Category Archives: Words

Reading of Books #26

I enjoyed another pile of books, this time including Thoreau, Snyder, Thieme and Murakami. I’ve really been reading a lot and that is never a bad thing.

Henry David Thoreau – Walden

For some reason I didn’t get through it the first time, but I’ve finished and enjoyed Thoreau’s influential book Walden. Walden deals with the 2 years Thoreau lived in the woods to test himself and see what he needed to have meaning in his life. It’s a fascinating read full of contemplation and admiration for that which surrounds the author on his time in the forest next to Walden pond. From describing catching a fighting set of ants under a jar, feeding the squirrels and watching the fish to his outlook on society at its time and further thoughts. All written in the eloquent style of a philosopher that is still searching for his truths, not willing to force them onto the reader.

Thoreau has many insights while staying in his self-build cabin, which are highly influential to wanderers and lovers of nature still. Not only his thoughts and appreciation for nature, but as well his thoughts on eating meat. Vegetarians will like this book for those insights early in time. Thoreau laments the fact that a hunter takes away his chance to enjoy the encounter with a deer on his path. This simple but concrete description is very throught provoking, even for the most staunch opponents to such ideas. The book is also a testament to declaring the strenght, ingenuity and skill of humans to fend for themselves. It’s a plea for a specific anarchism, also illustrated by the encounters Thoreau has with a woodsman, who has no interest in money. This book can change your life, truly.

Marianne Thieme – De Eeuw van het Dier

Recently I converted to the Dutch ‘Animal Party’ as my political choice, I realized  I knew very little about the movement and the history of that movement. I thought it’d be a good idea to read up. While waiting for the arrival of party leader Marianne Thieme’s latest book, I purchased an earlier write-up from the earlier days of the party. I read this book and was instantly captivated by the factual descriptions, numbers and huge amount of information. Sure, this book was a couple of years old, but I can hardly imagine that much has changed as yet. Part of the book is also personal, about the history of Thieme as an animal fan and how she got to the point in life she is at now.

The numbers are staggering. The amount of unnecesary cruelty against animals is shocking and I’m amazed at how long I managed to push this knowledge away from myself. Sure, deep down you’re always aware at some level of what’s happening in those massive stables, but we love imagining that it’s not that bit of meat on my plate. A furthr section of the book contains letters from famous supporters of the party, with their own wit and insight into matters. It’s a joy to read, it offers so many connecting points for any reader. The last part are recipes. I’m keen to  try those out in my new vegetarian lifestyle.

Haruki Murakami – The Elephant Vanishes

Every once in a while I crave the work of Murakami. His clean descriptions, the strange magics in reality, the puzzling encounters and endless trivialities are always a joy for me to read. It’s pleasing me in both content and form. This far I’ve read the longer works of him and really could immerse myself in there and learn about the characters but this time I chose a different book. The title is ‘The Elephant Vanishes’, it’s the title of the final short story in this book of short stories. Short stories are an art form in itself. To tell your story in a 700 page book is in a way much easier, because you can expand and work around things as much as you like. The short story requires a focussed, condensed amount of information that still packs the right punch.

The stories gathered in this book have been published over a span of years in various magazines and periodicals. I have the feeling that Murakami has used these short stories to really experiment with storytelling and fiction. You can recognize elements of these stories from titles like ‘IQ84’ and ‘Norwegian Wood’. The plesure was in that I listened to parts of this book and hearing different narrators tell the stories helps to really distinguish between the stories and put them in seperate time frames and settings. For example the story ‘Little Green Monster’, that is particularly weird and felt very un-Murakami-like. Still the sentient being, the craving for contact, loneliness and merciless human character are all too familiar aspects. ‘The Dancing Dwarf’ is an adult fairy tale by Murakami, where everything has consequences. Other stories find the magic in every day life. In that way, another beautifull piece of writing by the author.

Timothy Snyder – On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

For some reason we never learn from our history and nothing proves it so convincingly as this book by Timothy Snyder. Snyder is a university teacher and researcher, who specializes in Eastern-Europe and the Holocaust. This is not an immense book, but a rather quick read, dense with information that I think everyone should learn for its obvious relativity to todays events and occurences. Unfortunately, not many will probably read it and specially not those who really should be reading it. So if you are politically ambivalent and reading this, if you feel that the current day right wing politics from populist fronts makes sense, take your time to read or listen to this book. It takes two hours of your time I suppose and I think it’ll bring a wealth to you.

Snyder outlines 20 lessons, which he then one by one fills in with actual knowledge of last centuries misery and malpractices. How willingly did we let fascism get a hold of us in the thirties, how smoothly did the transition take place. It’s a remarkable story of how the silent majority truly enables totalitarianism, what the tools are of tyranny. Criticism killed, press silence and dissidents removed, that’s when tyranny takes hold. It’s frightening how real this is. It’s frightening how the actuality of this books strikes me.

Reading of Books #25

I’ve been reading a lot again, so theres a list of the books of this month with writings by Salvatore, Houellebecq, Kinna and Reynolds. Really good stuff, so yeah.

R.A. Salvatore – The Sundering: The Companions

source: goodreads.com

I am not yet certain what my thoughts are on the tragic deaths of the companions of the hall, the long journey of Drizzt Do’Urden to find peace in Irruladoon in the following books and then the strange turn of events where they are all revived. Certainly, I hated saying goodbye to this group of characters from the D&D universe, but the story had ended after the Neverwinter Saga, a journey I started ironically here where it all ended. So this is the book where we start again, once more onto the breach! The characters start their journeys in new body’s after a gift from Miellikki to adulthood for a new and greater challenge at the sides of Drizzt. A fascinating look into the soul of these figures.

