Ben Fulton

Ben Fulton is managing editor of The Common Reader. Before moving to St. Louis he was editor of Salt Lake City Weekly, Utah’s alternative newsweekly. His work has been published in New York’s Newsday and has garnered regional awards, including Best of the West and Top of the Rockies.

Posts by Ben Fulton

Marriage (a Good One) is Almost Exclusively an Institution for the Rich

  When people talk about large-scale social crisis in the United States the topic eventually gravitates straight toward marriage. Or more precisely, the current lack of it. If children are in crisis it is because marriage is in crisis. If loneliness is epidemic it is because marriage is in decline. And if people are poor […]

Anselm Kiefer’s Appetite for Destruction

        Of all the works currently on display at the Saint Louis Art Museum we can be surest that Anselm Kiefer’s Burning Rods will never be printed for postcards in the museum’s gift shops. A massive painting that stands about 11 feet high and stretches just beyond 18 feet wide, this dark […]

Watching Rashomon in the Age of Disinformation

      Released five years after the surrender of imperial Japan in World War Two, but at least two decades before Americans would start loathing Japan’s prowess in mass-producing fuel-efficient compact cars, Rashomon had the immediate disadvantage of provoking xenophobic reactions. Even in the early nineties, as a college student attempting to bond with […]

When Kitsch Collides With Food (And Spirits)

        Andy Warhol once said he loved Coca-Cola because regardless of who bought a bottle, it remained the same product for everyone. “A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are […]

Why, and How, the Colors of Mental Health Matter

      St. Louis’s Cherokee Street district is where you are most likely to find a late-night bowl of vegan chili or a stroll through neighborhoods on the cutting edge of gentrification. What you least expect is an impromptu exploration of mental health through brain scan imaging recast as visual art. Neuro Blooms, an […]

White Man’s Burden (Re)Visited

        Substitute teaching is one of the most important, underrated jobs of all. Thrust into an unfamiliar environment, in front of an audience that tends toward the hostile, these unfortunate people bridge a canyon of lessons from one ledge to the other until the full-time instructor returns. I had these substitute teachers […]

Now More Than Ever, We Need Jacob Bronowski

            Ever since the rise of “prestige television” there has been a corresponding rise in the number of documentary films and documentary series. The choice is bewildering to the point of being intimidating: celebrities and athletes dead and alive, every murder solved or unsolved, sommeliers and sushi chefs. All make […]

On Becoming a “Morning Person” 

        Centuries before we turned to wristwatches and cell phone screens it was sundials and the ancient obelisks of Greece and Rome that told us the time of day. There was no electricity to mediate the day, hour, or minute. Light did it all. If we want to discuss metaphors light, perhaps […]

The Exuberant Joy of British Kids Eating U.S. Thanksgiving Food

        Before misinformation, disinformation, Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica fiasco, and “deep fakes” it is hard to remember the time when the internet was a (largely) uncorrupted landscape of novel, good-hearted fun. From cat videos to laughing babies, everyone had their favorites when the internet was still young. The slow-moving genre loosely known as […]

Streaming Killed More Than Just Music

        If necessity is the mother of invention, convenience is the father of a strange brand of privileged indifference. The advent of indoor plumbing in the mid-nineteenth century improved daily life and public health by such exponential leaps and bounds that we shudder to think of life without an indoor toilet or […]

The Magical Metropolis of Our Dreams Becomes a Real Ghost Town

    In our current polarized atmosphere, it helps to take a break from heated arguments and instead examine policy ideas that both sides of the aisle seem to agree are bad. In this case, that policy idea is the proposed building of a whole new slate of U.S. cities. This curious idea was proposed […]

How I Was Told That Joseph Stalin Was a Mass Murderer Because He Was Abused by His Mother

      The historical facts regarding Soviet-Russian dictator and revolutionary Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler’s sadistic roommate in the twentieth-century house of horrors, fall like so many blows to the head. As with so many Russians and many things Russian, Stalin—although technically Georgian—is a figure whose reputation precedes him. His “kill rate,” so to speak, […]

Get Ready for Roadkill

      Most of us remember well our first sight of a dead human body. Most often it is surrounded by the aura of silent respect, but also more than a little horror, as if catching sight of a ghost while singing a hymn in church. Roadkill, on the other hand, usually offers no […]

Songs About Cities and Urban Life, Part II

Songs and music give tangible form to the invisible by making the invisible audible, and therefore visible in our hearts and minds. Listening to music, we travel through the human soul. Hopefully, the following songs and music give ample space only to some of the best songs of all time.

Marriage, That Magical Contract

Late Marriage is one of the few films concerning marriage bold enough to suggest that our modern insistence on personal fulfillment in romance is the double-edged sword that brings two people together but can also poison them with expectations that tear romance apart. And it is one of the more honest films about marriage in its open, forthright acknowledgment that the institution—and in this film, marriage is most certainly an institution—involves far more than the forces and desires of two people. 

Everyone Talks About Bowie

From David Bowie’s cousin to his childhood friends, his managers, musical collaborators, girlfriends, writers such as novelist Hanif Kureishi, and extraneous celebrities to the last word of the midwife present at Bowie’s birth, A Life leaves almost no stone unturned, no corner empty, and no speculation left unsaid.

Ibsen’s Great Haunting

Ghosts is a drama of many themes. At its core, though, is the idea of “sickness” as the inexorable tide we push for, or against. It is the one drama—dare it be said, the only?—wherein “sickness” becomes the widest possible metaphor not just for disease, but inherited social convention, accepted ideology, and the crucible of family without which we cannot survive, but in which we can also decay and die.

Presidential Debates: Our Union of Words

“Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric,” said Irish poet W.B. Yeats, “out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.” And it is out of the quarrel of presidential candidates that U.S. voters intuit their way closer toward Election Day.

Cops and American Culture

Why our culture of law enforcement—and tensions between police and communities—is a lot more nuanced and interesting than you might think.

Does Political Judgement Improve with Age?

One measure of the extent to which we believe age influences political beliefs is the extent to which we know Churchill’s famous phrase, “If you’re not a socialist before you’re 25, you have no heart; if you are a socialist after 25, you have no head.” Or, at least, whether we believe we know it.

King David

For a decade in which rock music was reaching its zenith as a profitable business, the 1970s, it is staggering to consider the sheer number of risks Bowie took, without any hint or appearance that he was risking anything at all.

Lost In the Supermarket

In a world where entire stock market indices can be built on castles of sand, where war can break out any moment, or your child’s happiness can turn on a dime into dread despair, stores such as Whole Foods make us small masters of our own destiny.

Food Fights

The short, but dense, Something to Chew On serves up no-nonsense, stimulating fare over a range of food controversies, from GMOs to weight-loss and world hunger. Digest it if you dare.

Ship To It

Rose George drenches the reader in her ocean-wide chronicle of sea-faring commerce, past and present, but her book’s meandering passages warn you in advance to don a lifejacket.