Some personal likes

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Books

I like reading. For some reason, many of my favourite writers are either dead or very old. My favourite Flemish writer is Willem Elsschot, who lived and wrote in the first part of the 20th century. One of his books, Villa des Roses, has been translated in English and is still available. not his best I think, but still very good. Other writers in Dutch I like are Willem Frederik Hermans and Remco Campert, but I’m not aware of English translations.

With respect to writers in English, I like Rachel Cusk (Outline is one of the best books of recent years), Graham Greene (especially The Human Factor and The Quiet American), William Somerset Maugham, Richard Yates (Revolutionary Road), Douglas Coupland,  Teju Cole, the early work of Paul Auster (The Invention of Solitude), and the future Nobel price winner Kazuo Ishiguro (When We Were Orphans is one of my all time favorite books). I’m not a big fan science-fiction, but  Ubik by the brilliant Philip K. Dick really blew me away.

Other writers I like are Elias Canetti, Mario Vargas Llosa, W.G. Sebald, Patrick Modiano, Georges Simenon and Michel Houellebecq, as well as Norwegians Karl Ove Knausgaard and Dag Solstad.

Music

I generally like pop and rock music, my favourites being Serge Gainsbourg, Kraftwerk and Neil Young (especially when he’s loud). The music of Serge Gainsbourg is absolutely brilliant, I never get tired of listening to it. His best album is Histoire de Melody Nelson, but the jazzy music he made in the beginning of his career is also great. He made some brilliant music with female singers, such as France GallMichèle Arnaud and Françoise Hardy. If you would put a gun to my head to make me choose one Gainsbourg song, it’s probably going to be Requiem Pour Un Con. This song was issued in 1968, but it still sounds fantastic. Below you can see me in front of Serge Gainsbourg’s house in Paris (in case you would like to see the house yourself: it’s in the rue de Verneuil, very close to the Musée d’Orsay).

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But there’s lots of other music I love: Beck, Eels, Randy Newman, Hüsker Dü, Joe Jackson, The Beach Boys, James Brown, The B52’s, Django Reinhardt, The Chrome Cranks, LCD Sound System, JJ Cale, Johnny Cash, Magnus, etc. Even Madonna made some brilliant music.

And how can one not be charmed by the enthousiasm with which Seasick Steve still plays his music? I think it must be a lot of fun being Seasick Steve.

The last songs that really blew me away were Hold On by the Alabama Shakes and Twined and Twisted by Valerie June.

Film

I have to confess that my favourite movie is not a well respected masterpiece such as Citizen Kane, or 2001: A Space Odessey (can you watch that movie without getting bored to death? honestly?), but a comedy: The Big Lebowski by the Coen brothers. It’s one of those rare movies that I can watch over and over again, without ever getting tired of. Brilliant acting by Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, John Turturro and Steve Buscemi.

I also like some “serious” movies though. I’m a fan of the Ingmar Bergman movie Persona: how more serious than that can you get?

Some other favourite movies include Apocalypse Now, The Godfather, Goodfellas, Donnie Darko, Point Blank (the one with Lee Marvin, not the remake with Mel Gibson which fortunately I haven’t seen) and Touch of Evil. Eternal Sunshine of The Mind appeals to my romantic side. In recent years I only got to the cinema to watch animation movies with my children. The best animation movie I know is Toy Story 2: a rare example of a sequel being even better than the original movie.

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