Friday, 29 January 2016

all the lonely people, where do they all belong?

Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell (1936)

 “Their combined ages were two hundred and sixty-three years. None of them had ever been out of England, fought in a war, been in prison, ridden a horse, travelled in an aeroplane, got married, or given birth to a child. There seemed no reason why they should not continue in the same style until they died. Year in, year out, nothing ever happened in the Comstock family.” 

 Gordon hates money so much that he left his good job and started working for a small book shop. At night he writes poetry while glaring at the hated aspidistra on his shelf in his rented room. And always thinking about money and the fact that he is too poor to do anything.

So goes his life, until one day when he receives a letter and a cheque for 10 pounds from an American magazine that will publish one of his poems. He is going to give half of it to his sister who has always given him a hand, but first he is finally going to invite his girlfriend and a friend out to dinner. But the perfect night turns into a drunken stupor that ends in jail.

Orwell is a master in portraying the life on the dirty, poor streets of London. And as in all of his novels, the political aspect is close to the surface. Although Gordon is a miserable character, Orwell writes with an excellent sense of humour, and it is hard to feel sorry for  Gordon as he can only blame himself for his position. After all, the war against money is a battle that he is doomed to lose. The way the book ends is another plus, although I predicted it.

This was the remaining Orwell novel on my shelf, and that is a little sad. But he has written some very interesting non-fiction books, so I have something to look forward to. If you have only read Animal Farm and 1984, I highly recommend his other works.

Folkens! Lines 1001 bøker lesesirkel har gjenoppstått fra de døde. I januar leser vi en bok vi har lenge hatt lyst til å lese. I februar er det en 1001 bok fra en nobelprisforfatter som står for tur. Sleng deg på!

Friday, 1 January 2016

2015: annus horribilis

Well, maybe horrible is a stretch too far. But, it has definitely not been one of the best years in my life. I spent most of January to April off work due to an illness that was only getting worse until my doctor had a vague diagnosis and gave me some pills that worked wonders. It turned out that I have hypothyroidism which really fucks up your body, but is easy to manage. And because of that, I slept through most of the autumn. My grandma got really sick just before Easter, and I decided to spend the summer taking care of her. It was really tough, but luckily she recovered and is in her 86th year doing better than she has in years. It hasn't been easy to live a good life the last year (a proof of this is all the things I ended up not going doing - concert, parties, travel plans).

So, here's to 2016! The year of getting out there and doing things. I'm going to quit my job and sell my apartment. It may result in travelling the globe, or just moving to a different city. Perhaps I even take a swing at writing out the two ideas that have been stuck in my head for years.

Fortunately we who read have the chance to escape to other worlds when things are lousy. My reading has been influenced by the year I have had. I read very little before April, and I read a lot through the summer and then less as the autumn progressed. And as 2014, I barely managed to read 50 books. Looking back, my reading goals seem very hairy. So, how did I do?
  • Read more than 50 books: Yes, just in time!
  • Read the alphabet (author's surname of course): I think I gave it an attempt, then gave up.
  • Read at least 5 non-fiction books: 3 of 5, fail.
  • Read A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell. That's 12 books in all: Didn't even think about it. A great idea, though.
  • Continue working my way around the globe in books (47 countries so far): I counted, and I have just read books from 8 different countries this year. But, two of them were new (Slovenia and Bulgaria).
  • Lifelong goals: cross off as many 1001 books you must read before you die (11, 9%) and Nobel Prize winners (27/111): Up to 12,6% and 29/112 (Lagerlöf and Kawabata + another Steinbeck) so that's at least something. Need to focus on 1001 books again.
  • If I want to buy a book, I'll have to read one off my shelf first: I haven't counted, but I did a pretty good job of restricting my bookbuying. But I bet I bought more than 50 books.
  • Read in a book every day, even if it's just a page: This has been fairly successful and a good goal.
Well, there it is. Not too happy, and especially about how little varied my reading has been. Too many Norwegian books (18!) and books published in 2015. I also hardly participated in any reading circles, and I feel like I have been missing out. I'm most pleased by finally getting to read Moby Dick, even though it wasn't the best book.

New goals:
  • Read more than 50 books
  • Read Ulysses by James Joyce
  • Read at least 5 non-fiction books
  • Continue working my way around the globe in books (49 countries so far)
  • Lifelong goals: cross off as many 1001 books you must read before you die (12,6%) and Nobel Prize winners (29/112)
  • Read in a book every day, even if it's just a page
  • Write more
 Nothing too difficult, except perhaps Ulysses.

And finally, the list of books I read in 2015 which you should read in 2015
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen (1818)
  • Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie (1981)
  • Drop City by T. Coraghessan Boyle (2003)
  • the Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (2015)
  • the Hobbit and LOTR by J.R.R Tolkien
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (2014)
  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (2015)
  • the Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy
  • Morvern Callar by Alan Warner (1995)
  • the Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahata (2015)
  • All the Rage by Courtney Summers (2015)
  • Career of Evil by Robert Gailbraith (or J.K Rowling, 2015)
  • Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata (1952) 
 I don't ever think the list of books I recommend has been so small as this year. I blame it on annus horribilis. Bring it on, annus mirabilis!

Midnight at Grense Jakobselv, Norway. A fine summer's day in July 2015.

den norske bokhøsten, del tre.

