Postcard, 1910

Postcard, 1910


SEPTEMBER 18, 2019: I gave a talk on slavery at the University of Virginia to the eighth-grade class at the Village School in Charlottesville. They were smart, attentive, and asked great questions. And they even sent me a handwritten thank-you card!


SEPTEMBER 9, 2019: Nice to be quoted in this mention of the Watchmen series on HBO. Years ago I wrote some book reviews for January Magazine, and this was one of my favorites.

Back in 2005 when Watchmen turned 20, January Magazine gave the iconic comic novel an in-depth review.

“It’s big and important and brilliant and insufferable,” the wonderful Brendan Wolfe wrote at the time. “It’s mythic; it’s gritty. It’s awesome and it’s dumb. In its pages are heroes, anti-heroes and giant, blue-peckered superheroes. There are aliens, street-fighting lesbians and pirates. There are ambiguously evil geniuses and average New Yorkers. When its violence isn’t intimate, it’s global. When the sex isn’t tender, it’s dirty. Watchmen‘s story is part whodunit, part philosophical tract, its writing fierce and groundbreaking, pinched and pedantic. The art is always stiff and always utterly appropriate.”

Watchmen is everything. At times it’s even boring.”

JULY 17, 2019: An exhibit about the 1898 lynching of John Henry James in Charlottesville was unveiled today in the Albemarle County office building on McIntire Road. I wrote the exhibit’s text based on this essay.


MAY 16, 2019: In its just-released Annual Report, the University of Virginia Library included mention of the exhibit I co-curated with Molly Schwartzburg, based on my book, Mr. Jefferson’s Telescope.

Calling 100 Objects “the most ambitious exhibition we have ever done,” Special Collections Curator Molly Schwartzburg noted that it “raises important questions about the selective process of writing history—what is brought to the forefront and what is left out. One hundred items cannot even begin to cover the history of this university, but it’s a compelling start.”

JANUARY 9, 2019: Bunk, an online anthology of history writing intended for the public, has included my essay “The Train at Wood’s Crossing” on its year-end Best-of list for best narrative writing. I couldn’t be more thrilled.

NOVEMBER 8, 2018: C-ville Weekly in Charlottesville writes about the United Daughters of the Confederacy and links to and quotes from my blog post.

NOVEMBER 5, 2018: The Richmond Times-Dispatch publishes “Encyclopedia entry on United Daughters of the Confederacy edited; groups holds 125th anniversary convention amid protest.”

NOVEMBER 2, 2018: Kali Holloway wrote for the Daily Beast about the United Daughters of the Confederacy, history, white supremacy, and the problem of monuments. She interviewed me for the story and even described my blog post on those subjects as “brilliant.” Thank you!

OCTOBER 4, 2018: Last month I wrote a blog post—“United Daughters of the Confederacy & White Supremacy”—explaining why the publication I edit, Encyclopedia Virginia, used the phrase “white supremacy” in our entry on the organization. Objecting to those particular words, the UDC initiated a letter-writing campaign and my post responded to that, catching the attention of a few news outlets. The Virginia Mercury wrote about it, as did RVA magazine, while the public-history curation site Bunk linked to it. The Mercury even mentioned the post a second time in writing about issues of Civil War memory in Richmond.

To be clear, I am not at all interested in casting aspersions on the UDC, a group that does some really great charitable work. Still, it’s always nice to get a little love on Twitter!

JULY 3, 2018: I appeared on WINA 1070 AM radio, talking about the 1898 lynching of John Henry James, an essay I wrote about it, and a proposed memorial to the event in Charlottesville. You can listen here and below.

JUNE 22, 2018: The public-history curation site Bunk highlights my essay "The Train at Wood's Crossing," about the lynching of John Henry James in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 1898.

MAY 19, 2018: I was a guest on Apropos of Something on WPVC 94.7, in Charlottesville, talking about Mr. Jefferson's Telescope and Thomas Jefferson's legacy at the University of Virginia.

DECEMBER 13, 2017: Thanks to Lisa Woolfork, from the University of Virginia English Department, and Roy Cadoff, of UVA Bookstore, for recommending Mr. Jefferson's Telescope for the holidays!