The Sundering is a series of novels, preparing the world for the next edition of D&D, which has become the 5th edition. Since that is the one I play, I did really enjoy this shift in the realms. The great part is that the foundations are layed for the 5th edition campaigns, where the companions play a minor role in the shaping of the world. It’s a well written story, and again Salvatore shows to be more than just a bread writer when he delves into the characters of Catti-Brie, Bruenor and Regis. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and now I’m keen to start my first great campaign.

Michel Houellebecq – Whatever

source: goodreads.com

Somewhere in the past I might have read this descent into madness by French writer Hoellebecq. What I like about his writing is the dark edges, the grimy worldview and the inhumanity of humanity. In this book, his debut I should add, he really displays all of that. The book is mostly written in a monologue of the main character, who is experiencing… well… Very little perhaps? Life is a drag filled with mediocrity and the cynicism of the protagonist is all that keeps him afloat. No other human really seems to touch him or get involved with him on any real level. Life becomes very, very gray.

It all changes when the protagonist becomes ill and has to drop out of the tour of France, to train people in the new software the company sells. After a short introspective period in the hospital he joins his colleague again, who desperately tries to seduce some girl in a disco. In a brutal, sick plan he tries to convince his colleague to murder the girl. The colleague fails and dies on his way home in a car crash. The protagonist sinks away even deeper after this. The defeatist story illustrates the view that the sexual revolution has not brought us more freedom on that front, but a system of capitalism. Of offer and demand, where some win and some lose in the tragical desire for contact.

Ruth Kinna – Anarchism: A Beginner’s Guide

source: goodreads.com

Anarchism is a vast political movement, stretching years, but rarely properly analysed. Usually the concept is simply translated into ‘chaos’ or ‘rebellion’. Anarchism is so much more though, but surprisingly hard to understand thanks to our connotations with it ánd our rather brainwashed state of mind. I use that term lightly, because the brainwashing is simply the state of the world we live in. What you know is easily the normal thing, what is new is harder to grasp. In this book Kinna captures the history of anarchism as a political idea, it’s development and its core principles in an elaborate but very clear cut way.

Tracing a route from Proudhon andThoreau to  Tolstoj, Bakunin and Kropotkin, Kinna outlines the great thinkers in the context of their time, moving on to the likes of Nestor Makhhno, Errico Malatesta, Emma Goldman and so fort all the way to Chomsky. Illuminating is the successtory’s of early anarchism in the period from the 1850’s to the 1930’s, where it was fighting over heavily contested terrain with the communists. All in all, this is a great read to get yourself acquainted with anarchism and what it means, can be and how it it shapes the world. That’s a whole lot more informed than posting Rote Armee Fraction pictures on your facebook timeline and calling yourself a rebel…

Simon Reynolds – Bring The Noise

source: goodreads.com

I’ve really enjoyed the book Reynolds made his debut with, ‘Rip it up and start again’. The powerful title really sums up the postpunk movement. In this book Reynolds sort of picks up at the end of that book, but instead of steady chapters we find a collection of the journalistic writings of Reynolds, who lived through the described period as a music journalist. The pieces are journalistic pieces on certain key moments, albums and movements as Reynolds perceived them. The articles also have some current-day commentary added to them, allowing the author to add a modern day look to the equasion.

To me the fascinating thing is how Reynolds weaves together articles about rock music, grunge, hiphop and the growing techno/drum’n’bass scene. The need for noise, rebellion and urban narrative is woven through all these aspects, which Reynolds translates to cultural terms and clarifiers. The link between hiphops lyrical matter, beat and ideology is related to punk, but also to the roots of the movement, it’s location and predecessors in a clear and complete manner. It’s interesting how the author really writes as if he’s the chronicler of the music scene. A worthy read

The Reading of Books # 24

So, another series of books devoured, this time Bernie Sanders, Matt Taibbi, John Scalzi and Dayal Patterson’s work was in my sights.

Bernie Sanders – Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In

source: Goodreads

I became aware of Bernie Sanders quite late during the campaign, but something about this Vermont senator struck me quite soon. It’s that unabashed honesty, hard-working mentality and no crap attitude of the man that truly humbles anyone who follows what he does. Bernie is not for sale and Bernie genuinely worries about the people he represents. This book is therefor not some hollow rhetoric by an establishment politician. I would even argue that Bernie might nog have even put his face on the cover if he could avoid it. Sanders wanted to talk about issues, about change and about a grassroots movement that was looking for something new. This is something rather close to my own politics and I felt strong affinity to the Sanders campaign after reading this.

The book is part diary, where Sanders really describes his own experiences and life in a rather sober manner, the way the man is when asked about himself. Sanders focusses on his politics, even when its persona and that makes him such a specific specimen. He rarely pats himself on the shoulder and when he does, he always includes others. It’s  a pleasant read of a straight talk politician. The other half is his politicas and vision, so a more manifesto like article. In this part Sanders also takes all the time to really explain those views in detail. I’ve had bad hopes for the future, but the succes of Bernie’s campaign, the grassroots movement and these good ideas make me feel that we can sort it all out. A great book for those interested in finding out more about what is happening in the United States among real people. Worth your time for sure.

source: goodreads.com

John Scalzi – Redshirts

Imagine that you are living your life the way you feel it should go, only to realise that all of it was leading up to the inevitable and horrible death of you in a situation that screams irrationality. Imagine that you realise that going on a mission with the officers of your star ship leads to an almost certain death. Well, that’s pretty much the world that the characters of Redshirts live in. It is surprising that when officers come in looking for members to go on a ‘away team’, a lot of the crew disappears. That is not even the weirdest stuff that happens, There’s even a box that goes ping and solves complex, scientific mysteries. It only works in the nick of time though, as if to provide Dramatic effect. A very peculiar situation indeed.

