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Vinyl Cafe Unplugged

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The Vinyl Café Unplugged is the third book in Stuart McLean's Vinyl Café series, and like the one before it, Home from the Vinyl Café, it won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. This collection contains 14 delightful stories, many first broadcast on CBC Radio, about an idiosyncratic family of four in Toronto. Dave and Morley, the parents, and Sam and Stephanie, the child The Vinyl Café Unplugged is the third book in Stuart McLean's Vinyl Café series, and like the one before it, Home from the Vinyl Café, it won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. This collection contains 14 delightful stories, many first broadcast on CBC Radio, about an idiosyncratic family of four in Toronto. Dave and Morley, the parents, and Sam and Stephanie, the children, lead a life of endless minor mishaps and misunderstandings. In "Odd Jobs," Dave, who owns a record store called the Vinyl Café, wants to install an outlet in his kitchen at home. Friends from the neighbourhood come over one by one to help until, by the end of the day, they have broken a window, chipped a sink, and left 15 large holes in the kitchen wall without managing to install an outlet. In "The Razor's Edge," Dave leaves for the airport at 6:15 a.m. for a 7 o'clock flight. Arriving, he enters the wrong line and then gets lost. Reaching the gate with 45 seconds to spare, he finds it deserted and soon discovers he's two hours early. When an airline staffer arrives and remarks on how early he is, he says, "I always try to be. I've never understood those people who wait until the last moment." Whether they're trying to toilet train their cat, Galway, or figure out why the air conditioning cools every room except the one they sleep in, Dave and Morley and the kids keep their endless good humour and let us in on their secret lives. --Mark Frutkin

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The Vinyl Café Unplugged is the third book in Stuart McLean's Vinyl Café series, and like the one before it, Home from the Vinyl Café, it won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. This collection contains 14 delightful stories, many first broadcast on CBC Radio, about an idiosyncratic family of four in Toronto. Dave and Morley, the parents, and Sam and Stephanie, the child The Vinyl Café Unplugged is the third book in Stuart McLean's Vinyl Café series, and like the one before it, Home from the Vinyl Café, it won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. This collection contains 14 delightful stories, many first broadcast on CBC Radio, about an idiosyncratic family of four in Toronto. Dave and Morley, the parents, and Sam and Stephanie, the children, lead a life of endless minor mishaps and misunderstandings. In "Odd Jobs," Dave, who owns a record store called the Vinyl Café, wants to install an outlet in his kitchen at home. Friends from the neighbourhood come over one by one to help until, by the end of the day, they have broken a window, chipped a sink, and left 15 large holes in the kitchen wall without managing to install an outlet. In "The Razor's Edge," Dave leaves for the airport at 6:15 a.m. for a 7 o'clock flight. Arriving, he enters the wrong line and then gets lost. Reaching the gate with 45 seconds to spare, he finds it deserted and soon discovers he's two hours early. When an airline staffer arrives and remarks on how early he is, he says, "I always try to be. I've never understood those people who wait until the last moment." Whether they're trying to toilet train their cat, Galway, or figure out why the air conditioning cools every room except the one they sleep in, Dave and Morley and the kids keep their endless good humour and let us in on their secret lives. --Mark Frutkin

30 review for Vinyl Cafe Unplugged

  1. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    Seriously, I can't get enough. I am just loving these books-I purchased 4 of them and I can't wait to read them all. They are just so sweet and funny and relatable. It almost makes me want to move to Canada. I love Dave!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jason P

    I enjoyed the hell out of this, it was naturally smooth story telling, the stories of Dave and Morley are ones that will leave you rolling around laughing with tears in your eyes. For those of you have heard The Vinyl Cafe on CBC Radio, you'll know that Stewart's narrating of the story comes with that McLean twang to it, and while reading this I couldn't help but hear Stewart's voice reading along with me. This was great!