NOVEMBER 17, 2017: The Des Moines Register has posted my op-ed: "A century ago, famous Iowan faced sexual misconduct accusations." About Bix Beiderbecke's infamous arrest, I write:

We need Bix to be innocent so that we can enjoy his music.

I confronted this problem while working on my book. Delving into the darker parts of the Beiderbecke story began to wear on me. I wished to believe, like Scott Black, that Bix could be less complicated — "the guy who always opened doors and helped seat any woman in a social gathering. It was simply his nature."

In the end, though, we have an obligation, when faced with difficult history, to be more honest — with ourselves and about one of our most famous sons.

OCTOBER 30, 2017: The new public-history curation site Bunk highlights my essay "History Writ Aright," about the unveiling of the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 1924.

OCTOBER 12, 2017: Nick Dellow reviews Finding Bix for Vintage Jazz Mart.

OCTOBER 9, 2017: The Cavalier Daily at the University of Virginia writes about Mr. Jefferson's Telescope and the talk I gave at the bicentennial celebration on October 6.

OCTOBER 6, 2017: The Washington Post writes about the University of Virginia's bicentennial, Mr. Jefferson's Telescope, and the accompanying exhibit at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. Here's the recording of a talk I gave this evening as part of the big event.

OCTOBER 5, 2017: I had a great time today talking about Finding Bix with Mark Lynch of WICN, a public radio station out of Worcester, Massachusetts, that specializes in jazz music.

OCTOBER 2, 2017: Colin Woodward, an archivist and Stratford Hall and a scholar of music and American culture, hosted me on his podcast, Amerikan Rambler. Give it a listen.

OCTOBER 2, 2017: The Daily Progress in Charlottesville writes about Mr. Jefferson's Telescope, the accompanying exhibit, and the University of Virginia's bicentennial.

SEPTEMBER 29, 2017: The Quad-City Times published a letter to the editor I wrote taking exception to a recent op-ed that grossly misrepresents my book Finding Bix and makes personal attacks. The Times owes its readers much better than this.

SEPTEMBER 28, 2017: On this episode of Citizens Band Radio, a production of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia, I talk with Coy Barefoot about my book Mr. Jefferson's Telescope and the accompanying exhibit at the university's Special Collections.

SEPTEMBER 23, 2017: I appeared on Scribble, a literary broadcast show and podcast produced by WVIK-Rock Island and hosted by Don Wooten and Roald Tweet.

SEPTEMBER 20, 2017: Jane Foy and Rick Daniels talked to me about Mr. Jefferson's Telescope on WINA Morning Radio.

SEPTEMBER 8, 2017: The University of Virginia has published a nice story on Mr. Jefferson's Telescope and the related exhibit.

SEPTEMBER 1, 2017: After graciously inviting me to participate in a James River Writers event earlier in the summer, Kris Spesak interviews me for her website about writing and editing. Some of it is a tiny bit tongue-in-cheek but it was really fun and I hope helpful.

AUGUST 25, 2017: UVA Today at the University of Virginia reports on Mr. Jefferson's Telescope and the related exhibit mounted by the university's Special collections.

AUGUST 3, 2017: I appeared on Paula Sands Live, on KWQC-TV6, in Davenport, Iowa. Watch.

AUGUST 2, 2017: I was interviewed live on Talk of Iowa, hosted by Charity Nebbe, on Iowa Public Radio. Listen.

AUGUST 2, 2017: WQAD TV in Moline, Illinois, reports on Finding Bix and related controversies regarding Bix Beiderbecke. Here's a clip:

JULY 25, 2017: Last weekend the Quad-City Times, in Davenport, Iowa, published a column arguing that Bix Beiderbecke was not an alcoholic but "a class act." I thought this was not only wrong; it is damaging. One can be both, after all. The editors graciously allowed me to respond in an op-ed. Here's a taste:

And that's the rub, isn't it? We sincerely and passionately love Bix's music. We love the idea of Bix as a representative of our community. So we defend him against anything we think might tarnish his reputation.

But in the process we tarnish our own.

