by Sean Preston

There’s something quite sinister to me about the Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers duet. Dolly, here, taking on the role of a Jolene, or at least providing the requisite doctrine for Jolenes. The song sort of qualifies romantic elopers in their abandonment of the wife and kids for the Portuguese cleaner, forging a fairytale aesthetic for do-badders. A story of cruelty becomes one of following your heart.

Baby, when I met you

There was peace unknown

I set out to get you

With a fine tooth comb

I was soft inside

There was something going on


It’s not unlikely that the song has become an anthem for leathery ex-pat couples that took the song on as their mantel decades ago.  It’s been number one in Karaoke charts in Tenerife for thirty-four years now, in fact. Music serves us well when we look for justification, verification, and more privately, a pardon.


“Mike’s first wife, June, she weren’t much for karaoke.”


“No, well, she weren’t much for anything.”


Let’s deconstruct:


Islands in the stream – Oh my shit, we’re so different from other people because we fancy each other

That is what we are – Established

No one in between – No bitch wife June

How can we be wrong? – 1. Mortal sin. 2. Etc.

Sail away with me – Ryanair

To another world – Mike, where’s Treviso? … Lebanon?! Fuck that.

And we rely on each other, ah-ha – to, over years, slowly eradicate any crossover romance in the narrative of our romance regaled to holidaymakers.

From one lover to another, ah-ha – you’ll look over knowingly as I pour through the poorly laminated karaoke book, “…and then after she passed away I met Mike at darts.”


Still, as a song, it’s fucking great


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Everyone’s seen that video of Future Islands on Letterman. It’s a perfect example of someone displaying their City, their Island for all to see. That’s what this Transportation book should be, as I wrote here for Island Magazine. If you’re submitting, you’ll need to follow the theme of ‘Islands and Cities’, sure, but you’ll also need to allow the islands and cities of your life to shine through. What makes this Future Islands TV performance so great is not that it’s “unabashed”, or remarkably “sincere”, even if it is those things. It’s that who he is and what he’s about is immediately identifiable, if just for a short space of time during that performance and juxtaposed upon a chat show. Like I said, you’ve seen it, but if you haven’t, definitely do.


For the record, no artist is that unabashed. Not entirely.


I once met a girl who pretended that she got into Ernest Hemingway because she liked the cocktail named after him. That simply isn’t possible. No one has ever pretended to like a Hemingway that way around.


I read Islands In The Stream again recently. Presumably I thought to do so because I’m editing the book related to this wordpress, which is of course themed to Islands and Cities.


The same passages excited me and made my heart skip a beat when I thought of Hemingway in piss-stained safaris and on the hunt for seafood Nazis. That episode on the boat, chasing that Marlin, it has stayed with me, and so to does it stay with everyone, and later when young Tom dies, that too stays with you. But in reading again – rereading, a fine practice that I would recommend without reserve – it was another sentence that had me hooked by Ernie all over again:


“They are not sorrows, so much as terrible things.”


I pondered there that Hemingway wrote with particularity and brevity perhaps so because of terrible things. I believe it. He has little time for sentimentality, fat, too many words both in his prose and in life. There are no sorrows to dwell upon, only terrible things to move away from. The Hemingway protagonist dwells not on sorrow, and in this way we see his ‘terrible things’. It was true of the violence in For Whom The Bell Tolls, and it’s true later in the dignified resignation of The Old Man and The Sea. The same terrible things haunt them. Terrible things. That’s what I love about Hemingway. He wears them. Be sure to wear yours in your writing. I look forward to the submissions process.


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Sean Preston is founder and editor of Open Pen magazine and London editor of Transportation.

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