full length review

John Williams’s Stoner is an extraordinary novel with an extra ordinary (not extraordinary) hero.

William Stoner almost always plays it safe, making predictable, sensible choices. He studies literature at the University of Missouri and ends up teaching there for the next 40 years. Even though he teaches the same classes over and over, he isn’t completely able to articulate to his students what he loves about literature. He marries badly, has a child to whom he wishes to be closer, enters into a doomed but beautiful love affair, and writes a failed book.

If the plot sounds a little dull or unoriginal to you, I believe that was Williams’s intention. Williams created in Stoner a character who demands no attention from the students who pass him in the quads of Jesse Hall. But as readers we’re privy to the quiet desperation (as Thoreau put it) that is the result of everything Stoner wants being just out of his reach. Although he hides it from the world, we see and feel the constant disappointment he experiences; and to make it all the more frustrating—and all the more real—these disappointments are due sometimes to his own safe choices and sometimes to circumstances that are out of his control.

But where other characters in other novels by other authors might respond to a lifetime of incessant disappointment with suicide, Stoner takes up Hamlet’s question, wondering if his life is worth living. But he goes beyond simply asking the question of himself; he realizes the question is general to all mankind, and more importantly it doesn’t necessarily spring from dire and immediate circumstances:  

It came, he believed, from the accretion of his years, from the density of accident and circumstance, and from what he had come to understand of them. He took a grim and ironic pleasure from the possibility that what little learning he had managed to acquire had led him to this kind of knowledge: that in the long run all things, even the learning that let him know this, were futile and empty, and at last diminished into a nothingness they did not alter.

Williams’s prose is beautiful in the most subtle, restrained way. It’s quite remarkable to understand the pulsing emotions bubbling under Stoner’s surface when his outward appearance is so tame, but that’s how most of us live. Indeed, that’s the magic of Stoner: he’s the kind of unglamorous hero that the rest of us are.

I’ve run macrolit for three years, and this is my first full-length review. I couldn’t help it because I love this book so much. It’s now a Top 5 all time novel for me. Please read this wonderful, touching book! And if you have read it, please chime in with your thoughts. 

Stoner, John Williams
My Goodreads rating: 5/5
Currently 37% off at Amazon

D&D 5th Edition, Part One: Preface and Introduction

Hey folks, welcome to Icosahedonism’s first full-length review! We’ll be doing this chapter-by-chapter (with less eventful chapters merged into shared posts) until it’s done, then compiling that all into one super huge mega post somewhere. Lads, gals, and nb pals, enjoy the show! 

The preface to D&D 5E is mostly unassuming. It makes the laughable argument that playing an RPG with strangers leads to friendship rather than bitter knife-fights, but other than that it’s the standard “oh hoh you don’t need to know how the game works to play, it’s all about imagination!” drivel. It’s all lies, but I understand why the line has to be dangled, I suppose. At this point, I find the entire concept of marketing TTRPGs based on the idea that the audience doesn’t know what they are to be a bit trite, overall, but it’s to be expected.

The introduction is more standard fare, by and large. It actually tries to put forth a few useful concepts. The “three pillars of adventure” is actually a pretty solid general line of advice. The concept that magic is Rare And Special In All D&D Settings, however, is utter horseshit. There are several paragraphs here spent jerking off about how special all flavours of mage are, how important, how imminently puissant, and how non-mages are worthless without mages backing them up. This has actually been true for most of D&D’s lifespan, including, as we’ll see, this edition, but it’s a little on the nose to actually admit that, especially while blatantly typing one-handed and moaning “oh, Elminster.”

9 Albums from 2014 That Knocked My Socks Off

#9 Forgettable by Sorority Noise

I love this album partially because Cameron Boucher is one of my favorite people in music and partially because it’s rad as heck. Every song is a jam to sing along to and most of them hit me right in the feels.

