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

Aug 262013
 

Liquorature Gathering #043 – “Ways Of Sunlight” (Samuel Selvon)ways of sunlight

Date:  August, 2012

Host:  Lance

Whisky:  Crown Royal Black

Rum:  Havana Club, a couple of aged Rum Nation releases and a schwackload more

 

Ok…don’t tell anyone.  I sipped rum this night.  And only rum.  And I actually sort of almost kinda maybe possibly didn’t mind one of ’em.  Repeat that and I can’t be responsible for what happens.  Seriously.  You’ll tarnish my reputation.

This was a rather frustrating eve in which only four of the gang of eight made it out to participate.  Life gets in the way, I get it, but a rather poor showing can be quite heartbreaking, especially when hosting.  Nevertheless, we could have cried into our beers (errr…rum), or we could have turned it into a night to remember.  Obviously, we went with the latter.  Much like the case of the infamous ‘Blood Meridian’ night, this wee crew brought it all to the table and had a heck of a night full of Caribbean dialect, tooth-rottingly sweet libations, and holy-fires-o’-hell cuisine.  In short…our host took things to the authentic nth degree.

Lance, very much in Lance fashion, put together a feisty and fiery little feast for us.  Frivolous alliteration aside, these forays into full-blown fiery ring delight are always a source of anticipation leading up to the big event.  Once we’d all gathered, we dug in ’round the kitchen table for a helluva good meal before retiring to the great outdoors (aka the back deck) for the session itself.

Lance took us on a whirlwind tour of cane juice, putting our tastebuds through the paces, and actually managed to find one that I quite liked.  One I would have actually maybe considered buying, to be honest.  Think it was the Rum Nation Jamaica 25 year old.  Apparently it only takes rum about 25 years or so in the barrel to reach a point where I find it quaffable.  Hey…whatever works.  So long’s we get there in the end, right?

This month we didn’t have a tale to speak of.  We had about a dozen and a half.  Lance’s pick, ‘Ways Of Sunlight’, by Samuel Selvon (at one time a UofC writer-in-residence, interestingly enough), was a neat little collection of tales that took us into a completely new cultural vantage.  Very cool stuff.  While not exactly intellectually groundbreaking or anything, this quirky depiction of Caribbean life was broken into two sections, the first, entitled ‘Trinidad’, provided a peek into days gone by in this poor Southern nation.  The second section, ‘London’, provided a neat counterpoint in transposing character types (and possibly some of the same characters?) from part one into the urban sprawl of London, England.

Quite an enjoyable read, really.  Think Hemingway in the tropics and you’ll be close.

Good pick, Lance.  Thanks for taking us on another journey.  Insightful.  I mean that on more levels than one.

Randoms:  Curt liked a rum (RN 25 Jamaica) … and drank no whisky … wingman duties … what’s your house number? … “oh baby…you gonna have such good mangoes” … Lance brings the spice … four man crew

 

– Curt

 

Aug 252013
 

Liquorature Gathering #042 – “A Confederacy Of Dunces” (John Kennedy Toole)Dunces

Date:  July, 2012

Host:  Bauer

Whisky:  BenRomach Peat Smoke, Glen Elgin 16 y.o. Cask Strength, Caol Ila Distiller’s Edition, Glenglassaugh ‘The Spirit Drink That Dare Not Speak It’s Name’

Rum:  Gosling’s Black Seal

 

Oh boy.  Another one of those ultimately polarizing tales.  The guys either hated it or outright detested it.  No, I kid.  Sort of.

A couple of the crew (Clint and Chris, in particular) have a bit of a softspot for the more ridiculous stylings of this type of absurdist humor (hearken back to ‘Catch 22’, if you will), and as could have been foreseen, quite enjoyed this odd little romp through the opium fields.  Those of us with a more serious bent (read: better taste) found this barely palatable.  About as appealing as street vendor dogs when one is craving a nice filet, might be an apropos analogy.

