Sunday, October 21, 2012

Winter's Bone Rises Again

I wasn't so sure I wanted to read Daniel Woodrell's "Winter's Bone" after having seen the Debra Granik movie version of the book at our local art house theater when it screened here a couple years ago. I enjoyed the movie so much that I hunted down her only other feature length film "Down to the Bone" (fellow PBR Bookclubber Nog's lurker and compatriot Chip would surely be attracted to at least the titles in her short filmography!) and thoroughly enjoyed that too. I didn't like the possibility that there was some accolade-worthy reality floating around there that was potentially different from the one I respected so much in the film: it's one thing to see the movie after reading the book, where the director's vision battles the imagery and emotional attachments previously formed in the reader's mental landscape but going in the other direction seemed like it would surely be more jarring still.

Nonetheless, as a copy of the book from the "Read Across Lawrence 2012" effort was thrust into my hand at one point, I finally cracked it a few weeks ago and immediately was struck by the rhythms and the consonance and assonance I associate more with poetry than prose and also by the wonderfully sparse, succinct delivery of visual snapshots and scene.

I picture the environment more viscerally perhaps because I spent much of my childhood and some of my young adult life in the Ozarks camping, fishing, canoeing, discovering hot springs, cold springs, caves that were much like the one described in this story. I've strummed guitars on a sandbar there, went swimming underwater in a deep cold spring that was so cold it turned my lower legs numb in a few minutes of standing in it near the edge later.

I'm also intrigued by some of the implicit aspects of the setting and story, like the plight of people living in generational poverty with no real way to make money (they can't really farm in the hills on the rocky soil) other than illicit means - moonshine in earlier times, meth nowadays (though I'm sure moonshine is still a staple, ha). So forth.

Might be worth commenting on a few differences with the movie - in the movie, there is no snow and characters move between geographics locations very quickly. In the book, I froze my ass off reading about some of those long hikes and incredible waits in the cold, counting chatters of the teeth (I've done that before!) and it was just cold, snow, winter, bitter, snow, and more bitter cold. The movie also inserts a wonderful scene that includes a visit with a recruitment officer at the regional school and it changes a setting for a scene late in the book from a nice house with a sleeping man on the couch to a gathering of middle-aged bluegrass folksters singing and playing what felt like authentic regional old-time standards.

By now you can probably tell that I wrote this review weeks ago and am only just now posting it in the middle of the Telegraph Avenue loop - perhaps this jarring brief look back to the wooded, meth-addled hollows of the wintry Ozarks will make the warm whacky world of Telegraph Hill seem even more inviting and urban.  Thank you - you're welcome!


Vinyl Records and Telegraph Avenue

Warning: Post contains spoilers.

From Buzzfeed: The Most Hipster Hipster You'll Ever See, "This guy has got to be the king of all hipsters. He's trying way too hard, but I think he's trying too hard ironically, so….Behold your King: "

Vintage threads, skinny jeans, a stack of vinyl at the ready, a portable turntable, oversized headphones, and a disinterested hipster girlfriend? That's it. Game over. He won.
Source:  /  via:


It's been nice weather, so many PBR book clubbers are reading our latest book, Telegraph Avenue, on front porches.  The cover art shows a vinyl record with chapter titles that look like song titles.   I had high hopes for the coolness of this book when reading the beginning pages where the setting is a local record store specializing in vintage vinyl.  How would this store compare to LFK's own record store the Love Garden, with its cats and old Pizza Hut sign? Or Nick Spacek's engaging talk about his love of record collecting at Nerd Nite?  Disappointingly, the book doesn't explore the record business or record collecting to its potential. The book's record store, Brokeland, is more a vehicle for male banter and reflection as people loiter in the store.

It makes sense that Brokeland eventually turns to a more financially responsible decision of exclusive online selling of records.  Although national record sales are up, many collectors are buying records online though forums and other online sites.  According to a recent report from eBay, people sell more than three million vinyl records each year on eBay. Some online sites have steady sales of collectible records that are worth thousands of dollars.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono: Double Fantasy
Autographed by Lennon five hours before he was shot, sold for $150,000
This record is considered the most highly collectable album

Jack White's liquid album sold on Record Store Day
Unfortunately, the liquid in the record leaks
Practically all the vinyl pressed today are small boutique pressings

Sunday, October 7, 2012

October Selection: Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue / Plus Some Discussion Questions:

After September's Read Across Lawrence detour into a totally unpretentious book with a lot of narrative momentum (Winter's Bone), it's time to get back to the usual ostentatious prose and navel-gazing that the PBR Book Club is known for.

So we're tackling Michael Chabon's bulky, "important" new novel Telegraph Avenue.  It's full of Kung Fu, Blaxploitation references, Tarantino exegesis, and minutiae about vinyl records.  It contains a hilarious parrot and a 12-page sentence.  It should be perfect for us.

The jacket copy tells us it's "the Great American novel we've all been waiting for."  I'm 200-ish pages in and my current verdict is that it's certainly striving (not that successfully) to be the "Great American Novel."  But that leads to the question of "What the hell do we mean by the Great American Novel" anyway?  Be prepared to discuss.  And also: what was the last truly great American novel?  (I'll say Roth's American Pastoral, which came out in 1997, which would mean there was no Great American Novel in the aughts...sorry, Franzen!).

Our October meeting time is as yet undetermined (I leave that to B-suit, who's more skillful with organizational matters).  But should we consider a change of venue?  Maybe back to the cozy confines of the Taproom, where conversation requires a little less shouting across long distances?

And you Spotify users can check out a supposedly terrific Telegraph Avenue playlist over here .  Jam it while you read...and while drinking PBR, obviously.