Monday, 21 March 2011

twelve.

Night Waking by Sarah Moss (2011)

Anna is spending the summer on an uninhabited island in Scotland with her husband, Giles, and their two children, Raph, 8, and Moth, a toddler. While Giles is out counting the decline of the sea bird population, Anna is left to take care of the children, while trying to write her already delayed book. Anna is a history fellow at Oxford and is not used to spending most of the day taking care of her children. While planting apple trees one day, Raph discovers a baby skeleton in the ground.

When the police believes that the baby has been buried in recent times, Anna starts reading up on the island's history. Giles' family has owned the island for centuries, is the baby related to Giles? The history of the island is really bleak and tragic, the people lived off sea birds and eggs, and most babies died of tetanus just after birth in the 1800s.

I loved this book as much as I loved Cold Earth, but I'm glad this wasn't as scary. It did certainly have its scary moments as Anna and the children feel the presence of something in the house. But what freaked me out more was that I chose (unconsciously) to read this book just after reading about St Kilda (see last post), which is the inspiration behind this book.

And finally, this book is a great contraceptive.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

eleven: the most beautiful and amazing book

Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty islands I have not visited and never will
by Judith Schalansky (2009)

ten.

Heimdal, California by John Erik Riley (2011)

What is this monster of a book really about? It is about the famous chef, by Norwegian standard, Balder Mehamn, who has a meltdown live on camera. He locks himself up in his apartment with a herd of journalists waiting outside. There he starts writing down his thoughts, trying to reconnect with himself. Because Balder Mehamn has not always been Balder Mehamn.

I said monster of a book because the main story is on 750 pages, and then there's a hundred or so pages with footnotes. The footnotes are relevant and not relevant for the story. I skipped a lot of them as I have no interest in Star Wars and the like. And some of them were really unnecessary and made flipping the pages back and forth such a hassle.

My favourite part of the book is the letters from Cordelia, Balder's ex. Cordelia is heartbroken and angry and eventually ends up in Heimdal, California where Balder grew up. Her letters are also filled with pictures and looking at the pictures this book feels more like an art project than a book.

The book is written in both Norwegian and English which was perfect for my bilingual brain. But I can see how it will make some people give up this book. Will this book ever be translated to other languages? If so, how would that be? were some of the questions that popped into my mind while reading this book. This book is filled with references to popular culture, websites and other things that readers in 2011 will instantly recognise (at least some of them, I was proud of myself recognising the Of Montreal lyrics), but how will it be to read this book in twenty years?

It was a long (took me over a month to finish it) and fascinating book and all honour to Riley for writing such a challenging book.

Monday, 14 March 2011

nine.

Miss Chopsticks by Xinran (2007)


"In my village, girls are called "chopsticks" and boys "roof-beams". They all say that girls are no good because a chopstick can't support a roof."
Three runs away from her family when they want to marry her to someone she doesn't love. She comes from the countryside to Nanjing, where the good people under the Willow Tree finds her a job in a restaurant based on her skills in decoration. When her parents see the money she is earning, they send along her younger sisters, Five (who never went to school and is considered as the dumbest of the sisters) and Six (who is the only girl in the village to have finished middle school) and they also have great success with finding work in the big city.

The novel follows the sisters while they settle with their different jobs. Six is my favourite sister, but I also loved Five for her courage and teaching herself ways of learning the things she needs when she is illiterate. Six works in a tea house with plenty of books where many foreigners choose to study. The tea house has a guest book where the guests often write jokes and the jokes definitely made me laugh. I never felt that I really got to know Three, although she is the first one you get to know.

The novel is not just about the three sisters finding their way in Nanjing, but also gives an excellent insight in the complex modern China. Modern life meets ancient traditions, proverbs and superstitions. One could also peak into the secret life of the Chinese who do not completely agree with the Communist Party. Xinran based the characters on girls she knew had moved to Nanjing to find work and the introduction and afterwords tell their story. Such a great book!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

what a week in canada gave me.



Posters bought at postertext and shipped to my Canadian friend. Will be hanged on my walls eventually. The books are bought at used book stores, Chapters, airports and one even in Duluth, Minnesota. And one I got from a friend when I asked about indigenous writers.

And because it was my birthday yesterday, I made a great order from amazon; Legend of a Suicide by David Vann, Queer by William S. Burroughs, the Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, What I loved by Siri Hustvedt, the Still Point by Amy Sackeville, Night Waking by Sarah Moss and Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb.

eight.

Kanata by Don Gillmor (2009)



"And 1770 was the year that my great-great-grandfather was born, Michael tells the class. David Thompson, the greatest land geographer who ever lived, and in the tradition of greatness, a man who died in poverty and obscurity. He was a genius, both intuitive and scientific, largely self-taught, the Mozart of the plains. Driver by some inner force that is difficult to define, he mapped western Canada. It was a solitary passion. What was his contribution? He helped create your world, the one you are now living in, with its Levi's, Ford pickups, longing, hormones, fear, and the exquisite boredom of this particular moment."
Michael Mountain Horse is the illegitimate half-Indian great-great-grandson of David Thompson, a man who mapped western Canada. He teaches history at a high school when one of his students is in a car accident and goes into a coma. Michael visits him at the hospital and tells him what he is missing out on in class. This turns out to become the family history of Michael, going from David Thompson in Wales, all over Canada and Michael's own experiences in World War I and the Spanish civil war.

This is a great book spanning over many centuries and the history of Canada. I really enjoyed Michael's own story, but felt that the story of David Thompson lacked some personality and was mainly describing his adventure. I really enjoyed the 1900s, and especially the narrative of Mackenzie King, the Prime Minister of Canada in this period who consulted mediums and admired the German nation-building prior to World War II.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Hvor finner man gode og billige brukte bøker i Oslo? Er det noen som har et bra engelsk utvalg?

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