As we pulled up to the digs for the evenings festivities, we were greeted by the great hotdog slinger himself, Bauer.  More Ignatious than John Paul Ziller, this guy.  Banner flying, literally, and hotdogs a’steaming (boiling? grilling?…can’t quite recall), we were led into the den of the absurd.

With a somewhat smaller crew than usual, we were able to crowd around a few seats in the cooler basement, and oh, darn…unfortunately had extra portions of barley juice to consume.  I know there was a rum on offer this eve, but for the life of me I can’t recall why.  Sage Surujbally was one of the absentees for this ‘Confederacy’ meet, so the rum may have taken a little knock or two, but not much more than that.  Proper respec’ to da whisky, as it should be.  (Sorry, Lance.  😉  )

So, the book.  Wow.  What a trial in suffering.  I kinda think I’d opt for a coin toss between crucifixion and a re-read of the sour unpleasant life of Ignatius J. Reilly.  Truly an insufferable c*** if ever there was one.  I won’t expound on the virtues of the author’s capturing of dialect or time and place.  It becomes irrelevant in the face of such an insurmountable obstacle as tolerating the protagonist (can he actually be considered a protagonist?).  Instead, suffice it to say that this is one of the top three most-want-to-punch-in-the-face characters ever written, and for that alone the novel was an exercise in enduring revulsion.  Tough read.  (In case you’re curious…the other two in the top three are Holden Caulfield and Doctor Leet).

Even with an abbreviated crew…great night.  Clint and Chris in fine form.  Lotsa laughs.

Cheers, Bauer.  For the soiree, if not the book choice.  😉

The randoms:  The Doors … “OG God” … “I wanna party on your p*ssy” … some Clutch … small crew … a few good laughs … acoustics … Ani DiFranco.

 

– Curt

 

Aug 252013
 

Liquorature Gathering #041 – “Cell” (Stephen King)Cell

Date:  June, 2012

Host:  Curt

Whisky:  Macallan Cask Strength, Laphroaig 18 y.o., ADR Bowmore 15 y.o., Sheep Dip 1990 Old Hebridean, Octomore Orpheus, SMWS 33.114 ‘Sweet Versus Savoury’, Auchentoshan Valinch 2011

Rum:  Ron de Jeremy

 

Aww, man.  Theme nights.  So much win and so much fail.  The best laid plans of mice and men, and all that…

So…after a helluva night for ‘The Wicker Man’, I was hoping to ratchet it up again here for this one.  What subject could possibly allow more thematic fun than zombies?  Nothing!  And trust me…there was play a’plenty.  And therein lies the problem.  Too many distractions.

Two little bits of contest fun were set up to get the night rolling.  First up…a ‘Cell’ quiz.  Come on, lads…do you actually pay attention when you read these books or just gloss over and pray for the end?  The way it went down:  all the guys settled in with pen and paper and had to answer 20 questions related to the book.  Jay was running a bit late and showed up about halfway through quiz time.  He picked up his ‘homework’…scribbled for a few seconds…and got more right than any of the others.  WTF?!  Winner number 1.

Contest two…Ahhh…the fun stuff.  How do you take down a zombie?  Why, a head shot of course!  The walls were liberally plastered in decaying zombie heads (one from Zombi, one from NotLD, one from TWD, a wrestling zombie and a Spock zombie).  Each of the guys had to take a turn with dart guns (pistol and rifle) taking out the brain.  Tense, tense sh*t, I tells ya.  In the end, though…Chris took top honors as marksman.  I’ll be calling him when the inevitable zombie apocalypse gets rolling.

Now…the winners were brought out back to find two graves laid out under the deck, and told to pick one each.  Beneath each headstone was a bloody sheet-wrapped ‘corpse’ containing something cool.  The details…hmm…for club members only.

Maltmonster joined us again this eve as a guest, in what is becoming sort of an honorary Liquorature membership for nights I host.  Always fun…always one to contribute to the inebriation and to the evening’s humor…and a guy who freaking loves the thematic theatrics.  Couldn’t ask for a better contributor.

