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De Zwerver – Thorvald Ross (2022)

I have had the book for a while, but I first missed that it was published on 11/11/22 and then forgot to review it… In any case, the second short novel under the moniker of Thorvald Ross.

Just like in the previous De Laatste Heiden, the author is the I-person and narrator of the book. The new book is less ‘Northern heathen’ than the first one. The main character is a restless soul who keeps wandering (hence the title ‘wanderer’) in search for something. He finds himself in an idyllic little town where he receives a warm welcome. After a long philosophical talk with the major, Ross is taken around the town by the beautiful daughter of the major. All kinds of social and philosophical observations and metaphors are presented to the reader. This reminds me of Jan Amos Comemius’ Labyrinth of the World.

Just outside the town there is a famous school for philosophy, of course in the classical way. Ross attends the school, but things are not all that easy.

We encounter more imaginary that reminds me of classical works, such as the Metamorphoses of Apuleius and stories of Dante Alighieri. Ross’ adventure thus meanders through different story lines. Along the way the reader is repeatedly presented with contemplations on art, philosophy, esotericism, etc.

An enjoyable book, but only for Dutch speaking readers I am afraid.

2022 Boekscout, isbn 9789464682311

De Laatste Heiden – Thorvald Ross (2021)

How often does it happen that a heathen themed novel is published? In Dutch even less so.

The author is also the first‐person narrator of the book. He is a journalist in the outskirts of Vlaanderen, Dutch-speaking Netherlands. He befriends a singular farmer named Firmin. Firmin leads a simple life, but he proves to have deep waters. The initially closed farmer has some peculiar habits. His enigmatic statements make place for deeply personal stories and as the story develops, Thorvald becomes familiar with the heathen practices of Firmin. When Firmin starts to prepare the autumn equinox, Thorvald rides along and the author describes the ritual in such detail and with explanations that the contemporary heathen just may get inspiration from it. Thorvald plunges into a vision which greatly deepens the friendship between the two men.

The story takes a somewhat sinister tone when the Wolf-time becomes more and more apparent. Local events are used to describe the destructive forces of modernism. Firmin does what he can. Different storylines meet at Midsummer and the author again offers a very detailed ritual.

The story contains known themes from Northern mythology, but also (known) themes from ‘the real world’. Some of the characters can (sometimes fairly easily) be connected to characters from Northern myths. These different themes are nicely woven together. The development of the story is not really surprising, especially not when you are familiar with the myths, but this actually adds some charm to the book.

“The Last Heathen” is a little book of only 123 pages. Contemporary (and Dutch-speaking) heathens may appreciate the book, because even though it is a novel, it brings enough to think over. The detailed rituals may even inspire your own.

Published at 25 January 2021, bookshops only have their copies available by 25 February.

2021 Aspekt, isbn 9464240784

Twin Peaks – The Final Dossier – Mark Frost (2017)

  • novel

For a moment I thought that I had missed one of Frost’s books, but it appear that this companion to The Secret History was actually published after the broadcast of season 3. Or at least, the book seems to come after the proceedings of that third season.

I had not made the link, but the previous book is a dossier compiled by an “archivist” who is revealed in the book. Another archivist takes over and in the end the archive falls in the hands of the FBI where agent Tamara Preston investigated it. Preston is, of course, Tammy in the third season, the beautiful lady that joins the Blue Rose task force.

The Final Dossier is a little less of a dossier as the previous book. Gordon Cole asked Preston in the aftermath of the happenings in season 3 to investigate further. Preston compiled her findings and wrapped them up in some sort of novel-style, but in fact it is a dossier per person or event. In this way Preston fills the 25 years gap between the original series and the third one for several characters. There are dossiers about the Hayward family, Judy, Philip Jeffries, of course Dale Cooper, etc. Other characters are extensively written about in dossiers not specific to themselves.

