Jed Purdy


17 Endangered Species That Are Also Bands

March 5, 2014
17 Endangered Species That Are Also Bands

1: Alabama Heelsplitter This richly colored Gulf mussel, with a shell like polished leather in a college library, plays bluegrass with a strain of Lynyrd Skynyrd.   2:Leadbeater’s Possum The official “faunal emblem” of the Australian state of Victoria, this native of Australia’s central highlands opens for Alabama Heelsplitter and adopts a wry, collegiate...
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Don’t Be So Earnest

September 3, 2013
Don’t Be So Earnest

Seamus Heaney taught me in my freshman year of college that the verb “perfect” means nothing more than to “make through.”  Perfection?  To follow something to its end.  Finishing your work, but not before it’s done. That lesson suited him beautifully.  It was my introduction to the thought that etymology is metaphysics for the...
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Seven Ways of Looking at a Charge Sheet: or, My First Arrest

June 13, 2013
Seven Ways of Looking at a Charge Sheet: or, My First Arrest

Monday night, June 10, I was arrested in a mass act of civil disobedience, the sixth in a growing wave of peaceful protests against North Carolina’s state legislature, which has been at work on a Tea Party agenda since it turned Republican in 2010.  I’ve written elsewhere about the movement, its goals and prospects. This...
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Writing and Failure

March 12, 2013
Writing and Failure

Seven months and two weeks after my first book was published, I hacked a hardback copy into hundreds of pieces with a hunting knife.  When my housemate came into my room to investigate the violent sounds, he found me sitting in a circle of text-fragments of For Common Things.  I looked up at him...
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A Terrible Beauty

February 15, 2013
A Terrible Beauty

I spent a lot of the Sunday afternoon before Valentine’s Day at the Smithsonian exhibit (headed for the Met) on  “The Civil War and American Art.”  Although it is staged as part of the 150-year Civil War anniversary, the exhibit’s burning skies, darkened landscapes, and martial corpses are, ironically, just as apt for this coming Sunday’s march...
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Murmuring Stones

December 6, 2012
Murmuring Stones

For my birthday this year I balanced stones.  About a dozen friends walked with me from a local park through an oak-and-beech forest to a broad streambed that is flanked on one side by a slope almost steep enough to be a cliff.  With a bag of apples and persimmons and a bottle of decent whiskey,...
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Maps and Legends

October 18, 2012
Maps and Legends

  Everything and everyone is mapped, many times over.  Satellite views are overlaid with roads, jurisdictions, household income, consumption habits.  I love maps, and as a child returned week after week to atlas pages showing language families, climate zones, and dominant religions.  One of my most prized possessions a decade ago was a globe...
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On Landscape

October 4, 2012
On Landscape

Maybe eight months ago, I began dreaming landscapes.  I live in the middle of North Carolina, a frequently sticky region some three hours southeast of the Blue Ridge Mountains and about the same distance northwest of the Atlantic Ocean.  The horizon around here does not feature a horizon; instead, the sky rests nearby, on...
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