Song of the Week: “So it Goes” by Sam Ford

So here’s the new weekly article that will be coming from me, Geoff Larson, the Program Director of The Bushwick Book Club Seattle. I have been part of and/or planned every single Seattle Bushwick show. It has been quite a journey over these past few years.

Now I want to present my “Song of the Week” where I will write about a song from one of our Bushwick artists and talk about what I think about the tune. Hopefully I can keep these pretty short, but you never know.

So here is this week’s song of the week:

“So it Goes” by Sam Ford | inspired by Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five

The first thing I’d like to say about this tune is, I love the name! “So it goes” is a phrase I frequently use in my life. For me, it means the same thing as “such is life” or “shit happens.” Mostly it means that it’s time to move on to the next thing, no matter what just happened. Vonnegut used it in a somewhat similar way, but who knows what that guy is thinking.

So it Goes… Now to the music. Read more

Following in Carnegie’s Footsteps, One Little Free Library at a Time

My awesome Mom, Sue Garvin, recently installed a new book-based feature in her backyard and I asked her to write about it in the hopes that some Bushwick members would be inspired to build their own.

Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish born man from a poor family who immigrated to America with his parents in 1848. He became one of the richest men of his time through investments in the steel industry, railroad sleeping cars, bridges and oil derricks. In 1889, he wrote “The Gospel of Wealth” wherein he urged the wealthy to use their money to improve society. He took on many philanthropic projects, but the one still thriving today is his establishment of public libraries. All in all, he funded 2,510 libraries in 47 states, and countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. Forty-Three Carnegie libraries were built in Washington State alone. Thirty-two of these buildings still stand and 14 are libraries to this day. Locally, you can find Carnegie libraries are in Columbia City, Fremont, Green Lake, Queen Anne, First Hill and West Seattle. Read more

Bookshelf Report: Dave Eggers and a Tiny Gun

Today marks the start of an ongoing series that documents reader bookshelves. We will ask the same 5 questions of  each reader who shares their shelf with us. 5 photos, 5 questions. My own bookshelf will start the series.

What is your favorite book on this shelf?

You Shall Know Our Velocity by Dave Eggers. It’s a McSweeney’s first edition and it is beautiful. I bought it at The Strand and then had a chance to meet Eggers at a reading a short while later. He signed the inside by drawing me a picture of half of a three-eyed dog. [Ed.: Check our twitter for a photo.]

How do you organize your books?

I usually just put my favorites in the most prominent places, then try to alphabetize a little bit, then (maybe this is a girl thing) make them look pretty. I really hate a book that has an ugly cover. My husband’s Solzhenitsyn collection haunted my dreams for years. The back covers all have these giant-size photographs of the author. Not that he’s not a particularly unattractive man, but…

I think this shelf is a pretty good example of the marriage of two types of readers. My part of it is a mix of styles–poetic (Ondaatje) and terse (ol’ Papa), dramatic and comedic (Eggers), hell-raising (Kerouac) and meandering (Krauss). All the Faulkner, Camus and Kapuscinski, plus the nonfiction belongs to my husband. He’s also a huge Nicholson Baker fan. The shelf also has glass doors so our dog can’t eat the books and collectibles.

Be honest. What percentage of the books on this shelf have you actually read?

Ha! I actually figured this out. Of the books that are mine, I’ve read 57%. Not great, but not bad either. Also, I’m excluding books that I’ve only read halfway through.

What book do you plan to read next?

The book sitting on top of the shelf, which is an edition of Alice in Wonderland illustrated by Yayoi Kusama. She recently had an exhibit at SAM that was so mesmerizing–a wall of hot pink (and like, electric hot pink) with neon orange polka dots that you couldn’t look away from–that I had to get the book. Also, I’ve never read the actual text of the story.

Wild Card Question: What’s the deal with the tiny gun?

I got it in Georgetown. It’s an old cap gun. I have a couple others, one that is even tinier and one that is regular size and looks frighteningly real. 

Think your bookcase has what it takes? We’d love to take a look! Send us your photos!

I Never Learned to Fish, and the Power of a Book

Over at Powell’s blog recently, Josh Hanagarne wrote about books that have the power to change lives. He mused over all the people he had encountered who claimed that a book had changed their life, but when questioned gave such a dissatisfying answer:

“How?” I said. Meaning, how did it change your life?

“Because it was amazing!” she said.

This is a pretty typical response, and I know I do it sometimes as well.

“Because it was just so good!”

“It was incredible!”

“I loved it!”

These are all great to hear, but none of them indicate any clues about how a life might have been changed…

Here at Bushwick Seattle, we are all book lovers. Saying what we love about a book is what we do. At every show our musicians articulate this sometimes intangible, mysterious force that weds us to the page. Whether it’s Del Ray’s love of Lydia Bennett’s particular brand of silliness (or rather, as Jane Austen says, the ability to be “ungovernable”) or Tai Shan’s empathy with Wendy Torrance in The Shining, the whole night is about the “why?” of what makes a book one that you love.

A life-changing book, however, is quite another thing. There have only been a few books that I can give life-changing status, and even then I’m not exactly sure if I could pass Hanagarne’s test. The closest that I can get is this:

In graduate school I signed up for a seminar on Ernest Hemingway. I never thought I’d like it. I was a feminist and Hemingway was perhaps the most famous alpha male of the literary world, and notoriously unable to write women characters. I was at a point in my life where I was purposefully ignoring literary greats (the dusty, old male-dominated canon) to read contemporary writers of the female variety.

But then there was In Our Time, Hemingway’s first short story collection. The collection is good, yes, but not life-changing…until I hit the final two stories: Big Two-Hearted River, Parts I and II.

These stories feature Hemingway’s Nick Adams character alone in the countryside. He hikes, sits on a stump and smokes, naps, opens a can of beans, boils water for coffee, fishes. He thinks. He sleeps.

ernest hemingway with fish

…Nick felt happy. He felt he had left everything behind, the need for thinking, the need to write, other needs. It was all back of him.

Not much happens. The stories are descriptive, not plot-driven. Nick speaks only three times: once to a grasshopper, once out loud to himself, and once with his mouth full of food (“’Chrise,’ Nick said, ‘Geezus Chrise,’ he said happily.”).

The stories are about the aftermath of war. They are about being alone. Maybe a bit about healing, reconciling the past and present. The stories made me want to fish, to be alone for a while and eat what I caught. This might seem funny to anyone who knows me, but it’s true.

It’s been at least six years since I read about that big two-hearted river, and I haven’t yet been fishing. So maybe that means that my life hasn’t changed in any tangible way after all, but there are many times when things get crazy and I’m yearning for escape and I think about that river, those grasshoppers to which Nick says “Go on, hopper…Fly away somewhere.”

I still plan to fish, someday.


What about you, Seattle? What books have changed your life? Why? How? Tell us about them.

Tweet your answers #lifechangingbooks @iReadandSing