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This week was one of my favorite kinds of Slate weeks. I wrote about the RNC debate rule changes, a new book about Bob Dylan fans, and a piece for Mother's Day. At Slate we get to write about our passions. Those represent three of mine. It is one of the delights about working here.
The most powerful piece for me is the one pegged to Mother's Day. It's about the regret we feel after our parents die for not making connections while they were alive. My family is kind of the reporting I do when I'm not reporting. I'm always thinking about my relationships with my parents and my kids, the way I would think about an ongoing story. That's the way I process things in my life, I suppose. So when something touches on a theory I have, I uncork ideas that I've been rolling around in my head for a while. In this case, it was something the president said about his mother.
I've also come to find that my Facebook fans are a wonderful community of readers and thinkers. I toss out an idea and they are right there with an interesting insight or book I should read, or they push back against my ideas.
I've been a Bob Dylan fan since listening to New Morning when I was in 10th grade. I was quite a nut about him for a long time. I love the chance to write about him when I can, because it gives me a chance to really engage with his work. Why do I like what I like? Why does he have so many fans? What is he trying to say? Is any of it meaningful and is he really any good anymore?
Unlike my family, where I'm constantly paying attention to our every little fibrillation, I can listen to a Bob Dylan song for years and never really hear it. Writing makes me think more clearly. This week I was thinking about why we are fans and what sticks with us. I could have written the piece faster, but I thought it would be interesting to listen to my Dylan albums and bootlegs while writing. I kept stopping to listen to songs or accompany them on the guitar. I also spent a considerable amount of time down the rat hole looking up old shows I went to.
I love book reviews. I never engage with a book the way I do when I have to review it. It reminds me of my days as an English major.
The RNC debate story has fascinated me because the Republican Party is trying to assert some control over the crazy primary process. That sounds reasonable, but it's hard to do. I'm also interested in debates because I think they could be so much better. I wrote a whole series about how our campaigns could be improved and I think debates could be a part of that.
I get a little itchy when I don't write enough about politics and there were various political stories that I could have taken a swing at this week. We touched on some of them—the North Carolina GOP primary and Monica Lewinsky—on the Gabfest, and I did some political reporting during the week that kept me fresh, but there's something special about getting to take a detour now and again to write about your passions. It refreshes you and makes you think of your new beat in a different way. Plus, since it's an election year, there will soon be time enough for politics.
Thanks for letting me blab on and on. And thanks again for joining Slate Plus!