“I Cover the Waterfront” (Connee Boswell)

Max Miller’s wonderful insider memoir of San Diego newspaper reporting is turned to song in 1933, but utterly repurposed. At first, it seems a conventional love trax: waiting at the docks for the beloved to sail into port. But something isn’t right: why doesn’t he write, and let her know which boat he’ll be on, and what day and time? Why the need to watch the whole of the sea and its shore continuously? There’s a certain misanthropy at work here (“away from the city that hurts and mocks”) as well as a lurking, water elementalism. Indeed, we’re in close temporal promixity to H. P. Lovecraft’s “Shadow Over Innsmouth,” written in 1931: “Some frightful influence, I felt, was seeking gradually to drag me out of the sane world of wholesome life into unnamable abysses of blackness and alienage” among “great watery spaces.” “I’m covered by a starless sky above,” the singer laments, and “I see the horizon, the great unknown.” The last chorus is sung the most forcefully, however, as she begins to assert her rightful place at the edge of posthumanist cosmology.

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