Much more than The Secret History, The Final Dossier put the events of the three series in perspective. A simple example, we learn when, how and why Dr. Jacoby left Twin Peaks and eventually returned to be Dr. Amp. Similarly Preston tried to reconstruct the whereabouts of “The Double” (‘bad Cooper’) and comes with some theories that are not apparent in the series. Similar clues can be found about Garland Briggs and his dealings with William Hastings and Ruth Davenport.

Do not expect answers to all questions raised in the series or wrap-ups of all open story-lines of the third series, but Frost being one of the writers of the stories giving suggestions or even perspective himself, makes this book a pretty valuable source to try to make sense of things. Some things at least!

2017 Flatiron Books, isbn 1250163307

The Secret History Of Twin Peaks * Mark Frost (2016)

  • novel

The brilliant series of Twin Peaks are usually connected to director David Lynch. Lynch was only one of the creators though, Mark Frost being the other. In all the fuss around ’25 year later’, again all attention seems to go to Lynch. And there we have Mark Frost himself publishing a Twin Peaks book just before the launch of the third series. Frost even did an “AMA” (‘ask me anything’) on Reddit a little while back.

So is Frost’s book going to give all the answers about Twin Peaks’ mysteries? The title suggests it does not. “A Novel” it says on the cover. Actually, it is not really a novel either. The book is presented as a found dossier about Twin Peaks, its surroundings, its inhabitants and -indeed- its mysteries.

Let me start by saying that the book is not about the events of the series! It is not even about the same time in which the events of the series take place. The book starts way earlier and ends somewhat later. The book is hardly about characters from the series, but some of them are included. Sometimes it are rather the parents of characters of the series that have a role in the book, or people who are featured in the series marginally are the most important characters of the book.

Like I said, the book is not a story, it is a dossier. An “archivist” got the files from his predecessor and commented on them. Again later an FBI agent gets the files and again commented on them. The files can be anything from notes from personal diaries to top secret files from shady government organisations, field notes of investigations, newspaper clippings and what not.

The book starts around the time the first settlers come to live in the area and it is largely about UFOs. Many times the contents seem more fitting for the X-Files with presidents who know things, governments within governments, etc.

During the course of the book a different light from what we learned from the series is cast upon a few characters that we know. In this way we do learn a few things that the series left open (such as Major Briggs’ secret work) and the Black Lodge and Owl Cave get quite a different meaning, but it is not like you are going to be let in all open questions that the series series, just a few. I do wonder if these new angles will find their way into the new season.

What is a bit too bad is that Frost gave his pompous writing style to almost every person in the book, from Dr. Laurence Jacoby to a 16 year old Andrew Packard.

“The Secret History Of Twin Peaks” makes a fun read, especially when you know the names, but it is not much more than a fun read. You are not ‘missing out’ on the series when you do not read it, nor will the series make more sense when you do.

The book comes in a quite luxury edition with a ‘double cover’, two colour print and thick paper.

2016 Flatiron Books, isbn 1250075580

The Appleseed Journal * Stewart Bitkoff (2015)

The line in the titles that the author sends me to review seems to go from very specific (Sufism) to more general. Perhaps they should be read in reverse order. “The Appleseed Journal” is more ‘generally spiritual’, a story that may make the reader realise that there is more than just our materialistic lifestyle. Then in “Beyond The River’s Gate” the reader may be inspired to live more spiritually may be helped to find a fitting path. In “The Ferryman’s Dream” you will learn more about Bitkoff and his own path. Finally, in “Sufism For Western Seekers” the reader will discover the secret of Bitkoff’s background. But, the books came from the man’s fingers the other way around, so that is the order in which I review them.

Johnny Appleseed is a ‘legendarised’ man who lived under the name John Chapman from 1774 to 1845. Bitkoff places him in the area of the Hudon Valley and to the North, which is funny, since I happen to visit that area every now and then myself. Bitkoff found Appleseeds journal buried in his backyard and decided to publish it. Now the journal obviously is not written 250 years ago and the style if very ‘Bitkoffian’. No worries of course, the author just used an urban legend as the story to hang his message onto.

