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Kornwolf –

Since I’ve finished my thesis, I’ve taken to reading for pleasure again. I have a nice pile of books I’ve been meaning to read or re-read, and I’ve decided to start by re-reading Tristian Egolf’s Kornwolf.

Tristian Egolf killed himself a few years back, and I think it is one of the great tragedies in contemporary fiction. His novels may not have been as polished as Dave Eggers or Michael Chabon, but I think that was a part of his greatness. It is a shame that he hasn’t been hoisted up to their level, as I think they would have challenged each other in very interesting ways. I always like to joke about how he could have taken them all in a fight. Sort of like Hemingway or Kerouac, he seemed like he lived a bit more than most writers. Apparently he finished the first draft of this book and ended his own life. Some comments on Amazon, perhaps rightly, suggest that it could have been fantastic after just a bit more work. Perhaps so. I’ve always loved and recommended it, even with some of its imperfections.

His prose is convincing. He implements a lot of folklore research and makes you believe in Amish werewolf lore in a way I haven’t encountered in other fantastical narratives. What would happen if an Amish boy, rebellious and struggling with puberty, accidentially stumbled upon a cassette tape of Slayer’s Reign in Blood, and played it secretly in his Rumspringa approved tape player? What if that boy may have been genetically linked to the cursed blood of folk legend? There is also a deep satire that runs rampant throughout, but never insulting the wrong people. I always respect that. The bitter journalist who left the townies behind, forced to return to earn money and write for the local paper, all while trying to figure out the weirdness that has boiling up in the town he grew to hate.

Also, one of the best descriptions of a Slayer (or any metal song) in any body of literary work:

This equipment had never emitted such grating, cacophonic belches. It sounded like a chain saw, whining and rising in sharp, sporadic bursts, then leveling….till the bashing commenced: like a trash can lid being whacked with a crowbar —ONE, overtop of the chainsaw, then — ONE, TWO — more menacing now, more deliberate —ONE —as a serpent coiled to strike — ONE, TWO — the strike giving way to a gallop: the pound of a broken fan belt slapping the underside of an engine hood: approaching, over the fields, preparing to sack and pillage and raze and defile — ONE, TWO — with the chain saws winding, the crowbar, the fan belt, pushing to a head, then: “AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGHHHHHHH” — a scream, like ten thousand demons plummeting hell-bound, end over end…

I can’t embed the song, so click here to hear it.

Brilliant, long winded, exciting, dangerous, curious. Just like a teenage boy, growing up in a secluded and separate community. As if the author was listening to Slayer for the first time, having never heard any other form of music before. The music is beautifully described, and metaphorical in terms of plot and character of the young lad, Ephraim.

Anyway, I recommend it.