Thursday, August 22, 2013

Shelf Life [adult]

Cadillac Couches by Sophie B Watson

Given the hirsute tsunami of beards, plaid flannel and Doc Martens in all the hip coffee shops lately, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that nostalgia for the late 90s and early aughts has finally arrived in literature. Do I sound beleaguered? Don’t believe it for a second. As an early-breaking member of Generation Y, I am thrilled to death to be wallowing in my own nostalgia for a change. Does it make me feel old? Hell yes. Does it bring back the warm happies, thinking about hemp macramĂ©-bedecked drum jams uninterrupted by cell phones? Sure does! Bring it on.

And Ms Watson does. Cadillac Couches is a pitch-perfect slice of hipster life at the end of the twentieth century. Best friends Annie and Isobel are stuck in a post-university rut in Edmonton. Isobel is unemployed, but pretty enough to make a go of it socially anyway. Annie works part time at a restaurant while her heart recovers from her last breakup, and watches a sea of dazzled men fall face-first into Isobel’s lap. To break the monotony, they head to the Edmonton Folk Festival and hatch a plan – they’ll road-trip east to see Hawksley Workman perform in Montreal, after which Annie and Isobel will pretend to be journalists, and Hawksley will fall madly in love mid-interview. With Annie. Hopefully.

Like any good road trip, this novel is all about the atmosphere and journey, with the destination presenting a nice excuse for the rest of the shenanigans. The plot is contrived and the writing can be a little awkward, but it winds up lending the characters’ contrived awkwardness a certain authenticity. At any rate, these minor faults don’t get in the way of a good party. The girls even manage to catch an Ani DiFranco concert on the way through Manitoba. Watson is absolutely committed to immersing her readers in the happy rebellion of the indie music revolution that hit as Napster freed the bootleg and spread indie to the masses. Each chapter includes its own playlist, and the book ends off with a set list that’ll leave you yearning for drum circles and hacky sack, if you were ever into that sort of thing.

Does Annie meet Hawksley? Does he fall swooningly in love with her garage-rock charms? You’ll just have to read the book. And as for the indie rock that blossomed lo those fifteen years ago? As a well-meaning young fan yelled to Hayden at this year’s Hillside Festival, “you’re aging gracefully!”


This review appears in The Stratford Gazette. Written by Shauna Thomas, Librarian.

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