on music, drinking, and John Darnielle’s novel Master of Reality. You can read it now even if you don’t subscribe:
I read John Darnielle’s 2011 novel Master of Reality under the unfamiliar constellations of Australia—which was fitting, since the slender book is about being both physically and spiritually far from home. Master of Reality is an entry in Continuum’s “33 1/3” series of books about pop or rock albums. (The other books in the series tend to be straightforward critical studies.) I’ve never listened to Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality, but Darnielle’s diary of a 1980s teenager locked in a residential psychiatric treatment facility, pleading with his counselor to get his Walkman and Black Sabbath tapes back, captured some of the deeper and darker currents in my own relationship to music.
Darnielle is the man behind the Mountain Goats, an indie band I stumbled across in 2010. I fell for them hard and fast, and for about two years I listened to them constantly. Then I quit drinking. Since January 2012 I’ve only listened to Darnielle’s music twice, right around Holy Week, always with a faint shudder of longing and fear. I have to be careful about opening the door in my head that leads backward in time.