"Songs are like tattoos." In the hours after news of David Berman's tragic death swept across social media in August 2019, I found myself remembering Joni Mitchell's memorable line about the indelibility of memorable lines. "Everyone is sharing David Berman lyrics and poems on Twitter," Lit Hub quickly announced.1 It is of course not surprising that fellow musicians, poets, listeners, and readers would begin posting Berman's best-known and beloved lines, given his status as the "poet laureate of indie rock," a rare example of a rock musician renowned for his talents as a lyricist who was also a "real," accomplished poet.2 But again and again, grieving fans attested to a rather specific feature of Berman's work the fact that his phrases had become talismanic for them, burned into their brains, endlessly quotable, and weirdly applicable to their own lives.

The writer Alissa Quart, for instance, said Berman's "lyrics of landscapes and scenario are tattooed on my limbic system, synonymous with youth, malaise, Americana, poetry, and longing."3 In The Ringer, John Lingan observed that "Silver Jews fans carry Berman lines in our heads like fond memories" and in The Stranger, Rich Smith seemed to concur, quipping that "there are entire groups of mostly sad people who speak to one another only in Berman lyrics."4 Sarah Larson's piece in the New Yorker sounded similar notes: Berman's "music and lyrics are so indelible so beloved, like old friends that his devotees carry them around with us, as part of the way we experience the world."5"There are lines of his that have run through my head every single day for so many years that they've left preserved tracks like Oregon Trail wagon ruts," Justin Taylor wrote in Bookforum shortly after Berman's death. "Their power over me is totemic and endlessly generative, matched in potency only by certain Bible verses, Zürau Aphorisms, and Simpsons bits."6

These strikingly similar testimonials zero in on a distinctive hallmark of Berman's genius: his uncanny ability to crystallize and condense thought and perception into surprising, pithy, and memorable phrases and statements. Berman, in other words, is a master of the aphorism. Although definitions of the form and its parameters differ, the term aphorism usually refers to a short, declarative statement that asserts a general truth, proposes a definition, or conveys a sharp aperçu or bit of advice, insight, or wisdom.7 The word comes from the ancient Greek words apo ("off" or "from") and horizein ("to set a boundary"), which suggests that the aphorism's goal is to delimit and define. Above all, aphorisms are characterized by brevity and compression, often turning on paradox, surprise, or a witty twist of thought or language. Aphorisms are also usually detachable and free-standing, reusable and portable. As Adam Gopnik observes in a recent piece on the form, the general and transferable quality of aphorisms allows them to "reach across barriers of class and era" and become applicable to our own lives: "we don't absorb aphorisms as esoteric wisdom; we test them against our own experience."8 Although they may seem to exude an air of finality and definitiveness, they are, paradoxically enough, designed to evade closure; "they are challenging statements that demand a response," James Geary writes, "they pique curiosity rather than satisfy it, provoke further thought rather than thwart it."9

For Nietzsche, this achievement of extreme compression is the difficult, ultimate goal for the philosopher and aphorist: "it is my ambition to say in ten sentences what other men say in whole bookswhat other men do not say in whole books."10 By all accounts, Berman seems to have taken this effort to condense, to make each line count, very seriously he worked endlessly on getting his mots to be bons enough. The Washington Post's obituary reports that "Berman famously obsessed over his lyrics'I've seen him get hung up on a single line for literally months,' says Dan Koretzky, president of Drag City."11 As Berman told an interviewer shortly before his death, "I have to write a hundred dumb lines to get to the right one it seems."12

Praise for Berman's hard-earned mastery of the aphorism is a running theme in virtually all of the commentary on his work, going back to the beginning of his career as both musician and poet in the 1990s. He has been called a songwriter who churns out "couplet after couplet of bumper-sticker philosophy," who "sings with wisdom to spare," and whose songs give off "a certain feeling of wisdom handed down constantly line after line."13 In its obituary, the Washington Post noted that "it was as a lyricist that Berman attained his status as something of an oracle."14 The same features have been singled out in discussions of his work as a poet, as when Thomas Beller highlighted "a strong current of aphorism in Berman's poetry."15

