Psychological dramas and fragmented stories in Joe Sacksteder's "Make/Shift" push against form and content conventions

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Jack Sacksteder and his book Make/Shift

A contestant in a game show where people are eliminated if they get aroused. Parents and kids enduring an overnight trip for hockey. A man in grief who sees letters in the sealant on the road. An international student and her hall counselor coming to understand each other’s perspectives. 

Each of these characters, among others, navigate the shifting situations of the short stories and flash vignettes of Make/Shift, the new collection by Joe Sacksteder.

Sacksteder studied and taught at Eastern Michigan University. He was a visiting instructor at Interlochen Center for the Arts and now serves as Director of Creative Writing there. 

On Monday, July 1, at 7 pm, Sacksteder returns to town to read at Literati Bookstore with Matt Kirkpatrick (see related interview). The two authors met at EMU, and both received their Ph.D. at the University of Utah, though at different times. Pulp interviewed Sacksteder about his connection to Ypsilanti, writing, and upcoming projects. 

Swords & Strats: Fuzz Fest's annual celebration of lowdown rock 'n' roll returns to The Blind Pig

MUSIC PREVIEW

Midas Band

Twin lead fists: Midas brings its modern Detroit take on the classic New Wave of British Heavy Metal sound to The Blind Pig on June 21.

After six years of glorious noise, one wouldn’t be wrong to think of Fuzz Fest as an Ann Arbor institution -- if using that word for a celebration of Michigan’s loudest and weirdest metal/punk/psychedelic artists didn’t seem so incongruous.

Once again invading the Blind Pig with a sea of denim and leather, Fuzz Fest 6 serves as an important convention for those with calloused eardrums and dilated pupils -- or anyone who seeks out the musically extreme.

The lineup is 33 bands strong, spans a number of genres and represents more decibels than most responsible adults can consume over the course of three days, but here are a few highlights based solely on this reporter’s particularly coarse tastes.

From "East" to Best: Ypsi singer-songwriter Rin Tarsy makes her debut at The Ark with a new batch of tunes

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Rin Tarsy

Photo by Ryan and Liv Monte.

Rin Tarsy is drawn to creating albums with “[l]yrics that inspire, vulnerable songs that create connection and tap into feeling, organic and raw instrumentation, and energy in the music that is just plain fun to groove to!”

The Ark describes her music as “Midwestern soul-tinged Americana with an arresting, bone-shaking voice.” Currently, she is going in a new direction, the singer-songwriter genre, which is a departure from her 2018 spiritual-folk album, East. She’s in the process of recording new songs. She’s also relatively new to the area after moving to Ypsilanti from Grand Rapids for a job two years ago. 

Rin Tarsy will perform new music at The Ark on Tuesday, June 25, at 8 pm with free admission and nonperishables accepted for Food Gatherers. She shared about her creative process, sources of inspiration, and love for music with Pulp.  

Catherine Chung's "The Tenth Muse" follows a prodigy's discoveries in mathematics, love, and her identity

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Cathy Chung and her book The Tenth Muse

Author photo by David Noles

The Tenth Muse tells the story of Katherine, a mathematics scholar with a largely unknown personal history, through her voice. Her relationships, family, choices, and studies begin to interconnect as she advances in mathematics and simultaneously uncovers her past. As Katherine narrates her experiences spanning her childhood in the 1950s, fellowship in Europe, and family’s past in World War II, she points out pivotal moments in her life and what they mean to her. Both success and pain mark her journey of learning about herself and gaining prestige in mathematics. 

Author Catherine Chung grew up in Michigan, where her second novel, The Tenth Muse, begins. She has a background in mathematics herself and went on to earn her MFA at Cornell University. She lives in New York City and is a fiction editor at Guernica. 

Chung reads at Literati Bookstore on Tuesday, June 25, at 7 pm, and prior to her visit to Ann Arbor, she answered some questions from Pulp.

Jesse Kramer's "Antinous as Osiris" interprets Roman passion and New York jazz through the lens of a Washtenaw County upbringing

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Jesse Kramer by Jeff Dunn

Jesse Kramer photo by Jeff Dunn.

For roughly half a decade, the Roman emperor Hadrian was in love with a man who was not his spouse. Between 125 CE and 130 CE, the Greek youth Antinous became a favorite of Hadrian, and for the final two years of the latter's life they were side by side touring the Roman empire.

After Antinous' surprise death on the Nile, Hadrian was devastated and, in his grief, proclaimed his lover a deity, In turn, priests connected Antinous to the Egyptian god Osiris, lord of the underworld, afterworld, and rebirth.

Et voilà:

Nearly 2,000 years later we have Antinous as Osiris, the latest album by Ann Arbor jazz drummer Jesse Kramer.

To the Beat of Their Own Drummer: The Rasa Dance and Theater Festival spins off to highlight works from India

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Akshara Ensemble

Akshara Ensemble. Photo courtesy Rasa Festival.

Sometimes a multi-arts celebration does such a good job at presenting its multiple arts -- dance, theater and musical performances, visual arts exhibitions, literary events, film festivals, and culinary showcases in the case of Akshara's India-inspired Rasa Festival -- that it has to split itself up just so those interested can find the time to attend.

