Sep 252014
 

Liquorature Selection #064Star Maker
26-Sept-2014

After a decent number of days slogging through this book, we’re finally on the eve of discussion.

This book was a corker in terms of content but a motherfucking nightmare to make it through.  And even still I am speaking prematurely.  We’re meeting in about 30 hours and I have about 15 pages left to finish.  Only once has a book so small (page count) given me such a struggle.  You may recall that particular piece of tripe was Edward Bellamy’s “Looking Backward”.

Don’t get me wrong, lest you think I’m saying this is a bad book.  Far from it.  It does need to be said, though, that this 1937 opus is an absolute black hole.  It sucks all of my concentration and leaves me as empty as a vacuum by the time I set it down after a few pages.

The content is as vast as one would imagine, however, so I think there will ultimately be redemption in the discussion.  If not…well…there will be plenty of good single malt in hand.

Hopefully we can sucker a few folks into discussing this one below.  Share your thoughts.

– C

 

Sep 252014
 

After a lengthy hiatus, Liquorature is back.  Though not as you may have known it.

Earlier this year Liquorature fell from its lofty perch as the last outreach of civilized modern man. For five (mostly) glorious years it had stood as a bastian of hope and intellectual respite in a world sadly riddled with reality TV, socialite headlines and video games displacing books as the preferred medium of escapism. Something had happened. The spark had very nearly died. The lamp had dimmed.

lamp

Rather than see this beloved outpost fall into ruin, we pulled closed the doors and shuttered the windows.

It leaves a hole in your life though.  Once you’ve become accustomed to the ritual of the monthly gathering, the anticipation of a good read, the salivation for new drams and the hope of an inspired conversation, well…it’s hard to simply let it rot on the vine.  Some things inevitably needed to change, though, in order to make it work again.

Now…many moons later, that guttering spark has been brought back to life.  In a way, this is a Frankenstein moment of sorts for Liquorature.  The make-up of the club has changed.  The overall direction has slightly shifted.  Perhaps a few formalities will morph into something more or less than they were previously.  Either way…we’re back.

A mate of mine – a filthy, devious, Irish mate of mine – got hold of me a few months back regarding Stephen King’s magnum opus ‘The Dark Tower’.  We had discussed the merits of this series when we gathered for the ‘Cell’ event a couple years ago.  Apparently the recommendation did not go unheeded.  As my hobo pal drew towards the end of this monstrous yarn, he called me and said that this was one that needed to be discussed.  A timeframe was soon agreed upon, and a few of us more masochistic souls began laboriously plodding through the seven canonical volumes, plus the apocryphal add-ons.  Finally, a month or so ago (August 8th, actually), we gathered and talked the shit outta this one over many a dram.  It turned out to be a great night that effectively became the launching point for this new iteration of Liquorature.

Prior to our untimely (though temporary) demise, there had been a couple of books lined up that we never got ’round to.  I guess only time will tell whether or not we ever come back to those tales.  Instead, we have moved forward with a new collective, a new rotation, new selections and a new outlook.  The coming months will bring the following:

“Star Maker” (Olaf Stapledon)
“The Stars My Destination” (Alfred Bester)
“The Old Man And The Sea” (Ernest Hemingway)
“A Christmas Carol” (Charles Dickens)

…and after that, leading off 2015, who know?

Feel free to pour yourself a drink and read along from your distant vantages and partake vicariously here via comments.

Keep watch for many updates to the site.  She’s a little rusty, but we’ll pretty ‘er up.

In the meantime…I look forward to sharing the journey.

 

‘Keep your lamp trimmed and burning, for this old world is almost gone’

– C

Mar 052014
 

Bird Chronicle

This month’s selection: “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle”, by Haruki Murakami.

A couple years back we tackled another of Murakami’s books, “1Q84″, and were all somewhat blown away.  The man has a voice and vision unlike anything I’ve ever read. 

As we speak, I’m on page 101 (of 607) and wish I could simply curl up with this book and a dram of old BenRiach in front of the fire.  Alas…work keeps getting in the way.