It has become something of a truism to say that Berman is, like the Kafka of the Zürau Aphorisms, a crafter of concise epigrams, perfect one-liners, a dispenser of oracular wisdom and off-kilter koans. But now that "Berman studies" seems poised to begin in earnest, it is time to move beyond simply hailing Berman as a skilled practitioner, an aphorist extraordinaire. How do specific aphorisms function in his songs and poems? What does the aphorism as a form mean to Berman? And, most importantly, why does he seem simultaneously attracted to and repulsed by the form? On the one hand, Berman is drawn to the aphorism as an example of language at its most condensed and powerful he seems to relish how it can provide witty and surprising reversals, sharp insights into the absurdity and pathos of the world, and what appear to be shards of unexpected and helpful wisdom about the nature of existence. On the other hand, Berman like so many of us raised on postmodernism and post-structuralism, perhaps doubts that language has the ability to master the universe, convey fixed Truths with a capital "T," or objectively represent "reality." On a deeper, more personal level, Berman fears that even the most brilliantly crafted aphorisms are ultimately not so different from other, more pernicious uses of language found in advertising, propaganda, or the lingo of bureaucracy, for instance that intend to manipulate and deceive. This, in essence, was Berman's conundrum: he was strangely good at crafting aphorisms, he knew it, and that fact made him sick. How could someone so distrustful of truth claims be so good at dispensing truth claims?

Fascinated, haunted even, by the blurry line between truth and lying, Berman longs for certainty, for useful ways to understand a maddeningly random universe, but can't get past either his suspicion of authoritative wisdom and fixed absolutes or his belief that language is all too often used to dupe, distort, and mislead. This doubleness on the one hand, a desire to explain human experience and define the world through sharp, funny, memorable words; on the other, a terrifying recognition that language inevitably fails and deceives sparks the ongoing war between disarming sincerity and caustic irony that is one of the most distinctive and potent features of Berman's work as a whole. It also explains why he so often ironically undercuts his own aphorisms by acknowledging his own limits as an oracle or wisdom-provider ("Half hours on earth / what are they worth / I don't know").

To highlight Berman's aphoristic imagination is not to downplay the many other dimensions of his writing his knack for fresh, vivid imagery, his inventive surrealism, his collage aesthetic, his weird humor, his heartbreaking melancholy and compassion, all of which are rich and indispensable parts of Berman's poetics. But Berman's fascination with the aphorism as a form is among the most distinctive and interesting features of his work, since it stands at the center of both his music and his poetry, and even offers a way of understanding what unites these otherwise quite different facets of his oeuvre.

Miniature aphoristic statements, eminently portable and adaptable yet also gnomic and open-ended, appear constantly across the full arc of Berman's work as musician and poet. Take, for example, the line "Repair is the dream of the broken thing" from the Silver Jews' song "We Are Real," or "Alleys are the footnotes of the avenues" in "Smith & Jones Forever," or when he sings "An anchor lets you see the river move" in their song "How to Rent a Room." As these examples suggest, Berman, like so many aphorists before him, is particularly fond of crafting definitional statements propositions which assert that X is or does Y. He also follows other aphorists in making large pronouncements founded on sweeping, unexpected generalizations which emphasize "every" or "all," such as when he sings "all houses dream in blueprints" in "Pretty Eyes" or declares in a poem that "'all water is classic water.'"16

Berman seems drawn to such formulations because they permit him to make surprising and affecting claims in an oddly confident manner claims which seem to offer insight or knowledge about a world that is otherwise endlessly chaotic and mysterious. For instance, in the line quoted above, he asserts that finished structures, like houses, or perhaps people, still recall or long for when they were mere blueprints, and were thus still in an inchoate form a resonant idea that raises any number of possible ramifications or applications. Condensing large-scale, often philosophical thoughts and concepts into a very small space, Berman's aphorisms express pieces of wisdom that feel widely applicable while remaining suggestive, even enigmatic. The line about the anchor, for example, is less concerned with the practicalities of maritime docking than dispensing some alluring yet elusive truths about the play of stasis and mobility at the heart of human experience. One could read the line as suggesting that without fixed points or sites of stability we may not be able to perceive the constant fluidity and flux of the world, or that people long to be rooted in one place but doing so only reminds us that everything else is in motion.

Like a brilliant trash compactor, Berman's aphorisms compress complex arguments into quick statements or observations which provoke rather than block further thought. When he writes "Punk rock died when the first kid said: 'punk's not dead,'" he manages to assert something profound about the ironies of rebellion and the inevitable co-option of the avant-garde in a single line. (Substitute philosophy for punk and this one even seems like a not-so-distant cousin to a Schlegel aphorism: "One can only become a philosopher, not be one. As soon as one thinks one is a philosopher, one stops becoming one").17 Berman returns again and again to the aphorism as a vehicle for meditating on issues of philosophical, psychological, and political sweep.  In "The Ballad of Reverend War Character," he sings "The stars don't shine upon us / We're just in the way of their light," which reads almost like a Zen koan. Here Berman both invokes and undercuts a hoary sentimental cliché (the stars shine upon us) while making a sharp, even poignant comment about the dangers of anthropocentric thinking and about where humans stand in relation to the universe. 