  3. 4 out of 5

    John

    As fun as Mclean's radio show or seeing him in concert (usually he is touring his native CA). While most of the stories caused me to smile or laugh, I'm proud to say that the final short story, called Love Never Ends, had me in tears. Not sad, just a glimpse of love well shared. If it does not get to you too, sorry, but I recommend that you start caring about life.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Paul Weiss

    Some real down home humour! If Pierre Berton is lauded as the premier Canadian historian then we have to give the laurel leaves to Stuart McLean as the quintessential Canadian storyteller! Vinyl Cafe Unplugged, the third in a series, is a series of short tales about a generic but lovable Canadian family - Dave and his wife, Morley, plus their kids, Stephanie and Sam. More a hobby than a real business, Dave puts on a game face and likes to pretend that he's gainfully occupied with his used record b Some real down home humour! If Pierre Berton is lauded as the premier Canadian historian then we have to give the laurel leaves to Stuart McLean as the quintessential Canadian storyteller! Vinyl Cafe Unplugged, the third in a series, is a series of short tales about a generic but lovable Canadian family - Dave and his wife, Morley, plus their kids, Stephanie and Sam. More a hobby than a real business, Dave puts on a game face and likes to pretend that he's gainfully occupied with his used record business, the Vinyl Cafe. The stories are anything but deep and complex. In fact, they positively reek of politeness, simplicity, candid joy, love and the plain old down home niceness that typifies the Canadian that is unabashedly stereotyped the world round. The humour is wry, sardonic, ironic and subdued - only rarely of the out loud belly laugh variety. But McLean's tales in this witty collection never fail to amuse while they're providing the odd underlying moral text that never even sniffs in the direction of preaching. Perhaps a comparison to Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon Days would provide a potential American reader with a better idea of the flavour of Stuart McLean's impressive repertoire of stories. Highly recommended. Paul Weiss

  5. 5 out of 5

    Felicia

    I cannot read these stories without grinning and feeling warm in my heart.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    A small carefully-wrapped parcel arrived in the mail with stamps on it which said things like "Air Mail / Par avion" and "Small Parcel / Petit paquet." They say things twice in Canada; it is a matter of public policy. It was too late for Christmas and too early for my birthday but inside the brown-paper wrapping there was gift wrap, also meticulously applied to what looked undisguisably like a book. I unwrapped The Vinyl Cafe Unplugged by Stuart McLean. It was a gift from my Canadian friend Eliz A small carefully-wrapped parcel arrived in the mail with stamps on it which said things like "Air Mail / Par avion" and "Small Parcel / Petit paquet." They say things twice in Canada; it is a matter of public policy. It was too late for Christmas and too early for my birthday but inside the brown-paper wrapping there was gift wrap, also meticulously applied to what looked undisguisably like a book. I unwrapped The Vinyl Cafe Unplugged by Stuart McLean. It was a gift from my Canadian friend Elizabeth Creith in Thessalon, Ontario. I unwrapped it and I found a tear in my eye. Years ago, Elizabeth introduced me to The Vinyl Cafe -- the radio programme on the CBC -- by sending me a CD onto which she had somehow dubbed about six of the hour-long shows. I became instantly addicted. Fortunately, the programme was also broadcast here in the Colonies on KUOW-FM. I became a regular listener and found it every bit as good as "Prairie Home Companion" and Garrison Keillor. In each programme, McLean would tell a story about Dave and his wife Morely, their children Stephanie and Sam, their dog Arthur and some of their interesting neighbours: Kenny Wong, the owner of Wong's Scottish Pies, Emir and Rashida Chudary and their daughter Fatima, Eugene and Maria Conte, the ancient couple who live next door and make their own wine. The stories are a sort of parallel to Keillor's "News from Lake Wobegon" but different. Stuart McLean was a soft-spoken, gentle, accomplished author and broadcaster. He toured the show, broadcasting from one small Canadian community or other, in which he and his crew would spend most of a week. The live local audience loved it; so did I. The Vinyl Cafe stopped touring when its host was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. When I heard about it, I had a tear in my eye. I really didn't want him to die. I really wanted him to continue traveling around to little towns in Canada and writing Dave and Morely stories and broadcasting from the biggest auditorium in town ... pretty much forever. Instead, he died about a year and a half after he was diagnosed. Now there will be no more of these stories. My favourite was the very first Vinyl Cafe Christmas story about the year that "Dave Cooks the Turkey.” I won't say more about because I don't want to spoil the delight for anyone who wants to hear or read it. I read the fourteen stories in this book like a person with a box of variety chocolates. I didn't want to consume them all at once because I didn't want them to run out. Today they ran out ... and I have a tear in my eye.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This was a great find (thanks Janee!) and just the sort of book to grab on a fall afternoon. My library didn't have the same book that Janae recommended but I found that there are several books by Stuart McLean with collections of essays about Vinyl Cafe. It took me a couple essays to feel the rhythm of the author (and I really wished I could hear him tell the story; I feel like I'm missing part of the depth) and then I found I was laughing aloud or snickering at parts in each essay. My favorite This was a great find (thanks Janee!) and just the sort of book to grab on a fall afternoon. My library didn't have the same book that Janae recommended but I found that there are several books by Stuart McLean with collections of essays about Vinyl Cafe. It took me a couple essays to feel the rhythm of the author (and I really wished I could hear him tell the story; I feel like I'm missing part of the depth) and then I found I was laughing aloud or snickering at parts in each essay. My favorites were "Christmas Presents," "The Bare Truth," and "Odd Jobs." The final section in this collection were more reflective stories and I was caught off guard after so many funny essays. My favorite of those was the final story of Art Gillespie, an older friend of Dave's who died. And perhaps because we recently had a friend die and mortality is close on the mind, I really enjoyed the following paragraph. I felt McLean said it well. "As the months passed Dave's anxiety slowly faded-slowly Art joined that woolly corner of Dave's brain where sorrow and regret hung out. It was a corner Dave tried to avoid, a place he was pushed into from time to time, sometimes by something someone did or said, but just as often by a smell, the wind, the color of the sky." And now I feel the need to have a chocolate bar in my bedside drawer. If you read the book, you'll understand.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    A charming, funny, sad, real-life story about living. Just the sort of life that many of us lead. I really enjoyed this.

