Enya’s fourth album finds her wealthy, successful, and comfortable. The music has started to suffer. The Memory of Trees is lavish…but it’s self-indulgent in places, and wants for the smallness and humbleness Enya had on her early releases.
After the pleasant title track, we get “Anywhere Is”, which is catchy and enticing, but as unsatisfying as a cake that’s all icing. Enya’s voice utterly dominates the track. Enya used to sing over music, but now her singing is the music, with the instrumentation being some light percussion and orchestral stabs. The song sounds too samey. Where “I Want Tomorrow” and “Exile” took you on a journey, “Anywhere Is” takes you around in circles. Skip 10 seconds in or 30 seconds in or 1 minute in or 3 minutes in…same thing.
“Pax Deorum” is well-meant attempt at being creepy. It works about as well as “creepy” always does for Enya…not super well.
At “Athair Ar Neamh” the album finally gets out of cruise control mode. I really like this song. Enya sounds vulnerable and fragile, and Nicky Ryan’s production compliments the atmosphere. There’s still a “vocals > all” approach here but it works better than on other tracks. “From Where I Am” is a piano song that reminds a bit of the title track on Watermark.
From there the album goes back and forth between well-deserved classics and songs that sound pleasant and are easily forgotten. “Once You Had Gold” sounds great. “On My Way Home” comes from the same die as “Anywhere Is” but sounds a bit more varied and elaborate. “Tea House Moon” tickles the ears a bit with some strange melodies but doesn’t really stick with you. Another weird thing about modern Enya is that she doesn’t seem to be that great at writing instrumentals any more.
There’s not a lot of musical residue left over from The Celts. What a pity.
No more badass Vangelis-sounding tracks that mix classical music with futuristic synths. This is the album of piano, pad choirs, and Enya’s voice. No more songs like “Epona”, with wandering, lonely melodies that seem almost afraid to let you hear them. Enya now hews to a pop songwriting model worthy of Kara Dioguardi and Max Martin. This is the last Enya album I own a copy of, but I’ve listened to the later ones and they all seem to be like The Memory of Trees, but a bit worse. I wish Enya hadn’t decided that musical evolution means not adding things to her sound, but cutting things out of it.
Human cells die, and new cells regenerate in their place. After seven years, you are a completely new man. Clive Barker is Exhibit A of the hypothesis. The man who wrote great short stories like “Dread” has clearly been processed into skin flakes and loose hair and motes of dust, and in his place is…this man. Mister B Gone is rat shit. If Clive Barker can do no better than this, then I hope he never writes another book.
It’s a written as the account of a demon who has escaped from hell via a fishing net (one of the perks of being a “fantasist” or whatever is being able to develop the plot via random spurts of Dadaist nonsense) and his adventures wandering the earth. Eventually he encounters Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press, which is the subject of a war between the forces of heaven and hell. One of Clive Barker’s recurrent ideas is that God and the Devil are not the embodiments of good and evil, but more along the lines of political rivals waging turf wars over corporeal fiefdoms.
The book doesn’t have a fourth wall. Jakobok the demon addresses the reader directly and urges him to burn the book, lest he damn his soul. The first time this happened I smiled. The second time made the corners of my mouth upturn by a zeptometer. The third time make me feel the inklings of fear. “He’s not going to do this through the whole book, is he?” By the tenth time I successfully trained my eyes to skip any paragraph containing the phrase “burn this book,” and I thereby greatly shortened my reading time.
What’s the point of such an annoying and persistent plot device? What’s the goal here, Barker? Is it to irritate the reader? I felt like I was reading a novelised version of that Paul Provenza/Penn Jillette Aristocrats movie, with a hundred comedians all telling the same joke, one after the other, and all of them acting like it’s fresh and new.
The story is worthless and uninteresting. Lots of events happen, but Clive Barker never brings any interest to any of them. It’s about demons and angels but I feel like I’m reading about sitcom characters. There are scenes in Hell that make it seem like Dogpatch with extra fire. Maybe that’s Mister B Gone’s biggest crime. It makes the supernatural seem dull and boring.
Clive Barker’s characterisation, never good, here reaches a new low. If you packed every character in Mister B Gone into an apple cart and pushed it off a cliff, I would be worried about the welfare of the apple cart.
Incredibly, this is Clive Barker’s first novel since 2001, discounting the Abarat books (which don’t sound interesting enough for me to want to read). Perhaps that’s the explanation. Maybe he’s more into screenplays and games and action figures these days. But shouldn’t a genius produce great work even when he half-asses things? They say Stephen King wrote The Running man in a single week…
In the meanwhile, someone please harvest the dust from Clive Barker’s house circa the Reagan presidency and put it to good use!
This article was like a breath of fresh water.
