Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Check out this great New York Times article about San Francisco's Litquake and "Lit Crawl." Truly a city that cares deeply for its books and bookstores!
And don't worry! Holiday recommendations coming As Soon As Possible!

Holiday (Cook)Books!

Ho Hooo Ho! Well it's that precious time of year again, when bookbuying comes crashing into your life like an Iranian mistle-toe. So what if you haven't bought any in awhile. All you have to do is remember that your friends like books, your mom likes books, your kids like books...everybody likes books! And anyways a book is the gift that makes you the thoughtful giftgiver!

That being so, we're going to do this thing hockey-style, in shifts of three. And TODAY'S is COOKBOOKS!
Ethan Stowell's New Italian Kitchen by Ethan Stowell and Leslie Miller(Ten Speed Press, $28.00, 240 pages) -- A Seattle favorite, Stowell is as much a chef as he is a living piece of Northwest culture. If you haven't been to How to Cook a Wolf, Anchovies and Olives, Staple & Fancy Mercantile or any of his other restaurants consider your tastebuds may still be ungraduated. An homage to Italian cooking and a celebration of Stowell's own creativity and excitement for food, New Italian Kitchen is a great gift for the advanced chefs in your family or friend group.

Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich (Artisan, $20.76, 384 pages) -- Packed full of deliciously quirky recipes like salted Thai cashew cookies or gluten free cheesecake bars, this delightful cookbook reimagines and updates all your favorite sweet treats! Great for that chef you know who always seems to need a nudge in the direction of organization.
Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That?: Fabulous Recipes and Easy Tips by Ina Garten (Clarkson Potter, $28.00, 256 pages) -- You've seen her magically simple dishes on TV, now learn to recreate them yourself! Frighteningly easy, always scrumptuous, and never not-fun to make or bake -- a great gift for anyone who's tired of Easy Mac and Top Ramen.

Or lastly, the absolute Classic:

The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century by Amanda Hesser (W.W. Norton and Co., $32.00, 932 pages) -- A encyclopedic tome that deserves to sit right next to The Joy of Cooking on your kitchen bookshelf, this fairly new cookbook is your all your mother's recipes but legible, and, frankly, just better. Grab a few and gift them to anyone you can't figure out what to get!

Monday, November 8, 2010

NovBeerOk? (NUohvBEERawk?)

So we missed the chance for celebrating the deliciousness that is beer in October, but don't wet your leiderhosen just yet. Here's a little of taste of winter, with New Books AND New Beers

First up: Sierra Nevada's Celebration Seasonal Ale (Chico, CA) and Compass Rose by John Casey (Alfred A. Knopf. $27.95, 368 pgs) -- Since forever, solitude in nature has been as integral a part of the American experience as fish and chips has been to the British one. And though it's obvious that both are worthy of the highest rumination, only one truly comes to the fore in Casey's latest.

20 years in the making, Compass Rose is his accomplished object. Big and wandering, it's as good a novel as Spartina, and as finely attuned to the rhythms of the waters, the leaves, and the people who drift in their midst. Here's my synopsis: Rurul Rhode Island Epic Fishing?. Drink the tasty Celebration with it to celebrate the details gotten right.

Room by Emma Donahue (Little, Brown, and Co., $19.99, 336 pgs) and Stone Brewing Co.'s Double Bastard (Escondido, CA) -- Already a darling of so many of those intimidating Books-of-The-Year lists, Room is the book you're either talking about or will shortly be talking about. Told from the perspective of a 5 year old boy imprisoned in 'Room' where he sleeps in 'Wardrobe' and is attended to by his mother, it's a novel that evokes a shocking mix of horror and pathos and tenderness mingled with dread. Slurp down a couple glasses of Double Bastard while you get cozy in 'Room' because it too, confuses its belligerent hoppy bitterness with a malty smoothness more germane to a conversation 007 had at the Ritz. Grog.

As usual, drop us line about your beeroks!


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bored to Death

A few things (and none of them Halloween related)

First off: Bored To Death, author Jonathan Ames's (far left) HBO baby (left) is in the middle of its second season now and as hilariously cute as ever. Be sure to check out the corresponding book, or a clip from the show. (A must if you like pot jokes, awkwardness, waywardness, Ted Danson acting like Cheech Marin, super heroes with phallic powers, or anything that reminds you of a cartoon version of somebody who reads too much Vanity Fair.) And by the way, a movie version of The Extra Man, Ames's transsexualized Fitzgerald novel, was released just last week! And it features Kevin Kline, Katie Holmes, and John C. Reilly!

Secondly: Pioneering author of the "techno-geek-rebellion" novels (like his recent, and excellent, Little Brother), Cory Doctorow has been up to some cool stuff lately. Talking with NPR today about self-publishing and, more likely than not, the "Future of The Novel," Doctorow clarified a lot about how books will work in the future. Learn about his new project, an 'experimentally' published 'DIY story collection' here.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

West of Here

REVIEW: West of Here (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $19.96 -- February 2011) by Jonathan Evison -- Let me paint this thing: Look into the woods behind your house. Add more. More moisture. More trees. Moss strangling downed stumps. A sasquatch. An old bottle of Kilt Lifter with its label faded and grey. You are West of Here, now. North-West to be exact, and in a little semi-fictional town called Port Bonita, WA. The mighty Elwha roars in your ears!

And welcome to Jonathan Evison's (a Bainbridge Islander!) new novel!

Let me say first: It's a Hybrid! (Congrats!). No seriously. Written in a swirling, stirring mixture of fictive and non-fictive, past and present, Evison's newest novel (note: Available in February!) is one of those books that cleverly tells you where you came from, why, and where you're going. Wielder of a sharp pen, Evison's language is sweet, too, and his plotting and characterization both apt and reeling. From sobriety stricken cannery managers, to dam-building dandies, to epileptic Native Americans, you'll love them all! Read it when it comes out!

<--- Evison, Islander

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, $22.40)

REVIEW!: The joy one feels while reading a book this good for the first time is is its own contagion, a transmitter of I-need-to-read-that, and you see on the face of every last person who's picked up. Having just finished it myself, I've already wished a thousand times over that I could wipe my memory clean so that I might start it again, fresh to its superior everything.

's greatest attribute, however, is its lack of hubris, for which Franzen should be heavily applauded. His writing is pitch-perfect in a world before pitch, back when caveman stabbed each other with rocks to communicate. It is deft but void of pomp or show, and seamlessly builds a looping narrative about an average-ish midwestern family that flows along so smoothly it might be locked into the well oiled grooves of a Six Flags water coaster. Many sentences are so shining they seem worth, if not just a jotting down, then oral ingestion. (But you may get sick, in that case). Quickly: it's the story of the Berglunds, once-happy gentrifiers, bike-commuters, seed planters, and so on, whose lives have somehow fallen out of joint. Happy youth gone, they suddenly wake to world where their son is living next door with his girlfriend and a man who's truck reads "I'm white and I vote," and putting himself through college, while Patty, the wife, consorts with a bottle of wine a night and lusts after her husband's college roommate, Richard Katz, and her husband, Walter, encourages mountaintop removal in rural West Virginia for the cause of songbirds. A rich commentary on all manner of topics (a crumbling environment, Love, Story, urban environment, friendship, parenting, politics, etc.) throbs through the narrative and is both even-handed and morally acute; perspective is one of Franzen's favorite currencies to deal in. READ IT SOOON

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Paul Auster is a great author, and now a man of American letters, winner of numerous awards -- well, he's here to stay. And that's a good thing.

But who is Paul Auster? In recent years, those critics who work in that in that air-tight, adjective laden atmosphere that materializes somewhere between the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books once a week have taken to his stygian, noirish scripts with fork and knife, feverishly speculating about which sauce to cover them in. (Old Fashioned? Pepper Spice? Neo-post-modern-noir?) Others come bearing not gifts but theories. Many believe he does not exist, hasn't existed, and that "Paul Auster," born February 3, 1947, etc., etc., is little more than a character or a trope in some charade about authors, authorship, that. (Admittedly, if does seem odd that a character called Paul Auster has appeared in a few of his novels. A lack of imagination perhaps?) Others conclude that he is a kind of translator of Nabokov -- reimagining from N.'s native Zemblan, of course -- who is ever-unearthing new manuscripts from some sodden cellar only he and N. knew of (Nabokov taught "Auster" at Columbia). Though this could only be true if he injected Nabokov's writing with measured doses of austerity, for the two -- lyrically, at least -- have little in common.

