Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself,

The Substack boilerplate is below, the manifesto is here. I named this for a masterpiece by Marvin Gaye that was covered by Joni Mitchell, and hearing their voices in my head makes me feel like I can survive taxes, death, and trouble, along with the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to. Marvin says, “I’ve seen the kind of protection that’s all around me.” Joni sang,"I’ve seen the kind of pretension that’s all around me.” I am here to give protection and to banish pretension.

The muse does not always operate according to pegs, pub dates, releases, streamings. These things can be occasions for the sublime, but the window for conversation is limited. So if you know me from books and mags and sites, this is the unmediated version of me. This is the Secret History of David Yaffe. It’s been buried, repressed, hidden, just because I have been living by my wits for so long and serving somebody. There’s so much more that’s been brimming, and you are all invited.

Nabokov wrote of wanting to produce a little sob in the spine of the reader. But he also said he found music to be nothing more than a series of irritating sounds. I am going for the sob in the spine, but with the music dominating everything, even when I am not writing about it. And I’m also going for more than the sob. There’s ecstasy, bliss, humiliation, and everything in between. This will be a search for the overtones of the overtones, the lost chord, the other side of the other side.  It is Dylan’s jingle jangle morning, the sound of 3 AM, when today is fading and tomorrow is tuning up. It is Keats’s unheard melody. It’s what Meghan Daum called The Unspeakable. Let’s talk about it, and say the things we never said and feel the things we never felt.

I’ll be seeing you in all the familiar places.

Laughing wild amid severest woe,

David Yaffe

I am the author of three books: Fascinating Rhythm (Princeton, 2006), Bob Dylan: Like a Complete Unknown (Yale, 2011), and Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell (FSG, 2017, winner of the ASCAP/Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Award, the Association for Recorded Sound Collections Award, and on the Washington Post Books of the Year List for 2017). My writings have appeared in many publications, including New York Magazine, The New York Review of Books, The Paris Review, Harper’s Magazine, The Nation, Slate, Tablet, The New York Times, Bookforum, The Daily Beast,The Village Voice, Los Angeles Magazine and Air Mail. I was awarded the Roger Shattuck Prize for Criticism in 2012. Since 2005, I have taught at Syracuse, where I am a professor of humanities.

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"Her life was saved by rock and roll"


David Yaffe

David Yaffe is a Professor of Humanities at Syracuse and the author, most recently, of Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell (FSG, 2017).