Deep Dive: Kim Fairley's new memoir recalls how she grew up “Swimming for My Life”

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Author Kim Fairley and her book Swimming for My Life

Swimming was not just swimming for Ann Arbor author and visual artist Kim Fairley.

The sport was layered with physical challenges, abuse from coaches, and family expectations that exceeded what was reasonable, all of which she depicts in her new memoir, Swimming for My Life.

At the start of her book, Fairley shares an early, positive memory of swimming at the beach where she struggled in the waves and remembers, “The ocean reverberated in my head, but when I glanced up at Dad, I saw his pride: my daughter, my oldest.” Following that experience, Fairley’s parents encouraged her to join a swim team in third grade in Cincinnati where she grew up. While Fairley did not immediately love swimming even back then, her attempts to stop were not heard even though she tried to tell her father:

Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" gets a contemporary update with new music at Ann Arbor Civic Theatre

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Beatrice (Jacquie Jones) and Benedick (Chris Grimm) wield words like swords in Ann Arbor Civic Theatre's modern-day, music-filled update of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.

Beatrice (Jacquie Jones) and Benedick (Chris Grimm) wield words like swords in Ann Arbor Civic Theatre's modern-day, music-filled update of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. Photo courtesy of Ann Arbor Civic Theatre.

"Therefore play, music."
—Benedick, Much Ado About Nothing

It’s become customary for directors to find ways to make Shakespeare more accessible.

When director David Widmayer proposed the Bard’s Much Ado About Nothing as the play to welcome audiences back to the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre, he embraced Benedick’s call for music.

“My original pitch was to replace the violence in the show with the metaphorical violence of a battle of the bands,” he said. 

That proposal was turned down, but music remained a key element for the production, including some cast members creating original compositions for Shakespeare’s verse.

Widmayer has performed in several Shakespeare productions at the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre. This is his second time directing a Shakespeare play. 

“I was looking for something that basically we could have fun with and get the audience back into the theater,” Widmayer said. 

In Widmayer’s reimagining of Much Ado, musicians and artists go off to war but when they return they lay down their arms to return to the arts. The time is now, but the titles and arrangements of Shakespeare’s world exist in this imaginary version of modern times.

“It’s a place where people can come and perform music and find joy in that art together,” Widmayer said.

Good C.A.R.Ma.: Peter Madcat Ruth's latest band and album mix Indian music, blues, jazz, and more

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Peter Madcat Ruth's C.A.R.M.A. Quartet poses on the wooden steps of an outdoor stage.

Cosmic Concertos: Dan Ripke, John Churchville, Peter Madcat Ruth, and Brennan Andes are the C.A.R.Ma. Quartet whose debut album, Cosmic Convergence, explores sounds from across the musical universe. Photo courtesy of the band.

Ann Arbor’s beloved harmonica virtuoso Peter Madcat Ruth recorded a new album, Cosmic Convergence, with his genre-jumping C.A.R.Ma. Quartet, which is playing a concert at The Ark on Sunday, November 6. The Quartet gets its name from the initials of the band members’ names: John Churchville (drums); Brennan Andes (bass); Dan Ripke (electric guitar); and the Ma taken from the first two letters of Ruth’s longtime Madcat alias.

Ruth's a musical explorer whose career goes back five decades and includes recordings with everyone from jazz pianist Dave Brubeck to funk king George Clinton to classical composer William Bolcom to word-jazz artist Ken Nordine. Cosmic Convergence continues Madcat's exploratory ways, moving in all sorts of satisfying directions by deftly incorporating elements of Indian music, folk, blues, jazz, Americana, and more. (The album isn't streaming yet, but CDs will be available at the show and vinyl at a later date.)

In a recent phone conversation, Ruth talked about the origins of the C.A.R.Ma. Quartet, his nonexistent retirement plans, and the inspiration he got from playing music with Brubeck.

Friday Five: Athletic Mic League, Kingfisher, Normal Park, Michael Abbey, Chirp

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Album and single covers for the music featured in this Friday Five column.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features hip-hop from Athletic Mic League, chamber rock by Kingfisher, emo-punk via Normal Park, art-pop by Michael Abbey, and an Ypsi jam from Chirp.

 

The 35th Annual Ann Arbor Jewish Book Festival features seven Ann Arbor authors and many more Michigan and international writers

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW

Ann Arbor Jewish Book Festival logo

The 35th Annual Ann Arbor Jewish Book Festival features 31 authors in a mix of online and in-person events, November 6-18. Three of those evenings feature Michigan-based authors, including seven writers who live in Ann Arbor—two of whom we've interviewed recently.

Michelle Segar and Scott Hershovitz are the writers who spoke with Pulp about their new books, and they're joined at the festival by fellow Ann Arbor authors Ken Wachsberger, Ann S. Epstein, Julie Goldstein Ellis, Nancy Szabo, and Phil Barr.

Most of the in-person events are at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Ann Arbor, but the Ann Arbor District Library will host children's authors Ruth Behar and Sarah Sassoon, and a local authors gathering will be at the new Ann Arbor shop Third Mind Books.

Get the full list of events below, with each author's event web page linked in the book title for registration and more information:

Now and Later: H.R. Webster engages in associative thinking to form her poetry in “What Follows” 

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Poet HR Webster and her book What Follows

H.R. Webster’s poems in What Follows scrutinize the space after trauma, in womanhood, around death, and when someone has gone too far.