Or consider this example from the song "Like Like The The The Death": "Life finds a limit at the edge of our bodies / A stranger begins wherever I see her / Let's live where the indoors and the outdoors meet."  Here, in a handful of words, Berman ponders epistemological and philosophical questions which appear in a most unlikely venue for this topic, an indie rock song: questions about the limits of our knowledge, the relationship between subjectivity and the phenomenal world, and what philosophers call the problem of other minds (essentially the question of how or whether we can know that other beings exist). In the space of three brief lines, Berman tackles the notion that we live forever locked within the prison-house of our bodies and minds and suggests that the external world and other beings only exist if or when we perceive them. But to summarize these lines as I've just done seems reductive Berman's compact phrases, his confident-sounding, general claims about vital abstractions and thorny philosophical issues like "Life finds a limit at the edge of our bodies" and "a stranger begins whenever I see her," seem nearly inexhaustible in their possible meanings and applications.

On his final album, Purple Mountains (2019), released just before his death, Berman continues to exploit the aphorism as a form, but increasingly uses it to grapple with haunting questions about morality, suicide, art, and posterity. In one song, he sings with palpable weariness that "The end of all wanting is all I've been wanting." This devastating line, built upon repetition and chiasmus (one of the devices he turns to most often in his writing), allows Berman to encapsulate a lifetime of suffering in a phrase and to arrive at an unforgettable way of expressing the desperate desire to stop desiring altogether. Another song by Purple Mountains uses aphorism to offer a poignant, pithy definition of music itself: "Songs build little rooms in time / And housed within the song's design / Is the ghost the host has left behind." Here, Berman asserts that music can be a refuge from a world of temporality and flux; he also suggests, or perhaps hopes is a better word, that even once an artist has passed from the world, traces of its creator may be kept alive within the space of art and song. On Purple Mountains, even as (or perhaps because) Berman confronts the abyss, he draws on aphoristic statements to try to make sense of the world's darkness and cold, and even to weigh the costs of making the enormous choice to end one's pain. "The dead know what they're doing when they leave this world behind," he sings on the eerily prophetic "Nights That Won't Happen." "All the suffering gets done by the ones we leave behind."

The poems that fill Berman's landmark volume of poetry, Actual Air (1999), are studded with similar aphorisms, suggesting the continuity bridges his work in both media. In one poem, for example, Berman compresses an entire treatise on religion and myth into two lines worthy of Emerson or Nietzsche: "If Christ had died in a hallway we might pray in hallways / or wear little golden hallways around necks."18  With this deft and surprising turn of phrase, he defamiliarizes the fundamental rituals and symbols of Christianity and, in an almost anthropological fashion, makes them strange and newly perceptible.  Berman's poems, like his songs, often stitch together resonant, definitional propositions like the ones alluded to earlier ("all water is classic water," "Photography's remainder is sound and momentum"), while also turning his fascination with aphorism into a theme of the poetry itself. In the poem "The Charm of 5:30," for example, Berman again uses a chiasmus to shrink a sweeping claim down to a witty turn of phrase "It occurs to me that the laws are in the regions and the regions are / in the laws" before acknowledging that "it feels good to say this, something that I'm almost / sure is true, outside under the sun."19 As the latter lines suggest, the poem is about the appeal of crafting aphorisms in the first place: he locates a real pleasure in "saying" the remark he has just devised, in part because of its wordplay and brevity, and in part because he is "almost" certain that there is truth in the statement itself.

Another poem, "Governors on Sominex," reads like a little anthology of aphorisms ("souvenirs only reminded you of buying them") interspersed with shards of narrative ("They'd closed down the Bureau of Sad Endings / and my wife sat on the couch and read the paper out loud"). Even as it dispenses definitive-sounding statements like "it was the light in things that made them last" and "each page was a new chance to understand the last," the poem also challenges the very idea of authority and wisdom (after all, even those supposedly vested with power and authority are doped up on Sominex) and questions whether language has the ability to provide meaningful instruction:

She hung up and glared at the Killbuck Sweet Shoppe.
The words that had been running through her head,
"employees must wash hands before returning to work,"
kept repeating and the sky looked dead.20

The overly familiar, bureaucratic language about bathroom hygiene plays endlessly on a loop in the character's head, leaving the sky looking dead and prompting us to question whether memorable, authoritative-sounding statements like "souvenirs only reminded you of buying them" are any more interesting or valid than the deadening language found on workplace signage.

