Feb 012016
 

Liquorature Gathering #057 – “Fahrenheit 451” (Ray Bradbury)fahrenheit-451

Date:  October, 2013

Host:  Bauer

Whisky:  Highland Park Thor, Springbank Cask 450, Balvenie Single Barrel 12 y.o. Bourbon

 

Ah, Ray Bradbury.  The master.  Gotta credit Lance here for my own initiation into Bradbury’s worlds.  A few years back he introduced me to a collection of the man’s short stories by way of ‘The Illustrated Man’.  Of course I knew of Bradbury’s work, but in my naïve rejection of the genre I simply passed him over time and again.  When finally pressed to take book hand I was utterly blown away.  And frustrated with myself, I should add, for all the time wasted.

Bradbury’s shorter offerings are grounded (ironic word choice, I guess, considering a large proportion of his stories have deep space settings) more in speculative fiction with a simplistic – yet dark- bent, as opposed to any truly technical hard science fiction leanings.  In fact, the closest contemporary I can think of to Bradbury’s modus operandi is that of Stephen King’s own short stories.  The ‘get in, slit the throat, get out’ kind of brevity that makes them resonant, affecting and lingering.

So what happens when you take that concept a little further and expand to a couple hundred pages?  Quite frankly, it works perfectly.  Or at least it does with ‘Fahrenheit 451’.  This is still just a simple story, in terms of execution and imagination being more important than fact and research, but the message is utterly transcendent.  Additionally, it speaks volumes (pun intended) to an audience of bibliophiles, such as a book club.

Bauer chose this one for us.  That means malt selections were also at his discretion of course.  He hooked up releases from two of Scotland’s great producers, in Highland Park and Springbank.  The latter was an indie and slightly out of character for the distillery (but still a great malt!), while the former was a knockout.  We beat the hell out this 16 year old cask strength Norse god.  And the evening’s third dram was a single cask from Balvenie.  Balvenie rarely excites me, but this was a gorgeous drink.  Truly.  Clean and beautiful.  Oh yeah…and did you notice the Springbank was Cask 450, while the book was ‘Fahrenheit 451’?  Cheeky.

As always, Bauer offered up anything else he had open as well.  Only fitting we should be quite ‘wet’ (read: somewhat slightly affected by beverage) by the end of a night discussing fire.

I’m still hoping to tackle a collection of Bradbury’s short works in the coming years.

 

– 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

Aug 232013
 

Liquorature Gathering #022 – “The Hound Of The Baskervilles” (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

Date:  November, 2010

Host:  Scott

Whisky:  Johnnie Walker Gold Label, Edradour Straight From The Cask Chateauneuf Du Pape, Isle of Arran Bourbon Cask Single Cask

Rum:  Cadenheads Green Label Laphroaig Cask Matured

 

This month was a sort of renaissance for the club.  We initiated two new members, tackled a classic (complete with iconic literary character), visited a few exceptional drams and had a great conversation that sort of put us back on the rails in terms of insight, intellect and enjoyment.  We’ve had a run of books recently that to some were homework and to others lacked enough meat to provide topics of discussion.  Such is the nature of this endeavor though.

Pat, Jay and I put in a somewhat tardy arrival (apologies again Scott).  We had been to a guitar clinic at Long & McQuade, watching the inimitable Gordie Johnson dragging the blues kicking and screaming from a Gibson acoustic.  Damn…I love this guy.  If you haven’t checked out Big Sugar, friends…you’re missing out.  Helluva way to kick off a great night.  We boogied back down South in time to kick things off a tad later than usual.

Introductions were in order between Jay and Chris.  These two chaps had yet to meet, but here’s hoping they become as tight as the rest of us.  Lance spoke a few words in honor…we raised our glasses…and commenced things as a new entity.  The initiation itself?  Can’t tell you that here.  The masons would be proud though.  ;)

Scott’s pick for November took a few of us by surprise.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles”.  Somewhat surprising to see how few of us had ever actually read the exploits of the iconic Sherlock Holmes and his esteemed colleague, Watson.  A few of us took a little initiative and read more of the Holmes canon in order to flesh out the big picture.

Among the topics covered, we spoke of style, narrative structure, the gothic horror element, our preconceptions, the depth of character, deduction and much more.  This was much more like the conversations of old.  When it came time to weigh in it seems most impressions were favorable.  Some took exception to the flow and arc of the tale (ie. early climax with drawn out denouement), but in the end still enjoyed the tale.  A favorite element for all was atmosphere and setting.

Well picked, Scott.  There are some truly legendary authors out there yet to be tackled by the Liquorature gang (Asimov, Howard, King, Dickens, Melville, Nabokov, Vonnegut, Bradbury, Orwell, on and on), and Doyle was certainly one that needed to be read.  I think we’re all glad to have read this one.

Should note that the Ginger Buddha had done the place up in style too.  Maps of the moor, facsimile letters and documents and great visuals were posted and strewn around the room to add a little ambience.  Nifty.

When it came to the bevvies…

Scott paid a visit to Andrew Ferguson at the Kensington Wine Market for a little guidance in his selection.  Not that guidance is necessarily needed, but hey…Andrew knows his stuff…has some unique malts…and often has open bottles to sample before making your selection.  Together they came up with a solid Isle of Arran Bourbon Cask (single cask) and a gorgeous rich Edradour SFTC Chateauneuf du Pape (also single cask).  Before hitting these beefier cask strength numbers, we sampled the Johnnie Walker Gold Label.  Nice.  Quite nice indeed.  The Edradour was the runaway though.

And rum?  Well…this was an abortion.  I speak only for myself here (and perhaps one or two unnamed others), but was this distilled Barbie juice we were drinking?  Holy plastic flavors.  In a sojourn down to the afore-mentioned KWM I had seen a Cadenheads bottling that had been matured in Laphroaig casks.  I mentioned this to Scott, and unbeknownst to the rest he did indeed pick this one.  Peated rum?  WTF?!  While the rum appreciators said, “bah…this is not rum…it’s more like a whisky”, the whisky drinkers were swishing out their mouths in distaste and declaring it nothing like our beloved malts.  In hindsight, I’d be curious to know if any actually liked it.  Something different anyway.

As is becoming the standard, the lads are merciless with their needling.  The Star Trek and wrestling references not only continue unabated, but a few have taken it upon themselves to draw obscure connections and parallels with our book selection.  Sigh.  And here I thought I had surrounded myself with the elite.  This delusion was further shattered by the avalanche of Mandingo, John Holmes and general porn comments.  This little foray into the gutter was the lowest we’ve sunk yet…and was bloody hilarious.  If we needed any more assurance as to why this is a men’s club…this was it.

All in all, a truly memorable night.  It was great to have Chris back in the fold (you may remember he had sat in on our ‘”Wizard’s First Rule” gathering) and equally great to have Jay for the first time.  I think this group is going to work out just fine.  Though we’re a little bigger now, all concerns about too many seemed to unfounded as we never really had any “shhhhhhhhh” moments.  Well done, all.  This was a great night to have been the new guys’ first.

A few random thoughts:

Rod Stewart has ‘Bob’ hair…the Glencairn dilemma…Hamlet in the original Klingon…”Honey, I’m coming home”…countless Star Trek, wrestling and porn references…Mandingo…hostel head (Ostby)…plastic in my rum…the pink box…

mmmmmmmmIMG_5109IMG_5119IMG_5120
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A little more ... I can get the whole thing in....IMG_5142IMG_5145IMG_5150
 
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– Curt