No, I'm just kidding about all this. I am Paul Auster. Or rather I'm Paul Auster's best friend and he's just died and an outline in his journal indicated I should write this blog. Really.

Anyways: Auster's newest, just out in paperback, Invisible (Picador, $12.00) is incredible and asks just the same questions as I have, though of course, more assiduously, wonderfully, deliciously. Read it!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hm.. . . . ..

NOT a whole lot to talk about -- just that, this, the other thing, and Bristol Palin on Dancing With the Stars (Will Rick Fox woo her too?). You know. Fall coming (Fall into Reading!), sooner or later pumpkins (later) , school (sooner), yes all of it. Here's what's up today!:

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, $22.40) -- For good reasons, I haven't had the chance to read it. I haven't, in fact, even been able to see our galley for it. That's how coveted it's been around our neighborhood, and if the grapevine happens to speak a lick of truth about the book, its precociousness is well earned. In any case, here's what I've heard: a. it's as good Franzen's last novel, The Corrections, b., themes include marriage, love, sprawl, social entanglement decay, detritus, freedom, c., the scope is epic, d., St. Paul is the setting, e., 576 pages, f., if that's not enough to make you want to buy it, you belong somewhere else.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Heartful Hector

Short, insanely cute and a worldwide sensation to boot, Francois Lelord's Hector and the Search for Happiness (Penguin, $11.20) is a modern parable for the CNN-generation. And in fact, it's perfect. Not in a Doctor Philian, Sanjay Guptian kind of way, full of go-get-'ems and why-don't-feel-your-own-powers?, but as a quaint story that truly gets at the problem of happiness in the 21st century. Here's a quick synopsis: Hector, an inquisitive and moderately happy psychiatrist living somewhere in Europe takes a sabbatical in order to travel the world in search of a recipe for happiness. Visiting friends in China, America, and Africa, he plods and prods those around him with questions until at last he molds some sort of understanding. From getting kidnapped to falling in love with a Chinese prostitute (but cutely), Hector and his trip are as remarkable as they are fun and easy to swallow. (I know it sounds dumb but seriously, just try it.)


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Just Beerok It

With summer winding down faster than your kid sister's spin-caster hooked on a 10 lb dogfish, it's time at last to do the things, the thing, which suits summer best: drink a beer, read a book, yes, uh huh, Beerok. (And if you're new to Beerok here's a little 'what's up': good beer + good book + a few iotas of selective taste to match their characteristics = better, more intoxicating reading)

Aliens in The Prime of Their Lives by Brad Watson (W.W. Norton, $19.16, hardcover) and Palo Santo Marron by Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales (Rehoboth, DE) -- Watson's newest (which came out in March, btw) is a compact, remarkably pitched account of modern American life, that just miraculously manages to be as funny as it is darkly tormented. Oh and it's good. Really good. Written in such a way as to reminisce of Wells Tower, the short fiction of Irving Welsh and maybe John Cheever as well, Aliens is a really fun book that is funniest when it's not funny, wryest when looking most deeply into its already-deep and murky depths. (To give a sense of them, one of the best stories involve the obese, a traumatic brain injury, an artist-biker gang, a bb gun, and a man who has truly given up.) This is where Dogfish Head's delicious Palo Santo Marron comes in. Measuring at %12 abv, the Palo Santo is a 'malt liquor' Dogfish Head style, strong, unfiltered, aged in tasty Paraguayan Palo Santo Wood, and pushing some sweet vanilla and rich caramel notes to boot. A good match to Watson's exploration of the dark and weird for its own tormented character (playful, yet exquisitely crafted), its numbing qualities (the alcohol-rich part), and its exoticism of the familiar. A tasty beverage and a great book! Matched! Let us know what you think and don't be shy to try out your own!


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Good, New

Not the best 'summer' read, but a pretty good book nonetheless:

Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $20.80) -- Make a Paul Auster-Gabriel Garcia Marquez sandwich. Chew it slowly, acknowledging how pure, how perfect, how strange it tastes, and funny too. Such a sandwich could only be washed down with a little Miguel Syjuco, the newest literary face to come out of The Philippines. And his newest is great. Marked by its wildly expansive, ever-epic family narrative, giddy recasting of authorship (very reminiscent of 2666), romping unreliable narration and so on, it's a lot of fun if not occasionally a bit of work as well. Good work though. Great stuff.