Jeg har aldri lest så mange norske bøker som i år. De fleste har vært så som så, men det har da vært litt gull også. Det er heldigvis ei uke igjen til nominasjon til Bokbloggerprisen, og jeg har funnet en del kandidater, men fortsatt usikker på rekkefølgen. Forhåpentligvis rekker jeg å lese en eller to til før fristen er ute.

Vingebelastning av Helga Flatland handler om Andreas som sakte og sikkert går i oppløsning mentalt. Gjennom hans timer hos psykolog får vi et innblikk i barndommen og relasjonene hans til venner, familie og kjæresten. Jeg ble helt nærmest besatt av Andreas mens jeg leste, men dessverre så var det lett å glemme han når boka tok slutt.

En av de beste bøkene jeg har lest i år er Stjerner over, mørke under av Ingebjørg Berg Holm. Det er en historisk krim om et mord i skogen nær en kvekerbosetning. Mannen som er drept dro til Canada ti år tidligere og ingen har sett han siden. Lensmannen forteller historien i brevform og forteller også om egen skyld. Det er rett og slett en fantastisk bok som jeg håper flere får gleden av. Og at Berg Holm er en debutant er enda mer imponerende. Les!


Kledd naken av Agnes Lovise Matre rørte også sjela mi. I likhet med All the Rage handler denne også om voldtekt og den gjorde meg like forbanna. Den er veldig godt skrevet, og det eneste som virkelig irriterte meg var slutten - den ble litt for mye for meg. Enda en bok som du bør lese!

Etter å ha slitt meg igjennom Moby Dick, så var jeg svært skeptisk til Havboka (Morten A Strøksnes). Enda en bok som handler om fiske? Men der Moby Dick var kjedelig og endeløs, var Havboka underholdende og altfor kort. Jeg koste meg skikkelig! Det mest utrolige er at dette ikke er skjønnlitteratur, men faktafaen. Denne er en sterk konkurrent til A Little Life om årets bok.

Den siste norske boka i 2015 ble Alt inkludert av Marit Eikemo. Den sitter enda i meg, mest fordi jeg plutselig bråvåkna av en grusom ide om hva hovedpersonen egenlig drev med. Gleder meg til å diskutere denne med andre bokbloggere hvis sjansen byr seg (altså et hint til selv om å komme seg på tvangslesingskafeene i år). Uansett, den handler om en mor og et barn som bare eier en koffert og bruker finn.no til å fylle opp leiligheten og de møter mange interessante karakterer igjennom prosjektet. En tankevekkende bok om det bruk-og-kast samfunnet Norge har blitt. Nok en bok som du bør lese!

I tillegg til disse, så leser jeg Max, Mischa og Tetoffensiven av Johan Harstad. Har ikke kommet så veldig langt enda, men jeg gleder meg til de resterende 900+ sidene. Jeg orker ikke å stresse meg igjennom den, så det får ta den tida det tar - kosebok med andre ord.

Godt nytt leseår!

september-december.

It's been a dark and long autumn and I haven't done half of the things I was supposed to. Like writing here. My reading has been mostly good, I finished my 50th book two hours before the new year. I haven't been good at writing about the books I have read in the past few months.

The first book, read all the way back in September, was All the Rage by Courtney Summers (2015). It is about a teenager being raped at a party and no one believes her because he is the popular girl. And they bully her. The book gave me a lot of feelings, and especially the raging kind. This is a book that should be taught in schools worldwide. If you're curious about what rape culture is all about, this book will give you an idea.

The 7th Vera Stanhope novel, the Moth Catcher by Ann Cleeves (2015) was also read in September. I wasn't entirely won over by the last Vera novel, so I'm happy to report that she's back on track with this one. Ann Cleeves is my go to crime writer and I regularly check when she has a new book coming out.

From June to November I have been chasing Moby Dick (Herman Melville, 1851). My chase has been as hard as Captain Ahab's. It should have been a great read for me, but all the detours made it boring. And that's a shame because I was totally into it until the ship left the harbour. Oh well, at least now I can understand all the references to Moby Dick. I'm hoping Ahab's Wife will be better.

I finally got around to reading Cannery Row by John Steinbeck (1945). I should have read it before visiting Monterrey back in 2012 (possibly the most touristy place I have ever visited - we ended up with a quick stroll and an expensive Mexican restaurant before continuing to Big Sur). Anyway, it is about a group of young men in Monterrey trying to work as little as possible and party as much as they can. It is a short, entertaining read and I wanted more. I'm glad I still have a lot of Steinbeck's work unread on my shelves.

Book #49 was Career of Evil by J.K. Rowling (as Robert Gailbraith (2015)). I haven't been too happy about the previous Comoran Strike books but this was bloody near perfect. It is surprisingly and delightfully dark, nearly grotesque and I was unable to put it down. I hope Rowling will never stop writing!

The final book of last year was Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata (1952). I chose it because of its length, 147 pages. It is about a young man attending a tea ceremony with 3 sexually frustrated women (okay, that was maybe taking it too far, but you can definitely feel the sexual tension between him and the women). It is a beautiful book and I fear I didn't give it the attention it deserved as the clock was ticking towards midnight. Kawabata is an author I will definitely read more of, having won the Nobel prize and all.

Noon at the darkest day of the year in Jarfjord, Norway.

Happy New Year!

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