Book Review: Skive

Today I am going to take a break from writing about my oh so thrilling life to review a book that is rapidly becoming one of my favourite reads.

A brief introduction from my first impressions:

I like this book because I think it has astutely picked up on many life gripes and constricting societal conventions that many people can relate to, voicing thoughts that many of us have but cannot say aloud without consequence. In addition to the overall themes that resonate throughout the narrative, there is often comedic relief to some of the darker scenes and a dry wit that is consistent in the narrator, and often induces laugh out loud moments- perfectly balancing this novel as a dark comedy.

Hopefully this has intrigued you enough to stop reading this blog post and immediately download Skive from the amazon kindle store, if not, let’s see if I can adequately entice you further with my review.

Book: Skive

Author: Paul Adam Levy

Where to buy it: Amazon Kindle Store If you don’t have a kindle, you can download the app to your mac or tablet device – IOS and android– So really you have no excuse as to why you can’t buy it- ‘I like a book in my hands’ is a crappy reason not to read a good book.

So back to the review. Where to start. Well I guess an overview of the narrative would be a good place to begin. I say plenty below, let’s give you the blurb as a further enticement seeing as I doubt any of you have yet clicked the amazon link… Am I right?

Skive is a black comedy that introduces a dysfunctional man who, disillusioned with his boring, hum drum life working in a supermarket, is thrown into panic when an unexpected opportunity is offered to him. Suddenly, he feels trapped in a life he wishes to escape. 

A snap decision to flee from the routine and boredom finds him on an unplanned, ill-thought through journey on the streets of London, searching for an elusive dream. He observes with wit and cynicism a way of life he never could have imagined.

So here’s my review, but mostly my analysis, which you may very well disagree with, but you’ll have to read the book to do so.

Skive follows a male protagonist who is clearly not much of a people person, but is very funny in his observations of others and humanity as a whole. I think one of the things I quite like about this book are the many candid observations of characters that everyone makes in day to day life, the stereotypes, the ‘sheep’ nature that every human being defaults to just to fit in within society. And this is how the protagonist both fights against and completely submits/defines himself by these expectations. But I’ve gotten ahead of myself again, you need more context.

The story starts by following the protagonist to his menial, very repetitive job at a supermarket. I hate to say it but most of us have been there or are there doing the kind of job that can drive anyone crazy. This is addressed very nicely in the motif of pears.

“I stacked pears on top of pears, pears under pears and pears next to pears.”

I think this is one of the things that resonates beautifully throughout the book, the pointlessness of such a job can be applied to life, life is pointless, we do these jobs, we stack our pears, we come home, we sleep, we stack some more pears, all for money to chase a dream, a lifestyle, an expectation, until we eventually die. A little bleak yes, a tad existentialist, probably, but truthful? Absolutely.

So early on in the narrative, our protagonist has a moment that anyone living in ignorant bliss of life would be thrilled to have, but for the protagonist it is a step too far and something snaps, his patience has run out, his “black eels” take control and he quits his job (the spark plug of the moment). This is just the start of a series events that lead to our protagonist roaming the streets of London surviving as a homeless man.

The “black eels’ motif runs throughout as an excellent visualisation of what I think most people quite often feel. The moments when something inside you rebels against external forces, whether a boss shouting at you, or a job you don’t want to do becoming too much, or simply the guy you sit next pissing you off. I think we all spend a decent amount of time suppressing our black eels, some more than others. Those lucky enough to not really know what I’m talking about are probably euphorically happy, never get angry or do anything wrong- you can pat yourself on the back you’ve achieved Sainthood. The ones who let their eels take control are probably borderline, if not totally insane, which is another theme that we follow throughout this protagonist’s journey. While he tries to control his “black eels”, he is constantly teetering on the line between sane and insane, add a little dehydration and starvation to the mix and it often feels like he’s slipped more into the insane side of the pool.

