Liquorature #064 – “Star Maker” (Olaf Stapledon)
Date: September 26th, 2014
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.