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Murphy’s Law Vol. 1

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In this collection of essays, reviews and ruminations, best-selling author Sean Murphy attempts to tackle the world in writing, one topic at a time. Selecting a sampling of his most popular pieces as well as some personal favorites, Murphy ranges from music to movies, literature to politics, sports to tributes for the departed. At his blog, Murphy’s Law, and as a columnist for PopMatters and contributing editor for The Weeklings, Murphy has combined enthusiasm and proficiency in the service of short and extended analyses. Throughout this compilation he shifts seamlessly between culture, the arts and an ongoing interrogation of American society.

Why is Robert Johnson the most influential American musician of the 20th Century? How—and why—did Dennis Miller go from being one of the better comedians in the world to a humorless hack? Why are even the most gifted novelists unable to write convincing sex scenes in their fiction? Was the first round of Hagler vs. Hearns in 1985 the most exciting three minutes in sporting history? Is it reasonable to suggest that Chinatown is the only perfect American film ever made? What does it mean to declare Stephen King the Paul Bunyan of letters? Is it possible we don’t adequately celebrate either Moby Dick or The Great Gatsby? Why should everyone consider cancelling their subscription to The Washington Post? Does nostalgia play a defensible, even necessary role in one’s art or life?

Equal parts reporter and raconteur, Murphy brings an informed acumen to essays mercifully free from academic jargon and pretension. His subjects cover so-called high and lowbrow and just about anything in between, and it’s obvious throughout that his only agenda is to celebrate, or castigate, or cross-examine his own impulses and predispositions. By turns studious, confrontational, hilarious and philosophical, Murphy’s Law, Vol. One will leave readers better informed, provoked and, hopefully, inspired to discover the work of some geniuses who’ve fallen outside the lower frequencies.


Praise for Murphy’s Law Vol. 1

“Sean has a razor-sharp wit to match his intellectual curiosity. Consistently a treat to read.”

–Jake Sugarman, Salon

“Sean Murphy’s sharp, insightful writing is as delightful as seeing a really good movie; you find yourself thinking about it for days afterward as your previously held assumptions and beliefs are challenged. The fact that he can shine a light as thoughtfully as he does on subjects ranging from music to politics and sports to literature makes Murphy’s Law, Vol One a real treasure; the kind of book you can dive into anywhere and find the minutes turning to hours as he leads you to places you never suspected you could get so caught up in.”

-Beatles author and co-host of the Something About The Beatles podcast

“While there aren’t many political views that I agree with Sean on, there aren’t many things he writes that I don’t love. He makes me think by being reliably provocative, and he is occasionally quite convincing. Either way he is invariably amusing, thoughtful, and speaks past my brain directly to my soul — a talent that is rare but very needed in these times.”

— Mike Shields, Senior Republican Operative, CNN Contributor

“Sean Murphy’s work is a joy to read. He instantly and easily draws the reader into his world with authenticity and humor. It’s clear that Sean understands people — we often find a piece of ourselves and our lives in his words. At the end of each story I read, I wish there was more, yet still feel satisfied with the little gems of wisdom he imparts.”

–Cat Beekmans, Elephant Journal

“The musicians who Sean Murphy writes about set out, like so many of us, to change the world. Sean has the eloquent gift of letting you feel like you’re in the studio with them and then sitting front-row, best seat in the house, feeling the impact, watching them perform. Sean’s musical insight is a peek behind the curtain, a gift and rare view everyone wants to see.”

–Cerphe Colwell, Legendary Washington, DC DJ

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When I started Sean’s book, I read a section and said to myself, ‘I’m going to email Sean to tell him how amazing that sentence is.’ Then as I read a little further I thought, ‘No, I’m going to email Sean to tell him what an amazing depth of knowledge and perception he’s giving us.’ And then, yes, you got it, on the very next page he wrote something that made me think, ‘His Mom is looking down on Sean with unending love for what he just wrote. This is one amazing book!

– May 27, 2015

Donald R. Gallehr, Director Emeritus, Northern Virginia Writing Project