The Dostoyevski of Rock

In Memoriam: Lou Reed, October 27, 2013

Lou Reed saw rock music as dark literature.

“Let’s take Crime and Punishment,” he once said, “and turn it into a rock and roll song.”

His heroes were writers — Dostoyevsky, Edgar Allan Poe, William S. Burroughs and Hubert Selby Jr., who wrote the explosive 1964 novel Last Exit to Brooklyn, about drug use, gang rape, homosexuality and domestic violence.

Lou Reed’s dark world
Lou Reed, in characteristic black, with pistol.

The book was the subject of an obscenity trial in the United Kingdom and was banned in Italy. The British jury trial lasted nine days and ended with a guilty verdict. The verdict was reversed later, but by then the novel had sold more than 500,000 copies in the United States.


Lou Reed was born in Brooklyn and knew whereof Selby wrote. He was sent to a psychiatric hospital for electro-convulsive therapy in an attempt to cure him of a general hostility to his parents and what they believed to be homosexual instincts.

After leaving the band in 1970 Lou Reed released 20 solo albums.


Unlike musicians like Jimi Hendrix, Lou Reed’s approach to rendering the music was described as “bare-bones.”

“One chord is fine,” he said. “Two chords are pushing it. Three chords and you’re into jazz.”

A dark outlook overshadowed his life, as expressed in the black garb he and his Velvet Underground band members always wore, which was characterized as a “rejection of love-and-peace attitudes.”

Lou Reed’s dark world
Laurie Anderson was his companion for the last 20 years of his life.


Lou Reed finally found love and peace in the 20-year relationship he had with his third wife, composer Laurie Anderson. She was with him when he died of liver disease.

Laurie said his last days were peaceful, and described him as a “prince and a fighter.”

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Book on alienation still an ‘Angry Young Man’ classic

Written by a 24-year-old Englishman in the Reading Room of the British Museum while he was living in a sleeping bag on London’s Hampstead Heath.

Remembering Colin Wilson

Died on this day, December 5, 2013, in Cornwall. He was 82.

’The Outsider’ has been translated into more than thirty languages, including Russian and Chinese. It has never been out of print since being published on May 28, 1956.

The book sold 20,000 copies in the first two months, immediately securing Wilson’s position amongst the “Angry Young Men” of British literature, alongside the likes of Kingsley Amis and John Osborne.

“It seemed to me at the time,” Wilson said on the 50th anniversary of its publication,  “one of the most important books ever written, and fifty years later it still seems one of the most important books I’ve ever written.”

Wilson analyses the works and lives of various authors and artists, including Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Ernest Hemingway, H.G. Wells, Franz Kafka, T.S. Eliot, Hermann Hesse, Rainer Rilke, T.E. Lawrence, and Vincent Van Gogh.

”It struck me,” Wilson wrote in his notebook two years before he wrote the book, “that I was in the position of so many of my favourite characters in fiction: Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov, Camus’ Meursault, Rilke’s Malte Laurids Brigge — alone in my room, feeling totally cut off from the rest of society. It was not a position I relished. Yet an inner compulsion had forced me into this position of isolation. I began writing about it in my journal. And then, quite suddenly, I saw that I had the makings of a book. I turned to the back of my journal and wrote at the head of the page: ‘Notes for a book The Outsider in Literature’…”

Following the immediate success of ‘The Outsider,’ Wilson wrote more than 150 books in a variety of genres — serial killers, alien abductions, criminology and the occult. His science fiction novels such as ‘The Spider World’ trilogy and ’The Space Vampires’ gave him a loyal cult following.

But he never achieved the same success as he did with ‘The Outsider’ and literary critics never let him forget it. Wilson often spoke of “the tremendous backlash, and the attacks on me which I found pretty hard going.”