The Weinstein Effect: Ronan Farrow and Ken Auletta at The Wallace House

WRITTEN WORD REVIEW

Ken Auletta and Ronan Farrow

New Yorker journalists Ronan Farrow and Ken Auletta came to the University of Michigan on March 19 to discuss their work in breaking the Harvey Weinstein story. In particular, they spoke about what changed between 2002, when Auletta first attempted to write the story, and 2017, when Farrow succeeded. Farrow and Auletta were here on behalf of journalism powerhouse The Wallace House, and the crowd was full of noteworthy journalists. I waited in a long, snaking line to enter Rackham Auditorium and felt slightly inadequate.

For his writing on Weinstein and other powerful harassers, Farrow, along with The New York Times’ Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. The Pulitzer joins a long list of Farrow’s other accomplishments: he graduated (yes, graduated) from Bard College at 15, earned a Yale law degree, worked for the State Department, and wrote the New York Times bestseller War on Peace: the end of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence. At some point in there, he also had a cable news show, became a Rhodes scholar, and is currently finishing a PhD from the University of Oxford. Ken Auletta is no slouch either, with 11 books and more than 25 years writing for the New Yorker under his belt. All of this is enough to make anyone feel that their life has been nothing but a pointless meandering of time.

Ypsilanti poet Rob Halpern's "Weak Link" connects the personal and the political

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Rob Halpern and his book Weak Link

Cover image: Dee Dee Kramer from Corrugated Love Poem 16: Being Seen (2013)

Ypsilanti writer and Eastern Michigan University professor Rob Halpern considers the relationship between the personal body and political violence in his new book, Weak Link. Through several forms ranging from poetry to numerical essay, Weak Link examines physicality, art, politics, and war, among other topics, and also is self-referential. 

How the writing is working and what it is doing are explicitly addressed and questioned within the text itself. How do we understand and connect with that which we haven’t experienced? How do we go beyond ourselves and situations while still recognizing where we are and what is? What can poetry be and do? These questions and many more populate the collection. 

The text expresses a desire to make connections between the public and the personal, between socio-political issues and the self who is interacting with them. At times reading like a stream of consciousness and at others like a well-plotted argument, Weak Link simultaneously consists of a thought experiment, aspirational view of poetry, and penetrating depiction of reality. 

Halpern expands on his writing and Weak Link in this Pulp Q&A. He will read from Weak Link on Friday, March 8, at 7 pm at Literati Bookstore. 

Huron High student reflects on what Claudia Rankin's "Citizen: An American Lyric" means to her for Big Read Ann Arbor

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Ciatta Tucker and the Neutral Zone's Big Read

An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book ... [and] aims to inspire conversation and discovery.

The Neutral Zone in Ann Arbor is sponsoring a series of Big Read events focusing on Claudia Rankin's "Citizen: An American Lyric." Huron High School junior Ciatta Tucker wrote about what the book means to her.

As a child, I loved reading books whether it was chapter books, graphic novels, comics, poetry, etc. I went to the local library so frequently that I became familiar and was on a first-name basis with the staff and other workers there. I was labeled as a gifted reader and at one point checked out more than 20 books at once.

Vern Smith’s novel "The Green Ghetto" aims to be an urban Western set in Detroit

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Vern Smith, The Green Ghetto

“Overnight I found my love affair with Detroit slipping away. My worldview changed," said author Vern Smith, speaking of his experience in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City.

Growing up in Windsor, Ontario, Smith said, “Detroit was my second hometown. I started sneaking over the border when I was 11 and found my culture there.  Can’t tell you how many live shows I’ve seen there because it was so easy to access pre-9/11. Then it changed so abruptly and [the two cities] were being kept apart.”

Smith’s novel The Green Ghetto takes place a year after the New York attacks, which was about the same time the former journalist and broadcaster started working on short stories.

A Genuine Act of Discovery: U-M's Juan Cole on his book "Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires"

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Juan Cole and his book Muhammad

Dr. Juan Cole has spent his life dedicated to the study of the Middle East, Muslim South Asia, and religion. He’s been at University of Michigan since 1984, quoted in papers from the L.A. Times to the Baltimore Sun, and appeared on PBS Newshour, Nightline, and The Colbert Report. He received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant for research on Shiite Muslim thought and history, published translations of Arabic literature by Kahlil Gibran (and later, sponsored an exhibit of Gibran’s paintings at the Detroit Institute of Arts), acted as the director of the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies at U-M, served as editor in chief of the International Journal of Middle East Studies, and wrote or translated nearly 20 books. 

This past October, Bold Type Books published Cole’s most recent book, Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires. The book’s publication at this particular time is in response to recent events around the world. “Extremist groups are misusing or using religious text in dishonest ways," Cole says. "North America and Europe have seen a rise in Islamophobia and the smearing of the prophet Muhammad.”

Cole originally studied early Islam and its foundations while in graduate school in Cairo and later at UCLA. “I got pulled away from the medieval studies," Cole says, "and pulled into writing about modern and contemporary issues in the Middle East by several events,” including the Iranian Revolution. “Although I had this earlier training, I didn’t put it to use in a whole book until now. I tried to tell the story as a response to this moment that we find ourselves in.”

Jimi Hendrix's Experience: Jas Obrecht's "Stone Free" goes deep into the guitar great's transformative 10 months in London

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Jas Obrecht and Jimi Hendrix

The life of guitar legend Jimi Hendrix has been explored in numerous biographies and documentaries, so you could be forgiven for being skeptical as to why the world needs another book about the man widely considered to be the greatest guitarist of all time and a major influence on the sound of rock music. Jas Obrecht's new offering on the subject, however, takes a much closer look at a specific period in the life of Hendrix.

