Sunday, 30 December 2012

sixty-four.

the Monk by M.G Lewis (1796)

Father Ambrosio is the most popular priest in Madrid because he is so pure. His church is full of people who want to listen to his sermons. His monastery is wall to wall with the St. Claire cloister where the terrible Domina who rules with an iron hand. Lorenzo and his friend Raymond are attending one of Ambrosio's sermons when they spot a really beautiful young girl, Antonia, and Lorenzo falls head over heels. Lorenzo's sister, Agnes, is at the St. Claire cloister and she has a secret relationship with Raymond. But the relationship is found out on the same day that Father Ambrosio discovers that one of his favourite monks happens to be a female.

Mathilda is the monk's real name and she has been in love with Ambrosio for ever. She manages to corrupt his innocence which leads Ambrosio down a path of destruction which includes rape, sorcery and murder and eventually a meeting with the Devil himself.

Once you get through those first hard chapters (why is it always so with the classics), this is a hilarious account of the corruption of the Church. There is so much more to the story than the life in the cloister; a good dose of the old fashioned tales about damsels in distress and quite a lot of sex and ghosts. Just the perfect end of the year read I needed.

This was the final book this year in Line's 1001 books reading challenge. 

Saturday, 29 December 2012

2012: how did it go?

This time last year I cracked my head trying to find some reading goals and now, a year later, they should all be completed. Or not?
  • Read 50 or more books. Success! I rounded 50 some time in November and am currently at 64 books. I have a long list of books you should read, see below.
  • Complete Line's 1001 books 2012 challenge.  A lot of heavy books on that list! Another great success! Read all 11 (12 if you count that I had already read Beloved previously). Many were great, but some like the Hunchback of Notre Dame I loathed.
  • Read something by Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf and start on the books about Sherlock Holmes. Another yes! Read Pride and Prejudice and really enjoyed it, Mrs Dalloway was difficult and read the first two Sherlock before I got tired of him. 
  • Read at least 5 non-fiction books. Two and a half. The biographies (Wild and We Bought a Zoo) were good reads, but then I really struggle with a history of the Crusaders. Will try again next year.
  • Read more Nobel Prize winners and continue on the 1001 books lists (read 6% until now). Life long goals. Up to 9% on all the four 1001 books lists. I also read John Steinbeck and John Galsworthy so that means two new Nobel Prize winners.
  • Continue working my way around the globe in books. 27 countries so far. 37 now (if I counted correctly) so 10 new countries.
  • Own no more than 500 unread books, the number of unread books is currently 428. Which also means buying less books. Hahahahaha. Current number of unread books is 566. Which means that I have books to read for the next 10 years, still I buy new ones. 
Almost there, at least. Better luck next year.

My goals for next year are as following:
  • Read more than 50 books
  • Complete Line's 1001 books 2013 challenge
  • Read at least 5 non-fiction books
  • Read something by Henry James, Selma Lagerlöf, Thomas Hardy, Knut Hamsun, Henry Green, Sigrid Undset and Nancy Mitford
  • Continue working my way around the globe in books (37 so far)
  • Lifelong goals: cross off as many 1001 books you must read before you die (9%) and Nobel Prize winners
  • Own more than 1000 books (no more holding back! current number is 939 (I spent a lot of money I got for Christmas on books, there are about 30 coming my way right now)
And finally: Books I read in 2012 which you should read

  • The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
  • You Deserve Nothing by Alexander Maksik (2011)
  • We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen (2006)
  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens (1838)
  • A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1887)
  • The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins (2008-2010) 
  • Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (1932)
  • Annabel by Kathleen Winter (2010)
  • the Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (1999)
  • Bel-Ami by Guy de Maupassant (1885)
  • Woman at Point Zero by Nawal el Saadawi (1975)
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)
  • the Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (1868)
  • Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: a Wicked Bestiary by David Sedaris (2010)
  • Wife of Gods by Kwei Quartey (2009)
  • Big Sur by Jack Kerouac (1962)
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877)
  • the Country Girls trilogy by Edna O'Brien (1960-1962)
  • the Secret History by Donna Tartt (1992)
  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed (2011)
  • the Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939)
  • the Latin America trilogy by Louis de Bernières (1990-1992)
  • the Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis (1987)
  • the Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (1984)
  • the Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy (1906-1921)
  • the Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah (2007)
  • the Crow Road by Iain Banks (1992)
  • the Casual Vacancy by J.K Rowling (2012)
  • Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver (2012)
  • the Last of the Vostyachs by Diego Marani (2002)
  • the Monk by M.G Lewis (1796)
Woha! I hope 2013 will be as exciting when it comes to book reading and book buying as 2012 was. Happy new year everyone! 

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

sixty-three.

the Bat by Jo Nesbø (1997)

 Harry Hole is in Sydney, Australia to help the Australian police investigate a rape and murder of a young Norwegian girl. The body was found by the sea, probably thrown from the cliffs above, and the body was clean. Harry Hole is teamed up with Andrew Kensington, an Aboriginal police man. The case is difficult because there are few leads to go on.

This is the first book about Harry Hole and it has been on my reading list for some years now, and finally I got around to pick it up at the airport before Christmas.  I wasn't impressed at all by the first chapter and it took a while before I enjoyed the book.

What I really liked was the way Nesbø has used a lot of Australian history and especially the history of the Aboriginal peoples and especially their myths.  I'm not sure what I think of Harry Hole himself. I guess I need to read another book to form a picture of him.

I will put Jo Nesbø on the list of books to look for in second hand stores as I don't think they are worth the ridiculous price of new books in Norway. And I do prefer second hand books anyway.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

sixty-two.

the Lower River by Paul Theroux (2012)

"Just like them, he was a wisp of diminishing humanity, with nothing in his pockets--hardly had pockets!--and he felt a lightness because of it. With no money he was insubstantial and beneath notice. As soon as everyone knew he had nothing, they would stop asking him for money, would stop talking to him altogether, probably. Yet tugging at this lightness was another sensation of weight, his poverty like an anchor. He couldn't move or go anywhere; he had no bargaining power. He was anchored by an absence of money, not just immovable but sitting and slipping lower."

Ellis Hock is not satisfied with his life in the small town of Medford, just outside Boston. His wife has left him, his daughter is spoiled and ungrateful and his clothing business is struggling as there isn't any need for well-made and expensive clothes any more. He often dreams of the peaceful and easy days he spent as a teacher at the Lower River in Malawi when he was younger. And then he decides to go back. But instead of finding the beloved village he left about 40 years earlier, he finds a place which turns into a nightmare.