This is an interesting and highly entertaining read by Scalzi. A group of redshirts realise that they are… redshirts. It creates a strange series of stories, where reality becomes the most trivial part. Real or not real, people are dying because of bad script writing. That is the main theme of the book, but the way Scalzi takes that and runs with it is just amazing. The characters really become real and every cliché is present in a hilarious journey. What I liked best about this book is actually the added parts, where characters from the story reiterate their experiences from their perspectives. It leads to philosophical, but also very human passages, that show science fiction is more than just fun and still holds interesting aspects for our reality. This is by far one of the most fun books I’ve read in a while, so this is indeed highly recommended.

Dayal Patterson – Cult Never Dies: The Mega Zine

source: goodreads.com

I was a bit puzzled by this choice to do a Mega Zine, for a bunch of reasons. First of, the word magazine always makes something more contemporary, more fleeting and less urgent, where I like that Patterson works on a continuous series of works on documenting extreme metal. Secondly, it results in a cover that looks less fitting in my  collection. Now, after having read it I also have to say that it really downplays the fact that is is very close related to the previous titles. Actually it’s a great addition with bands that simply don’t fit the regular categories you imagine with the black metal genre. In this book Patterson interviews some of the most peculiar groups from the grand and intriguing black metal scene.

Interesting fact is that the author adds other interviewers to this book, doing the work he’s pursuing with more knowledge and experience with certain bands. It makes the titanic work of documenting the scene more managable, but creating a matching format and form of expression does become more daunting. There are no problems with that though in this book, with bands lik Reverend Bizarre and Slegest to the strange organ sounds of Lychgate. The includees in this book do feel slightly random, but it’s what you get with the strange and the weird. Another great book for the lovers of the dark and heavy music genre.

Matt Taibbi – Insane Clown President

source: goodreads.com

It seems like an easy title, but Matt Taibbi really followed the tornado of madness that ravaged America in 2016. Taibbi is a writer for Rolling Stone Magazine, who has indeed been on the bus during the elections in the United States. Watching the burning car wreck of a result that this created, Taibbi looks back at those elections and gives his critique, but not without taking part of the blame himself as member of the writing press, who are definitely part of the rise of Trump thanks to their hungry camera lenses and continuous interest in the most maddening campaign the elections in the States have ever seen. Taibbi looks at the history of writing in the political business, of media attention and previous campaigns to find out about a disturbing path that all of this has been following for a long, long time.

It was never jus about Trump, it was about the victory of the spectacle over content. Outrage triumphing over decency and one-liners before truth. It’s a monumental power switch from the elite to the uneducated, the disenfranchised… People picking instead of a sort of semi-decent system, a completely abyssal insanity as their future. Why the fuck did Trump appeal to these people? Well, he definitely didn’t charm them alone, he was the most remorseless, insane and outrages candidate of 16 terrible options.  This book is filled with great essays about different stages in the electoral proces, which are filled with venom and wit from experienced writer Taibbi. It’s the postmortem of the American dream, the end of equality and the start of the  white nationalist dark ages. God save us all from the clown car’s master… but worse, from ourselves. This book is really for you, if you like the black humor of the time and age we live in. Enjoy.

The Reading of Books #23

Ah, books… I’ve been reading books on D&D and more, so I’ve had happy times. Michael Witwer wrote  a great biography of Gary Gygax,  Another bit of Drizzt reading by R.A. Salvatore, high fantasy by Weiss and Hickman and a treatise on bullshit by Frankfurt. Good times!

Michael Witwer – Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons

source: Goodreads.com

Gary Gygax is the undisputed king of the nerds (sorry Chris Hardwick), but who was this Emperor of Imagination? That must have been what Michael Witwer thought, before he embarked on his quest to write this book about the creator of Dungeons & Dragons. The book features episodes out of the life of Gygax. It starts with aregular kid falling in love with comic books, Conan and games. The chapters are usually started with a D&D referring intro, offering a teaser for the life experience discussed in the following chapter. It’s a pleasant book, with a strong feel good atmosphere. The rise of a new idea that no one believed in, a shady period of darkness and then the moment of redemption. Witwer doesn’t eschew the darker periods of Gygax’s life. He also adresses his marriage, his departure from TSR (his company, that he was booted out of) and his drug abuse while staying in California.

Thoug this book is largely written from a pro-Gary standpoint, it is not always as mercyful to the original Dungeons & Dragons game master. The figure of Dave Arneson is greatly trivialized and in this version of the story. His contribution is described as a rambling set of ideas and incoherent notes, which were pretty much useless. This for example is stuff that is left out. Gary remains the sympathetic guy, even though at some time he really must have een a complete ass. His business dealings with TSR were also not a highlight of his carreer. All in all, this is a great book though, demonstrating story telling without really chosing sides as much, more a perspective. A really cool way to learn more about the creation and originins of the great game of D&D and the man who made it happen.

R.A. Salvatore – Transitions (The Orc King, The Pirate King, The Ghost King)

source: goodreads.com

Another series of books by R.A. Salvatore I read as a part of the ‘Legend of Drizzt’. I have to admit that I read these with a heavy heart, having had a good look at the follow-up already and knowing fully well what doom and gloom awaited me. Fortunately I was happy to first read some great story telling, before the unfortune hits me. In these books the world around the heroes of the hall is changing significantly. The world is morphing into the chaotic realm of the later books ánd the world Drizzt will be facing.

It starts with ‘The Orc King’, which is an interesting tale about the tentative peace between the Dwarves and Orcs. A group of conspirators wish to destabilize the already difficult situation to perpetuate the war. In the Pirate King we meet Deudermont again, the heroic pirate hunter from Waterdeep. This time he intends to take on the corruption in Luskan and fight the Lych Arklem Greeth. Worse still is to come when in The Ghost King a creature emerges with the combined forces of various old enemies. We also meet Cadderly again, the human servant of Deneir and his family. Oh, this well known drow drops by too.

The stories are exceptionally dense and well written, but give less space to the characters. Most of them have been fully developed, but the enemies are really very flat. That is not so surprising, since this is really a series of transition stories. What else do you need to know after reading all previous books, one could argue. That would be right, the world is changing and that means you have to shift the players to that setting. Salvatore does that with three touching, great and magical books. I really enjoyed reading these.

Margaret Weiss & Tracy Hickman – The Magic of Krynn

source: wikipedia

As it is, I’m a Forgotten Realms fan. I’ve not learned much about the Dungeons & Dragons universe beyond the Sword Coast and I’m not very familiar with the past. Reading this masterpiece by Weiss & Hickman, two of the most appreciated writers in the scif-fi/fantasy. I’ve gotten my first taste of their work with the ‘Death Gate Cycle’, so their skill were known to me. I learned that they had started out as TSR writers, D&D’s company. This is the first Dragonlance book with short stories from the wildly popular Dragonlance setting, which probably helpt put D&D on the map even more firmly. The stories are sort of brief and vary between short and funny, fairytales with hidden wisdom and more complex stories that fit in with the bigger story arch.

The characters seem a bit flat at first, which makes them really pieces that help progress the story. It feels very typical for the more traditional fairy tales, where the characters are fairly simple. Soon you start recognizing them and reading their personalities through the stories. For example the character Tasslehoff Burrfoot is a continuous source of entertainment for the reader. There’s really the sense of dark forests and mystery of a world you barely know anything about here. I think that is part of the allure and probably the close connection to classical fantasy worlds, where figures embody deity like essences. Tasslehoff would be a bit of a trickster, a Loki if you will. Though it’s not my setting of preference, I look forward to revisiting it in future reading endeavours.

Harry Frankfurt – On Bullshit

source: Princeton press

Yes, there is a philosophical article about bullshit available, though much like the makers of ‘Idiocracy’, I doubt that Frankfurt thought he’d ever be known to publish something so particular to the current state of the world. Yes, Trump immediately comes to mind when we discuss the difference between lying, not saying something and speaking absolute bullshit. Bullshit is more than just talking out of your ass, it’s more than willingly mislead your audience, it supposes an almost non-caring attitude towards whatever story you’re spinnin.

On Bullshit is an essential bit of reading for the post-factual age that we live in.

The Reading of Books #22

I read some great books last weeks, so I list them here. Books that I read are byt Daniel Ekeroth, Herman Brusselmans, Simon Vestdijk and Barack Obama

Barack Obama – Dreams from my Father

source: goodreads.com

Barack Obama wasn’t always president of the United States, he also once upon a time tried his hand at writing and this book was the result. Published in 1995, it shows the quest Obama had himself to find out who he is and where he is from. To find out who his father was and what kind of man he was to become in the future. His complex relationship with race and the way that stuck in society. Now, this is before the white house, before the big fame and all that stuff. The attempt was genuinely to give something to other black people who were struggling with their identity. It says a lot about the man, who I happen to admire. Sure, there’s plenty of stuff to say now about how wrong I am at that, but it doesn’t change a thinf or me. Specially after reading this book.

The writing style of Obama is very much filled with anecdotes. Going from a general point to a personal experience is something he’s known to do in his speeches as well and in these stories it works just as effectively. Even though here and there he does write things that might not have been to smart for his carreer, overall he’s the man we know with an open heart and open mind, trying to receive whatever comes his way and understand the world around him. The story is well written and cohesive and soon you forget who is telling you this story. The personal tone makes it very accesible and direct, involving the reader easily. The audiobook got special praise, mainly because the reader is the author himself. Obama is a born speaker, so letting his voice carry you away for a few hours is a pleasure for certain.

Daniel Ekeroth – Swedish Death Metal

goodreads.com

The beauty of a scene is that it’s fleeting. It’s a moment in time that is absolutely secret. It’s not even considered as the moment, the catalyst it is. And once it’s all over, it is simply gone forever. The only people who can say anything about it are the ones who were there. When Daniel Ekeroth describes a peculiar location in the trainstation, where the teenagers who made up the Swedish death metal scene gathered, he captures that scene in a moment. The Swedish death metal scene might not have been the biggest shift in extreme music, it definitely has made a huge impact on the way we listen to metal today. And this book completely captures what happened in Sweden around 1990.

Ekeroth doesn’t write like a scholar. His book is more of a scrap book and diary in one, where a fan relates his story to other fans. It’s remarkable to see all the early album covers and pictures of the death metal celebrities with their spotty teenage noses. Ekeroth writes with the enthousiasm of being one of those kids. About labels, recording sessions and the remote parts where the scene took place. The book is not just the story of the scene, there’s an enormous catalogue of everything related to it. Demo’s, shows.. the whole shebang. That makes this book a necessity for anyone remotely interested or enthralled with the scene.

Herman Brusselmans – Een Dag in Gent

source: goodreads.com

It seem that the overlying theme of the work penned by Herman Brusselmans is the futility of life. The title of this book translates as ‘A Day in Ghent’ and that is literally what it is. Also, it’s not the day in Gent by someone who has anything to do, so we follow the meanderings through the city of the main character, while he ponders various elements of his life and also a fair share of completely random occurrences and made up facts. It’s just like that, a typical day in Gent that seems to have nothing special going on.

The way the story is told leads you down many side streets and weird stories. I feel that for Brusselmans, mankind is a fairly peculiar and strange being in all its perversions. The main character is in a way often not present. When ladies offer themselves to him, he just watches them. Observing and making notes, that seems the ambition in Brusselmans’ work and it leads to some pretty messed up projections of humankind. All is written in a mildly sarcastic tone, only furthering the estranging effect the words have. Nonetheless, it’s an enjoyable read with a twist and a rather peculiar look at the daily life that we lead. One could even say it’s a stream of consciousness, but it probably lacks the literary pretenses for that.