  9. 4 out of 5

    amy

    Elaine just gave this one to me. I have never heard of Stuart McLean etc...So something very different for me to check out! Well--I didn't finish this book. It was just not cup of tea. Too folky.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    I'd only heard McLean on the radio, and wondered if his stories would transfer to the written page. It's every bit as good. McLean truly is the Canadian Garrison Keillor.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Vinyl Café is a charming collection of stories based on the radio show by the late Stuart McLean.  The stories all focus on Dave and Morley, as well as family and neighbors, so there is a definite cohesiveness to the collection.  I had never really listened to the radio shows, but I knew a lot of people who did. Much of the material from the radio broadcast is available to listen to on Spotify. In fact one of my favorite episodes appears in this book; titled “Odd Jobs". If you have ever loved a ma Vinyl Café is a charming collection of stories based on the radio show by the late Stuart McLean.  The stories all focus on Dave and Morley, as well as family and neighbors, so there is a definite cohesiveness to the collection.  I had never really listened to the radio shows, but I knew a lot of people who did. Much of the material from the radio broadcast is available to listen to on Spotify. In fact one of my favorite episodes appears in this book; titled “Odd Jobs". If you have ever loved a man who could turn an odd job into a major project, or if you are a man who has either done that, or helped a friend who has done that – listen to that episode! You won't regret it.  The book opens with a story titled “Arthur" that literally had me chuckling out loud.  Arthur is the family dog, and like any dog, he is quite the character.   Despite this book being categorized as Humour,  some of the stories Will tug at your heartstrings. I think for me that was part of the real charm of this book. In life, there is always joy and sorrow. Neither exists alone.  Seriously though read or listen to “Odd Jobs" and “Arthur” if you haven't already, because everyone can benefit from a good laugh once in a while.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Darcy Cudmore

