Hello and happy New Year book club friends. I trust you had a nice time away from me. I wish I knew what that felt like. Aside from having to hang out with myself, I had a good holiday with my in-laws in the frozen tundra that was Edmonton in mid-December 2012. For some reason I only packed one T-shirt and eight books. Not very organized, but I did read a lot. See below for my recent reading list.
Our book of the month for January is Cadillac Couches, a new novel by Dublin-via-Edmonton’s Sophie B Watson. While it was in my suitcase in Edmonton (totally appropriate given Watson's origins), I have yet to start reading this book. From what I gather, it’s set in the '90s and about two women, Annie and Isobel, making a cross-country trek from the Edmonton Folk Festival to Montreal to see a Hawksley Workman concert. It sounds like a soul-searching adventure, one that Quill & Quire praised for being “as much an ode to Canada as to music.” This seems perfect for us.
I have five copies of Cadillac Couches up for grabs today and you (non-CBC employee) are eligible to win one (once). There are questions below, and the first people to post correct answers here each win a copy of this book. You must, of course, be prepared to discuss it with us on the blog every Thursday. That’s meant to be the fun part.
Should I declare you a winner, please email your blog name, real name, shipping address and winning answer with “Cadillac Ranch” in the subject line to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did you read/receive any good books over the holidays? Here’s a rundown of some recommended reading followed by the Cadillac Couches book club questions:
Black Hole by Charles Burns: Burns might be best known for his illustrations in The Believer. Here, he takes us back to Seattle in the '70s, where a mysterious plague is affecting sexually active teenagers and turning them into mutants. It’s a disturbing read and I enjoyed it but, as a gift from my wife, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to take a hint here or what?
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy: This was on long-term loan from my CBC Music colleague Mike Miner. I love McCarthy and, while this “masterpiece” continues to haunt and stay with me, its brutal chronicle of white man/Indian/Mexican bloodlust on the Texas-Mexico border in the 17th century was quite a slog. I like a good western and this is arguably a great one, but it wasn’t enjoyable. On a brighter note, I can give it back to Mike now.
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell: Man, what a breath of fresh air to move onto after the crushing bleakness of Blood Meridian. Not sure why it’s taken me so long to get to this inspiring and fascinating study of what makes people succeed/fail, but Gladwell’s book is a totally riveting analysis of how “genius” has as much to do with circumstance, cultural expectations and hard work as it does innate talent and skill. The Beatles used to play for eight hours a day, seven days a week when they were starting out, six years before making their first record. Who does that now?
Music for Uninvited Guests by Misha Bower: This is an excellent collection of short stories by a Canadian renaissance woman. Bower sings with Bruce Peninsula and others; I’ve seen her perform as a gifted actress and here she is writing these captivating stories that seamlessly blend witty humour and earthy gravitas. Look for this to be a book of the month around here pretty soon.
Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin: I’ve only just begun this Springsteen bio but, with its cooperation from friends, family and associates of the Boss, this promises to be the most comprehensive account of the most famous man from New Jersey since Dave Marsh’s Two Hearts compendium. I’ve read at least one middling review by Entertainment Weekly but so far, I can tell it’s thoughtfully researched. Carlin traces Springsteen’s ancestry, for Pete’s sake. Never seen that before.
How to Get Along With Women by Elisabeth de Mariaffi: Another collection of short stories but this one, as a rule, is darker and more substantially emotive. The title is playful but the narratives are often about power dynamics with this underlying current of menace about them. I suppose this, in itself, is playful to an extent, but de Mariaffi’s worlds are often half-impenetrable — closed off after inviting you in. Her voice is clearly daring and sophisticated and she’s a bright writer to keep an eye on for sure.
I Want to Go Home by Gordon Korman: When people ask me about early comedic influences (it happens sometimes, or at least once), on top of the usual Letterman, Carson, Pryor, SNL answers, I have to include Gordon Korman. I was recently asked to take part in a panel interview with Korman and read I Want to Go Home again for kicks. Man, it’s still one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. It’s got an anti-hero who questions authority in the most brilliant ways. Come to think of it, Korman’s one of my earliest punk rock influences, too.
Cadillac Couches book club questions:
1. Who are the protagonists in Cadillac Couches hoping to see live?
2. How many books did I pack on my trip to Edmonton?
3. Who did I borrow Blood Meridian from?
4. Name one band that Misha Bower sings in.
WINNER: PINEAPPLE FLATS
5. Other than Gordon Korman, who’s one person I cite above, as one of my early comedic influences?
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