First Lines: Held van beroep (reread)

Upon finishing The Count of Monte Cristo I needed something light to get ready for the next big read I had planned. Adriaan Jaeggi’s Held van beroep was perfect for that.

Ten years ago, I picked up this book because I was becoming fairly obsessed with a balladeer. Their song Swim with Sam was a bit of a hit, and based on this book.

So if someone wants to know
And asks you where I am
You say you saw me go for a swim with Sam

Held van beroep a story about family. Sam’s family. Sam is fifteen, likes to swim, but doesn’t really have an idea what to do with his life. So he goes swimming, to clear his head, to make sense of things, and to deal with whatever life throws at him.

The first part of the book is hilarious funny. It’s filled with sharp observations, and clever bits, like the one about how Edgar Rice Burroughs and Edgar Reisbureaus are one the same, on account of English and Dutch being two languages, which means that things that sound the same aren’t necessarily the same thing.

But in the second half, after Sam’s mother dies, the book seems to switch gears. It’s not nearly as clever and funny, and Sam, understandably, mopes around a lot. Don’t get me wrong, its still a cracking good read, but there seems to be something there that I’m not quite grasping. Maybe I should do another reread sometime down the line.

Book read
Adriaan Jaeggi — Held van Beroep
Book read
Laten we vooral dankbaar zijn dat onze voorouders van grote gezinnen hielden, anders waren we allang uitgestorven.

First Lines: The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo is an epic story, in many senses of the word. It’s a adventurous tale — but not a poem, natch — of a legendary figure, in the heroic manner. Also, reading it might seem like an exceptionally long and arduous task or activity, given its length: the edition of the anonymous 1846 translation I read came in at 1462 pages.

The tale is, first and foremost, one of revenge. Young Edmond Dantès spends 14 years in the dungeons on some bogus charges, and vows to take revenge on the people who put him there. Once he gets out, and helped by an enormous fortune, he does. Of course, there’s more to it, but getting back, that’s where the entire story is focused on.

I admit I dreaded tackling this book, mostly because of its size. But as it turned out to be very readable. Sure, it’s a ridiculous story, with a load of characters that mostly aren’t very interesting, rife with coincidences and oh-my-god-I-can’t-believe-they-fell-for-that moments, but in a good, soap opera way. It’s a novel that seems to bask gloriously in its grandioseness. It’s large and meandering and yet oddly focused and to the point.

I’m sure I’m gonna read it again, someday.

Book read
Alexandre Dumas — The Count of Monte Cristo (Le Comte de Monte-Cristo, anonymous 1846 translation)
First line
On the 24th of February, 1815, the look-out at Notre–Dame de la Garde signalled the three-master, the Pharaon, from Smyrna, Trieste, and Naples.

First Lines: American Gods (reread)

When I first read American Gods in 2010, I didn’t have much to say about it. Now, after having been triggered to revisit it two times in rapid succession, and well before the television series is finished, I went ahead and re-read it.

American Gods is still the story of what Shadow did after he got out of prison. It’s a big story, and it goes a bit like this: people came to the New World from the Old Countries, and they brought their gods with them. But, alas! America turned out to be not so great for Gods, actually. People stopped believing in them, and they withered, and got replaced by the new kids — those of technology and progress. And now, a storm is coming and these factions are about to clash. Mr. Wednesday tries to rally the Gods into forming an united front, and recruits Shadow to be his assistant/driver/bodyguard. There are, of course, complications.

As it turns out, I still don’t have a lot to say about this book. It’s a great story — better than I remembered — but I don’t feel I have the correct words at my fingertips to describe what makes it great. It is a little bit of everything, and it’s like so many other things, and yet, it is completely like anything else at all. I guess it’s one of those books you’ll have to read for yourselves.

Book read
Neil Gaiman — American Gods
First line
Shadow had done three years in prison.

Seen Live: Circle II Circle

Circle II Circle’s tour in support of their latest album “Reign of Darkness” (Spotify) took them, quite surprisingly, to our neck of the woods. As a Savatage-afficinado — singer Zachary Stevens was their singer for four albums and most of the 1990s — having missed all their previous shows in The Netherlands on account of being in places that aren’t really doable with public transport — fancy doing Weert-Amersfoort late at night, anybody? — it was too good a chance to let slip by.

On this trek, they were supported by two bands: Desert (playing Epic Dark Metal, from Israel) and Lord Volture (Pure and Unpolished Heavy Metal hailing from the Netherlands. For fans of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Iced Earth.). They were fun enough.

Circle II Circle was just freaking awesome. Unlike earlier tours, where they played loads of Savatage material, this time they played a set of their own songs. I must admit that my recollection of their last few albums is kinda hazy, but I recognized enough of what I heard. Some songs from the last album, a couple from the “Burden of Truth” album to mark its 10th anniversary, the majestic and well-received title track of their debut — it was all good. The band was tight, Stevens was on, the sound was quite good, all in all: quite awesome. And then there was the encore, featuring four Savatage songs, including perhaps my all-time favorite, “Chance” and a rousing version of “Hall of the Mountain King” with Stevens on drums and keyboardist Henning Wanner on vocals. Good, good, great, awesome times.

Circle II Circle — Edge of Thorns, live at FLUOR Amersfoort

Rumor has it a recording was made, so here’s hope that’ll show up soon, one way or the other.

The only downside is that after seeing Circle II Circle (and the same goes for Jon Oliva’s Pain and Trans-Siberian Orchestra) I remember how unbelievably awesome Savatage was, and that I still kinda miss ‘em. Having a few bands to raise the fist of the metal child is cool, and one should not linger on things one cannot change and all that, but dammit, it’s just not quite the same.

Seen live
Circle II Circle, Lord Volture + Desert at Fluor, Amersfoort on May 7, 2016
Set list CIIC (Spotify playlist)
Intro: Over-Underture / Victim of the Night / All That Remains / Soul Breaker / Heal You / Live as One / Watching in Silence / Untold Dreams / Ghost of the Devil / Drum Solo > Diamond Blade / Revelations / Somewhere / Epiphany // Guitar Solo > Turns to Me / Edge of Thorns / Chance // Hall of the Mountain King