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Adam Gussow: Beyond the Crossroads: The Devil and the Blues Tradition

Tuesday, December 12th


The devil is the most charismatic and important figure in the blues tradition. He's not just the music's namesake ("the devil's music"), but a shadowy presence who haunts an imagined Mississippi crossroads where, it is claimed, Delta blues man Robert Johnson traded away his soul in exchange for extraordinary prowess on the guitar. Yet, as scholar and musician, Adam Gussow argues, there is much more to the story of the devil and the blues than these cliched understandings.

In this groundbreaking study, Gussow takes the full measure of the devil's presence. Working from original transcriptions of more than 125 recordings released during the past ninety years, Gussow explores the varied uses to which black southern blues people have put this trouble-sowing, love-wrecking, but also empowering figure. The book culminates with a bold reinterpretation of Johnson's music and a provocative investigation of the way in which the citizens of Clarksdale, Mississippi, managed to rebrand a commercial hub as "the crossroads" in 1999, claiming Johnson and the devil as their own.

This book is available in paperback ($29.95).

Adam Gussow discusses and signs his book, Beyond the Crossroads: The Devil and the Blues Tradition.

If you are unable to attend, you must call the book shop to order signed books.

Nathaniel Rich in conversation with To Be Announced (TBA): King Zeno

Tuesday, January 9th


New Orleans, 1918. The birth of jazz, the Spanish flu, an ax murderer on the loose. The lives of a traumatized cop, a conflicted Mafia matriarch, and a brilliant trumpeter converge--and the Crescent City gets the rich, dark, sweeping novel it so deserves.

New Orleans, a century ago: a city determined to reshape its destiny and, with it, the nations. Downtown, a new American music is born. In Storyville, prostitution is outlawed and the police retake the streets with maximum violence. In the Ninth Ward, laborers break ground on a gigantic canal that will split the city, a work of staggering human ingenuity intended to restore New Orleans's faded mercantile glory. The war is ending and a prosperous new age dawns. But everything is thrown into chaos by a series of murders committed by an ax-wielding maniac with a peculiar taste in music.

In New Orleans, a city built on swamp, nothing stays buried long.

This book is available in hardcover ($28.00).

Nathaniel Rich in conversation with TBA, discussing King Zeno. Nathaniel will sign books following the discussion.

If you are unable to attend, you must call the book shop to order signed books.

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