Book Report: “People started grabbing on to the lengths of beaded hair …”

Mr. Whipple is coming to Montford Books and More. Does that mean you can’t squeeze the Charmin? (Let’s hope not.) We’re talking about Mr. Lee Whipple, of course, the local author and singer with a penchant for Grunge-era angst enclosed in the streaked Chrysanthemum-burst aurora of intergalactic exploration (and a glint of romance). Don’t squeeze the nebulae.

Whipple performs somewhat regularly in local coffee houses and bookstores, typically with a 12-string acoustic guitar. Although he may seem to be folk music defined, Whipple is more of an alt-rock frontman gone rogue. Possible examples abound, and Whipple describes a few of them as influences, such as Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell and Smashed Pumpkin Billy Corgan. Like Whipple, Corgan has ventured into the literary arts, however unfortunately, with a poetry book that was actually published in 2004. Whipple admires some of the hoarier bandleaders as well, including Roger Waters and Bruce Springsteen, so don’t finger him as a lost extra from Reality Bites. Sure, he’ll palm-mute his 12-string and buck and bray like the singer for that band that sounds like Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots and Bush at the same time, but his lyrics also discuss the simpler themes of love, kissing girls, having friends and the general struggle to live a dignified life: “Stay away from that pivot / straight ahead is life and you should live it.”

According to Whipple’s press materials, “the key to alternative music is not that it must be difficult to listen to, but only that it bring something new and different to each song.” See what he means on Sunday, June 26 at Montford Books and More. Whipple performs his many arts, by himself — the lone man of myriad statements. Speaking of statements, perhaps Whipple will have some copies of his novel, No Fool I, available at the event.

In chapter eight of the book, Whipple seems to present his motivations as an artist. Following an introductory epigraph from Paradise Lost, the opening paragraph reads: “We could not see what lay on the other side of the gate. All we could see was the watery surface of a circle. Wolf was willing to leap through into the unknown and then check back with us to tell us what was on the other side.”

This is not to say that Whipple is Wolf. Wolf is, in fact, a wolf. The protagonist/narrator, “I,” met Wolf after a strange night in what Chris Cornell may have called “the superunknown.” A flawed paraphrase:

“I” is at a bar.  “I” is in town on business. “I” orders a cranberry juice, because “I” never drinks and drives. “I” “doesn’t even start to do it. It doesn’t cover for anybody and it doesn’t make sense.” “I” tips one dollar for every two drinks, even though the bartender appears “faintly pissed” that “I” ordered a cranberry juice when the place is so busy. “I” meets some girls, one of whom has “real grace in her stance,” while the other wears “one of those tops that has only one strap over one shoulder.” “I” is familiar with such fashions. “I” thinks to himself, “sometimes heavier girls with pendulous breasts wear those things, but she wasn’t heavy at all.” “I” is surrounded by paradoxes like ice in a tumbler. “I” is escorted to the stage upstairs where popular alt-rock band The Dugouts are playing. “I” likes it. “I” is offered some herbs by the graceful standing girl. What kind of herbs? “Magic herbs, dummy,” says the girl who may or may not be pendulous. “I” didn’t swallow it, did “I”? “I” did. “I” better not drink anymore. “I” won’t. Before “I” knows it, the girls are gone and the lights have become a kind of wet substantial material. “I” dances in a frenzy. “I” sees people burst into flames. “I” walks into the night where “I” notices the streetlights growing taller.

“I” wakes up, in a wood, head “partially in a steam.” There is a numbness all about “I.” “I” hears the cry of a wolf with a broken leg. “I” wrings out his shirt and pants so the wolf can have a drink. “I” sees an old man’s face in the trees.

“I” is in town on business.

Lee Whipple performs original music and reads and recites his poetry and prose on Sunday, June 26 at Montford Books and More, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Montford Books and More is located at 31 Montford Ave. 285-8805. For more information about Lee Whipple, attend the event.


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