Jun 162015
 

A few years back I recall reading a line in Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ in which he said “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”

Truer words were never spoken, and this little tidbit is arguably the crux of the book.  Please don’t assume that is all you need from the book (trust me…’On Writing’ is essential reading), but it is an incredibly sweeping statement that speaks to the age old belief in ‘practice makes perfect’.  If you’re not constantly honing your craft – studying and doing – you will never master it (as much as any of us ever master anything).

A lot of my own free time lately is spent working on whisky reviews for my other site (www.allthingswhisky.com) or beating the hell out of my keyboard working on a mixed bag of original fiction pieces.  I keep promising that one or two will end up posted here, but I haven’t yet got ’round to it.  Soon.  I promise.

But no matter how much I write, that is only half of the equation.  The other half  is, as Mr. King mentions, reading.  The pace at which we work our way through these Liquorature selections is never enough to fill the hole in me.  I generally plow through a few books in the interim periods between finishing off club picks.  Thought maybe I’d share a few that have kept me turning pages in the two weeks since our last meeting.

 

Patterson_Along-Came-a-Spider‘Along Came A Spider’ (James Patterson) – Let me start by saying I outright detest this man’s MO.  I think it’s appalling that he leeches disgusting amounts of profit off the blood, sweat and tears of not-yet-established writers.  If you’re unsure as to what I mean, let me give you the gist:  Mr. Patterson comes up with the concept for his books, drafts up an outline and does a little plotting before finally finishing up with the odd bit of editing and such after someone else writes them for him.  Yep.  The book itself is entirely composed by another author whose name ends up in small print on the book cover (and not published on the spine at all, from what I have seen) under the big, bold JAMES PATTERSON.  Hmmm…can you guess who reaps the financial rewards and accolades as one of the world’s bestselling author?  Gimme a break.  As for Patterson’s own literary talents, well…marginal, in my humble opinion.  This book is one of his better ones that I’ve checked out, and is actually written by Patterson himself.  Stepping off the soapbox now.

‘Along Came A Spider’ is an interesting enough story that unravels well and in a few unexpected ways.  It could have gone in several different – and possibly more interesting – directions (and I think I personally would have done something a little darker with it myself), but ultimately it’s a page turner and a quick disposable l’il yarn for beach or plane fare.

 

‘The Loch’ (Steve Alten) – Alten is an interesting cat with a soft spot for the big beasties.  His ‘Meg’ series gives us a look at the the lochlong extinct megalodon, arguably one of nature’s all time scariest creations.  I read the first in that series a long time back, but have subsequently picked up the others and shelved them for future reading.  I’ll dig into them sooner than later, I imagine.  Meg was a fun read on a subject that interests me greatly and Alten gave it a plausible enough delivery overall.  I find him to be a little bit like Crichton in some ways, but he does have his own voice.

‘The Loch’ takes us exactly where you’d suspect.  Into the highlands of Scotland to tackle the mystery of just what the fuck – if anything – lives in the depths of this murky and foreboding little puddle.  Alten’s answer is unique enough and the story definitely takes a few left turns en route to the finale.  I shan’t spill the beans here, but I can see this tale having rather broad appeal.  Great film fodder in the summer blockbuster vein too.

The dialogue, written in ‘Scottish’, if you will, was a bit of a warp to wrap the mind around at first, but it quickly became fun and very unique to this tale.  Can’t wait to dig into ‘Vostok’, Alten’s crossover sequel.

 

cover_ysabel‘Ysabel’ (Guy Gavriel Kay) – Liquorature mate, and currently exiled rum junkie, Lance introduced me (and us) to Kay by way of ‘The Fionavar Tapestry’.  Not being a huge fantasy guy myself I was surprised by how much I ended up enjoying it, and how resonant some of the scenes were.  Not long after, fortune favoured us by revealing that Mr. Kay is a malt fan too.  We’ve shared a few conversations and more than a few drams (by way of creative shipping practices), and I can unequivocally state that I’m a fan of Kay himself even moreso than Kay the author.  At once an everyman and renaissance man.  Adept at taking conversation from sport to politics, from art to music, from current events to historical insight.  Enough of the bromance you say?  So be it.  Check out his Twitter feed for endlessly entertaining and insightful 140 character nuggets.