The inhabitants of the village has heard of the famous Ellis who has a fascination with snakes, but all they want from him is money. The school he built is long gone and so is the clinic, all that is left are hungry, angry people and the ruins. He tries to escape, but the chief discovers his plans every time.

I hated the naive, helpless and whiny Ellis and I hated the bleak picture Theroux painted of Africa. Yet Theroux writes well. Still it was one of those books that was annoying and the fact that the book is full of snakes didn't make reading it more pleasant.  I read the Mosquito Coast a few years back, and that was not a very pleasant read either. I guess I have to read Paul Theroux when I need a pessimistic world view.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

sixty-one.

12.21 by Dustin Thomason (2012)

A prion virus that causes insomnia is being spread in Los Angeles. It was first discovered on a patient who sold an ancient Maya codex to a middleman who also gets infected. The Maya expert, and also of Mayan descent, Chel  Manu, gets her hands on the codex and is also used as a translator for the dying patient. Together with the prion expert Dr Stanton, they try to find a connection between the Maya codex and the virus.

As probably most people are aware of, the Maya calendar ends on the 21st of December 2012. And some people interpret it to mean that the world is going to end. Needless to say that I just had to read this before that happens.

The plot is the same as always in the genre: a problem - man and woman try to solve it - man falls for woman - throw in a few obstacles along the way -  then saves her and the world before they live happily ever after. The writing is the same too: focuses on the science and action and hardly any dialogue or reflections. Just the perfect easy read I needed. And just as forgettable.
 

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

sixty.

the Last of the Vostyachs by Diego Marani (2002)

"They came out silently, without exchanging a glance; unhurriedly, expecting to be shot at any moment, to crumple on the spot, on to that mud they'd traipsed over so often." 

Ivan has been living almost his entire life in a gulag in Siberia. After his father was shot while they tried to escape, he hasn't uttered a word. Then one day the guards have suddenly disappeared and Ivan is free to walk. And when he realises that he's free, he utters a long cry, a sound which stirs all the animals.

When Ivan returns to the place he grew up, he discovers that he is alone. Driven by hunger, he eventually makes his way into a small village where he meets a woman, Olga. Olga is a linguist and is shocked to discover that Ivan speaks a language, Vostyach, which is believed to be extinct.  She learns his language and persuades him to come along with her to the Finno-Ugric languages conference in Helsinki.

Don't judge this book by its cover! Which is certainly one of the ugliest I have seen. The story within is amazing. It starts on the desolate Siberian tundra and journeys to Helsinki where it turns into something resembling pulp fiction with pimps and whores, a murder plot and the release of zoo animals. But it also deals with the loss of languages and although Vostyach is an invented language, the theory behind it is true. 

Diego Marani turns out to be the perfect December read for me. I read New Finnish Grammar last year and it was a linguist's take on the English Patient; small, beautiful and powerful. And the Last of the Vostyach is like a book by Arto Paasilinna, but with a linguistic twist. I hope that Diego Marani's works will continue to be translated so I can continue to read them in December.

Monday, 10 December 2012

reading goals 2013

Another year's coming up. Unless the world goes under, of course. I'm still working on the current goals, but I have already come up with the ones for next year. And I'm keeping it simple.

  • Read more than 50 books
  • Complete Line's 1001 books 2013 challenge
  • Read at least 5 non-fiction books
  • Read something by Henry James, Selma Lagerlöf, Thomas Hardy, Knut Hamsun, Henry Green, Sigrid Undset and Nancy Mitford
  • Continue working my way around the globe in books (37 so far)
  • Lifelong goals: cross off as many 1001 books you must read before you die (10%!) and Nobel Prize winners
  • Own more than 1000 books (no more holding back! current number is 895)
 Should be doable. Am I right? 

fifty-nine.

Surfacing by Margaret Atwood (1972)

A young woman goes back to the remote community in Quebec where she grew up to look for her father who has gone missing. She brings with her her boyfriend, Joe, and an other couple, David and Anna. She hasn't been back for years but nothing much has changed on the desolate island where just her family lived.

Going back opens a lot of wounds. The fact that she has been married before and carried a child places a strain on the current relationship. David and Anna have their own problems which surface during the stay on the remote island. The search for the father is unsuccessful and towards the end of their stay she goes feral.

This is one of those slow-reading book as there's much to absorb from each sentence. Reading it was easy in the beginning, but unfortunately for me, I quickened the pace as it got more exciting which made it a lot harder to understand. And then it was too late and I understood nothing towards the end. I had to google it after to check if I had missing out on something (so much easier than rereading the book), and after reading this, I got a little wiser, but still have some questions.

Fourth Atwood, and yes, she is a great read, but not the easiest. I read Oryx and Crake years ago, and there the confusion was at the beginning, but once I got through many pages I understood more and more. Cat's Eye is one hell of a book, and the Robber Bride was also good. I'm glad there are many other books by Atwood to figure out.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

fifty-eight.

Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg (2011)

 Reverend MacKenzie and his pregnant wife, Lizzie, are about to move to the remote community of St. Kilda in 1830. The inhabitants have been described as heathen and filthy and he can't wait to show them the right way. 

But the life on St. Kilda is tough. The harsh weather conditions and the fact that it is so remote from the rest of Scotland mean that ships rarely come. And when the ships fail to show up, the inhabitants have to live with what the nature provides and that isn't much. Their main ingredient is sea fowl. Most newborn babies die of the 8 day sickness. Lizzie loses more than one baby and the relationship between her and her husband goes astray. But worst of all for the reverend is that the inhabitants are reluctant to believe in the words of God.

Reverend MacKenzie and his wife Lizzie did live on St. Kilda from 1830 to 1943 and Karin has done a great job fictionalising their lives. She has described the islands so well that when I discovered the map after reading the book, it looked exactly how I pictured it. It was a fascinating read and I felt that I learnt a lot about the history of St. Kilda. 

I have been fascinated by the isles after reading about it in my absolute favourite book Atlas of Remote Islands.  Sarah Moss has also written a great book about St. Kilda, Night Waking, where she mixes past and present life on the isles.

Monday, 3 December 2012

fifty-seven.

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (2012)

 "A certain feeling comes from throwing your good life away, and it is one part rapture. Or so it seemed for now, to a woman with flame-colored hair who marched uphill to meet her demise. Innocence was no part of this. She knew her own recklessness and marveled, really, at how one hard little flint of thrill could outweigh the pillowy, suffocating aftermath of a long disgrace."

Dellaroba is walking uphill, away from the damned farm owned by her parents-in-law, to have an affair in the wettest autumn in living memory. She got pregnant in high school and married the boy, and then year later she is having inappropriate thoughts about other men. But when she gets up that hill and sees something which resemble a lake of fire above the trees, she flees back again, taking it as a sign of God.