For fans of: Joyce Manor, Old Gray, Modern Baseball

#8 Keep You by Pianos Become The Teeth

Pianos really toned it down for this album and put out a new sound. In comparison to other Pianos albums I was surprised by the record, but standing alone it’s exactly what I needed to hear. It’s really raw and emotional and this album in particular speaks to me on a really deep level as a musician and as a person. 

For fans of: Good music

#7 Following Feathers by Me Versus I

Although these guys are south jersey scumbags… (just kidding, I love these handsome men!) NJ Post Hardcore outfit Me Versus I put out an absolute killer full length this year. Even though they are local to me, I listen to their material just as much, maybe more, than some of the bigger bands. 

For Fans Of: Touche Amore, La Dispute, Defeater

#6 Home, Like Noplace is There by The Hotelier

 

One of my favorite Emo albums to date. The Hotelier has that raw, emotional feel that I love so much. This album is a lyrical masterpiece.

For Fans Of: La Dispute and Foxing

#5 Those Days Are Gone by Free Throw

Been listening to these guys for a while, and I was really happy that their full length was a success! Great lyrics, and every song is catchy as hell.

For Fans Of: Modern Baseball, The Front Bottoms, Tiny Moving Parts

#4 I Lost Myself Again by Forever Losing Sleep

One of my favorite bands, and they just happen to be from my state. I’ve had the privilege of sharing the stage with these guys, and I’m extremely pleased with their full length. I wrote a review on this recently so go check that out!

For Fans Of: Brand New, Pianos Become The Teeth, Frameworks

#3 Pleasant Living by Tiny Moving Parts

Tiny Moving Parts never disappoints me. Everything I loved about their first full length comes back even better in their second!

For Fans Of: Twinkle, Math, American Football, Twinkle

#2 A Place of Our Own by Have Mercy

One of my fav bands, one of my fav albums

For Fans Of: Citizen and Balance and Composure

#1 We Don’t Have Each other by Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties

The Wonder Years will always be one of my favorite bands, and Dan Campbell will always be one of my favorite writers. This album is a masterpiece, I can’t get over how good it is. Please go check it out if you haven’t already!

For Fans Of: Having an emotional breakdown because of an album

Heads Up!

That Wall Street Journal article made it official.

Pentatonix is famous and legitimate, and the Pentaholics are a serious fandom.

PTX is outselling lots of people, and RCA made it very clear that they’re giving them a solid push to radio next year, and likely teaming them up with established hitmakers to make it happen.

With that money and time and major-label attention will come haters. Some of the newspapers that once shrugged and labeled them “cute, nonthreatening, and talented” will suddenly find it highly offensive to music that a bubbly acappella group like PTX is outselling their critical darlings. It literally happens to every pop act. Newspapers complained about the Beatles ruining music. Expect Pentatonix to get some whining from the press that doesn’t understand what they do. It’s an inevitable part of becoming pop stars, and we need to be graceful about it.

Our babies are popstars now. Their star will continue to rise in 2015. Now more than ever we need to agree to be a nice fandom and not an obnoxious one. If some magazine decides to write their full-length album a scathing review simply because it’s cute and they’re an acappella group, we need to politely ignore it. Vote with your wallet.

The more famous you get, the more people will be after you. PTX has not had that happen much so far, but it will, and we need to be prepared to smile and ignore it.

<3 xoxo #teamPTX

3

Photos by HoJun Yu

Lost and found: I was looking through my little archive because I was nominated for a B&W challenge and I thought I’d share these pictures of Theresa and Emily from Warpaint at Union Transfer back in October (which was my first night with my first camera). It was a meaningful night, a great moment (also because they posted my picture of Jenny from this show on their Facebook page). Time to embrace it!

Read that review here: http://thedepartureloungemusic.com/2014/10/12/warpaints-triumphant-return-to-union-transfer/

Read the interview I did with Theresa for the gig back in March when they came to Union Transfer (I know, they came to the same venue twice this year): http://thedepartureloungemusic.com/2014/05/01/what-color-is-warpaint-warpaint-union-transfer-3222014-concert-review-full-length-interview/

Whole catalog from this gig: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thedeparturelounge/sets/72157648243356927/