And while this seems like a very dark and depressing story, it is weirdly upbeat and highly amusing. The protagonist has dry humour through his candid observations and often says the things that we all think but do not say aloud. There are scenes of comical genius, my personal favourite is one that takes place on the tube. As a London commuter, I could both relate to it and wish I had the balls to do the same. The same as what you ask? You’ll have to read it to find out.

While our ‘hero’ of the story is ‘driven’ to this state of living, or what he perceives as his only choice of living through self-punishment, shame, and societal pressures and constructs of right and wrong, you don’t ever feel that he has found the freedom that he craved, the answers that he sought. Each event, scene, moment just demonstrates that really when you leave one way of living, you only swap it for another with different rules, constrictions, oppressions, and judgements. Essentially, I think, what he is trying to escape is not society and its structures, but the confinements of life. We’re born, we eat, we sleep, we work, we die. On the streets, there is no relief from that. Just little comforts, a different kind of work, and a different sense of the ‘self’ as someone rejected by society.

His journey is a unique one, and a circular one at that, but what I enjoyed about this book is the way that it looks at the world, at people- it takes you into a different perspective, a very witty perspective, a dark perspective, an unusual perspective of how to view life. This book, for me, is very reminiscent of some of my favourite post-war writers such as Patrick Hamilton, George Orwell and Earnest Hemingway, all exemplifying disjointedness, isolation and disillusionment in a world that makes very little sense to most of us who stop to look at it, trying to find rhyme and reason outside of the daily grind.

Maybe I just have quite a cynical outlook on life and you are all sitting there thinking, “what is she on about ‘black eels’, I don’t have black eels”. Well, you are probably a better person than me, and I am talking universally about my own life experience, but I’m then again, I’m pretty sure you would have had to have reached saint status and have lived under a rock to not relate to at least some themes/ideas covered in this book.

I guess that wasn’t your traditional book review and I have probably bored you all to death with an analysis on life- who cares? Well, you should care, but more importantly, you should enjoy everything this book has to offer. Whether you read between the lines, or read at face value, Skive is thoroughly entertaining and incredibly engaging. And the more I harp on about it, the more it is gaining favourite book status, and that’s very high praise indeed, but maybe that’s just me.


Image by Joao Curiti

Boom 2012 | A Spiritual Awakening

Festivals have never really appealed to me, camping in a sludgy and muddy field with disgusting toilets and no decent shower is not really my cup of tea. My music knowledge also happens to suck, which may have been another contributing factor to my lack of excitement for festivals. My boyfriend, however, is a big festival-goer and has, ahem, quite a different music taste to me (mostly music with quite a lot of loud bass). That said, he is slowly widening my music tastes, and after telling me about Boom, and then looking at their website, I could not miss the opportunity to go to such an awesome festival, despite being completely musically dense. And it was probably one of the best experiences I’ve had in my relatively short life. The festival is held in Idanha-a-Nova, Portugal (an immediate bonus- no mud) and lasts an entire week, unlike the popular British festivals that cost £200 for two days. Boom costs around £150 including the Boom bus round trip from the airport to the festival site. Cost effective, no mud, and to top it off the toilets and showers were pretty damn decent – the toilets were all composting toilets, and although gross sounding in theory, they are a million times better than portaloos you get at standard festivals, and they were cleaned regularly which is always a bonus. All of these positive factors are just the surface attractions to buy a ticket, but once you’re there, the essence of the festival is everything. If I was to describe Boom in one word it would definitely be hippy. The ideals, the basis of its foundation is around love, nature, and even a bit of a spiritual awakening.

The Boom Vision: “Boom is based on the principles of peace, celebration, psychedelic culture, art, environment, knowledge, education, and love. The idea is to create a space in this time continuum in which people from across the world can converge to experience an alternative reality – thus inspiring us to collectively channel the universal truth.