For edibles I tossed some carcass on the grill.  Couldn’t have a zombie night without gnawing the meat off the bone, could we now?

Whiskies on offer this eve?  Well…there were a lot of ‘em.  See the notes above for the full outlay.  Variety is the spice of life.

And the rum?  Well…depending on your take, we either took it up a notch this eve or sunk to rock bottom.  Ron de Jeremy.  That’s right.  A rum named for the king o’ swing, The Hedgehog, himself!

Randoms:  Barry sitting in … Lester or the atheist … Shooting contest … quiz … “The premise was pretty cute” – Barry … “Of course you did, you f*cking idiot, you’re in a Stephen King book!” – Clint … Pick your apocalypse … Buckteeth … “Actually have a part…in nine parts”.

 

– Curt

Aug 252013
 

Liquorature #040 – “Lord Of The Rings” (J.R.R. Tolkien)LOTR

Date:  May, 2012

Host:  Jay

Whisky:  Amrut Fusion, Amrut Intermediate Sherry, Amrut Two Continents, Amrut Portonova

Rum:  Old Port Deluxe

 

Thank f*ck I’ve finally knocked this big b*tch off my list.  After years of getting riled from a few of my more literate amigos for not having delved into Tolkien’s masterwork I finally did the deed.  Let’s be clear…I did not come to this one willingly.  It was foisted on us by Jay.  Just the motivation required to finally do it up.  I should note here that this one stretched all rules of acceptability for Liquorature selections.  Books are to be single volume novels that stand alone.  So how does this three-parter qualify?  Well…it was argued that the intent was to have this published as a single volume and that it was actually the publishers who split it into pieces.

Cynicism and skepticism abounded, but in the end we took a majority rules vote and it was allowed to stand as Jay’s choice.

So, the concern I had always had about this one (yes…I knew the story ahead of time from having seen the films) was that it was just another fantasy tale (irrespective as to whether or not is was the granddaddy of ‘em all) and simply did not warrant being chosen due to lack of discussable subject matter.  When this happens, we tend to end up with some natter about the writing style, some favorite scenes discussions and a debate on the merits of the genre.

Indeed, we did discuss the genre, compared it to other fantasy we’ve covered to date, compared to the films, etc.  Much as foreseen though, there weren’t many ‘true’ discussion points.  Maybe this one suffered the same fate as did ‘Atlas Shrugged’.  We came in expecting a mind-meltingly deep philosophical discourse and ended up with anything but.  Oh well.  A lesson to be learned about expectations, I suppose.

For the devourables this eve…Jay threw out a blast from the past for this guy.  Pizzas ordered from Gondola.  I didn’t even know this chain still existed.  I remember going to Gondola when I was a wee lad in Manitoba.  Gotta say…bloody delish!  Thin crust…crispy as hell…tastier than tasty.

Malts on offer this eve?  Also from the far off lands (not quite Mordor, but not far off either).  India, this time.  A revisit to a couple of favorites, and a couple that were new to some members of the club.  All from the Amrut distillery in Bangalore.  Fusion, Portonova, Intermediate Sherry and Two Continents.  Even the rum, Old Port Deluxe, was an Amrut product.  Nice little flight of bevies from one of the most exciting and dynamic distilleries in the world.  And yes…these drams were appreciated by all.

So…the libations certainly helped grease the wheels of verbosity.  Lance’s juggling of the dwarfs’ names form the Hobbit and the nearly canonical reference to the lesser Jackson, Tito, were cause for great laughter.  A line-up of bottles boasting ABV’s of ~50-62% does not fall without a fight, but this little brotherhood of over-the-hill warriors, chubby dwarfs, effeminate elves and other lesser heroes did our best.  In the end…we went down swinging.