“…Reading that felt a little like stepping on a stair that wasn’t there: it was jarring to go from the image of “dinner tables” to the image of “a galaxy”, as though giant balls of flaming hydrogen could give dinner-parties. But that’s what a mixed metaphor does: it combines incongruent or incompatible images in a lingustically gauche way.”
If you like mixed metaphors, President Obama is quite a fruitful goldmine. You could say that he’s one of the backsliders purposely striding towards a future where our embrace of the English language is repellent.
I think Obama needs to count his chickens before they cross the road and come home to roost, and stop pawning words in the discount bin for the highest bidder. He needs to pack up his cowboy hat and stop catering to wealthy one-percenter fatcats who refuse to shed their puppy fat, and who pick the pockets of the remaining 75% with the reckless precision of racketeering wolves, and who aren’t very nice people besides.
“We’ve got more work to do than to just try to dig ourselves out of these self-inflicted wounds.” (source)
“As we consider the road that unfolds before us” (source)
“If we can get that done, that takes a big bite out of the fiscal cliff” (source)
“The lines of tribe shall soon dissolve” (source – more an unpleasant double entendre than a mixed metaphor)
“This is the moment when we must defeat terror and dry up the well of extremism that supports it.” (source)
“I’m willing to eliminate whatever we can honestly afford to do without. But let’s make sure that we’re not doing it on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens.” (source)
I think there were some mixed metaphors in The Audacity of Hope, but finding them is like shooting haystacks in a barrel with the broad side of a knife.
To explain, CS Lewis’s landmark series led to a boom industry of Christian books that involved children being whisked away to magical worlds. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L Engle is a good example. It is a good book that compares well with Lewis’s work. The Tower of Geburah is the runt of the litter. On its own, it can perhaps mount a justification for its existence. But it led to a series of six Narnia ripoffs, which is really a bit much.
The story…? Mostly Narnia. I think he changed some names around. There’s a character called Mary who is exactly like Edmund. Actually I think she was from the second book. It’s been a while. The magical realm is called Anthropos, and it’s ruled by a king called Kardia. For Greek students, this means you are going on a magical journey to the nation “Man,” ruled by the goodly king “Heart.” Every time John White needs a name he just jacks it from some foreign language.
Many adults enjoy A Wrinkle in Time, but the only people who enjoy The Tower of Geburah are people who read it as kids. I’m not one to take away from anyone’s formative memories…but damn it, you were a child. You spent your days jamming crayons and glue into your mouth. We don’t let children drive, we don’t let children drink, and we don’t let children vote. Why do you think your child opinions on literature are worth a shit?
My advice is to re-read The Tower of Geburah with the greatest of caution. You first experienced it through the warped perspective of childhood. You might think adulthood would give you a greater appreciation of this animal, but in this case you’re just more likely to notice the faux fur.
Where later Enya releases just kind of bulldoze you under a massive wall of pad synths and layered vocal tracks (they’re still good), The Celts sounds sparse and intriguing. It has more active instrumentation than any of her other releases. The melodies are more discernable. The textures are stronger and richer, and it seems to draw on a wider set of influences. You hear some things Enya seems afraid to touch these days: such as lead synths and electric guitar.
“The Celts” and “Aldebaran” are both very nice, and then “I Want Tomorrow” arrives…yeah, this song is just insane. Most Enya songs tend to ride a single big idea around like a pony, whether it’s a chorus hook or a melody or whatever. “I Want Tomorrow” does have some climactic parts but it mostly comes across as a free-flowing experience that isn’t written around any particular moment in the track. It’s hard to explain, but the song sounds like a couple of different songs joined together, all of them articulating different moods, but all of them making sense with each other.
About two thirds of the The Celts has no lyrics. I’d call these songs instrumental, except Enya’s “instrument” of choice has always been her layered backing vocals, of which there are a plenitude.
A few highlights emerge from these wordless songs. “Epona” is compact and efficient, and reminds of Vangelis classics such as “Movement V.” The three sections of “Triad” take the listener through a series of differing moods and atmospheres. “The Sun in the Stream” is the second amazing classic from the album. It’s brilliantly realised from start to finish…just a perfect song.
This is the Enya CD I always come back to. Watermark and Shepherd Moon aren’t too far behind musically, but on The Celts Enya found something very rare and special…and then lost it again. I don’t expect her to ever produce a work of this quality again.
The Wasp Factory is a like a very small dog with a very loud bark. Although I’d heard lots of hype about how it’s evil and shocking and transgressive, it proved to be a small novel about nothing. Sixteen year old Frank lives with his father on an island. He conducts odd shamanistic rituals. He mounts animal heads on poles. He bumps off a few kids in scenes of PG-13 rated gore. Storytelling is crude and uninvolving, characters abuse each other and abuse the reader, and the twist at the end is not as interesting as it thinks it is.
