January 17th, 2012


Book Review: Lizzie Stark - Leaving Mundania

(Note: This book review is a slightly audience-profiled version of the one I wrote for Amazon. That one will be posted there when the book is out.)

In her book Leaving Mundania: Inside the Transformative World of Live Action Role Playing Games, American journalist Lizzie Stark describes her experiences with larping. As fits her profession, the style consists mostly of reported experiences and long human-interest anecdotes, such as the life stories of some gamers and descriptions of events. It's like reading a lighter version of the Knutepunkt books - the key concepts are basically all presented, just in layman-friendly terms and with few yet enough references: historical precedents, artistic aspirations, escapism, education, economy, prejudices, connections with siblings like re-enactment, and so forth. (I found especially the sections on re-enactment, military excercises and business role-play to be solid gold.)

The start may seem somewhat off-putting to more artsy Nordic larpers, as the games described are escapism-heavy, and so appear many people playing them. But once past the initial shock, their commitment to the illusion of play starts shining through. Not only is the book an excellent foray into North-American larp (and elsewhere), it is also an intriguing bit of Americana, a testament to how people can easily adapt to strange roles, yet still remain very conservative. That, in its good and bad, is something supposedly rather alien to the typical Nordic larper mindset, but I do see in it a reflection, in that the typical Nordic larper is just as fixated - towards a leftist, queernormative approach with strong artistic aspirations on his or her hobby.

So in addition to being an extremely enjoyable read, a good document and a nice reference even for academics, Leaving Mundania deals with issues far more complex than they initially seem. It records the silly along with the very serious, and discusses the differences between the two with a clever tone. It is the most descriptive, all-encompassing book about larp and larpers on the market, and highly recommendable to anyone interested in the subject.

Leaving Mundania gets the full five stars from me.
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