Sunday, 29 January 2012

Antiloper av Ester Roxberg (4.5/5)

Baksidan säger: Tänk att det är slut nu. Lidandet som vi har utstått i tolv år. Äntligen. Som vi har längtat, Astrid.
Det är ju nu livet börjar, det var så vi sa det. Jag borde boka en resa jorden runt. Backpacka. Jag skulle kunna göra precis vad som helst. Vi är fria nu.

Men när jag vaknade i morse stod allt bara still. Vad äter man till frukost som vuxen? Vad ska jag ta på mig? Ska man bara resa sig och börja gå?

Jag hittade lappen bakom elementet. Rullgardinstråden hade fastnat, och det var då jag såg den. En gul post-it. Du är min bästa vän står det, med din handstil. Jag har suttit med den i handen i fem timmar nu. Jag skulle kunna börja gråta nu, om det ändå betydde någonting.

Förstår du inte Astrid…

Du är mitt syre.

De har inte mycket gemensamt, Astrid och Ellen. Ändå blir de vänner, den första dagen på gymnasiet och för alltid. Föreställer de sig. Tills något händer. Något händer med Elles som gör att hon försvinner längre in i sig själv, bort från världen och bort från Astrid.

Jag säger: Det här var mitt andra försök att läsa boken. Första gången slutade jag efter första sidan; det hela kändes så krystat och töntigt. Men så fort jag hade kommit förbi det så blev det bättre.

Mycket bättre.

Jag gillade Astrid nästan direkt, och det var hög igenkänningsfaktor. Hon var en så trovärdig karaktär; egentligen var alla i boken trovärdiga, men det var någonting med Astrid som kändes riktigt äkta. Hennes frustration när hon inte kunde nå Ellen var påtaglig, och skulden när hon äntligen valde att tänka på sig själv och låta Ellen komma till henne när hon kände för det.

Aj, vad det gjorde ont i hjärtat.

Boken var snabbläst och, som sagt, så fort jag kom förbi första sidan så drogs jag in i deras värld och allting flöt på i en väldig fart. Jag gillar Roxbergs sätt att skriva; det var en blandning av Astrids funderingar, korta minnen, och brev som Ellen skrev till Astrid. Det är ett tungt och känsligt ämne som Roxberg tar upp, men jag tycker att hon gör det på ett naturligt och varsamt sätt, utan att vara nedlåtande eller fördummande.

Det var verklighetstroget och jag tror att det är just det som gör det till en sådan stark berättelse.

Jag ser framemot att läsa mer av Roxberg.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Du Borde Vara Här: Min Brors Självmord av Jesper Bohm (4/5)

Baksidan säger: Vårt sätt att prata är fullt ut med saker som har med självmord att göra. Man säger att en dator ”hänger sig”: Man säger: ”Jag är så trött på det här att jag skulle kunna ta livet av mig” och alla skrattar. Jag har vant mig, ändå sticker det till varje gång någon skojar om självmord.
Den 26 juni tog min storebror Nicklas sitt liv. Jag visste ingenting om självmord. Det var något som mest fanns i filmer, trodde jag. Men Nicklas dog inte i något konstigt och ovanligt. Självmord är ett av de vanligaste sätten att dö på. Varje dag tar fyra personer livet av sig i Sverige, alltså tar en person sitt liv var sjätte timme.

[Sedan kan jag inte läsa mer för att biblioteket har lagt dit ett klistermärke]

Jag säger: Oj vad glad jag är att jag läste den här. Så otroligt glad.

Jag känner ingen som har begått självmord, men boken handlar inte enbart om det, utan mest om sorgen av att vara en av de som blev kvar. Jesper pratar ärligt om de olika känslor som de flesta som förlorat någon känt av, men det som träffar mig hårdast är just skulden av att inte ha sett att något var fel, eller att Nicklas inte kände att han kunde vända sig till Jesper; att de kanske inte var så nära som han trott.

Jag hade tårar i ögonen nästan hela vägen igenom. Jesper skriver på ett väldigt avskalat, nästan poetiskt sätt, och det känns nästan som en blandning av dokumentär och dagbok.

Jag var den första av oss som lämnade rummet
Det gick inte att stoppa tårarna. Jag grät som ett barn
Det var skönt att få komma ut ur dödens rum
och få andas varm sommarluft. På himlen fanns inte
ett moln. Det var en vacker sommardag
och på andra sidan gatan såg jag människor
i parken. De åt glass och njöt av sommaren.
Fattade de inte att min bror var död?
Att det inte passade sig att äta glass och vara glad?
- p 22

Blandat med Jespers egna tankar så finns det med några korta intervjuer med Nicklas barn som gjorde ont att läsa, men samtidigt visar hur barn kan reagera på självmord. Det är öppet och ärligt.

