Post-apocalyptic book club report

Meghan McCarron • November 21st, 2008 @ 2:16 pm • Uncategorized

Freebird Books in Red Hook is, basically, the platonic ideal of a used bookstore.  (Though that used bookstore in Seattle that stays open 24 hours is also a hot contender.  I am also a huge fan of the giant ones in New Hampshire run out of barns.  But we’re talking platonic ideal, not appealing innovation, so Freebird is still coming out on top.)   Closely stacked wood shelves?  Check.  Lively mix of galleys, slightly used, and downright old/rare books?  Check.  Arty, diy, eclectic decor?  Check.  Comfy chairs?  Check.  And, of course, that musty, sweet, papery smell?  Check.  Plus, they have a post-apocalyptic book club.
I learned about this book club back in August when I first moved to Brooklyn, but haven’t been able to attend until this month.  In fact, I had no excuse not to attend this month, because they were discussing Brian Slattery’s new book Liberation:Being the Adventures of the Slick Six…  I have had the rare pleasure of reading both of Brians novels in galley form (thanks Liz!), and I had missed the great book release celebration at Sunny’s, plus I’d been meaning to go to this book club for months — anyway, so I high-tailed it on the B61, ate an Australian meat pie for dinner, and joined the discussion.

The book was chosen, in part, because its apocalypse was unique and, ah, topical — the US falls apart not due to nuclear war or zombie plagues but because of an economic collapse.  This lead to much post-discussion head shaking about disappearing jobs and falling Dows, all with a great riverside view of the financial district to boot.  But as Brian said early on (he was present for the discussion), Liberation is also a “hippie novel” as concerned with portrayals of communal joy as communal misery, and Brian’s post-collapse US, while definitely bleak, is also dotted and streaked with life.  He said he listened obsessively to Dylan’s Highway 61 while working on the book, and I’d say the tone of the book is greatly similar to that album.  Dark and joyful, careful and raucous, and while rooted in real-world problems, its narrative is operating on a broader and more surreal plane.

I’d love to write in more detail about this book, but  I am on my lunch break, and have just wolfed down my delicious cold pizza and now must go sell some books.  I just want to add that the coolest thing about the discussion was that unlike a lot of writers, Brian could talk about where a number of the ideas and images in the book had their genesis with ease, and the answers were things like watching currency traders in Zambia and meeting with coffee plantation workers in Guatemala and editing public policy journals.  I am probably embarrassing Brian by saying this, but his answers were fascinating, and part of what makes his books so exhilarating are their, and Brian’s, deep engagement with the world.  Definitely check out Liberation, and if you’re in New York, go to Freebird.  Neither will disappoint.


One Response to “Post-apocalyptic book club report”

  1. Liz G. says:

    I know this is not really the point of your post, but I’m totally excited to hear about that Australian pie place. I’ve been craving a chicken pie since I had one at Babka in Melbourne. That’s totally where I’m heading before the next post-apoc book club meeting.

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