There is a controversy lighting the book blogosphere on fire this month. When Penguin Books published the cover to their new British edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory many people reacted with confusion or anger. Released for the 50th anniversary, the cover depicts a dolled up young girl sitting with a woman who is presumably her mother. Before I go on, take a look at the cover and decide for yourself. What do you think?
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)
At 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)
When 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.
I 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.
Now 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.
I 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!