    Around Christmas time, I really got into Stuart McLean’s stories read by himself on Spotify. I couldn’t get enough of them! So I bought this little collection of stories to read. The family - Dave, Morley, Sam, Stephanie, the dog Arthur, and all the supporting characters - are so relatable and inviting. I can’t wait for the next story, even as I’m in the middle of one. The stories had me feeling all kinds of love, and Stuart’s writing is so well done. His descriptions of people and events, even wi Around Christmas time, I really got into Stuart McLean’s stories read by himself on Spotify. I couldn’t get enough of them! So I bought this little collection of stories to read. The family - Dave, Morley, Sam, Stephanie, the dog Arthur, and all the supporting characters - are so relatable and inviting. I can’t wait for the next story, even as I’m in the middle of one. The stories had me feeling all kinds of love, and Stuart’s writing is so well done. His descriptions of people and events, even within such a short story, are so perfectly done. Every and anyone, at some point, should sit and read Stuart’s stories about the family of Dave and Morley. ❤️

  13. 4 out of 5

    Crystal Fawn

    I adore this book & how it serendipitously found me at work, by a friend named Denise. I will be acquiring my own copy thanks to her. This is a book of short stories. Previously I haven’t had the best luck with this genre. Instead Vinyl Cafe hit all the feels & had me laughing out loud, I snorted once lol & was in tears by the end of er. This book in particular made me feel a little less homesick. The fact that I got to finish it on a beach? 😍 Thoroughly enjoyed everything about this I adore this book & how it serendipitously found me at work, by a friend named Denise. I will be acquiring my own copy thanks to her. This is a book of short stories. Previously I haven’t had the best luck with this genre. Instead Vinyl Cafe hit all the feels & had me laughing out loud, I snorted once lol & was in tears by the end of er. This book in particular made me feel a little less homesick. The fact that I got to finish it on a beach? 😍 Thoroughly enjoyed everything about this gem disguised as a novel.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Peters

    A master story teller, Stuart McLean's CBC's Vinyl Cafe (KUOW) made me laugh, cry and think about life. I was sad this winter when he passed away. I found Vinyl Cafe Unplugged at Darvill's Bookstore in Eastsound on Orcas Island. The owner of the store and I had a pleasant discussion about McLean as I paid for the book. Each evening I read one Dave's and Morley's adventure and hearing in my head McLean voice as he would have told the story. Reading the stories were almost as good as hearing McLea A master story teller, Stuart McLean's CBC's Vinyl Cafe (KUOW) made me laugh, cry and think about life. I was sad this winter when he passed away. I found Vinyl Cafe Unplugged at Darvill's Bookstore in Eastsound on Orcas Island. The owner of the store and I had a pleasant discussion about McLean as I paid for the book. Each evening I read one Dave's and Morley's adventure and hearing in my head McLean voice as he would have told the story. Reading the stories were almost as good as hearing McLean tell it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    This is my first vinyl cafe read and I must say I can hardly wait to read another book. From laughing out loud to a few tears this was truly a great read of small stories of one family. I feel like Dave and Morley are now my neighbors. Wonderful story telling by Stuart McLean. I can see why this has won the Stephen Leacock award! From the beginning Pet sounds made me laugh every chapter. The toaster episode will always bring a laugh when I think of it again. And finally to the last chapter where This is my first vinyl cafe read and I must say I can hardly wait to read another book. From laughing out loud to a few tears this was truly a great read of small stories of one family. I feel like Dave and Morley are now my neighbors. Wonderful story telling by Stuart McLean. I can see why this has won the Stephen Leacock award! From the beginning Pet sounds made me laugh every chapter. The toaster episode will always bring a laugh when I think of it again. And finally to the last chapter where a tear sprung from my eyes. Wonderfully written and can’t wait for my next book!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    Lovely, touching and laugh out loud funny. I remember hearing one of these on the radio driving through Canada on a program called, wait for it....Vinyl Cafe. This is a book you can pick up and put down and read at your leisure because, even though there is a through line of characters each story is complete in and of itself. So grab a cuppa and find a cosy place and enjoy.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Norman Weatherly

    As per usual, Stuart McLean served up a slice of Canadiana that is on par with the excellence we have come to take for granted from this gifted storyteller. I laughed, I cried, and I enjoyed ever page.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Betty A.

