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One of the few things I miss about my home city of Aberdeen is the annual Word Festival. It is a writers festival held at the university, and at Word I discovered so many wonderful authors, as well as attending plenty of fascinating debates.
One of those authors is Stuart McLean. He is a Canadian radio presenter, and is famous as the storytelling host of 'The Vinyl Café'. He has published collections of stories told on his show, and one of these is Home From The Vinyl Café.
The stories are about Dave, owner of a record store called the Vinyl Café, his wife Morley, and their children, Sam and Stephanie. Things tend to never go according to plan, but these are stories of everyday mishaps, things which could happen to any one of us.
Home From The Vinyl Café is a collection of stories. It is not a novel, although it has a chronological structure as it takes place over the course of a year. Each chapter, however, is a standalone story. There are recurring characters aside from the family obviously, and references to things which have happened in previous chapters/stories, but there is no central plot like you would expect in a novel.
The characters of the Vinyl Café are beautifully ordinary. They are a regular Canadian family, normal people we can all identify with or perhaps recognise as being similar to a friend. Dave is a music lover who yearns for the quiet life, yet still occasionally has delusions of grandeur which end up going hilariously wrong. Morley is a slightly frazzled yet super organised mum who is often baffled by her husbands antics. Their children are exactly as all children are - Sam at 9 years old wants pizza, toys and scary movies, and Stephanie at 16 years old is interested in boys and embarrassed by her parents. There is nothing different or special about this family, and that is why these everyday stories work so well.
The stories are about everyday events which go wrong. They are gently humorous, and occasionally laugh-out-loud - the kind of laugh you try to stifle on the tube but you just can't and you end up snorting. A perfect example is the first story, in which Morley gives Dave the responsibility of cooking the Christmas turkey. You can probably guess roughly where things go wrong, but the path events take just leads to hilarious consequences.
I was introduced to these stories by hearing some read aloud by the author, and I was immediately captivated. He had the audience in stitches. His voice is perfect for radio, and I actually think the stories work better aloud than on paper (the show is streamed on the CBC website, but every time I've tried to listen I get the time wrong because I can't figure out the difference). Saying that, Home From The Vinyl Café is a pleasant, enjoyable and amusing read, and I thoroughly recommend it - I don't have a bad word to say about it.