Fortunately, Stan Barnes doesn’t drive at night anymore, because riding passenger with him in daylight is thrilling enough. I thought about this as we headed to Asheville doing forty-five in the section of Hwy 40 posted seventy-miles-per-hour. I mentioned to Stan that the crowds entering the Bass Fishing/Baseball Card and Golden Retriever Expo could be quite large, and that arriving in a timely manner might be to our advantage. Stan was unconcerned, assuring me that, should we find ourselves in the rear of a line, he would just ask the folks in front of us if the phrase one often hears is “you’ve got another think coming” or “another thing coming”. Then we could stand back as the argument spread among the throng, and pass easily between the two sides as they formed battle lines.

     I didn’t share Stan’s confidence in the ploy but was less concerned as we began to gain time, still at forty-five-miles-per-hour but now in a residential twenty-five-mile zone. Just as we rolled through our second stop sign the book we’d been listening to came to an end. “Now that was pretty good,” Stan said.  He added that he often listened to books while driving, as he hasn’t understood the lyrics to any pop music since Jefferson Airplane became Jefferson Starship, and classical music tends to lull him to sleep. As I thanked the Gods for inventing books on tape, Stan elaborated that some books hold up pretty well to being read aloud – those with lots of action and fairly simple plotting. Grisham is good as a rule, as well as a lot of the “guilty pleasure” stuff like the Jack Reacher series. But for the more serious works he prefers his Kindle.

     I asked Stan what he considered “Kindle-worthy” of late and he said BIRNAM WOOD by Eleanor Catton is full of wonderfully eloquent run-on sentences, so if Ian McKuen is to your taste you’d enjoy it, but if you’re not a friend of semi-colons maybe pass it up. The story is set in New Zealand where a group of far-left socialists collide (and mesh) with an American billionaire capitalist. Ms. Catton was, as they say, “short-listed” for the Booker prize for her last novel and is obviously very bright and has a lot to say on a number of subjects like the inherent greed of capitalism and the comparative naivete of socialism.

     I thanked Stan for the review and asked if he had any other suggestions, in case the BURNAM WOOD semi-colons were too much for me. He suggested I try Barbara Kingsolver’s DEMON COPPERHEAD which plays on the Dickens tale of a young man who wasn’t dealt as good a hand as most of us and, as such, is a pretty interesting mix of hilarious and heartbreaking. Ms. Kingsolver lives just north of us in Appalachia, he mentioned, so the book is probably a pretty accurate portrayal of some nearby goings on. The fact that it just won a Pulitzer Prize is also somewhat compelling.

     We finally arrived at the expo, and, as I feared, crowds had gathered. Stan admitted he may have to bring out the “big guns” – maybe GM versus FORD, or Jack versus Tiger. Then he reassessed the size of the crowd and said, “This is a big one. Maybe I’ll have to break out OLD RELIABLE – Red versus Blue.”

      We enjoyed the event immensely.

If you know of a book Stan might like let THE BREEZE know at

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