Black Sabbath's Master of Reality

Black Sabbath's Master of Reality

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by John Darnielle
     
 

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Black Sabbath's Master of Reality has maintained remarkable historical status over several generations; it's a touchstone for the directionless, and common coin for young men and women who've felt excluded from the broader cultural economy. John Darnielle hears it through the ears of Roger Painter, a young adult locked in a southern California adolescent

Overview


Black Sabbath's Master of Reality has maintained remarkable historical status over several generations; it's a touchstone for the directionless, and common coin for young men and women who've felt excluded from the broader cultural economy. John Darnielle hears it through the ears of Roger Painter, a young adult locked in a southern California adolescent psychiatric center in 1985; deprived of his Walkman and hungry for comfort, he explains Black Sabbath as one might describe air to a fish, or love to an android, hoping to convince his captors to give him back his tapes.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

This is a masterly look at the corrosive emotion of youth, and the invaluable solace that music gives. Read it, even if you'd rather stick knitting needles in your ears than listen to the album in question. Because its about you. - James Mann, The Big Takeover magazine

This is not the first time Darnielle explores these dark waters. In fact the text is a retelling, if not an extension of " The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton," the first track on the Mountain Goats' 2002 album, All Hail West Texas. As both the text and the song are meditations on the redemptive aspects of heavy metal, the depravity of institutional authority and the refusal to forgive, the reader who is familiar with either Darnielle's musical work or Black Sabbath will find the text particularly rewarding. - Christian, http://enoughcowbell.com

With his short stories masquerading as songs, John Darnielle-founding member of the Mountain Goats-has crafted a wide range of off-kilter characters. He continues this tradition with Roger, a fifteen-year-old patient in a psychiatric hospital and the protagonist of Darnielle's first book, a loving diary-style exploration of Black Sabbath's Master of Reality, part of Continuum's 33 1/3 series...Inspired by his real-life experiences as a psychiatric nurse (and love of all things metal), Darnielle's literary debut is a fast, addictive read that also tugs on the heartstrings of sensitive Ozzy fans. - Exclaim magazine

The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle Is Good At Writing! People love The Mountain Goats because all their songs contain SAT vocab words and are like little stories. So it's unsurprising that John Darnielle can also work up some music-free compositions, like his contribution to Continuum's 33 1/3 series of books inspired by classic albums, a novel about Black Sabbath's 'Master of Reality.' He also recently wrapped up a stint of guest blogging at Powell's excellent blog, which is worth revisiting if you're curious about his feelings about heavy metal (he likes it! and is very knowledgable about it!). And if you live in New York, you can come to a reading of the Black Sabbath book next Saturday at Housing Works and witness his non-singing talents in person. - MediaBistro's Galleycat

NewPages.com

[T]he focus of Darnielle's fans has always been on his lyrics and the stories contained within them. Now he's stepped off the stage and sat down at is typewriter to deliver Master of Reality, his first novel and a stunning piece of rock criticism and appreciation. Readers are likely to come to Master of Reality from a variety of backgrounds. Some will come as Mountain Goats fans wanting to see Darnielle tackle a novel, others as Black Sabbath fans wanting to read about a favorite album. Some will simply be fans of the cult-popular 33 1/3 series, which has now grown to dozens of books, yet kept its level of quality very high. Hopefully, there will be others who will pick it up as novel first, because it truly is a first-rate story, full of moments that will pluck at your heartstrings as you're brought back to the moment you first fell in love with a piece of music, when an album provided not just the soundtrack to your life but also the meaning behind it. If, by some strange chance, none of this happens, well, you're probably going to at least dust off your old Sabbath vinyl, and there's nothing wrong with that either.
Austin Chronicle - Raoul Hernandez

[Darnielle] straightjackets the essence of Black Sabbath where 40 years of music musings and cultural damnation have failed.
The L Magazine - Thea Brown

Total affection for, and strong identification with, music is a cross-generational experience, and though the motivation behind the 33 1/3 series meshes nicely with a post-Generation X obsession with the minutiae of personal experience, it's also immediately accessible to anyone who's ever written favorite lyrics on her algebra notebook. While nostalgia runs thick in Darnielle's book (the nature of the series essentially demands this), there's a greater point about music and memory to be found in Roger's story. Indulgence in the memory of intense feelings can be strangely comforting, and perhaps even necessary. Or, as Roger puts it: 'It doesn't have to mean that to everybody, and it means more no matter what...
Popmatters.com - Adrien Begrand

Darnielle, singer and songwriter for the much-loved band The Mountain Goats, cuts right to the chase in his short novel, the blunt, direct tone of his adolescent protagonist Richard Painter perfectly encapsulating the enduring appeal of metal's great progenitors. It's all about the Mighty Riff when it comes to Sabbath; everything else is secondary, and while one could easily make a case for at least half a dozen albums that deserve the 33 1/3 treatment, the riffs that define this particular album are, to echo young Roger's sentiment, unfuckwithable.
Idolator

Written keenly and with great generosity.
Pitchfork feature "Our 60 Favorite Music Books"

Darnielle-- who worked as a nurse in a mental hospital and presumably met quite a few smart, lost kids like Roger-- speaks to the soul-damaging aspects of locking up problem teens and offers a piece of music criticism that illuminates the edifying qualities of heavy metal.
PopCandy USA Today

I'd like to give a special shout-out to John Darnielle's book about Black Sabbath's Master of Reality, published as part of Continuum's 33 1/3 series of album-themed books...If you like the band, you'll like this book. If you like intense young-adult takes like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, you'll like this book. No matter what, by the end, you'll be racing to purchase Master of Reality, which is a beautiful thing.
Decibel Magazine