JULY 14, 2017: John Check reviews Finding Bix in the Wall Street Journal and he mostly likes it. Here's a taste:

One of the book’s strongest chapters tells of a 1929 interview with Beiderbecke appearing in the Davenport Democrat. While calling it “the only known interview of the jazz legend,” Mr. Wolfe adds that “there’s always been something a little off” about it, something “that jazz scholars have struggled to clearly articulate.” After some sleuthing, he discovers that the interview was plagiarized from several sources, borrowing words from music journalists Henry Osgood, Abbe Niles and others. Perhaps Beiderbecke was reticent and the interview came to nothing. Then again, perhaps the temptation to plagiarize was too great for the Davenport reporter to resist. Whatever the case may be, the result is that Mr. Wolfe’s understanding of Beiderbecke “grows smaller and smaller, until eventually he disappears.”

JUNE 11, 2017: Geitner Simmons reviews Finding Bix for the Omaha World-Herald: "So many people have invested so greatly into propounding their 'proper' interpretation of the Beiderbecke story, one learns, that arguments on Bixian matters large and small often take on a fervor akin to heated theological debate. In other words, it’s great fun."

JUNE 4, 2017: Peter Keepnews includes Finding Bix in his summer roundup of books about music in the New York Times Book Review. He writes: "Although Wolfe ultimately judges his search a failure—near the end of the book he writes of his 'chronic inability to find Bix'—the journey itself is well worth reading about."

I couldn't be happier that Peter Keepnews found  Finding Bix  worthy of a positive mention in the  New York Times Book Review.

I couldn't be happier that Peter Keepnews found Finding Bix worthy of a positive mention in the New York Times Book Review.

MAY 28, 2017: The Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette reviews Finding Bix: “'Finding Bix' is a compelling read because it’s about more than Bix: it’s about the myths we construct about artists and what it means to confront them. When we start to get a glimpse of who Bix may have actually been, Wolfe pulls back the curtain and reveals his own vulnerability as he too takes a hard look at this oft-idealized musician."

MAY 19, 2017: The Rock Island (Illinois) Dispatch Argus reviews Finding Bix.

MAY 12, 2017: The National Book Review has a Q & A with me about Finding Bix. It's the best I've done so far, I think, in articulating what I think the book is about.

MAY 11, 2017: The Daily Progress, in Charlottesville, Virginia, publishes an interview feature about Finding Bix.

MAY 10, 2017: C-ville Weekly, in Charlottesville, Virginia, features Finding Bix, writing: "[Wolfe] is at heart an essayist, and his writing tends to ruminate on a question or, in the case of Beiderbecke, many questions."

APRIL 26, 2017: The May issue of Down Beat magazine features a review of Finding Bix by John McDonough. He writes that the book, comprised of "49 discursive but elegantly written chapters," "rolls along with a stimulating intellectual verve and attitude." McDonough, a contributing editor at the magazine since 1968, lectures at Northwestern University.

APRIL 19, 2017: Richmond Magazine did a nice Q&A about Finding Bix.

APRIL 14, 2017: I offer a few thoughts on Bix Beiderbecke and his music in episode 8 of Russell Perry's epic Jazz at 100, a series produced and broadcast by WTJU at the University of Virginia.

APRIL 1, 2017: A review in Library Journal described Finding Bix as "breezy, engaging, and entertaining ... fascinating."

I was also featured on the With Good Reason radio program, hosted by Sarah McConnell. The episode is called "Get Rhythm." You can listen to the second half of the episode, of why the Bix section comes first, below.

MARCH 31, 2017: A short, five-minute radio feature, produced by the With Good Reason radio program and designed to promote their longer music episode, tells the story of Bix Beiderbecke.

MARCH 21, 2017: Finding Bix is featured in this story by WMRA Public Radio and this one by CBS19 on the Virginia Festival of the Book.

MARCH 1, 2017: My new podcast, a partnership between Encyclopedia Virginia and WTJU Radio at the University of Virginia, launches today. You can read more about it here or in the Daily Progress, of Charlottesville, Virginia.

FEBRUARY 26, 2017: WTJU, the college radio station at the University of Virginia, is producing 100, one-hour episodes on the history of jazz. The occasion? Well, this day is the centennial of the first jazz record, made by a white New Orleans band called the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. These records are what first introduced Bix Beiderbecke to jazz, and I'll be appearing on an early episode to talk about Beiderbecke. Learn more here.

