Hymn California

Hymn California

by Adam Gnade

Share on Tumblr 

THIS BOOK IS NOW OUT OF PRINT Hymn California moves--and by "moves" I mean it is a book of motion, of MOVEMENT. It takes you from southern swamps to balconies in Brooklyn to Portland porches and back again--with a fluid, even pace. It is a road novel, an adventure book, a work of verbs and action. If the characters seem lost or restless, it's not because they're misguided wanderers or seekers, it's because there is medicine in leaving hard times behind you. It's because there is joy in the tires and highways of America. Gnade's book is about America and the road, but, more importantly, it's about PEOPLE, about their stories, and about the love they have for each other. Gnade is a damn good storyteller, and, not only that, he has some damn good stories. -Trans-Siberian author Bart Schaneman

 
 

Comments

John, Amazon review wed 1/22 10:38pm

A breath of fresh air in todays literature. Definitely worth a read if you are the type that enjoys Kerouac'ian wanderings and Bukowski'esque excess. Nice to come across some new literature that still evokes these types of feelings. Meandering and seemingly directionless at times; I give it a high score due to it's ability to stir up that feeling of wanderlust that I attribute to reading Kerouac, Fante, Miller and a few other faded authors that sit upon my bookshelf. If a book makes me start googling plane tickets...I know it was worth it.

Feels good to support young artists in their endeavors. Buy the book so this guy can work on his next book or CD. Then when you see that cardboard Amazon box on your doorstep...pop open a bottle of rot-gut wine and fill a mason jar...or a cracked coffee mug full of the stuff. Read late into the night until the birds start chirping, until the sound of freshly rolled newspapers slap the concrete outside. Drink until your teeth and tongue are stained purple then dream of earlier times of worn out, hand me down sneakers and unknown tomorrows.

I was definitely pleased with my purchase.

various reviews 5/10/2013

San Diego CityBeat 8/21/2012

Hymn California is a story both romanticized and smeared with blood and shit. The narrator, James, a contemporary take on the vagabond archetype seen in American literature from Huck Finn to Kerouac, leaves his San Diego home with no particular destination in mind. America for James becomes long, lonely stretches of highway and cricket-soundtracked summer evenings looking out over Midwestern cornfields.

The Oregonion 8/21/2012

Adam Gnade is a musician and a writer. According to him, songs and fiction-writing "are kinda the same thing. They share characters and themes: the fiction continuing plotlines left open by the songs." "Hymn California," his first novel, features James, an alienated young man who's been irrevocably affected by growing up in San Diego. James writes songs, travels the country, tries to cope with violence and death. Even as James lands in Portland, he knows he can never escape the push and pull of the surreal place of his birth. "California," Gnade writes, "you've split our lip so bad you could stick a nickel in it. ... But we always come back. We'll always come back." Gnade lives in Portland.

Broken Pencil 8/21/2012

Body: Something strange is happening in California and it's happening through the eyes of Adam Gnade, and strange it is indeed. The more I read Hymn California, the more I'm expecting a 1990's Johnny Depp to leap out of the pages of this Hunter S. Thompson-ish type epic. Hymn California is Adam Gnade's debut novel, a novel that at times feels scattered and more like several short stories pulled together, rather than the natural continuance you would find in a standard novel. In most cases this wouldn't be a benefit to the reader, but in the case of Hymn California, it adds to the uneasy upheaval the writer attempts to put you through, in order for you to come along on his crazy journey. Moving from place to job to life changes, there is a strong feel of drug induced, drunken chaos that keeps the stories colourful and charismatic.

The stories are folksy yet take you back and forth from reality to surreal with tales of suicide, love, dead friends and a bit of conspiracy theory thrown in for good measure. If you are a fan of movies such as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or The Big Lebowski you will thoroughly enjoy this debut roller coaster of a ride. (Carolina Smart)

Razorcake 8/21/2012

I just started grad school a few weeks ago. They sometimes assign up to three books to read in one week (which is impossible, but study habits in grad school are another story). So I want to make it clear that I actually made time for this book. It wasn’t like, “Oh man, another book to read?!” No, I actually would take a break from my other books to read this because I enjoyed it that much.

Adam has been around for a while both as a musician and writer. Hymn California is described as an autobiographical novel and—from what I can gather—much of this happened to Adam in the past few years, but he also might have embellished a bit (à la James Frey), so he made sure all should know it’s a novel. This monograph primarily consists of him driving back and forth across the country with friends and everything they feel, see, and do. To miss the connections to On the Road would be pretty hard. The characters here are trying to learn who they are and where they’re going. But mostly they’re floating along, going nowhere, very reminiscent of Douglas Coupland’s Generation X but in a car. There are all sorts of vignettes about growing up, memories of childhood, events from recent U.S. history, and so on. There are also some hilarious moments, such as the Mexican father who scares his kid on the subway in NYC by pretending to be Chucky from the film series of the same name.