‘Ysabel’ is a wonderful tale that paints a beautiful and evocative sense of Provence from the age of the Celts to the workings of our modern day.  It brings an element of fantasy (though played closer in style to Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’ than to the trappings of high fantasy), but grounds it with a contemporary relatability.  Some stunningly engaging characters and a poignant little twist to a couple of the characters’ relationships right near the end left me hungry for more.  Another book I hated putting down.

 

‘Finders Keepers’ (Stephen King) – Part two in a planned trilogy related to King’s Hodges character (et al) first met infinders keepers ‘Mr. Mercedes’.  I found this one maybe a little more engaging than that one.  Perhaps it was the literary spin to this story, relating back to a Salinger-esque character, or perhaps it was just the delicious pacing.  Either way it was a fun read, typical of King with incredibly believable characters and dialogue, and hard to put down.  The ending was chilling, and definitely one his best closing acts in recent memory (excluding the stunning and gutting last few pages of ‘Revival’, which knocked me flat on my ass).  Believe me when I say we are set up for a humdinger of a finale in ‘End of Watch’.  Don’t wanna spoil it, but from these first two ‘detective’ sort of stories it looks like we’ll be diving right back into vintage King.

Oh, yeah…and later this year we’ll be privy to another collection of King’s short stories, ‘The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams’.  Those collections are always worth the price of admission.

 

troop‘The Troop’ (Nick Cutter, aka Craig Davidson) – An absolutely repulsive piece of work.  And I mean that as a compliment.  It’s blatantly obvious that Cutter wanted to grab us by the balls and squeeze to the point of either rupture or blackout.  This book has the ability to take you to the very knife-edge of your endurance for squeamish scenes and let’s-change-the-subject passages.  I will often read over the lunch hour, but I literally couldn’t do it with this book.  I’ve read a few others’ perspectives on what sort of mash-up this tale is, but here’s my take: part ‘Lord of the Flies’, part ‘The Ruins’, a little bit of ‘Prey’, a healthy dollop of Stephen King and all of it basted in the gore and nastiness of Jay Bonansinga’s work on ‘The Walking Dead’ novels with Robert Kirkman.  Not the best book I’ve read, by a country mile, but effective.

 

And there you have it.  Still over two weeks until we meet to discuss Daniel Suarez’s ‘Daemon’.  Pretty sure we can squeeze one or two more in before that one.

 

– Curt

Jun 032015
 

Liquorature #069 – “Of Mice And Men” (John Steinbeck)Of Mice

Date:  March 6th, 2015

Host:  Chris

Whisky:  Aberlour a’bunadh (Batch 49), Glenfarclas 1993 (WP Exclusive), Glen Garioch 1999 (WP Exclusive), Compass Box Oak Cross

 

Vikings and bottles and knives, oh my!  (Don’t ask)

Steinbeck.  Finally.  You had to know this was coming.  It was only a matter of when.  I’ve said before, I’m blown away it took us years to reach this touchstone of modern lit.  Not only Steinbeck, but this particular tale.  I debated it a few times as my own selection, but kept assuming someone else would eventually do it.  More than six years on someone finally did.

Not much you can say about a book like this.  Its timeless morality play is simply heartwrenching, even for those who already know the outcome of the tale.  It’s one of the few novels that can still bring me to the edge of tears (ok…maybe just over the edge).  The characters are just downhome, relatable types even if our shared life experiences don’t necessarily give us much of a common ground with these nomadic bindlestiffs.  Steinbeck’s rather sparse approach to writing is somehow still unbelievably evocative.  He paints a scene with delicious richness and immediacy.  The simple fact of the matter is that everyone in the club (and a couple extras in attendance for this meet) found this to be almost beyond criticism, much like the way we butted up against the cold beauty of Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’.  Well picked, Chris.

Some discussion came back ’round to the Gary Sinise cinematic interpretation as well.  One of the all time great book to film adaptations I’ve ever seen, and certainly the best casting I could possibly imagine.  If you’ve not seen this one, do so.  Malkovitch will give you shivers, Siemaszko will make you wish it was you that put him down for the count and Sinise will show you how a real actor can walk in with understated adeptness and simply ‘become’ that character.  Amazing.  The guys were blown away by a couple scenes we checked out in brief.

