Chicago’s Indian are presently hauling their blackhearted nihilism across the tarmac of the UK and Europe in support of the Decibel-approved From all Purity. It’s a sick record from disturbed men, maybe more noisy, more off-the-chain than anything they’ve cut to record before, and if your record collection exists primarily to harsh your mellow (which, y’know, is a safe assumption since your browsing habits have landed you here) you’d do well to visit the Relapse store and click the ADD TO CART button. You do the necessary and order From All Purity here.
But while we’ve got Indian safely packed into a van eating up the road miles for the greater glory of blackened sludge-doom-noise-whatever-you-want-to-call-it, we pressed vocalist/guitarist Will Lindsay on the books that keep him sane or thereabouts on the road and this is what he told us.
FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY — Notes from the Underground (1864)
Will Lindsay: “Notes from the Underground was the first book of his that I read. I came across it in the early to mid-90s. The publishing company Dover did these thrift editions, and they were all like classic books that were one to three dollars, and you’d see them everywhere. They’d be at major book stores, used book stores. There was a radical leftist book store in Eugene, Oregon, called Hungry Head, and they had a whole selection of them, too. I kinda just bought it on a whim. It was 99 cents so I figured I couldn’t really go wrong with it. It’s just over a hundred pages, and it’s written in a first-person narrative. It’s divided into two sections: the first section is the narrator weighing out his philosophy, I suppose; and the second half of the book is a scene that takes place with him and a group of people. The whole book is amazing. The first half of the book is what I guess really resonated with me. When you open the book, the first lines—it depends on the translation, and I might be paraphrasing slightly—read, ‘I’m a sick man. I’m an unattractive man.’ It’s just a really powerful opener. One of the driving points of that book is the divine right to act against one’s own self interest.”
GITTA SERENY — Into that Darkness(1974) / Albert Speer: His Battle with the Truth (1995)
Will Lindsay: “My friend Peter Sotos turned me onto Gitta Sereny. There are two books that she wrote that I am really into. I’m really into World War II history, which in one of the first conversations I had with Pete that came up, and he asked me if I had ever read Gitta Sereny. I said I hadn’t—but I saw later that he had referenced her in some of his writings. She was originally Hungarian and grew up in Austria. She was living in Austria at the time of the Anschluss; she was a teenager, and she ended up fleeing to France and being part of the underground resistance there during the Nazi occupation. She finally had to flee France, through Spain and to the US. She went back to Germany right after the war ended and did a lot of work in the immediate post-war in West Germany, finding children that the Nazis had taken, eastern European children that they felt were sufficiently Aryan and put them in German homes. She had to find these children who often would think that they were German as they were brought up that way, take them away in the rare circumstances where she was able to find their real parents and send them back to Poland, Ukraine, or some of the Baltic States.
“She wrote these two incredible books. The first was called Into that Darkness, and she did something like 70 hours of prison interviews with Franz Stangl, who was the commandent of Treblinka. Stangl fled after the war through Italy and through the Vatican to Syria, and then to Brazil, and was arrested and extradited back to West Germany, and got a life sentence for it. She interviewed him in prison and it was all about his early life, his times in the concentration camps. He was also part of the Nazi euthanasia program in 1940/41, and the last interview she did with him was the first and only time in his life that he ever admitted his culpability in his role in the Holocaust. He died 19 hours after the last interview, kinda out of nowhere—he died of a heart attack. I love Germany. It is one of my favorite countries in Europe. I have a lot of friends there and when you travel through it, it is really hard to believe it is only 70 years ago. It is such recent history and it’s really hard to keep it in mind sometimes. I know William Shirer argued that it couldn’t have happened anywhere other than Germany in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich but I don’t agree with that. It’s apples and oranges in a sense, but you look at what people were doing in Stalinist Russia; I mean, people were doing terrible things. Russia under Stalinism was just awful and it couldn’t have happened without the active participation of millions of normal citizens. The other book was a biography of Albert Speer; she lived with him on and off for a number of years—I could go off on that one for a long time, too. They are both very interesting even if you are not into WWII/Holocaust history. It’s worth anybody’s time to seek them out.”
