Mississippi Masters

I was born in the great Mississippi Delta, that part of America that someone called the most Southern place on earth.   

--B. B. King, born on this day in 1925

In Delta Blues (2008), a history of King and the other "Mississippi Masters," Ted Gioia says that it is almost impossible to measure "the influence of the Delta on the sound of our musical lives":

One might as well try to imagine cooking without herbs and spices, or medicine before the arrival of penicillin. Our soundscapes were revitalized by the blues tonality, which found rich deposits by mining the cracks between the notes of our Western scales.… Without the blues, much of the music we hear every day would be fundamentally different, eviscerated and tepid. And without the Delta, we can hardly imagine the blues exerting such a powerful influence.

Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.


Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.