Appleseed is a very Christian person who, as an early settler, started to grow and sow appleseeds and sell them to new settlers so that they could have their own apple trees. In his diary he gives his Christian ponderings about his restlessness, helping other people and the Word of the Lord. During his journeys through the Hudson Valley, Appleseed becomes friends with ‘Amerindians’ from whom he learns a lot. Bitkoff of course uses the opportunity to give some ‘Amerindian’ spirituality to his audience. At some point, Appleseed received a book of “the Great Swede”, Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) and became gripped by what he reads. He got involved in “The New Church” movement and both accidentally and intentionally becomes a missionary for the Swedenborgian way of thinking in his many contacts. We do not learn that much about Swedenborgh or his ideas from this journal though.

Appleseed does not try to convert people to his way of thinking. Rather he holds up a mirror and simply sows seeds in the heart of the people he meets by simple, well-placed advice or a book that he gives away. The simple, spiritual life of a man who works hard, is open and tolerant towards others and who helps other people in whichever way he can. The kind of person we need more of.

I do not know if this title is something for ‘the usual reader’, but the books of Bitkoff read easily and they are certainly something different from ‘my usual literature’ (and yours?) which never hurts, does it?

2015 Abandoned Ladder, isbn 0991577515

Siddharta * Herman Hesse (1922)

I actually read an English translation (and not such a good one) of this German book on my phone. Instead of killing minutes playing games, I decided to try to use my (small screen) telephone to read books. I installed an ereader application and browsed through the free books. I knew about this book for a long time, but I seldom read novels. Perhaps because of “The Ferryman’s Dream” that is somewhat of a continuation of Hesse’s classic novel, I decided to read it nonetheless. I must say, reading on the phone, if it is in short bits, is not so bad (and better than playing games) and for a novel “Siddharta” is not that bad either. Siddharta is, of course, the name of the most famous Buddha. Initially the novel seems based on the life of the prince of Siddharta, but about halfway the main character of the novel takes paths that we would not associate with the life of the Buddha. Siddharta is born as the son of a Brahman, decides to become a Samana (a begging monk) but later wants to learn the vices that he rejects and thus he throws himself in the ‘real world’. The book goes on an on, but the story is quite moving at times and as Siddharta grows wiser, the often pointed-at spiritual undertone of the book is very apparent. Not a bad read.
available in many versions, cheap reprints and translations and as free ebook

The Ferryman’s Dream * Stewart Bitkoff (2012)

Late 2011 Bitkoff asked if I was interested in reviewing his book “Sufism For Western Seekers”. Only months after I finished it, I got another email that he had a new book ready. The previous book is about spiritual teaching, this time Bitkoff entwined this with a novel. “The Ferryman’s Dream” has 22 chapters, each consisting of three parts. First come spiritual musings, the middle part is a story and the last part can be either spiritual reflections or poetry. The last parts are set in another font. The book is quite alike the previous book, but this time the book is not about the author’s path, but he describes a similar development for two other persons. The first parts of each chapter reminds most of the previous book. In my opinion, the author would have been well able to bring the same message only using the story-format. Now it comes across somewhat duplicate at times, especially when part three is a repeated move.
The story is about a ferryman. This ferryman is Vesudeva from Herman Hesse’s “Siddhartha”. Vesudeva retreated from the world and he fills his days with bringing people across a river both literally and symbolically. A young man with a very Western lifestyle ends up being Vesudeva’s student and later a friend of the young man joins the two. During the story you will learn a thing or two about spiritual living and about real spirituality in a master-student relationship. The story is nice. The book as a whole, again, reads easily. It is not even 150 pages, so it does not take long to read it. Also again the book seems more introductionary and meant for people who are not familiar with esotericism or spiritual teachings than for providing extra depth for people who are. There are many people in the West who should read a book like this, so hopefully the author is able to spread it well enough.
2012 Abandoned Ladder, isbn 9780615613000

