copyright Bill Widener 2000

Cover Bands

I don't know the band Taildragger. I have never seen them or heard them. Yet, If rock-a-billy Rob Hulsman is their spokesman, they seem like the lamest band on the planet [Letters Aug 10].

He talks about how the Hookers belittled and pick fights with bands. Well I've been to every Hookers show in Lexington in at least the last four years. You guys have never been on the bill. I really doubt-since you have some weird resentment towards them-that you were at the show. So how long have you been on your soapbox about that one? What five, maybe six years?

Rob says "I realize their success makes them a story but it really sucks to see them on your cover." [Cover Story, Aug 3]. What is the problem Rob? You realize they are successful. You also realize they are a story. What is ACE supposed to do? Put on a Lexington bar cover band on the front page with the title Keep On Truckin. I just want to end with giving praises to Ace for putting a real band on the cover.


Chris Hutton


I am just returning from vacation and am still reading the back issues of Ace that I asked my daughter to save for me in my absence.

Kudos to Paula Coffer for having the courage to share her very personal story with your readers about her sexual identity transition [Paul or Paula? July 13]. Maybe it will remind us all to be sensitive to people who seem different in some way. Maybe it will remind us that they don't need to be "cured," only accepted.

Your story was amazing and I write to say thank you.

Julian D. Harris

Letters Policy: Ace LOVES to publish our mail (250 words or less please); please include name and daytime phone. No photocopies. No bulk mail. First come, first served. We may edit for space and grammar; we will limit frequency; and, on popular issues, we may print one or two letters to represent a segment of public opinion. Private correspondence should be labeled “NOT FOR PUBLICATION.”

Mail: 486 West Second St , Lexington, Ky 40507


The Last Wolverine

The world is a strange place and in it lie things of another nature, a bent order, and beyond a certain point there are no rules to make men mind.

-Larry Brown, "A Roadside Resurrection"

In a contemporary pop culture where it takes so pathetically, embarrassingly little to pass for smart (genius even), Hal Crowther -with a prodigious memory, razor tongue, and expansive knowledge of just about everything of substance ever written - stands out as a writer's writer.

Fred Hobson describes Crowther as a virtual anachronism in that, "He has something to say, has a distinctive point of view, and (...somewhat like Mencken and earlier journalists) doesn't mind offending people."

Crowther is that rare breed - an equal-opportunity provocateur who somehow manages to piss off everyone in an equitable fashion. Hobson writes, "I have seen Crowther assaulted by readers left and right, disbelievers and footwashing fundamentalists, feminists and male traditionalists."

Just when you start to get smug, he'll turn on you next. As it should be. Much like Florence King, equally infamous for her intolerance of fools and her willingness to back that up with her claims of being a pretty good shot.

Ace first began publishing Hal Crowther's essays back in 1997, though we'd been acquainted with him for some time via his columns in Durham's Independent Weekly, as well as his essays for the Oxford American.

"The Cedars of Lebanon," the final essay in his new compilation, Cathedrals of Kudzu, was one of the first installments in Ace's ongoing Southern Voices series (April 16,1997).

One of the early pieces we ran, "Uninformed Sources," (April 30, 1997) - on journalism's "lemming race towards irrelevance" - remains a timeless source of inspiration, reminding us all, "A professional newspaper is more than a chat room, an echo chamber, a vanity mirror for its readers."

That essay provoked a letter writer to smirk in the next issue, "Hal Crowther isn't a household name here just yet, at least no moreso than anyone else who writes a letter to the editor. Given his journalistic chops, that's not likely to change."

This book assuredly gives Crowther the last laugh, though that's actually one of the kinder exchanges provoked by some of his work printed here.

"God's Holy Fire" ran in Ace last July with the headline "Fast Food Faith" and triggered such an avalanche of mail - most of it dispatching Crowther to the flames of hell he so richly deserved - that we eventually had to cut it off around November. In this meditation on faith and doubt, he made the unpopular assertion that, "religion in this country has become simplistic and undemanding, a buffet of fast-food faith for a fast-buck society. Smug Christians and equally smug atheists behave as if further speculation is a waste of time."

But in "A Feast of Snakes," he explains, "at least in the South most people worship God, not L. Ron Hubbard...the Heaven's Gate necronauts didn't take off from Hickory," adding "a little doubt is sane and normal. Watch out for the guy who has none."

"Father Forgive Me," the penultimate essay, ran in one of our dining guides last year, a reminiscence of his father at the barbecue, who "never owned one with a cover, which he would have regarded as effete...We ate beef seared with everything but napalm."

In, "The Family of Man," he takes on race and slavery, observing, "Heroes are rare; hypocrites, pharisees, and safe-distance moralizers breed like fleas in cheap apartments."

In "The Paris of the South," he recalls literary memories of New Orleans, but tosses off this throwaway jab, "The library congress compared very favorably to the Republican Convention I covered here in 1988, when bookstores stood empty and escort services worked double shifts."

Unapologetically southern, "Strangers in the Swamp" takes on what he describes as "Lincoln Tunnel-vision" and the unfortunate reality that "for anyone whose sensibilities were formed south or west of the Hudson River, publishing is and probably always will be an exasperating collaboration with semihostile aliens" (resurrecting wife Lee Smith's anecdote about the Greenwich Village copy editor who asked "double-wide what?" in the margin of one of her manuscripts).

"A Knight in White Flannel" beautifully eulogizes Montgomery Ward (on the occasion of bankruptcy) and Woolworth (as it closed its last dime stores) and "the small town of American legend" noting that William Faulkner "understood, maybe better than any other American writer, that there's tragedy on the business page and human destiny in the clash of economic forces."

Any city facing a wilting downtown and drying culture as suburban sprawl and mega-chains threaten our few remaining vestiges of regional diversity will bitterly appreciate his comparison of our modern robber barons to Faulkner's infamous white-trash-in-nouveau-riche-clothing. "Faulkner's conniving, soulless Snopeses, descendants of a barn-burner, epitomized commercial enterprise without honor and the triumph of unprincipled avarice."

Because everyone knows a Snopes. Every town, every church, every neighborhood, every office has at least one. And lest we forget, Crowther's around to remind us: it appears their time has come.