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I’m a self-proclaimed indie music geek. That obnoxious breed who rolls her eyes and tells you that she saw your newly discovered favorite band three years ago at the Larimer Lounge; who stopped listening to Modest Mouse the day “Float On” started playing every half hour on main stream radio everywhere; who takes pride in recognizing the hook played in a Mitsubishi commercial, and naming the artist, album, and record label before the commercial is over. I rattle off the names of obscure bands with my fellow music-head friends like some post-modern poetry bout. I donate money to Radio 1190 every year (and I don’t even have health insurance). I admit that this behavior is beyond irksome to, well, everyone, and I try to keep it in check as much as I can. But the truth is: it’s a lifestyle. I put a lot of work into finding new music: scouring blogs and message boards and college radio station playlists, talking to record store clerks, going to the Myspace pages of bands who are opening for shows I’m not even attending. I put in all of this effort because there is nothing quite like the thrill of discovering something new. Of hearing for the first time the opening chords of a song I just know will become an instant favorite. I take a certain amount of pride in hearing those same opening chords in one of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts several months later, or catching the band who plays that song on their first ever tour through Denver in a tiny dive bar where I’m the only one paying attention. (Well, me and the tattooed, shaggy-haired dude in skinny jeans and an ironic western shirt with pearl buttons).
In addition to my neurotic music listening habits, I am also that terrible combination of bibliophile meets packrat. I have books crammed in my closet, piled on my kitchen table, and stashed in my bathroom cabinets. But I’m not a very timely reader. The Kite Runner and Life of Pi are still sitting in a neglected pile by my nightstand, unread. I discovered Tobias Wolff all of two years ago, and finally got around to reading East of Eden this spring. It was a clashing of worlds, then, when I came across NPR’s Best Debut Fiction of 2009 and saw a name that I not only recognized, but have admired for a few years now: Paul Yoon. While Yoon isn’t exactly new to the literary scene–his stories have appeared in One Story, Ploughshares, and Glimmer Train, just to name a few– it’s his debut collection Once the Shore that made it onto NPR’s list. The title story of the collection was his first published story, and was selected for the Best American Short Stories 2006 anthology, where I first encountered it. (If you haven’t read this story yet, go find yourself a copy. It’s beautiful.) I’ve been a fan of his ever since, and it was a familiar sense of pride that I felt at seeing the nod from NPR. Who? Paul Yoon? Psssh. I’ve been reading him since Bush was president.