weekend links: Malcolm London, Claire Vaye Watkins, bad jazz

Donald Moffett
Donald Moffett

Donald Moffett, Lot 010212 (the double hazard) (2012). Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Poet Malcolm London was arrested in the protests following the release of video depicting the murder of Laquan McDonald in Chicago earlier this week. But the charges against him were dropped less than 24 hours later, thanks to community outcry. London has been called "the Gil Scott-Heron of this generation" by everyone's favorite cantankerous old philosopher, Cornel West. Here are five facts to catch you up on this important poet and activist. [Heavy]

Claire Vaye Watkins's powerful essay "On Pandering" commanded social media attention, turning heads with the sad and probably far-too-common confession that, deep down, she often finds herself writing "to impress old white men." But in her acknowledgment, she also sounded a clarion call for consciously pushing to move beyond such thinking. She also shares a really terrible email from Stephen Elliott, editor in chief of The Rumpus. Depressing, but a very important read. [Tin House]

The Complete Works of Primo Levi was released earlier this year, and at 3008 pages, it can only be described as a massive tome. This essay on the famous chemist, writer, and Holocaust survivor is a lot shorter and can serve as a good introduction to anyone who is unfamiliar with the man and his legacy. [The Atlantic]

Now that Thanksgiving's behind us, we can turn in earnest toward one of our favorite year-end activities: evaluating annual best-of lists. To start, here is a list of the 50 best books released by independent presses this year. While we didn't enjoy every book on this list, some of them—Anne Garréta's Sphinx, The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector, and works by Maggie Nelson, Elena Ferrante, and Colin Winnette—certainly rank among our favorites of 2015. [Flavorwire]

Jazz doesn't make a lot of headlines these days, but this week brought a peculiar one: H. Jon Benjamin, otherwise known as the titular voice actor in Archer and Bob's Burgers andthe man behind the talking can in Wet Hot American Summer, is making an "intentionally bad" jazz album. With guest spots by Aziz Ansari and Kristen Schaal, this will probably be more comedy than jazz, but it also apparently features professional musicians. Hopefully they were in on the joke. [A.V. Club]

If you're looking for real jazz, Sonny Sharrock's classic Ask the Ages was just reissued by M.O.D. Technologies. Check out "Little Rock" for a sample of brilliance from this underrated master of free-jazz. [Chicago Reader]

Donald Moffett is a San Antonio-born artist who left Texas for New York just as a more famous Donald was moving from New York to Marfa. But while Judd has become one of our state's most treasured, if adopted, heroes, Moffett is still searching for his proper recognition and acclaim. This essay, and a current exhibit on display at the Blanton Museum of Art, should help build up his reputation. [art ltd]

—Sean Redmond

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