only acceptable forms of escape from oppression, and that the barren landscape of western Ireland inspires passive creativity rather than active discovery. When examining Waters’ allegation through the lens of Witoszek and Sheeran’s theory, one can argue that, on the basis of U2’s work for universal human rights, Bono and Edge’s early “residence” in the fictional Lypton Village and later religious conversion, and the quartet’s lyrical inspiration vis a vis the American west, U2 is a logical manifestation of the Irish fixation with rescue and redemption and, therefore, demonstrates an Irishness in which transcendence is not only possible, but one that also stretches the limits of modernism in the late twentieth century.”

This paper was presented at the U2: TRANS Conference held in conjunction with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in April 2013. Please contact Arlan Hess for a hard copy of the text.

Off the Record, Vol. 13-562

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“The last day and a half of his life were filled with music that comforted us all — the nurses arranged for a harpist to play at his bedside in the ICU, and later, when he was moved to a hospice room, we all plugged in our mp3 players and took turns filling the room with music that had been important in our lives. It was the Bach cello suites that accompanied my dad on his journey from this world to the next.”

The original article was published by atU2.com on April 14, 2013. Read the full version here.

Off the Record, Vol. 12-538

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“Am I the only one enjoying the quadrennial pestilence known as presidential politics? Unlike past election cycles during which I have immersed myself in the primary season as early as Jan. 4, this year I thankfully warded off my usual obsessive behavior until the middle of August. Now U.S. the presidential election is little over a week away. It frustrates me that I can’t figure out who is going to win; I like to know those kinds of things. I loathe uncertainty.”

The original article was published October 28, 2012. Read the full version here.

Off the Record, Vol. 12-529

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“Because I’m on the subject of Amnesty International, I want to highlight some significant developments this summer in the plight of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, which I have had a deep interest in ever since the song “The Mothers of the Disappeared” was released. In June, financial scandal shocked the group when its former legal adviser, Sergio Schoklender, his brother and more than a dozen others were charged with fraud, money laundering and siphoning public money into personal businesses. This has sent shockwaves through the halls of the highest political powers in Argentina and, most unfortunately, victimized these grieving women once again.”

The original article was published by atU2.com on August 12, 2012. Read the full version here.

Off the Record, Vol. 12-518

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“What has stayed with me most about the exhibition, however, is that I found myself inside every frame, literally. Most of the pieces are hung at eye level and are behind such highly reflective glass that I was able to find my own travel-weary face staring back at myself among the pudgy faces of four Irish teens. I still feel as young as U2 looks in those photos, as if no time or distance separates me from those early days of anticipation and promise. For the few moments I stood in front of those frames and saw our faces connect in that fragile pane of glass, our lives were entirely and irrefutably parallel. I can’t stop thinking about that irony.”

The original article was published by atU2.com on June 10, 2012. Read the full version here.