This gathering turned out to be an unforgettable occasion, and one of the best club nights in recent memory.  One for the ages and sure to go down in Liquorature lore.  A couple of guests sat in that brought new angles to the discussion and many a laugh.  Chris’s kid brother, Jesse – now a full fledged member – is a student of the literary arts (literally), so has a great grasp of the analytical side in approaching books.  Danny – a mate of many of us – brought laughs by the score (and just a bit of naughtiness to boot).  Didn’t hurt matters that our kind and generous host poured out three big and bold cask strength monsters as well as a solid 46%er.  Sobriety was in short supply by the end of the whole affair.

The end ended in a rather…ummmm…dubious manner, but that is for the ins to know and the outs to speculate over.  Sorry.  What happens in book club…well…
Randoms:  Danny and Jesse sitting in … “what kind of ranch is this” … “I already know the back of your neck ain’t ticklish” … “everybody in the barn would be up for a little necrophilia” … “the purple heart” …things going waaaaay off the rails

Until next…

– Curt

Mar 232015
 

Liquorature #068 – “Deliverance” (James Dickey)deliverance

Date:  January 23rd, 2015

Host:  Jay

Whisky:  Roughstock Montana Whiskey Black Label Single Malt, Cadenhead Linkwood-Glenlivet 26 y.o., Signatory Laphroaig 17 y.o. Cask #8519

 

Even before we got together for this gathering members were referring to it as a BYOL event.  “Bring Your Own Log”.  If you’ve seen the film adaptation you’re probably experiencing an involuntary sphincter clenching imagining Ned Beatty’s character getting bent over a fallen tree and…well…

I was hoping that if I didn’t bring my log I could avoid joining in on the ‘festivities’, if you will, and am happy to report I left with my dignity (and other things) completely intact.  I did bow out a little earlier than some though, so won’t speak for the others.  (Anyone hear them banjos?)

In all honesty, before Jay announced this as his selection I’m not even sure more than one or two of the crew knew that this was a book.  The film has become such a touchstone of American culture that the original source material seems almost an afterthought.  While the book does show up in the Modern Library Top 100 novels list, it’s certainly no mainstay of contemporary Literature.  Even finding a copy was difficult for some.

If you’re anything like me, cynicism steps forth here and asks how much merit there can be a book like this that seems so much a periphery chunk of writing in comparison to the film adaptation.  Is the novel merely the skeleton of a good tale, poorly written, but easily co-opted for other medium?  Is the film so good that it monolithically overshadows the merits of bound page?  These were questions I had percolating as I walked into this one, before even turning a page.

I’m happy to report that any concerns over lack of literary merit were completely unfounded.  Put simply: this is a great book.  Solidly written, evocative and engaging, rich in tone and timbre and with a momentum that continues to ramp up as the story unfolds.  It starts off a little slowly – in a very late ’60s or early ’70s ‘disillusioned with the worldhood of the world’ kinda vibe – before rolling out into the lush green wilds of the deep South.  Hillbilly style.

Jay hunted for the closest possible approximation of moonshine he could find, and while he did come up with a jug of high test juice from the US (actually a classy bottle; no mason jar here), it feel flat in one respect.  Moonshine is supposed to be rotgut poison nasty.  This stuff was incredibly well made whiskey from Montana’s Roughstock Distillery.  The Black Label Single Malt Cask Strength comes highly recommended from this crew.  Top that off with a beautifully pungent 17 year old indie Laphroaig and a sweet soft 26 year old Linkwood (also indie) and we had a night of drinks to remember.  Good selections, Jay.

This was another pick that received pretty much universal acclaim from the Liquorature guys.  A very phallicentric tale, to be sure, but with some broader appeal too.

Randoms:  “a civilized cornholing” … “that’s what Bobby said” … the Bobby suit.

