I always found J-P Sartre a fascinating figure. He was clearly highly intelligent and a master observer of day-to-day human behaviour. His writing styI always found J-P Sartre a fascinating figure. He was clearly highly intelligent and a master observer of day-to-day human behaviour. His writing style was very clear and -unlike other existentialist authors- easy to understand by most. Despite this, I always had trouble to accept some of the elements of his philosophy and worldview even though I couldn't easily pinpoint what I felt was wrong with it.
'Nausea' is a very good exposition of his early ideas. As ever, the themes are clearly expressed and the protagonist's sense of physical illness at the senseless of existence, very convincing and well-put. You can feel some empathy with the book's conclusion as well, and the fact that our anti-hero takes solace in his own writing and regains his strength through the power of emotional expression -by getting carried away by his favourite jazz tune. But the world which Sartre depicts -one of endless freedom where we are constantly challenged to make choices between myriads of options- it's a very schizophrenic one which I don't feel corresponds much with the pressures of reality for most people. In most modern people's reality, our environment and personality more often than not steer us in certain directions without us even being conscious of it -sometimes more gently than others. Very often we find ourselves either forced to make a choice between a finite and specific number of options, or making a choice and afterwards realising that that choice was actually suggested to us by the circumstances and we just went along with it.
Don't misunderstand me, I don't call here for resorting to total fatalism. Of course we still make conscious choices, and very often we are the masters of our own destiny. But looking at the worldview Sartre suggests in Nausea -and other of his works- one can not help wondering if such a complete freedom would have exactly the opposite effect of what he is ultimately hoping to achieve, which is an empowered and liberated individual capable of making responsible choices. Such an existence of infinite freedom, would instead make a person feeling trapped in an endless array of equally valid choices that can be made at any time of their lives, leading to permanent anxiety and indecision. Such a world would be a very crippling and disabling existence indeed. ...more
Described as a 'mix between Poe and Lovecraft'. I beg to differ, as the author doesn't have the engaging storytelling of the first and the otherworldlDescribed as a 'mix between Poe and Lovecraft'. I beg to differ, as the author doesn't have the engaging storytelling of the first and the otherworldly imagination of the second. Short stories that contain enough weirdness, but do not thrill. ...more
Ever since 1998, when a girlfriend made me a black metal compilation tape with the likes of Emperor, Satyricon, Cradle of Filth, Marduk and Dark FunerEver since 1998, when a girlfriend made me a black metal compilation tape with the likes of Emperor, Satyricon, Cradle of Filth, Marduk and Dark Funeral, I have remained intrigued by this genre without ever becoming a die hard fan. Besides the church burnings, murders, crime and all controversy surrounding black metal, there has always been a mystical, atmospheric element which strongly appealed to me, a spirituality not found in death or thrash metal.
While my own journey has taken me into slower and heavier musical territories, I must confess that I have always reserved some envy for this musical genre that always seems to find a way to evolve and reinvent itself while at the same time retaining its traditional core sound and ethos with ease. This wonderfully detailed book further illustrates this point in its colossal 600 pages. I liked Lords of Chaos as it gave a convincing account of some of the personalities and peculiarities of the people who are at the forefront of the genre, but in retrospect it almost feels like no more than an intro to black metal after reading Dayal's book, which is much more exhaustive in detail and thematically very cleverly structured.
The book follows more or less a chronological outline of the genre's history and events, but only inasmuch the timeline illustrates the main branches of black metal. After a short but essential course on the founding fathers of heavy metal and the satanic philosophy which came to be so closely associated with the genre, the book slowly unfolds a history which started with the first generation bands such as Venom, Bathory and Hellhammer, before it goes on to explain how black thrash played -in retrospect- a significant part in black metal's development. The South/Central European and South American scenes -both flourishing before the Norwegian explosion- are not forgotten either. The second generation of bands -with the Norwegian scene at its epicentre- is then exhaustively recounted. Mayhem serve as the main protagonists whose story is broken up in three parts which illustrate how their philosophy and mentality have been interwoven with the evolution of that second generation of bands.
