Category Archives: Words

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

The Reading of Books #17

Some books I read, by Houellebecq and Lévy, Felica Day, R.A. Salvatore and David E. Ewalt, so a lot of geeky stuff again (Dungeons & Dragons).

Michel Houellebecq & Bernard-Henri Lévy – Public Enemies

source: goodreads.com

It’s a fascinating idea to have to of the most influential thinkers (regardless if Houellebecq looks at himself in that way) of the modern times to go into a letter exchange with eachother. Do that with these two leading french intellectuals and you’ve got something special going on. Both are on different sides of the spectrum, but in their letters the interest and respect clearly shines through. When the book begins we can find some stabs and misconceptions, but gradually it becomes an intimate and deeply intellectual exchange.

The two men are united in their self deflating humor and loathing for their roles in life. Loathing and love, because both seem to be addicted to where they are and the way they are perceived in the public eye. I do think that this exchange finds no equivalent in other European nations, this is an exchange embedded in the french form of a ‘public intellectual’, which is a new concept, that rarely actuallye embodies any sort of true intellectualism in other nations. These men however, are deeply involved in knowing the self and therefor int rying to comprehend the other. The fact that they manage to convey it in a convincing and witty manner even makes this a better read, worthy of your attention.

David M. Ewalt – Of Dice and Men

source: goodreads.com

I have only recently embraced the world of D&D, but David Ewalt had done so many, many years before me and knows the game, the history, the rules and the story well enough to tell the tale of D&D itself, which he does in a captivating, spectacular and immersing way. Well, that should be enough of convincing, but let me go a bit deeper into that. Ewalt is a journalist for Forbes, so we’re talking about serious business here. The man had left his roots behind and somehow started to export his nerdy past as an explorer, an ethnographer if you will.

Ewalts trip into the history and dense development of D&D and its affiliates gets a personal touch through that, with a warm and fond approach to the subject matter and some reverence for the key figures like Gygax and Arneson. While the personal fire rekindles, the story becomes a beautiful legend told with much love and warmth, but always remaining that of a journalist trying to tell you more about this phenomenon. There is definitely criticism and analysis, but it helps in understanding that beauty of D&D, it’s about characters, flaws and strenghts. It’s about what you can do when you combine the best of all. Ewalt brings that together in a great read.

Felicia Day – You’re never weird on the internet (almost)

source:goodreads.com

The book by Felicia Day reads as a bit of therapy, as someone coming to turns with her own path in life a lot later in it. Turns out that’s partly why it was written and in what state the author was. I chose to go for the audiobook version on this one, because it was read by Felicia Day herself. Like the book ‘Just A Geek’ by Wil Wheaton it just happens to connect easier that way and is probably the most ‘true to the core’ experience you can get. The book is a good read for everyone who has felt like an outsider somewhere in their lives.

The book is therefor a story of Felicia’s life, filled with humor and self deflating remarks, highl lighting the problems she has faced throughout the years as an insecure person trying to deal with the world. In that way, there’s also a part lamentation of choices done wrong and hardships endured, but it’s all in good fun. We know where it ended, which is in a good place. The particularly interesting bit in the book deals with gamergate, which was a horrible part of gaming history. Being a self-appointed geek for pretty much forever, I felt alienated and truly disappointed with the gaming world after gamer gate, and that sentiment was clearly there. All in all, it’s a fun and light read about that girl who could be your neighbour. It’s great stuff.

R.A. Salvatore – Gauntlgrym

source:goodreads.com

Getting into Dungeons & Dragons requires you to start getting some footing in the vast universe of the game. No other way is better than reading the novels and letting your own fantasy shape that world the way you wish to perceive it. No other character is more intriguing and part of this world than Drizzt Do’Urden, a drow elf (a dark skinned variation, living underground and generally underground). This story takes place later in the cycle of the life of this character, which developed from a supporting character to a main player in the universe.

Gauntlgrym is an old dwarven hold, thought lost and the huge quest for aged King Bruenor of the dwarves of Mithril Hall. Together with his old friend Drizzt he concocts a plan to escape his duties as king and go fight for his ancestral home in the final great quest. This story follows their adventures, wracked with memories and their old past and is a classic adventure novel, displaying various classes, races and elements of D&D.

The Reading of Books #16

I read some interesting books from Leonard Nimoy (twice about Spock), Dostojevski’s ‘The Idiot’ and a theory about Hitler escaping to Argentina.

Williams, G & Dunstan, S. – Grey Wolf: The Escape of Adolf Hitler

source: goodreads.com

It’s the topic of many films and books, most in high fantastic approach, that the nazi’s somehow escaped. To the moon even, if we may acknowledge the film ‘Iron Sky’. With this sensationalist book the writers have posed that Hitler did indeed escape in an elaborate plot to Argentina and lived hout his life there. The truth of this book has been highly disputed and ridiculed by historians. There are plenty of sources though, that state a similar truth. IN fact, there is also public FBI files on the topic. When dealing in absolutes, these still make it highly unlikely that Hitler did escape.