If you haven’t read Murakami, let me offer up highest recommendations.

- Curt 

Mar 032014
 

This site is so unbelievably delinquent that I almost don’t know where to start.  Let’s see if we can’t get y’all caught up a little…

Looking back at past posts, I see the last event notes I shared were from Bulgakov’s “The Master And Margarita”.  While I will one day get back to writing up all of the gatherings that followed that one, for now let’s settle for just a quick rundown of what the Liquorature crew have been wending their way through over the past year and a bit.  Some neat selections to be sure.  The lads have some to the table with some very diverse selections.

After the aforementioned bit of classic Russian lit, our selections fell out as follows:

“Back To Blood” (Tom Wolfe)
“A Fine Balance” (Rohinton Mistry)
“Lamb: The Gospel According To Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal” (Christopher Moore)
“Moby Dick” (Herman Melville)
“Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn” (Mark Twain)
“Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep” (Philip K. Dick)
“The Year Of The Flood” (Margaret Atwood)
“Silence” (Shusaku Endo)
“The Outsider” (Albert Camus)
“Half Blood Blues” (Esi Edugyan)
“Fahrenheit 451″ (Ray Bradbury)
“The Fountainhead” (Ayn Rand)
“Slaughterhouse Five” (Kurt Vonnegut)
“Shalimar The Clown” (Salman Rushdie)

…and finally…this past month…

Count

We took the long journey from the depths of a prison cell in the Chateau D’If to sailing off into redemption with Edmond Dantes in Alexandre Dumas’s “The Count Of Monte Cristo”.

It’s almost embarrassing to admit that this was the first time I’ve ever read this veritable classic.  Man, what a tale!  I sincerely regret not having picked this up at some point in earlier years.  I was remiss.  Seeing as this novel is an absolute brick of a work in it’s unabridged edition, Jay offered everyone the choice of reading the novel as Dumas originally intended or in its more contemporary abridged incarnation.  The group was split about half and half as to which edition they chose, but those who went abridged learned a hard lesson in not taking shortcuts, as the abridged was a trainwreck of hacking and slashing.  The story was nearly unrecognizable from that which the rest of us read.

For any out there debating the choice between versions…unabridged.  Please.

Coming up we have a few more nifty ones.  As we speak I’m a couple dozen pages into Lorenzo’s March selection, “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” by one of our past favorite authors, Haruki Murakami.  (You may recall we were all quite wow’d by Murakami’s “1Q84″ a couple years back)

Following Murakami, we set to dive headlong into the following:

“Cutting For Stone” (Abraham Verghese)
“The Old Man And The Sea” (Ernest Hemingway)
“‘Salem’s Lot” (Stephen King)
“Hamlet” (William Shakespeare)

I promise you I’ll keep you better informed going forward.

In other chat…watch for some updates regarding club membership and what’s been going on here in Calgary.  The group has seen some big changes over the past while.  I’ll fill you in on who’s in and who’s out.

Some nifty news about a writer friend of ours as well.  I want to point you in the direction of his books.  More to come soon.

Until next update (very soon, friends)…

 

Slainte!

 

– Curt

 

 Posted by at 9:00 pm
Sep 082013
 

Liquorature #046 – “The Master And Margarita” (Mikhail Bulgakov)master

Date:  November, 2012

Host:  Scott

Whisky:  Compass Box Oak Cross, Arran Devil’s Punchbowl, ?

Rum: The Lash

 

Many years ago, while still living as a hippie out West, I saw the Violent Femmes play the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver.  After a lengthy period of closure, the Ballroom had been fixed up and, at the time, just recently had its doors reopened.  The Femmes, who had played the Commodore in earlier (read:  scuzzier) days, were midway through a ‘blister’ing set (pun intended) when Gordon Gano took a few minutes to chat with the crowd.  His first comments were to the effect of ‘it’s good to be back in the Commodore.  They’ve dressed the old girl up and she’s looking pretty good.’