I slutet finns det även lite fakta om självmord som jag tacksamt läser igenom. Även om detta är en ganska tung bok att läsa så är den skriven på ett så lättillgängligt, och stundom vackert, sätt att jag vet att det är en bok som jag kommer at be alla att läsa.

Varje dag begår 4 personer självmord i Sverige.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Florence and Giles by John Harding (3.5/5)

The back says: 1891. In a crumbling New England Mansion, 12-year-old orphan Florence and her younger brother Giles are neglected by their guardian uncle. Banned from reading, Florence devours books in secret, and twists words and phrases into a language uniquely her own. 
 
After the violent death of the children’s first governess, a second arrives. Florence becomes convinced she is a vengeful and malevolent spirit who means to do Giles harm. Against a powerful enemy, with no adult to turn for help, Florence will need all her intelligence and ingenuity to save Giles and preserve her world. This is her chilling tale...

I say: I pretty much established last year that I don’t like so called gothic ghost stories after reading The Castle of Otranto and The Turn of the Screw – both bored me to tears. However, the reason I knowingly chose to read a book based on the latter was because of the language; Florence’s play with words.

However, this turned out to be both wonderful and wearisome in equal measures.

I understand Florence’s love of language, and I recognized a bit of myself in her and her love for Shakespeare:

“The thing I liked most about Shakespeare was his free and easy way with words. It seemed that if there wasn’t a word for what he wanted to say, he simply made one up. He barded the language. For making up words, he knocks any other writer dead. When I am grown and a write myself, as I know I shall be, I intend to Shakespeare a few words of my own. I am already practicing now.” – p 10

At the beginning of the novel it was cute and endearing the way she twisted words, but after a while I grew rather tired of it. It didn’t disturb the flow of the novel at all; the novelty just wore off, I guess. As a person who often abuses language in this manner, I didn’t really find it to be as impressive as other reviews I’ve read. I mean this:

“And every day while I Hamleted about, paralysed by my fears, I had to watch Giles more and more insinuated into her arms.” – p 161

I like. Whereas this:

“I puzzled me over this for some days.” – p 161

Makes me cringe.

But enough about language. The story itself was actually very engaging and what I imagine people who like The Turn of the Screw probably enjoy about it. Harding manages to create an atmosphere of suspense and dread that I haven’t really felt since reading Stephen King (I don’t read horror anymore, so maybe that point is moot). However, the reason I don’t read horror is because I have no patience to find out what goes bump in the night, and even thought this was rather fast paced, I found myself feeling bored after a while.

There were a lot of things happening and yet it felt like running around in circles.

Be that as it may, the ending was a pure perfection. I never saw it coming and when it did my mouth was wide open in disbelief. That ending alone was worth the read. Absolutely chilling.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Den Vidunderliga Kärlekens Historia av Carl-Johan Vallgren (3/5)

Baksidan säger: Det är inte bara hans kärlek som är vidunderlig – utan också han själv, Hercule Barfuss. Alltsedan han föddes på ett glädjehus i Königsberg 1813 har han väckt människors fasa med sin vanställdhet. Han är också döv, och dvärg, men han har fått en sällsynt gåva – förmågan att läsa andras tankar. Det kommer att skänka honom ett våldsamt och märkligt öde, och farliga fiender…
Vi följer Hercule till kloster och dårhus, till Vatikanen och varietésällskap, Swedenborgianer och salonger, och får också en inblick i framväxten av de dövas språk. Men först och främst är romanen en förunderlig och gripande kärlekshistoria. Hercules Barfuss glömmer aldrig den flicka som föddes på bordellen samma natt som han, och samhörigheten med henne, Henriette Vogel, blir ledstjärnan för hela hans liv.
 
Jag säger: Jag förväntade mig så mycket mer av den här boken, och känner mig nästan lite besviken.

Stundtals var den väldigt spännande och jag drogs in i historien och kunde inte sluta läsa, men dessa ögonblick var korta och oftast var den faktiskt ganska tråkig och torr. Det var så mycket otroligt som hände Hercule hela tiden vilket gjorde att jag tappade intresset och läste tills slut bara för att se vad som skulle hända honom.