In other news: The Long List for the Man Booker was released today (13 names was it?), and I jut found out that everybody's favorite science writer, Mary Roach, is speaking at the UW on August 18 (check this hilarious video of her explaining orgasms She's pretty damn cute. Back soon,


Monday, July 12, 2010


What a sad day. The Dutch lost in the finals. Again. (That's the third time.) Officially, Spain has conquered the soccer world. Unofficially, Holland have made it a fact that they just don't have it when the lights turn on for the big fight. Anyway, if you're as sad as I am about the World Cup coming to an end, here are a few books to keep your soccer addiction sated and your mind off the misery, (especially if you're a fan of the Oranje).

Brilliant Orange the Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer (Overlook Press, $11.96) by David Winner -- A book that's as much an essay about the specialized bizarreness of Holland as it is about the nation's infamous (and totally nebulous) "Total Fooball" style of play that got it to the finals in '74 and '78. A stylish read that's as fun as it is informative. For fans and foes alike. (Another excellent book about Dutch soccer is Simon Kuper's Ajax, the Dutch, the War: Football in Europe During the Second World War.

The Miracle of Castel di Sangro: A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heart of Italy by Joe McGinnis (Broadway, $12.76) -- McGinnis's gift for storytelling takes us on a ride through the fields and villages of Italy this time, where we encounter the hilarious and ultimately heartbreaking story of a poor, rag-tag Italian soccer team miraculously playing in a league well over its head. Replete with rich characters enlivened by McGinnis's prose (greasy mobsters, coaches named 'Bulldozer,' a goofy translator), it'll make you laugh, cry, and roll on the ground with all the theatrical flare of Italian soccer player when he's been 'injured.' Really fun.
Soccernomics: Why England Loses, Why Germany and Brazil Win, and Why the U.S., Japan, Australia, Turkey--and Even Iraq--Are Destined to Become the Kings of the World's Most Popular Sport by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski (Nation, $11.96) -- Answering every question you've had about the sport and more with solutions as shocking as they are convincing, Soccernomics is Freakonomics meets Footballer's Wives but even then you're only just starting to get ahold of it. With insights gleaned from economic data, psychology, and business, Soccernomics will confound and disrupt everything you think you know about the way soccer works all around the world. Quick, fun, revelatory.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Just got back from a trip abroad and saw the cramped, diminutive belly of books that is Shakespeare and Co. (which had Martin Amis, Will Self, etc. coming for a Festival of sorts, wowwee) as well as a publisher's street fair in Porto (50+ stalls)...really, a whole wild world of books. Fantastic stuff, but overwhelming too: There's Too Many Damned Books !

As always, I found traveling is one of the best times to read, or at any rate one of the most productive. The train rides. The flights. Monolingual television sets. The best of what I read was:

Roddy Doyle's The Dead Republic (Viking, $21.56, hc) -- Doyle's last novel novel of the Henry Star Trilogy, The Dead Republic works as a triptych of episodes, beginning with Henry Star (former IRA hitman) working with director Henry Ford to turn his life into a movie and ending with our protagonist's return to his homeland, politics, and his lost wife as he finds old age. Throughout the journey, the book works to give a historical survey of Ireland and the differing states of Irish politics. For the reader, this is a wonderful, if not revelatory aspect of the book. Knowledge of Cumman na mban, 1917, the IRA, Sinn Feinn, and so on, will strike most readers illuminatingly, and certainly fail to invoke thoughts of Red Sox games, Guiness, and Leprechauns. (No doubt this is a positive development concerning perceptions of the Eire.) On top of the historical blanket lays the attractive story of Henry Star, hitman, scriptwriter, janitor extraordinaire. Largely, it works to embolden the contours of the novel's historical aspect, and does so in good style. READ IT!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

BEA (BookExpo America) Takeaways

The place to bump boards with Tony Hawk, hear Stephen King sing "Louie Louie" in front of a full band, or watch David Sedaris talk about kinky sex in front of countless octogenarians through your hands, BookExpo America is always a good time, and from what I hear, this year was no exception. (Streisand spoke on opening night!). Among the questions raised by the numerous author/bookseller/publisher panels, however, one concern loomed high above the rest for all the book-ies: Electronic Books.