The lake of fire turns out to be a massive gathering of monarch butterflies, which when it makes the headlines, puzzle scientists and bring tourists from near and far to the small community in Appalachia. 

I wished this book would never end because it's one of the best I have read this year. I love Dellaroba and her struggling family. I especially liked the conversations Dellarobia had with her best friend, Dovey, they are witty. And one of the many things that made the book so great is the humour which shines through although the conditions are very severe.

Kingsolver has done a great job mixing religion, faith and science. It's one of those books which give you so much knowledge that you feel like a student while reading it and a professor when you are finished. I learnt as much about the Bible as about monarch butterflies, and if I hadn't studied it, I'd have learnt a lot about climate change too. 

But the thing which hit me hardest was the hardships of the family. The state of their poverty and the struggle to make ends meet. It was a truly perfect read after the Casual Vacancy, both being political and works I'd classify as social realism. It is also strange to read books that are so up do date; they mention Facebook, smart phones and Wikipedia, and I can't help wondering what people in a 100 years or more would think about our world today.

“A million dead butterflies, she said. Sorry as hell they ever landed here.”

Sunday, 2 December 2012

fifty-six.

the Casual Vacancy by J.K Rowling (2012)

“Cobbled streets and no shops open past six o'clock, a communal life that seemed to revolve around church, and where you could often hear bird song and nothing else: Gaia felt as though she had fallen through a portal into a land lost in time.” 

Pagford is a small drowsy village, but when one of the parish council members suddenly dies of an aneurysm, the inhabitants have something to gossip about. Who is going to take his chair at the council and will it decides the faith of the run-down council housing project, the Fields?

Pagford has some interesting characters which take turns as narrators. All of them have their own problems and secrets and when the Ghost of Barry Fairweather starts posting accusations of the runners for the council elections, they all are concerned. My favourites were definitely the teenagers and they were the ones that really made the book an awesome read.

J.K Rowling uses the same observations and details as in the Harry Potter series, but the language is much more mature. It took a while before the plot thickened, and I spent a lot of time wondering what the book really was about. But around page 200, I became really interested and read the remaining 300 pages in one sitting. And the story of Krystal and her family really broke my heart. Some of the characters got what they deserved, while others really got away with things. I like how this wasn't some sort of happy ending fairytale book, but a criticism of municipal spending and politics. I just wish she didn't have to go about killing my favourite characters. I cried buckets at the end.

I hope J.K Rowling continues to write brilliant stories, whether they are meant for kids or adults, I will definitely be reading them.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

fifty-five.

the Crow Road by Iain Banks (1992)

 "It was the day my grandmother exploded. I sat in the crematorium, listening to my Uncle Hamish quietly snoring in harmony to Bach's Mass in B Minor, and I reflected that it always seemed to be death that drew me back to Gallanach."

The book dwells around Prentice and his near and far family from Gallanach in Scotland. Prentice is a history student in Glasgow and clever as fuck, in love with one Verity, doesn't speak to his father because of religious dispute and has a tendency to occasionally drink too much. His family is a bunch of eccentrics and the biggest mystery is the disappearance of his uncle Rory who wrote an amazing travel book about his experiences in India.

I love Prentice, I love his amazing family and I had dreams about castles and whisky and I found myself reading out loud in an horrible Scottish accent.

If that first sentence doesn't get you to read the book, I doubt anything will. And then you will be really missing out on one of the best books ever. If I weren't broke right now, I'd totally buy all books by Iain Banks because I think he has quite the possibility to become one of my favourites. 

fifty-four.

the Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe (1794)

 Emily and her father set out on a journey southwards after her mother's death. On this journey, the father dies and Emily is left in her aunt's care. Emily's aunt isn't the nicest, and she dislikes Emily's beloved, Valancourt, and takes Emily with her to Italy and eventually to the castle of Udolpho. But the new husband of the aunt is a terrible man and there is no way to escape the terrors of Udolpho.

700+ pages. In my opinion about half of them could have been skipped as they are boring observations of the scenery of France and Italy. And the real story doesn't start until 30% in to the book. Luckily the last 30% of the book is such a wild tale that it makes it worthwhile.

I was not looking forward to reading this as it sounded too scary for my nerves and the start was promising with the mysterious happenings in the cottage. But the whole Udolpho business wasn't as scary as I thought, but certainly entertaining. The whole fainting women thing was something I could not take seriously. I did, however, love it when the story completely changed and I think the title is very misleading. I'm glad I read it, but I won't do it again.

This was November's read in Line's 1001 books reading challenge. 

Saturday, 17 November 2012

fifty-three.

the Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah (2007)

 Raj is nine when he meets David, ten at the hospital in Beau-Bassin, Mauritius. Raj is there because his father had one of his drunken violent outburst and David is there because he's sick and a Jew. The boys form a friendship which Raj still clings to sixty years later after David's death.

The Jews who came with a ship in the autumn of 1944 are interned at the prison which also holds the hospital. The boys sneak out at night and play and communicate in the language they both barely speak, French. And after a violent storm, David escapes from the prison and the boys eventually run off together.

Such a thin, quiet and beautiful tale of yet another aspect of the second World War. I really enjoyed the childish angle and the observations of Raj. Appanah has also entwined the present tense Raj in such a simple and beautiful way. And there is plenty to be learnt from it about Mauritius, and World War II. And the cover perfectly illustrates the book.

The story is based on the true events of the Jewish internment on Mauritius. Read it! And I will definitely be looking out for more books from Nathacha. 

Friday, 16 November 2012

fifty-two.

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (1991)

 "ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE is scrawled in blood red lettering on the side of the Chemical Bank near the corner of Eleventh and First and is in print large enough to be seen from the backseat of the cab as it lurches forward in the traffic leaving Wall Street and just as Timothy Price notices the words a bus pulls up, the advertisement for Les Miserables on its side blocking his view, but Price who is with Pierce & Pierce and twenty-six doesn't seem to care because he tells the driver he will give him five dollars to turn up the radio, Be My Baby on WYNN, and the driver, black, not American, does so."

Patrick Bateman, 26, strives to be perfect on the outside. He wears the right clothes, goes to the right places, dates the right girls and spends money on art and his body.  But all he can think about is the smell of blood and how to torture his next victim.

First part of the book shows off Patrick's perfect shell, where you only sense something is wrong when a murder is mentioned, as in a parenthesis. But then he starts to lose control and his dark side starts to show. He gets more and more grotesque and confused.

