Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Speed Reader

By Kelle Schillaci and Stephen Ausherman

MARCH 1, 1999: 

The 1999 Old Farmer's Almanac by Robert B. Thomas (Yankee Publishing, Inc., paper, $3.99)

The editors wish to remind you of the word "Old" in the title of this curious little pamphlet of unusual facts and helpful hints. Since 1792, the Almanac has been imparting info on everything from planting tables, zodiac secrets and the kind of odd tidbits people later quote with the preface: "You know what they say about ..." Yes, it's true: The people who compile this treasure trove of trivia are the often quoted "they" of strange facts and folklore. "They say you can predict cold weather spells using a pig spleen" or, as in this year's fashion hint, "They say gray will be the new brown with some blue showing, too." Huh? Conveniently enough for you gardeners--fledgling and pro alike--the Almanac provides regional weather forecasts through October 1999 and products like "Goose be Gone" to protect your grass and turf. Look for a mild, dry winter here in the Desert Southwest, keep an eye in the sky for Venus and Jupiter to almost "touch" this month, and don't forget what "they" say about those who wield pitch-forks. (KS)

Out of the Woods by Chris Offutt (Simon & Schuster, cloth, $21)

Far be it from me to heap praise on a pile that's already grown too massive for any one writer, but everything they say about Chris Offutt is true: He is the brilliant creator of unforgettable prose. And now, with Out of the Woods, he's returned to the form which best displays his amazing talent. Each of these eight short stories begins with an edge so hard that you know blood will spill before it's over. Someone will end up getting shot or stabbed or bludgeoned, probably for reasons almost too sad to comprehend. And if you're the least bit spooked, as I am, by unstable rednecks coming out of the woods, this book will rattle your nerves. Because if anything, Offutt reinforces the notion that hillbillies aren't fit for life in our America. And when they get confused by it, they turn violent. Think Oliver Stone directing "The Waltons," but with a stunning literary flair that reflects unkindly on both worlds. (SA)

Tales of a Punk-Rock Nothing by Abram Shalom Himelstein and Jamie Schweser (New Mouth from the Dirty South, paper, $10)

Calling all militant vegans, peaceful revolutionaries, independently-labeled riot grrls, peace-mongers, pseudo-intellects, feminist strippers and, of course, punk rockers. (Wear something "retro"--it's a fashion show, too.) Welcome to Elliot Rosenberg's fictional journal: a smartly-written and fast paced novel about a guy who, in a desperate attempt to escape his small-town, suburban, racist, mono-cultured, ignorant hillbilly birthplace of Wilson, Tenn., decides to slam headfirst into the Washington, D.C., punk scene of the early 1990s.

Elliot, like most social misfits who find refuge in the punk counter-culture, is a bit insecure about his placement in this new political world of feminism and cross-country band tours. Sometimes he wonders if the riot grrls are talking behind his back, especially after getting dumped by Christa for being a manipulative, sexist pig and being busted by Angie for innocently bringing an out-of-town guest to her totally nude ('cept for high heels) strip shows. Oops!

What's an intelligent socially-aware kid to do but become editor of the punk zine Mindcleaner and fight total and partial injustice the best way he knows how: with a sharp tongue and a whole lot of typos.

Meanwhile, his parents are pushing college, he's still pining for his ex, and he's got a lot of opinions on race relations and prison discrimination to get off his chest. I like the way he talks, his refusal to focus on one topic too long before launching into a new theory, direction or anecdote. The novel is presented as the "edited" files of Elliot Rosenberg, compiled of journal clips, text from his zine, letters to his ex and a couple other bits and pieces serving to keep the momentum of the work moving forward in creatively linear fashion.

From protesting racism in Wilson to hooking up his own band in D.C., to going on tour for the first time, Eliott's inventors probably give their own experience and insights up more than they care to admit, but it's a good (albeit quick) read and a pretty solid leap into the sub-culture of a self-proclaimed Punk Rock Nothing.

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