Friday, July 26, 2013

Artful Readers Club July - Black Coffee Blues by Henry Rollins

Back when Darcy first mentioned this very cool idea of hers – what’s that? an arty reading club?  I’m in! – she said that we should pick some books that had been lying around our house unread for ages and we just needed an extra incentive to pick them up and actually read them.  Straight away I knew that this book had to be on the list, and in fact it was the first one onto my ARC pile.  Because I had bought this title (along with its two brothers - Black Coffee Blues is the start of a trilogy by ex-Black Flag vocalist and spoken word maestro Rollins) yonks and yonks ago, but had been actively putting off reading it.  Why?  Because I knew it would be bleak, and tense, and quite frankly hard work, and I never seemed to be in quite the right mood to start it.

So thank you, ARC, for forcing my hand ....Because yes, the book was indeed bleak, and tense, and angry and testosterone fuelled, and downright depressing a lot of the time – but it was also fascinating, and enlightening, and even, in spots, funny.  Very much like a Henry Rollins spoken word gig, in fact ..... you can absolutely hear his voice as you read.

The book starts off with a section called 124 worlds – single paragraph glimpses into (mostly) pretty depressing lives.  A lot of them are kind of extreme, dealing with violence, abuse, dependence….. it’s a harrowing read.  Here’s a couple of the tamer ones:

#18: He goes to the same job every day.  He comes home to his wife every night.  they rarely touch.  They're not attracted to each other anymore.  Neither makes a big deal about it.  A few years ago, they would fight and swear that they were going to leave each other, but then they found that when it really came down to it, neither one had the courage to go out and meet someone else.  They don’t hate each other.  They are roommates waiting for death.

#26: School made him sick to his stomach because he had to fight all the time.  He never ran away from fights.  He got beat up a lot but he did win some.  It seemed like every time he turned around, there was someone in his face trying to start something with him.  He used to get up hours before school because his guts would be on fire getting ready to face them.  One great day he punched this guy just right.  A broken nose is a many splendoured thing.  This guy’s face just exploded.  It was like a rainbow – but all the colours were red.

The other main section - with the rest of the book taken up with dream diaries, poems and short essays - is Henry's tour diary from a European tour in the late 80s.  I saw the Rollins Band a couple of times on that tour, so it’s very interesting to read his journal entries from the time.  The diaries are very personal – I’m pretty sure he didn’t have publication in mind when he first wrote them, and are a real window on the mind of a touring musician – dealing with the endless parade of soulless hotel rooms, the boredom, the loneliness, but also the joy and energy of performing, which makes it all worthwhile.

So – all in all – I loved this book, but I won’t be rushing straight into reading the other two books in the series.  I want to read something happy and uplifting first :D

For the art page to accompany my review, I used part of another favourite quote from the book, our Hank really has a way with words:

"How memories lie to us. How time coats the ordinary with gold. How it breaks the heart to go back and attempt to re-live them. How crushed we are when we discover that the gold was merely gold-plating thinly coated over lead, chalk and peeling paint"

I used the Summer of Colour week 5 combo for this one - pale pink and charcoal grey - using a coral stencil for the background (I was going for the look of a brain, as Henry certainly has a big one of those, as well as a big mouth!)

Next month I'll be reading Thud! by Terry Pratchett - so I'll see you again then, my fellow ARCers!


Gina said...

A great review on what sounds a very intense and moving book, and your art piece is fabulous. The background does look like brain lol, but also intense energy waves emitting from the author :D XXX

Virginia said...

Love the artwork Sarah, fantastic stuff! the book sounds a bit too intense for my liking but hubby might like - will mention it to him!

SusieJ said...

Ooh...a blog where I can leave a comment... :)
Great review...he really does have a way with words. Sounds too intense for me at the moment but I'll add it to my "maybe one day" pile.
I just love your powerful art work...wonderful.
Hugs xx

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I admit I know very little about Rollins. I have seen him on tv (Sons of Anarchy), but that's really about it. I was taken by your review, though. The dark and depressing nature of the book sounds like something I would NOT enjoy, but the diary of a band member on the road would fascinate me. One of my best friends lives that touring and on-stage life.

I thoroughly enjoyed your art. When I first saw it, I thought it was a CD case. Funny how our perceptions get altered from reality. And of course, the quote you chose was absolutely perfect.

Julie Lee said...

How brave of you to read this book! It sounds very real, very intense and very depressing from the extracts you include. I think your artwork is perfect for it. The colours and the image work really well together and capture the mood of your review too. I really enjoyed reading your appraisal and looking at your art, but I'm not sure that I could cope with this book at the moment! Not sure if I'm able to cope with too much reality in my leisure time at the moment: it sounds good though. Julie Ann x

San @ Made in Hem said...

No, not going to read this, you're review is perfect but I'm not into depressing or aggresive...
Your art-piece is awesome! It could have been the cover of the book! ♥

Jez said...

I've not heard of Rollins but that's not surprising for my generation. Can't say I'm sorry for the lack, though he is clearly a very special writer judging by the extracts, particularly the last one. But how lucky those of us are whose memories turn out to be nut just gold plated, but true gold.
So many of the rockstars, pop stars, are multi-talented, PhDs, artistic talent in bucketfuls, writing ability etc. I do admire them. Your artwork is fantastic, and the whole review si interesting to read, even if the book is not for me.

abby j said...

Wonderful, real review of a raw book...your art is spectacular and seemingly a perfect reflection of what you read!! Well done, Sarah!

Darcy Marshall said...

oooh sounds too intense for me. Great page, i really like the softness of the pink and grey contrasting with the strong angry image.

Magaly Guerrero said...

Well, your screaming art piece sure tells us how you feel about the book. I like art that does what says.

It seems that this month brought many books we didn't enjoy, huh?

Sarah said...

oh no Magaly, I loved the book! it was intense, but I am glad I read it

Carmen Wing said...

Those paragraphs are certainly punchy and to the point but also leave me wanting to know more and wondering if they are autobiographical.

I adore how you used those colours and your whole art piece. The quote is perfect.

Janet said...

Well done on completing your set task! An interesting review of a very complex and flawed character. I have read a couple of 'rock' biographies of genius musicians and there seems always to be a very dark side to their lives. Perhaps this is what makes them so great. Sad prospect though. Brilliant artwork - full of energy and attitude. Perfect.

Janet xx

Šolanje na domu-Waldorf said...

That's one angry book. :) Love your review!

Jen said...

Excellent review and a super piece of art work. Sounds like a hard read though.
Jen x