That’s sorta how I’m seeing the newly reno’d Liquorature.  A couple of departures…a couple additions…and here we are.  End of November, 2012, and nearly four full years after launching this little enterprise.  Recent days, as you may know if you’ve been following this blog, have seen the loss of a couple of core members.  Though this always hurts a bit, I’m trying to approach it as a ‘one door closes, another door opens’ kinda scenario.

So…here we are for gathering number one with the revised G9.  Please, if you will…a warm welcome to Lorenzo and Stuart.

Alright…moving on…

It all starts with a brisk stroll on a chilly Canadian winter night.  Or should I say subarctic f*cking freezing?!  Man…all joking aside…this is the reason I love this country.  When the trees are all rimed with frost and the night skies over the towns and cities are dressed in a perpetual orange haze…stunning.  And what better time to tackle a book set in the frigid spheres of the Soviet Union than the dead of Calgary winter?  Perfect alignment.

Playing to thematic elements is always fun on Liquorature nights.  Whether it’s food…décor…drink selections…what-have-you.  Scott made a few rather inspired beverage choices to tie back to the novel at hand.

First up…a rum called The Lash.  Yeah…rum.  A beverage suitable only for cleaning the flagellant’s wounds, I’d suggest, if only it weren’t so impure with all of its foul additives.  ;)  A takillya (tequila) drink aptly bearing the big, bold title of ‘Margarita’.  And whiskies?  Compass Box’s Oak Cross (of course) and one from Isle Of Arran called ‘The Devil’s Punchbowl’, a big ol’ vatting of whatever casks they had kicking around at the time (I kid, but wow…what an odd cask selection went into this 6,660 bottle release; peat, sherry, bourbon in all their various forms).  I think there *may* have been one more, but for the life of me, I can’t recall.

And the book?  Well…there are likely 666 reasons why this one was a trying read for some of the crew, and possibly most people who pick it up.  A few: period relevance vs contemporary comparables and relatables; the inherent challenges of much of Russian lit; the absurd and surreal aspects; the multiple time periods; Shakespearian ties; rather convoluted plotline; the difficulty in discerning relevance from mere poetic acrobatics, etc.  Interesting read, for sure, if tough.  Having said that…that why we do this.  Ease of consumption is not a prerequisite for book choices in Liquorature.  I should also mention…there was definitely a fair bit to discuss as well.

Randoms:  “From Christmas jingles to scatological”…”it’s good to be met”…”nibblies”…”the winners won”…”black people are rewarded in this life”.

 

- Curt

 Posted by at 11:37 am
Sep 082013
 

Liquorature Gathering #045 – “Mercy Among The Children” (David Adams Richards)mercy-among-the-children

Date:  October, 2012

Host:  Pat

Whisky:  Alberta Premium Dark Horse, Lot 40, Pike Creek, Alberta Premium 30 y.o.

Rum:  El Dorado 12 y.o.

 

This one quite took us by surprise.  Pat sort of has a gift for doing that with his selections, I think.  The utter poignancy and depth of emotion purveyed in this bit of Canadiana was not only unexpected, but nearly unparalleled in our club selections to date.  But forgive me…I get ahead of myself.

This was another intimate gathering, with the gang collected around the ‘big coffee table in a small room’ at Pat’s place.  These tight quarters make for a much more involved conversation, I think, and a tendency to have far fewer side conversations.  I always eagerly look forward to this more eye-to-eye setting for our meetings.

The novel Pat picked for this month was Giller Prize winner, Mercy Among The Children, by David Adams Richards.   It’s a tale to rend even the most hardened of hearts in twain.  The setting for the story is the Miramichi Valley of New Brunswick, and so, playing to themes as we’re wont to do in Liquorature, Pat elected to go whole hog.  We arrived to the smells of Canada’s signature dish, Poutine, being prepared…several bottles of tasty Canadian whisky on display…and our host himself decked out in a (ugh) Habs jersey.  Good stuff already (aside from the Canadiens apparel, that is).

Interestingly enough, aside from the two ADL releases on offer this eve (Dark Horse, and AP30), the choices Pat made were a couple I had only sampled days earlier at a whisky tasting here in Calgary with our friend and author, Davin de Kergommeaux.  It was a treat to revisit them so soon afterwards.