So reading this book should be done as if reading a historical ‘what if’ story, with a string of factualities that might, possibly lead to an alternative ending. The writers are clearly from a journalistic angle and there for really know how to sell the story to you. You’ll find yourself considering the reality of their version highly likely at some point. It’s a captivating read, but should not be confused for fact. Really, it shouldn’t be. There is a lot of dirt to be found in regard to the third reich and its decline and this book is trying to dust of one of the biggest questions concerning the possible escape of Hitler. It’s well written, exciting and full of accounts to prove the theory.
Well worth reading, but probably not believing unless you like tin foil hats.

Fyodor Dostojevski – The Idiot

source: goodreads.com

I’ve been enjoying a bunch of Russian classics lately and I still find them hard to read often. Not because they are boring, but it’s endless details and focus on the internal turmoils of the characters, the focus on the feelings and expressiveness and the endless superlatives that come with it can be exhausting. Ever since Iggy Pop’s ‘The Idiot’ came up as Ian Curtis’ suicide record I’ve been intrigued by the title and the link of that title to the book. It’s far fetched, but I’ve always felt this might get me in touch more with things from that time. So this is one of the Dostojevski books I’ve read and enjoyed.

The book focusses on Prince Mishkin, who is to all extents and purposes an idiot, a simpleton and a fool. This allows for the society he takes part in a strange touch stone with a guy they can just make fun of and mock, but who turns out to have a much deeper understanding of peoples drives and motivations than any other. Unfortunately not of his own and the story continues while everythign unravels and pretty much everyone ends unhappy and dispersed. It’s writing style is elaborate and rich, focussing much on the main few characters. The other characters are even more made fools, flat figures with good harts but little touch with reality, creating a strange disconnected feel for the reader. A recommendation for the Russian literature afficionado, but not one to take lightly.

Leonard Nimoy – I am Spock

source: goodreads.com

I have never been big on biographical works, but the autobiography of Leonard Nimoy was one I could’t miss out on. So I got myself the audio version, read by the man himself. It’s a glorious account of a wonderful life by Nimoy, from his childhood days to directing Star Trek. It deals with the struggle he had with the character Spock and is a direct reply to his previous book, titled ‘I Am Not Spock’. The embracing of this character and making it a part of himself is a heartfelt account of personal identity, acceptance and knowing the self.

Nimoy describes the troubled history of the original series, the switches in directors and the inevitable end the show was heading for. He also is very clear about his strong affinity with the character and his commitment to making it work, causing conflicts with the directors and writers but which have made Spock the beloved character we all love and adore. He is funny enough very limited on his personal life, which is fine but noteworthy. The funniest bits are the dialogues with himself, with Spock and Nimoy, who discuss certain issues with eachother. This is a great listen or read for lovers of Star Trek, but really for any human being that wants to see how far integrity and honesty get you in life. Live Long and Prosper.

Leonard Nimoy – I Am Not Spock

source; Goodreads.com

Strange choice ofcourse, to read the latest autobiography first and only then focus on the original. Well, I did so anyways, which was regrettably not too rewarding. Where the second edition is narrated by Nimoy himself, on this original you’ll have to make do with another guy. He tells you in big lines the same story as told in ‘I Am Spock’, but allows no doubt to exist about Nimoy’s struggles with the character and firmly keeps the door to the future shut.

Where Nimoy seems elated and free in his later autobiography, this one seems apologetic, difficult and written in a time of struggle. Turns out later that this was actually the case. What I did enjoy in this biography, which was lacking in the later edition, is Nimoy’s passionate descriptions of his love for photography and how he started on it and the pivotal role it played in his carreer. It ironically shows a man much more like Spock than the jovial Nimoy in his later version of the life story.

 

The Reading of Books #15

I’ve been reading a lot of books, but I guess too many at the same time. The progress has been slow, sorry about that. I’ll give you some here that I feel you might want to know about.

Henry Rollins – Get In The Van 

source: goodreads.com

As a huge Rollins fan I obviously had to read his magnum opus, or atleast his most discussed work to date. I have heard Henry mock his own book in many of his spoken word performances and on his podcast (Henry & Heidi, it’s awesome). I read this mostly during my holiday, it tells the story of the Black Flag years up till the phonecall when Greg Ginn dissolves the band (well, he quits his own band which is kinda the same thing….). It’s a harrowing, dark journey with many grim passages, ugly truths and ugly people and a personal journey. I’m not sure if I enjoyed it, it felt cathartic.

