The Books’ The Lemon of Pink is an album of simultaneous behaviors. It’s simultaneously expansive and exploratory. It soothes and jars, easy to enjoy while demanding deeper thought. The heavy layers of samples reach a discordant frenzy, then immediately turn around with an echoing quiet. How is one to wrap their gourd around such an album? Some may say, “Don’t question it. Enjoy the ride.” But for people in my profession and with my neuroses - librarian, and a chronic inability to leave well enough alone, ayethankyou - there is only one clear answer: The Books’ Book Club Reading List.
The Books’ Book Club Reading List was assembled to pair the experience of listening to The Lemon of Pink to a handful of books that can enrich your time with the Books’ masterwork.
Start at the beginning, and in this case, the beginning of the Books. The first time Nick Zammuto and Paul de Jong hung out in the building they by chance both lived in, Shooby Taylor was playing. It was The Human Horn’s record they chose to put on the turntable, establishing their crate-digging, found sound ethos from the beginning. Chusid’s book profiles “outsider” musicians, laying down personal stories alongside details of their discographies. It’s a great starting place if The Lemon of Pink piqued some curiosity, and if you’d like to wander down some weird, winding paths.
If The Lemon of Pink’s multitudes opened the waterworks for you, curl up inside Blankets to keep riding that emotional wave. Set in the middle of the Wisconsin winter, Blankets examines the belief systems that keep us upright - our family, our faith, our relationships - and what happens when we need to do some work on those systems’ scaffolding. Much like The Lemon of Pink, Blankets is a graphic novel that delights in offering some tragedy with your heartwarming, and some hope to your bleak winter outlook.
Flora and the Flamingo is a story of aspirations and lending a hand to your friends. The perfectly plump Flora, ready to ride in her swim cap, swimsuit, and flippers, tries to mimic her idol - the flamingo. Much like the Books’ use of quiet, Flora and the Flamingo is textless, focusing the reader on their own reactions that help tell the story and fill the silence. The book features fold-out illustrations that capture breathtaking movement on a boldly white background that focuses the reader on the subtleties of the moment. Both the album and the book trust you as an audience, and give you space to create and explore right along with them.
The most remarkable part of The Lemon of Pink is the heavy sampling, and how much pleasure we derive from the odds and ends the Books assembled. Rediscovering, borrowing, and incorporating is at the crux of Mohja Kahf’s poetry, and it is demonstrated through the experiences of Arab-American immigrants in contemporary American society. In Kahf’s work, sampling is not so much an elective as it is a critical part of identity-building for immigrants. In this collection of poems, Qur’anic text and characters such as Scheherazad from 1,001 Arabian Nights sit comfortably next to references to MTV and Garfield the Cat in poems such as “My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears.”
Maybe it's because this was the book I was reading as I wrote this piece, but I can’t stop comparing the two. The Lemon of Pink has this crawling, slow creep that runs throughout the album, and it makes me think of the women in Wilkinson’s newest work of fiction. The book follows generations of women living in the black township of Opulence who are all contending with a notorious family history of mental illness. There are no firm divisions between generations, and the story weaves into all the women’s stories coming together as one.
Grandma Gatewood has us all beat, the Books included. One day, she told her family she was going for a walk, and ended up walking all eight hundred miles of the Appalachian Trail at the age of 67. She also used the press coverage of her feat to bring attention to shoddy parts of the trail, which led to renewed maintenance and arguably is the reason the trail still exists today. Besides being #inspo to keep trucking through The Lemon of Pink when you’re not sure if you’re onboard yet, this book also ties to Nick Zammuto’s hike of the trail, which he credits as allowing him to develop a closer relationship to nature. From the first track on, Zammuto integrated the cadence of the outdoors that he heard every night when he camped out on the trail. For that, we can all thank Grandma Gatewood.
All good things--and bands, unless you’re the Rolling Stones--come to an end, and the Books are no different. The duo called it quits in 2011 to focus on other projects. While much of this book is dedicated to the sordid details of the Beatles' breakup, the ultimate message is that you are forever tied to the people with whom you make art. The Books’ members will do a bunch of other cool projects, but they’re forever tied through The Lemon of Pink.
Amanda Geske can be found sharing the hot goss of public libraries in Madison, WI. She’s on Twitter.
Our Album of the Month is The Lemon of Pink, by the Books. You can receive it by signing up for the club here.
Amanda Geske is a Librarian in Madison, Wisconsin. She’s spends her days writing letters to her pen pals and slinging up #biggirlcooking recipes on her Insta. She wants you to go get yourself a library card.
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