Simon Vestdijk – Op Afbetaling

source: goodreads.com

This classic bit of Dutch literature was a difficult read, specially due to its dated setting and strange, shifty characters. There was little in the way of getting to sympathize with figures in the book, making it hard to really get to grips with it. The story is that of a man who has caught his wife cheating with his colleague. Instead of confronting her, he wishes her to suffer the way he suffers, in silence. This leads him down a dark path with dark characters and shady dealings. It’s a well wrought story, but with some vague elements to it in the way of how they are a part of the whole thing. In the end things escalate, but life finds its way to continue somehow.

The style of writing by Vestdijk is that of a detective novel, without a case. It’s layered with different signals for the reader, which makes the whole story as hard to follow as it seems to be for the main character Mr. Grond. Now, this gentleman is not very sympathetic and that is completely worked into the way of writing. Cynical, unfeeling and cold. Though it’s not easy reading and some of the descriptions are dated and feel slightly alien nowadays, this is an interesting read and a rather complex and fascinating story in its own right.

The Reading of Books #21

So here we go again, reading books like there is no tomorrow. Well, there usually is so… well, this time I have read some Dutch literature in the form of Harry Mulish’s books, a book about reggae and ofcourse some works of R.A. Salvatore.

Michael De Koningh – Young, Gifted & Black: The Story of Trojan Records

source: Goodreads.com

Ska, reggae, rocksteady and more are the typical sounds of Jamaica. The genre came across the sea and captured a generation of young Britons and left a lasting impact on the music we know as pop. If you tell the story of reggae, you need to also tell the story of Trojan Records. A label so intertwined with the rise and growth of the music, that it has almost become synonymous with the genre. This book tells you everything about the growing genre from one perspective, but also what is around in the world where Trojan developed. The labels, the artists and the weird gold rush that the record industry undertook in that time and age.

This book is not about idealistic record producers and a label with a golden heart. Trojan Records never started from any good will, but as a means to make a lot of money of something not many others were jumping onto. The reggae genre was at first considered obscene, shocking and ill fitting to British society. The keen skinhead crowd was not helping that image much either. The book also contains a dense discography and further lists with information concerning the label, it’s productions. A must have for the fan or collector of Trojan releases, but also for those who just love or would  like to investigate Jamaican music.

R.A. Salvatore – The Hunter’s Blades Trilogy (The Thousand Orcs, The Lone Drow, The Two Swords)

source: Goodreads.com

Well, another trilogy by R.A. Salvatore that I can mark as read. This trilogy is in a way much more grim and definite than others. Where the characters seemed to pretty much walk away from events unscaved, that is about the change when they face a foe that is so much mightier than others. Luck is not on their side and the shifting mechanisms of their world is much bigger and complexer than ever before. Though there is one of those phases, where Drizzt feels he lost everyone only to find them again, things are not whole in the end. The characters are much more introspective, less a coherent unit and that makes for some uncanny story telling.

The orc tribes are uniting under one God-gifted leader, named Obould Many-Arrows. Where the orcs have always been a race of merauding recklessness, Obould is a different cookie altogether. WIth his sight set on a kingdom for his people, a place on this earth to call their own, he sets out on a bloody crusade and the heroes appear to be right in the middle of his path. This leads to the grim story of an all out war. Not a skirmish, a chase or a battle, but entrenched, long lasting war. R.A. Salvatore manages to translate the experience of war to the fantasy realm with a great effect. This is maybe one of his finest hours in writing. The book really takes the reader into a much grimmer direction and the end might not be what you would hope to find, but in a way it’s also unavoidable.

Harry Mulisch – Siegfried

source: Goodreads.com

Harry Mulisch is one of the most well known Dutch authors, but I rarely read anything from his works up until now. This book is the story of a writer, much like Mulisch himself, of international fame who goes to visit Vienna for a reading. During an interview he mentions Hitler. Hitler has been the topic of many, many books, but no one ever really managed to get to the core, the essence of the figure. The main character promises he will attempt to capture HItler, to trap him in a frame of fiction. The writer is struggling with many thoughts about this project, of the past and maybe with himself as well. Then the story becomes strange.

An old couple approaches the author at the reading. They’ve heard him speak on television about Hitler and are keen to speak to him. The next day he meets them in their appartment, which is not the standard he lives in, but accomodating. There’s little special or uncommon about the couple, but they apparently have a big secret which he is sworn to protect untill they are both deceased, so their original promise is covered. And thus starts a narrative within a narrative about a son called Siegfried. The most intriguing about the book is the peculiar story in a story, the biographical elements and the irregular composition. It’s a brilliant book. If it is translated, read it for all its magic.

Harry Mulisch – Twee Vrouwen

source: goodreads.com

The second book I read from Mulish is ‘Twee Vrouwen’,  which translates as ‘two women’. It’s a book of international fame, which was even made into a film once. At its time it must have struck a nerve with its theme of a same sex relationship, but on it’s republication as a gift for the annual book week it still is a book that matters and adresses the difficulties and strange intolerance that has been part of our culture for that long. Even though things are looking up nowadays, it is good to remember and put it to life in literature how we’ve dealt with homosexuality in the past.