There’s a good deal of violence, mostly against animals. Frank’s brother likes hurting dogs, and Frank himself enjoys setting rabbits on fire. The book contains enough cruelty against rabbits to make El-ahrairah cry. I think Iain Banks was going for “dark antihero” here but Frank just comes across as juvie justice system fodder, totally dislikeable and unsympathetic. A short story about this character would have been interesting. A novel’s length with Frank felt like going on a long car ride with a person who needs a bath.
The title refers to a strange device Frank has constructed from a clockface. He releases wasps from a glass jar into a series of tubes, each leading to one of twelve deaths (four o’clock leads to a spider, 12 o’clock leads to fire, etc). A cool idea, but ultimately the book isn’t about the Wasp Factory. What it is about is an open question. Lots of themes and ideas are introduced but none of them seem terribly material to the overall story.
I liked Frank’s brother, who makes Frank look like a model citizen. The brother is returning from an insane asylum, and he threatens to disrupt Frank’s well-ordered system of rituals. He also stars in the book’s most chilling and disturbing scene (the one in the hospital), but eventually even he fades out of the story, as Iain Banks clears the stage to make his big point about…something beyond me.
Banks once said that The Wasp Factory is a meditation on childhood innocence. In other words, you’re not supposed to do anything except read it and connect Frank’s experiences with your own childhood atavisms. But Frank is an impossible character to identify with, he performs one improbable action after another like a puppet jerked around by an over-enthusiastic puppeteer. Nevermind relate to him, I couldn’t even view Frank as a person that might exist.
At its best moments, The Wasp Factory has a misanthropic “who gives a fuck” attitude that I enjoyed. Mostly it seems directionless, as if it isn’t sure what the point is but just ploughs on regardless. It exists in its own Wasp Factory, with all twelve exits being “wastes the reader’s time.”
A lineup change has taken place from the last album. Dave Holland was good at simple AC/DC 4/4 beats, also good if you’re a social worker who enjoys dealing with molested children and wants there to be a profusion of them, but he was, frankly, an alarmingly boring drummer. In his place is Racer-X skinsman Scott Travis. He preserves the punchiness always associated with Priest’s drumming, but gearshifts the intensity way, way up. The one man artillery assault opening “Painkiller”, the fast double bass of “Leather Rebel”, the stadium-filling snare hits of “Touch of Evil”, and numerous other moments reveal that he is good news for the band.
Painkiller is full of songs that listen well on their own, but the correct way to listen to it is in one go, so that the energy builds and transfers from one track to the next. “Painkiller” is a well-known classic featuring amazing vocals and guitar work, “Hell Patrol” is a bit more restrained, and “All Guns Blazing” and “Metal Meltdown” are vicious and thrashing. “Leather Rebel” sports a signature speed-picked pentatonic riff that’s been copied by everyone from Gamma Ray to Bobby Price (“Donna to the Rescue” – Doom OST).
After track 5 the album officially goes from “great” to “epochal”. “Nightcrawler” is “The Sentinel” with a weaponry upgrade – an impressive mixture of heaviness and atmosphere. “Between the Hammer & the Anvil” features my all-time favourite Judas Priest riff and another incredible vocal job from Rob Halford. But the album’s best moment is “A Touch of Evil,” which slows the tempo to a crawl while Tipton and Downing bludgeon a signature 80s guitar riff through your skull. The instrumentation, the vocals, the songwriting, and Chris Tsangarides’ scorching production all come together in a paroxysm of classic Judas Priest greatness.
There’s a bonus track on some version of Painkiller called “Living Bad Dreams” which is an all-out power ballad. It’s good, but not great. There’s a “live” version of “Leather Rebel” (I have a feeling they punched it up a bit in the studio).
This would be the last Halford-fronted Priest album for fifteen years. It seems Painkiller succeeded in burning Halford out. He would go on to explore musical projects more “alternative” (Fight, Two) and his earstwhile bandmates steered Judas Priest’s style away from Painkiller’s ultra-fetishised 80s metal. Even now, Judas Priest has never fully revisited Painkiller territory. Maybe that’s the final proof of the album’s power…it scared off the men who wrote it.
The graphomania of MawBTS, including fictional stories and essays on popular enterdrainment
Q. Is Empty World suitable for people over the age of 18?
I have tried to make it adult-friendly but you may want to have a child supervising you.
Q. What are your influences?
Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen King, Junji Ito, Suehiro Maruo, single moms who discover 1 weird trick to eradicate wrinkles (and are hated by dermatologists etc). I also enjoy books by racists and misogynists. I usually find these books to be interesting, and not racist and misogynistic at all. I don’t believe everything I hear.