JANUARY 27, 2017: The British publication ShortList quotes me in an article whose premise is that jazz fans are pretentious wankers!

"Ted Gioia wrote an excellent book last year called How to Listen to Jazz," says Brendan Wolfe, jazz critic and author of Finding Bix: The Life and Afterlife of a Jazz Legend (out in May). "But there's the irony, though. Jazz began as popular art, as something to dance to, as stuff that teenagers would listen to on record over and over again in the way I did R.E.M. when I was in high school. Now you need to read a book to know how to listen to it? Can you imagine if someone wrote a book called How To Listen To Hip Hop?"

Why do jazz fans so often come across as total wankers?

JANUARY 14, 2017: Geitner Simmons, of the Omaha World-Herald, calls Finding Bix "virtuosic" with "wildly playful writing ... Highly rewarding."

NOVEMBER 4, 2016: Matthew Gibson and I appeared on WMRA Radio today talking about our work on the history of African American suffrage and disfranchisement in Virginia. This stuff matters—especially in an election season!

OCTOBER 31, 2016: I was interviewed on CBS19 today about Encyclopedia Virginia's entries on witches in Virginia. Just in time for Halloween!

OCTOBER 1, 2016: My short article on The Aviator statue at the University of Virginia—"A Flight Forgotten"—appears in the University of Virginia Magazine's new fall issue.

NOVEMBER 24, 2015: I appeared on NewRadio WINA this morning to talk about Virginia Indians, and Paquiquineo in particular. Don't get me started. I really like to talk about this stuff!

JUNE 30, 2015: My short essay "A War by Any Other Name" appears today in Obscure Histories: History with Science. When the Indians and Jamestown colonists fought was it really a war?

JUNE 2, 2015: My extremely grouchy face can be found in this week's C-ville Weekly under the headline, "More than facts: Brendan Wolfe reimagines Virginia history." Thanks to Sarah Lawson for thinking our work at Encyclopedia Virginia was worthy of notice.

MARCH 13, 2015: My short essay "Little Ice Age" on climate change at Jamestown appears today in Obscure Histories: History with Science. Turns out this sort of science has always been important.

MARCH 1, 2015: My cover story on the Union occupation of Charlottesville during the Civil War, "A Civil Occupation," appears in the new spring issue of the University of Virginia Magazine.

Suling Wang's lovely cover art for my  University of Virginia Magazine  story on the Union occupation of Charlottesville.

Suling Wang's lovely cover art for my University of Virginia Magazine story on the Union occupation of Charlottesville.

JANUARY 27, 2015: My short essay "Irene Morgan" appears today in Obscure Histories: History with Science. She was Rosa Parks before Rosa Parks—and not nearly as polite!

DECEMBER 4, 2014: My short essay "Paquiquineo, or Don Luis" appears today in Obscure Histories: History with Science. Just my opinion, of course, but the most interesting figure in all of Virginia history.

MAY 3, 2013: My personal essay "The Case of the Hungry Stranger" appears today in The Morning News. It's about the life and death of a mercurial—and often very funny!—dude. A.k.a. my dad.

MARCH 1, 2013: My cover story, "Unearthing slavery at the University of Virginia," appears in the new spring issue of the University of Virginia Magazine.

JANUARY 19, 2012: Valerie Strauss has given over the space in her Washington Post education column today to something I wrote about continuing problems with a Virginia fourth-grade textbook. It's more than just grousing on my part but, I hope, a recipe for how to better think about the history we are teaching young students.

JULY 1, 2010: My review of The Pen Friend by Ciaran Carson appears today in the summer issue of VQR. You may or may not want to read this novel at the end of the review, but you will at the least been introduced to a singular literary voice. I promise!

FEBRUARY 12, 2010: The Special Collections blog at the Davenport Public Library featured my recent discovery of the fact that the only known interview with Bix Beiderbecke was a fake, a fraud. I sent this same information to the local newspaper—the newspaper that originally ran the interview back in 1929—and ... crickets.

JANUARY 15, 2010: Carolyn Kellogg, author of the Jacket Copy literary blog at the Los Angeles Times, interviews me about the rocky experience I had editing the Wikipedia entry on Bix Beiderbecke. I'm not a Wiki-hater, by the way, but the experience certainly gave me pause.