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Wasted and Wounded: Narrative in Tom Waits' Songs

This collection unearths the stories that run parallel to those of Tom Waits' early songs. They do not retell as much as push the envelope wider, strain the meaning of a few lines, and stretch the place the song occupies so that the river rats and abandoned dogs, crying children on the street and shifty-eyed suits, salesmen with their patter and hobos with their rags, can shoulder out a space. Searching for the American dream and distracted by a promise, a woman tosses pennies into liquor bottles in a half moon bar, a fast car leaves the parking lot with the radio on full, even while a knife fight wounds the street and an old man pumps quarters into a one-armed bandit.

The songs tell the story of a man who carries the Midwest on him like a ring he can't get off, who rattles on the wide streets of the American west like a tin can tied to a junkyard dog and crowds in the eastern cities where the brownstones spill out onto the broad steps of long afternoons. Refusing to be caught by the despair of the endless nights, he jockeys for dollars with the sell-outs, fishes for the glisten of silver among the litter in the alleys, and sleeps under the bridge on a rainy night.


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