Often are the times that I have been to book releases and been bored to tears. Usually I’ll go to see a specific author and hear them read various parts of the book they are releasing, but by the end of it I wind up hearing bits of other books by other authors that I could usually care less about, and find myself habitually checking the clock to see when it’s going to end. However, the book release event I found myself at on May 2 at The Rose Establishment was far from boring, and was seen as a great success by many in attendance.
The Provo-based music collective Bat Manors kicked off the evening. Although the group has a core of six members, along with a rotating cast of nine other musicians, for this event they opted to go with a power-trio comprising of Adam Klopp (vocals/guitar), Bret Meisenbach (guitar) and Jacob Hall (drums). Having heard them on recordings previously with the full ensemble, I can honestly say it was refreshing hearing their music in a much more subdued way. They combine elements of melodious indie-rock (think of the more mellow songs by a group like The Smiths with a hint of some of the more jangly-pieces by R.E.M.), with a vocal style that puts one in the mind of Marian Gold—especially during the last song of their set—”Choir Boy.”
Then came author Levi Rogers.
With a complete title of “A Brief History of Melancholy: Vignettes on the Usual, American, Feel-Good-Life of Nostalgia, Despair, and Mental Illness,” combined with Rogers starting his reading by saying, “It’s time to bring on the depression,” the audience was given all the warning they needed to know that things were going to take a somewhat somber tone. And they did … kind of.
Typically, I am not a huge fan of poetry or prose, especially when it’s trying to chronicle someone’s existence. I find that because poetry can be so free-form at points, that the author ends up confusing their readers with innuendo and vague references to things that are important in their life, but rarely connect to someone who doesn’t “get it.” However, Rogers’ writing is so simple, so powerful, that it made an immediate connection with me, and a majority of the crowd.
Beginning with “Chapter 2,” Rogers proceeded to read passages from his book. They aren’t really “stories” or “poems,” in the traditional sense, but rather glimpses into what one could categorize as an autobiography. There aren’t really titles to each story. This particular piece had to deal with questions about life, time and how, no matter how we may try to escape time by using mental tricks to make us feel that we are progressing through it, unless we ultimately make the changes internally, it’s not going to make a difference. I was hooked. His writing tends to shy away from euphemisms, making his voice and intent behind each piece loud and clear.
One of the other things I thought he did well during the reading was inject some humor. The final piece he read, “Chapter 11,” was about going out with his fiancé to register the gifts they wanted to receive at their wedding reception. At the end you find him thoroughly disgusted by the entire process, finding himself walking out of the clothing store eyeing a pair of David Beckham underwear for $15. After finding out that the $15 is for a SINGLE garment, and not a bundle, as he had been accustomed to at other outlets, the story ends with: “Figures. Fucking David Beckham.” Followed by much laughter from those in attendance.
The last performance of the event weas provided by Salt Lake City’s The Circulars. Utilizing the traditional elements of indie rock (guitar, bass, drums, etc.) they also added keyboards and a lap steel guitar to create what would best be described as “alt-country.” Their music had the trademark “whine” that is delivered by the lap steel guitar, which helped with the somber mood of some of the spoken word, but was lifted to a more upbeat place through the use of the guitar tones and chord progressions. It was like listening to Santo & Johnny with keyboard melodies that had an older Moody Blues feel to it, and a splash of country funneled through alt-rock of the mid-‘90s. Really, the only song that had a singular, definitive style was a song called “Untitled Song Number 5,” which was COMPLETELY honky-tonk country. To be honest, though, I wasn’t a huge fan of the band (but that has more to do with my personal tastes than the band not being any good). They are all really talented musicians, and the style of music they are creating will definitely appeal to those that like indie-rock, yet are craving something different.
On my way home from the event, I read over half the book on the bus. Yes, it’s that good. It’s one that I implore anyone who enjoys reading about the more morose aspects of life—injected with a bit of humor—to check out.