Saturday, January 24, 2004

Stuart McLean, Vinyl Cafe Diaries
More light fun from Mr. McLean; enjoyable and frothy, and hard to put down. Check out the Penguin- based blog for the book, also by Stuart. [Can one listen and not call him by first name? Really?]

I've been a Vinyl Cafe fan for quite a space now. It all started because I was dating a woman I'll call S--. Her dad had been to a Vinyl Cafe concert, and since it had been quite close to his birthday, when Stuart asked the audience for birthday people, one could hear S--'s dad's voice. So naturally, we had to listen to the broadcast of that concert. Not really tough; S-- and I were in the habit of listening to CBC on Saturday mornings anyway, to hear Dead Dog, so we just switch from one CBC to another that morning. The stories sucked me in.

I can't say that I started listening regularly until a space after that, well after S-- and I had parted ways. But Stuart's storytelling, whenever I heard it, would make me think "Gee, I really need to make an effort to listen to that."
Eventually, I did. Sunday afternoons, I'd bolt out of church to my car, and listen to it on the drive home. I'd dash into the house--normally during a song, having sat in my car with only the radio on for a minute or two, till an appropriate juncture--where my parents would be listening to it. I'd miss very little. Now, this arrangement works, but it's a bit anti-social, since I'd like to chat with the folks at church for a space, most Sundays. And what to do if there's football on? Clearly, the answer was a switch to Saturdays. Get up early enough to have just finished reading The Globe and Mail as ten o'clock rolled around. Take the crossword and my tea, and sit in the living room, listening to Stuart. This works quite nicely.

I've come to enjoy Stuart's eclectic taste in music more and more (Which is not to say that I like everything he plays; that'd just make me sycophantic. No, I've just come to recognise that most everything he plays is at least somewhat interesting.). But what keeps me coming back are the stories.

Having said that, then, it seems readily apparent that I'd enjoy the Vinyl Cafe Diaries; after all, I've heard most of these stories on the radio a time or two before. Sure 'nuff. And one can hear Stuart's voice, telling them, too, if one is a regular listener to the show. The very pauses are built into the writing. Be careful to use your own voice, should you read any aloud.

The one thing that I would like to say about them is that they're in an odd sort of category to themselves. They are short and ephemeral, here and then gone, but despite their ephemerality, moments stick in your mind, and you'll laugh at times far removed from reading when you recall things that happen to poor hapless Dave and his family.

Three quotations, then, to end off with, all from one of my favourite stories in the book, "Book Club" (132-48).

The funny:
"I found it totally unbelieveable," said Alison Morin. She crossed her legs and picked up her coffee cup. "A cheese would never behave like that in post-revolutionary France." (141)

The serious, proving that Stuart gets books:
She came across a paperback copy of Black Like Me. How could she have forgotten this book? It had changed the way she saw the world. She couldn't believe that she had abandoned it to a cardboard box in her basement. She opened another box and then another. Sitting on the floor with these old friends around, she felt a wave of guilt. She had to get them back on the shelves again. She couldn't leave them locked in the basement like political prisoners. She might not have the time to read any of them, but at least they would be in sight--at least she could touch them, take one down from time to time and flip through it. Just knowing she could do that felt good. (145)

The personally meaningful, to all teachers:
"It's more than just a story," she said. "It's a metaphor. Do you know what a metaphor is?"
Sam had no idea what a metaphor was. "Of course," he said, "We took it in math."