Books and brews: The hope and despair edition

By in Opinions

Late autumn has settled in, and the sluggish sun leaves darkness to creep in around the edges. With the bare branches of the trees creaking as the cool breeze blows through their boughs, it is the perfect time to pick up a book, grab a pint and seek a little solace from the season.

Stoner by John Williams pairs well with the Cobblestone Nitro Stout from Mill Street Brewery.

The New Yorker describes Stoner as “the greatest American novel you’ve never heard of” — it’s an obscure book from a little-known writer that sold a meager 2,000 copies before going out of print the year after it was first published. I was never aware of its existence until a friend of mine handed it off to me this past spring, stating it was one of his favourites — it quickly became one of mine.

Stoner is a beautifully written and incredibly moving book about a poor farm boy who attends university to learn more about agriculture. Instead, he falls in love with literature and leaves the farm to become entrenched in academia, becoming a professor at a small university.

His life is quite unremarkable and filled with sadness, but there is a bittersweet beauty to it all. He loves so deeply, and yet, melancholy follows him around his entire life — even through his more joyous moments — like a silent character watching from the corner of the room.

An academic novel is best paired with a standard pub brew like a good stout. The Cobblestone Nitro Stout from Mill Street Brewery is a deep, malty beer with warm, smoky tones. The nitrogen carbonation gives it a uniquely creamy taste. It’s the perfect brew to knock back while reading this novel well into a cold, dark night.

White Noise by Don DeLillo pairs well with the Legendary Oddity from Muskoka Brewery.

Technically another academic novel, Delillo’s White Noise is a lovely, absurd satire that follows a professor of Hitler studies and his unusual yet enduring blended family through what is referred to as an airborne toxic event. It is a novel about the all-encompassing fear of death and the consuming nature of consumerism.

The more technology we get, the deeper our superstition grows and the greater our fears become. DeLillo is a master of character monologues, and they will burrow deep into your brain. It is a book you’ll savour, taking time to let the chatter and noise from its characters sink into your skin.

Legendary Oddity from Muskoka Brewery is an equally bizarre ale. This golden-coloured beer is spicy yet citrusy — a brew with a taste that you can’t quite pin down. Its strangeness is the perfect compliment to the eccentric story that is revealed in the pages of this novel.

Hope: A tragedy by Shalom Auslander pairs well with the Winter Kettle Sour from Nokomis Craft Ales.

This little novel from Auslander is a beautiful black comedy that oscillates between hope and despair. Following the move of a family to a small town — which a bumper sticker claims is “the birthplace of nothing” — Kugel and his wife, young child and delusional mother find that they are not alone in their new farm house. It appears that there is something, or someone, tapping from the attic.

Hope: A tragedy is a harsh, fearful novel that is heavy handed in both its neurotic tendencies and its creative use of the word “fuck.” It is delightfully unsettling and introspective, capturing the optimistic pessimism that many of us know well.

Nokomis Craft Ales from small-town Saskatchewan recently released their Winter Kettle Sour — a strange, unsettling beer that leaves you wanting more. This brew is dark in colour with a sour start and a chocolatey finish, peppered with a hints of nutmeg and spice. The beer grows on you, much like the novel, and in no time, you will find yourself at the end of a chapter and the bottom of a pint glass. 

Erin Matthews / Opinions Editor

Graphic: Yashica Bithers