We ask: What do you think about them? If you read them via an e-reader, ipad, or iphone, how does that kind of reading compare to the real thing? Will they change the way we read forever? What will they do to the publishing industry, do you think? How will they effect and authors and authorship? Is there a way for e-books and independent bookstores to coexist peacefully, or does the birth of one necessitate the death of the other, as with Jake's exchange of bodies at the end of Avatar?

Please, please, let us know what you think!


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Karl Marlantes at Third Place Books

Karl Marlantes, Woodinville resident and author of the excellent, Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War, is reading tomorrow, Wednesday, May 19, at Third Place Books! The event starts at 7.00 pm.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


A Father/Son Beerok!:

David Guterson's The Other (Vintage, $12.00) and 7 Seas Brewing's Ballz Deep Double IPA -- Yes, it's strange, and even auspiciously weird that one of the Northwest's best writers (David Guterson) now has a son (Travis Guterson) playing brewmaster at one of its most exciting new breweries, 7 Seas (Gig Harbor). And Ballz Deep is a good beer, by the way, really in spite of its poor name. Hoppy with a residual sweetness that bonds flavor to smoothness (spicy Yakima hops provide the 'berserk' flavor kick, while a pale ale malt mixed with a variety of Crystals make the base), it is that rare double IPA that doesn't have a pitbull's bite, or, conversely, taste like pond water. The Other is fantastic, too. A coming of age tale about dropping out, growing up, staying authentic, Seattle, and Seattle's wilderness(es), it that funny sort of book which sees an author sinking into the maturity of his talent by writing about youth and growing up. Which is why I think it's great pair with the younger Guterson's brand new brewery (which started selling its beers off the shelf in mid-April!)!

Swill it and kill it


Tuesday, May 4, 2010


With National Poetry Month done and gone, it's time to get back to the novel -- especially because so many great ones have come out in the last month or so.

Here are a few littering my bedside!:

The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall (W.W. Norton, $21.65, hardcover) -- Like the ultra-watchable, insanely believable Big Love on HBO, The Lonely Polygamist is a dramatic, always surprising, and consistently hilarious saga about the logistical and spiritual mechanics of polygamist life. Among other things, it's written well and has a lot to say about underground, awesome....

The Book of Evidence by John Banville (Vintage, $12.00) -- Part Bellow, part Camus, part Michael Cunningham, Banville is one of the best and still, very much himself. And I like this older Banville novel, too. It's a dark, fixing book written for those enjoy wry smiles and harbor steely stomachs; 'gruesome' is its middle name and 'calculating' its last. Beautiful, still, as well.

Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes (Atlantic Monthly Press, $19.96, hardcover) -- Matterhorn is a big book, figuratively, literally, pretty much any way you hold up to light. And surprisingly, it's also a debut. I'm not real far in it -- just 40 pages or so -- and can readily admit that it's taken a hold of me. (Two words: penile leeches. ). And oh yea, it's about Vietnam and written by a former Marine who's spent 30 years in his attic making it one of the most riveting, comprehensive and peerless books about a subject so many great authors have already explored. How Marlantes found the room, or the acumen, to take over that conversation is beyond me, but thank god for it.



Thursday, April 22, 2010

April is Poetry Month!

April truly is the cruelest poetry month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain...blah [english accent] blah... (keeping you from writing blogs) blah...blah

No. Seriously. It really is NATIONAL POETRY MONTH! cruel, startlingly rainy, lyrical, wonderful, and, we think, A TIME FOR SHARING! So yes, please! Send us your poems! Post your own works, your favorite works, your friends' works, your whatevers!

Here's Our Start:

On a bus, you look and see
all the men around you.
Why do they hang
like so? you wonder.
They are meat on hooks from a dirty ceiling.
Sometimes you must smile on their faces
knowing that if you do not
you are a lone party
in dealing with that fate
which wheels into the strange triggers of the world.
There is something left undone, you feel,
something undone.
A hand drops (as steak to a grill).
And is it so good? you wonder.
Meat huddles newly.
Newly. Huh.

