Monday, November 30, 2009

Don't forget to shop local today (Cyber Monday) and the days to follow! Invest in your community, invest in your friends, and keep your money local this holiday season!

For gift ideas, check our website, .

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Winter Beerok!

With Fall gone and Summer and Spring still imaginary seasons more readily identified as ideas than actual things, I guess it's now time to fess up and just admit that it's Winter. And what better way than a celebration -- a BEEROK feast of books and beer to warm your bones and soothe your heart!? I don't know!

(And to recap, Beerok is our -- Liberty Bay Books' -- alcoliterate experiment that matches good books to good beers in the hope that once imbibed by your being, book and beverage coalesce and become one superbly insightful organism that's doubly -- nay, triply better than each is alone. And if you need to be persuaded further, books are the best and beer is the best. This is your excuse to have them both, and tastefully so!)

To get into the season which requires so much warmth, breadth, and nourishment, here's a couple of hearty titles to get that blood properly warmed:

Bayern Dopplebock Lager (Missoula, MT) and Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber -- From the darkest dreamiest depths of all that's germanic! I really enjoyed this book and even moreso this beer, though I'm not ashamed to say that both scare me for one reason or another. Carter's book is an anthology of re-imagined fairy tales which roams from the Beauty and the Beast to Snow White to Little Red Riding Hood and on, and as far as I can tell, it's the perfect book for browsing fireside on those blustery nights. Inventive, intriguing and oh so shocking (don't we know all these stories already?), The Bloody Chamber is a great read and an even better gift for your hard-to-buy-for friends. Bayern's Doppelbock, on the other hand, is sheer bliss. A Bock done right on American soil, it's hearty yet smooth with delicious notes of grape, pumpernickel, caramel, and chocolate, spread across a complex batch of malts; it's also good cold, but even better as it warms. Call it the Beast to Carter's Beauty, Bayern's seasonal Doppelbock is the beer you want in your hand when the going gets weird. Oh and it'll knock you on your ass.

Allagash's Fluxus 2009 (Portland, Maine) and Graham Swift's Waterland -- The Observer (U.K.) says that "Waterland appropriates the Fens as Moby Dick did whaling or Wuthering Heights the moors" and calls it "a beautiful, serious, and intelligent novel, admirably ambitious and original." Well, funny thing, I said the same about Allagash's appropriation, domination, and originality in dealing with the Saison (a type of Belgian beer) -- this year's Fluxus -- too, they just must've missed the memo I guess. Anyways, Swift's novel is a twisting, turning, wholly reminiscent thing, and both really beautiful and really beautifully put together. Like the Fluxus in so many respects -- beautiful, curious, reminiscent of so much... oh ... -- it seems to reinvent itself anew at every turn, which I think is a treat and makes for exciting stuff. I should also mention that it's a book of polarities and paradoxes (water/land ... etc.), all of which are left in ... yep ... flux.

Enjoy them if you have the chance!



Monday, November 16, 2009

Coetzee, Coetzee, Coetzee

You know his name and maybe you even picked up one of his novels once. His essays -- you've seen them here and there -- are smart, if also stolid, and always leave something wanting right at that thick part of the tongue. That's what you think. Ah, and he's won the Booker, you remember, he's a South African who's won the Booker. Twice was it? A Nobel too, can that really be right? ... You ask your friends: 'Coetzee?' you chime. 'Oh. Good. Yes,' they say, 'great books, good writer.' You inquire further: 'What have you read, I'm looking into reading something of his. Dusklands? Disgrace? The one with the lectures and a journey to the afterlife -- what is it -- Elvis, no, Ellen, no, Elizabeth Costello?' They are not so sure. 'Oh yes, it was that one, with the -- you know -- what you said...' they reply, miffed.

Coetzee would love such a conversation. I'm sure of it.

And that's what his new one, Summertime (Viking, Dec 24, 2009), is all about.

More Closely: The novel is about an author named John Coetzee. Or rather, it's about a young, British academic searching for the truth about the writing and life of this author, John Coetzee. Told through salvaged pages of Coetzee's diary as well as 5 interviews with people who knew Coetzee well during the time when 'he was finding his feet, literarily speaking,' Summertime offers readers an author's attempted interpretation of his own legacy, however puzzling and contradictory the idea of such a thing may be. Laced with fact and fiction, like his past novel, Diary of a Bad Year, it is a strange book which deserves to sit at many places on one's bookshelf.

In that light, Coetzee's book is a good one. It is inventive, startling, and in its best moments, piqued by improbable moments of gravitas and sentimentality which disclose this stoic writer's inner fragility; much moreso than Diary, I think, also. So I liked it. Not all the way through, but I liked it and find myself returning to it (and its evasive novel-shape) much more often than I'd like to admit.

In the end, I think I want to say that Coetzee weaves a tight basket. Threading fiction and memoir, and the novelistic with the dry and academic, he has done a good thing by once more giving us another suberbly crafted book, even when it's sure to tie us up in knots.

So tell your friends: 'I read his new one, Summertime. It was interesting and now I think I know why he's got so many medals. And you know, even though it didn't strike me so much when I read it, I can't stop thinking about it.'


Saturday, November 7, 2009


I just, just finished up James Frey's Bright Shiny Morning, which I picked up awhile back after reading Irvine Welsh's near-ridiculously laudative review. 'The literary comeback of the decade,' he called it. (Well geez, I said to myself, if Welsh says so...)

Sure enough, he was right.

Looking at Morning apart from the ever-famous, ever-loathed Million Little Pieces, you learn a few things about this loved/hated guy, James Frey. 1. He can write. His zingy, McCarthyesque, lack of punctuation is, at best, a revelation and, at worst, a little annoying; either way, it adds to the character of his novels positively. 2. He knows people. Maybe he lied, maybe his publishers screwed him, maybe Oprah made him look like a bum -- no matter -- he's got a startlingly clear eye for reading (and drawing) people. 3. He's ambitious as all hell. Bright Shiny Morning is as big a book as an author has written in years -- (and if you haven't heard, it's about everybody's favorite city to hate, Los Angeles) . Brawny, sweeping, holistic -- you name it -- it's really got it all. The gangs. The homeless. Venice. The babes at Venice. Moviestar dreams. Moviestar duds. Hidden lives. Rich lives. Megastars. Meth. Megamegastars. Machinations big and small, everything, truly everything. And it's fun. And it's sad. And it's great.

To sum it all up, ll I can say is: buy it, read it, and love it, even if you still think of Frey as being another poor excuse for Oprah's toilet paper. Welsh was right. Bright Shiny Morning really is the biggest literary comeback of the decade, (you just have to read it and let it be!).

(And PS: Try Beeroking this one with Natural Ice. Both are cold and mean and metallic but true, true, oh so true....)