H.L. Mencken — Anything [A Mencken Chrestomathy: His Own Selection of His Choicest Writing available here is a good place to start (1982)]
Will Lindsay: “Most of the stuff I’ve read is collections so maybe with this one I won’t be so book-specific as I am author-specific—H.L. Mencken was an American journalist from Baltimore. He edited a magazine called The American Mercury for a while in the 1920s. He was very contrarian. He never shied away from saying what he had on his mind; he was very straight in his opinions. He caught a lot of grief because he was pro-German during World War I, and he had a really hard time to get him to stray away from his pro-German tendencies, even during World War II. Part of it was an ethnic thing for him; I don’t remember his specific lineage but there was definitely a lot of German in his family history. Most of what I’ve read about him has been in the context of The American Mercury and his writings. I read a biography of him a few years back. He caught a lot of grief; it was the standard accusations people throw around, eg. he wasn’t patriotic, he wasn’t this or that. Part of his thing was that he wasn’t the biggest fan of democracy to begin with. I think that he viewed democracy as a failed experiment. But he was contrarian on a lot of other things, too, I mean his critics at the time would have had plenty of ammunition. He covered the Scopes “Monkey” Trial; he thought the whole thing was absurd—it was absurd. I wouldn’t say he was an agent provocateur, just ‘cos the insinuation that he was some ulterior motives; he was just a contrarian, and he didn’t shy away from expressing an unpopular opinion.”
MARQUIS DE SADE — Justine, or The Misfortune of Virtue (1791)
Will Lindsay: “I’m reading this one right now. I’m not even all the way through it but I can’t believe I have never read it before. These two girls are orphaned and one of them, Justine, is a most pious, pure religious girl, and her sister, Juliette . . . Her sister Juliette just isn’t. We’ll say that. They go their separate ways and Juliette becomes a prostitute, steals when it is convenient to her, when it’s going to be of benefit to her. She lies and has a wonderful, prosperous life. She does really well for herself. Justine is pious and pure and just suffers one misfortune after the next. The premise of the book—and I’ve only gotten through the first section of it—I mean, the title just kinda sums it up, The Misfortune of Virtue. She falls into all these unfortunate situations where she’s raped, where people are trying to force her to commit murder. But in between all the violence in the story she is trying to argue with her assailants. At least for me and my interpretation of the book; the violence is really an aside, that it’s debating the merits of virtue and where virtue is going to get you. Part of De Sade’s whole thing was that virtue and piety was a weakness. He certainly had a low opinion of religion. I just recently read 120 Days of Sodom too. It was a great book but I am enjoying Justine even more. He wrote 120 Days of Sodom when he was locked up in the Bastille, and basically what little I know of him we are talking graphic sexuality, and I think he was probably writing something more to jerk off to while he was in prison. There is certainly more too it than just that, but . . . It’s interesting. He smuggled some of that out but he also hid some of it in the Bastille. It wasn’t discovered until after he died. He went to his grave thinking it was lost forever. He had to publish Justine anonymously, and even denied that he was the author.”
James O. Long and Thomas E. Gaddis — Panzram: A Journal of Murder (2002)
Will Lindsay: “All five of these books, I’m not sure if they are the most influential books in my life but they were the first ones that came to mind, I guess, so clearly they must have had some sort of impact. I can’t remember the author’s name off the top of my head but it’s a book called Panzram. It is about an American serial killer who was born in the late 1800s, in Minnesota, and one of the things I found really amazing about the book was that Carl Panzram had no real friends, or anything like that. He didn’t make a friend until near the end of his life, and it was one of his prison guards. He wrote out his life story and gave all the sheets to this prison guard to smuggle out. This would have been in the late 1920s or early ‘30s. It was right around when the American Stock Market crashed. This book is interspersed with his own personal writings, and he goes all the way from his life up until the last jail sentence he did where he ended up being executed. He talks a little bit about his philosophy, and also has his letters that he sent to this guard, which are more or less the only letters that he sent aside from maybe working on subscriptions: when he got the death penalty, which he wanted, he discovered that there was an anti-death penalty group in America that was petitioning to have his sentence commuted to life in prison and he wrote just the most violent, brutal letter to them, protesting that they would not interfere and that he would get the sentence that he wanted. He wrote a letter to the President asking the same thing. He didn’t want any clemency. He was just incredibly violent, lacked any kind of morals.”
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