Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Got John Darnielle's book on Black Sabbath's Master Of Reality - it's part of the 33 1/3 series - in the mail yesterday, and finished it by shortly after 11 PM last night. It's a quick read - 100 pages or thereabouts, and pocket-sized - but it's also one of the finest pieces of fiction I've encountered in a long time. I guess I'd compare it to the short stories of Thom Jones (The Pugilist At Rest, Cold Snap, Sonny Liston Was A Friend Of Mine), but with less of a Henry-Rollins-attends-the-Iowa-Writer's-Workshop vibe. He writes in the voice of a 15-year-old stuck in a California juvenile psych ward, but it's never mawkish or melodramatic, and he doesn't take the easy way out, making the kid smarter than his captors. The kid is a stoner kid, with some rudimentary grasp of the world's fuckedness, but he's in no way a soul too fine for this world, or any bullshit like that. He's not one in a million, he's one of a hundred million, which makes the story that much stronger, in my opinion. When this kid talks about Ozzy Osbourne singing...well, here it is:

Anyway I can't put it off forever so what happens next is Ozzy starts singing. He has a voice like a weedwhacker some say but I say it would have to be a custom weedwhacker because it doesn't sound like anybody else's, and also it sounds kind of like you know him. Like, when Robert Plant is singing for Led Zeppelin, you can't really think you're ever going to see that guy at the arcade and play doubles on Galaga with him. But Ozzy, he sounds like the guy who changes your quarters at the arcade and you wonder, is that this guy's whole job? Is he married? Does his wife say, "Did you have a good day at the arcade today?" I don't know if I am telling this right but I will try again later maybe. But anyway this is why Ozzy is great, or part of it anyway, is that he sounds like he could be your friend.

John Darnielle, if you don't know, is not just a contributor to Marooned - he's also the lead guy behind the Mountain Goats, making music I have never heard. I think that's what ticks me off the most about the greatness of this book, is that it was written by a goddamn singer-songwriter. But that aside, it's seriously brilliant. I get letters at Metal Edge that attempt the kind of analysis John's narrator essays here, and one of the magical things about this book is how close this is to being a letter to a metal mag, but then it tips over into sublime genius. Go get it; no kidding, it's one of the best books about music you'll ever read.

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