    I don't think I'll ever stop rereading this book time and again. Its a masterpiece ❤

  19. 4 out of 5

    Debi Robertson

    First time reading Stuart Mclean's stuff. Why is it I see so many of the people I know in his writing. I cried laughing and I cried. What a great read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Trish Boese

    4* Great read-aloud stories for the family! Dave owns a vinyl record store; he and his family are weird and funny and the ultimate normal.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Maryanne Henderson

    Lots of laughs, and some tears. I miss Stuart McLean's voice on the radio, the Dave and Morley stories are a gift.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jenn

    I loved listening to the Vinyl Cafe and I can hear Stuart McLean reading the stories as I read the books.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Dustman

    As usual, funny and heart felt stories. Thank you Stuart. We all miss you.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cassie

    just a smooth storytelling. I was happy the entire reading.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mak

    As charming and delightful as ever. The literary equivalent of comfort food.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    Laugh out loud. It has been a while since a book had done that to me and it hit the spot.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Marthe Bijman

    Stories included in “Vinyl Cafe Unplugged”: – Arthur – Galway – The Fly – Christmas Presents – Harrison Ford’s Toes – Dorothy – The Last Kind Word Blues – The Bare Truth – Susan is Serious – Odd Jobs – The Razor’s Edge – Morley’s Christmas Pageant – Figs – Love Never Ends If you read many of Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Cafe short stories in one sitting, the characters become increasingly real and rounded, and a clear picture of their town, friends, family and habits emerges. You can also see how McLean Stories included in “Vinyl Cafe Unplugged”: – Arthur – Galway – The Fly – Christmas Presents – Harrison Ford’s Toes – Dorothy – The Last Kind Word Blues – The Bare Truth – Susan is Serious – Odd Jobs – The Razor’s Edge – Morley’s Christmas Pageant – Figs – Love Never Ends If you read many of Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Cafe short stories in one sitting, the characters become increasingly real and rounded, and a clear picture of their town, friends, family and habits emerges. You can also see how McLean’s style has changed over the past twelve years. It has become looser, perhaps more philosophical, occasionally more sentimental. Notwithstanding all that, his technique has remained form perfect. McLean has said that his stories are as close as dammit to his actual life, and if that is the case, you can see the life stages that he has gone through – children grow up, the dog gets old and dies, he feels age creeping up on him. But in 2000, he was still sharp, witty and perky. “Arthur” is a fine observation of an endearing, potato-stealing dog, and “Galway”, of an almost- toilet-trained, belligerent cat. They are hilarious – there has to be readers out there who have tried in vain to train their pets, and have given up because Cesar Milan wasn’t available. All thoughts of “calm, assertive pack leaders” went straight out the window with these creatures. “Galway was standing on the window ledge flicking her tail at the moon. Jim and Brenda looked at the cat and then back at each other. Still they hadn’t said a word. It was Jim, who comes from the Annapolis Valley, who spoke first. ‘Nice night,’ he said.” Dave, the main character in most of the stories, has a couple of hangups, one of them being obsessive thoughts that get him into very entertaining difficulties (like in “Fly”), and the state of his feet (“Harrison Ford’s Toes”). McLean also drops regular references to bands and musicians into the stories – Dave does, after all, own a record store – and Geechie Wiley in “The Last Kind Word Blues” tempted me to Google the song – as a result, I’ve discovered many artists of whom I’d never heard until I’d read Stuart McLean. Perhaps intention was so share his sense of nostalgia. ”The Bare Truth” is so skin-crawlingly discomforting, I literally had to skip pages to get through it. I know that is the kind of terribly awkward social situation people get into, but in it, McLean’s usually entertaining situational comedy slipped over into cringe comedy in the style of “Good God” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm”. ”Figs” is probably the most tender of the stories, about Dave’s ageing neighbours, Eugene and Maria. Dave worries about whether they can cope by themselves in their old age – like all children do about their parents, and he considers the enduring nature of love, which is also the subject of ”Love Never Ends”. In this, the last story in the book, he writes about the small but significant things people do when they have loved each other a long time, like keeping a chocolate bar in the bedside drawer as a make-peace snack so they wouldn’t go to sleep mad at each other. McLean has a very keen eye for the minutiae of daily life and relationships, and is able to elevate them into profound philosophical arguments. He does so very plainly, simply and elegantly. He specialises in the laconic one-liner, often only a few words, but words that make highly satisfying endings. Top

