Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Coming Soon To a Beer Koozie Near You: PBR Book Club Gets a Logo

When an elitist, somewhat "underground," local book club starts printing merchandise, does it mean they've officially sold out?  Perhaps.  But we're still excited about sweet, sweet beer coozies and T-shirts and such that will soon emerge in the wake of our new logo.



Now, who will be the first member of PBR Book Club to get this thing tattooed on their ass?  We're betting Punnilingus or Courtbelle.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Karen snubs Michael Chabon

One of my most despised books we've read for the PBR Book Club is Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue.  I hated this book so much, I refused to give my copy to the Free Book dispensary on campus  as to save the torture of another unsuspecting soul who heard that Chabon was a great writer.

Nevertheless, Michael Chabon himself was just feet away from me a few days ago.  I had just been on the air at a local NPR studio talking about nudity in art when I saw Chabon waiting to go on the air to promote the worst book he's written,  Telegraph Avenue. He was sitting and looked lonely like he wanted to talk to someone friendly from Kansas.  If it were any other of our other authors we've poured over for the PBR Book club, I would have shook his hand and said "Wow, I really enjoyed your book" and then describe our beloved book club.  In fact, if the author before me was Gary Shteyngart or Haruki Murakami, I probably would have kissed his feet.

To an outsider, it may have appeared that I was simply walking in another direction than where Chabon waited;  like a distracted individual looking for the water fountain or the exit.  The reality was the engagement of an unsuspecting smooth snub.

The Best and Worst of "The Worst Hard Time"

Entry by Travis Weller

As I think we all know by now, Timothy Egan's The Worst Hard Time is
the Read Across Lawrence book for 2013 and the KU Common Book for the
year. So, theoretically 1000s of people read the book this year,
though judging from social media, not quite that many seemed to have
actually read it, let alone finished it. Which is a damn shame,
because this book is great.

Egan presents the Dust Bowl as narrative nonfiction. He mixes the
facts and stats of the horrible, wrenching, world altering drought
that plagued the Plains with personal tales of people who lived
through it, making it even more horrible and wrenching. Some from
interviews, some from diaries and newspaper accounts, the narratives
expose us to the actual experience of what it was like.

He explains how a mixture of exploitative speculators, government
policies, economic pressures, and nature combined to create one of the
worst environmental catastrophes. If it sounds not that fun, you're
right. But that doesn't mean its not worth knowing. Maybe this month,
the PBR bookclub should be renamed The Stiff Drink Book Club.

If you're feeling a little parched after reading The Worst Hard Time,
check out another by Timothy Egan, The Good Rain. Its a collection of
short pieces on the Pacific Northwest, and it's predictably and
wonderfully damp.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Dust Bowl Photography: Arthur Rothstein

PBR Book Clubbers have jumped on the wagon with the rest of Lawrence and are reading The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan.  The 1930's Dust Bowl region suffered severe drought and ecological damage from  over-farming. At times, the book reads like a horror novel. Severe dust storms spread across the region and cause sickness and death in people and animals.

The Worst Hard Time  includes description of Dust Bowl photography taken by the Photo Unit of FDR's Historical Section of The Resettlement Administration and by AP photographers via The Denver Post. Arthur Rothstein was one of the photographers who shot photos in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.  Rothstein was hired by his graduate professor Roy Striker who was head of the government's Photo Unit.  Rothstein's photos are iconic and considered leading photojournalistic documents of life during the Dust Bowl.

Here are some of the photos mentioned in the book ( Photos and text taken from DenverPost.com)

Farmer and sons walking in the face of a dust storm in Cimarron County, Oklahoma. An Arkansas farmer and his sons are shown in 1936 in the dust bowl. Photo/Arthur Rothstein/

About to be engulfed in a gigantic dust cloud is a peaceful little ranch in Boise City, Oklahoma where the top soil is being dried and blown away. This photo was taken on April 15, 1935. (AP Photo)

Son of farmer in dust bowl area in Cimarron County, Oklahoma. Photo by Arthur Rothstein

The winds of the "dust bowl" have piled up large drifts of soil against this farmer's barn near Liberal, Kansas. Photo by Arthur Rothstein

In this March 29, 1937 file photo, the desolation in this part of the Dust Bowl is graphically illustrated by these rippling dunes banked against a fence, farm home, barn and windmill in Guymon, Oklahoma. This property was abandoned by its owner when destructive dust clouds forced him to seek fortune elsewhere. (AP Photo)

Dust bowl farmer raising fence to keep it from being buried under drifting sand in Cimarron County, Oklahoma. Photo by Arthur Rothstein 

Other art mentioned in the book: 

Photo still from "The Plow That Broke the Plains"

Alexandre Hogue "Drought Survivors" is the painting that Texans wanted to burn 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

September Selection: Timothy Egan's The Worst Hard Time (Because Everyone Else in LFK Is Reading It)

It's becoming tradition that PBR Book Club also reads the Read Across Lawrence selection each year, so we'll be tackling Timothy Egan's The Worst Hard Time this month along with a whole slew of other LFK citizens and scholarly KU Freshmen (since it's also the KU Common Book this year).   We'll need even more PBRs than usual to slake our thirst after the damn Dust Bowl. so come join us for our meeting on Tuesday, September 24, which will take place...somewhere.  Keep an eye on @PBRbookclub and our Facebook page for more details as the time draws near.  And have you heard that we're in the process of getting a sweet PBR logo that will soon adorn beer coozies and coasters all over town?  It's true.  

Monday, September 2, 2013

Russian love is a splendid thing

Book Clubbers have just finished another book in which people fall in love.  Does the PBR Book Club have a soft heart when it comes to romance? Who would have guessed?

City of Thieves is about Lev's romance for war,  his home city,  and for a quick-witted sniper partisan named Vika. Although Lev is unexperienced in the area of love,  his cultured and slightly older companion Koyla, advises Lev about courtship.  Love serves as a distraction as Lev and Koyla endure the war and witness the brutal siege of Leningrad.                    

Unfortunately, the romance in City of Thieves is fiction.  An interview with Benioff by Penguin reveals that the story in City f Thieves is not based on the experiences of Benioff's grandfather (he actually grew up in Delaware) or his grandmother,.  However, the book is historically researched.  One of Benioff's favorite inspirations when writing the story was The Nine Hundred Days by Harrison Salisbury. Salisbury was the first Western journalist to have access to Leningrad once the siege was lifted. Salisbury spoke firsthand with hundreds of Russians who survived the siege, and collected diaries, journals, and letters.