This week’s listmaker: Ken Honeywell. Ken is editor-in chief of Punchnel’s and creative director at Well Done Marketing. He lives in Indianapolis with his Beautiful Wife, two dogs, and three cats, not counting the feral cat colony in the back yard.
1. Pernice Brothers. If 2011 were 1971, Joe Pernice would be a big star. His songs sound like 40-year-old AM radio, in the best way–the Jimmy Webb, Carole King, Burt Bacharach way–lushly orchestrated, with well-placed minor chords. First as Scud Mountain Boys, then as Pernice Brothers, occasionally as himself, once as Chappaquiddick Skyline, Pernice has been responsible for a 20-year string of gorgeous albums. It would be impossible to choose only one, but think about starting with 2001’s The World Won’t End, which has enough great songs to make your melancholy last all the way to tomorrow. (PS: Pernice is a fine writer, too. How about submitting something, Joe?)
2. Marwencol. This unforgettable documentary is director Jeff Malmberg’s feature debut. It’s the story of Mark Hogancamp, who was beaten nearly to death outside a bar in upstate New York in April 2000. Hogancamp survived, but his memories did not. So to cope with this blankness and his feelings about the attack that devastated his life, he created a town in his backyard and populated it with dolls representing himself and people he knows–and Nazis and Gen. George Patton. He photographs his doll tableaux and–well, the story just keeps getting stranger and stranger, right up through the finals scenes that made me gasp. Marwencol is a strange and beautiful meditation on what it’s like to forge some kind of meaningful, independent life when everything you know has been taken away from you.
3. The Cinque Terre. Tell people you’ve been to the Cinque Terre, the “poor man’s Italian Riviera,” and you’ll get one of three reactions. Most have never heard of it. People who’ve heard of it but haven’t been there want to go. People who’ve been there tell you they want to go back and live there for the rest of their lives. For good reasons: this stretch of five
towns up on the underside lip of the boot of Italy is quiet and slow and gorgeous, with beautiful little beaches, picture-book streets, cheap rooms, and fabulous Italian cooking everywhere. Cinque Terre is actually a national park, and one of the most popular activities is hiking the cliffside trails between the towns. (Beware of German through-hikers with their fancy hiking poles and their brisk pace. Some of the ledges are mighty slender.) You can also take a train or a boat from town to town. But you can spend a wonderful rest-of-your-life just sitting by the Mediterranean Sea with a book (I was reading Maile Meloy’s Half In Love) and drinking the local wine.
4. Clive James. Clive James was born and raised in Australia, but he is a citizen of the world: a poet, novelist, essayist, talk show host, culture critic, and pundit who has apparently read everything of note that has ever been written–apparently, all of it in its original language. James is a muscular writer with a huge vocabulary, which he applies with surgical precision. (A muscular surgeon–perhaps an orthopedic surgeon?) Read everything–but start with Cultural Amnesia, which the New York Times called, “a capacious and capricious encyclopedia of essays about everyone Clive James considers worth knowing about in the 20th century,” from Adolph Hitler to Dick Cavett. It’s dense and interesting enough that it might keep you blissfully busy for the rest of the year.
5. Fictionique. A couple of years ago, I started blogging at Open Salon. The upside of Open Salon was (and is) that anyone could post anything at any time–so you were bound to run into amazing writing every day. The downside was the same; since anyone could post anything at any time, you were also bound to run into spammers, trolls, xenophobes, and other thoroughly disagreeable people every day. A few months back, my friend LC Neal decided she’d had enough. She seduced a pack of Open Salon’s most thoughtful and eloquent contributors into submitting great stuff to her at Fictionique. Most days, you’ll find new poetry, fiction, essays, and other features there–with none of the Open Salon downside. That’s because Ms. Neal has great taste and a low tolerance for bullshit.