Some of the scenes described are really disturbing and reminded me a lot of Marquis de Sade in the style and plot. And I skimmed a lot of them and especially the cannibalistic parts. Yet I had to keep reading, just to find out how it would end. Bret Easton Ellis has done a great job writing the portrait of Patrick and I could easily picture him and the 80s on Manhattan among the rich and famous. Still I won't recommend it to anyone as it is grotesque and what sort of persons recommend those kind of books (yet I would tell you to read Crash by J.G. Ballard in a heartbeat)?

“...there is an idea of a Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory, and though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I simply am not there.”

Thursday, 8 November 2012

fifty-one.

Baby Jane by Sofi Oksanen (2005)

 What is wrong with Piki? She used to be an outgoing person, had plenty of friends and partied all night. And now she isn't capable of buying groceries or even take out the trash. Her girlfriend tries everything, but watches Piki slowly fading. They start a successful business together; providing phone sex and shipping used underwear to their customers. Their relationship is dwindling and it doesn't get better when the girlfriend discovers that Piki's ex is doing the laundry and shopping for her.

Sofi knows how to get each sentence to punch you in the guts. I was only able to read a couple of pages a night because they are all so heavily loaded with emotions. And as the story unfolds and you get to know more about Piki and the girlfriend, you know it's not going to end well. But still there are plenty of surprises.

It could easily have been a perfect read, but the last couple of paragraphs ruined it. It reminded me of all the stories of my students which are nicely built-up and then end terribly because they run out of time.

I'm still amazed that only one book by Sofi has been translated into English. Luckily they are found in many other languages.

Monday, 5 November 2012

fifty.

the Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte (1996)

“Films are for everyone, collective, generous, with children cheering when the cavalry arrives. And they're even better on TV: two can watch and comment. But your books are selfish. Solitary. Some of them can't even be read, they fall to bits if you open them. A person who's interested only in books doesn't need other people, and that frightens me” 

 Corso is an agent who finds rare books for others and he isn't afraid to cross the line in order to satisfy his customers. But this time he has two hard cases; he has to find out if a piece of a manuscript is a part of the original The Three Musketeers by Dumas and find the original occult book called The Book of Nine Doors of the Kingdom of Shadows. But the cases are more complicated, mainly because he is nearly killed by a man who looks like the crook in the Three Musketeers. And then there is the young girl who protects him and says she is the devil. Are the two cases connected?

This book had all the ingredients to be a book after my tastes. But having all the correct ingredients is useless when you cannot follow the recipe. My biggest beefs are the language and the horrible editing. It might have been the cheap Kindle version, but almost all sentences lacked punctuation and even some words seemed to be missing. And although it has a great, yet very predictable, plot, the writing style ruined it. How can you make something exciting so boring?

I'm surprised that it has survived four editions of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, but I suspect it is only because it mentions other books and authors in such academic ways. If you plan to read the Three Musketeers you definitely need to do that before reading this one as it is full of spoilers. 

One good thing: Some noteworthy quotes about books and reading. And a lot of other people seem to love it, but it wasn't for me.   

ps: the film version is called the Ninth Gate and is starring Johnny Depp and I have higher hopes for it than the book.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

forty-nine.

the Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy (1906-1921)
(the Man of Property, Indian Summer of a Forsyte, In Chancery, Awakening, To Let)

"The Forsytes were resentful of something, not individually, but as a family; this resentment expressed itself in an added perfection of raiment, an exuberance of family cordiality, an exaggeration of family importance, and - the sniff."

The Forsyte Saga spans from 1886 to 1920 and deals with the ups and downs of many of the family members. But mainly Soames. Soames is a man of property and he isn't happy when he discovers that his wife, Irene, is in love with an other man. And the other man is even engaged to another Forsyte! 

I remember reading the first chapter and not understanding much, too many names and details and I worried that the rest of the book would be the same. Fortunately it isn't, and the chance of scandals really increased my interest. And also that there is a lot of comedy hidden within, like the names of all the companies.

Soames is my least favourite character and I grinned every time he didn't get things his way. He did one good thing towards the end, but it doesn't make up for the horrible things he did. I had a couple of potential favourite characters but they all ended up dead and the all the female characters ended up being dull after their moments of rebellion. The last book, To Let, was disappointing. It didn't have the same intensity as the others and I might be biased on the fact that I had hopes for Fleur and Jon.

What I really liked about this saga were the historical aspects and the focus on change. The old Forsytes never got used to the idea of cars and loathed the modern youths. Soames invested in arts and the fact that he didn't like his Gauguin picture, made me even dislike him more. 


All in all, it's entertaining and a brilliant picture of upper class life in London around the end of the Victorian era. I promise you won't be disappointed if you like family sagas and enjoy scandals.

John Galsworthy also wrote more books about the Forsytes, and they are collected in the works named A Modern Comedy and End of the Chapter, which means that the whole Forsyte story is about 3000 pages long. I doubt I will read the rest as I have far too many other books to read, but who knows, maybe some time in the distant future.

This was October's read in Line's 1001 challenge.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

forty-eight.

the Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (1984)

  “Chance and chance alone has a message for us. Everything that occurs out of necessity, everything expected, repeated day in and day out, is mute. Only chance can speak to us.”

Tomas met Tereza by chance and they quickly moved in together. But despite his love for Tereza he continues being a womaniser. When the Soviet Union invades in 1968, they move to Switzerland, but his mistress, Sabina, is there too. Tereza knows about Tomas' infidelities, but she is too much in love to leave and instead has horrible nightmares about competing with his mistresses.

I have had this book for years, but have ignored it for so long because I thought it would be too philosophical and difficult. The beginning, with all the Nietzsche and philosophy stuff, was indeed hard to grasp, but then it improved. Kundera has this great witty style of writing which is really enjoyable. With the Soviet invasion as the background, it has an important historical aspect as well and I don't think I have ever got such a clear picture of communism from any other sources.

Karenin, the bitch which Tomas got Tereza so she wouldn't be so lonely, is named after Anna Karenina's husband, and I really liked the references to that book and especially because I have finally read it. Karenin is an important character and her death (after a long life) was perhaps the saddest part.

“She loved to walk down the street with a book under her arm. It differentiated her from the others.” 

 

Friday, 5 October 2012

forty-seven.

the Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis (1987)

"and it's a story that might bore you but you don't have to listen, she told me, because she always knew it was going to be like that, and it was, she thinks, her first year, or, actually weekend, really a Friday, in September, at Camden, and this was three or four years ago, and she got so drunk that she ended up in bed, lost her virginity (late, she was eighteen) in Lorna Slavin's room, because she was a Freshman and had a roommate and Lorna was, she remembers, a Senior or a Junior and usually sometimes at her boyfriend's place off-campus, to who she thought was a Sophomore Ceramics major but was actually either some guy from N.Y.U, a film student, and up in New Hampshire just for The Dressed To Get Screwed party, or a townie."

