Friday, January 19, 2007

Peter Case: As Far As You Can Get Without a Passport (For Now, 2007). Disclaimer (and it’s a big one): For Now is an imprint of everthemore Books. Everthemore is the publishing arm of the bookstore where I work and pretty much live when I am not at home reading books or sitting in front of this computer thinking about books. My ability to eat and put gas in my car and buy more books (and records) depends on the sales of this book, and a bunch of other books, thank you very much. Despite all of that, I would not say this new book was great, if I didn’t think it was great. I do say it is great, though there is not much to it: 51 pages. Really, it is nothing more than an article between covers. As Far As You Can Get Without A Passport is/was published and perhaps written in the tradition of all those delicious, slender City Lights paperback classics. It is as good as any of them, better than a lot of them. Appropriately enough, most of the action takes place more or less at the doorstep of the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco. Peter Case is an extremely talented bluesman singer/songwriter, but you really don’t need familiarity with his discography to read and enjoy this, his first book. The distinctive sound of his guitar comes across loud and clear and beautifully upon the printed page. It is the usual, familiar American story. A young dropout hits the road and heads west. It is 1973 and the poor sap has missed the 1960’s. Punk rock is three years away, but like so many before him, he follows the westward dream, starting out with nothing but the prerequisite army-green duffle, cheap guitar and bottle of wine. The sound of the time was Exile on Main Street and The Harder They Come soundtrack album, but this book sounds more like Peter’s beloved Elmore James track, “Sunnyland Moan”. As Far As You Can Get Without A Passport is the first part of an in-progress memoir to-be. Yet, it works like it is as slice-of -life music on the page.


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