Q. Where do you live?
Q. How did this site begin?
The domain was registered in 2005 to host a fansite for a video game. Empty World appeared in 2006. 8 years later, the internet is a changed place. Nobody would build a HTML fan page for a game any more. In 8 years more there will be nobody reading books. In 16 years more there will be nobody reading. In 24 years more there will be nobody.
Q. What do you hate?
Once, I would hug trees, and when the trees didn’t hug back my feelings were hurt. Then I saw a tree hug someone and I felt glad.
Q. There’s a problem with the site, what do?
A. Let me know and I’ll get tech support right on to it.
Story of the Eye is an short erotic anomalysm from the 1920s. I say erotic, but the emotions it stirred in me were disgust and disquiet. I read it in an hour, and when I put it down, I felt like my hands had been touching hospital waste.
It’s about an unnamed man and a not-unnamed woman (Simone), who engage in relations vaguely resembling sex. Much what they do is unnatural and illegal. Other characters include the mentally retarded Marcelle, a bullfighter, and a priest. People die in this story. Bataille juxtaposes these deaths with more fucking so that copulation and expiration seem like two sides of the selfsame coin. Some of what happens serves a symbolic purpose, although often it’s not clear what the purpose is.
Backstory helped me understand Story of the Eye. Bataille’s father was blind, and it seems his father’s huge, sightless eyes were a formative experience for the young man. Eyes (and eyelike objects, such as eggs and testicles) are everywhere in this story…even in its title. Bataille’s father also liked to piss himself, and thus Story of the Eye contains enough urine to hydrate Bear Grylls on a triple Ironman. Bataille also uses the book to get in some shots at social mores like mental institutions and organised religion. All the protagonist and his amorata want are sexual gratification. Priests and gaolers want to fix people.
I believe CS Lewis wrote something about how dangerous “fixers” are. If you just want to satisfy your lust you will reach a moment of consummation and then stop, but if you have a lofty and righteous goal then you’ll continue on forever until the world is a charnel house and a crematorium. In this way, Baitalle absolves his perverted main characters of their sins…or at least renders them venal.
The book’s final pages see Simone strangling a Catholic priest as part of a goetic sex ritual, and we are clearly not meant to feel sympathy for the priest. It seemed like a parody of a archetypal Western ending. Batman punching out a bank robber, John Wayne delivering frontier justice from a .45, something like that. Good guys win, bad guys lose.
But when all is done and said, Story of the Eye doesn’t seem to be about anything. Bataille presents us with a series of gross and disturbing sequences, and they’re mostly (and deliberately) meaningless, either that or they are so clouded in metaphor that only Bataille understood them. Likewise, if you’re expecting a story that builds to a conclusion – any conclusion – then the joke’s on you, my friend. Story of the Eye was written to transgress boundaries, never mind what it finds when it crosses them.
Story of the Eye is rightly legendary. Reading it is an experience that can’t be forgotten. However, I feel it’s only a partial experience. Story of the Eye’s secrets could likely only be decoded in full by the author: a man who is fifty years dead.
My first Stephen Lawhead books were his first too. I really liked the three Dragon King books when I read when at age 10. I don’t think I would have liked them so much now. They’re made to fill the niche of “my first fantasy series” and if you have already read 500 fantasy books you need this series like a 21st century logger needs a flint axehead.
The first book tells the tale of a young man called Quentin who must save a king (and a kingdom) from an evil sorcerer called Nimrood. The other volumes find more adve(ntures/rsaries) for him to overcome and more lessons for him learn. He is assisted by supporting characters such as the knight Ronsard and the Atreyu-like Toli. I don’t recall there being any actual dragons, but there are surely enough luscious maidens to support one or two.
The books go heavy on the Christian allegorising, more than any later Stephen Lawhead novel. Quentin is meant to stand in for any Christian struggling in his faith, and it soon becomes clear that the nation of Askelon must undergo a spiritual salvation as well as a carnal one. It’s a more subtle than The Chronicles of Narnia or The Archives of Anthropos. You won’t read any one thing and think “that represents the original sin” or anything like that.
The first two books are better than the third. They feature scary bad guys and a real sense of menace. Book three resolves a few loose ends but it never really seemed particularly necessary to me. Quentin puts some seditions lords in their place, slays a resurrected (and utterly pathetic) Nimrood, and learns an Important Lesson(tm) about pride…great. Books one and two are a stag party with good friends. Book three is those same friends quibbling over the bill.
The books’ strength is their fast pace. The basic story is utterly familiar, but it moves. It goes from point to point quickly and efficiently. This is no 900 page Robert Jordan fantasy travelogue. Worldbuilding is minimal, and the characters are sketched out to the barest outline necessary to support their role in the story.
If you like imaginative fantasy you will have lots of fun with these books…using them to prop up a broken table so you can read The Song of Albion. Good for what they are, though.