Camden, New Hampshire, 1985. Simple version: Paul likes Sean, Sean likes Lauren and Lauren likes Victor. They are all seniors, but haven't quite figured out their majors yet. But there are always parties to go to, drugs to be taken and people to fuck.
How do you write about your favourite book, a book that you have read so many times that you can quote it? It's been three years since the last time I read it and yet I know most of it by heart. I'll admit it is also because the film version is the film I have watched the most. This time around it took about 5 hours to get through the 330 pages.

The film came out in 2002, starred Ian Somerhalder, James van der Beek and Shannyn Sossamon. What I really love about it, is that it differs quite a bit from the book in some parts and then quotes it perfectly in other. I saw the film many times before I realised that it was a book. I'm not sure why I love the film and book so much, nothing much happens except a whole lot of partying. I love the way it's narrated by many people, but mainly Sean, Lauren and Paul. And the simple fact that the name comes first makes it a whole lot easier to follow than many other books. Some of the chapters are the same scene (or party) seen from various angles and they all reveal something new.  And most of the people in it are mentioned more than once. I love how I connect more dots every time I read it.

I need to see the film again. Now. And read American Psycho so I can get to know Sean's big brother, Patrick.

forty-six.

the Ten Thousand Things by Maria Dermoût (1958)

Felicia returns to the spice garden in the Moluccas where she spent her childhood together with her infant son. Her grandmother is as strange as she was when Felicia was young. She refused to call her Felicia because she disliked that her parents had given her a happy name when they didn't know if she was happy, and therefore called her just granddaughter.  She has a curiosity cabinet full of strange things which she collects for Felicia's son. And then there are the three little dead girls who play in the sand.

From there the story moves on to other people on the island, both native and visitors. It is a strange tale, dealing with indigenous beliefs and superstitions meeting the European traditions. But it turned out to be another  beautifully written book which left no significant impression on me. I can't quite put the finger on why or how, but I had a hard time concentrating on the 208 pages. I guess I just get lost in the prose.

I became curious about this book after reading about it in Wild by Cheryl Strayed; it was one of the books she read on the Pacific Crest Trail. 


I have another similar book, the Tea Lords by Hella S. Haasse, and I'm hoping that one will be better, because it's interesting to read literature from the former Dutch colonists.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

forty-five.

the Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman by Luis de Bernières (1992)

"In the constitution of the city it states that "It is strictly forbidden to procure abortion by hanging a woman upside down in a sackful of ants and beating her until she miscarries. But it is permitted to procure abortions by means of dried llama foetuses." It also states that "All visitors wishing to use the whorehouse must carry a certificate of clean blood from the clinic in Ipasueño," and that "Anyone giving bad advice is responsible for what follows from that advice."

Cardinal Guzman is the perfect cardinal on the outside, but he has a secret affair with his cook which has resulted in an illegitimate son. He is given reports saying that the country is full of heretics and they must do something about it, so he sends out some priests. But the priests are behaving worse than the Spanish Inquisition and they are heading for Cochadebajo de los Gatos.

Yes! This book is exactly how I hoped it would be, only many times better. In fact, it's my favourite in the trilogy. The main reason for this is because it mainly dealt with the people of Cochadebajo and gave a lot of answers to things I wondered about in the first book (but also raised some new questions). And I got a much better picture of Dionisio in this one than in the previous book which bore his name. 

But the cats are still my favourites. And perhaps the President's sex life.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

forty-four.

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (1925)

“He thought her beautiful, believed her impeccably wise; dreamed of her, wrote poems to her, which, ignoring the subject, she corrected in red ink...” 

Clarissa Dalloway is preparing for tonight's party while her thoughts wander. She has the perfect life on the outside, her husband is a famous politician, the Prime Minister is even coming to the party, her daughter is beautiful and they are well-off. But she has a lot of regrets and they become evident when her long-time friend, Peter Walsh, suddenly turns up.

My first Woolf! And it has been rather a struggle. I'm not very fond of these streams of consciousness novels as I usually end up lost in thought and have no idea what I just read. I must also admit that it took about 20 pages before I realized that Mrs Dalloway and Clarissa were the same person!

 But then when I started focusing on what I read (even stopped and summarised), it became a lot easier and then towards the end I really enjoyed it.  I especially liked the part with Rezia and Septimus and although I really wondered how they fitted in, it all made sense in the end.

Still I have a feeling that I have missed a lot, and I definitely need to reread it later on in life. It's one of those books which need maturing. 

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

forty-three.

Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord by Louis de Bernières (1991)

 Dionisio Vivo is fed up with the coca gangs and writes critical letters about it. El Jerarca, the coca lord, isn't pleased and orders Dionisio killed. 

Second book in the Latin American trilogy and it was such a let down after reading the War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts. But still it is a great book. It is probably because I hoped that it would continue with the the village. I also didn't like how it mainly centred around Dionisio and his lover, Anica. I also found it less hilarious than the previous one.

Here's hoping the Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman will make up for it. 

Sunday, 2 September 2012

forty-two.

the War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts by Louis de Bernières (1990)

 A fictitious country in South-America is ravaged by war. All kinds of war. It has gotten so far that no one remembers who they are fighting against. The people have to take care of themselves as the government is not to be trusted. 

The book has countless of characters, but mainly focuses on the people in a small village somewhere in the interior. The military comes now and then to sleep with the whores and occasionally kills a few of the inhabitants in drunken stupor. And then they may face being captured by one of the guerillas in the area. Or join them if they are fed up with the military.

Louis de Bernières has created an amazing country with excellent portraits of the characters. In the beginning it was hard to figure out who is who, but then as the characters are killed off, it gets easier. There are a lot of stories within the main story, and I haven't quite determined what the main story is. I love those chapters which can be read as short stories. It is a political satire, but has plenty of horrid scenes of rape, torture and murder. But also wonderful things like a woman giving birth to a cat and people waking up from the dead.

This is the first book I have read by de Bernièreres, although I have had 5 of them on my book shelves for years. I'm glad this is just the first book in a trilogy because I simply fell in love with the nameless country. 

Thursday, 30 August 2012

forty-one.

Girls in Their Married Bliss by Edna O'Brien (1967)

Kate and Baba are both married and living in London. Kate is married to Eugene, the man she once fell in love with and they have a child, but she has an affair with a politician. Baba is married to Frank, who is extremely rich, but also a violent drunk.

