January 15, 2016
In the Short Cuts series, writers discuss how a single song relates to their recently published short story or essay.
John Benditt's "Blue Underworld" is impressive in scale and execution, moving from the writing of Jan and Dean's song "Dead Man's Curve" to how the Age of Conspiracy was born.
When I was growing up in Seattle, "Dead Man's Curve" was the song. It had everything. Darkness. The two greatest cars of the time, at a time when cars were everything. Both named for mythic creatures: the Sting Ray and the Jaguar. The two drivers seeing each other at a stoplight and agreeing, on the basis of a few words exchanged through rolled-down windows, to race to the edge of Time—and beyond. Even though they were racing against each other, going out into the night never having exchanged more than a word or two, they were also brothers on a journey, one light and one dark, with very different destinies. And that seemed to me to be the story. It kept appearing, all around me in different forms, as I was growing up. There were, for example, the stars of the show Route 66, Tod and Buz, moving on across the country in their own Corvette, the show filmed on location in a different place each week. There were Spin and Marty, light and dark, at the ranch with the horses. And there was my own brother, both darker and lighter than I was.
I was a round Jewish boy in Seattle at a time when what mattered was being tall and blond. And having a car, preferably a Pontiac GTO with a Hurst shifter. I had none of that. What I had instead was the ability to grow up and move away. Which I did. I got to be taller, though never blond. And leaner. And ultimately I did have a car, a Volvo 122S station wagon, which enabled me to drive through the streets of the city late at night in my disguise as a newspaper reporter for a once-great metropolitan daily newspaper. And then one night when a tiny man carrying a file box full of documents knocked on my back door in Philadelphia and offered his documents to me, I couldn't refuse. I had been an investigative reporter by then, and broken big stories. But these documents held the story I had been waiting all my life to report and write: the real backstory of how "Dead Man's Curve" came to be written, what the government was really doing out there at Area 51 and how the Age of Conspiracy, which gave us "Paul is Dead" and Bob Dylan's motorcycle accident, along with Vietnam and Watergate, began.
The little man vanished in the night. I've never seen him again. But it didn't matter, because I had already accepted his gift and started my reporting. Over the years I've done hundreds of interviews and filled thousands of reporter's notebooks, the old-fashioned kind with the spiral at the top. The result is a series of newspaper articles that have now been published in the great investigative journal Guernica, under the overall title "Blue Underworld." I hope you enjoy them. I think you will. Because in another world, another time, "Dead Man's Curve" is still the song.
John Benditt and "Blue Underworld" links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
Other Short Cuts pieces (writers relate one song to their short story or essay)
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Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists