Give Big to Bushwick on Wednesday, May 15th

Geoff Larson here. For those of you who don’t know me (and I sincerely hope by now that most of you do) I am the Creator and Program Director for The Bushwick Book Club Seattle. I have some very important news to share.

GiveBIG2013_BushwickBookClubSeattle_v01The Seattle Foundation’s GiveBig is coming up on Wednesday May 15th, 2013!

This is a one-day, online charitable giving event to inspire people to give generously to nonprofit organizations like The Bushwick Book Club Seattle that make our region a healthier and more vital place to live.

Each donation made to the more than 1,400 nonprofit organizations profiled on The Seattle Foundation’s website on Wednesday, May 15, 2013 will receive a prorated portion of the matching funds (or “stretch”) pool. The amount of the “stretch” depends on the size of the stretch pool and how much is raised in total donations on GiveBIG day.

What does this mean for The Bushwick Book Club Seattle and you?

It means that Bushwick has an amazing opportunity to accept donations that will grow into even larger donations from Seattle Foundation sponsors. We have a great need of funding to continue with our programs planned for this year and beyond. These projects include:

GiveBIG_CallToActionBushwickPlease take some time to visit Bushwick’s donation page. We have grand ambitions and your gifts will enable us to continue contributing to our communityEvery dollar donated will grow into even more dollars for Bushwick and the Seattle community!!

GiveBIG to Bushwick on Wednesday, May 15th, 2013!!!

Thanks, everyone! Read on!


Kerry’s Bushwick Wish List: Five Books that would inspire amazing songs

Recently I was asked what books I would most like to see inspire The Bushwick Book Club Seattle to write and perform some original songs. So in response I began to rather selfishly list all my favorite books I’ve read over the last ten years. The list was long (too long!), but after some careful thought I managed to refine it down to just five books that, in my opinion, would make for tantalizing Bushwick shows and some amazing original songs. Now, I am not sure if the creation of this list will actually lead to an event inspired by one of my picks (it probably won’t, but my fingers are crossed), but It certainly can’t hurt and I’m all about promoting my picks in the name of great entertainment. Here are my five book selections in no particular order.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach (non-fiction)

stiffAt first, I was interested in a Bushwick show inspired by Roach’s book about sex, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, but as I read I became less and less inclined to hear songs inspired by dog testicle implants and people who ejaculate pigs for a living (fun stuff!). Just the thought of hearing the Bushwick artists sing songs even vaguely about sex-toy research and development left me a tad on the squeamish side. Instead, I’d rather hear songs about the use of human cadavers by doctors practicing face lifts. Although I do question as to exactly why I find this to be less upsetting. Anyhow, the book details what happens to cadavers when they are donated to science. It’s sometimes gruesome and often funny. Roach excels at making light of a serious and perhaps morbid topic. In addition to the aforementioned plastic surgery practice, there are chapters on ammunition testing, medical school classes and bombing victims. I’m not doing a good job selling Roach’s sense of humor, but she has a knack for sarcasm that successfully transfers to the page.

Ready Player One: A Novel by Ernest Cline (fiction)

readyPlayerOneBushwickWhen I heard this book lovingly referred to as Willy Wonka meets the Matrix, I knew I had to read it. The text is dripping with 1980s pop culture and nerd references that I adore. Much of the book reads as a love letter to favorite parts of my childhood including Pac-Man, Duran Duran and John Hughes movies. There are so many references to pull from and Bushwick performers would have a field day drawing inspiration from the text. The main character Wade Watts is a big nerd and spends most of his day plugged into a virtual world called the Oasis because the real world totally sucks and has been ruined by humanity. The creator of the Oasis left clues upon his death throughout the virtual world to lead someone to his vast fortune. Watts and other competitors both good and nefarious race to solve the puzzle and win the fortune. The book is an action adventure treasure hunt ripe with hundreds of nods to pop culture making a feast for the reader.

If on a Winter’s Night a Travler by Italo Calvino (fiction)

ifonawintersnighttravelerI am so in love with this book that it is hard for me to describe it. It’s beautiful. It is one of few books that I read very slowly and savored because I didn’t want it to end. I mourned the ending as it approached. The book is avant-garde and not for everyone, but I can’t help daydreaming about the song Tai Shan in particular could write inspired by this masterpiece. I think she would devour it and pen and sing a song that would make the room explode with awesomeness. I’ll leave you with some lines from an Amazon review because it describes it much better than I could.

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler is a marvel of ingenuity, an experimental text that looks longingly back to the great age of narration–“when time no longer seemed stopped and did not yet seem to have exploded.” Italo Calvino’s novel is in one sense a comedy in which the two protagonists, the Reader and the Other Reader, ultimately end up married, having almost finished If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler. In another, it is a tragedy, a reflection on the difficulties of writing and the solitary nature of reading. The Reader buys a fashionable new book, which opens with an exhortation: “Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade.” Alas, after 30 or so pages, he discovers that his copy is corrupted, and consists of nothing but the first section, over and over. Returning to the bookshop, he discovers the volume, which he thought was by Calvino, is actually by the Polish writer Bazakbal. Given the choice between the two, he goes for the Pole, as does the Other Reader, Ludmilla. But this copy turns out to be by yet another writer, as does the next, and the next.

Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy by Bill Simmons (non-fiction)

bookOfBasketballNow I don’t want to hear it. Yes, this is a book about sports. I know a lot of you musician and artsy-fartsy types out there don’t like sports, but here is some advice – Go buy yourself a deck of cards and deal with it! This book is incredible. Before I started reading it, I barely watched basketball and I knew next to nothing about the game’s history. My exposure to the NBA consisted solely of a vast appreciation for David Robinson’s arms. The good news is that you don’t actually need to know anything about basketball to enjoy the book because Simmons weaves such entertaining tales in between facts and statistics. I’d love to attend a March Madness themed show where each Bushwick performer would write a song inspired by one chapter in the book (much like Bushwick’s event last February based around Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States). That way all you whiny artsy types (you know who you are) wouldn’t have to read an entire book about professional basketball and I could enjoy odes to Larry Bird and the invention of the 24-second shot clock.

Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell (non-fiction)

readyPlayerOneBushwickI heard a rumor that Bushwick might be considering a cookbook for an upcoming show. Although less interested in songs devoted to split-pea soup or various uses for anchovies, I became excited about the possibility of songs inspired by one of my favorite TV chefs, Julia Child. Child led an amazing life, first working for the OSS before starting her culinary career later in life. Powell’s book covers both Child’s intriguing life and her delicious recipes as she attempts to learn more about the chef and cook every recipe from the now classic tome Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. Originally started as a blog, Julie and Julia’s chapters rotate between the trials and tribulations that Powell faces when attempting to cook Child’s recipes including much angst surrounding the killing of a lobster and passages on Child’s life. This pick would serve especially well as a counterpoint to the current Bushwick picks by Michael Pollan as this book would illustrate how food and cooking has changed since Mastering the Art of French Cooking was first published more than 50 years ago.

Well, there you have it. And Since they’re asking, what books have you been yearning to see Bushwick perform original music inspired by? Let’s see your choices!

Michael Pollan: “Get Back in the Kitchen!”

For most of my life the only way I knew to make scrambled eggs was to microwave them. All the better if you had a paper bowl to do it in. My mother microwaved everything, even pork chops. Also, I grew up in the Midwest, where vegetables are alien objects. (I once brought a pear to show-and-tell because I thought it was “weird.”)

There is hope for people like me, says Michael Pollan, author of seven books including national bestseller The Omnivore’s Dilemma. And not just me. Pollan thinks there is hope for everyone. (Guess what? I can roast vegetables now. Pears are no longer weird!)

Pollan’s out with a new book, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. Transformation, he says, because he just likes the way it sounds. Or actually, like he told Jade Chang in an interview with Goodreads:

cover of Pollan's Cooked

I realized that that was what I was dealing with: the transformation of nature into culture. I’ve always been interested in transformation….Humans are in the transformation game in a way that very few other animals are. We take what nature gives us and then make something else out of it. And cooking, by the way, is the prototype of all transformations—it’s the first one. Claude Lévi-Strauss pointed out that all these different cultures think of nature as the raw and culture as the cooked, because that’s kind of the paradigm—taking something that’s just given by the natural world and making it into something that’s more useful, more appealing, more like us.

In Cooked, Pollan breaks down the ways in which we prepare food into the four elements: fire (good ol’ BBQ), water (braising), earth (fermenting, i.e., beer, cheese, etc.,), and air (baking).

The full interview is up on Goodreads and I recommend it. Highlights include:

Pollan compares bread to penises!

…there’s the Apollonian side of things and the Dionysian side of things, and the Apollonian side is more male, more visual, more sharply edged, essentially more like a penis….I mean, men like to make things, and they like artifacts, and bread is more an artifact than a lot of other food we make. And I won’t even talk about baguettes! 

Pollan endorses communism in response to Bloomberg’s soda ban!

I’m in favor of trying Mayor Bloomberg’s idea in New York to limit the size of cups. I just don’t think that’s trampling on people’s liberty! If you want 32 ounces of soda, you have to get two sodas instead of one….Let’s see if it works, let’s see if that pause between the first 16 ounces and the second 16 ounces just might discourage people from doing something that might really be bad for them! We need to try taxing soda and other forms of junk food. I think we need a federal definition of “What Is Food,” and we need to exclude things like soda that are not food, [that are] what I call edible, foodlike substances, and not let federal dollars support feeding those things to our children or including them in food stamps. 

We need to experiment with many, many social approaches to changing people’s diets, and we’ll see what works. And if it doesn’t work, we’ll throw it out! So I say…let a thousand strange flowers bloom

Pollan advises not to eat meat in airports!

It’s just a good rule of thumb.


If you want to hear more, head over to Goodreads.

And be sure to check out our upcoming show,

The Bushwick Book Club Seattle Presents Original music inspired by Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma & The Botany of Desire

May 16 at The Crocodile


What Will You Admit To? Bushwick Seattle’s Guiltiest Pleasures

It’s time to confess. We all have our secrets—but what haunts your playlists and bookshelves? What book do you stick on the shelf making sure the spine faces in? What songs are you embarrassed to listen to on repeat when no one else is home?

What are your guiltiest pleasures?

I’ll admit to one of mine: “All My Life” by K-Ci and JoJo. It started 15 years ago when my sister’s high school boyfriend was responsible for driving us where we needed to go. It was one of two CDs he always had playing in his car. I sat in the backseat–eighteen years old and boyfriendless–and practically wept at how romantic it was. I still love this song, even though the lyrics are the worst (e.g.,”Girl you are close to me you’re like my mother / Close to me you’re like my father”).

Here’s what a few of our Bushwick Bookclub Seattle volunteers admitted to:


I totally scoffed when you first asked this, even though I wanted to help. I thought, “Pssh. You can’t embarrass me. I own it.” And this is largely true. I still own a copy of Tiffany’s album and I don’t care who knows. Call Me Maybe… ? Love it. I was making this list in my head of all the bands I love to NOT feel guilty about, when it happened. It went like this: “There’s Glenn Medeirosthe Facts of Life theme song, Vanilla Ice, all that 90s lesbo-folk, and Debbie Gib-…oh. Fuck.” This is when I remembered that a friend had recently forced me to listen to Justin Bieber’s acoustic album…and I liked it. A lot. I feel so vulnerable right now.


Eagle Eye Cherry – “Save Tonight”

U2 – “Stuck in a Moment”



twilight_bushwickI have lots of guilty pleasures in books and music. I will share with you my biggest one: Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. Never in my life have I been so hopelessly addicted to something I knew was so terrible. Like my love of diet Dr. Pepper, the four Twilight books were a habit I just couldn’t quit despite knowing they were poisoning me from the inside out. I read page after page of nauseating descriptions of Bella’s love for Edward’s “sweet” breath even though it disgusted me. I found Edward’s stalking of Bella to be a bad example of a healthy relationship to present to tween readers and yet I read them with gusto. I digested them at a desperate pace, bringing the first on a trip with me, then buying the second and third at airport bookstores as I continued my travels. My guilt grew as I watched all five terrible movies even though viewing them made me both bored and sad. When friends started buying me movie merchandise including a horrific fleece blanket adorned with Jacob’s handsome but age-inappropriate face and I secretly liked it, I started to wonder if I could be a candidate for “My Strange Addictions.” It’s power over me was a force that I could not fight. Luckily for me, the series ended and there are no more books to co-opt my valuable reading time.


album cover for Savage Garden's AffirmationOkay… Here’s goes mine.