Forget the other 33 1/3s, this belongs next to The Catcher in the Rye.
David Hemingway

Darnielle's novella is not only a touchstone in the series, it is a powerful and potent book in its own right. Utterly compelling.
Tiny Mix Tapes

Just like Black Sabbath throws big rocks at subtlety and Roger's manifesto-journal channels anger towards the mental health establishment, Darnielle's book obliterates the sterility of music criticism. I imagine him reading reviews of his work and building up all of this disdain, deciding finally that he's going to do it better. Ultimately, Master of Reality critiques criticism itself, an institution that encourages us to thrash apart the art of others - without offering any blood of our own.
The New York Times

Master of Reality is no straightforward critical assessment of Black Sabbath's album, a sludgy doom-rock classic. It's fiction that peels thrillingly off into music writing. The book is written from the point of view of a teenage boy in a mental hospital who explains why Black Sabbath and its lead singer, Ozzy Osbourne, meant so much to isolated kids like himself. It's about how rock music can express not only liberating joy but, conversely and perhaps more importantly, also speak to bottomless misery and pain. The book is funny, too. Its narrator observes that you never feel that you might hang out with Robert Plant, the Led Zeppelin singer, at a video arcade. But Mr. Osbourne, "he sounds like the guy who changes your quarters.
New York Magazine - Tayt Harlin

Mountain Goat John Darnielle's off-stage literary proclivities are no secret, which makes us all the more excited for his first novel, a paean to Black Sabbath's Master of Reality. The book is the latest in Continuum's 33 1/3 series ultrasmart series of elegant, pocket-size appreciations of rock albums as diverse as the Beatles' Let it Be and My Bloody Valentine's Loveless. Darnielle unpacks the classic, riff-erific album as a scrabrous series of diary entries written by a teenager in a Southern California mental institution. Those curious to see the budding rock critic off-stage or who are simply bonkers for Sabbath are advised to check out this reading.
Los Angeles Times - Ed Parks

John Darnielle is the single constant behind the group the Mountain Goats and arguably the most rewarding lyricist working today. Taking into account his prolific wordsmithery ("Laugh lines on our faces / scale maps of the ocean floor") and affinity for horror both cinematic and literary ("Heretic Pride," the most recent Mountain Goats album, has song titles naming Fu Manchu creator Sax Rohmer and H.P. Lovecraft), it shouldn't come as a surprise that he'd contribute to Continuum's "33 1/3" series of short books pegged to iconic albums. But "Master of Reality" departs brilliantly from the typical "33 1/3" format, not just by choosing fiction over criticism or recording history, but in its structural gambits and unwavering sense of purpose.
The Big Takeover magazine - James Mann

This is a masterly look at the corrosive emotion of youth, and the invaluable solace that music gives. Read it, even if you'd rather stick knitting needles in your ears than listen to the album in question. Because its about you.
enoughcowbell.com - Christian

This is not the first time Darnielle explores these dark waters. In fact the text is a retelling, if not an extension of "The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton," the first track on the Mountain Goats' 2002 album, All Hail West Texas. As both the text and the song are meditations on the redemptive aspects of heavy metal, the depravity of institutional authority and the refusal to forgive, the reader who is familiar with either Darnielle's musical work or Black Sabbath will find the text particularly rewarding.
Exclaim magazine

With his short stories masquerading as songs, John Darnielle-founding member of the Mountain Goats-has crafted a wide range of off-kilter characters. He continues this tradition with Roger, a fifteen-year-old patient in a psychiatric hospital and the protagonist of Darnielle's first book, a loving diary-style exploration of Black Sabbath's Master of Reality, part of Continuum's 33 1/3 series...Inspired by his real-life experiences as a psychiatric nurse (and love of all things metal), Darnielle's literary debut is a fast, addictive read that also tugs on the heartstrings of sensitive Ozzy fans.
MediaBistro's Galleycat

The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle Is Good At Writing! People love The Mountain Goats because all their songs contain SAT vocab words and are like little stories. So it's unsurprising that John Darnielle can also work up some music-free compositions, like his contribution to Continuum's 33 1/3 series of books inspired by classic albums, a novel about Black Sabbath's 'Master of Reality.' He also recently wrapped up a stint of guest blogging at Powell's excellent blog, which is worth revisiting if you're curious about his feelings about heavy metal (he likes it! and is very knowledgeable about it!). And if you live in New York, you can come to a reading of the Black Sabbath book next Saturday at Housing Works and witness his non-singing talents in person.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780826428998
Publisher:
Bloomsbury Academic
Publication date:
04/15/2008
Series:
33 1/3 Series
Pages:
112
Sales rank:
476,279
Product dimensions:
4.70(w) x 6.40(h) x 0.40(d)

Meet the Author


John Darnielle is the singer and songwriter otherwise known as the Mountain Goats.

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Black Sabbath's Master of Reality 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not a tradional review or take on one in any sense but an interesting one. A confused kid locked in a hospital trying to get his tapes to provide some comfort and explain himslef through the music and words of Black Sabbath
-AJ- More than 1 year ago
I ordered this book from B&N based on people's recs, most notably Mz Whitney Matheson from POP CANDY. I had never heard of the author, or the band he's in. I doubt I'll be checking them out anytime soon.
Anyway, the book is basically a review of Black Sabbath's "Master of Reality" album, but told through the journal of a young patient / inmate? at a mental health facility. I have to admit, I could relate. I'm 40 yrs old, but I still quote lyrics constantly, and I give music, especially METAL, vast significance in my life.
So I did appreciate the premise and basic idea of this book.
In the end however, I was a little disappointed in the execution.
It's interesting and well written, but it's lacking...something.