Unearthed Genius Of Lucia Berlin

Unearthed Genius Of Lucia Berlin


Having burned many bridges in my hometown, I had a lot of time to waste over winter break. I desperately needed something to fill my days and, realizing that recommending books to friends and relatives would be but another way to assert my superiority, I decided to read anything I could get my stubby little hands on.

I've always loved reading, but I deplore pretension, which makes tackling the classics a challenge. You can just tell that these books feel superior. Somewhere, right now, Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde are cackling in Hell over their shared eminence, their unrivaled importance in literary circles.

Which is why I've always tended to stick to books like:

Kate Hepburn may have been able to act circles around everyone in Hollywood, but a writer she ain't. I have never felt threatened by books like these. They're entertaining, they're (very) mildly educational, and they have pictures -- the trifecta of lethargy.

But after glancing over my bookshelf and realizing that I had read about the life of nearly every Academy Award winner from 1935 to 1970, I decided to face my fears and give literature a try. I walked into Barnes & Noble, looked over their bestsellers, and picked one based on its cover.

Always judge books by their covers, kids.

I was floored. I poured over this collection of autobiographical short stories, reading and rereading each one, desperate to relish Lucia Berlin's voice, to extract every nuanced meaning from every masterfully constructed line. Berlin's stories span her various careers; switchboard operator, Spanish teacher, nurse. The peripheral characters flit in and out of their respective stories with a realistic grace. Her writing is brutal in not only its stark portrayal of a class of people not typically displayed on bestseller lists, but its beauty because of these much-maligned, rarely-discussed subjects. It's an atypical elegance you won't find within the pages of the classics, but one that radiates with a subdued (tarnished?) dignity off of her description of impoverished suburbs and trailer parks, schoolyard delinquents and dysfunctional families, nuns and alcoholics. The stories take place from the American southwest to South America, but in spite of location, the writing dazzles with its unparalleled, gritty grace.

Berlin's stories are accessible, not because of this realism, but because Berlin doesn't lord her obvious talent over the reader. Her writing is amicable, conversational, a 2 a.m. conversation in a working class bar put to paper. She eschews formality in favor of a style that is both poignant and laugh-out-loud funny. The humor is dark and the characters are the kind that you would encounter in any dimly-lit bar across Texas, with the unspecified yearning of the author revealing itself with each page. Don't let the breezy informality fool you, either. Lucia Berlin is a writer whose every line will require, and demand, all of your attention. Her subtly in meaning is offset by her frankness in delivery in a style that feels more like stories your favorite grandparent might let slip after one too many Miller Lites than the merited work of a talented author.

Berlin passed away in 2004, another example of a tragically talented artist shunned by the public during her lifetime and praised only upon her death, yet this collection, thankfully, presents the genius of this Dorothy-Parker-by-way-of-Albuquerque to a willing and receptive world, affording her the widespread acclaim she earned decades ago.

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Iced Earth: 'Burnt Offerings' Album Review

'Burnt Offerings' is Iced Earth’s magnum opus thanks to its impressive musicianship and brilliant songwriting


Jon Schaffer - Rhythm Guitar / Vocals

Randall Shawver - Lead Guitar

Matthew Barlow - Lead Vocals

Dave Abell - Bass Guitar

Rodney Beasley - Drums

Additional info:

Recorded at Morrisound Studios, Tampa, Florida.

Produced by Jon Schaffer and Tom Morris.

Year: 1995

Album Length: 52:39

Genre: Thrash Metal, Power Metal

Label: Century Media


Burnt Offerings is the third album by American power metal band Iced Earth. After a three year hiatus, Iced Earth comes back in full force. Iced Earth decided to adjust their lineup for the third time. Lead vocalist John Greely has been replaced by the legendary Matt Barlow and drummer Rick Secchiari has been replaced by Rodney Beasley. This makes the third vocalist and drummer in three albums for the band. These changes would prove to be the most important in the band's decision because it gave way for Matt Barlow to add his incredible vocal range on this record.

The Good:

Schaffer takes his songwriting to a whole new level on this record. Iced Earth had gone through some difficulties over the past 3 years, regarding differences with their label and between some band members which resulted in the angriest, the darkest and the heaviest songs that Schaffer has ever composed. Schaffer still maintains the beautiful acoustic sections and melody within the music though demonstrating his composing abilities further.