 "Governors on Sominex," then, is a gathering of aphoristic statements that ultimately reflects on the limitations of aphorism itself. It pivots on another elegant chiasmus, in which Berman sounds a bit like William James or Wallace Stevens reeling off pithy sayings about epistemology and experience: "There were no new ways to understand the world, / only new days to set our understandings against."21 If the goal of aphorism is to provide fresh wisdom and tools for understanding existence, then Berman casts doubt on the form itself. But he also underscores the argument, often made by commentators on the aphorism, that such maxims and truths are only useful insofar as they are tested against experience. By writing that there are "only new days to set our understandings against," Berman suggests we must take any and all statements about the world and apply them to ever-changing conditions and circumstances rather than accepting them as fixed or final truths.

As these examples suggest, Berman is more than just a gifted crafter of aphorisms. In both his poems and songs, he frequently thematizes his pointed ambivalence towards the form itself. One of my favorite examples of this, "Advice to the Graduate," comes from the earliest stages of his career. A standout track from Silver Jews' first album proper, Starlite Walker (1994), the song is a funny, half-loving, half-mocking take on the act of dispensing wisdom in aphoristic form. True to its name, the song offers nuggets of guidance and instruction to a neophyte, but also proceeds to refresh and deconstruct the clichéd formula its title invokes from within. Berman provides a series of weird, wise maxims, which seem equal parts useful and odd, or at least oddly specific, such as "Sleep on your back / Ash in your shoe / Always use the old sense of the words," "Your third drink will lead you astray / Wandering down the backstreets of the world," and "Don't believe in people who say it's all been done, / They have time to talk because their race is run." Some of the statements like "On the last day of your life, don't forget to die / The things that you do will always make your mama cry" feel absurdly unnecessary yet somehow strangely poignant. The song is both a wry send-up of the clichéd pearls of wisdom found in graduation speeches and a surprisingly moving and inspiring version of the genre at the same time.

With an ironic wink, Berman sometimes even admits that his own work relies on gathering and creating bits of "bumper-sticker philosophy": as he sings in "Random Rules," "I know a lot of what I say has been lifted off of men's room walls." With this self-deprecating line, he invites us to ask a slightly uncomfortable question: is Berman's own work, with its funny one-liners and memorable remarks, that different from bumper stickers that make you chuckle or clever bathroom graffiti? Lurking beneath such moments of self-critique is a nagging fear: can an aphorism ever be trusted in a world devoid of fixed truths and foundational beliefs? As he puts it plaintively in "Death of An Heir of Sorrows," "I have not avoided certainty / It has always just eluded me."  Here, as elsewhere, Berman acknowledges that any attempt to use language to reduce or master the chaotic, inscrutable world especially in the form of a self-contained wise maxim is doomed to fail.

Ironically, Berman often expresses this skepticism of pithy statements in statements that are themselves profoundly pithy. Indeed, one of his most famous lines is an aphorism about how aphorisms fail, how they are incapable of offering us assistance in the face of crisis and flux: "baby, there's no guidance when random rules." And in an especially Tractatus-meets-Malkmus moment in the Silver Jews song "People," Berman suggests that the aphorism's attempt to put "the world in a phrase" (to quote the title of Geary's book on the form) is destined to fall short: "The meaning of the world lies outside the world." This line begins with the authority of an aphorist or sage issuing a sweeping definition about the "meaning of the world" only to pull the rug immediately out from its own certainty: by admitting that the world's meaning remains entirely outside the world, he seems to accept that the universe exceeds our efforts to pin it down in language. Berman may also intend a sly pun on the word "lying" in the phrase "the meaning of the world lies," embedding a little hint that all such declarations about ultimate meaning are little more than fictions.

