Have you ever had an inside joke with your friends that takes on a life of its own? It starts as something simple, but then you keep expanding it by exploring all its nuances. Have you ever then made that inside joke into a book? Well, author/comedian/musician Aug Stone has, and it’s called The Ballad of Buttery Cake Ass.
The back story of The Ballad of Buttery Cake Ass is that of two friends who go on a journey to find an obscure album, Live in Hungaria, by the band Buttery Cake Ass (BCA). Along the way, the story switches between their search and the history of BCA, with the predominant amount of time spent on the latter. However, the former material—these two friends trying to find their elusive white whale—drew me in more. Yet, this is all based on a joke between the author and a friend when they were teenagers. Stone’s friend would ask clerks at record stores if they had any music by bands that didn’t exist. At one point, that friend asked a record store clerk about a band called BCA. And here we are.
This book has some of the esoteric long-windedness of Thomas Pynchon mixed with the humor of Spinal Tap or Monty Python. While I like the latter two somewhat, Pynchon has always been over my head and too drawn out. So this was a bit of a slog for me. It takes fifteen pages for Stone to get through all the different names the band went through before coming up with BCA. The discography at the end of the book for this fake band is almost fifty pages. Speaking of pages, don’t be fooled by the length. The font is approximately twelve point and double-spaced, so it’s much longer than needed.
Given the long-winded nature of the prose, I’m left wondering if it wouldn’t be better for this tale to be a novella or short story. Cut out the extended asides and focus on what makes this book interesting: the exploration by two friends for a rare treasure of a record. The search for a hidden jewel, especially for music fans, is something all can relate to. To find the answer to a legend is enticing. It’s the extraneous details that end up killing The Ballad of Buttery Cake Ass. –Kurt Morris (augstone.com)