The Randoms:  “It’s gonna happen if you drink that” … Tito Tolkien … Counting dwarfs … “The Tony Robbins of Middle Earth” … “Gargamel” … “You lived in Fionavar?!” … The Mordor gay sign … debate over value of the appendices … sadly, no Robert or Bauer.

 

 

 

 

– Curt

Aug 252013
 

Liquorature Gathering #039 – “1Q84” (Haruki Murakami)1Q84

Date:  April, 2012

Host:  Chris

Whisky:  Amrut Portonova, Tomintoul 12 Oloroso, Bowmore Tempest Batch 3

Rum:  Mekong

 

Oh, man, am I behind in these things.  Worse still…I’m about to start knocking them off out of order.  As inspiration strikes…not as desperation demands.  Apologies to those faithful readers (all two of you) who have been anxiously awaiting word on what the Literate Gang has been up to.

This evening, under the guiding hand of our host, Chris, turned into quite a ‘do’.  For starters, Chris’s mate Lorenzo joined us this eve as one of our Occasional Travelers.  Always fun to have the injection of a new perspective and the associated pressure to perform.  Come on…of course we wanna show off our little enterprise as something rather more than the pedestrian tripe that most of the populace find themselves surrounded by.  Check the egos?  Bah!

Days earlier Chris got hold of me looking for a bit of help picking a few malts to offer up.  Our little man-date took us to Willow Park Wines & Spirits, where we spent the better part of half an hour shuffling up and down the looooooong wall of whisky and weighing this against that.  Credit all to Chris, I was only there providing some background on some of the malts he was less familiar with.  In the end he went with a Tomintoul 12 Oloroso, a Bowmore Tempest (for those dirty peaters in our midst) and the absolutely stunning Amrut Portonova.  This last was a showstopper.  Everyone in attendance was bowled over by this one.  An absolutely mind-melting bucket of rich and luscious fruit notes and exotic spices.  Needless to say, even at ~60% abv, this was the first to go.  The others…well…not long behind.

And for those who needed still a little more sweetness than that offered up by the Portonova and Tom12?  A rum by the handle of Mekong.  I’ll let Lance speak to this one, as to be fair…I steered clear.  (Why reach for rum with an Amrut this great at the ready?)

Though I don’t remember being too uncomfortable, the heat in Chris’s place must have been stifling.  The rate of evaporation on the whiskies was simply astounding.  In fact, I think we were desert dry by the evening’s end.  Always the magnanimous host, Chris pulled out a couple from his personal stores.  A 21 year old Glenfarclas ended up being a brilliant nightcap.

And as to the book?

A whole helluva pile of fun really.  Though maybe not in the conventional sense.  Damn!  What a cheeky little tale this was.  I simply refuse to try to dumb it down for you here in a few words or less.  Personally, I’ll go on a limb here and highly recommend this one.  I can promise that even if you don’t like it, per se, you’ll certainly not have read anything even remotely similar to this one.  1Q84 was our first go at a Japanese author, though hopefully not our last.  It certainly took us into an immersive new world that seemed completely at odds with our own, and the surreal aspect kept a few of us tottering between adoration and utter what-the-f*ck?

Interestingly enough, Lorenzo is a huge Murakami fan.  If Chris was at all fence-sitting as to whether or not to invite his mate to join us, this must have been the icing on the cake.  Lorenzo’s insight and input this eve were invaluable and absolutely welcome.  And what does one do when the night wears on into the small hours?  Why, get a little shut eye, of course.  Lorenzo’s Houdini act and subsequent catnap-atop-the-washing machine will go down in the annals as one of Liquorature’s all time funniest happenings.

All in all…one of my favorite gatherings to date.

The randoms:

“I clearly thought she wanted me” … “I’d like to shake your head” … intel-lush-uals … “I want to sleep with her actually” … napping on the washer and dryer … “and suddenly…a dog explodes!” … “yep!  I’m here”…Lorenzo sitting in.

