Saturday, September 13, 2008

Amanda Petrusich

Amanda Petrusich is the author of Pink Moon, a short book about Nick Drake's 1972 album for Continuum's 33 1/3 series, and It Still Moves: Lost Songs, Lost Highways, and the Search for the Next American Music.

Earlier this month I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I have a bad habit of reading my favorite books over and over again; at a certain point it becomes less about the content and more about wanting to tap into – and, if we're being honest, emulate – whatever weird magic drew me to them in the first place. I've probably read Ellen Willis' Beginning to See the Light three times in the last few months; her essay on Elvis – in which she speculates that Elvis' longtime manager, Colonel Tom Parker, is "just an ectoplasmic projection of Presley's Hollywood side" – is only two or three pages, but it's also one of the most astute, thoughtful, and hilarious criticisms of Elvis Presley that I've ever read. Ellen Willis has impeccable rhythm as a writer; each word snaps into place.

This summer I was also lucky enough to read two books that were written by good friends: Horses that Buck by Margot Kahn and Welcome to Shirley by Kelly McMasters. Each offers its readers a different portrait of a different America; both are lovingly rendered and tremendously written, as complicated (and compelling) as the country they portray. Horses That Buck is the story of Bill Smith, the three-time world champion saddle bronc rider; Welcome to Shirley is the author's memoir of her childhood in Shirley, Long Island, the site of the contentious and potentially lethal Brookhaven National Laboratory.

I'm also a glutton for good food writing – I brought Calvin Trillin's The Tummy Trilogy and Julia Child's My Life in France on vacation, and finished them both almost immediately. Trillin and Child are both incredibly charming narrators, and ace stylists.
Among the praise for Petrusich's It Still Moves:
“Like a smart, genial Persephone, Amanda Petrusich wanders the underworld of American roots music and reports back her insights with an open mind and an open heart. She has a respect for history and an even greater respect for the passion that keeps history alive and meaningful.”
—Anthony DeCurtis, Contributing Editor, Rolling Stone
Learn more about the book and author from Petrusich's interview with

--Marshal Zeringue