I secretly LOVE ridiculous/semi-trashy novels. My reigning guilty pleasures are The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon and The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger. Both series completely consume me when I read them (and I don’t really want to admit how many times that has been) and let me escape!

Now for the music- again two songs since I can’t really choose. I absolutely love “Truly, Madly, Deeply” by Savage Garden. I also have an incredible fondness for “Hanging By a Moment” by Lifehouse. I used to sit upstairs and IM my high school boyfriend while listening to it blaring. Sigh.

Now it’s your turn: tell us about your secret playlists and bookshelves. Tweet us at @iReadandSing or add your comment below!


What Makes Interesting (Song)Writing?

One thing I love about songwriting is the added challenge of making one’s stories and ideas fit a particular musical meter. It is, I find, difficult enough to express myself clearly in an engaging manner by simply writing prose; when I put a cap on syllables and insist on ending in rhyme, however, the complications multiply—though what flexibility I lose in available words I can sometimes regain with the alluring power of clever wordplay.

Thing is, not everybody tracks words. And among those of us who do, not everyone tracks them the same way. Some people simply love the groove. Some dig cadence and rhyme over narrative continuity; others vice versa. Or (self-indulgent reference warning!), as I bemoaned in my May 2011 Bushwick Book Club Seattle song inspired by Richard Feynman’s memoir “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”: Adventures of a Curious Character:

“One man’s Mona Lisa is another man’s cartoon.”

But, ah, the thrill of pursuit!

A few Book Clubbers and I were doing a program at Academy Schools in Tukwila recently, and I decided to poll my class of high schoolers regarding What Makes an Interesting Song? Disclosing my belief that there is no one magic list, I opened the floor for discussion (and invite it to remain open in the comments section below). Here’s what came back:

  • Arrangement
  • Conveys emotion: words & music
  • Memorable (catchy?)
  • Good beat/music
  • Harmony

And when I shifted the focus to What Makes Interesting Lyrics?:

  • Confidence
  • Imagery
  • Voice
  • Tone
  • Relatability
  • Message
  • Originality

Damn! I’ve facilitated college-level discussions that didn’t dig that deep or acknowledge in list form that these qualities are ALL important… and ambiguous. One writer’s confident message may come across as unrelatable pushiness to some readers/listeners; one’s honest, original, tangible story wasted as a derivative or forced exercise on another.

That we are a world full of people who connect in so many diverse ways is a beautiful, and occasionally frustrating, reality to me. I am fascinated by the ways that different authors and songwriters choose to share, by the similarities and discrepancies within and between the two processes, and by the incredible range in responses any one work can receive.

So good luck writing that perfect “all-things-to-all-people” song/poem/novel. But keep trying—I do.

Wes Weddell

Fictional Musicians In Real Books

Here at the Bushwick Bookclub Seattle we love books and we love music, but our favorite is the intersection of books and music. (And smiling. Smiling’s our favorite too.)

Musicians frequently reference literature in their songs. Dylan quotes from The Great Gatsby on his album Love and Theft. The Beastie Boys claim they’ve “got more stories than J.D.’s got Salingers”. The Police reference Humbert Humbert in their song Don’t Stand So Close to Me“He starts to shake and cough just like the old man in that book by Nabokov.” Alanis Morrissette references Dickens’ Great Expectations“I’m like Estella — I like to reel it in and then spit it out”. Both the Beatles and Insane Clown Posse have a thing for Poe (and yes, these two bands absolutely do belong in the same sentence together.)

But writers love musicians too. In the past two years two literary heavyweights have featured fictional musicians in their blockbuster novels, one winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

A_Visit_From_the_Goon_SquadA Visit From the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan’s prize-winning book, starts with Bennie Salazar, former punk rocker and now executive at Sow’s Ear Records. Bennie is allright but the more intriguing musician in the book turns out to be Bennie’s old bandmate from his Flaming Dildos days, Scotty. We see Scotty in his prime in 1979 – “Scotty actually built his instrument: bent the wood, glued it, painted on the shellac. Everyone gathers around, There’s no way not to when Scotty plays.” – and then years later when he’s turned into a reclusive janitor in New York, catching fish in the East River and wondering things like, “Does the chemical composition of Jagermeister cause a craving for string beans? Is there some property of string beans that becomes addictive on those rare occasions when they’re consumed with Jagermeister?” But don’t worry, everything is fine because Scotty goes on to write a hit children’s record.

