Ville Valo’s Reading Room

HIM in 2003, with frontman Ville Valo at center.
(Photo credit: Joonas Brandt.)

HIM frontman Ville Valo is a fan of melancholic literature and poetry — they certainly inform his lyrical sensibilities — and has many of his writing heroes tattooed on his body including authors Charles Bukowski and Edgar Allan Poe and poet Charles Baudelaire. But when one thinks of iconic literary figures like Poe or H.P. Lovecraft, obvious stories or books come to mind. But what is the best way to get deeper into their work? I asked Valo recently if he had a basic reading list or certain titles of his beloved writers that he would recommend for first-time readers.

“Baudelaire and Rimbaud are fairly easy in a way, but they’re usually collections of poems,” explained the singer. “If you want to read Baudelaire, you can get Flowers of Evil everywhere. It’s about poetry, and poetry can be five lines that could change your world or the way you see the world, as opposed to prose. It’s a different thing. With some authors like H.P. Lovecraft — who I’ve always adored, I’m a huge fan of his stuff — I think it’s better to read a lot of his stuff to get the overall vibe as opposed to just concentrating on one story. It depends on the way of writing and on the artist.”

A portrait of poet Charles Baudelaire circa 1862.

Is there any one book of Baudelaire that that he would recommend? “I’m not sure how they were released originally because with poets it’s more about compilations, so in that sense it would be about the Flowers of Evil,” replied Valo. “But also if you want to get into poetry, just get some collections of classic poems. Through that, you can start to realize what you’re gravitating towards and touch on language you like. If you read a bit of Baudelaire and move on to reading Women by Bukowski, I think that the contrast is really interesting, to be headed in this turn of the century French vibe and all of a sudden you’re in this totally different mindset, as opposed to reading just one kind of thing or listening to one type of music. It’s good to watch comedies and then watch the horror because then the horror feels way more guttural and deeper.”

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