Mickey Hess at Powell’s on 8/14/08

If you’re in the Portland area and looking for something cool to do Thursday (8.14) night, let me suggest swinging down to Powell’s on Hawthorne (3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd.) around 7:30ish to listen to Mickey Hess read from his new book Big Wheel at the Cracker Factory. [Buy]

Hess is a professor at Rider University, but he’s published two tomes on hip-hop and several short pieces at McSweeney’s and other places.? Anyhow, the question is why should you go see him read.? Well, I haven’t the foggiest and though that’s not the best sales pitch a person can offer, call it a hunch.

I’m about 80 pages (228 total) into Big Wheel and I’m loving every minute of it.? The book is technically creative non-ficiton, which means it’s mostly true in the conventional sense (non of that James Frey shit), but Hess probably changed enough to not get sued or make his family and friends hate him.

Big Wheel is a rollicking adventure of Hess’s early years trying to stay afloat in the world of college teaching.? To do so he takes a bunch of shit jobs like driving an ice cream truck, being a haunted house character and other fringe jobs that offer the benefits of money, flexibility and not caring about the stupid job in the first place.

It’s a light-hearted look dealing with that period in life when you have to go from being a reckless youth to an adult, without sacrificing anything.? That’s hard to do and for some people it just paralyzes them.

Wow, that sounds almost like an intentional blurb for the book?? Yeah, yeah what are you gonna do.? I suppose in a way what I like most about Hess’s writing is that he’s funny and self-aware enough to make great observations about himself and others, but mostly he’s enthusiastic. Punches are not pulled, but there’s very little angst.? We don’t like angsty white men around these parts.? Especially because being a white, angsty male is so 1915-1998.? Humor and enthusiasm counts for a lot, especially when so many people go for the detached irony aesthetic starting around 2001.

It’s hard not to feel like Hess is one of us, just someone doing what they have to do to get by so that he can do what he loves, which is write and consume hip-hop.

If that’s not enough he promises free stuff if you ask him nicely.? I’m going to ask him for a copy of his first book, El Cumpleanos de Paco, which he self-published and gave away to people.? It was a limited run, so hopefully he has one or two left.

When I actually finish the book in it’s entirety, I promise a more thorough review/examination of it.? For now though, it comes highly recommended.? And if you ask nicely, I’ll gladly pass it along once I’m done with it.? I’m sure Mickey wouldn’t have it any other way.

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