In the midst of a story told by one friend about a cat, another friend pipes in, “What?! This isn’t the cat story I know! I thought this was the story where Karl hid in the bushes and jumped out and punched a cat?” It’s a stream of lines like that which provide the book with unforeseen hilarity or poignancy, along with the description of life in Portland (a city which I miss), that kept me intrigued. (Although, where he and his friends came up with the money to drive across the country and buy all the things they did left me puzzled.) The similarity to so many authors I enjoy and the vague feeling of familiarity with the characters is what kept me interested enough to finish what I started, which is more than I can say for some of the books I’ve been assigned to read for grad school. –Kurt Morris

Bart Schaneman, Word Riot 8/21/2012

Adam Gnade’s (guh nah dee) work is released as a series of books and records that share characters and themes; the fiction writing continuing plot-lines left open by the self-described “talking songs” in an attempt to compile a vast, detailed, interconnected, personal history of contemporary American life. His last novel Hymn California was a fast-paced, raw story of movement, of finding truth in travel, and American life. He calls the collected storyline of records and books We Live Nowhere and Know No One. Gnade currently lives on the Hard 50 Farm in rural Kansas where he’s finishing up his second novel.

Subtle Melodrama 8/21/2012

There is prose in poetry, and there is poetry and prose. When I opened Hymn California I had to take the time to breathe, to really read every line and take in every sound and syllable. It felt like being read to, like something important was about to happen. And it was, because Adam Gnade has presented such a delicious story.

Sex, drugs, insomnia, escape. Growing up in California: listless friends, confused teenaged ideals, copious red wine and crossing fingers to get by. But it's tender, sensitive in all the difficult realities that it deals with. The protagonist shifts through memories, lending stories and anecdotes to keep life going. More importantly, there's a seam of determinism throughout the novel. Life keeps on going, love keeps on going, family keeps on going. Creativity seems to keep the souls alive, like a way to prove the world wrong, or at least to press a lasting stamp.

The story is always lyrical and thinks hard about so many things that life does or doesn't have to offer. It was both cosy and reassuring, at least to me, in my own world of barely getting by, trying to make ends meet, struggling for creative freedom and ability. Not only that, but it paints such a colourful picture of America that I'm desperate to go visit again. I've got more of Gnade's writing on my shelf, and I'm excited to get round to reading it.

Asthmatic Kitty Records 8/21/2012

At Asthmatic Kitty we believe that music and literature go hand in hand. Our good friend Adam Gnade (a frequent contributor to ye old side bar) thinks so too! That’s why we wanted to let you know about his book, Hymn California. Adam’s first book, which is being released via Rhode Island’s Dutchmoney Books, is a novel that has just as much to do with music as it does prose. “The only way I could pull off doing both was to integrate them as much as possible; immerse the songs in the books and the books in the songs.”

Hymn California is not for the weak of heart. It is an intense ride through death, drugs, depression and the sweaty underbelly of this beast America. Yet despite this darkness, there are glimmers of hope and beauty. It’s pages voyage through childhood’s innocence and safety to the freedom of living on the most ragged edges of our culture. It’s simultaneously full of truths and fairy tales, strange cities, suppressing suburbs, and all of the spaces and places between, with the songs to carry you.

Adam’s music will continue as well. Gnade is currently working on his full-length record, Trailerpark, which will be released with Try Harder Records in Late 2008. His past works include the Collaborative EP with Youthmovies, “Honey Slides,” and the limited edition 60-page novella Seasons Loving Nothing. Adam's next tour will be in the UK and Europe in November with Youthmovies.

Bellatiera 8/21/2012

Adam Gnade captures the existential crises of creative twenty-somethings everywhere and will break your heart with his beautiful, meandering, and philosophical prose. If you've ever felt like the world should be something more, gotten in your car without knowing where you'd end up, or lost sleep wondering how you could survive in the 21st century by doing what you love, this book should sleep on your bedside table for the next week or so.

skyelesli 8/21/2012

This book is not only for the twenty something's who wonder how they can live out their ideals in the 21st century. It speaks especially to the boomers of the world who lived the lies of consumerism, dedication to one job, suburbia and just now are beginning to realize the meaninglessness of it all compared to the spirit within them originally trying to find it's own bliss.

 
 
"