Until next…

 

– Curt

Mar 232015
 

Liquorature #067 – “A Christmas Carol” (Charles Dickens)a-christmas-carol

Date:  December 19th, 2014

Host:  Collective (at Curt’s place)

Whiskies:  Lots

 

There’s a reason the adjective ‘Dickensian’ has entered the English lexicon.  The man had a style and resonance all his own.  He was an unparalleled master in both atmospheric composition and cheeky turn of phrase.  His characters were unforgettable.  His stories: rich beyond measure.  Taking six years of Liquorature meetings to finally read Dickens seems almost unforgivable in hindsight.

We mixed things up a little bit with this meeting.  In the early years of Liquorature – in the days when many of our members’ spouses were running a parallel ladies’ book club – we used the December gathering as an opportunity to bring our better halves together and have a shared night of animated book chat.  Each sex bringing their best book from the year and trying to outdo the other side.  A couple years (and a spoonful of drama) later we let that concept fall by the wayside.  We went a calendar or two with no special December events, but when it was time to reinvigorate this monster I decided to being a little tradition and holiday spirit to a beautiful time of year.  Each December we will table a holiday-themed book for discussion.  This won’t be a typical club night in some ways, but in others it will fall perfectly in line.

The suggestion was made by a couple of members early on to not have a host, per se, but instead to allow everyone to let their personalities shine a little by contributing something to the event.  I opened the doors to my place on a snowy evening less than a week before Christmas day and each member of the Collective arrived with food and drink in hand.  Something like a potluck / heels party.  We ate…we drank (probably a little too much)…and we made another truly memorable night for the book crew.  It definitely felt like a Christmas party, which was exactly the intent.

And as to the reception to the book?  What really need be said here?  This is one of the most iconic stories of all time.  Even those that had never read it knew it inside and out from past stage adaptations, the Muppet version, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, Scrooged, etc.  The story is beautiful and timeless.  The message still resonates today, and though we’re well past this Victorian age, Dickens’s visuals loom large and haunting.  And the guys let it be known that they all felt the same.  An overwhelming appreciation for this one.

Next year’s Christmas tale may again take us into the macabre.  I’ve got a l’il something in mind already.  A tale that is somewhat at the root of the formation of Liquorature.  More to come.

Random Thoughts:  ‘you may leave if you roll an 18′ … serving up some Johnnie Red … Pat bailing

Until next…

 

– Curt

Jan 262015
 

Liquorature #066 – “The Old Man And The Sea” (Ernest Hemingway)the-old-man-and-the-sea

Date:  November 21st, 2014

Host:  Steve

Whisky:  Glenmorangie Companta, Black Bull 12, Balvenie 14 Caribbean Cask

 

Steve’s turn to take us on a bit of a journey.  This time way out beyond where the land still exerts pull.  We found ourselves rocked on the waves with old Santiago as he puts his will up against that of the majestic marlin.  The isolation and calm test of man against nature (and himself) set a tone here that hints at the sort of deep Americana we’re bound to encounter in an upcoming tale or two for the Liquorature few.

This was Steve’s first run at hosting, meaning his first go at all the stress that goes into good book, drink and food selection.  That’s not to belittle the importance of being prepared to steer a solid conversation on topical subject matter related to the book at play.  As it turns out, this one was a knockout evening.  Steve had had a long, long while to prepare for this one.  He initially announced this selection before the Liquorature Dark Ages.  When all collapsed, it seemed as though the club would go to its grave without tackling one of the literary greats of our age.  Steve was more disappointed than you can imagine.  When we pulled the Lazarus act, it was a no brainer that this would be his selection.  Et voila!  Marlin was back on the menu.

I’ve made mention before of not knowing how we’d made it so far into our journey without tackling Hemingway.  I know a few of us are Hemingway junkies, while several others have mentioned mulling over selecting one of his works.  Until now, however, this was nothing more than lip service.

You always wonder with a name as iconic as Hemingway’s whether or not people will be overly critical going into it and come out the other side going “hmmmm…really?  Is that it?”  I’m happy to say that Hemingway did not disappoint in the least.  I’m pretty certain there was universal acclaim for this one.  The simple tale and Hemingway’s signature spartan prose made this one a tale of pure and austere classic beauty for all.  Symbolic and parabolic at once.  The criticisms – which I no longer recall – were so slight as to be negligible.  A couple of the fellas even mentioned recommending it on to their significant others.  Impressive, for a very phallocentric author, often accused of misogyny.  Sometimes a story is simply transcendent.

