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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.

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.

Long Distance

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The hillside is salted green, nothing too deep or too muted, and we wreathe the ocean at a consistent pace, not changing speed, not faster or slower but lighter than I’ve ever traveled before, alone on a highway in a rented Japanese car.

The original was published in The Literary Bohemian in January 2011. Read the full piece here.