  28. 5 out of 5

    Carla

    Wow! What took me so long to read Stuart McLean? This was an excellent collection of anecdotes, I'll be looking to add more to my collection. These ones fall into the reread category since you can't get tired of them. What a shame he passed away recently.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nathaniel ΘΣ

    I hadn't intended on reading this as it was one that my mother had taken out of the library but I was intrigued by the title and the blurb sounded okay. It follows the life of a family: mum, dad, two kids and a dog. I didn't find out till afterwards that not only is it a sequel, it's also taken from a very popular and well-known Canadian radio show. As a result, there's no information given for any of the characters, the setting or any background information. It seems to be taken for granted tha I hadn't intended on reading this as it was one that my mother had taken out of the library but I was intrigued by the title and the blurb sounded okay. It follows the life of a family: mum, dad, two kids and a dog. I didn't find out till afterwards that not only is it a sequel, it's also taken from a very popular and well-known Canadian radio show. As a result, there's no information given for any of the characters, the setting or any background information. It seems to be taken for granted that if you're reading this book, you're already familiar with it and don't need any of those details. However, for people like me who don't have any of that prior knowledge, it's very confusing. It wasn't till at least halfway through the book that I got any idea of Morley's job, and even then I had no real idea at the end other than she worked 'in theatre'. Each chapter is a different adventure and none follow on from the one before. Most of the story follows the father, Dave and he seems to be the instigator for most of the incidents. The majority of them are humorous in nature, although two of them were more sad, the last chapter in particular. I actually found the last chapter to be quite emotional and yet probably about the best one in the whole book. It was a very easy read with fairly simple undramatic writing so it took no real effort. It was fairly enjoyable although would have been more so with information about the family.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Surreysmum

    If Stuart McLean read the stories in this volume on air, it was during a time when I wasn't following his show, so they were all new to me, and the more delightful because of it. But still it very much helps the experience if one consciously imagines the words being pronounced in McLean's distinctive storytelling voice. A lot of the jokes pop off the page that way! The volume starts off strongly, for me, with stories about family pets Arthur (the dog), Galway (the cat who learns to flush the toil If Stuart McLean read the stories in this volume on air, it was during a time when I wasn't following his show, so they were all new to me, and the more delightful because of it. But still it very much helps the experience if one consciously imagines the words being pronounced in McLean's distinctive storytelling voice. A lot of the jokes pop off the page that way! The volume starts off strongly, for me, with stories about family pets Arthur (the dog), Galway (the cat who learns to flush the toilet!), and, to round out the beasties, a fly that Dave swallows. Morley's enthusiasms are well-represented, with one story about her notion that all their Christmas presents should be hand-crafted, and another about a spectacularly chaotic Christmas school pageant. ("Spectacularly chaotic" describes all the best climaxes of McLean's stories, I've found!) The last story in the collection, "Love Never Ends", is unusually poignant, especially when you have lost a loved one. Mum told me she bought this book to read aloud to Dad after his stroke, but that she never read him this last story, and I can see why. It is altogether too full of genuine pain about the end of life. Anyway, as an experience reading Vinyl Cafe stories comes second to hearing Stuart McLean read them, but it was still great fun, and I plan to pass this on to other folks at work so they can enjoy it too.

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