Jag tyckte för det mesta om Vallgrens språk, ibland var det nästan poetiskt, men ibland var det även torrt och överdrivet. Det var många element av boken som jag tyckte var onödiga, som t.ex. tidningsartiklarna och brevväxlingen mellan munkarna. Jag förstår varför de var med, men det kändes fånigt och lite överspelat.

Ingen av karaktärerna var egentligen riktigt utvecklad, knappt Hercule själv. Alla var som tvådimensionella marionetter som togs med i berättelsen när det var lägligt.

3/5 därför att det var en intressant historia och jag gillade Vallgrens språk, men inte mer än så då det hade kunnat varit så mycket bättre.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby by Donald Barthelme (4.5/5)


The back says: Donald Barthelme is a puckish player with language, a write of short but endlessly rewarding comic gems, a thinker and an experimenter. In these nine short stories, whether writing about a hairy, donkeyish king or a touching, private gesture of city-sized proportions, his is a surreal, deadpan genius.

I say:
I’m in utter and irrevocable love with David Barthelme.


I bought this collection of short stories solely because of the title – I had never heard of Barthelme before – and I’m so glad I did. My favourite was the title story, and I just knew I was going to fall in love with it when it started with these words of awesome:
 
“Some of us had been threatening our friend Colby for a long time, because of the way he had been behaving. And now he’d gone too far, so we decided to hang him. Colby argued that just because he had gone too far (he did not deny that he had gone too far) did not mean that he should be subject to hanging. Going too far, he said, was something everybody did sometimes. We didn’t pay much attention to his argument. We asked him what sort of music he would like played at the funeral.” – p 1

Barthelme is, in these nine stories, incredibly witty, profound and alluringly surreal. Some of the stories had me wondering what exactly was going on, and it wasn’t until the end that I went “aaahh ok, I see what you did there.”

I love that feeling.

I laughed out loud. A lot. And I kept wondering how full of genius Barthelme must be. I am ordering more of his work –

I’ve found a new love.

Favourite stories: Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby, I Bought a Little City, The School, and Game.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Two More Challenges

I haven’t been reading much so far this year, and I am starting to fear that anyone should take my blog name too seriously.
I haven’t stopped completely; I’ve just been really busy at work and unfortunately started reading some boring books that I have now hidden.

I’m back on track now, though, reading The Horrific Sufferings of the Mind-reading Monster Hercules Barefoot - His Wonderful Love and His Terrible Hatred (longest title ever) in Swedish and really enjoying it.

Who knew that a Swedish book would get me back into reading?

Anyhoo, during my slump I thought of two more challenges I am going to fail this year. The first being after I read that this year is labeled “Strindbergsår” (Strindberg year) in Sweden, since 2012 marks 100 years since August Strindberg  died. Due to this, I’m going to challenge myself to read 10 of his works. I remember reading Strindberg in school, but tragically, our teacher used to refer to him as the “woman hater” and so that’s stuck with me all these years. That has nothing to do with the challenge, but just a small reminder that these nicknames stick with you.

All in all, I don’t remember what the fuss is about even though I have fond memories of his use of language.

It'll be interesting to find out.

My second challenge is to re-read Oscar Wilde’s plays - and maybe The Picture of Dorian Gray. I used to read The Importance of Being Earnest once a year and De Profundis (the letter he sent from prison), and while organising my bookshelf the other day I saw my copy of his complete works and felt that I wanted to read them again (maybe not Salome), and so I will.

I will also kiss his tomb again when next I go to Paris and lie down next to his statue when I’m in Dublin. Because these are the type of things I do.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories, Volume 1 by HITRECORD & Joseph Gordon-Levitt (5/5)

The back says: The universe is not made of atoms; it’s made of tiny stories.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt says:



I say: I’m not sure there’s more to say about this tiny book other than I loved it.

Loved it all.

Pretty much.

Seriously, the stories and the illustrations made me laugh, think, gasp, oooh and aaah, and just plain touched my heart. I love that there are so many different artists involved in this as it offers so many different styles.

One of my favourites:

I collect flickering stars
in old pickling jars,

poking holes in the lids
so they can breathe.
- p. 31

There’s a read along to be found here, but I, as always, prefer to hold it in my hands.