There are temples in Africa much older than global warming,
a symbol for peace more ancient than the languages of the Middle East,
and the corpses of
murdered neanderthaloids beneath your skyscrapers.
But tell me, why do you think of this now?
No, tell me, do you find it possible that you could have been made elsewhere?
No, really, let me know what you think: is it slapstick that binds us to our destined ends?
Are we laughing today?


Thursday, March 25, 2010


Writers Writing: (You eat, you sleep. Coffee somewhere. Is this how stories are made?)

I don't know why, but it feels right to pick at this question now. Is it because spring is abounding? Maybe. The midges hatching? Okay. The puppies playing? Perhaps. Or is it the masses of writers escaping the figurative belly of the winter whale for inspired walks through landscapes which might dredge back some of that sensorial nature we lose during The Wet? I do not know. I think it's that sort of question that you can boil with for a long time -- how writers write, I mean -- but I also think that it's one of those things that if left untended to, will either boil over or steam out into nothing.

And enough of that. More Getting Into This:

I like reading about different writers methods. They always say very funny things when writing about themselves and their work, and almost always it is unintentional and more earnestly funny than they could ever purposely be. They are always talking about the morning, as well. Everyone seems to be waking up around 4, 5, 6 am at the latest and writing till 4 or 5 at night. Heptathletes do not work this hard. And what are they doing anyway? Is there music? Are husbands and wives allowed in, allowed to take a look, dab and smear at the lines -- no honey, he must say "..." not "..."? To what alien's distance do they travel when looking at us or into themselves? Is everything from or of the past? How much can you steal from others? Is it all like this
HELP US: Opinions? Quotes? Recipes? Jokes? Invitations? Used Cars?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Saint Patrick

It was at somewhere in the second half of the 5th century when Saint Patrick died. 470 AD, maybe later, maybe sooner -- it's just not known. To be sure, though, it was a blast. Guinness fountains, Flogging Molly singalongs crooned in DiCaprio's Departed accent, Boondock Saints viewings, Bono without his glasses on reading Yeats, Joyce making 'chamber music' with assorteds. Whole tons of great stuff. Really. It's all on wikipedia. This was just a copy-paste.

In the spirit of Ireland's patron saint's day, we've compiled a little IRISH THEMED BEEROK to bolster the spirit. So it's all loric Irish wisdom and multitudinous Irish flavors from here on out for us: accept them, we say; swill them, get stupid on them.
First up: Finnegan's Wake by Jim Joyce (Penguin Classics, 16.80) and Whatever Shitty Terrible God-Hating Whiskey You Can Find. (Suggestions: Mohgul Monarch, Edradour Tokaji, Canadian Hunter, etc.) -- Now not just the enemy of viagra, we've actually found some some positive purpose for world's most awesome beverage. For once it doesn't involve firearms, chewing tobacco, or dead animals. Actually, its feat is that it's the only thing around that'll get drunk enough to get seriously involved with Joyce's nonsensical 'novel.' Can't Remember A Fucking Thing (C.R.A.F.T. Club)? Switters? White linen suits? Anyone? Try the pair only while blackout, says this redfaced beeroker. And if for some reason that's not working, then devote 50 years of your life to it.
Roddy Doyle's Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha (Penguin, 12.00) and Harpoon Brewery's Celtic Ale (Boston, MA) -- A slimy, looping book -- and good for it too -- Doyle's most famous novel is written in a child's voice about his memories, his incidents, his changing world, and so on, beginning with a fire. In it, Paddy is funny, his thoughts are always poignant, and his tribulations, to our amusement and embarassment, are the same as ours once were. And yet his private world is also a brilliantly real and singular place, too as Doyle captures his homeland sweetly: accents, anxieties, all of it. Harpoon's Celtic works, I think, because despite its mild flavor (it is a drinking man's beer) it still does work on the palate. Tasty. Etc.