Final book in the Country Girls trilogy, and the most disappointing one. Mainly because it doesn't give the full picture and is more rushed. And I definitely didn't like how Kate turned into a suffering woman. What saves this book is that for the first time Baba is the narrator. And she is as witty as Kate is whiny.

I'm not happy that this didn't give any proper finale for the trilogy - just more unanswered questions.  I also didn't like that the entire book was set in London instead of Ireland, it lost some of its charm that way.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

fifty shades of i can't.

So. I caved in. And downloaded Fifty Shades of Gray on my Kindle. I blame this on the August issue of Cosmopolitan and their Fifty Shades of Blonde, which, by the way, is much better written.

I lasted until after the first sex scene (I admit it, that was why I bought it) and then I just couldn't. The. Language. Completely. Turned. Me. Off. And the characters. Are you kidding me? How someone can read this and call it amazing is a big mystery.

Go read Anaïs Nin instead. Or the Story of O by Pauline Rèage and Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. Even Marquis de Sade wrote better. Crash by J.G. Ballard is my personal favourite.


forty.

the Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939)

"And they stand still and watch the potatoes float by, listen to the screaming pigs being killed in a ditch and covered with quicklime, watch the mountains of oranges slop down to a putrefying ooze; and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage."

Tom Joad, jr is coming home after having spent 4 years in prison for killing a man, only to find out that his family has disappeared and their house is wrecked. His family has, along with thousands others, been kicked from their land and the tractors are moving in and they are now preparing leaving for California where workers are needed. But in California hundreds of thousands like the Joads are looking for work.

Set during the Great Depression, the book follows the Joads from the loss of their property to poverty in California. And along the way, they meet all sorts of people; unfriendly employers, terrible police and kind strangers. Steinbeck is an excellent writer and his portrays of the people along the road and the Joad family are amazing. I especially liked those chapters which zoomed out from the Joads and gave a broader perspective on the conditions for the migrants. And his writings made my skin boil with anger because of all the unfairness and discrimination. I actually had dreams about this book, which means that it left a huge impact on me.


It is definitely one of the best books I have ever read. The only thing I didn't like was the abrupt ending. But it was a nice book to read when I have just came back from California myself and I have vivid memories of the landscape. It will not be long until I read another work by Steinbeck.

This was August's book in Line's 1001 books challenge.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

thirty-nine.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed (2011)
From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Cheryl Strayed hiked alone on the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert in Southern California to the Bridge of the Gods on the Oregon / Washington border in 1995. And wrote an amazing book about it.

I really want to gush about this one, but also I want you to find out for yourself how amazing it is. So in short; after Cheryl's mum died of cancer, she went down a self-destructing path and in order to find herself again decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. On the trail she encountered all sorts of weather, rattlesnakes and bears, lost her shoe, starved, had no money but also met all sorts of awesome people.

I cried, grinned and held my breath while reading it and it was a great fun to read about all those places I have been to in the past month. Just wish I had read it before going, but then again, I might have done something crazy like attempting to hike myself. But I have done is putting some of the books she read on her hike on wish list. I love books which inspire me to read other books!

I also must mention that I was sceptical at first - but the chief reason for that was that the book is in Oprah's Book Club. But now I have come to believe that Oprah has a great taste in books and especially because a lot of those books I have either read and loved or they're in my bookshelves. 

Friday, 10 August 2012

thirty-eight.

Rushing to Paradise by J.G Ballard (1994)

The 16 year old Neil is drawn to the eccentric and charismatic Dr Barbara who is rallying to save the albatrosses on the French island of St Esprit.They are joined by an Hawaiian native, Kimo and they launch an attack on the island. And thanks to Neil being shot, they receive world wide attention and sympathy and the French leave the island for them to establish a sanctuary for all endangered species. But paradise is not what it seems.

I'm afraid I had high expectations for this one as J.G Ballard is the author of amazing books like Crash and Empire of the Sun. But this really disappointed. Rushing in the title might as well point to the fact that the story is really rushed. The plot is simply too big for the story and although it's a great idea for a story, it's just too much. And there are even some severe holes in the plot, especially regarding Neil's naivety and suspicions. Even the sex, which Ballard usually is great at describing, is tame and full of clichés. 

I need to soon read another Ballard story, and a good one, to get over the disappointment of reading this one.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

thirty-seven.

Girl With Green Eyes by Edna O'Brien (1962)
 (also published as the Lonely Girl)
Kate and Baba are still working in Dublin, dirt poor and out to find boys. Kate meets a much older gentleman, Eugene. Eugene is a film maker, lives on an estate, and worse; Protestant and divorced. Kate falls head over heels and starts to sleep over and eventually moves in. Something her drunken father isn't pleased to find out about.

The second book in the Country trilogy and I liked this one much more than the first one. This is wittier and has more action. And I liked the sexual awakening of Kate and her journey from a innocent young Catholic to a lover. However, I didn't like how little Baba appeared in this one as she's always hilarious and I love her and her standard-phrase to Kate; you're a right looking eejit. 

I'm eagerly waiting for the final book in the trilogy to show up in my mailbox and I have put more books by Edna O'Brien on my wish list.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

thirty-five.

the Secret History by Donna Tartt (1992)

"The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation. He'd been dead for ten days before they found him, you know. It was one of the biggest manhunts in Vermont history - state troopers, the FBI, even an army helicopter; the college closed, the dye factory in Hampden shut down, people coming from New Hampshire, upstate New York, as far away as Boston."

Richard has transferred from sunny California, to Hampden College in the cold Vermont. Here he takes a course in Greek with the eccentric teacher Julian Morrow with only 5 other students. They are all very close and although they include Richard, he is always on the outside of their circle. And because they all seem so much better than him, he conceals his past and lies to fit in. He quickly learns why they do not want to involve him in everything. And that the other students are hiding things from the other in the group.

I loved the story from the beginning until the end. It was entertaining and I got really curious about why and how Bunny died. And then it was the joy in discovering that it isn't just Bunny's death which make things difficult for the group. I also loved how the story is built up. I was also glad to discover that the things I guessed about the different characters, turned out to be mostly correct. And it was great to finally read something relatively light and quick, I read about 100 pages a day in different hotels on our great roadtrip through California and Oregon. 

This was July's book in Line's 1001 books reading challenge. 



Thursday, 26 July 2012

thirty-six.

the Country Girls by Edna O'Brien (1960)

Caithleen and Baba grew up together on the Irish country side and are sent to a convent when they are fourteen. Caithleen comes from a poor home and her father is a drunk, while Baba comes from a richer home where the mother is the drunk. The girls hate the convent and they try to get expelled so they can go off to Dublin and meet nice boys.