Stone Free: Jimi Hendrix in London, September 1966-June 1967 is a detailed, day by day look into the guitar great's arrival in England and his rapid rise from obscurity to fame. Obrecht's book puts into perspective just how quickly and completely Hendrix revolutionized pop music. The supporting cast is a who's who of British rock icons including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Animals, and many others. I had the pleasure of sitting down for an interview with the author, who has written nearly 200 cover stories for Guitar Player and other music magazines as well as a number of books on blues and rock.

Obrecht will be reading from his new book on Thursday, February 14, 7 pm, at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor. Below is the conversation we had, slightly edited for flow.

Earth, Water, Wind, and Fire Flow Through "Elemental: A Collection of Michigan Creative Nonfiction" edited by Anne-Marie Oomen

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Anne-Marie Oomen and her book Elemental

Photo of Anne-Marie Oomen by Emily Mae Harpe

Can you fully know a place?

This might be a trick question. As a Michigan native, I have an intimate knowledge of the state, but there are still new things to learn about it. There are unexplored towns, myriad events, acres of forest, and miles of shoreline.

Plus, my understanding of Michigan comes from my perspective, which is one reason why I appreciated the original views and varied essays in the recently published Elemental: A Collection of Michigan Creative Nonfiction edited by Anne-Marie Oomen

Elemental contains 24 essays, each presenting a unique angle on the state. Some are deeply rooted in Michigan places and characteristics, and others more tenuously tied to the state. All relate to an element -- earth, water, wind, fire -- present in Michigan. Elemental is a 2019 Michigan Notable Book, a Library of Michigan award for books published in the previous year. 

Oomen, a writer with an essay included in Elemental, pens poetry, nonfiction, and plays. Her books include The Lake Michigan Mermaid with Linda Nemec Foster, Pulling Down the Barn, House of Fields, An American Map: Essays, Uncoded Woman, and Love, Sex and 4-H. She has also edited Looking Over My Shoulder: Reflections on the Twentieth Century. Her seven plays include Secrets of Luuce Talk Tavern. In addition to her writing, she is an instructor at the Solstice MFA at Pine Manor College and Interlochen College of Creative Arts. 

Oomen will speak with a panel of authors from Elemental at Literati Bookstore on Monday, February 11, at 7 pm. The panel will include Ari L. Mokdad, Alison Swan, Michael Steinberg, and Keith Taylor. All will read and discuss Michigan literature.

Here, Oomen answers questions about Elemental, Michigan, and her writing. 

Michael Erlewine releases a free PDF book that chronicles Ann Arbor's 1960s counterculture scene

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Ann Arbor - The 1960s by Michael Erlewine

In a recent Facebook post, former Ann Arborite Michael Erlewine posted a link to his free PDF book Ann Arbor: The 1960s Scenesaying:

Here are a series of articles on Ann Arbor, Michigan culture in the late 1950s and 1960s. It is mostly some history of the time from my view and experience. I could add more to them, but I’m getting older by the day and I feel it is better to get something out there for those few who want to get a sense of Ann Arbor back in those times.

I hope there are some out there who can remember these times too. As for those of were not there, here is a taste as to what Ann Arbor was like back then.

Long before he became a software pioneer who created astrological programs and, later, the All Music franchise and its spinoffs, Erlewine was an integral member of Ann Arbor's 1960s counterculture scene as co-founder of blues band The Prime Movers, which eventually featured Iggy Pop on drums.

Bill Wylie-Kellermann’s "Dying Well" looks at his wife's well-lived life and how she handled the end

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Bill Kellerman and his book Dying Well

We are a society that doesn’t talk much about dying well -- heck, we don’t really like to talk about dying, period.

But Bill Wylie-Kellermann ponders both in a loving memoir about his wife, Dying Well: The Resurrected Life of Jeanie Wylie-Kellermann, which he will discuss at Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor on Thursday, January 24 at 7 pm.

The love story began when Bill met Jeanie in 1982. Both were arrested and charged with conspiracy charges after protest actions at Williams International in Walled Lake, Michigan.

“We were both nonviolent community activists,” says Bill. “And we both were held at the Oakland County jail after the arrests. We had to go back and forth to court pretty regularly. We always tried to make sure we were handcuffed side by side in the van that took us to circuit court.”

Those close quarters eventually led to love and marriage as the couple continued their work in Detroit, where Bill was born and where he attended Cooley High School. Jeanie served as a journalist, filmmaker, and writer. Bill grew into roles as a writer, teacher, United Methodist minister, and community activist. They had children, settled into a meaningful life together.

But then in 1998, something happened.

August Heat: Stephen Mack Jones' ex-detective solves crimes in multifaceted Detroit

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Stephen Mack Jones and his book Lives Laid Away

The Motor City is as much of a character as ex-police detective August Snow in Lives Laid Away, and author Stephen Mack Jones had many reasons for setting the story in Motown.

“Detroit is a very diverse city -- most people outside of Detroit don’t realize how diverse it is. They see only in terms of black and white. But … a variety of people from all over who wound up here," Jones says. "I wanted to create a character that was representative of the two largest minorities in Detroit: African-American and Mexican-American. These are two minority groups that have never really seen eye to eye. And for August, I wanted him to be the product of two cultures that have often clashed but feel no personal dichotomy. He feels he has the best of both worlds ... he has pride in both cultures. And he’s comfortable with himself. I wanted people to know that is achievable -- that you can be a product of two cultures, two peoples and be at peace with who you are.”