 

 

 

– Curt

Aug 252013
 

Liquorature Gathering #038 – “The Lost Symbol” (Dan Brown)

Date:  March, 2012

Host:  Scott

Whisky:  Bruichladdich Black Art 2.2, Jura Superstition, Whyte & Mackay 21

Rum:  ?

 

Ahhh…Dan Brown.  The ultimate fodder for the pseudo-intellects and armchair conspiracy theorists (those that are too lazy to do their own research, but want to spout about how the Masons or Templars are secretly running the world when they sit around with their bridge partners).  It’s easy to scoff at the lit-lite Eco-for-Dummies approach of Dan Brown, but maybe that’s just why it should be tackled in a club of this nature.  Hopefully discerning minds can both find some sort of take-away and appreciate a nice taut suspenseful bit of thriller fluff for what it is.  A monopolization of a few hours and a reason to gather with mates and discuss.

Is it just me or did it really feel like DB was reaching on this one.  Angels & Demons had a dark esoteric edge to it that was fresh and invigorating.  The Da Vinci Code, while not necessarily as original as initially believed, was a helluva whirlwind ride in soundbite chapters and breathless page-turning.  This one felt a little…forced.

Still some cool scenes, which I’ll nae cover here for fear of spoiler accusations, but the overall plot felt a little silly, contrived and overly weighty in contrast to the relatively fragile storyline.  Meh…maybe that’s just me.  Either way…a book like this is generally a rather fast and enjoyable read, and Dan Brown’s subject matter leaves much wiggle room in terms of discussion.  One should be able to run with countless topics that fall out from his novels.

In playing to the thematic, Scott tracked down a couple of nifties for this one.  None more surprising (for this guy anyway) than a 21 year old blend from Whyte and Mackay.  This one he nabbed for the rather arcane looking gold medallion emblazoned on the face of the bottle.  Fortunately, the juice inside this squat little bit of glass was rather delightful.  Much more in line with a single malt than a blend.  Apres ca…Bruichladdich Black Arts 2.2 21 y.o.  A dark bit of packaging covered in symbology and cloaked in mystery.  Bruichladdich’s master distiller, Jim McEwan, closely guards the secrets as to how this one was put together.  Methinks a marriage of a couple different wine casks.  Nifty, but not a showstopper irrespective of what some others may tout.  And finally…Isle of Jura Superstition.  For obvious reasons.

A lot of laughs, a lot of scoffs, a lot of good times.  Exactly as it should be.  Must concede though, the book didn’t stir up nearly the amount of sh*t that something like the Da Vinci Code would have if tackled around it’s release date.  Oh well.  Fortunately Brown stepped it up again with Inferno.

Randoms:

“One can’t simply walk into Mordor” … silence at the dome … “c’mon, Hammer…we need another ‘U Can’t Touch This!” … evoluting … “I think that’s called ‘small town homosexual’” … doowoop Clint … “This cat’s gotta burn his rolodex”

 

– Curt

 

Aug 242013
 

Liquorature Gathering #037 – “Cleyshot Cliffs” (David John Watson)

Date:  February, 2012

Host:  Robert

Whisky:  Ardbeg Corryvreckan, Bruichladdich Manzanilla 12 y.o. WP Exclusive & ?

Rum:  ?

 

For the second time in two years we were afforded the opportunity to tackle a work by David John Watson, none other than the brother of Liquorature member, Robert.  You may recall our previous ‘go’ at David’s ‘Geonesis’, a book rich in originality and Crichton-esque scientific plausibility, but a little thin on technical writing chops.  While noted as not perfect, the Liquorature crew was so suitably impressed as to recommend the novel on further (indeed all our spouses read it) and to anxiously embrace the opportunity to read David’s follow-up novel.  No doubt about it, the guy has a voice and some damn cool ideas.

So….here’s the deal.  David is a gent in the UK who has wide-ranging interests (music, writing, golf, etc).  From what I understand, when he puts his mind to something…he follows through.  Tackling a second book shows not only a passion, but a love of the craft.  This time ’round David offered us a ‘sneak peek’ on the condition we provided constructive criticism back to him for use in the editing stages of the process.  We agreed and were presently sent on PDFs of David’s new novel, ‘Cleyshot Cliffs’.

