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Book Club Tue Jan 22 2008

February 2008 Selection: The Enchanters Vs. Sprawlburg Springs by Brian Costello

The February book for the Gapers Block Book Club is The Enchanters Vs. Sprawlburg Springs, the debut novel by Brian Costello. And, when it was released at the end of 2005, Enchanters was also the first book published by local press Featherproof Books.

The Enchanters Vs. Sprawlburg Springs tells the story of Shaquille Callahan, a twenty-something musician living in the fictional Florida suburb of Sprawlburg Springs. One summer he becomes the new drummer for a local garage band, The Enchanters. The first time he meets his new band mates is when he plays at a local party with them attended by a dozen teens. Shaquille doesn't know his band mates — or the songs, but with The Enchanters none of that matters.

Shaquille falls for Renee, the flamboyant lead singer of the band, and the novel charts their relationship and the meteoric rise — and inevitable fall — of The Enchanters over that one magical summer. When not rehearsing, getting high on cough syrup or drinking cheap red wine, the band members work minimum wage jobs to make ends meet. Shaquille cuts squid at Cleveland Steamerz Good Time Bar and Grille World while Renee sells shampoo at a shop at the Perimeter Square Circle Centre Mall. They all dream of making enough money over the summer to move to Brooklyn and take the New York City music scene by storm. Their dreams are nearly realized when The Enchanters land a gig at the Latent Republican Hipster Music Club, but the concert turns out to be the beginning of the end for the band that dared challenge the middle-class sensibility of Sprawlburg Springs.

The Enchanters Vs. Sprawlburg Springs is a free-spirited novel with a punk attitude, and it comes as no surprise that writer Costello counts Lester Bang and Hunter S. Thompson among his influences. Enchanters especially evokes Thompson in the novel's Ralph Steadman-inspired illustrations by Mark Dunihue McKenzie.

Brian Costello grew up in Orlando, and Sprawlburg Springs certainly reflects his own suburban Florida adolescence (two of the characters are named Mickey and Donald — get it?), even while the town is depicted as a kind of suburban American anywhere. Costello moved to Chicago in 1997 and currently teaches at Columbia College Chicago. He also plays drums for the Functional Blackouts, and his obvious passion for and knowledge of music give the story its authentic punch.

But the most fitting review of the novel comes from, in which the reviewer enthusiastically writes that the book "made me want to bore a hole through 174 of its 193 pages and just have sex with it." (emphasis his) If you can identify with that sentiment, then Enchanters is just the book for you.

So, read The Enchanters Vs. Sprawlburg Springs, and then join us on Monday, February 11 at The Book Cellar (4736 N. Lincoln Ave.) at 7:30pm to talk about the book. New members are always welcome.

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