Whisky Magazine Issue 115
This article is 24 months old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.
Copyright Whisky Magazine © 1999-2015. All rights reserved. To use or reproduce part or all of this article please contact us for details of how you can do so legally.
The tale of a bored teenager who finds music and a possible spy
For the next couple of issues, I thought it might be interesting to look at writers with ties to three or more countries. And as backgrounds go Aleksander Hemon's is a pretty good one. The son of a Yougoslav diplomat who spent time in Africa, he was stranded in Chicago by the Balkan War in 1992, where he began writing fiction in English.
Hemon's 2008 short-story collection Love and Obstacles starts with a bang. The opener “Stairway to Heaven” has the teenaged protagonist spending a boring summer in Kinshasa with his diplomat father. Boring, that is, until he starts hanging out with his upstairs neighbor, an American named Spinelli who's a huge music fan and who may or may not work for the CIA: Most of all I enjoyed his narratives: he delivered them slouching back on the sofa, blowing cigarette smoke toward the fast-spinning ceiling fan, sipping J&B, interrupting his delivery for a solo in a Led Zeppelin song. There might be a taint of death, a flavor of mortality, in lies, but Spinelli's were fun to listen to.
The setting may be exotic, but who can't relate to the thrill of a teenager chilling with an adult and rocking out to Zep?
Spinelli introduces the narrator to his beautiful and mysterious girlfriend, and for a few weeks the three are inseparable. During that time, our youthful hero learns how to party – which, as we all know, can be a school of hard knocks. One evening he gets so stoned that his father has to haul him back home.
Walking downstairs ...