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5CT for June 2019

This is what magic in the day-to-day looks like, wrote Clare Dwyer Hogg, as spoken by actor Stephen Rea, on the Irish border seen through the cluster that is Brexit. Saul Leiter knew something about magic in the day-to-day, just look at these pictures. The legendary UK based lit-band, Dark Angels, has a new album out — Dark Angels on Writing. Early reviews indicate their latest is a scorcher. Since we’re talking about Europe, and magic, and whether to stay or whether to go, here’s Timothy Snyder with some historical context. “Imagination,” said Einstein, “is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” To the 5CT subscriber who wrote to say, ‘I miss 5CT,’ thank you. Me too.


Saul Leiter, photographer

{ snow, 1960 (c) Saul Leiter }

{ subway car 4435 1950 (c) Saul Leiter }

{ jean 1948 (c) Saul Leiter }

{ boy, 1950 (c) Saul Leiter }


Saul Leiter started shooting color and black-and-white street photography in New York in the 1940s. He had no formal training in photography, but the genius of his early work was quickly acknowledged by Edward Steichen, who included Leiter in two important MoMA shows in the 1950s. MoMA’s 1957 conference “Experimental Photography in Color” featured 20 color photographs by Leiter. Read on here >

{ New York 1950 (c) Saul Leiter }


Say Nothing, Patrick Radden Keefe

Patrick Radden Keefe is a New Yorker writer of uncommon instinct, talent, grace and empathy. A couple of years back, he did what many writers do; he read a whopper of an obituary (Dolours Price, Defiant IRA Bomber, Dies at 61)  and followed his nose. That led him down an extraordinary path, to a murder mystery, a thicket of stories, and to the Troubles. Hard to imagine a more challenging, complicated story to tell. It’s a masterpiece. Read it, you won’t believe it. That’s Dolours on the cover of his book. At the end of her life, she fingered Gerry Adams as the man who gave the orders. She took on Margaret Thatcher and won. And, she became the wife of the actor Stephen Rea, seen below in a Brexit video. For a good podcast on this, go to Longform>

Excerpt from Say Nothing:

Just after lunchtime, at around 2 p.m., a phone rang at the headquarters of The Times of London. A young woman named Elizabeth Curtis, who had just started working on the news desk at the paper, picked up the call. She heard a man’s voice, speaking very quickly, with a thick Irish accent. At first she couldn’t make out what he was saying, then she realized that he was reeling off the descriptions and locations of a series of cars. He spoke for just over a minute, and, though she was still confused, she transcribed as much as she could. Before hanging up, the man said, “The bombs will go off in one hour.


Hard Border: Clare Dwyer Hogg & Stephen Rea

To Clare Dwyer Hogg, playwright, poet and journalist, who wrote this absolutely jaw-dropping piece on Brexit, we give thanks. “We’re holding our breath again, because we know that chance and hope, come in forms like steam and smoke.”


Dark Angels on Writing

The UK writing collective known as Dark Angels (where does that bloody name come from?) has published a new book, Dark Angels on Writing: Changing Lives With Words, aimed squarely at the legions of companies, businesses and writers who want to write beautifully and better. This is a very special book with appearances by such writers as Michelle Nicol, Nick Asbury, Tim Rich, Rowenna Roberts, Larry Vincent, Therese Kieran, Rob Williams, Becca Magnus, Faye Sharpe, Jonathan Holt, Nick Parker, Henrietta McKervey, and many others. Get your copy here >


Timothy Snyder Speaks

Timothy Snyder is a Yale historian and one of the people I look to for help in understanding what’s going on in the world. He wrote On Tyranny in 2017 after the car crash of 2016. This video — The European Union —  is part of a series of 16 or so videos he’s posted on YouTube. These are mini-lectures that he uses to air out ideas he’s thinking through. Episode 1: Russia Defeats America.

5CT recommends his latest book, The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America.



That’s it. Thank you.

