The Reading of Books #31

I’ve been really picking up the pace and the pile of books appears to be dwindling at times. But there’s so much more to read. I enjoyed books by Mo Daviau, Bruce Chatwin, Ernest Hemingway and Nathan Gray these past few weeks, so here’s a bit about those.

Mo Daviau – Every Anxious Wave

source: Goodreads.com

So imagine a setting where an ageing rocker of the nineties indie kind and his failed-at-life computer programmer buddy find a way to exploit a wormhole in the first one’s closet to send people back to the past. Only to see rock concerts though, because of a sense of morality concerning the past. Then the second one by accident gets send back in time to the island of Manhattan in 980 AD, where the means for traveling back don’t work. Well, that is the mistake Karl makes when his friend Wayne wants to stop the murder of John Lennon.  So there’s the plot of this novel. Karl has to right his wrong (he forgot a number when plotting Wayne’s destination, so he finds an astrophysicist to help him. That would be Lena, who likes the Melvins. She also likes The Axis, which was Karl’s band. And then everything goes horribly wrong/right/what?.

Mo Daviau wrote this as a first novel and I for one am impressed by the way this novel unfolds. There’s romance, rock’n’roll (a lot of names get mentioned). I think Mo Daviau might have an Elliot Smith tattoo somewhere actually. Time travel, with all the moral questions that come with looking at such a concept in our time and age. The way Daviau writes is very matter-of-fact and the style feels so natural as if this was taken out of daily conversations. The eye for detail, including the unpleasant little bits that we deal with in daily life, makes the novel very lively and easy to become a part of as a reader. I like that the characters are very human, not picture perfect characters. They become very real and very tangible very soon for you as a reader and that makes this book so captivating. The time traveling is pretty cool too though.

Bruce Chatwin – In Patagonia

I don’t know how, but reading the book by Andrea Wulf about Alexander Von Humboldt has triggered a wish to read more books about travels. Pretty soon the book ‘In Patagonia’ came up. Bruce Chatwin tells the story of his youth, where his grandmother had a piece of ‘Brontosaurus skin’ that she received from cousin Charles Milward. Milward was a captain that had sailed to South-America and found the remains of a Mylodon. Later Chatwin met with architect and furniture designer Eilleen Gray, who has a map of Patagonia. He tells her he always wanted to go there. So did she, but at 93 years of age it’s a bit late for that, so she asks him to go instead of her. So a miraculous story starts from there.

Chatwin travels but doesn’t just describe his experiences, but stories from Patagonia of other bold travelers who went there like Butch Cassidy and Charly Milward himself. Through these stories, bits of history and anecdotes from people he meets, he paints a remarkable picture of the realm. Patagonia becomes one of the last places of true and thorough mistery and wildness. A place where the world is still wild and untamed. From the atrocities against the Indians to their violent revolts to missionaries and daring criminals, Chatwin puts them together in a remarkable book. Even the story of the book is remarkable and daring. Chatwin is a master storyteller and this book will make you yearn for the untamed places in the world.

Nathan Gray – Until The Darkness Takes Us

source: goodreads.com

The boysetsfire frontman Nathan Gray has had an interesting life and one well worth documenting in writing. Also, the restless soul of this converted Satanist is eager to explore new forms of expression. And so this biography was unleashed together with new steps in his artistic life; the Nathan Gray Collective (live review here). The story of Gray starts in a strongly religious community, which shaped him with the doom and gloom outlook. From that departure point, Gray takes us through is life. Finding liberation outside of the community, struggling with the self and eventually finding punkrock music.

Eventually Gray finds himself amidst failed relations, years of party life, creating meaningful music and shouting defiance at God, government, and fate. About struggling as artists to find their way and looking for new creative outlets. Gray ends his story with the discovery of Satanism. He attempts to explain this, but notes that misunderstanding is always there. He expressed this also in the project I AM HERESY. Gray has an interesting writing style, rich with words and expressions with an almost academic or theological tone at times. I guess it’s the poet in Gray that shines through in the pages. Gray writes noteworthily vague sections about very personal issues. The phrasing gets to an almost prophetic doomsayers rantings at times, filled with quotes, and lyrics. It makes for a daunting read with clear personal struggles, but also a great insight into the process of this fascinating artist becoming himself and offering that wisdom to you as a fan. This book is brave writing, if you enjoyed the music of Nathan Gray as I do, check it out.

Ernest Hemingway – The White Snows of Kilimanjaro

Mind, this is not a well-known bundle of work by Hemingway. It’s a Russian readers collection (English with Russian annotations), that I picked up in Vilnius. In this book, the reader receives the stories that taek take place in Africa. They are set during safari’s or otherwise in these wild and untamed lands where Hemingway went in the thirties. The title refers to one of the stories in this little bundle. This is not the first book of short stories by Hemingway that I’ve read, but definitely not the one I enjoyed most. Perhaps because I find the whole business of a safari harder to relate to. That makes sense. Regardless of the fact that they are merely the setting for the sparse narratives of Hemingway, this is a thing we simply no longer appreciate in western society.

What I love about the work of Hemingway, particularly this one, is the sense of suspense it leaves you with. The fact that a lot of the story is somehow omitted is the art. This makes it even more impressive and captivating, due to the mental engagement in the writing. On the other hand, Hemingway throws images at you in rapid succession, drawing upon your imagination to shape and color the story to the max. It’s a joyous experience, but it also makes that reading the stories in succession might be a bit tiresome. Every story reads as a good film and that is the absolute charm of this fabulous author.

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