Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Bang, bang and another summer's nearly dead. So it is and always was and here we've found ourselves again, sunburned and sweaty, looking gloomily across the water as the fishes jump and the mountains purr in the last sunset swaths of pinks and purples. Well, that's all for summer folks. Or just about anyways; once Seafair's over it's down, down, down from there.

But, BUT, before it's all done and gone -- (yes, +1 sweltering month to go) -- (even if it was published in 2008) here's to my favorite book of the season : Josheph O'Neill's Netherland.

So much has been said about it by so many great critics -- Obama read it, Michiko Kakutani reveled in its 'stunning' brilliance, The New York Times Book Review called it one of the 10 Best Books of 2008, it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and it won this year's PEN/Faulkner for fiction -- but, of course, there's always room for a little more praise. Sweetly written with echoes of not just Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby but also Richard Ford's Sportswriter-trinity, O'Neill's beating rumination upon America, the American dream, and the Post-9/11, post-colonial mindscape is as penetrating a novel as the english-speaking world as seen. READ IT!


Saturday, July 25, 2009


So, to continue the success of BEEROK PT. 1 -- our experiment in alco-literate hybridism -- we bring its aptly titled second installment: BEEROK Pt. 2.

Here goes (and sorry if the novels are a bit dated):

He'brew Beers R.I.P.A. (Coney Island, NY) and Phillip Roth's The Great American Novel -- An I.P.A wildly different than those you're used to, He'brew Beer reimagines the classic IPA with this malty and highly-alcoholic rye-infused interpretation. Like the book, it hides tremendous percentage of alcohol well (i.e. gravitas?) , under blankets of schmaltzy flavor. For its part, Roth's uproarious reexamination baseball's roots does the same, providing a great lesson in history and histrionics beneath its own schmaltzy blankets of slapstick fun. A great book for a great beer and a fun beer for a fun book.

21 Amendment Brewery's Hell or High Watermelon (San Francisco, CA) and Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler -- This delightfully experimental beer (with yes, natural watermelon flavors) is as challenging to categorize as Italian Calvino's novel is -- and trust us, that's really saying something. Part watermelon juice? Part thriller? First and second person narrations? Yeasty and wheaty? Both are sure to arouse questions of the writer's and the brewer's inspiration, asking: why do we do make these things (beers and narratives) by certain recipes? And what good is deviation, then? A bizarre if not beautiful pairing; good for the adventurous.

Snoqualmie Falls Brewing Co.'s Pre-Prohibition Pilsner (Snoqualmie, WA) and Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men -- As good a pilsner as one can have -- crisp yet smooth, complex yet drinkable, hoppy yet floral -- Snoqualmie's Pre-Prohibition is a long lost American classic. A pilsner as pilsner is supposed to be. A beer for all the great beers we've lost. And so, I'd say, is Penn Warren's 1947 Pulitzer Prize Winner, which is as classic an American novel about American Politics and the American Narrative as was ever written. This pair makes a great match for those hot and breezy nights which recall the great deserts of the world. (And fyi, the audiobook version of All the King's Men with Michael Emerson as narrator is wonderufl).

More soon, including The Best of Canada...etc... AND AS ALWAYS, please, get back to us with your own great Beer-to-book matches, inquire about unmentioned ones, or let us know how they go!

(And if you don't like beer, see Liberty Bay Books' Wine Night which matches wines to books....)


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Beach Reads

Oprah's O Magazine has got one, USA Today has got one, The New York Post has got one, and now, Brave New Blog has got one: Best Beach Reads list. But to put a little spin on the tried and true formula, here's a list of books that, while easy to read, aren't just the same old fluff and flowers.

1. Fup by Jim Dodge -- Spanning just 59 pages, this hilarious romp features a 99 year old gambler and fierce opponent of physical movement, a giant boy named Tiny, and of course Fup, a 20 lb. mallard. Hilarious as it is magical, Fup is a great book for old and young alike. Reminiscent of Tom Robbins, Vonnegut, and Brautigan.

