New Music
10.09.2010, Words by Charlie Jones

10 book recommendations from Zola Jesus

Midwestern operatically trained 21-year-old singer Nika Rosa Danilova performs under the name Zola Jesus. You should totally get a hold of her record, ‘Stridulum II’ [reviewed here ], it’s really exciting how she takes the tones of industrial music and puts them in the context of this massive, widescreen but totally heartwrenching pop. She performed with Fever Ray interviewed here on her short European tour, and also plays with a band called Former Ghosts.

1. ‘Ubik’ – Philip K. Dick
Hard to choose a favourite of PKD, but Ubik stands out. The worlds he creates in his stories are so exquisitely detailed, it’s hard to believe they don’t really exist.

2. ‘Candide’ – Voltaire
Everything you need to know about life is covered in Candide. Happiness, love, loyalty, truthfulness, and most of all, humility. We must cultivate our garden.

3. ‘Gargoyles’ – Thomas Bernhard
Bernhard’s wit and outward misanthropy are charming and disillusioning, but in Gargoyles he somehow manages to make you both fascinated and disgusted by humans… keeping a smile all throughout.

4. ‘The Idiot’ – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Another tough choice to pick my favourite Dostoyevsky work. The Idiot captivates me from the first page. Dostoyevsky’s knack for storytelling sucks you right in.

5. ‘Fathers and Sons’ – Ivan Turgenev
My favourite writers say what we’re all thinking, and then some. Turgenev does this best (though I have to argue Bernhard comes close.) “Fathers and Sons” is an ever-affirming testament to the tumultuous relationship between child and parent. He offers great juxtaposition between the modern and the old world, with the latter being jilted by the imminence of change in a post-industrial world.

6. ‘Collected short stories’ – Nikolai Gogol
Gogol is mad. I have so much fun reading his short stories, I only wish he had more. He is completely insane and is not afraid to let the madness shine through.

7. ‘Story of the Eye’ – Georges Bataille
Bataille’s work, much like Sacher-Masoch and de Sade, deal with sexuality in such a way that is evidently provocative and obscene, but so poetic and beautiful that it hardly counts as offensive literature.

8. ‘Venus In Furs’ – Leopold von Sacher-Masoch
Simply stated: Venus in Furs is about a man who finds sexual gratification through being dominated and subjugated by women. The story plays a vital role in the development of Masochism (hence the authors last name).

9. ’120 Days In Sodom’ – Marquis de Sade
120 Days of Sodom, just like the previous two books in the list, is a book that is highly controversial for its extreme content, but without it I fear where we’d be as a civilized people. It takes someone like de Sade (who was a man who practiced what he’d preach, so to speak) to create a dialogue for sexuality in literature. Not only does the book focus on three men’s keeping of slaves in a castle, but it is also a very much political and philosophical platform for de Sade’s convictions, not to mention the most poetic piece of literature I’ve ever read.

10. ‘Society of the Spectacle’ – Guy Debord
Debord’s manifesto on Situationism was delivered through Society of the Spectacle, a brilliant piece of writing which outlines basically everything he believe to be important to the cause of the Situationist International. His keen eye on the effect of media in society was wise beyond his time; and his offered solutions are radical, yet provoking.

Souterrain Transmissions released Zola Jesus’ ‘Stridulum II’ on the 23rd August.


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