Books and Movies and More
"Clarinet Polka, " by Keith Maillard, involves a Viet Nam veteran returning home and trying to get his life together in the Polish-American neighborhood where he grew up in West Virginia. Much of the plot centers around the young man trying to help his sister pull together an all-girl polka band. The book is rich in Polish-American history and culture, and you can’t help loving the characters—even as the young man chooses the wrong path at every turn and pretty much makes a mess of his life, at least temporarily. This is not a book for the squeamish or the easily offended, but for others who love a compelling story, fascinating characters, and excellent writing, you can't go wrong.
Hoopi Shoopi Donna, by Suzanne Strempek Shea. The main character has a father who wishes his daughter would start an all-girl polka band and make a killing at weddings. Things get complicated and there is a rift between the two, but in the end it is polka music that helps mend betrayal and hurt.
Anyone who has taken up the accordion at an older age might enjoy Piano Lessons, by National Public Radio's Noah Adams. It’s about how, at age 52, Adams answered a lifelong call to learn to play the piano. The story of his struggle to learn includes interesting historical information about the piano and information about a diverse group of pianists.
Bread and Tulips. Any of you who enjoy foreign films and aren’t offended by a few bits of coarse language may enjoy renting an Italian film now available on video. It’s called Bread and Tulips, and a CAPA member recommended it some time ago. In this delightful movie, a middle-aged wife and mother winds up taking a long “vacation” from her domineering husband. Living on her own in Venice, she discovers a red accordion and begins playing again, to the delight of all who listen. She comes to life as she plays. Her clumsiness disappears as she pursues new friends, her new accordion, and a new life. It is available through Amazon video.
Annie Proulx is the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Accordion Crimes, as well as many other books. A New York Times piece about her ("At Home with: E. Annie Proulx," June 23, 1994) mentions that when she won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Shipping News, her friend Tom Watkin "stood under Ms. Proulx's window, serenading her on his accordion with the 'Jesus Loves Me Polka.'" The "Jesus Loves Me Polka" is the free piece of music early CAPA members received with their membership!
The November 30, 1998, of Newsweek featured a story on Lucy Liu of the then popular television show “Ally McBeal.” Liu played a deliciously nasty character named Ling Woo on the program, and she stole the show with her outrageous behavior. Newsweek featured Liu in a one page article, and beside the picture of the beautiful woman is this caption: “Don’t mess with her: The rock-climbing, accordion-playing Liu.” According to the article, Liu is a rock climber, a skier, a horseback rider, a martial-arts expert, a photographer, an artist and “a serious accordion player.”
Let's Get Dale to Play In a cute piece in the January, 1999, "Smithsonian," Bruce Watson remembrs his class accordionist.