First Lines: Ik zal kijken wat ik voor je kan doen …

After having worked at the Dutch radio station 3FM for the past 17 years, DJ Gerard Ekdom recently moved to Radio 2. His 2008 autobiography ‘Ik zal kijken wat ik voor je kan doen …’ (subtitled “The life of a 3FM DJ”) documents how he realized his burning ambition to become a DJ.

At my first job, I always had 3FM on, so I heard Ekdom every morning between 10 and 12. This book confirms what anyone who listens to him on the radio will soon find out: he’s obsessed with music. Now don’t get me wrong, I like music a lot, but this guy … he takes it to another level.

The tone of the book was sometimes a bit too loose for my liking, and the “Freak 11”-lists that end each chapter didn’t always add much, but all-in-all, it was a nice read. Final sloppy copy editing nitpick: there’s a section about how Ekdom ended up on stage with Meatloaf in Amsterdam in 2003 (I was there, quelle surprise, and met the Future Missus there). It’s two words: Meat Loaf.

Book read
Gerard Ekdom – ‘Ik zal kijken wat ik voor je kan doen …’: Het leven van een 3FM DJ
First line
‘Die jongen, daar is iets niet goed mee hoor!’

First Lines: The Last Unicorn

The last unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and it lived all alone. Because all other unicorns had disappeared. At least, no one had seen them for a long time. She went out to find them, and, aided by Schmendrick the Magician (who happens to be the world’s most incompetent magician) and Molly Grue, adventures were had and eventually the unicorns are freed from evil King Haggard’s grasp.

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle is a perfectly fine little fantasy novel. It ticks the right boxes, and it’s tone is impeccable. The Deluxe Edition I’ve read also includes the (apparently long awaited) coda “Two Hearts,” which happens to be pretty swell as well, and an interview with the author, detailing the book’s origins. As it turns out, conceiving the story wasn’t as much fun as reading it.

Book read
Peter S. Beagle – The Last Unicorn (deluxe edition)
First line
The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone.

First Lines: To Kill a Mockingbird

After reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, I cannot disagree with its status as a Important Novel One Should Read™. The story of how lawyer Atticus Finch tries to help a black man in America’s south in the 1930’s, as seen through the eyes of his six year old daughter is just that good. It reminds us that Life Isn’t Fair™. And it made me make sense of this song’s title.

Book read
Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird
First line
When he was nearly thirteen my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.

First Lines: Finders Keepers

Although Stephen King’s Finders Keepers is the second part in what has to become the Bill Hodges trilogy, it takes its sweet time to pick up the threads Mr. Mercedes left dangling. The story starts some thirty years before those events, with three guys robbing a reclusive writer of the contents of his safe (and his life). Flash forward to the present, where the titular Finder happens onto the stash of that robbery. Those strands alternate, until we end up firmly in the here and now, and Ret. Det. Hodges joins the fray.

As with Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers is a highly enjoyable romp, but certainly not among King’s best work. The characters are, as usually, likable and fully formed, and story is crafted and paced just right, but sometimes it felt a little too convenient. Our hero and his antagonist growing up in the same house, some thirty years apart; their fascination with a certain reclusive writer: it’s almost as if their inevitable face-off was, well, inevitable. Not that it matters much: it’s fun, and that’s what counts.

The trilogy will be concluded with End of Watch. Whenever that one’s done.

Book read
Stephen King – Finders Keepers
First line
Wake up, genius.

First Lines: About a Boy

It’s been a while since I last saw the moviefication of Nick Hornby’s About a Boy, but I recall liking it. Being a sucker for coming-of-age stories featuring odd-job characters, having Hugh Grant hugh-granting his way through such a thing is a delight. The movie culminates is a cringe-worthy scene where Marcus (the titular boy) takes a stab at performing “Killing Me Softly With His Song” (in the non-hip original folksy version) in front of his entire school, and gets his ass saved by Will (the dysfunctional useless grown-up adult type). Given my approval of said movie, as well as my enjoyment of Hornby’s High Fidelity, snatching a copy at the local thrift store was a no-brainer.

In the book, much to my surprise, no such thing happens. The story develops in much the same way. In alternating chapters Marcus and Will try to make sense of their own lives, but it all ends in a (rather insignificant) bout of Kurt Cobain inspired vandalism. (Side note: using Nirvana as major factor in setting the context and setting of the story might not hold up in the long run, but for me it was instantly recognizable. I can easily recall the art and crafts class the day after Cobain’s suicide: all the alternative kids were bummed out beyond belief and In Utero was on high rotation the rest of the year.)

There were several times I felt like giving the book to the 14-year old in residence, as, you know, required reading. His mother would probably get the book as well.

Book read
Nick Hornby – About a Boy
First line
Have you split up now?