Contents and Discontents

1. Kate Adler and Alison Pitt aren’t writers but they came because it sure beat going to a bar. 2. Logan Kinney and Steve Kinney — teachers, guitarists, fans of Mike Doughty, and picturesque wine drinkers even though my flash didn’t help things.

“Welcome to the Cabinet of Wonders…I present its contents…and discontents.”

So began John Wesley Harding last night at City Winery. The event was his self-titled Cabinet of Wonders show, which this time around featured Allison Moorer, Mike Doughty, Tanya Donelly, Eugene Mirman, Rick Moody, Mary Gaitskill and JWH himself. A stellar line-up to be sure, and as I sipped my fancy-schmancy house-made Gewürztraminer, I felt there were worse anti-dotes to a rough week in cubicle world.

The Cabinet of Wonders is a show that celebrates the meeting of music and words and first up was Mary Gaitskill, who mused on that theme in her reading. Gaitskill became famous for writing about non-PC sex and one expects a little shock factor when she’s on the dais. What sometimes gets overlooked, though, is the way her sparse writing lights little sparks among the ordinary. Last night’s story focused on the way certain songs trigger memories and actions in us and it was, I must say, intensely moving. I never cared much for Gaitskill before (as I’ve mentioned before, she is an elusive photography subject) but after last night’s reading, I’m a convert.

1. Amy Feltman and Alan Feltman. Amy graduated from Vassar where Mary Gaitskill was writer-in-residence.

Other highlights last night were Rick Moody being, well, Rick Moody-esque… and Allison Moorer. Monroeville, Alabama (pop. 6,862) is the hometown of Harper Lee and Truman Capote and there must be something in the water there, because it’s also the hometown of Moorer. Allison Moorer has a knock-out voice and she was joined on-stage by her husband Steve Earle for a song they wrote so that, quote, “they’d have something to sing together for a long time.” Okay, writing that out looks corny, but when Steve Earle said it, it was actually very sweet. I’d never heard of Moorer before, but being a Texan, I’d definitely heard of Steve Earle. Neither he nor she disappointed. Both musicians were at the top of their game and while I can’t remember the lyrics to the song itself enough to rewrite them, I remember the feeling of sadness they gave me. In the end, isn’t that what good music and writing is about anyway?

If the intersection of literature and music is your thing but you missed last night’s event, you can catch John Wesley Harding (with Josh Ritter) at WAMFest on May 5th.

–Cassie Hay is a regular contributor to Electric Dish.

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