Take Me Home

I first came across Toni Morrison a few years ago when I read Beloved, a book that positively blew me away. Although I haven’t read anything else by her since, picking up Home when I noticed it on sale was a no-brainer. I didn’t realize my copy of the book came out of the printer’s cut crooked, but I think it adds to the experience.

This book definitely succeeded in shocking me, someone who considers themselves a fairly well-informed European Americanophile. While I’ve read non-fiction literature like the maddeningly complacent Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washinton as well as Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, it still failed to register with me just how persistent such attitudes were across the entire country. Segregation was not just a southern thing. This isn’t something I grasped from, say, Pynchon’s V., which I’d argue draws attention away from the racial and social problems in order to focus on some kind of crisis of modernity. I bring this up because the PTSD-suffering protagonist sees “black flames shooting out of the V” of the logo of a Chevron station. Morrison clearly isn’t Pynchon, but when your nose is singing from being pushed into flamey V-related imagery you can’t help but make a connection.

The interaction between the global narrator and the Frank narrator is interesting, but I shouldn’t spoil it. If you’ve read Beloved you kind of know the shtick, but it’s different enough not to feel like repetition. In brief, Home is a story of broken people jerkily healing themselves, overcoming not only their shattered selves but also the malfunctioning society that made them. Recommended.

Toni Morrison (2012), Home.

★★★★

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Bespreking: Pallieter

Soms snuffel je eens in je eigen boekenkast rond om te zien wat voor leuke dingen daar zoal te vinden zijn. Op die manier kwam ik een vijfde editie van Pallieter tegen. Het boek is niet alleen geregeld te vinden op de lijst van 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, maar de marketing was indertijd subliem. In 1920 door de kerk verboden, en aangeprezen met amusante verwijzingen naar het comme il faut: “Vlaamsche boeken zijn in de kringen waar men op gehalte en letterkundig fatsoen gesteld is a priori verdacht, want men vreest als men ze openslaat een ranzig pallieterluchtje op te snuiven, hetgeen men niet zonder goede gronden schuwt gelijk den droes” (Jan Greshof, Forum, jaargang 1, 1932). Zo’n ranzig pallieterluchtje klinkt behoorlijk interessant, nietwaar?

Al die lof ten spijt is het verhaal geen havik die niet-aflatend op wolkenhoogte blijft rondzweven. Bedenk immers, dat ook een havik zo nu en dan verrekte hard omlaag moet duiken om zijn prooi te vangen. Niet Pallieter. Lijk het blije varken van Socrates blundert hij gelukzalig door het leven. Zijn karakter wordt uitstekend getypeerd tijdens het snoeien van een perenboom. Daardoor ziet hij “een rondeken jong spekvleesch van den [perelaar]. En Pallieter, die dat zag, lachte luid den gelukkigen lach van een kind.” Ook is het een wonder — pardon, een mirakel — dat dit overgroeide biggetje het geld heeft om al zijn extravagante uitspattingen te bekostigen. Zijn appeltje voor de dorst heeft hij ten slotte thuis al opgegeten.

In pakweg het eerste derde deel van het boek verlekkerde ik me aan het taalgebruik, maar de aardigheid nam na enige gewenning vrij snel af. Pallieter wordt omschreven als een streekroman, maar het heeft niets van doen met een Merijntje Gijzens of Bartje. Pallieter is een Adam in zijn Hof van Eden, of liever gezegd zijn Netheland — neen, toch liever het luilekkerland Arcadia. Het enige dat hij ooit geschreven heeft is carpe diem, zij het in het Nederlands: “Melk den dag!” Een vertelling vibreert gewoonlijk ietwat omhoog en omlaag, zij het emotioneel, zij het qua actie, maar Pallieter blijft als een storm zonder oog de lezer ranselen. Bijgevolg ervoer ik met name gedurende de laatste vijftig bladzijden een lineaire afname van het leesgenot, want de niet aflatende leutigheid en feeststemming zijn uiteindelijk bovenal vermoeiend.

Felix Timmermans (1916), Pallieter.

★★½

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Bespreking: Regenland, wo ai ni

Deze collectie van aansluitende miniverhaaltjes, of misschien is het toch eerder een novelle, laat op humoristische wijze zien hoe een gastvrij land een vreemdeling kan doen ontspruiten. De kunstig geïllustreerde, geestige situaties komen voort uit de voortdurend ondermijnde culturele verwachtingen van de Chinese ikverteller, oftewel die situaties laten zien hoe vreemd sommige zaken die we als vanzelfsprekend beschouwen eigenlijk zijn. Wat mij betreft is het hoogtepunt van het boek het bezoek aan de supermarkt en de daarmee samenhangende uiteenzettingen over melk in China en Nederland. Gelukkig lijkt mijn buik niet op een hangmat met inhoud!

Lulu Wang (2012), Regenland, wo ai ni.

★★★½

P.S. Er is hier ook nog een goed uitgevoerde korte film te bezichtigen, gebaseerd op een episode uit het boek. Het is eigenlijk bedoeld om na te genieten, maar als hors d’oeuvre misstaat het zeker niet.

P.P.S. Regenland, wo ai ni (regenland, ik hou van jou) is de Belgische titel; in Nederland heet het Nederland, wo ai ni.

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Warlords II Deluxe

This post is recycled, and was originally published on WatchZine on Thursday 2004-05-27 at 19:34:38 CEST. I tweaked some grammar and spelling here and there, but I resisted the urge to rewrite this entry almost entirely. I did not, however, refrain from commenting on myself.


Warlords II was released in 1993 as the successor to the successful turn-based strategy game Warlords. In the following years there were other additions to the series, such as Warlords III, it’s stand-alone expansion pack Darklord’s Rising, and Warlords IV. But Warlords II Deluxe has always been my favorite entry in the series.

