Thanks to Adam Parker for humoring me on some pop trivia and inside scoops. If you see him out and about, chat him up about the music scene, local or abroad. Keep up with his very relevant writer-ings over at the P and C.
1. What got you into writing about arts and culture?
The retirement of a colleague; the burden of qualifying degrees; an infernal, inextinguishable interest in both arts and culture. I was already writing a lot about “culture” when I was responsible for the Faith & Values section over the course of five years or so. I wrote about everything and anything: religion, of course, but also, poverty and race relations, Borat and Harry Potter, fascinating people, hot-button issues and more. I also write a bunch of reviews and covered the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. I grew up playing music, then in high school started singing music, then decided I would major in music, then got a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in music. I also looked at a lot of art in museums and, in my 20s, began to dip my pen in the ink well. So when Thompson left The Post and Courier, I was the obvious go-to guy.
2. Are you more of a Jim Jarmusch fan or a Wes Anderson fan?
Well. I’ve seen Jarmusch’s “Dead Man,” “Coffee and Cigarettes” and, I think, “Year of the Horse.” All good. On the Wes Anderson side of the equation, I’ve seen all seven of the features (and none of the shorts), so I guess that indicates a preference for Anderson’s brand of loopiness over Jarmusch’s. “Moonrise Kingdom” probably is my favorite. “Grand Budapest Hotel” and “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” come close. And “Rushmore.” “The Life Aquatic” was a bit of a mess, but how can you not love it? Both of these fellas seem to grapple with some big questions in quirky ways. Both have an explicit and appealing – if quite different – visual aesthetic. Both are auteurs in the true sense of the word.
3. Who are five writers (living or dead) that you'd enjoy having tea on a rooftop with?
My answer might vary from day to day, of course. Depends on what I’m reading at any given moment, and on what I’m thinking and feeling and seeing and hearing. Gabriel Garcia Marquez comes quickly to mind. He’s dead, so he’d have to be propped up in his rooftop chair, but at least I’d get the last word in. His opening sentence of “One Hundred Years of Solitude” is my favorite opening sentence of all time: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” Ta-Nehisi Coates is a current favorite. A true intellectual with a flexible mind and a determination to listen and learn and grow. Andy Partridge of the band XTC is a living writer – of music and lyrics. Does that count? Probably it’d be beer, not tea, that we’d sip on the rooftop. Conversation would broach such topics as songwriting, politics and religion (of course), Brexit, his song “Human Alchemy” in particular (and several other songs in particular), and whether or not he’d be willing to design a tattoo for me based on one of his nautical ditties. I doubt I’d get a word in edgewise. I have read none of Zadie Smith’s novels, not even “White Teeth” (though I do have “NW” on my book shelf, beckoning), but I have read her several first-person essays that have appeared in the New York Review of Books, and they are so fine, thoughtful, beautifully rendered, that I’ve decided I want to know more about her. Lastly, Dante. That he’s dead shouldn’t matter much, given his reputation. But I wouldn’t want to be confined to a rooftop. I’d want to stroll.
4. Assuming you had your wits and health about you, where/how would you like to spend your 80th birthday?
Sailing. Anywhere pleasant and beautiful. Charleston Harbor would work. So would the Amalfi Coast.
5. What are three records that you could never ever live without?
Here are three records I could never live without. Three of a thousand. XTC’s “Black Sea.” The fantastic songwriting and exuberant performances get the blood flowing. John Eliot Gardiner conducting Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (or the Mass in B Minor). Bach never sounded so good. “Parker’s Mood” by Roy Hargrove, Christian McBride and Stephen Scott – an album of Charlie Parker covers. A masterpiece of tight ensemble playing. Who needs drums?