Tzum | Review: Fons Dellen – The art, the girl, the city

Half past one, half past one, half past three, half past one!

The art the girl the city by Fons Dellen is a rock & roll novel. And they are hardly written in Holland. In England and America it is a separate genre. Here? hmm.

What exists is Denvis by Leon Verdonschot. Subtitle: a rock novel. Oh yeah? Leon Verdonschot is the opposite of rock & roll, namely Leon Verdonschot, so he can not write a rock novel at all. Just read: ‘Dennis became Denvis, rocker. He wanted to sniff all his life. Get out of Mierlo, the mavo village. To Australia, to live there as a street musician. To Spain, to sell travel there to tourists. To Thailand, to start a bar there. ‘ Again someone who wants to soak up the full life. This is a bourgeois man’s rock and roll dream.

In Dutch literature and reading, it is not enough when it comes to rock & roll and pop music. There are many books by former journalists (especially from Musikavisen Oor, giving them all the same semi-amateurish tone) about their adventures in rock country, full of anecdotes about artists and, if things go wrong, personal reflections on pop music. Then you have the lazy journalists who just bundle their pieces together and produce a book. These publications are always annoying unless the author’s name is Jip Golsteijn. And there are a few biographies: Jan Eilander about Herman Brood, Rutger Vahl about Wally Tax and Jeroen Wielaert about Harry Muskee. There is still a lot to do in that area.

A writer must be rock & roll to be able to produce a rock & roll novel. Readers who are familiar with the subject will immediately notice if someone is just messing around on the basis of a little research. AFTh. van der Heijden on the movement of squats in the eighties? False! One notices that he is writing from the outside. The lyrics of Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer? False! They’re just poems in disguise (and also bad). Huub van der Lubbes poems? False! They are just texts in disguise (and also bad).

Fons Dellen, he is rock & roll. From sentence 1 you notice that he knows what he is talking about; the music and art scene of the eighties, the drugs, Morrissey, squats, the barbarella snack bar – everything is right. A book opens with a quote from Joy Division (Aand she expressed herself in many different ways / Until she lost control again), still does not work for me.

Art girl cityDell’s second novel, keeps the momentum going from the start.

With a good bit of petrol, he sent the Opel into the First Van Swinden. Johnny Thunders’ guitar growled menacingly along with the engine. Tom enjoyed the mix and fumbled for the volume button without paying attention for a moment. It was not more than a split second, but more than enough for the car to land on the wrong side of the road and drive directly towards an oncoming car. What followed happened in slow motion: the braking, the desperate jerk of the steering wheel, and finally the dull thump of the car crashing into oncoming traffic.

The boring blow has big consequences and you want to know it. Then read on to the last page. Dellen has come up with a good plot with a nice twist at the end. On that skeleton he hangs a beautiful – unfortunately I must use the word – time picture. In the squatted pencil factory you can easily recognize a breeding ground, as there were so many back then, where annoying people made boring things that had to go to art. At the other end of this spectrum is Modern (‘monthly magazine for music, fashion and art today’) to which one of the main characters in Art girl city working. Modern is inspired by vinyl, a 1980s magazine that Dellen wrote for back then. Here, too, the details are perfectly portrayed, ranging from the name fall (‘That David Sylvian, in Amsterdam to promote the new album from Japan, maybe, just maybe, would show up soon’) to the faint bullshit under the drinks sheet. “Jesus, never seen such a lot of posing and wannabes all together,” Mink judged.

Johnny Thunders, guitarist from the New York Dolls and captain of The Heartbreakers, shows up during artist Jessica’s trip to New York. Jazz major Hans Dulfer figures as a used car salesman – a profession he has practiced for years. And the helmets (singer Joris Pelgrom and the now deceased master guitarist Pieter Kooijman) finally get the honor they deserve.

In front of his door, he once again admired the Rolex. At the sight of time, he came to mind the chorus of one of the best punk songs ever.
Half past one, half past one, half past three, half past one!
Half past one, half past three, half past three, half past three.
The helmets!

Delicious all together.

Is there nothing to say at all? Of course it is. During an interview recently, Fons Dellen told that he likes being together in his work. It usually works very well in this book. However, I doubt the 3-year timelapse – we jump from 1982 to 1985. Questions remain unanswered and things have happened that I would have liked to have seen worked out. I have nothing more to say to that Art girl city† There’s only one thing left for me: fast to the bookstore Real friendsFons Dell’s first novel, purchased. I want more

Ralph Schippers

Fons Dellen – Art girl city† Nijgh & Van Ditmar, Amsterdam. 240 pages € 20.99.

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