Matt Barlow is one of the best metal vocalists of all time. He immediately gave Iced Earth power, emotion, range, and variation that many vocalists can only dream of having. His voice added a new dimension to Iced Earth that took them from being a good band to an incredible one.

This is definitely the heaviest album in Iced Earth's discography. Burnt Offerings is a thrash metal album with some power metal tendencies. The amount of speed and aggression on this record is simply unmatched by other Iced Earth records.

The Bad:

There are no major weaknesses with this record.

Favorite Tracks:

Track 1: Burnt Offerings

I love the dark atmosphere of the track. It really sets the mood of the entire record. It begins with a slow and eerie opening, but soon completely changes tempo to a very thrash oriented sound. The vocals immediately stand out from previous albums with lower growl-like vocals and Barlow's powerful vocals. The riffs are fast paced when they need to be and slower during the more melodic parts. The track also utilizes acoustic passages to balance between the band's heaviness and melodious sound. The guitar solo is a welcome addition that only adds to an already brilliant opener.

Track 3: Diary

I love the heavy opening with its slow chugging guitar. It sets the dark tone of the entire track. The atmospheric element of this album is really what helps it stand out from other albums within the genre and there is no shortage of atmosphere on this track. I love the drumming on this track as well. Barlow's vocals are absolutely fantastic thanks to his utilization of different styles of vocals delivery. "Diary" is another standout from this fantastic record.

Track 6: Creator Failure

Barlow's voice is fantastic thanks to the power behind his brilliant delivery. The track changes pace and tone throughout its run-time. I love many of the different riffs that are utilized during the track as well as the fantastic guitar solos within the song. The song has such a fantastic mix of emotions between somber emotion and darker moods within its different sections. This is certainly one of Iced Earth's most unique tracks that they have ever written.

Track 8: Dante’s Inferno

"Dante's Inferno" is the band's most well-written song that they have ever composed. The song takes us through the Nine Planes of Hell for sixteen minutes, each plane has something new and demonic in store for the listener. Not only does this track contain terrific lyricism, it also contains an immense amount of well-written music. The song has a very unique song structure, contains many time changes, and has twists and turns at every corner. Schaffer proved that he is one of the greatest songwriters in metal history thanks to this terrific masterpiece. This is still the band's greatest composition to this day.

Rating Scale:

1: Garbage

1.5: Awful

2: Bad

2.5: Mixed

3: Decent

3.5: Good

4: Great

4.5: Excellent

5: Perfect


Burnt Offerings displays a large amount of heaviness, power, and emotion that many metal albums would be hard-pressed to achieve. The songwriting is as good as it gets in both the thrash and power metal genres and the performances from the members of the band are spectacular. Burnt Offerings is a true masterpiece that is basically perfect from beginning to end.


Cover Image Credit: pinterest.com

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13 Times 'Parks And Recreation' Accurately Described College Life

"I have no idea what I'm doing." - Andy (and probably many college students)

College is the time in everyone's life where you are partially an adult but not quite yet and each semester has it's same old ups and downs with lots of group suffering. From the dreaded finals to the excitement of breaks, here are just a few moments that almost happens every semester with a "Parks and Rec" GIF to illustrate.

1. Returning back to school

There's always excitement about going back to school and seeing friends again.

2. Figuring out your life

It seems like every semester, you have to really decide what you are planning to do in life. From your schedule and your major, to future job goals and internships, the beginning of the semester is when you start to plan what your next few months up to the next few years will be.

3. Partying

It's the start of the semester so the parties are starting up once again. As there are no tests and homework to worry about too much yet, you can party without realizing you forgot about a homework assignment.

4. First exam

Realizing that you didn't study as much as you should have is never a fond time and you remember that you have responsibilities again.

5. Trying to do homework

This is what getting that specific word count for that essay you really don't want to write feels like.

6. Midterms

So much stress.

7. Break (Thanksgiving or spring)

Going home is great because either you eat good home cooked meals or you go on a vacation but no matter what you get to relax. As long as you forget all about your upcoming assignments.

8. Returning from break


9. Group project

It always feels like one person does all of the work. And that person is probably you.

10. Procrastinating

Doing anything else is better than studying. Especially watching Netflix. You accomplish so much by procrastinating.

11. Questioning everything

Do you really want to major in Chemistry or do you want to quit college and become a flight attendant?

12. The beginning of finals week

The end is so close yet it feels so far away.

13. Completing your last final


Cover Image Credit: @parksandrecs

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