The story is that of two women who run into eachother. Though the main character is older, has been married and not been with a woman before, they click and soon move in together. Their turbulent relationship lasts for a couple of months and part of the book describes that period in all its complexities. Durin a visit to her mother, the main character asks her girlfriend to stay behind to not shake up the old lady who resides in the south of France. From here on all seems to go wrong and the girlfriend leaves at some point with the ex-husband. I wish I could tell you more, but you’lljust have to read it yourself. Spoilers and all, but know that a Mulisch book never goes the way you’d expect. You don’t need to be a confused Lesbian to experience the feelings this book gives you. Sure, it gives the perspective of discrimination, but the characers are sort of sealed of in a bubble experiencing things just like you could. That makes this such a strong work. It’s completely relatable.

The Reading of Books #20

In this 20th edition of books that I read, which is quite a few over time, I’m discussing Dayal Patterson, R.A. Salvatore (again), Gene Simmons and Marco Martens, who all wrote cool books that I enjoyed.

Dayal patterson – Black Metal: Into The Abyss
Cult Never Dies Productions

source: Goodreads.com

I’m a huge fan of the work by Dayal Patterson, who manages to captivate the black metal scene in his own unique way. Name it scholarly or even ethnographic at times, the man lives and breathes black metal and manages to track down the most reclusive strangers for brilliant interviews. It sometimes seems that the weirder you think they are, the more normal they seem in retrospect. In this edition of the series, Dayal digs up some old bones in Poland for example, finding the roots of that strange black metal scene and continues to search for answers.

I’ve mentioned part of the Polish scene that gets attention in this book, but more or less the outsiders like StigmataFuria and others. Another element are the Norwegian bands of the latter generation, that return to a more purist approach, like 1349 and One Tail, One Head. The best part is how open Patterson gets to talk to some of these artists, of which some never did an interview before. It opens up a scene that has been shrouded in mystery and trust me… It doesn’t take away any of the magic.

Gene Simmons – KISS and Make up
Crown Publishing

goodreads.com

Gene Simmons is an enigma, a character larger than life and hated and reviled as much as he is loved and praised. Gene is a straight shooter and always speaks the truth. No surprise then, that his book details his humble beginnings with as much detail as his later sexual adventures, poverty, riches and glamour. It also features a lot of history of Kiss that before was hidden behind the paint and more or less a mystery. We’ve moved on to a time where things have aged enough for some of the truth to come out. After the accusing books by Peter Criss and Ace Frehley, the book of Simmons feels much less cool and more raw and honest.

Why does that matter? Because for example Frehley, whose book I read, is glorifying his own behavior most of the time and rarely speaks with any warmth of the bandmembers he shared the stage with. Specially Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley are depicted as money grubbing monsters, regardles of the fact that Gene Simmons saved his life. Simmons seems to lament the path of the others and speaks as candidly about his own failings and shortcomings, even insecurities and such as about others. This is a book of a sober man, who is honest, but that’s my opinion. It also is a really kick ass story, isn’t it?

R.A. Salvatore – The Sellswords (Servant of the Shard, Promise of the Witch King, Road of the Patriarch)

source: Goodreads.com

It’s surprisingly nice sometimes to take a side step in a long series, and so it is with the Forgotten Realms ‘Legend Of Drizzt’. In the short series titled ‘The Sellswords’ we focus on the characters of Artemis Entreri and Jarlaxle. Two oppertunists, who venture to a new land to reap the fruits of whoevers labour after daring conflicts with the mercenary bands Bregan D’arte. It’s a great bit of reading and a completely different kind of adventure with more depth and knowledge about the characters you might loathe or secretly love already by this point and will get to know and understand much better by the time you finish.

During the first part, Jarlaxle gets challenged for his leadership of Bregan D’Arte, so he has to flee with Entreri. During their flight they meet up with Cadderly (who has met Drizzt and company before, but is known from the Cleric Quartet). In the second part we fnd the duo in the Bloodstone lands, fighting with, alongside and against King Gareth Dragonsbane in an attempt to gain riches while doing rightious things (known from the Bloodstone Pass series from the eighties). In the final part we travel to Memnon with Artemis Entreri to find his past and illuminate the merciless killer he has become, where we will find something new and surprising in the character. A lovely journey for the reader.

Marco Martens – Rubberboot

It’s only a little booklet, but in it we find stories that are recognizable and funny, sometimes touching and familiar. Marco Martens used to be active in hiphop and now in a sort of spoken word setting. Poetry is also part of this short bundle. An enjoyable, though brief read that you can probably still pick up somewhere if you’re lucky. If not, than you don’t.

Marco Martens is a talented writer and story teller. This book is a small display of his talents, but I hope it won’t be his last endeavour in the written word. Like his record ‘Ieder Huis Is Uit Vertrekken Gebouwd’  (out on Bastaard Platen), his writing is a mixture of humor, nostalgia and grief, all packed up into a nice cocktail that sticks. You can read it here.

The Books I Read #19

I read some more books, so I guess it’s time to share those with you, with works by R.A. Salvatore, JJ Koczan, Ace Frehley and the mighty Henry Rollins! Enjoy and pick them up if you can.

R.A. Salvatore – Paths of Darkness ( The Silent Blade, The Spine of the World, Servant of the Shard, Sea of Swords)

source: bandcamp

Ok, one more serial for now, since right now I had my fill for a while of the saga, but Paths of Darkness is indeed something else. The focus is less on the character of Drizzt, but more on others like the barbarian Wulfgar. After the traumatizing events in the previous books, people have been damaged, broken even. The collateral needs to be resolved before the band will be able to join together once again. It’s a welcome new thing in an otherwise endless string of group adventures, which I think is an interesting switch, though also showing you that nothing lasts really.

Though I wouldn’t want to pin that responsibility on the author, I think in a way the topic of trauma is very present in this book. The effect on a person and the intense fase of trying to work your way through it. The struggle the character Wulfgar goes through is heavy, complex and confusing to all surrounding him. The turmoil is well described by Salvatore and really given context and explanation. This is something that made this series of books very powerful, and worth reading. The following set is also exploring a similar side road, so thatś something that’ll come up in another series of books.

