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Showing posts from July, 2020

1812 Brewery in Cumberland, Md.

I stumbled upon 1812 Brewery while fishing Evitts Creek one day earlier this spring, during the early days of the COVID quarantine. The micro-brewery -- housed in an old barn (built in 1812) -- is situated on a small rise on Mason Rd. where it separates from the creek for a while. Most businesses, at that time, were closed. But I saw a small, flashing "open" sign in the window, so I went in to have a look. 
Since then I've tried most of their styles of beer, my favorites being the Base Camp Cream Ale and the Farm Use Lager. Also just recently tried the Moro Blood Orange ale, which was awesome. Not only is it a way to support a small local business but they make damn good beer and you know it's always fresh. 
Unless you're staying or live somewhere near Cumberland, it's probably unlikely you're going to get off the highway and make it out to 1812 Brewery, but if you're a micro-brew connoisseur (I am not, necessarily, I just love beer) it's absolutely…

New Yorker Fiction Review #246: "Jack and Della," by Marilynne Robinson

Review of a short story from the July 20, 2020 issue of The New Yorker...
Again we have a short story printed in The New Yorker as advance publicity for the author's forthcoming book. But I've come to realize that's just how the magazine operates -- most magazines, probably -- and also, if it keeps exposing me to new authors and quality new fiction, what's the problem? We're all unwittingly part of some economic machine or other, and it's ludicrous to think there is not an Arts & Literature Machine out there as well, determining what you watch and listen to.
Jeeze...did that get political fast? Anyway...
"Jack and Della" is, apparently, an expansion of an episode in one of Marilynne Robinson's novels, entitled Gilead (2004). Jack is the recovering alcoholic, ex-convict son of a preacher, recently released from jail and living on the fringes of abject poverty. He is shaken-down by local thugs daily. He sleeps on park benches when he is not spendin…

Book Review: The Nickel Boys (2019), by Colson Whitehead

Found this (audio) book because I had to take a long car trip and I needed something that was a.) contemporary, and b.) certified good. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead is definitely both, having won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2020. 
The Nickel Boys is a novel set in an abusive boys reform school in Florida in the mid-1960s. Although it is fiction, the book was inspired by the real-life investigation into the Dozier School, and several of the characters and incidents in the story parallel the lives and stories of actual students at the Dozier School, a group of whom are still alive and who still keep in touch. 
Without getting into the at times graphic details of the abuse the boys suffered at the school (and, ergo, in the real life Dozier School) I will just say that at times this book can be pretty upsetting to listen to, and probably not a great "beach read" or something you read when you want to just escape into a good read and drift away. No, The Nickel Boys bri…

Western Virginia Brook Trout Fishing

To me, fly-fishing for brook trout has become almost an obsession this season, and I feel like there is no going back. It is an experience that brings you to some of the most beautiful streams you could possibly imagine and puts you in contact with native trout who have been breeding and living in those streams since the beginning of time. Furthermore, to me, fly-fishing for brook trout is as close as you can get to the way trout fishing was meant to be. 
This past weekend I went fly-fishing for brookies in western Virginia with my uncle and had the best two days' worth of trout fishing I've ever had. The stream was remote and cold. The fish were small and feisty. Most importantly, they were hungry. I put my uncle onto his first-ever trout on a fly-rod (how many people can say their first trout on a fly was a native brookie??) and I myself caught eight total throughout the two days, including some 8-9 inchers. 
The challenge and the excitement of brook trout fishing -- unlike al…

Book Review: Pinball, 1973, by Haruki Murakami (1980)

I am working my way chronologically through Haruki Murakami's catalog. Pinball, 1973 is his second novel, published in 1980...
In the Wikipedia entry about Pinball, 1973 (yes, we here at The Grant Catton Blog always do at least 15 seconds of research before every post) it says that Haruki Murakami never even intended his first two books -- Hear the Wind Sing, and this one -- to be published outside Japan and they were, in fact, extremely difficult to get a hold of until 2009 when they were re-printed. I can completely understand why: both books are amateurish, self-indulgent, and virtually plotless (those could actually be thought of as synonyms). But, there is a significant jump in quality from Hear the Wind Sing to Pinball, 1973
Pinball, 1973 is a continuation of the story from Hear the Wind Sing which mainly involves a character called The Rat and entails a lot of sitting around bars; however, there is (at the very least) the addition of two interesting elements that work to dr…

New Yorker Fiction Review #245: "A Transparent Woman" by Hari Kunzru

Review of a short story from the July 6 & 13, 2020 issue of The New Yorker...
First of all, I have to commend The New Yorker on publishing what I consider to be the best single issue in quite a while. I stopped watching TV at some vague point during COVID (sometime after finishing Mad Men for the fourth time and finally taking action on what is a perpetual lament of mine and of nearly all modern-day literary types: "I need to read more."). Having forsaken television (streamed and cable) the weekly arrival of The New Yorker has taken on a much greater significance in my life. Whereas at one time I only read the fiction (if I even got around to opening the issue) and maybe one other story, now I tend to read at least 75% of the issue. 
This particular issue is a real home run. There is a review of Joyce Carol Oates' new novel. An extensive piece on the Falkland Islands. A shocking examination of the history and current controversy surrounding dollar stores. An article by…