First Lines: Moby Dick

It seemed like a good idea at the time. But with hindsight being 20/20, I would never, in my life, ever, absolutely no way, make the same mistake again. Greater readers and more knowledgeable people than I am will surely disagree, but to me, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, or, The Whale is a slog, a yawn-fest, and an unreadable novel as well.

As we all know, Moby Dick is the tale of Ismael, who sets out to go a-whaling on the whaling-ship Perquod, under the mysterious captain Ahab, who lost his leg while trying to kill the White Whale Moby Dick, and who seeks revenge. And in the meantime absolutely nothing whatsoever happens.

Melville bores us till death with detailed minutiae and wandering asides, and every other chapter seems to be an seemingly endless lecture on the finer aspects of the glorious whaling-business. Unless you are interested in that sort of stuff — I most certainly am not — it gets very old very fast.

If, like me, you have the noble ambition to take on Moby Dick: don’t bother. It is so not worth the effort. Just read chapter 54: The Town-Ho’s Story, which is the tale within a tale of a ship meeting that white Leviathan, and failing to kill it. But unlike the rest of the book, it is fairly readable.

Book read
Herman Melville — Moby Dick, or, The Whale
First line
Call me Ishmael.

First Lines: The Book of All Things

During train journey, I re-read Guus Kuijer’s magnificent Het boek van alle dingen, in its English translation. While it still is a great, great read, I felt that just maybe something got lost in the translation. It does still contain some good advice though:

“Hold on,” said Mrs. van Amersfoort. “I may have something for you.” She turned to one of the bookshelves. “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“Happy,” said Thomas. “When I grow up, I am going to be happy.”
Mrs. van Amersfoort was about to pull a book from the shelf, but turned in surprise. She looked at Thomas with a smile and said, “That is a damn good idea. And do you know how happiness begins? It begins with no longer being afraid.”

Book read
Guus Kuijer — The Book of All Things (translated by John Nieuwenhuizen)
First line
Thomas saw things no one else could see.

Seen Live: Daniël Lohues, “Moi”

This time, most of the set list is culled from his latest album Moi, but other than that, it was the same as before: Daniël Lohues came on, said “Moi” to the audience, played songs and told tales.

There is little else I can say about this show, without repeating myself. It seems deceptively simple, but because the songs are so damn good and the words (at times) so gutwrenchingly recognizable, that it just works so well.

Daniël Lohues — Mooie verhalen later

The current tour is nearly done, but I am planning to be back next year to do it all again.

Seen live
Daniël Lohues with “Moi” at Deventer Schouwburg, on May 6th, 2017.
Set list (Spotify)
Loat mij mar lekker dit doen / Vlieg dan toch! / Gewoon ‘n dag op ‘n dorp / Soms stiet de tied eben stille / Widukind / In vredesnaam / Kom, dans met mij / Ik ben ‘n echte cowboy // Waor gaon we naortoe / Als de liefde mar blef winnen / Behalve a’k uut bère kom / Mooie verhalen later / Schrei mar niet / Waor wo’j dan nog hen / Op ‘t platteland / Hier kom ik weg / Maak joe waor // Op fietse / Angst is mar veur eben, spiet is veur altied / Allennig

First Lines: Norse Mythology

It should come as no surprise whatsoever that Neil Gaiman’s latest, Norse Mythology, delivers exactly what the front cover promises: Neil Gaiman retelling Norse Myths. Starting at the very beginning with the creation myth, he leads us through the gods’ exploits to Ragnarök, the very end of all things. As with anything Gaiman touches, it is intensely readable, and funny, and touching and you know the drill.

My knowledge of Norse mythology is pretty basic, and is mostly picked up from other novels, like Gaiman’s own American Gods and Douglas Adams’ The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, a Dutch translation of issue 200 of The Mighty Thor about Ragnarok, and an occasional song by some metal band here and there.

Quite quickly, I came to the realization that these stories had little to do with what I thought to know about Norse myths. To my surprise, the mighty Thor was nowhere near the blonde god (the trailers for) those Marvel movies make him out to be: in fact, he came across as a bit of a doofus. I’ve seen several different depictions of Odin, and again, this one was nothing like those as well.

And with all my prior knowledge out of the window, it was all about the stories themselves. What you’re left with then, are the tales of imperfect, fallible gods, who are not per se people you’d look up too, people who take delight in tricking each other, aren’t all that concerned with the collateral damage they cause, and are more human than most of their non-Nordic counterparts.

Book read
Neil Gaiman — Norse Mythology
First line
Before the beginning there was nothing—no earth, no heavens, no stars, no sky: only the mist world, formless and shapeless, and the fire world, always burning.

Seen Live: Chris de Burgh

Way back in 2001, at The Night of the Proms in Rotterdam, I was waiting for Meat Loaf. He was headlining, so we got to see Tony Martin of ABC, Adiemus, John “Music was my first love” Miles, surprise act K-otic and Chris de Burgh first. De Burgh started with that godawful song about dancing with some lady in a red dress, and while I can’t recall much else of his set, I really, really liked “Don’t Pay the Ferryman.” Eighties pop-rock drenched in synths, I can get behind that. Not that I was planning to follow up on that, though.

Fast forward to 2016. The Missus saw a different NotP show in 2001 (we hadn’t even met yet), and missed out on seeing Chris de Burgh live ever since. So when she found he was coming over for a show in the magnificent Carré theater in Amsterdam, we got tickets. Row three, right on the center aisle.

Fast forward to April 29, 2017. After some strolling through Amsterdam, some book shopping and diner, we made it to our seats. It wasn’t until well into the second set that mr. De Burgh played a song I recognized. That one about dancing with a lady in a red dress. He made his way through the theater, dancing with every woman in red he could find. After that, a sanctioned stage rush, and more songs I knew. Toto’s “Africa” (on account of having recorded it before), “Don’t Pay the Ferryman” in all its glory, and “High on Emotion” (which I surely have heard on the radio without knowing who was behind it).

Despite my limited knowledge of the man’s work, I had a great time. As I said: synth-drenched eighties pop-rock, I can get behind that. He has a great band, and at times, they were quite heavy. There were a few songs where, with a bit of distortion on the guitars and a slightly different arrangement, you could imagine an eighties hair metal band getting away with it.

But the best thing of the whole evening? Seeing how much fun The Missus was having.

Seen live
Chris de Burgh & Band, “A Better World Live” at Koninklijk Theater Carré, Amsterdam on April 29, 2017
Band
Chris de Burgh: Vocals, guitar, piano / Neil Taylor: Guitars, vocals / Dave Levy: Bass, vocals / Nigel Hopkins: Keyboards, vocals / Philipp Groyssboeck: Drums, percussion

Set list (Spotify)
Full Band:Bethlehem / Chain of Command / Lonely Sky / Missing You / Spanish Train / Ship to Shore / A Spaceman Came Travelling / Once in a Lifetime / Homeland / Cry No More / The Revolution / Light a Fire / The Open Door // Acoustic: Oh My Brave Hearts / Heart and Soul / Moonlight and Vodka / Chris de Burg solo: Sailing Away / Suddenly Love / The Head and the Heart / Where Peaceful Waters Flow / Full Band: The Hands of Man / Waiting for the Hurricane / All for Love / Borderline / The Lady in Red / Africa (Toto cover) / The Spirit of Man / Don’t Pay the Ferryman / High on Emotion // Patricia the Stripper / Go Where Your Heart Believes