I’m loving how eclectic Kerry Clare’s Canada Reads: Independently list is. Moody Food is written and narrated by a man, and it’s set in 1960’s Yorkville, Toronto’s hippie headquarters. Bill Hansen’s life is pretty sweet–he works at a bookstore, has a beautiful, folk singer girlfriend, Christine, and his own pad in Yorkville. Then he meets the enigmatic Thomas Graham (based on rocker Gram Parsons), a draft-dodging Southerner, with a unique musical vision he dubs “Interstellar North American Music,” a cross between rock, country, and R&B. Like moths to a lava lamp, Bill and Christine are drawn to Bill’s idealism and are convinced to form a band with him, along with Slippery Bannister, acclaimed guitarist and off-and-on alcoholic. Thomas’ conviction, and many nights perfecting their sound at a seedy bar at Queen and Sherbourne pay off for the band with a record deal. They go on the road in an old hearse, playing at every stop they can book on their way to record their album in L.A. Fueled by various uppers, Thomas and Bill drive all day and write music all night after the show (Bill swims laps in the hotel pool to come down long enough to grab a couple of hours sleep before doing it all again). The drugs get stronger, the music gets wackier, and tensions rise, culminating when the band performs at L.A.’s Whiskey A Go Go along with fellow rising stars, The Doors.
I didn’t live through this era, but this book is evocative of the sixties of my imagination. It perfectly captures the experimental headiness of carefree youth (and that I certainly did experience). But it also strips away some romantic notions of the age, and exposes the limits of idealism, and the cost of chemically assisted creativity.
Here are my current rankings: