Editorial Note: Wes wrote this for us last month, but we weren’t able to post it until now. Fortunately, the weather is still beautiful and the Mariners are playing as I type this, so we think it still applies. Our apologies to Wes for the delayed posting, but we think his picks are pretty stellar nonetheless.
The temperature hit 70 degrees Monday, the Mariners were in first place after one week, and I found myself joining the foolish chorus of overzealous—but sympathetic—Seattleites prematurely welcoming the arrival of summer. For many summers I read only books about baseball or country music (or, in the case of one brilliantly-titled if weakly-researched bit of “scholarship” that I still enjoy seeing on my shelf, both), and this week I let those same whimsies take me away again with the fleeting warmth.=
Revival: A Folk Music Novel by Scott Alarik (Songsmith, 2011)
I didn’t start Revival this week—or this year—but I found my way back to it, and one should not construe my slow progress as a criticism of the book, but rather an endorsement. Alarik, who covered folk music in the Boston Globe for 20-plus years, lets character drive the intersecting stories of Nathan Warren, a newly-sober, once-fast-tracked veteran songwriter rebuilding his career (Chris Smither?), and Kit Palmer, the shy-but-intuitively-talented newcomer (Antje Duvekot?)—and it cuts awfully close at times (hence the long breaks I’ve taken with it). Boston is a town that celebrates singer/songwriters (and the songwriting itself) the way Seattle fixates on its bands, and I think Bushwickers will appreciate Alarik’s effective integration of artistic breakthroughs with the ups and down of real life that inform and sustain them.
Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere by Lucas Mann (Pantheon Books, 2013)
Only just started this (Geoff keeps me pretty busy reading other things for Bushwick events!), but digging it so far. Though I’m spoiled living in a big-league town (debatable some years), I love the rhythm, intimacy, and community of Minor League Baseball and look forward to Mann’s reports from a year spent with the Clinton (Iowa) Lumberkings—who just happen to be a low-level affiliate of my beloved (and beleaguered) Mariners. Only a tiny percentage of professional baseball players ever taste life in the majors, of course, so it misses the snapshot-in-time point to simply look for those players who are still around, but then right there on page seven is Erasmo Ramírez, currently the M’s number-two starter.
Sand Cages by Hamoudi Ziyra
Okay, I’m cheating here as well—the novel’s in Arabic, and I neither read nor speak Arabic. Ziyra is one of the guys who cuts my hair at 95th Street Barber Shop and, after chatting about our respective approaches to writing for several visits, we traded inscribed copies of our latest output this week. There are times when I feel like my Seattle circles can get a little stagnant, and when that feeling arises I look for ways step outside of myself a little. (Working with the Red Badge Writing Project, which I’ll write more about soon, has proved a great exercise in this vein.) Having this book on my shelf is a nice reminder to keep the circles wide.
Here’s a roughly-translated review/synopsis.
I’m mainly wading through roughs from my own current recording project, honestly, but one—even vain as I—can only do that for so long. A longtime fan of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, I’ve given the new Benmont Tench record a spin and enjoyed it—which got me chasing musical threads from The Blue Stingrays (great summery sounds!) to Works Progress Administration and back to Nickel Creek, who once recorded a song inspired by Richard Russo’s Empire Falls and have a new album out as well (they’ll be in town May 17).
I was also lucky enough to stumble upon an advance copy of Bushwick-favorite Tai Shan’s new record “Living Fiction,” a full-band effort exclusively featuring songs she’s written for Bushwick Book Club shows and a fun ride for your ears! Tai, as we all know, is one of those individuals who could sing the phone book and keep us engaged, but the writing and arrangements are also strong here as she draws inspiration everywhere from Stephen King to Jane Austen to Dr. Seuss. (Also, did you know Bushwick Executive Director Geoff Larson used to deliver phone books?) Don’t miss her release concert (featuring many additional Bushwickers supporting the bill, including Bushwick’s new ‘house’ band Read & Destroy) May 18 at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard.
What about you, Bushwick? What’s on your list lately? Let us know @iReadandSing #bushwickpicks