Lisa Burrell

Lisa Burrell, a former associate editor of The American Prospect, writes about American music and culture.

Recent Articles

Book Review: Big John

Ring of Fire: The Johnny Cash Reader Edited by Michael Streissguth. Da Capo Press, 352 pages, $26.00 W hen I was eight or so, I asked my stepfather what the difference was between Johnny Paycheck and Johnny Cash. As far as I could tell, they could be the same guy -- or related, anyway. "Big," my stepfather said, choosing, as usual, not to elaborate. I'm sure he was talking about the gap in talent between the two country singers, but maybe he was also hinting at the bigness of Johnny Cash -- not just his physical size but his accomplishments. When we remember Paycheck, we think of "Take This Job and Shove It." Then there's J.C., the man in black: He's epic. Hence, the publication of Ring of Fire: The Johnny Cash Reader, occasioned by the artist's 70th birthday this year. In Ring of Fire, many of the essays, magazine articles, book excerpts, and newspaper clips selected by editor Michael Streissguth make mention of Cash's impressive stature. One of the concert reviews, for instance,...

All Together, Now

W e shouldn't want to watch Temptation Island , Fox's hypersexed answer to reality TV. The concept -- let's see if a bunch of alluring singles in an exotic locale can bust up a few established, if tenuous, relationships -- is offensive; the couples claiming to test their love, shallow and vain. We shouldn't, and we don't. Despite the show's high ratings in its first season -- 17.3 million viewers tuned in for the final episode -- Temptation Island 2 has quietly tanked. (As of this writing, its average audience is a comparatively meager 5.9 million viewers.) This isn't shocking news, some might say, in light of the nation's recent gravitation toward gravitas. But other TV fluff -- Friends and Everybody Loves Raymond -- has managed to maintain top-five status. And what about the huge box-office success of escapist movies like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring ? No, the problem with Temptation Island post-September 11 isn't...

Love, Sorrow, and Rage; Destitute Women in a Manhattan Residence

Love, Sorrow, and Rage: Destitute Women in a Manhattan Residence , by Alisse Waterston. Temple University Press, 234 pages, $59.50. Alisse Waterston originally went to Woodhouse, a New York City residence for mentally ill women, to conduct HIV research. She left with Love, Sorrow, and Rage , not one of those "'scientific' reports [that] teach us all about 'those' people behaving badly," but a passionately written book about how "the workings of our political, economic and popular culture contribute to the suffering experienced by our most vulnerable citizens." With Thoreauvian concision, she relays two years' worth of conversations--with 39 residents and 16 staff members--that illuminate daily life at Woodhouse. To preserve privacy, she uses pseudonyms for the women and for the house itself. Waterston has a balanced view of the residence: It's a necessary place but also "emblematic of our social solutions, always fragmented and...

Interstate Hero

Truckers operate outside all sorts of boundaries. They know the whole country better than most of us know our own towns. They pick up hitchhikers. They speak in code. And a good part of America is enthralled. Kids in sedans throw desperate air-horn gestures out backseat windows in search of one reciprocating honk. We eat at truck stops and diners because if truckers eat there, the food must be good. (Never mind that at an actual truck stop, romanticism gives way to hamloaf, coin-op showers, and condom vending machines.) TV's Nashville Network, the country music channel, is banking on that fascination with the freedom of the open road, not to mention its gleaming machinery. TNN's first dramatic series, 18 Wheels of Justice , features a metallic blue seven-and-a-half-ton Kenworth T2000 truck, bubbly as a Camry, driven, intriguingly, by a man in hiding. Chance Bowman (Lucky Vanous), an agent for the U.S. Department of Justice, saw Mob boss Jacob Calder (G. Gordon Liddy) commit a murder,...

Knockin' on Dylan's Door

Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña, and Richard Fariña, David Hajdu. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 328 pages, $25.00. Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan, Howard Sounes. Grove Press, 527 pages, $27.50. Because folk music in the 1960s was driven by larger-than-life personalities and agendas to match--because it was a scene --it's especially susceptible to grandiose analysis. That's what makes David Hajdu's critical equilibrium in Positively 4th Street so distinctive. Hajdu neither worships nor maligns; he reveals complex insight into the folk movement, particularly into "the lives and times" of four musical artists: Bob Dylan, Richard Fariña, Joan Baez, and Joan's sister Mimi. The author begins by describing life in the Baez household when Joan and Mimi were young. A Quaker upbringing taught the girls about pacifism, though their own relationship was marked more by rivalry than peacefulness. (Mimi was beautiful and Joan felt...

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