'The Sea' by John Banville (Vintage, 11.16) and Rogue's (Newport, OR) Dry Hopped St. Rogue Red -- Finally, John Banville's The Sea. It is a beautiful book. The story is predicable and yet the characters are not; how is it that that works? And prose. The prose is some of the best I've read. It rises and falls with consummate lyricism and explorative subleties. You will love it, guaranteed. As for what goes on: the novel introduces Max Morden, who is between two places, yet not totally lost in his life, as he copes with a number of painful traumas -- some recent, others ancient. To deal he goes to a seaside town where he spent a memorable holiday as a child. A novel ensues. THE BEER: Rogue hasn't always been my favorite purveyor of spirits, but recently I've had a few outstanding beers of theirs and changed my mind. St. Rogue Red was one of them. It's a feisty beer (just look at it!), but remains so so drinkable in comparison to other Red Ales of its caliber (and Red Ale is a traditional Irish beer); how is it that that works? Never shocking, always satisfying, St. Rogue Red evokes all the mysteries of its making without eschewing any quality or fundamental goodness.
OTHERS TO CONSIDER!: Edna O'Brien's Wild Decembers, JP Dunleavy's The Gingerman, Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, anything by Beckett, Heaney or Yeats...etc. And as always SUGGEST YOUR OWN OR TRY THESE ONES OUT!

Um, yep, green shits, green piss, it's all coming.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


It's here! The race is on! Today! In just hours, minutes, lists of seconds!

You know what I'm talking about. The blue people. Stewardesses. Tragic, mystic, violent nazi hunters, flying houses, the alien camp, and all the other great ones.

Yep. The Oscars. (Is it fitting to now ask who is this Oscar and whether or not he should have some sort of fingerling moostache with a name like that? Or how he is so fit? Or, for even as far as androgyny goes, why he wears no pants, no shirt, no smile or face? Meh. The questions that keep sane men up late.)

Anyways. As we all celebrate Hollywood's entertainment superbowl -- which really is the same as the bowl except for the makeup, the flat jokes, and that a large group of very old white men decide on its outcome -- it's good to remember that so many of our favorite films of the year were born firstly on the page. Check it out! Read them! And even though none can ever be as faithful or brilliant as McCarthy/The Coens No Country for Old Men, Read them, See them, and Decide which is better!

Push by Sapphire (Vintage, $13.00) -- A sorrow-filled but vitally inspiring novel, Sapphire's first is conveyed deftly through abused, obese, 16 year old Precious's stream of consciousness narration. Up for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress Best Director, and others.

An Education by Lynn Barber (Atlas, $13.00) -- Candid, funny, honest, heartfelt -- you name it and Lynn Barber's memoir has got it. Written for the screen by Nick Hornby and up for Best Picture, Best Actress, as well as Best Adapted Screenplay .

The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis (Norton, $13.95)-- You've probably read it already, haven't you? Inspiration story of a homeless teen (African-American) taken in by a wealthy, well-to-do family (Caucasian). Football stardom/ Sandra-Bullock-Oscardom ensue. Best Picture and Best Actress.

The Last Station: A novel of Tolstoy's Final Year by Jay Parini (Anchor, $15.00) -- A New York Times' Notable of the year which pieces together the last years of Tolstoy's long life. Great book and a memorable movie. Best Actress.

Up in the Air by Walter Kirn (Anchor, $14.95) -- Poignant corporate satire about people, goals, society, and secret lounges for the very highest mileage flyers. Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress (x2), Best Director, etc.

Crazy Heart by Thomas Cobb (Harper Perennial, $13.99) -- Cob convinces us of both Bad Blake's character and (true) country music's fading, rambling, beaten yet brilliant old soul in good style. And the best commendation: he writes a character encompassing enough for The Dude, Jeff Bridges's, near-endless gift for acting in the way of Bad Blake. See the film, hear the songs, read the book! Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Song.

Invictus by John Carlin (Penguin, $16.00) -- A perspective-wielding book about Mandela's first years in office and the struggle he faced to keep a fracturing country together. Starring Matt Damon, Rugby, and Morgan Freeman in his long-inevitable starring as the great Nelson Mandela. Yup another beautiful film by Clint Eastwood and a pretty damn good book too, from what I hear. Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor. (And btw, invictus means 'unconquered' in latin. I wondered too)

Others: THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX by Roald Dahl (Best Animated Picture), CORALINE by Neil Gaiman (Best Animated Picture), JULIE & JULIA by Julie Powell (Best Actress) ... etc