While he worries that aphorisms cannot provide the certainty they purport to, Berman seems even more troubled by the form's proximity to other debased and dangerous forms he loathes and distrusts, such as clever corporate slogans, manipulative ads, and other instruments of degraded corporate language, which use spin, obfuscation, euphemism, and other rhetorical devices to deceive and mislead. In one poem, for instance, he laments that "The voices of the bumperstickers tangle in our heads / like cafeteria noise."22 Looming at the heart of this sharp ambivalence lies Berman's deep antipathy towards his father, Richard Berman, who has been described as "one of the most notorious business lobbyists in American history, eventually earning the sobriquet 'Dr. Evil' for taking on labor unions, environmental groups and even Mothers Against Drunk Driving."23 Berman's outrage about his father's abuse and corruption of language for sinister ends seems to have been a crucial factor behind his famous, public break with his dad in 2009: "The worst part for me as a writer is what he does with the english [sic] language. Though vicious he is a doltish thinker and his spurious editorials rely on doublethink."24 

Sharply aware of how easily language can be weaponized to persuade, deceive, and delude audiences, Berman often decries the dangers of rhetoric and propaganda, which leads him to even resist and ironically undercut his own natural eloquence. In the Purple Mountains song "Storyline Fever," Berman sums up this insidious phenomenon: "You got storyline fever, storyline flu / Apparently impairing your point of view / It's making horseshit sound true to you." In an interview, Berman explained the title phrase is his name for "when your mind is captured by a narrative of some kind [ . . . ] storylines tend to drive us, and how we see the world through them." However, he not only worries about being a victim, but also a purveyor of such persuasive storylines a writer whose own words and lyrics might be guilty of "making horseshit sound true to you": "When you're seller and commodity / You gotta sell yourself immodestly / Turn your pedestal into a carving board / If that's what the audience is starving for."

Berman's worry that words (including his own) cannot be trusted, his anxiety about language's limited capacity for truth-telling or advice-giving, fuels a poignant longing that surfaces repeatedly in his work in both genres. In the Silver Jews' song "The Frontier Index," he writes about the profound, perhaps vain, wish to utter words that successfully evade mendacity: "When I was younger, I was a cobra / In every case, I wanted to be cool / Now that I'm older and sub-space is colder / Just want to say something true." In "Death of An Heir of Sorrows," after noting that certainty has always eluded him, he sings "I wish I knew, I wish I knew for true." One of his most important poems, "Self-Portrait at 28," expresses this desire in blunt terms:

I am trying to get at something so simple
that I have to talk plainly
so the words don't disfigure it
and if it turns out that what I say is untrue
then at least let it be harmless
like a leaky boat in the reeds
that is bothering no one.25

Perhaps this is the best Berman could hope for himself or for us, as users and shapers of language first, do no harm, to echo the creed of Hippocrates (who, by the way, was the first to use the word aphorism).

Despite these fears, though, what Berman had to say succeeded in being so much more than merely harmless. His remarkable body of work not only presents a feast of aphoristic gems (in two very distinct genres no less): it also offers a wry, sophisticated meditation on what it means to think aphoristically and, by extension, on the possibilities and pitfalls of language, the dispensing of wisdom, and that most elusive quarry, truth. As the musician James Toth wrote in the wake of Berman's death, echoing countless other listeners and readers, "I am often struck by how the wit, humor, and beauty of Berman's lyrics can suddenly materialize in my brain without warning; sometimes they appear as arcane proverbs or aphorisms, applicable to some random situation in which I find myself."26 His unforgettable, oddly useful phrases, those miracles of compression, verbal delight, and cracked wisdom, stand as a potent example of what Kenneth Burke meant when he called literature "equipment for living," even if Berman himself always knew, deep down, that there's no guidance when random rules.

Andrew Epstein (@AndrewEpstein3) is a Professor of English at Florida State University. He is the author of, most recently, The Cambridge Introduction to American Poetry Since 1945, as well as Attention Equals Life: The Pursuit of the Everyday in Contemporary Poetry and Culture and Beautiful Enemies: Friendship and Postwar American Poetry.  His work has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, Contemporary Literature, Wallace Stevens Journal, Los Angeles Review of Books, and many other publications, and he blogs about the New York School of poetry at Locus Solus.


