Tag Archives: Lean on Pete by Willy Vlautin

The Ghost of Pete…

While I was away on tour, I read Willy Vlautin’s recent novel, Lean On Pete. The story is told in the (incredibly authentic) voice of fifteen year old Charley Thompson, as he tries to find his place in a world, that at every turn, seems to wrong him. The two constants in his life are the aging quarter horse, Lean On Pete and a photograph of his aunt, who he hasn’t seen in years. There is a deep ache in Vlautin’s story, his characters are startling real and with Charley Thompson… well you just want to take him home and offer him a hot meal and a warm bed.

The spareness of Vlautin’s language captures the voice of the American underclass, those left by the wayside in this fast-paced, consumer-driven world. Charley’s world is one, where scavenging from bins, sleeping in bushes, stealing from corner stores, hitching rides with unhinged characters and some seriously stark violence are part of surviving, but more, they are part of his deeper search for identity.

What has stayed with me and what continues to haunt me is the way Vlautin reflected Charley’s emotions and the state of the world through the eyes of Pete. As Charley’s silent confdant, Pete’s eyes held all of his hopes and fears. His eyes, so clear, so pure were the safest place Charley had ever known.

Pete’s eyes have come to me many times since closing the book and for me, this is the mark of great writing.

Great writing stays with us, becomes part of our own life story… so what are the images/words/lyrics/lines that continue to haunt you from your favourite books/poems/songs?

Let’s share stories…

Oh, and while we’re sharing, here’s the trailer for Lean On Pete:

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Three Moments of Anticipation

#1

Well, I don’t have to wait long for the first event as tomorrow, singer/songwriter/novelist & Richmond Fontaine front man, Willy Vlautin, hits the stage twice in Brisbane and I will be there to catch both performances.

At 4:00pm, Willy will be reading from his latest book Lean On Pete and talking about the writing process at Avid Reader (tickets available here). This for me is the real treat, as Vlautin is one of those rare, outlaw writers, who is farming the rich vein of Americana, much like Steinbeck and Carver, delivering tales from a fractured society, without softening any of the blows. Vlautins prose is achingly real, capturing the unique voice of the fringe dweller and their struggle in all its ragged beauty.

You can watch trailers for his last two books Northline and Lean On Pete, with Willy providing the superb backing music on both.

Then in the evening he will be teaming up with fellow Richmond Fontaine member, Dan Eccles for an intimate acoustic performance at The Troubadour (tickets available here). To get a taste of what Richmond Fontaine are all about, check out this footage of Willy playing two songs from their acclaimed album, Thirteen Cities, in a motel room, which by the way is so fitting for Vlautin, seeing many of his characters live their lives bouncing from motel to motel (his first book was called The Motel Life).

Willy plays The Kid from Belmont St and Capsized from Thirteen Cities.

Hope to see many of you Lost Sharks there…

#2

There are some amazing projects underway, focussing on the life and work of the late Richard Brautigan. There is a documentary currently being shot titled For Richard, directed by Paul Swenson and Anthony Lucero and Lucero is also touted to be directing a feature film adaptation of Brautigan’s classic novel, The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966. Let’s hope both of these projects see the light of day, as previously there were plans to make a feature film based on his novel The Hawkline Monster, with Jack Nicholson and Dustin Hoffman touted as playing the cowboys… imagine that!!!

#3

For those who missed the glory of Cohen in 2009, never fear, the great man seems to be taking a leaf from the Bob Dylan tour handbook and is returning to these shores in November this year. Seriously, if you didn’t see him last time, don’t miss this. For me it is a concert experience that i will carry with me forever. My review of his February 2009 concert is testiment to that.

Presale tickets for Frontier Touring members go on sale Monday May 31 at 12pm.

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