Oct 212014
 

Liquorature Selection #066the-old-man-and-the-sea
21-Nov-2014

Five years of doing this and only now getting ’round to covering Hemingway.  Seems unconscionably wrong somehow.  Hemingway was sort of a touchstone in my formative years (along with Steinbeck, Allende, Rand, Kerouac, Vonnnegut, Robbins, etc), so it feels like a bit of a homecoming, in a sense, to be picking this one up again.  Those that are familiar with Hemingway will know that this is one of his shortest novels (a novella really), but one which carries an awful lot of weight. Hemingway was a master of Spartan prose. An author who managed to convey more through what he didn’t say than what ended up on paper. A good mate of mine would immediately draw an analogy to negative space right about now.

Either way…it’s about damn time we came to Hemingway. And in a further nod to the beauty and unavoidable influence of Americana, there looks to be a few of Hemingway’s contemporaries covered in coming days as well. Should be a good few months ahead.

This selection was by one of our newest members.  His first time picking a book for the Collective. Great choice for a first go ’round. 

 

- Curt

 Posted by at 8:58 am
Oct 062014
 

Liquorature #064 – “Star Maker” (Olaf Stapledon)Star Maker

Date:  September 26th, 2014

Host:  Curt

Whisky:  Glenlivet Nadurra (Batch 0712U), Aberlour a’bunadh (Batch 47), Bowmore Laimrig 15 y.o. (Batch 3), Laphroaig Cairdeas 2014, Ardbeg Uigeadail

 

Damn, it feels good to be back in the saddle again. Laying Liquorature to rest was like putting down a much loved dog. Unfortunately, it had to be done. The details of what transpired leading up to both the demise and subsequent Lazarus act of the club are sort of an ‘internal-to-club-members-only’ type of discussion, but suffice it to say that we are better off for it.  From the ashes, the phoenix, and all that.  This new incarnation of the club is a little different in make-up and, already, approach.  I can only say I’m happy and relieved to have things back to what we’d initially aimed for.

Part of the mandate of the new Liquorature is to be open to the idea of guest sit-ins.  These occasional (but hopefully frequent) visitors are still subject to all of the Liquorature protocols, of course (i.e. reading the book, paying in dues, coming prepared to talk, drinking from the skull, etc).  For “Star Maker” I had asked a mate of mine, Dan, from one of my other ventures (The Dram Initiative Whisky Club) to join us.  He was kind enough to oblige.  Thanks, Dan!

While some things have changed, others have been held to tradition.  These nights generally start with a wee monologue by the host, who is responsible for sharing some insight as to the drams on hand, the rationale for book selection and a few thoughts to lead in the conversation.  Without spilling club secrets, that’s exactly what happened on this eve.

And the overall reception to the book? Hmmm…lukewarm, I guess. The ideas within its pages were beyond scale and light years ahead of their time, but the literary merits were something contentious, to say the least. Put simply, this was an utterly exhausting read. The irony is that C.S. Lewis, a contemporary of Stapledon, at one point referred to him as a ‘corking good writer’. Having said that, if you’ve ever read Lewis’s “Mere Christianity” (and recognized it for the absolute load of monkey shit that it is), you’ll realize that that isn’t much of a compliment after all. There were a few early comparisons made by members to Edward Bellamy’s “Looking Backward” too, but those parallels were more in relation to the dry nature of the writing style and not to the content itself. I should also take a moment to note that “Looking Backward” was at least as much monkey shit as “Mere Christianity”.

“Star Maker” is a book lacking in any sort of true character voice or development.  It is paper-thin in terms of actual ‘plot’.  And it is utterly utilitarian, I’d argue, when it comes to analysis of prose and poetics. Somehow though, for all of these apparent ‘failings’, it still ‘works’. There was a slow build leading to a decent climax wherein the narrator does indeed encounter the titular ‘star maker’.  This scene, and many others, were quite well-received, but it seemded to be the creativity of alien worlds and hitoric parralels that incited the most discussion.  In the end, several of us came away with a fairly positive spin we could associate with this one.

A book as metaphysically massive and all encompassing as ‘Star Maker’ deserves a range of whiskies just as big, no? A series of cask strength monoliths towered over the event and served as social lubricant. We revisited some old favorites, albeit in more contemporary iterations, and test drove a rather sexy Laphroaig Cairdeas. ‘Cairdeas’ is Gaelic for ‘friendship’, so what better audience and occasion to open such a bottle than with the Liquorature brethren? And finally, in a loose tie to the thematic elements of the novel, it just made sense to finish the ‘tasting’ side of things with a dram of the teeth shatteringly explosive Ardbeg Supernova. We walked through these malts in the order listed in the header above, but after that, as with all Liquorature gatherings, it was just sort of free-for-all run on the open bottles (and whatever else was around).

In other chat…sigh…there were far too many Roddenbury references and mentions of Star Trek blech.  Those that know me, know that I detest Star Trek like nothing else.  I’ve given the guys a two month pass however, seeing as how we’re firmy entrenched in sci-fi Trekkie country with our first two selections since returning from hiatus. After this grace period ends, however, punishment by way of forced consumption of Johnnie Walker Red will be levied on any members who make reference to Star Trek, professional wrestling or Mandingo’s…ummm…gift. Said bottle of JW Red will travel with me from meeting to meeting starting in November.

Sincere thanks to all members in attendance for making this another one to remember, and again to Dan for coming out.  I look forward to many more years of making memories with all.

Until next…

 

- Curt

 Posted by at 11:29 am
Oct 062014
 

Liquorature Selection #065the stars my destination
24-Oct-2014

Sticking with the sci-fi / speculative fiction type stuff, Scott’s choice follows hard on the heels of last month’s “Star Maker”.  That one had us reeling from the weightiness of both its subject matter and heavy-handed textbook-styled narrative.  This one – though I’m only 20 or so pages in – is a breeze of a read in comparison.  Ease though, is not necessarily what we’re looking for here.  Ultimately, it’s about the story and what we can get out of it.

This book hints at themes that will likely have us hearkening back to the club’s early days of William Gibson’s “Neuromancer” (for those few who were around at that time anyway), another book of book ideas and enormous cultural influence.

I wasn’t the biggest SF guy before we got this Liquorature gig going, but I’ve come around a bit, and must concede there are few genres that provide as much discussion fodder. 

Looking forward to meeting for this one.

 Posted by at 8:52 am
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