“The Old Man And The Sea” is a must read.  Honestly.  There is more packed into these 100 or so pages than in most epics you’re liable to plow through.  Hemingway really was a master.

And playing to thematics – as we’re wont to do with this quirky crew – Steve kicked things off with a Black Bull blended whisky (remember: Hemingway was a bullfighting junkie).  From there we hit a Balvenie Caribbean Cask (to bring a little tropical influence to a topical tale), then on into the new Glenmorangie Companta.  This latter I can no longer recall the rationale for selection, but it was a fun, tasty one to sweeten things up.  Big fruits and infinite gooey dessert-ness.  We snacked the night away and Hemingway’d the bottles as best we could.  Discussion was lively…service was paid.

Great night all in all.

– Curt

Jan 022015
 

“The Abominable” (Dan Simmons)the-abominable-dan-simmons-663x1024

Not.  What.  You’d.  Think.

Let’s start there.  I am only on page 125 of 663 and, though I don’t really know where we’re going from here, I can unequivocally state that I am both beyond impressed and still not being chased by a yeti.  All joking aside, I have no idea how the title will play into this one, but there is no hint so far of anything from the realms of cryptozoology.  But, man…what a tale already.  Austerely written and hearkening back to a time and place nearly 100 years behind us, you need to go into this one expecting something other than an all out footrace from the get go.  There is a slow build and development, but if you’re anything like me you’ll find it well worth the effort.

Before I go on, let me share the teaser from the publisher:  “June 1924. On the brutal North East Ridge of Mount Everest, famous adventurers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine vanish into the snow-whipped night.

Daredevil explorer Richard Deacon devises a plan to follow in the men’s footsteps, accompanied only by two friends. Off piste and with no support team, the three men strike for Everest’s peak and the most vicious climate on earth.

As the winds rise and the temperature and oxygen levels drop, Deacon and his companions hear howls in the distance. Some dark creature is tracking them up the mountain, sending them scrabbling blindly into Everest’s dangerous heights to escape it.

Soon they will discover what happened to Mallory’s crew – but can they escape the same hideous fate?

A gripping thriller by a master of the genre, The Abominable blends historical fact with spine-tingling drama – this is one of the most chilling and unforgettable novels you will ever read.

Now…I am an absolute Everest junkie.  Actually, anything to do with high altitude mountaineering.  Combine that with a tight plotline and a bedrock rooted in actual history (albeit speculatively so), and I’m hooked.  Utterly hooked.

Can’t wait to see where this one takes me, but I’m galloping through pages at a righteous pace.  More to come.

 

– Curt

Jan 022015
 

Liquorature #065 – “The Stars My Destination”the stars my destination

 

Date:  October 24th, 2014

Host: Scott

Whisky: Mortlach Rare Old, Balblair 1989, Nikka Taketsuru 21 y.o.

 

Back to back forays into the realms of deep space. Sci-fi is starting to hold a little more clout with a few of us old codgers in the club who ignorantly initially mistook it for prepubescent nerd porn and summarily dismissed most of the genre out of hand. Thankfully a few of the literati in Liquorature have seen fit to force their agenda down our throats with their selections and catapult us into the stars (and the future).

Scott announced his selection just as I did, neither of aware that the other was going deep space on the crew.  So be it.  Two months in a row of escaping the third stone from the sun.  God knows with the life most of us lead we can use the ultimate escapism.  You may recall last month’s ‘Star Maker’ was about as much fun as an anesthetic-free vasectomy.  It delivered in terms of message but left us lurching to the finish line due to its incredibly dry pacing and method of delivery.  I think a few of us were somewhat reticent to pick up another book with ‘star’ in the title so soon after.

Happy to say ‘The Stars My Destination’ started off fast and immediately picked up speed.  This pseudo anarchistic dystopian romp pretty much had all of us at ‘hello’.  I think the breakneck pace and instantly imaginable characters had something to do with that, but let’s not sell short the fact that the story itself was immensely engaging and, like much good science fiction, the speculative nature and forward thinking led us all to pause for a moment and try to take ourselves back to 1957, the time of writing.