The writing is extremely raw, direct and not really the most literal form of writing. It’s an expression of angst and anxiety in a situation that amplifies anything to the max. As a reader, you start wondering why Henry Rollins ever decided to be in a band and tour the world, because it sounds horrible. There are beams of light now and then though, there are moments where the beauty of it all shines through, but they are rare. I have little right of speaking, since I was not there, but this may be the ultimate book embodying the USA punkrock scene and its grimy origins.

James Bowen – A Street Cat Named Bob 

source: goodreads.com

Rarely have I been touched by a book the way this did. The book is about James, but also about Bob. James had a pretty rough life after he moved to London for 6 months to persue music. He got kicked out of his sisters house, lived on the street in a haze of drugs, theft and survival. When we meet James, he’s on the way back from the addiction, trying to kick it. He’s busking on the streets of London when he finds a cat in the hallway of his appartment. It takes a while for them to get together, but it changes the world.

The cat is soon named Bob and he becomes the companion of James… Or James the companion of Bob. James Bowen writes  a compelling story that captivates the attention and love of anyone who has a pet themselves. Its his life, but also the life of someone that loves a pet and treats it in that way. I think its a beautiful story of what it means to care and be responsible. How a cat brings out the very best in a person. I truly love this book and would recommend it to anyone.

Timur Vermes – Look Who’s Back

source: Goodreads.com

The concept of this book was already baffling to me. Imagine the Führer waking up in this time and age and going about his business? Well, that is pretty much what Vermes must have been thinking when he started working on his debut. Hitler wakes up in Berlin in 2011 and sets about his business to conquer the world and win the hearts of his people once again. It leads to a surprising series of stories, a frightning view into our media-culture and the humanizing of who is generally considered the ultimate devil of history.

Vermes manages to be witty as well as completely critical of current society and manages to show how Hitler could easily rise to power in current mass media. Our inability to distinguish between threat and humor is a sharp pang in the gut to those who feel offended by this book. The most beautiful thing is how Hitler becomes a human. I’m no fan of the politics, but the hypocrisie of a whole Europe pretending Hitlers ideas are mad forget that there were massive votes in Germany but also outside of it for similar minded parties. Still we love our shouty populists, who are just as human as we are. Their beliefs are just a little creepy.

Colin Ward – Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction

source: goodreads.com

Anarchism is now in everyones mind the politics of bomb throwing leftists students, who have nothing better to do and live in filthy squats wearing Ché Guevarra shirts. That would be wrong. Colin Ward explains in this brief book the origins and outlines of the one political system we’ve never actually tried out and how it has evolved from an ideal to a solution that can be seen in education and health care around the world.

He focusses on the key figures and events that shaped the current philosophic idea about anarchism. Interesting and rather unknown to most is the episode of brief anarchy in practise in Spain, before the fascist regime took over for decades. Ward manages to illuminate a forgotten topic, which is much, much more relevant today than we may think and offers much more than just flipping your finger at the ‘man’.

Paris: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

I can’t believe the news today
Oh, I can’t close my eyes
And make it go away

– U2, Sunday Bloody Sunday

The title is taken from a book by Jonathan Safran Foer about 9/11. A stunning account of what it could be told like. The title always felt so alien to me, though I remember rushing home to watch those events home and looking at the tv in unbelief. Yesterday in Paris felt exactly like the title suggests, it was so loud that I felt like all music died for a moment. It was so close that it hurt.

I suddenly realized how precious and fragile freedom can be, how easy it is to cause ruin and destruction. By estimates 87 people were killed in a rock club, for no other reason than them not being the other, not being whatever the group responsible believes they should be. I turned around on my chair to my girlfriend, who was looking as lost as I was and I asked her: “What has rock’n’roll ever done to these people?” It felt like a silly question, but it was all that I had in my head. That stupid question, that song that we still sing. Disbelief is a strange thing, it shuts down your brain and comprehension.

She said she was afraid. I said I wanted to fight.

paris

And then I started to put words down. I wanted to write hate, but all I could think of was love. I believe music, like the music the people in that club in Paris were coming to enjoy, is love and not hate. No matter if its black metal, R&B, hardcore punk, techno or classical music, music is a good thing and I love those shared moments at live shows, where we come together regardles of who and what we are to just enjoy the music. All because of love and I love every person there at the concerts I visit. Why? Because I feel part of something, I feel we share the same thing and for a moment we are united.

And therefor I prefer not to say hate, war and fight. I’d prefer to say I love you. Everyone of you, because we all make up this beautiful society filled with all sorts and kinds. All in freedom,  everyone free to be whoever you want to be, but united by music. I refuse to let that be shattered by fear. Next week I’ll be going to see bands again and I won’t be standing there in fear. I’ll stand there , we’ll stand there united for the music, because that is love.

The music died down, but this morning I want to play my favorites. I want to play it loud, because it should never be made silent. So should you.

Much peace, love and death metal to you.

Guido