JJ Koczan – Electroprofen

source: twitter (author)
source: twitter (author)

JJ Koczan is an immensely productive guy who manages to keep up the blog ‘The Obelisk’ all by himself. To me, that’s amazing and inspiring at the same time and I’ve had the pleasure to meet JJ on Roadburn and found out he’s a humble and friendly guy, totally in it for the music, nothing else. That is something you see in his book too. I don’t know too much about JJ’s experience as a writer, but there’s something about his style that speaks to me as a music fan as well. In a way the form of this book can describe as a collection of songs too. Short, losely connected stories and poems work together to create a whole.

I enjoyed reading this short novel, as a bit of a dark exploration of humankind. I have the sense that there’s a personal vibe to the stories as well, which I think makes it so much more connecting and powerful, striking the right notes with the reader. JJ demonstrates his skill for putting down a good story here and I hope he keeps at it. I would love to read a doom laced full story of him one day. The book is out on War Crime Recordings, not sure if they still have any…  It would be worth your money to pick this up to support this talented gentleman in his writing, because I’m keen to read more. Check out his website on music for more of his writing, which follows a similar personal expression.

Ace Frehley – No Regrets

source: goodreads

I have to admit something to you, my dear reader. I’m a fan of the band Kiss. It started gradually, but I definitely would have to refer you to the podcast where Danko Jones interviews Abbath about Kiss for the spark that ignited my interest. Now, you can appreciate Kiss as a whole, but delve into the four individuals and that is one crazy journey. My first Kiss bio this far was none other than the oe of Ace Frehley, who played guitar in Kiss three times and left each one. Ace is a likable guy in the media, but was also a troubled person for years with substance abuse. His take on things is a bit different and I’m tempted to believe he missed the point on some topics, but hey…

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/266318867″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Ace is quit laid back and proud of his troubled past, but also likes to inform you around the end of the book how he believes in Aliens and has met them. The weird supersticions he has take all sense of truth away for me, but his perception of the history of Kiss is in general plagued by little consideration for there being another side to the story. Ace is mild and understanding for most of the book, but at some point keeps going on at Gene SImmons and Paul Stanley in a way that is hard to validate or check anywhere, but makes them the bad guys. I have not read all the others, but in the bio of Gene SImmons there’s atleast an attempt to paint a complete picture. Ace sees himself as a victim and his victory on alcohol not too long ago is his biggest victory. It’s still a great book full of saucy material. Read it if you can! Because for all his weird stories, Ace Frehley tells it like a true storyteller.

Henry Rollins – LA Weekly Articles 2011-2012

source: goodreads

Though Henry can spin a yarn, his ability to offer short and to the point stories on stage is reflected in his columns for the LA Weekly. In this book he offers a collection of those from a certain period of time between 2011-2012 that he wrote, but before any editor touched them. It’s some typical Henry material that you’lll easily get into if you like his ideas, and also will inspire you to read more of his work and check out the music he encourages… nay, urges you to check out. Old jazz and blues all the way up to metal, every week another good bit of advice for the ears. It’s really some added value that you’re getting right there from the man who fronted Black Flag and Rollins Band.

If you don’t feel affinity with the opinions of mr. Rollins, then there’s always some room for debate on most topics. The door is always half open, except when it comes to hatred, homophobia, racism and such, those are very clear and so is the opinion of Henry about you if you think such things are fine (usually thats pretty much the issue). The book serves well as a continuous read, but also just to take one item at the time. It’s immersive, personal and filled with the typical wit you find in the work of Henry Rollins. Specially his bits on the Bush administration are usually hilarious. His fandom of Rush Limbaugh (sarcasm) is a recurring theme, that makes Limbaugh look exactly the way he should. It’s just great stuff, read this!

 

Henry Rollins speaks in Eindhoven about the state of the world.

The world seems to be on the brink these days. Trump may become the next president of the United States and other peroxide blonde men are rallying the masses. Lemmy and Bowie passed away and there’s some people who actually believe the world is a flat disk again. Luckily, Henry Rollins is here to pierce the bullshit with words like daggers and razorsharp humor on a thursday night in the Effenaar in Eindhoven.

The spoken word shows of Henry Rollins are a phenomenon on their own. Not many rock’n’roll personalities compare to Rollins on a roll on the stage with a microphone and the audience. After and during his time as frontman of S.O.A. and the legendary Black Flag, the singer started developing his solo-act. After the end of Rollins Band, years later, he ended up with a show that could last for hours and it’s pretty much what Rollins is known for these days. Many have tried to follow his tracks on this, such as Danko Jones, Jello Biafra and even Billy Milano, but there’s only one Henry Rollins.

Picture by Brendy Wijdeven
Picture by Brendy Wijdeven

When Rollins gets started, his act is like a two hour train ride, not much will be able to stop it. He discusses life and what he has to say about the state of the world as it is right now. After putting out some outlines for his story, he gets started on subjects like America, herd mentality, the individual and his passion for music obviously. He touches upon the topic of Trump very briefly, which is surprising if you consider his endless rants on the topic of president George W. Bush. We move on to the next topic at high speed and soon everyone’s nailed to their seats.

Beautiful anecdotes follow about David Bowie, also known as ‘The Bow’ and the intense love for the music of the man. When Henry speaks about ‘Hunky Dory’ with passion, I think everyone must have felt that for a moment. Ofcourse Motorheads Lemmy follows as well, stories relayed with love and humor for the man. Henry is getting a bit more personal in many of his stories and tells a lot about his experiences and adventures. Not just the funny bits, but also things that matter, like his eco-holiday in Ecuador. A story about sexing enguins on a mountain of poop is compared to Amsterdam, which is always a succes in Eindhoven (and is an adequate description of the Dutch capital).

