He's an avid reader and his coffee shop is also a book store, mostly filled with books of his choosing, not necessarily the most popular books of the moment. He reviews books for the local paper and posts them on his website. He just sent me his latest review of on of my favorites, Woody Allen. You'll also notice that he puts a very personal angle on his reviews, which will prove to you how personal books are to him. If you are passing through or visiting Mason (just outside of Fredericksburg), duck into his shop for a bite, a coffee or a book for your trip. Here is his most recent review of Woody Allens new book and a personal story about us back in the day:
Coffee Guy Book Review
By Woody Allen
Published by Random House (2007)
My sophomore year of college I moved into an apartment in east Austin that could best be described as somewhere between cheap and cheaper. My roommate, Jeff, was one of my best friends – we grew up together and were looking forward to having our own place and inventing new and interesting ways to turn ground beef into a complete meal. Practically joined at the hip the previous five or six years we exited our roommate experiment wanting nothing more than to bludgeon each other with the never used rolling pin or perhaps one of the various auto parts we used to clean in the kitchen sink (nothing says dinner time like the odor of Berryman carburetor cleaner). A decade later we buried the proverbial hatchet over a beer (okay, twelve beers) and wondered what it was that caused the rift in the first place. Was it my near obsessive-compulsive disorder and Jeff’s, uh, not obsessive-compulsive disorder? Timeliness in bill paying? Psychopathic girls we dated? A scratched LP? Neither of us knew. And in the end it didn’t matter. It was all water and various illegally dumped chemicals under the bridge. We’ve remained very close friends since.
I bring all this up because in doing some research (yes, in addition to my actually reading the book I also do some research for each review; granted, this usually consists of skimming the dust jacket for the publisher or seeing if there is a review I can plagiarize without getting caught, it is research nonetheless) for my latest review I came across something very interesting. I found my paperback copies of Woody Allen’s Side Effects and Getting Even and discovered Jeff’s name scrawled inside the covers denoting ownership of said books prior to our doomed cohabitation. Uh-oh. What else did I steal? I quickly rifled through my vinyl albums and found only one (INXS Listen Like Thieves) bearing Jeff’s signature (I’ll bet he wishes I kept his Corey Hart album instead). Oh, man, was my want of hilarious, intellectual, absurdist story telling and INXS’classic blend of funk, pop and rock at the root of our skirmish? Nah, Jeff has a horrible memory – for all he knows Woody himself graced our humble abode and delivered those books personally.
Anyway, I loved those books. So I was pretty excited to see that Woody had put together another collection of stories in the form of Mere Anarchy. Happily, I was not disappointed. Mere Anarchy picks up where Allen left off some twenty-odd years ago. Great story titles (“Sam, You Made The Pants Too Fragrant”), wonderfully absurdist takes on real life gone extreme (a three-year-old being turned down to a prestigious nursery in Manhattan in “The Rejection”), fantastic character names (Comfort Tobias, Doxy Nash, Max Endorphine, Chic Arbogast, Galaxie Sunstroke, etc.) and metaphors galore (“the woman let out a piercing shriek of the type that alerts to enemy bombardment”). Oh, and the stories are funny too. I’ve always loved the way Allen sets you up with complex and verbose prose only to finish with a punch line launched straight from junior high school (“I might look at the same face and see something you’d find for sale in a live-bait store.”).
I’m guessing Woody Allen isn’t for everyone. But if you’re someone other than everyone this is a must read. Perhaps I should send Jeff a copy (gratis of course) to make up for old transgressions…