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

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