Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sam Ku West

From holywarbles: 'Sam Ku was born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1907, becoming a professional musician when he joined Irene West's troupe of touring musicians and dancers in 1926. Initially he was known as Sam Ku, Jr. but soon adopted the professional name of Sam Ku West. Often he would be billed as the 'Kreisler of the steel guitar' [referring to the famous violinist]. This title was given to him by Prince George of England who saw him play in Singapore in 1926.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Oil Cans!

Set in 1880's Boston, this gritty novel follows a family of Irish immigrants as they try to navigate the workplace and a new country. Similar in some respects to Upton Sinclair's 1906 masterpiece The Jungle. Regarded by many people as the best book of the 1980's.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Which Side Are You On?

In honor of the Wisconsin state workers and everyone protesting the villain Scott Walker (the Governor not the singer and Jacques Brel interpreter) and the Republican state legislature. Here is a great story on who is funding Walker's efforts to destroy the state worker's collective bargaining rights.
Pictured above is former Wisconsin Governor, Senator and Progressive Party presidential candidate Robert M. "Fighting Bob" La Follette. He was an opponent of railroad trusts, bossism, World War I, and the League of Nations. According to wikipedia: A 1982 survey asking historians to rank the "ten greatest Senators in the nation's history" based on "accomplishments in office" and "long range impact on American history," placed La Follette first, tied with Henry Clay.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Banjo Boys

Set in early 1950's Vermont. Two brothers learn how to build banjos from their eccentric old neighbor. However, when their abusive father finds out about their activities he threatens to destroy everything they've been working for. This book won the National Book Award. Suggested soundtrack: anything by The New Lost City Ramblers.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Color Blotch: A Psychadelic Novel

Color Blotch was written in 1967 while I was living on a community farm north of San Francisco. It was written in an experimental style and was described by the Atlantic Monthly as "having the same effect as taking mushrooms, LSD, marijuana, coca cola and a burrito all at once." The novel follows the journey of an unnamed narrator who meanders through life, not being able to communicate effectively with anyone. One woman understands him and they end up leaving earth together on a ship after an enormous earthquake. A good soundtrack for this book would be The 5,000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion by the Incredible String Band.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Cooper's Daughter

Set in a small village in early twentieth century Yorkshire, England. A cooper is someone who makes wooden casks, kegs, buckets, barrels and things of that nature. When the cooper's son dies in World War I, he must teach his reluctant daughter in the family trade. A generational story similar in many respects to On The Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin and a little bit of Knut Hamsun's Growth of the Soil. A good soundtrack for reading this book would be Hark! The Village Wait by Steeleye Span or anything by Martin Carthy.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The New Smash Hit Romantic Novel set in Dust Bowl era Eastern Washington: Good Evenin'

Bud and Gertrude have both outlived their spouses and are drawn to eachother. However, their sons are competitors in local business and this causes great strain within the families. This heartbreaking romance was given a rave review by Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times. She said "Christie limns out the heart from these hard scrabble westerners and limns an incredibly moving cover for the book-which actually limns out the entire book."

Friday, February 11, 2011

Bruno Schulz Linocut Portrait (two-block print)

Bruno Schulz was a Jewish artist and writer who lived in what is now Ukraine but what was at the time Poland. During Nazi occupation, Schulz was protected by a nazi officer who admired his drawings. To get back at this officer, another Nazi named Karl Gunther shot and killed Schulz. Like many people, I found out about Bruno Schulz from the exquisite 1986 animation Street of Crocodiles by the Brothers Quay. I read Street of Crocodiles (Cinnamon Shops) and am planning on reading Under The Sign of The Hourglass. Schulz was an amazing stylist with words and imagery and should be more well known today for his drawings and particularly his writing.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Pyotr Stolypin

Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin was the third Prime Minister of Imperial Russia. He enacted the agrarian reforms and was opposed to Rasputin. He was assassinated at the Kiev Opera House in 1911 and there are some conspiracy theories involving his death. One book I read purported he was a double agent.

Monday, February 07, 2011

The New Smash Hit Children's Book about the inner workings of the 19th Century Prussian Munitions Sales Industry: The Baron Had No Choice

I started this blog 5 or more years ago to post my book covers I had come up with for non existent books. I am continuing this tradition.