Saturday, December 15, 2007

Home from the Vinyl Cafe

Home From the Vinyl Cafe, by Stuart McLean
$11.20 at Amazon.com
ISBN: 978-1-59448-274-8
This is a delightful novel with a Christmas holiday slant. Fans of David Sedaris might especially enjoy it, since it's very funny. Also anyone who liked High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby.
Dave and Morley are a Canadian, suburban couple in their mid-forties. A lot of the book's humor comes from their "keeping up with the Jonses" mentality, and it's a real riot. In the first chapter, Dave frantically tries to convince a swank hotel's concierge to cook his family's Christmas turkey, an odd-lot bird that's badly mutilated. He does this because Morley insists their family must have an idyllic, Norman Rockwell-style holiday which she's been planning for since July.
She began by making her own, hand-printed gift wrap paper. 
Later, she dips oak leaves in gold pain, and makes her own rubber Christmas stamps. By the time the holiday arrives, her planning has gotten manically out of hand, and he nearly ruins it all by forgetting to buy the Christmas turkey.
Dave owns a record store, and in one chapter he buys a refrigerator carton full of the plastic disks used to adapt 45 rpm records. This is long after the age when most people had record 
players in their homes. 
What he does with the disks is quite clever, and how he manages to use up the entire carton of disks will astonish you.
The couple coaxes their children into taking unwanted music lessons, and unloads a troublesome niece named Margot at a Summer Camp for aspiring child thespians. They terrify a slumber party of nine-year-olds with a Zombie horror movie. The scenes with the kids are funniest of all.
In my favorite chapter, friends ask Dave to feed a sourdough bread culture. Apparently, like yeast or yogurt, sourdough culture is alive and needs to be fed. Some cultures are kept alive for many years to 
preserve a family recipe. While on vacation, a neighbor asks our hero to put a teaspoon of flour in their precious culture's mason jar each day. He unwittingly substitutes drywall compound. Hilarity ensues.
Breezy and enjoyable, this book is all about the daily foibles and pratfalls of modern life. It'd be a treat as a holiday gift, but could just as easily be enjoyed any time of the year. It made me laugh aloud at times, and smile on every page.

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