While I went in with pen to hand, I quickly got lost in the tale and had to go back through to properly together my thoughts regarding edits and such.  Here we have a novel that unfolds in a manner quite similar to Scott Smith’s The Ruins.  The emotional unraveling taking place in an isolated locale may be the only similarity, however, as Watson injects some interesting science and, well…let’s just say you should read this one.  Keep checking Spinney Books for an official release.  To date, I still only have a printoff in duotangs, but anxiously look forward to the end product and a good re-read with a dram in hand.

If you’re curious as to style, think along the lines of a dash of Crichton, a splash of King, a pinch of Scott Smith and maybe even some of the isolation captured by Dafoe, Golding and others in their beach/shipwreck/island tales.

Not everything in the book works flawlessly, but it does more often than not.  I could certainly see this as a decent seller at any airport bookshop.

Anyway…this is not a book review.  That has already been done on the downlow (with all criticisms sent on to the author himself).  This is merely a sharing of impressions.  Put simply…I was suitably impressed enough to re-read.  I like the way this tale unfolds.  While maybe not as original as ‘Geonesis’ was, in terms of pure innovative ideas, this one is much more smoothly executed.  A quick and enjoyable read with a solid ending that pleased immensely.

Most of the evening’s conversation revolved around the actual technical writing aspects of the book, but we definitely found enough subject matter to have some poignant and topical conversations too.  Sex, youth, scares, family, etc.

Well done, David.  Look forward to a proper print copy of this one.  And more importantly…sincerely look forward to the next one you write.

Alright.  The event itself…

As always when Robert hosts, we found ourselves at the acreage in Millarville, bout 20 minutes outside the city of Calgary.  This is a great little piece of land, nicely hemmed in by trees, with a climbing driveway and a great sprawling back area complete with firepit and all.  These club gatherings always turn out to be over-nighters for at least some of us.  This is partially because it is the responsible thing to do (zero tolerance for drinking and driving), but also because it is a chance to forget about all responsibilities for the night.  A chance to pour that extra drink, eat that extra burger, stay up that extra hour, whatever.  As is usual out here in ‘neverland’, this was another great evening, under the watchful eye of the moon, doing our best top fight off sobriety.  I like to think we won.

Finally…apologies (and no offense intended to any), but  I can find neither my original notes nor photos from this night.  No idea what the others bevies were that were on offer.  Or even the food, for that matter.

Oh well.  Let it remain a pleasantly faded memory, meant only for those that were there.

 

– Curt

Aug 232013
 

Liquorature Gathering #036 – “The Pillars Of The Earth” (Ken Follett)

Date:  January, 2012

Host:  Pat

Whisky:  BenRiach Horizons 12 y.o., BenRiach Madeira 15 y.o., BenRiach Birnie Moss

Rum: Flor de Cana 5 y.o.

 

This is what it’s all about.  No fuss, no muss.  Just a night of the guys being guys.  Draining bottles, kicking ass and taking names.  Ummmm…right.

This was a simple back-to-basics club night.  The gang all crowded around a coffee table in the middle of the room with a few snacks and some great drinks.  The book was awesome (one of my all time favorites), the drinks great and the mood was one of relaxed candor.  Sometimes it all just aligns and you can see that everyone present is right into it and just glad to be together.

‘Pillars’ is one I had debated picking for some time.  Lance initially recommended this one to me a few years back, and while I was skeptical at first, by page 15 or so I’m not certain the jaws of life could have pulled this one from my grip.  I’ve since passed on copied to others, and seen the same reaction over and over again.  Much like a few other well-known tales, this one was destined to be a club choice at some point.  The only question was who would be the one to pick it.  Enter Pat.

