My place is ever to the left of the protagonist, always feigning varietals of worry or concern, my weapon the wooden, knowing glance...

Photo by Krists Luhaers on Unsplash

You might not know me by name, but I guarantee you know my work.

“Don’t you remember? We can’t go back! Frankie The Knuckle said he’d kill us!”

“You can’t give up now! Ever since you were a child, the only thing you’ve ever wanted was to break that land speed record.”

“Sure, you’re just a farmer/sailor/athlete/student/aspiring artist, but your mother/father/grandmother/aunt/oldest sibling didn’t overcome all that adversity raising you just to see you run away when things get tough…”

Sound familiar? These are but a scant few of the purely functional lines of dialogue I have used to advance more…


In case you’ve never tried it, writing is really fucking hard!

So if you ever need to be reminded how bad you are at it relative to the abilities of others, might I suggest listening to the song Andrew In Drag by The Magnetic Fields. In two minutes (and while rhyming the end of every single line of the lyrics in a simple “-ag” stressed syllable), Stephin Merritt puts on a clinic on how to establish, develop, and pay off characters across a core narrative conflict that illuminates themes about personal identity and love.

I, on the other hand, one…


Eric Elbogen writes songs that sound like my childhood Nintendo was surreptitiously recording fleeting but formative moments throughout my life and magically turned them into pop songs.

And I love everything about that.

It’s had me listening to his band, Say Hi, for years and puzzling over why more people aren’t in the same sort of active love with his music that I am.

“The Twenty-Second Century” is a deceptively simple song, lyrically. I can see how someone might easily overlook the poetry of a moment as ubiquitous as the one depicted in the lyrics of the opening track from…


My last four internet searches were: Clayton Plaza Hotel, Baby Jessica, antiquated intercom systems, and etymology of bae. If this information was plumbed and then sculpted into a sonic portrait, I am confident a Black Moth Super Rainbow song would result.

Stay with me here…

We live in a world that treats information like it is knowledge. And we wrap that information in code and blast it through the massive pipes of the internet so we can all grab whatever pieces of it we seek. So we are an intensely informed people, but this doesn’t mean we actually know anything…


“This guy is crazy,” my friend declared as he turned up the volume on the first Jens Lekman song I ever heard. The song was Black Cab and I was too embarrassed to admit it at the time, but it was one of the most sane things I’d ever heard in my life: a hilarious but heartrending anthem for anyone who leaves the party full of self-recrimination, mentally replaying countless social exchanges and analyzing them to death. It was equal parts pop and ballad, humor and melancholy, absurdity and poetry. But most of all, it was just so gobsmackingly human…


When I was 10 years old, David Seidenfeld’s mother made us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while we played. Upon a grainy, slightly dense but still airy bread, she buttered and jellied evenly and all the way to the crusts, utilizing some divinely golden ratio of the stunning creation’s only two ingredients. When I bit into that sandwich, for the very first time in my life I could see so clearly that my own family was deeply flawed.

Not that a sandwich does a family make — even if in my case that sandwich is on some gummy white bread…

Tom Stern

Author of novels My Vanishing Twin and Sutterfeld, You Are Not A Hero. Words in McSweeney’s, LA Review of Books, Memoir Mixtapes… https://tomsternwrites.net/

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