Jonathan-franzen-freedom_2In Freedom, the Literary God of 2011, also known as Jonathan Franzen, introduces us to Richard Katz, a sexual dynamo despite his uncanny resemblance to Muammer el-Qaddafi. Katz fronts a punk band called The Traumatics and seduces his roommate’s girlfriend. When his band starts to make it big, Katz has an existential crisis and quits to build roof decks in Manhattan. It is clear that the author loves Katz more than his protagonist; Franzen even went so far as to compile a playlist for his fictional musician, which he published on

But here are a few of my favorite fictional musical characters:

1. Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Here’s how “Fred”, the otherwise unnamed narrator, first notices Holly’s guitar. Described by Capote,

“She played very well, and sometimes sang too. Sang in the hoarse, breaking tones of a boy’s adolescent voice. She knew all the show hits, Cole Porter and Kurt Weill; especially she liked the songs from Oklahoma!,…But there were moments when she played songs that made you wonder where she learned them, where indeed she came from. Harsh-tender wandering tunes with words that smacked of pineywoods or prairie.”

Not exactly Audrey Hepburn crooning Moon River, but you can’t blame Hollywood for choosing Johnny Mercer’s song over Oklahoma! showtunes.

2. Roxanne Coss, the opera singer in Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto.

Invited to perform for a Japanese billionaire in an unnamed South American country, Roxanne Coss is taken hostage along with all the other guests at the party by a terrorist group. As the only female captive, Coss remains the bitchy assertive, confident diva and continues to practice every morning, causing most of the poor, uneducated gunmen (and gunboys) to fall in love with her. The singer chooses Mr. Hosokawa to share her bedroom with—she’s the only hostage allowed a room of her own (you go, girl!)—and they fall for one another despite the fact that neither speaks a word of the other’s native tongue.

Patchett writes of Mr. Hosokawa:

“…he believed that life, true life, was something that was stored in music. True life was kept safe in the lines of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin while you went out in the world and met the obligations required of you. Certainly he knew (though did not completely understand) that opera wasn’t for everyone, but for everyone he hoped there was something. The records he cherished, the rare opportunities to see a live performance, those were the marks by which he gauged his ability to love.”

3. Stobrod Thewes, the fiddle player and wayward father from Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain.

It isn’t just any fiddle, but one with the tail of a rattlesnake housed within it, which Stobrod catches himself. I particularly love this character because he doesn’t find his affinity for music until he’s asked to play the fiddle for a dying girl, who requests an original song.

Stobrod realizes,

“One thing he discovered with a great deal of astonishment was that music held more for him than just pleasure. There was meat to it. The grouping of sounds, their forms in the air as they rang out and faded, said something comforting to him about the rule of creation. What the music said was that there is a right way for things to be ordered so that life might not always be just tangle and drift but have shape, an aim. It was a powerful argument against the notion that things just happen.”

Lots of other musicians come to life on the pages of novels. Which ones are your favorites? Who am I notably leaving out? Feel free to let me know – tweet about your favorite fake musicians @iReadAndSing #fictionalmusicians or leave a comment below.

The Bushwick Book Club Seattle Blog

Welcome to our blog! It is the coolest!

Welcome to the all-new Bushwick Book Club Seattle blog. Oh boy! This is THE DIGITAL PLACE TO BE for all the latest news on your favorite not the run-of-the-mill book club, as well as for interesting reads/articles about, music, books, our talented Bushwick Book Club Seattle artists, song writing, and the relevant book/music related happenings within our beloved Seattle arts/music community. Are you as excited about this as I am?!! Well, I certainly hope so.

Since I have the honor of writing the very first Bushwick blog post I thought it would be fitting to conclude it with a video of me. So here I am playing an original song I wrote inspired by Neil Gaiman’s the Sandman, performed live at the Crocodile last March. Hooray!