Caithleen and Baba don't have the best of friendship as Baba is always walking over Caithleen, but they do not really have anyone else. And while Caithleen is the smart and serious one, Baba is the airhead who only thinks about boys. 

I really enjoyed reading this book, it was a perfect light summer read although it has its depth. And I certainly can understand why this book and the following sequels were burnt and banned in Ireland in the 1960s. 

I'm also glad I found the Lost Girl / Girl with Green Eyes in a used book store in Seattle as I just had to figure out what Caithleen and Baba get up to in Dublin. I'm also browsing every used book store in my way to find the last book in the trilogy. And Edna O'Brien is one of those author I definitely am going to read more of. 

Friday, 13 July 2012

thirty-four.

Suttree by Cormac McCarthy (1979)

“"They rowed far downstream. Leonard saying Hell, Sut, any place is good and Suttree rowing on. They looked like old jacklight poachers, their faces yellow masks in the night. The corpse lay slumped in the floor of the skiff. The lamp standing on the stern seat with its thin spout of insects caught in its light the wet sweep of the oars, the beads of water running on the underblades like liquid glass and the dimples of the oarstrokes coiled out through the city lights where they lay fixed among the deeper shapes of stars and galaxies fast in the silent river."”

Cornelius Suttree has made his home in a houseboat on the Tennessee River close to Knoxville. He gets by by fishing and spends most of his days either in solitude or with his friends getting drunk. He is also in and out of jail a couple of times.

Cormac McCarthy has a wonderful way of telling about the outcasts. I love his language. I also liked how much the river itself is a character in this book. And Suttree does have some weird friends, and the relationships he gets into are not very successful. And although the setting is very grim, there are some very funny parts. Like the boy who got sent to jail for molesting watermelons.

I'm glad I have more books from Cormac McCarthy to look forward to reading. 

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

book travelogue #1.

I have bought nine books until now while travelling. The first book was already bought at the Gardermoen airport - it has recently changed from one chain to another and I had problems finding a book to buy and that was not because of too many to choose from, but because most of the books I either a had or didn't want to read. I eventually landed on the Country Girls by Edna O'Brien and read a couple of pages while waiting for the plane to Reykjavik.

I loved every second of my days in Reykjavik and the first book store I went into was the Eymundsson on Austurstræti 18. They had a great selection of English books and I had a problem deciding which one to take with me home. I landed on Suttree Cormac McCarthy and because the weather was so beautiful and the store had a nice outdoor café, I spent some time reading there. I'm almost done with the book, but it's hard to find time to read when you're surrounded by people all the time.

Fast forward to San Francisco where I have spent almost a week now. I'm in awe with this city! One day while walking around Mission, I spotted this small sign saying Forest Books, and I went inside. They had a great selection of used books, and I liked how they had sorted the authors by name and country. I picked up Segu by Maryse Condé, the Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway and a first edition of Rushing to Paradise by J.G Ballard. Further down the street we came upon the Community Thrift Store where the paperbacks were 1.90 each! And of course, then I felt really bad about spending 40 on 3 books minutes before. The selection was also great here, but really unorganised. I ended up with 4 books; the Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, the Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx, the Bone People by Keri Hulme and the Autobiography of my Mother by Jamaica Kincaid.

I'm having a blast and am excited for our road trip to start tomorrow! Just really concerned about my suitcase already being too heavy so I have to be careful about not buying too many books. And hopefully I'll get more time to read so I at least can finish the books I have started.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

thirty-three.

the She-Devil in the Mirror by Horacio Castellanos Moya (2000)

Olga María is found dead, murdered in front of her children. The daughters think the murderer looks like Robocop. Laura, Olga María's best friend, can't understand who'd want to murder her, and she unravels the investigation, Olga María's secrets and the violent history of El Salvador. 

Because despite the fact that Olga María is the devoted wife and mother, she has had a few affairs. Some Laura knows about and some are revealed to her by the police and the private investigator who is hired by Olga María's sister.  

This has all the ingredients to be a great book, but the fact that the entire book is a one way conversation between Laura and someone, really ruins it, at least for me. And especially the fact that she says my dear about twice on every page. If only this had been written differently, it would be great.

But this book got me interested in El Salvador's history. And the fact that this book was from El Salvador is the reason why I finished it and didn't throw it away.

And what the hell was that last chapter?

Monday, 25 June 2012

This is the reason I love receiving mail from &OtherStories!
Third book this year out of four. Will read it after epic summer adventure.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

thirty-two.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877)

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

 Anna Karenina is the unhappy wife of Karenin and the devoted mother to their son. But then she meets Count Vronsky who takes her by storm and she gives up her family and her place in society to be with him.

The extended family of Anna are also important characters in this excellent 800+ pages long Russian classic. I fell in love on the first page and the love lasted until the last page. Or maybe not entirely until the last page, because all the religious doubt was too much. 

My favourite character must be Levin, a friend of Anna's brother and the suitor of his wife's sister. I can't really pinpoint why, but he seemed like a sincere character all through the book. All the other intrigues in the extended family and their friends' lives are all so excellently explained. The only thing I was really curious about was what Dolly's daughter had been doing with the raspberries. It must be something naughty as it wasn't in the book! 

I'm sure there's so much to be said about this book, but the most important thing is that I loved it so much that it will be up there amongst my favourite books. I'm also excited about the new film version which comes out later this year.

This was June's book in Line's 1001 books reading challenge, to see what other Norwegians say about it, go here.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

school's out!

And the long summer holiday is ahead. It will be spent in aeroplanes, trains, buses, cars, boats and hotels in Iceland, USA and Canada. Not sure how much time will be spent reading. I'm taking one book, the Secret History by Donna Tartt which is the next one in Line's 1001 challenge, and my Kindle with me and will try not to fill up my suitcase with books. But I definitely buy books as souvenirs so I will come home with quite a few I'm guessing.

I'm currently reading Anna Karenina which is to be written about tomorrow in Line's 1001 challenge. I'm also reading a long (909 pages) and very confusing book from a Faroese author, but haven't opened in weeks, and a short book from an El Salvadorian author but it's written in direct speech and it's really annoying to read. But both books are from such exotic places that I can't give them up. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that if my booklog seems quiet, it is because I'm somewhere on the road. I have made a travelogue, an ache for distant places, so hopefully I can turn it into something interesting.

Happy summer everyone!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

thirty-one.

101 Reykjavik by Hallgrímur Helgason (1996)

Hlynur is 30+, unemployed and lives at his mother. His daily routine is something like this: wake up late, drink too much coca cola, eat cheerios, smoke, watch porn, go out, stumble home or elsewhere drunk and repeat. But when Lolla, his mother friend and worse, rumoured girlfriend, moves in, Hlynur is forced out of his comfort zone.