  1. Jonny Diamond, "Everyone is Sharing David Berman Lyrics and Poems on Twitter," Lit Hub, August 8, 2019. https://lithub.com/everyone-is-sharing-david-berman-lyrics-and-poems-on-twitter/. []
  2. Harrison Smith, "David Berman, Indie-Rock Poet and Singer for Silver Jews, Dies at 52," Washington Post, August 8, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/david-berman-indie-rock-poet-and-singer-for-the-silver-jews-dies-at-52/2019/08/08/55362b86-b9e6-11e9-bad6-609f75bfd97f_story.html. []
  3. Alissa Quart, "David Berman Of Silver Jews Remembered," Economic Hardship Reporting Project, September 12, 2019. https://economichardship.org/2019/09/david-berman-of-silver-jews-remembered/. []
  4. John Lingan, "David Berman Returns," The Ringer, July 19, 2019. https://www.theringer.com/music/2019/7/10/20686306/david-berman-silver-jews-purple-mountains-drag-city: Rich Smith, "David Berman is Dead," The Stranger, August 8, 2019. https://www.thestranger.com/news/2019/08/08/41017938/david-berman-is-dead. []
  5. Sarah Larson, "David Berman Made Us Feel Less Alone," New Yorker, August 8, 2019. https://www.newyorker.com/culture/postscript/david-berman-made-us-feel-less-alone.[]
  6. Justin Taylor, "Remembering David Berman," Bookforum, August 12, 2019. https://www.bookforum.com/culture/remembering-david-berman-23593.[]
  7. There has been a flurry of recent critical books that focus on the history and theory of the aphorism as a form, virtually all of which start out by explaining how difficult it is to define and pin down.  For example, see James Geary, The World in a Phrase: A Brief History of the Aphorism (New York: Bloomsbury, 2005); Gary Saul Morson, The Long and Short of It: From Aphorism to Novel (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2012); Ben Grant, The Aphorism and Other Short Forms (London: Routledge, 2016); Andrew Hui, A Theory of the Aphorism: From Confucius to Twitter (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019).[]
  8. Adam Gopnik, "The Art of Aphorism," New Yorker, July 15, 2019. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/07/22/the-art-of-aphorism. []
  9. Geary, The World in a Phrase, 15.[]
  10. The Oxford Book of Aphorisms, edited by John Gross (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), 1.[]
  11. Harrison Smith, "David Berman." https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/david-berman-indie-rock-poet-and-singer-for-the-silver-jews-dies-at-52/2019/08/08/55362b86-b9e6-11e9-bad6-609f75bfd97f_story.html. []
  12. Travis Nichols, "Actual Air in the Purple Mountains: An Interview with David Berman," Poetry Foundation, July 12, 2019. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet-books/2019/07/Actual-Air-in-the-Purple-Mountains-An-Interview-With-David-Berman. []
  13. John Lingan, "David Berman Returns," The Ringer, July 10, 2019. https://www.theringer.com/music/2019/7/10/20686306/david-berman-silver-jews-purple-mountains-drag-city; Mark Hogan and Sam Sodomsky, "15 Songs That Defined David Berman's Heavy Magic," Pitchfork, August 9, 2019. https://pitchfork.com/thepitch/15-songs-that-defined-david-bermans-heavy-magic/: David Malitz, "David Berman was the cult musician who went away for 10 years. What made him finally come back?" Washington Post, June 3, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/david-berman-was-the-cult-musician-who-went-away-for-10-years-what-made-him-finally-come-back/2019/06/03/19735620-77db-11e9-b7ae-390de4259661_story.html. []
  14. Harrison Smith, "David Berman." Washington Post, August 8, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/david-berman-indie-rock-poet-and-singer-for-the-silver-jews-dies-at-52/2019/08/08/55362b86-b9e6-11e9-bad6-609f75bfd97f_story.html. []
  15. Thomas Beller, "River of Berman," Tablet, December 12, 2012.[]
  16. David Berman, Actual Air (New York: Open City Books, 1999), 6.[]
  17. Quoted in Geary, The World in a Phrase,18.[]
  18. Berman, Actual Air, 17.[]
  19. Berman, Actual Air, 25.[]
  20. Berman, Actual Air, 10.[]
  21. Berman, Actual Air, 10.[]
  22. Berman, Actual Air, 50. []
  23. Derek Robertson, "David Berman: The Poet of Gen X's Tortured Political Consciousness," Politico, December 29, 2019. https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2019/12/29/david-berman-obituaty-silver-jews-2019-086662. []
  24. The text of Berman's open letter, which announced the breakup of Silver Jews and denounced his father, can be found in Scott Lapatine's piece "Silver Jews Calls It Quits, Exposes Dad," Stereogum, January 23, 2009. https://www.stereogum.com/47621/silver_jew_calls_it_quits_exposes_dad/news/. See also Ava Kofman, "Forgive My Father, For He Has Sinned," Los Angeles Review of Books, January 11, 2015. https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/forgive-father-sinned/. []
  25. Berman, Actual Air, 60.[]
  26. James Toth, "James Toth's Favorite David Berman Tracks," Tidal. https://tidal.com/browse/playlist/ad055081-85ef-4139-9d7e-275db8db59f8.[]