The poet does not shy away from what is unfolding but rather turns an intent eye on each scene where “There is the calf’s share / blooming in my coffee” or “A killdeer faking it in the parking lot.”

In the poem “Ritual,” we learn that things commonly desired and sought after nevertheless disappoint because “It does not light / the growing dark, does not lift its wings in flight.” 

Webster’s collection implicates the discomforting present and its aching aftershocks. The titular poem confronts how “Death came and took from you a virginity you did not know you possessed, but guarded, closely.” The poem goes on to ask, “What fruit rots first.”

This question characterizes many of the poems that start at the moment when the experience begins to decay—sometimes right away: “On first dates men often ask how would you rather die, / I kid you not, drowning or fire.”

Newer Jack Swing: Ypsilanti R&B singer Where She Creep was inspired by the past for his debut album, "Feels"

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Where She Creep standing against a brick wall, wearing a animal-print fur-like jacket.

Kyle Love is clear about his primary musical inspiration: the new jack swing sound of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s that melded hip-hop with R&B.

The 32-year-old Ypsilanti singer who performs as Where She Creep has created a fresh twist on that classic sound with his debut album, Feels, which came out earlier this year. He describes it as “healing music” that deals with new-age concepts to explore the politics of love. 

“These are songs that aren’t afraid to be vulnerable, touching on the framework of healthy relationship dynamics and what honoring some of these values might look like and what they might not look like,” Love said. “It’s here to sharpen your belief system, make you want to hug a loved one, but most of all, to encourage you to analyze for yourself, for better or for worse.” 

Influenced by Michael Jackson and many other soul-singing greats, Where She Creep also cites his cousin Brian Campbell, who taught him songwriting, and his producer and best friend, Pranav Surendran, as inspirations. 

After dealing with some setbacks during the pandemic, Where She Creep recently declared he is throwing himself fully into his career, giving it 100 percent of his attention. 

Pulp caught up with the singer to talk about Feels, his Chill Place Parties project, and more.

Friday Five: Old Trout, Balint Karosi, Sinbad, Same Eyes, MEMCO mixes by MIMIMIMI & Sunjam

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Album and single covers for Friday Five artists.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features fishing-themed hip-hop from Old Trout, Balint Karosi playing the new organ in Ann Arbor's St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, gothy indie-pop by Sinbad, a new video by synth-poppers Same Eyes, and MEMCO mixes by MIMIMIMI and Sunjam.
 

John Gutoskey’s vibrant “Cake & Flowers for My People” exhibit preserves ephemeral arrangements denied to LGBTQ+ marriages and events

PULP VISUAL ART REVIEW

John Gutoskey stands near his floral bouquet monoprints at 22 North.

John Gutoskey features colorful floral bouquet monoprints in his Cake & Flowers for My People exhibit at 22 North. Photo by Lori Stratton.

John Gutoskey’s vibrant, kaleidoscopic Cake & Flowers for My People exhibit honors LGBTQ+ community members who have been denied these celebratory arrangements due to bakers and florists citing religious objections to same-sex marriages and queer events.

“I make a lot of work about queerness because a lot of stuff is happening around it in our country. You see the whole pushback now,” said the Ann Arbor artist-designer-printmaker, whose exhibit runs through October 30 at Ypsilanti’s 22 North gallery. “I just hope anybody who sees it … feels seen and knows they’re not alone.”

The welcoming aesthetics of Gutoskey’s exhibit run throughout the eight mixed-media cake sculptures and 39 floral bouquet monoprints. An electrifying spectrum of color elicits feelings of empowerment, unity, and hope for all who experience Cake & Flowers for My People.

“People are kind of overwhelmed with how hard the world has become, so I just wanted to do something that was fun,” he said. “There’s enough stuff to be down about. Let’s celebrate it, honestly, while it’s still legal for [us] to do so.”

Mystery Train: Concordia Theatre takes the audience for a ride on the Orient Express

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW

Michele (Chole Haynes), who is standing and dressed in a train conductor's uniform, and Monsieur Bouc (Samuel Botzum), who is dressed in a suit and sitting, enlist the services of detective Hercule Poirot in Concordia Theatre's production of Ken Ludwig’s stage version of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.

Conductor Michele (Chole Haynes) and Monsieur Bouc (Samuel Botzum) enlist the services of detective Hercule Poirot in Concordia Theatre's production of Ken Ludwig’s stage version of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. Photo courtesy of Concordia Theatre.

On October 10, the intimate Black Box Theatre at Concordia University was a warehouse full of pianos for a used piano sale. By the end of the month, the 200-seat theater will transport an audience across a winter landscape from Istanbul to central Europe on the legendary Orient Express.

And murder is afoot.

Concordia’s theater department is presenting Ken Ludwig’s stage version of Agatha Christie’s ever-popular Murder on the Orient Express, October 27-30. Hercule Poirot, the eccentric Belgian private detective, will twirl his extravagant mustache and use his gray matter to solve a complex case of murder as the Orient Express makes its way west before being trapped in a blizzard. 

It’s a challenging case for Poirot with so many suspects and it’s a challenge for Concordia with the play's unusual setting, numerous European accents, and a large cast of potential murderers.

But Concordia’s theater director Amanda Williams is happy to accept the challenge of presenting a famous mystery and giving a tip of the hat to the woman who transformed the mystery genre, Agatha Christie.