The book itself…hmmm…not sure where to start, so, no to be obtuse or anything, but I don’t think I will get into too many details here.  Suffice it to say that this story of one family’s struggles in the aftermath of a life-changing event are an exercise in challenging empathy and revisiting all of the sociological principles I studied back in university.  It reads very much reads like a literary snapshot of a poor historic rural Eastern Canadian town, and…I confess…had me in tears more than once.  Touching…painful…elegant…articulate.  This is one of only a couple of Liquorature selections to date that have so put me through the wringer.

A great selection, very much from untrod ground, and further…a great evening.

Randoms:  Poutine…”for such an idiot, you’ve come a long way”…”make like a tree…and bark”

 

- Curt

 Posted by at 8:14 am
Aug 262013
 

american godsLiquorature Gathering #044 – “American Gods” (Neil Gaiman)

Date:  September, 2012

Host:  Clint

Whisky:  Great King Street, Glenfiddich 15, GlenDronach 15

Rum:  Mount Gay XO Eclipse

 

Sadly, a night when I was fighting a wicked cold.  A couple of us (Pat, Scott and I) had just returned from a jaunt over to the promised land (Scotland) touring distilleries and drowning our livers in that greatest of libations, Scotch single malt whisky.  On my second-to-last day there I managed to contract a case of what was either the Plague or gonoherpasyphylaids.  Man…this f*cking cold knocked me on my *ss!  Contrary to initial thoughts (that all of that alcohol still running rampant in my veins would kill off any possible infection), this heavy drinking binge must have beaten the hell out of my immune system.  ‘Laid low’ doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Clint likely could have thrown out Johnny Walker Red and any of the McClellands line-up and I wouldn’t have known the difference.  Ok, ok…let’s not get silly.  Compromised tastebuds?  Yes.  But let’s be clear…it would take a full-on lobotomy to make me think either of the afore-mentioned constituted real whisky.  Settle down, I jest.  Ish.

As it was, Clint was playing to his themes.  He’d been writing a wee series for my other site, All Things Whisky, and his latest subject matter had been Speysiders at or around 15 years, if memory serves.  Ergo…we at Liquorature got to revisit a couple of old friends (the ‘Fiddich…s’ok, but the ‘Dronach…now that’s a special one).  On top of these two, Ostby broke out a bottle of Compass Box Great King Street, John Glaser’s latest concoction.  Great blend, this.  I know some of you more snobby buggers are reading that last sentence and thinking ‘oxymoron’.  Well…shaddap.  ;)  And for the Rum Sage…a bottle of Mount Gay XO Eclipse.

Good sipping, this, and well paired with an interesting pressed steak sandwich (hard to describe…easy to eat).  And with that, we were rolling.

‘American Gods’, by Neil Gaiman, is a book that had me hooked from the get-go.  It was dark, it was eerie, it was twisted and it bordered on brilliant.  I was picking up a bit of Clive Barker here…a bit of Salman Rushdie there…maybe a little Stephen King and a bit of…hmmmm…not sure…maybe some comic book flare throughout?  Not quite right, but neither is this an easy one to pinpoint.

The sad fact of the matter is, though, that we as a crew were simply not all that ‘on’ this night.  While the companionship was, as always, top-notch, the discussion itself was lacklustre.  Not our best.  We sorta seemed to be struggling for topics and lacked the enthusiasm a work like this deserves.  And trust me…it does deserve your attention.  There are some hella cool rollercoaster twists of absolute excellence as this book unfolds.  Summed up in two words:  Read it.

One note though, for those about to undertake this journey…if I had a do-over…I’da paired this bad muthaf*kka with some Highland Park.  Now THAT would have been epic.

Wish I’d felt better personally (and that the three of us weren’t still recovering from a liver-beating in Scotland), but still a memorable night.

Randoms:  Jesus says “f*cking dough head” … “gee…that guy got it rough, huh?” … “Irfit j*zz”

 

- Curt