Rasa has filled venues in Washtenaw County every September and early October since its 2017 inception, but Ann Arbor's Sreyashi Dey -- dancer and president and artistic director of Akshara -- admits the dozens of high-quality events the festival presents became something of a traffic jam.

"What we were finding is that everything being concentrated and focused on in one month left a lot of people out even though they were interested in various events," she said. "There's always conflict and it's a busy time when people are coming back to school and other things are picking up."

The Rasa Festival will still be roaring throughout September 2019, but some of the dance and theater elements now have their own summer spotlight. On June 15, three dances and one dastangoi (storytelling) performance will happen at Riverside Arts Center in Ypsilanti, with many of the works featuring a strong feminist point of view. (There will still be some dance mixed into the fall fest, too.)

Homestyle recipes and Mitten classics fill Mandy McGovern's cookbook, "My Little Michigan Kitchen"

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Mandy McGovern and her book My Little Michigan Kitchen

Author photo by Melissa McGovern; book cover art by Michael McGovern.

What makes a food classic to Michigan for you?

This diverse state includes foods from many backgrounds, such as Lebanese, Native American, and Polish. Michigan is also known for its seasonal produce: blueberries, cherries, apples, and sweet corn, among others. Regional dishes abound, too, like pasties, fudge, and Detroit-style pizza. Many definitions are clearly possible.

A new cookbook by Mandy McGovern, My Little Michigan Kitchen: Recipes and Stories from a Homemade Life Lived Well, contains McGovern’s take on Michigan fare. This book springs from McGovern’s interest in food. When traveling, she would purchase a cookbook about the cuisine in the places she went. As she tried recipes from those books, she shared her explorations on her blog, Kitchen Joy, which she started in 2013 to document her cooking. McGovern then wanted to create a cookbook of her own focusing on Michigan.

The 100-plus recipes in My Little Michigan Kitchen cover breakfast, brunch, bread, soups, salads, sandwiches, vegetables, sides, main courses, desserts, drinks, dressings, dips, sauces, and also basics like pie crust. Monkey Bread, Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, Grilled Asparagus, Chicken Pot Pie, and Spiced Oatmeal Cake are among the recipes. 

McGovern will share samples and speak about her book on Thursday, June 13, at 7 pm at Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor. 

Sarah Dessen's novel "The Rest of the Story" depicts a transformative summer on a lake

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Sarah Dessen and her book The Rest of the Story

Book art by Jenny Carrow.

There are those summers -- or seasons in general -- when it feels like everything changes. Perhaps you change, someone else changes, or something about your environment shifts. 

The Rest of the Story, the new young adult novel by Sarah Dessen, tells the story of one such pivotal summer. The main character, Emma Saylor, finds herself confronting family history when she has to spend several weeks with her mother’s side of the family, whom she barely knows. There at the family business, a hotel on a lake, she forms new relationships, learns about her family’s past, and expands outside of her identity as she knows it. 

The author of 14 novels, Dessen hails from North Carolina, has taught at the University of North Carolina, and lives in Chapel Hill.

She will speak, answer questions, and sign books at the Ann Arbor District Library’s downtown location, 4th-floor conference room, on Tuesday, June 11, at 7 pm. (The reading was previously scheduled at Literati Bookstore but moved to the Downtown Library owing to demand.) Pulp had the chance to ask Dessen a few questions. 

Modern Element and the Trunino Lowe Quartet will play ALL the genres in Ann Arbor

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Modern Element

Modern Element prides itself on being “a band made up of all genres," said Trunino Lowe, the group’s trumpeter and 21-year-old leader. "We have a mixture of jazz, hip-hop, R&B, gospel, blues, neo-soul, Latin, reggae and pop. We don't have a favorite genre. We just play for the soul."

The Detroit group consists of Benny Rubin Jr. (alto sax), Jeffrey Trent (tenor sax), LeRoy Mickens (keyboards), Tony Stanford (bass), and Louis Jones III (drums) and has been spreading soulful vibes since their high school days.

"We all went to Detroit School of Arts together," Lowe said. "Being in band and jazz band, we were always together. While being in combo together, we decided to really be a band after high school." 

That education was a huge influence on Lowe's life and he has trouble understanding why arts classes are always on the chopping block in schools.

Redbud Productions takes on the power of family in the Michigan premiere of "The Herd"

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Redbud Productions' The Herd

Lisa Coveney as Carol in Redbud Productions' presentation of The Herd.

Redbud Productions explores with humor and heart the dynamic of a family raising a child with special needs in The Herd by Rory Kinnear.

Mother Carol (Lisa Coveney) is anxiously putting together the perfect 21st birthday party for her son Andy, who is severely disabled and living in a care home. Also invited to the party are Carol’s parents, Patricia (Lenore Ferber) and Brian (Michael Haifleigh), and Carol’s adult daughter Claire (Katie Whitney), who takes this opportunity to introduce her new boyfriend Mark (Chris Krenz) to the family. Carol’s estranged husband Ian (Brian Hayes), who abandoned the family when Andy was a baby, also chooses to attend unannounced. In the words of producer Tim Grimes, “The intrusion does not go well.”

Now in its 20th year, Redbud Productions, offers acting classes for adults and high school students using the techniques of Sanford Meisner, which, among other things, focus on emotional work.