The story is told through countless interviews with the protagonists of the genre themselves and while it's impossible to do everyone justice, I don't think that there are any reasons to complain, even for diehard black metal fans. The main characters appear to be as eccentric, challenging and unpredictable as the music they play, which makes for very entertaining and at times even humorous reading. An extensive photographic section in the middle of the book -in chronological order- gives a visual spin to the story as well, and those who tend to only read headlines of chapters and parts featuring bands they are interested in, will still find a convincing guide of the visual evolution of black metal simply by browsing through some chapters and the photo's.
The story then takes us to the weirder and more avant-garde sub branches that have evolved more recently, as well as the cross-pollination of genres. However this is without failing to warn us that the term 'post black metal' (the prefix 'post' is nowadays annoyingly used in conjunction with most metal genres, as if there is a whole new generation of bands that have reinvented warm water) doesn't necessarily mean that traditional black metal is dead: it's merely a different approach.
Dayal has a detached and confident writing style that successfully manages to retain its neutral stance despite certain controversial -and quite frankly ethically repulsive- views voiced by some of the main characters in the book. His approach is that of a scientist, or more accurately a cultural anthropologist who merely describes and outlines some general tendencies of this subculture, without judging or moralising. He doesn't shy away from controversies either, and discusses in detail the commercial explosion of the genre in the mid nineties and the rise of NSBM in countries such as Poland.
It's somewhat pointless seeking for highlights as the book flows extremely well and can be read in one go, but personally I will retain mostly two things: firstly the clever way in which Euronymous managed to inspire a whole scene by defining it conceptually rather than musically (in his view black metal was all about literal devil worship) which freed up its artists to explore shockingly diverse musical paths that are often incompatible with each other; and the assertion that black metal never really accepted NSBM not because it thinks its views are too extreme or unethical, but because -quite the opposite- they are too positive(!) as they focus on the procreation of the race, brotherhood and loyalty rather than the genre's inherent individualism and unrelenting misanthropy.
In summary, this is probably the ultimate black metal encyclopaedia, or is bound to become this over the next few years, simply because I really can't see anyone else taking up such a massive challenge to write a similarly gargantuan book. Whether you are a fan of the genre or not, it offers a highly engaging and thoroughly entertaining read about a genre that speaks to the imagination unlike many others and the equally extreme and controversial subculture related to it. Fiendishly recommended. ...more
Bizarre but entertaining short story in which everyday reality and the absurd go hand in hand. You will need some time to get used to the writing stylBizarre but entertaining short story in which everyday reality and the absurd go hand in hand. You will need some time to get used to the writing style as Russian doesn't always translate elegantly into English, but it's worth investing into it if you are looking for something simultaneously funny, weird and existentialist....more
Starts intriguing enough with a main character suffering his life in an apathetic haze and reminding somewhat of Camus' stranger. Unfortunately the boStarts intriguing enough with a main character suffering his life in an apathetic haze and reminding somewhat of Camus' stranger. Unfortunately the book quickly descends into annoying Hollywoodian feel-good sentimentalism.
Nick Hornby wants us to believe that Anne Tyler is the best author in the world. Thanks Nick, but I rather stick to classic literature, science fiction and horror. ...more
No one can contest the fact that Suzuki is a great authority on the subject of Buddhism. However, I thought his attempt in this book to find a commonNo one can contest the fact that Suzuki is a great authority on the subject of Buddhism. However, I thought his attempt in this book to find a common ground between Christianity and Shin Buddhism was greatly exaggerated. Obviously there are similarities, but in his eagerness to bridge the gap between two totally different cultures he glosses over way too easily over the significant religious and cultural differences that are at the base of these two religions....more
Easily the best book I have read in years. It was interesting to read at the same time with Stephen King's 'It', the contrast in tone, wording and subEasily the best book I have read in years. It was interesting to read at the same time with Stephen King's 'It', the contrast in tone, wording and subtlety was absolutely chaotic (I love a lot of Stephen King's work, so no dissing here...). Ian McEwan is to me the equivalent of Richie Blackmore in literature, any aspiring writer who reads him loses the appetite to write any further. I particularly admired his clarity, obvious talent in describing the psychology of various characters in detail, as well as his convincing reconstruction of a pre-war London. And that's without even starting on the great themes of redemption, atonement and obsession with the past so beautifully described here. Great, great book. ...more