This is the sort of story that has roots leading to countless potential topics of conversation.  I think we jumped all over with this one.  Not in a bad way, but in a sort of ‘holy sh*t…what an achievement’ kinda way.  The epic scope of the story, played out against a historical backdrop, is just the sort of fodder that sets a few of us historical fiction junkies to drooling.  Chris and I in particular, are suckers for this style or genre.  To date, ‘Pillars’, ‘Shogun’ and ‘Atlas’ have been three of the most revered Liquorature selections.  I can’t see this changing anytime soon either.  Hard to depose these grand tales.

Pat tracked down a couple of nifty young malts from one of my favorite distilleries, BenRiach.  The Horizons release is the sister expression to the Solstice Scott brought to the club at one point.  The Birnie Moss…a fiery young peat monster.  The Madeira just smooth and sassy.  As to the rum…while I didn’t partake, I do know there are several fans of this one in our midst.

Like I said…a simple night, built on a great yarn.  No need for theatrics or thematics.  Good call, Pat.

Randoms:  “Low cunning to put a horn up your *ss” … a cross-face chicken wing … “I’m a 70’s guy…1170’s” … forest poon … “I pick Johnny Eightpence” reply: “you can’t go full r*tard” … right in the cunny … “she’s got nice boobs” … “…as a financial planner”

 

– Curt

Aug 232013
 

Liquorature Gathering #035 – “The Gargoyle” (Andrew Davidson)

Date:  December, 2011

Host:  Jay & Leanne (Mixed Club)

Whisky:  n/a

Rum:  n/a

 

Due to some rather…ummmm…extenuating circumstances, a couple of us opted not to attend this one.  These mixed guys/gals club nights* are sort of an optional thing anyway.  This was the last one that went down.  No need to get into further detail, suffice it to say…never again.

As for event details?  No…f*cking…clue.

*The past couple of Decembers, the Liquorature crew has tagged up with our spouses’ book club for a one-off event.  They picked the best book they’d read during the year….we picked the best one we’d read…we swapped books…then met to argue over whose tastes were better.

 

– Curt

 

Aug 232013
 

Liquorature Gathering #034 – “The Godfather” (Mario Puzo)

Date:  November, 2011

Host:  Clint

Whisky:  Caol Ila 12 y.o., Caol Ila Distiller’s Edition, Ila 10 y.o. Unpeated

Rum:  ?

 

About time we got a little gangster on.  A few of us are absolute junkies for the genre, so this choice was bound to come about at some point.  To be honest, however, I assumed it would be Robert who eventually Puzo’d us.  Not so.  I do believe Robert mentioned that he was indeed planning to pick it for us sooner than later.

We arrived to the smells of gloriously rich gourmet pizzas cooking and a counter laid out with a few bottles of Caol Ila, one of my favorite distilleries.  Ummm…ok.  The night was already a win at this point.  For the life of me, though, I can’t recall what the rum was on offer for this one.  When I asked the other lads, they seemed to have the same bit of selective amnesia.  Perhaps we’re all subconsciously blocking out anything to do with the Cane Juice (c’mon, Lance…had to get a dig in, right?).

The pies, as they were pulled from the oven, were scorching hot and utterly delicious.  A roomful of hungry lads, about to dive deep into a few bottles of whisky….hmmm…I wonder why the food didn’t last long.  All joking aside…these were f*cking fantastic pizzas.  Clint never does anything half-assed when it comes to food though, so this should be no surprise to any of us by this point.

Now…forgive my lack of detail here, but the sands have time have not stood still since this eve.  Clint mentioned something along the lines of an ‘Easter Egg’ hidden in the house.  As a few of the more cerebral members of the crew meditated on what this could be, others immediately began circling and searching the place.  It was Scott, moments later, who strode out of the washroom firing a cap gun that had been taped to the rear of the toilet, re-enacting one of the more famous scenes from this Sicilian saga.  Well played, Clint.  And well played, Scott, for having the wherewithal to figure it all out.  Not just a hat rack atop those shoulders, huh?