Sonnet, with dark wings

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Sonnet, with Dark Wings

1. A thin, slender neck road. The ocean stretched forever left. Wooded marshlands, right. A crow dropped in and attacked from the top of a wind bent telephone pole. Scared the shit out of me. 2. “I’m from the UK,” he squawked to the back of my young, foolish head, “that’s a million miles from here. As the crow fl— forget that, cliché.” Black wings flapped around my face as the beast hightailed it back whence he’d come. 3. Chills pinged the length of my spine, as I pushed on, biking into the wind down the cracked asphalt, looking back, watchful and afraid. Finally, something had actually happened to me. Something weird, possibly mysterious. Maybe a portent. A harbinger. An omen. A forewarning. Who could know these things? 4. Night. Inside my unheated knotty pine cottage of overdue rent and flickering courage, I tapped out my stories on my mother’s old typewriter, a Remington. Of black winged memories and of my grandfather, who near his end, stood in a midnight rain, ancient, spotted, bony hands pulling and pulling at the door of a cruel, empty car. As if that old car was the all of it, the whole wide world, leaving him. Through a curtain I spied him begging for more time, more something. “Room for one??!! Room for one??!!” he shouted. I went outside and took him home. In fits and starts I wrote what I didn’t know — the beating heart under my paper thin skin. 5. The stories were always the same — only the chords changed. A man who was young and old. On a road of some sort. A coming from, a going to. Arrival always in doubt. 6. Creatures real and not dashed onto the stage. Beagles and nuns and coaches, wine-glugging, boy-loving priests. A rain stick house. A neighbor kid with the All American story: soldier, husband, civilian, divorcee, murderer, convict, ex-con, ordained Deacon, Harley rider, excessively tanned resident of Florida, and finally dead on a desert highway. Tattooed ex cons. Hundred year old rowhouses, beautiful, hundred-year old crack-smoking Muslims. The lonely dried-flower lady who loved gossip. And Chester, who cold-nosed his way into the center of my being and made me love him. 7. So apropos of nothing – this was just the other day — I looked up crows. They are carriers. Of life magic and the mystery of creation. Of destiny and personal transformation. 8. It seems I’m slow on the uptake, it took me decades, but black crow, I take your meaning. I accept. 10. And so this is a song of gratitude. This is a song of a million miles of thank you’s. A song of trying, of beginnings, of asphalt roads, of black winged words, of unheated shelter, of flickering courage, of sad rememberings of a dying man lost in the rain who gave me so much more than story. 11. This is a song of being. And of being together. 12. That old black crow is gone now, his ghost haunts the causeways and the spits searching for the next kid biking past a briny sea, a wooded marsh, dreaming how maybe one day he could be a writer. 13. How he might find his long and thin slender neck road…meet his dark winged crow, his life magic, his night rooms of sorrows and ardour 14. and shed his tears such as Angels, Dark Angels, weep…

5CT for June 2018

Delighted to be back after a long absence. Dog lover and New Yorker, Maira Kalman clearly has it all going on. Totally. Unfair. Alexander Chee is a beautiful writer from Maine and San Francisco, and is someone worth reading and thinking about. The great Emmet Gowin, who studied with the great Harry Callahan at RISD in Providence, RI, began by photographing his family in Danville, Virginia, and now he’s onto…. moths. A Bukowski poem inspires a brilliant young English animator. Carolyn Drake’s collaborative photographs in China are cryptic and amazing.

Maira Kalman|Word & Image

Maira Kalman, My Favorite Things

How do I combine this writing and this art to say as much as I can with as few words as I can.” Maira Kalman

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Live appearance!

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Tis a rare event, but the person behind 5 Cool Things, will be making a public appearance this month with Ted Leonhardt at the truly wonderful Seattle Folio in downtown Seattle. The date is March 20th. The time is 7 pm. The address is 314 Marion at Fourth Street. All to do with the new book, Established: Lessons from the world’s oldest companies. Written by the Dark Angels and published by Unbound. Be there.

Ted Leonhardt

Richard Pelletier

March 20th 7 pm. 314 Marion Street Seattle, WA

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