Clearly not everyone who goes to Boom is a hippy, but there is a vibe, an unspoken respect for everyone and everything around you, there are no fights, no vandalism, everyone is friendly, chatty and wants everyone else to have a good time. Boom brings people from across the world together in this one festival to collectively celebrate music, art, the environment and psychedelic culture, respecting each other and uniting for the purpose of fully immersing in the spirit of Boom. This may sound very wishy washy spiritual hippy crap, at least I thought so when Jermaine described Boom to me, and I didn’t think I would feel the same connection as he had, but once you are there, the atmosphere is like nothing I’ve felt before. From such a large collection of people, a feeling of unity and love in this microcosmic festival world shows us a glimpse of what the world should be, instead of the harsh, suspicious, unkind and unloving cutthroat world we actually live in.

Moving away from the spiritual effect of Boom, the site itself is incredible, and huge. There was almost a half-hour walk from one end of the site to the other, with various different dance tents in between. The campsite area was basically up a hill/mountain, which makes for some very uncomfortable nights’ sleep, but after a week you do adjust! Next to the campsite was the food court with various different food stalls, most of which had insanely good food. On the other side of the food court was the liminal village, which held workshops, presentations, interactive talks, discussion panels, and films that ran right through the night.

Further along was the Alchemy Circle:

This dance tent played some bassy music and was pretty good to listen to, however, I cannot tell you what type of music it played… I just know it was non- bone vibrating bass (the best kind in my opinion).

A little bit further up was the Ambient Source tent:

This was my favourite area as it was really chilled and had relaxing music. There were also some trees surrounding the area so it was a great place to escape the almost unbearable heat, especially as there were speakers in the trees. Behind the Ambient Source area and leading up to the next dance tent was the flea market. Although not a flea market in the traditional sense of the word, this place was awesome. Selling all things hippy, punk, psychedelic, and much more, the market was a good place for the little things you needed, and for me in particular, the perfect place to pick up some hippy clothing for a bit cheaper than Camden.

The next tent along was the Dance Temple:

This was the main dance tent, which blasted Psytrance almost non-stop. I learnt many things while at boom, one of which is that I quite thoroughly dislike Psytrance.

That aside, the Dance Temple tent design was my favourite of all the tents.

The next little stop was at the Gamelatron:

This can only be described as a self chiming music machine. With cymbals and chimes, this self-running device made beautiful tunes that you could sit and listen to all day.

The final section of the site was Sacred Fire:

With a sacred fire to gather around, and world music to dance to, this part of Boom seemed to have stepped out of  Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream, especially at night when it was lit up, it looked very much like a fairyland, and thus nicknamed by our group.

At night the entire Boom site transformed, places you visited during the day looked completely different at night, lights emerged from everywhere, there were even spots that were barely registered in the daylight, which suddenly became an exciting crook to explore. Boom became an adult’s playground, and a damn good one at that.

Aside from the music, Boom had an art gallery and across the week had various art performances, with a few hours on one of the nights dedicated to a range of performance acts from across the globe. Some of the acts were a little too avant-garde artiste for my taste but there was one group, Up-Coming Collective Bristol-Toulouse, that were incredible and have inspired me to try and learn how they do their tricks, which, from what I can tell, are circus based.

Another feature that I loved about Boom was the amount of people who were involved with poi, hula-hoops, juggling, and various other circus instruments and skills, there was so much talent and it all looked incredible.

The best performance that I saw involved fire, and lots of it. Luckily, we happened to be walking by when this fire performance started, and it was INSANE. The dance/fire performance was split into various little sections that used fire in different ways. The dancers had long fire sticks attached to each finger and fire headdresses, the ground was set alight creating pathways within their circle, and my favourite section was an incredible performance with fire poi.

For my first festival, I really don’t think I could have started with a better one; it was an incredible introduction to festivalling. On the flip side, it means that nothing is ever going to come up to scratch next to Boom and will probably always be a little disappointing, but in all honesty I’m not that bothered, I would not change my first festival experience for any other and I do feel pretty blessed to have had the opportunity to experience something as incredible as Boom.

All the images have been taken from the Boom Official Facebook page.