As to the book itself?  While not a favorite of any of ours at this point (I don’t believe so, anyway), I don’t recall much negativity in regards to anything about this one.  We all loved the story, of course…the writing was decent (if a little mundane, maybe)…the characters, iconic…and it was simply an enjoyable book to pick up.  Pretty much a ‘can’t lose’ sort of book choice.  The discussion on the novel itself was maybe an hour and a half or so, with a few related conversational tentacles taking us out over two hours, I believe.  from there it was simply a night full of good friends, good drinks and good laughs.

All in all, this evening was a home rum.  Well done, Clint.

 

Randoms:  “The Mangina Monologues” … “Punch in the c*nt” … bacon whisky … Some o’ the best pizza pies in Calgary … Clint’s little Easter egg … “Omerta, b*tches!” … “The bad news is…get the f*ck out!” … Tito Corleone … “Going to the mattresses”

 

– Curt

Aug 232013
 

Liquorature Gathering #033 – “Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban”

Date:  October, 2011

Host – Lance

Whisky:  Smokehead

Rum:  Abuelo 12 Anos, Barbancourt 15 y.o., Havana Club Cuban Barrel Proof

 

Welcome back, Bauer.  He of the hokey hat made a triumphant return to Liquorature after a much maligned absence, and the lads in the collective were glad to have the circle come back together.  The G8 becomes the G9 from here on out.  This is the largest iteration the club has ever boasted and I’d be lyin’ if I didn’t say I had reservations.  Not about kid brother (well…not really a brother, but…) coming back, but simply about the number of voices in the room.  All turned out well however.  Just means a little policin’ every now and then if things get too…errr…rowdy.

As e’er, Lance’s meets are rum nights.  Since we stoop to accommodate his sweet tooth on other club nights with a bottle of rum, so he deigns to condescend to the vices of the more snootily-inclined among us who stick to the malts (ahem…your faithful servant, moi).  Hey…fair for the goose is fair for the gander, no?  ‘Sides…we all know rum makes the mind soft and the *** shrink, right?  (Or is that the other way around?)

On offer this eve?  Abuelo 12 Anos, Barbancourt 15 y.o. and Havana Club Cuban Barrel Proof.  A couple of these juices actually had some of the boys singing praises.  A few of us were still not won over to the Cane Side however.  So…we stuck to the Smokehead.  This single malt, for those not in the know, is an Islay whisky which is marketed so as to obscure its pedigree.  Which distillery produces this?  I have ideas, but mum’s the word.  Actually… ‘yum’s the word.  This stuff ain’t bad at all.

Alas…we like to deceive ourselves into thinking this is a book club and not a drinking club, so…on to the tale…

Lance took a flyer on this one.  The gamble was that this novel (book three of seven in the canon) could and would stand alone.  Risky little endeavor really.  I was a wee bit skeptical, but ‘hm’, said I… ‘we’ll see’.  My cynicism proved unfounded; the truth won out and Sage Surujbally was vindicated.

The story…well…it was ok.  Little better than ok, actually, but it’s a tough thing to disassociate this one work from the whole.  J.K. Rowling’s influence and over-arching literary contributions tend to skew one’s perspective on the actual story at hand.  This in itself made for interesting talking points, I should add.  At the end of the day though, this was no more or less than a fun read and a touchstone that should be considered a point of reference for generations to come.  From the gang…quite a warm reception.

Honored guest this eve, Anatoly, was a welcome addition.

 

Randoms: 1st question…’why do I drink rum?’ … “F*ck War and Peace” … “Going on a hike with Sam Gamgie” … “Mandingo of Borg” … LOTR argument” … Bauer’s return … “Tito Hood” … Goodkind … “Comic Book Guy on Slimfast” … “Quick Quote Quill – with alliteration to spare” … Robert’s book choice announcement: ‘Cleyshot Cliffs’ … “Before you say anything…prepare to shut the f*ck up” … Anatoly sitting in.

 

– Curt