Whereas Warlords II came with a limited number of army sets and maps, trapping the storytelling within the same imaginary place, Warlords II Deluxe came with hundreds of army sets, several different terrain sets and hundreds of city sets. This allows you to dive into a fantasy version of WWI today, while playing a mighty pirate the next. Or you could just play some fantasy setting, like the game was originally intended to.

For some 1995 polish to a 1993 game, the graphics look quite well. Just like with the original C&C, you don’t really see the pixels. [You did see them less on CRT monitors. But what I meant was that they were very well-done pixels, so that you didn’t notice them in an intrusive manner.] This is made possible because the units exist of one image, never changing. This also is the reason it is possible to create the hundreds of different settings I spoke about before.

I am not sure if Warlords II already contained it, but WIIDELUXE also came with a feature later introduced as “revolutionary”, Play By E-Mail. [Later introduced as revolutionary by whom? I guess we’ll never know. My best guess is that I was referring to Civilization III.] This shows us one of the positive things about turn-based games. Do what you want and send it to your friend. Such a game can go on for a long time. [A very, very long time. Let alone if you’re trying to play with more than two people. That being said, it’s still a lot easier to coordinate than trying to get online at the same tmie.]

Also the diplomacy is nice. Have a peace treaty with one player and have war with the other. For the time it was great, though it doesn’t come close to more modern games like Alpha Centauri and Civilization III. Regardless whether you’re playing Warlords II, Alpha Centauri, Civ or one of the Total War games, the AI’s diplomacy stance is always stacked against you from the moment of booking even the tiniest military success.

This is probably the only game I have regularly played since 1995. Because it doesn’t run on computers created after about 1997/1998 (unless they run an NT based OS) this is the main reason I still have my Pentium 100. [Well, there’s actually a patch for faster CPUs if you can still find it, although DOSBox is probably your best best now.] Quite amazingly, I don’t feel like the gameplay of Warlords II Deluxe has ever been beaten, except perhaps by Warlords III. But sadly Warlords III didn’t feature the many different settings of Warlords II Deluxe. [Truly, the game is incredibly elegant and well conceived. You can enjoy its gameplay through the open-source reimagining LordsAWar!, play the very similar online game warbarons, or you can even play the original Warlords II (not Deluxe) in your browser (!) over at Archive.org.]

But I’ve probably praised the game too much already. Let’s continue with the bad things. The AI isn’t the best available. When you are a reasonably experienced player, the computer opponents aren’t really difficult to defeat, even on the highest difficulty setting. There is a setting which tries to undo this (called “I am the greatest”). When you use this setting you are constantly at war with all computer opponents. This is indeed very difficult, but it doesn’t give the same feeling as using the diplomacy. For optimal gameplay you should play it with 8 humans. [I don’t think I ever played it with more than 4, maybe 5 people. But the more the better, I guess?]

The units, the buildings, the terrain etcetera are completely editable. But you can’t skin the entire game with the standard settings. For example, on the start of a turn there is a dragon, with the turn number. It would’ve been nice if you simply could’ve selected a tank for that in, say, the WWI scenario. [A tank? You mean a zeppelin!]

I bought this game for about 5 Euro in 1996. [Meaning about ƒ10,- (10 Guilder).] You can now purchase it on SSG’s website for a small price. [Alas, I don’t think you can buy it anywhere anymore.] If you have a computer at home made before 1998, and after 1993, I assure you, you won’t be disappointed by this game. Even my friends who don’t like strategy like this game. [I probably meant RTS.] Or alternatively, if you have Windows 2000 or XP, get yourself VDMSound and play this game on your brand new computer![Nah, get yourself DOSBox. Works like a charm.]

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Shapes for sounds (cowhouse): not perfect, but very good looking

I picked this book up on a whim at the Boekenfestijn for relatively little. It turned out to be a decent find.

First of all, this book looks rather nice, occasionally even stunning. It presents a lot of information in an easily accessible, visual manner. I like how the right-side lines of the text are jagged rather than the omnipresent justified, and I quickly grew fond of the phoneme head that shows how we articulate sounds. It’s a pity that this feature wasn’t extended to include a few more phonemes of the English language in one of the many appendixes.

Page 17 has some strange things going on regarding phonetics: w and y are initially incorrectly listed as fricatives, but a few lines down also correctly as approximants (also known as glides)—assuming we’re actually talking about /w/ and /j/. This section on phonetics is at the very least lacking in clarity, even if my copy of An Introduction to Language could’ve benefited from some of its typographical prowess.

In the next paragraph, h is listed as a letter that takes its name from placing a short vowel sound, usually e, before it. However, /eɪtʃ/ does not fit that bill. Aitch doesn’t even contain /h/. It was actually mentioned as “aitch” earlier in the text and listed not much later alongside “h, j, k, q, w, y” as late inclusions to the language. Since the author is a typographer by trade and the true focus of the book was the visual charts, I hope similar small mistakes didn’t sneak into those parts of the book, because I don’t have enough prior knowledge to tell. There are also numerous comma splices throughout the text. Once again, this distracts from the overall very polished feel of the book.

Appendix №6 shows the evolution of writing very neatly, but unfortunately the interrobang (‽) seems to have accidentally been turned into a regular question mark (?). I know, I’m picking nits, but it was specifically mentioning and showing the interrobang after all.

Finally, the book has a bibliography that can aid you if you want to know more. Always a good thing.

Don’t let my nitpicking give you the wrong impression: I quite thoroughly enjoyed this gorgeous, fun, informative book.

PS For some color illustrations of the charts and appendixes, see the brain pickings review.


This review was cross-posted on LibraryThing.

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