As is often the case with these sorts of tales, imaginative discussion is often lubed with a few drams of something strong and neat.  Scott picked out a few new ones for us (new to club members, that is).  Highlight for this guy had to be the Nikka Taketsuru 21, with a nose to die for.  The Balblair wasn’t far behind.  We were on relatively good behaviour, but have happily happened Ginger work through these bottles in the days since this gathering.

Great choices for this month, Buddha; drinks and book. Look forward to seeing where you take us next time.

…Having said all of that, I can’t but help feel relieved to place my feet back on terra firma (or at least adrift upon a fishing boat) with next month’s selection of “The Old Man And The Sea”.

The randoms: Blind tasting … “jaunt savant” … “need a nipple for that?” … “jaunt with Jiz” …

Until next…

 

– Curt

Nov 142014
 

“Freak Show” – Horror Writers Of America (Edited by F. Paul Wilson)5666

 

I have a serious inclination towards the darker side of things when it comes to my appreciation of the arts.  Not exclusively limiting myself to the nocturnal, of course, but a morbid curiousity and a bent to the less mainstream nevertheless.  Perhaps it’s simply because it is an avenue of existence that most people prefer to avoid; crossing the street to walk in sunshine, rather than skulking in the shadows of alleyways and gutters.  Who knows?  And let’s not dwell too long or deeply.  “If you stare long enough into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you”…or something like that.

For those with similar aesthetic leanings, I thought I’d share a bit of ‘heads up’ on a long forgotten gem of a book.  “Freak Show” is an interesting story.  It is a story of many stories, in fact.  Under the guidance, watchful eye and editorial nudgings of author F. Paul Wilson, a ragtag band of authors were brought together under the collective pseudonym of the ‘Horror Writers Of America’.  Each was allotted a chapter in which to breathe life into a character – their own particular ‘freak’ – and contribute their unique brand of evil to the overall narrative.  Wilson, himself, bookends the tale and interjects little chapterlings along the way to ensure continuity and that there is an actual story being played out, and not simply a series of disturbing vignettes.  The end result is…well…let’s just say it will resonate.  This is not a book to be easily relegated to the dusty recesses of the mind and forgotten.

This is not to suggest a flawless piece of literature, however.  Quite the contrary, in fact.  The central plot ‘device’ (a delicious turn of phrase, as you’ll see if you do indeed manage to track down and read this book) is more than a little thin, and the occasional change-up in first- to third-person narrative really throws the overall ‘voice’ off.  And, at the end of the day, some of these authors are simply better writers than others.

Occasionally, though, magic happens in these pages and we end up with something that is sooooo much more than simply the sum of its parts.  From the near-gothic sequence involving a Joseph Merrick-like character shuffling his way through an ‘almost dreamworld’ to the threatening and murky deep southern swamps…from the surreal darkness of a vampire-esque seer to the most depraved sexual collectings imaginable…from the blues-drenched edge of a campfire jam between a child and a child killer to the horrendous secrets of a snakelike schizophrenic…this is a nightmare tale of divine proportion.  And a scavenger hunt to end all scavenger hunts.

This novel/short story collection (think Bradbury’s “The Illustrated Man” with a slightly more substantial plotline) is a macabre little tale with just the right blend of esoteric strangeness, B grade sexuality, atmospheric density and a broad range of taboo horror to add a little fear no matter what your literary palate and personal phobias.  So…turn the light down low, pour a big glass of Ardbeg and settle in for a long trip with ‘The Peabody-Ozymandias Traveling Circus & Oddity Emporium’ around an America from days gone by.  One where mud shows and carnival tents were still a relevant piece of Americana.  And where the Freak Show still beckoned those with darker inclinations.

This is a tough book to find, and even tougher to get your hands on affordably and in decent condition.  If you can track one down, though, I highly recommend doing so for those who like their horror more in the vein of the old school ’80s and early ’90s vibe.  Simply unforgettable.

 

– Curt

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