Monday, September 21, 2009

"Go Back to Punk School, Bro"

Someone came in to the store not too long ago and asked if I had ever read Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love. When I said that I had not the customer, near swooning, dramatically responded "Oh my GOD, you HAVE to read it! IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE." Well, though some of the reviews I've read have made bits of Gilbert's spiritual journey sound intriguing to me, I do doubt that I personally would find it life changing. My interests lie elsewhere and currently, as a twenty-six year old male, am quite certain that it is not the book for me. However, the enthusiasm of said customer got me thinking. What do I consider a life changing book? What piece of literature had the deepest impact on me as I was growing into this body that I now sheepishly call a man? What?!

I'd love, love, to answer that question a number of different ways. I'd love to tell everyone that a Henry Miller novel made me strap on my druthers and began me pounding away at the artistic canon, or that reading Sartre or Hobbes did more for me than what they did (got me bummed out on mankind). No, to be perfectly honest with myself, after digging through a deep mental landfill of open and shut books, I selected what may have been the first (somewhat embarrassing) life changing book that I can remember reading.

Yup. There it is. Aaron Cometbus' Double Duce. I was maybe fourteen or fifteen when I went to Berkeley for the first time without parents, just getting in to punk and rap and all that represented a counter culture that I wanted to be affiliated with. I found Double Duce on the ground, and I remember the last ten pages of the book were unreadable, looking like they had been partially eaten. Still though, I plowed through what I could of it in a day or two. It was the first time I had ever read any madness fueled, system rejecting sort of memoir that hit so close to home. Yeah, I'd read some Hunter S. Thompson and I'd been introduced to Down and Out in Paris and London by and older friend, but those still seemed far out of touch with the life I was living. Cometbus struck my mid-teenage mind with both familiar scenery as well as a somewhat unpolished vigor for what he was doing that seemed much more realistic and honest than anything else that I was reading at the time.

There is much writing that excited me a decade ago that I certainly cannot picture myself hunching over again anytime soon. Salinger for example, though important to me at one time, and I still say everyone should read at some point, is an author that I would be hard pressed to revisit at this age. Cometbus' however, is one I can still revisit. I am still taken in the arms of nostalgia, I am still always excited to read about the near and dear subculture of the Bay Area. The fact that he's still cranking out zines certainly doesn't hurt either of course. If you're interested in starting on some of his work I'd recommend his second most recent release at this point (and a staff pick at Green Apple) The Loneliness of the Electric Menorah, which deals primarily with the (pretty comical) history of some of our favorite Bay Area businesses, such as Moe's Books, Rasputin Records, Shambhala Publications, etc.

NOW- I want to wrap this entry up and all, but since it is rapidly aiming itself toward a particular interest of mine, I'm going to make few quick nods toward some Bay Area punk culture related events and then go home and go to bed.

Gimme' Something Better comes out at the end of this month. I read the galley when it was sent to the store and I have to say that it is an awesome and exciting read, whether you're in to the music or the scene or not. It's weird to think about what all the punks are doing behind your back. On the twelfth of October there will be a release party at Broadway Studios, which Green Apple will have some participation in. You can find out more about it here.

Another event worth mentioning (and this one's free!) is one of the current exhibits at the SF downtown library: Punk Passage San Francisco First Wave Punk 1977-1981. Check out the info on the SFPL website: here.

Okay. Thank you. Green Apple loves you. Now goodnight.

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