2. Pop. 1280 by Jim Thompson -- Part noir, part western, and a whole lot of fun, Jim Thompson's cult classic is as exciting (The NY Times once called him the best suspense writer going 'bar none') as it is goofy. Or, if pressed for time, see the excellent film adaptation of the novel (set in Western Africa), Coupe de Torchon.

3. Lush Life by Richard Price -- Ace-crime writer Richard Price's holisitic take on New York, its gentrification, and the people who make it a city is a well-crafted crime novel, a bright rumination upon change, and a linguistic lesson in modern slang. Awesome, easy, and best of all, cool. From the guy who wrote a numer of episodes for HBO's The Wire.

4. Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates by Tom Robbins -- Magical, psychonautic, and chalk full of Robbins' famous brand of philosophical musings, Fierce Invalids recalls the tale of Switters, a CIA operative, fellow C.R.A.F.T. (Can't Remember A Fucking Thing) Club member, and pharmaceutical enthusiast. Probably the best put together of Robbins novels, and easily the wildest. Humor, religious intrigue, political intrigue, sexual intrigue, etc., it's got it all. Great to read and even better as an audiobook.

5. Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje -- Sometimes sad but always beautiful, Ondaatje's (of English Patient fame) latest is a rangy, romantic tale which roams continents, generations, and narrators in a startlingly nomadic fashion. A beautiful work about families, love, and the trick of remembering the past.

AND PS, don't be shy! Get back to us with your own favorite beach reads!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Summer Poetry

If April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of dead land, then it makes sense if July is the kindest (August being much too decadent). All it breeds is a thicker lawn, some new cousins, and the brain-frazzling flicks that are The Summer Blockbuster.

Whether or not it's for browsing in the psychedelic swelter of the afternoon heat or for an escape from those cinema-tastic bonanzas, July is a great time to explore and get back to poetry. Schoolyard nemesis or undergraduate crush, there's nothing like it to get the neurons whizzing and the synapses flashing when you feel the ease of summer pressing your brain into various malignant states.

So, briefly, here are some recommendations for books of poetry both old and new meant reconnect you with the poems (and poets) you've loved and forgotten, as well as with some you've never heard of.

The Shadow of Sirius by W.S. Merwin -- This year's Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry is Merwin's latest and greatest book of poems yet. Elegiac in tone, honest in phrasing, and provocatively personal in its assessments of times gone past, Merwin homers Homer in his (now truly) inimitable style.

The Great Fires by Jack Gilbert -- Not his newest but certainly his best, this book of poems cemented Gilbert's status as one of the American greats. Vivid like pain and memorable as a 30 year vacation (as Gilbert took in the Greek Isles), each of the poems in this book shines with capacious lament and a fleeting if not gloomy joy. Brilliant, sad, and emotively pure (if the word can make sense in this context), good for wallowing in the indistinct greys of morning cloud cover.

Selected Poems: 1934-1952 by Dylan Thomas -- Best known for not going gentle into the good night, this timeless book of poems is (in my opinion) a great one for the burgeoning teenage poet searching for foot- and hand-holds in the ever-widening world of acadmia and/or/especially, poetry. Seemingly serious, Thomas remains to be one of the greatly underappreciated comedians of his age, capable of such brilliant lines as, "oh, let me shipwreck between your thighs."

Other poets we (Blogger Boy with the extra-special insight of Z. Blast) love: Katie Ford, Denise Levertov, Michael Ondaatje, Stevie Smith, Galway Kinnell, W.H. Auden, etc. AND REMEMBER, if inclined, buy these books at Liberty Bay Books, Libertybaybooks.com, or your local independent bookseller.

Upcoming: BEEROK PT. 2, Beach Reads, The Best of Canada, and The New Classics.

To get you pumped on poetry, here's a clip of Bukowski, drunk (as if there was any other state for a man to be reading poetry in), talking and reading about poetry and motion.