I don't think I have ever hated someone in a book as much as I hate Hlynur. He seemed like the worst pathetic guy you could come across. He was okay in the beginning of the book and then he just turned into a prick. And I actually threw the book into the wall a couple of times but had to pick it up and continue hoping that he would die a terrible death at the end, hopefully by his own hands. I was really disappointed when he was still alive at the end. I also started skimming a lot midway because I couldn't deal with his thoughts. I sincerely hope that the author meant for him to come across as the biggest jerk.

It's funny that the main character can ruin a book so much. Because I loved the rest of the characters and the setting, but not Hlynur. And when the book is about him, I just can't like it. 

If you're curious what Hlynur did, you have to read it yourself and judge because I don't think I can get into it without raging. And yes! It's amazing that I can feel this way about a stupid character in a book.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

thirty.

Big Sur by Jack Kerouac (1962)

“And in the flush of the first few days of joy I confidently tell myself (not expecting what I'll do in three weeks only) 'no more dissipation, it's time for me to quietly watch the world and even enjoy it, first in woods like these, then just calmly walk and talk among people of the world, no booze, no drugs, no binges, no bouts with beatniks and drunks and junkies and everybody, no more I ask myself the question O why is God torturing me, that's it, be a loner, travel, talk to waiters, walk around, no more self-imposed agony...it's time to think and watch and keep concentrated on the fact that after all this whole surface of the world as we know it now will be covered with the silt of a billion years in time...Yay, for this, more aloneness” 

 Jack Duluoz, Kerouac's alter-ego has passed 40, is tired of fans who break into his house, and he seriously needs to take a break from alcohol and drugs. So he borrows his friend Monsanto's cabin in Big Sur to spend some weeks in solitude. But the death of his beloved cat sends him on a binge. So Jack soon finds himself out and about in San Francisco and Los Gatos, but although the nights are awesome with sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, the days are spent in nervous agony and Jack's nerves are failing him.

This is the saddest Jack Kerouac I have read. The way Jack is struggling with depression and reality is getting more and more evident by the pages. He also steals his friend Cody's mistress, Billie, and they spend some mad weeks together, and Billie wants them to get married and Jack to be the father of her son, but Jack is sure that the son is the offspring of the devil. It's more the language rather than the events that makes this book so sad, I'm in love with Kerouac's style.
“But I remember seeing a mess of leaves suddenly go skittering in the wind and into the creek, then floating rapidly down the creek towards the sea, making me feel a nameless horror even then of 'Oh my God, we're all being swept away to sea no matter what we know or say or do”
My reason for picking this book up now, is that in a little more than a month's time, I'll find myself in Big Sur. I'm hoping it will be as beautiful as Kerouac describes it, and I'm sure there will be some nights with too much wine as well. There's a film adaptation coming out later this year, along with an adaptation of On the Road. I will also throw in a recommendation of the album One Fast Move or I'm Gone by Jay Ferrar and Benjamin Gibbard. It will be on heavy rotation on the road from San Francisco to Big Sur!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

twenty-nine.

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh (1993)

“Society invents a spurious convoluted logic tae absorb and change people whae's behaviour is outside its mainstream. Suppose that ah ken aw the pros and cons, know that ah'm gaunnae huv a short life, am ah sound mind, ectetera, ectetera, but still want tae use smack? They won't let ye dae it. They won't let ye dae it, because it's seen as a sign ay thir ain failure. The fact that ye jist simply choose tae reject whut they huv tae offer. Choose us. Choose life. Choose mortgage payments; choose washing machines; choose cars; choose sitting oan a couch watching mind-numbing and spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fuckin junk food intae yir mooth. Choose rotting away, pishing and shiteing yersel in a home, a total fuckin embarrassment tae the selfish, fucked-up brats ye've produced. Choose life. Well, ah choose no tae choose life. If the cunts cannae handle that, it's thair fuckin problem. As Harry Launder sais, ah jist intend tae keep right on to the end of the road...”

 Mark (Rentboy, Renton), Simon (Sick Boy), Daniel (Spud and Francis (Franco, Begbie) are mates in Edinburgh, Scotland. The book follows them and others through using drugs, withdrawals, getting clean, scheming, partying and the deaths of their mates. 

Having attempted to read Glue before, I wasn't really looking forward to Trainspotting. And the sole reason is the Scottish accent 90% of the book is written in. It was a struggle at first, I had to read aloud to myself (and then laughing because I really sounded ridiculous) the first couple of pages, but then I got used to it. But still it was not an easy book to read. The other reason for this is that the chapters are not really related to each other so it always took a while to figure out who the narrator was and how much time had lapsed since the last chapter.

It's not a pleasant read, although the situations the boys find themselves in at times can be hilarious. The scenes dealing with piss and shit had me almost gagging, while the violent scenes made me pull a shocked grimace. But still I can't call this book more than okay. Maybe it's because it had too many narrators with too many nicknames and I was in a more or less confused state while reading. Or maybe it was simply the language which ruined it for me. 

It was made into a film in 1996, and although I remember the film as funnier and easier to follow, I'm not sure if I want to see it again because of that too disturbing toilet scene. The book is also followed by Porno and then Skagboys, which was just released. But those are not on my list of books to read. 

This was May's read in Line's 1001 books reading challenge, to see what other Norwegians think of it, go here. If you enjoyed this book, you definitely should check out Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr, which is, in my humble opinion, a thousand times better and shocking. 

Friday, 18 May 2012

twenty-eight.

Wife of Gods by Kwei Quartey (2009)

"She clashed badly with Bedome’s head priest—name’s Togbe Adzima—over this trokosi business. Have you heard about it, Inspector Dawson? These women they call trokosi? Supposedly wives of the gods serving at a shrine as penance for a family crime? They’re often brought to the shrine as girls as young as nine, and once they reach puberty, the fetish priests begin to have sex with them."

Darko Dawson is a CID inspector in Accra, Ghana. He is called out to a small town, Ketanu, to solve a murder. A medicine student, Gladys, was found murdered in the forest between Ketanu and a even smaller community. Gladys was going around to small communities to inform about AIDS. The local police has already suspect a young boy, Samuel, who was infatuated with Glady, for the murder, but Darko isn't convinced.
 Quartey has done a great job with making Dawson an interesting detective. He has some real anger issues and a bad marijuana habit. And the fate of the trokosi, AIDS and the divide between traditional and modern Ghana are some of the things that make this book work. I'm not so convinced by the writing, and the whole plot was kind of see-through. But it really had a great ending which won me over. This is the first book with Darko Dawson, and I will definitely be reading the next one as well.

Blog Archive