For two hours, the aging alternative icon knows how to enchant the audience with funny, hard and amazing stories, often told without nuance, direct and forceful. You can agree with his views or not. If you don’t, you probably were not at the show in the first place, but the beauty is that you leave the show refreshed and filled with new views on the world. That may be the most beautiful thing an artist can offer to you.

Thanks ever so much for the pictures to Brendy Wijdeven

 

The Books I Read #18 Dungeons & Dragons

I kind of stopped mentioning the books I read for a while. Mainly due to the fact that I was stuck on the same saga for a while. I’ve started reading the ‘Legend of Drizzt’ series by R.A. Salvatore.

I mentioned a few of those books already in an earlier post. Since I shunned my responsibilities since, I have to now catch up with these things for a bit, to regain my self respect. I’m going to discuss the Drizzt series books from the start and the comics I’ve been checking out on this topic.

R.A. Salvatore – The Dark Elf Trilogy (Homeland, Exile, Sojourn)

goodreads.com

In the first series we are immersed in the world of Drizzt Do’Urden, warrior, thinker and hero of the Dungeons & Dragons Universe. Drizzt is born underground, in a place of certain death and evil: The Drow city of Menzoberranzan. On the night of his birth his elder brother is killed by his sibling, which means the life of Drizzt is spared. A third son would be sacrificed to the chaos goddess Lolth. Drizzt is raised in the matriarchal society under the tutelage of his father and the weapons master of house Do’Urden, while the matriarch watches. His father, Zaknafein, installs a different moral code in his son, one that strays from the evil path of the Drow and will set Drizzt apart from his kind.

The storytelling is such as to really allow the reader to immerse in the otherworldly and unholy beauty of these realms, specifically the hard to imagine Underdark, where the drow live. One could argue that Salvatore is engaging in the nature vs nurture debate here as well, since the character of Drizzt only starts to really be discussed after the real ethical questions are being raised. Before this point, he is an empty vessel in a way, following the path layed out for him. Once Salvatore opens up the characters, it feels elaborate and completely in sync with how D&D players would express their characters. The journey is quite beautiful, but very solo Drizzt. It is a necessary story that allows the reader to appreciate and embrace the character and the element that is Drizzt in the further stories.

R.A. Salvatore – The Icewind Dale Trilogy (The Crystal Shard, Streams of Silver, The Halfling’s Gem)

goodreads.com

In the second trilogy we fast-forward a little bit to a point where Drizzt has made some friends in the northern valley of Icewind Dale, a place of thieves, robbers and outcasts trying to start new lives. His friends include dwarven king Bruenor Battlehammer, halfling Regis and Catti-bri, human adopted daughter of King Bruenor. The characters are introduced during the story, slightly lifting up the veil on their backgrounds, while a threat grows in the dale. Not only do the friends need to unite, they’ll also need to unite the bickering villages of the vale, who have only once managed to work together to save their hides.

It is also the story of another character, namely the barbarian child Wulfgar. During the battle where the villages united against the Barbarian tribes, he was spared and indentured by Bruenor. We find the child coming of age as a man with the right mindset and principles, but the stubbornness of his own people. In the story the characters develop and find themselves amid the turbulent times they are part of. Ofcourse the story kicks of a leap to the next trilogy as well and much further adventures for what becomes the ‘Companions of the Hall’.  Where the first book focuses on what can be called pretty much ‘survival’, this book focuses on other D&D values such as diplomacy, wisdom and cunning.

goodreads.com

R.A. Salvatore – Legacy of the Drow ( The Legacy, Starless Night, Siege of Darkness, Passage to Dawn)

The events in the previous trilogy lead to an expansion of the world that the adventurers face, but also brings forward a longing for peace and home. Unfortunately the figure Drizzt has become a much desired prize for the evil drow, his own people. The matron mother of the city of Menzoberranzan decides on a hunt for the rogue drown to appease the displeased deity Lolth. In fact, Lolth herself has a hand in the whole events, tricking a great demon into cooperating with her against the prodigal son of her people. This reconnects the reader with some old familiar figures and brings us back to the Underdark, the realm of the drow. Dramatic events start to unfold soon, which will reshape the personalities in the game, even assassin Artemis Entreri, now a mortal enemy of Drizzt.

The tone of these novels is much more grim and dark, similar to their setting. Where battles are usually briefly mentioned and the focus is usually in the Drizzt novels on the interaction and experiences of the characters, this time a full out war is part of the story as well. It makes the story bigger and more grim than the previous outings. Also noteworthy is the return of some other elements from the previous books, that prove that history is not something for archives but a real thing that can come back to haunt you. In this book Salvatore also chooses to connect Drizzt to some other figures from the D&D universe, which is for a long time fan an absolute pleasure obviously.

R.A. Salvatore – Legend of Drizzt: The Graphic Novel Omnibus Vol. 1 & Vol 2

source: amazon

When a book has so much detail and characteristics embedded in its way of telling the story, the big challenge of course is to bring that to a visual medium. Luckily, there are plenty of capable artists and the team that worked on these first two installments of the two trilogy’s of Drizzt are definitely worth your reading hours, if not only for the strong way of transferring the story to a new medium, without completely bastardizing the text. In fact, much remains the same, apart from the painting parts about the landscape. Those are replaced with stunning images of the realms and the characters.

Granted, sometimes the drawings don’t correspond with your expectations, but that’s an inevitable qualm you’ll have with any adaptation. Ofcourse here and there sections are left out or minimalized, but you can’t prevent that from happening either.  When a fantasy story doesn’t have a film or something, itś always great to have something that offers you a visual experience. These comics definitely do that for you.

Cover image; Website Wizards of the Coast