Extract: October Song

Apr 24th, 2017 | By | Category: Book News, Roundfire Books

October Song is a beautifully authentic memoir that reminds us that there are no time limits on dreams, creativity is boundless and nothing in life is finite when we let go of our self-imposed rules. By sharing an intimate phase of renewal, Berner reaffirms what we already know, but too often forget, that age is just a number when we value the journey over the destination. Michelle Burwell, Windy City Reviews

Extract:

It was late in the fading light of the first day of the long trip, somewhere on the Tri-State expressway about forty miles southwest of Chicago. With one hand on the steering wheel and the other on my phone, I fiddled with my iTunes playlist, trying to find Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” in the mess of my music library.

“Relax, babe,” I said, smiling.

“How’d you think I’d feel about you if you killed us,” Leslie grumbled, more nervous than upset.

The car had swerved a bit but I’d stayed in my lane. Leslie insisted I’d been trying to text someone, probably my son, but I’m pretty sure I was looking for that song, one of Dylan’s most lyrically creative tracks, the one with the snappy rhymes and the jazzlike, stream of consciousness lyrics. It’s been said that Dylan was probably inspired to write the song after reading The Subterraneans, Jack Kerouac’s novel. That may not have been true, but I liked that kind of artistic association, so I was going with the story.

“It’ll be all right,” I said.

“Relax, babe? Really?” Leslie laughed. “Not exactly relaxed when you’re all over the road.”

“Okay, okay,” I said. “I guess it wouldn’t be good to die before we get started.”

“Let’s at least get a few hours in before you endanger our lives,” she said.

I put my phone in the cup holder between the seats and touched her leg.

“I am so happy you’re here.” Keeping my eyes on the highway, I kissed the tips of the index and middle fingers of my right hand and planted them on her cheek.

“Me, too,” she said. “It’s so cool.”

Two month ago, I entered a songwriting contest. It was a complete whim. I had set up a Google alert on my computer for anything connected to writing or writers, as I had published a couple of books, and every morning I was emailed a list of articles or blog entries connected somehow to those two subjects. One morning the alert sent me a Web announcement for Rapunzel’s 12th Annual Songwriting Contest. Now, I play guitar. I’ve written some songs, mostly for the fun of it, nothing serious, although I take the writing seriously. I put my heart into it, but I’d never sold a song or professionally recorded one. But you know how this goes: everyone who has ever played guitar has dreamed of being a rock star.

I used to play in a band in my early twenties and performed at some coffeehouses and bars with another guitarist. Rich was more of a lead guy; I was more rhythm and picked a little. We liked the same music—Dylan, Stephen Stills, The Eagles. I’m sorry now to say we even played some America. The lead singer, Dewey Bunnell, sounded like a less-harsh Neil Young, and the band’s debut album was pretty damn good. They turned lame and sappy after that, but hey, America was big at the time. Our band got pretty good, too, but of course we were never going to be stars. Hell, we were happy to get a gig at a dive saloon on a Friday night. The songs I wrote back then were folky, the same kind of material I wrote in college. The benefit to those kinds of songs, at least back then, was that the songs sometimes impressed girls. In the two or three years after the undergraduate years, I wrote maybe one or two others. They were nearly always about where I was in my life at the time, personal songs about a relationship I was in or about to end. When I look back at those years now, writing those songs was like writing entries in a diary.

It was thirty years until I wrote another song.

hrcover

 

October Song – A Memoir of Music and the Journey of Time

A powerful examination of the passage of time, love, the power of music, and the power of dreams.

In the vinyl era, David W. Berner played rock ‘n’ roll in a neighborhood garage band. Decades later at the age of 57 he enters a national songwriting contest and quite unexpectedly is named a finalist. But there’s more. He’s called on to perform the song live at a storied venue for Americana music. Grabbing his old guitar and the love of his life, David hits the road, hoping to live out a musical fantasy he thought had been buried long ago. October Song is a powerful examination of the passage of time, love, the power of music, and the power of dreams.

April 2017

 

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David W. Berner is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist, whose career honors include the position of Writer-in-Residence at the Jack Kerouac Project and the Ernest Hemingway Foundation. He lives outside Chicago, Illinois.

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