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Melvin Podgorski is young, naive, American - and a coffee fanatic. It's this passion that leads him from his native Chicago to 1990s Glasgow to scout out the prospects for a US coffee franchise. Looking for an escape from his suffocatingly suburban parents and the tangled wreckage of a divorce, he finds himself floundering in an alien land of Glaswegian dialect and radical student politics. As he becomes increasingly entangled with one particularly charming local and her militant ex-boyfriend, his efforts to keep the past and the present separate are put to the test, and soon his old life in Chicago and his recently found freedom in Glasgow are set for an emotional and catastrophic collision ...Imbued with dark, mournful notes, dashes of warm humour and the bittersweet tang of learning the hard way, Javascotia combines a feel-good flavour with a deep substance.
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Published Date: 04 April 2009
By ROGER COX
Obler must surely be a caffeine fiend like his hero, because his descriptions of the various incarnations of this beverage available in the UK before the advent of Starbucks are by far the best thing about this book. It seems hard to believe now, but in the mid-1990s nobody in this country had even heard of a skinny macchiato, so for the most part, British coffee is a big disappointment to Mel, either tasting like a combination of "spraypaint and tree bark" or coming in the form of liquid with a "coppery tinge" that "swishes limpidly like seawater" around his cup. From time to time, Mel stumbles across a coffee that could conceivably pose a threat to his client's all-conquering product - one, say, with a "stout aroma, thick consistency and full flavour, with hints of berry and a subtle tannic aftertaste like red wine". But these occasions are few and far between. The only way Mel can be certain of getting a decent cuppa is by making it himself, and while he is waiting for his own super-strong concoctions to brew, he talks in reverential tones about the "accumulation of the holy black syrup".
Mel's tranquil routine of trawling coffee shops and filing reports detailing their myriad failings is suddenly blown to smithereens when he becomes embroiled in the (real life, and failed) campaign to save Pollock Park from the M77, falling in love with Nicole and locking horns with her firebrand, eco-warrior boyfriend Ruaridh in the process. After snapping a picture of Tory MP "John Douglas" brandishing a pickaxe at protesters - a thinly veiled reference to real events concerning Eastwood MP Allan Stewart, who was forced to resign his ministerial post after just such an incident in 1995 - Mel and Nicole escape to the Highlands, where Mel finally feels able to tell her the improbable truth about his past life with Margaret.
Here, in this story within a story, Javascotia takes a turn for the serious, but it's all the better for it - by turns tragic, darkly comic, wise and true. And better yet, because Obler is writing about America, the twee "don't the Scotch say the funniest things?" moments dry up completely. It's a blessed relief.
Melvin Podgorski is young, naive, American -- and a coffee fanatic. His obsession propels him from Chicago to Glasgow as a scout for U.S. coffee franchise Burback's. Putting behind him a messy divorce, he's here to make something of himself. And make Glasgow fall in love with coffee.
But Glasgow has one or two surprises in store for Melvin. Firstly, they don't speak American. Not even English. He's got to get his head around the Scottish patter. Next there's the radical politics he's sort of -- by accident, you understand -- become involved in. And lastly, there's Nicole, about to become his new favorite obsession.
Is Glasgow ripe for an American invasion? Will the past catch up with the present? Or will Melvin's mania be his making?
"Funny and revealing" THE TIMES
"Tragic, darkly comic, wise and true" SCOTSMAN
"Accomplished, engaging" BIG ISSUE
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Book Description Hamish Hamilton UK, 2009. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110241144302
Book Description Hamish Hamilton, 2009. Paperback. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0241144302
Book Description Hamish Hamilton UK, 2009. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0241144302