Days In Midgard * Steven Thor Abell (2008)

The writer asked if I was interested in reviewing his book. The book is presented as “a collection of modern legends based on the myths of the Vikings. From its inception as an oral storytelling project and through years of performance, Days in Midgard has finally become a work of the printed page.” It became a work of 280 pages that took over a decade of work. The stories are told lively an with a great amount of detail. Some are rather long, others are short. Interludes speak a little about Iceland or sagas. The first stories also read a little like sagas, but as the book continues, the stories are placed in (what appears to be) present time. All have a gleam of mystery and an agreeable atmosphere. The question “Where is it that gods go after they’ve been banished?” is answered: “Maybe they haven’t gone anywhere. In oblique encounters with passing strangers, the lives of ordinary and not-so-ordinary people turn in new and interesting directions.” This promises more than the book lives upto. Most stories are about very daily things and in most cases (restaurant hold up, car repair, buying houses) the person in it meets a person that somebody who knows the myths will recognise as a God from the Norse myths. Sometimes this is done very subtlely, sometimes rather obviously and in one or two stories so subtlely that I didn’t recognise anything myself. Being nothing of a story/fiction reader myself, I often found myself waiting for the ‘mythological link’. The stories are nice on itself, but this is not really my cup of tea.
If you like to read short stories and know Scandinavian mythology, you will probably enjoy this book. If you just like short stories, you might like it too, but miss a few layers. If you want ‘modern myths’ and/or stories about Gods in ancient times, this is not what you are looking for. The stories are just stories with here and there a Germanic God in it doing nothing ‘godly’ in most cases. But the book reads easily and since they are short stories, it might be a book for winter nights.

2008, Outskirts Press, isbn 1432719947
For more information see the writer’s website

On The Marble Cliffs * Ernst Jünger (1939)

Auf Die Marmorklippen

I only knew Ernst Jünger (1895-1998) because he seems to be popular in the music scene that I get much music from and in the ‘new right’ political corner. I figured he would just be another (new) right thinker and never really thought about reading anything of him. Then I saw a Dutch translation of this famous book for only a few euros and decided to take it home. So now you get to read the first novel reviewed within these pages!
I didn’t have a clue about Jüngers writings, I didn’t really care. This famous book turned out to be a novel, not my favorite kinds of books! The novel is about hermitage, situated on marble cliffs in which some kind of secret order (“Mauritanians”) of elitarians grow plants, investigate nature and talk. The I-figure of the book gives long descriptions of situations, plants, animals, etc. However things seem to be very peacefull, in the vallies an uproar starts and peace is over with. All this is told in a colourfull way that made me page rapidly through the book.
If it wasn’t for the epilogue by Jan Ipema (who wrote two books about Jünger) the book would not have been more than a story to me. Now it seems that Jünger wrote about the upcoming fascism against which he took a stand, but he placed his book out of time (a bit of a Renaissance-like period it seems) and said that the book was timeless and had nothing to do with the situation of his day. Apparently Hitler thought that this was enough and even when many people thought that Jünger wrote against the Nazi regime, Hitler allowed him to stay in Germany, which he did. He did serve in both World Wars voluntarily and thought that war and suffering are necessary ingredients of life and that bombartments offered a great spectacle of fire-works, so maybe that is why he became so controversial.
Like I said, novels are not my kind of books, this one is no exception. If it had come to me without explanation and under a different name, I would have never noticed it. Now it just seems like a story to me by a writer who for some reason is both admired and controversial. I cannot judge whether the book is ‘literary of high standard’, I cannot filter out any secret messages and the story didn’t particularly appeal to me. So… just a novel. Oh, not a very big one by the way, only 125 pages and in English hard to get.