Cigar Box Banjo
A Life in Music and Words
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"A layered, rambling, deceptively casual mixture of music history, coming-of-age inarrative and reflection on mortality." -- Globe and Mail
A musician and writer's memoir looks death in the face and reminisces about a life in song.
As a kid, Paul Quarrington had a favourite song. In it, a boy fashions a banjo from a cigar box, pluckily sets off for a music contest in the next town, and wins with a song that weaves in the sounds he'd heard on his way to the contest: a bluebird trilling, truck tires whining, the lowing of a cow. Now, a writer and musician himself, Quarrington still relates to this musical tale: his sudden and recent diagnosis of stage-four lung cancer has him pondering the path his own life has taken and the music it's made along the way. The result of this personal retrospective is an eclectic, hilarious, and moving book that tracks a life lived in music and words. Quarrington ruminates on the bands of his childhood; his restless youth spent playing bass with the cult band Joe Hall and the Continental Drift; and his incarnation, in middle age, as rhythm guitarist and singer with the band Porkbelly Futures. From rock 'n' roll, to the blues, folk to country to soul, he explores how songs are made, how they work, and why they affect us so deeply. In his imitable and entertaining way, Quarrington also recounts the adventures and vicissitudes he and his fellow band members share as they cope with everything from broken strings to broken marriages, as they make a last stab at that elusive thing called success. Paul Quarrington is an acclaimed nonfiction writer, novelist, and screenwriter. His most recent novel, The Ravine, was long-listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Quarrington received the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour for his novel King Leary, which was also the victor in "Canada Reads 2008." He sings and plays rhythm guitar with his band, Porkbelly Futures. www.paulquarrington.org/www.porkbellys.com
"A joy to read...Cigar Box Banjo is the perfect testament to the man, and to his work. He will be missed." -- Georgia Straight
"It's doubtful we will see a better memoir this year than Paul Quarrington's Cigar Box Banjo...He doesn't shy away from exploring in detail his own dark journey toward death, but the path is illuminated with humour, courage, [and] generosity." -- Waterloo Region Record
- Greystone Books Ltd., October 2010
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