Monday, 9 January 2012

2012 Reading Challenges

I suck at challenges. I start off all giddy and excited and then always seem to lose my way. Therefore I have decided not to start anything I won’t be able to finish this year.
100 Classics Challenge – I started this in May last year and thought I was going to finish it in a year, but since I kept reading other books as well, methinks it might take a while. I’m really loving this challenge, especially since there are a lot of books there that I’d never heard of and would never have read if it weren’t for this challenge. Yes, there has been quite a lot of foolery in here as well, but hey; everything’s a lesson (my new motto for when I mess up).
I have decided just this very second that my other “challenge” is going to be to read a book and then watch the movie version (or the other way around) and then compare them. I know that there are a lot of challenges like this out there already, but since I’m trying to take the pressure off, I’m just going to do this as my own little thing. I’m aiming at doing at least one set per month, so we’ll see how that fares.
I will once again try to read 10 Swedish books this year. Emphasis on try. I just started reading one and two paragraphs in I threw it to the side. I don’t know why I’m having such a hard time with the Swedish since I moved back here, but we’ll see.
Other than that, I think that my biggest “challenge” will be to finally sink my teeth eyes into In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (3200 pages). I bought the beautiful Everyman’s Library set in November and I’ve been eyeing the books ever since.

I’m really excited about them and I already know that this is bad because if I don’t like them there will be tears disappointment. 
And, as every other year, I will continue to obsess over the Russians, try to find the saddest books to make me cry, and randomly curse those Brits who shall remain nameless.
Oh, and try to read 101 books this year (to make up for the one I didn’t manage last year).

Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola (3.5/5)

The back says: The immediate success which Thérèse Raquin enjoyed on publication is 1868 was partly due to scandal, following the accusation of pornography; in reply Zola (1840 – 1902) defined the new creed of Naturalism in the famous preface which is printed in this volume. The novel is a grim tale of thriller and, as Leonard Tancock says in his introduction, a cautionary tale on the sixth and seventh commandments, this early work of Zola’s full of black macabre poetry which has kept its tragic power for over a century.
I say: I always find it amusing reading books that created some sort of scandal back when they were written because to me they often seem so tame – and Thérèse Raquin was no exeption. That little synopsis doesn’t really say much about what happens, and since I’m unable to re-tell anything without spoilers, I’m going to try do it with as few as possible.
Thérèse Raquin grows up with her aunt and sickly nephew Camille after being left in their care by her father. When they are of age they marry – Thérèse out of obligation to the family. The aunt owns a shop where she and Thérèse work, while Camille goes off to work in an office. There is no love between them, so when Camille’s friend Laurent turns up at the house, she falls for him and they begin an affair. After some time they realize that in order to be together they have to kill Camille, and
dun dun dun.
I think I liked bits of this. It’s been a week since I finished it and my most distinct memories are of the atmosphere. Zola manages to create on in which you constantly feel that something is about to happen, and even though you know exactly what will happen, you’re still somewhat surprised when it does.
Because it’s so predictable and therefore shouldn’t happen.
At least that’s how I felt.
I don’t really have that much to say about any of the characters because I didn’t like any of them. At all. Thérèse was annoying, Camille was rather insipid, and Laurent was such a stereotypical “lover” that he actually bored me – none of them were anything new. While I was reading it I found myself impatient because there was so much shilly shallying. In a way, that’s what Thérèse and Laurent were feeling towards each other by the end of the book, and Zola conveyed that emotion perfectly.
As much as I enjoyed Zola’s writing, there were a few instances of longwindedness and rather trite and predictable dialogue. And then on the other hand, there were times when I was so mesmerised and lost in the story that I wanted it to go on forever.
It was all very uneven.  
I’m not even going to comment on the whole pornography and whatnot because there’s no such content in this – well, not by today’s standards. The disturbing parts of this novel have nothing to do with sex.  
So yeah, 3.5/5 to my first, and so far only read of the year (my Christmas present to myself was the DVD box set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (yes, I'm a nerd like that) and I’ve been lost in Sunnydale all week; what with being ill with brain fever and all. I’m on Season 5 (out of 7) so I should be back to reading by the weekend - I miss it).

Sunday, 1 January 2012

2011 Reading Summary (or Something)

I’ll start off by saying that I’ve had brain fever for over a week now. And by brain fever I mean sinusitis – not that it has anything to do with anything, but there it is.

It’s a new year and I’m sick and cranky.

So, what happened in the year 2011 when it came to my reading?

I set up a goal to read 100 books and I managed 99 + 1 children’s book and 4 plays. Considering that I tackled a few Russian tomes of 800+ pages, I’m happy with those figures.

I started a couple of challenges that I kind of ignored. But, in my own defence, once I got to the tricky letters, I found a few books that didn’t interest me and then I wasn’t in the mood to pursue the challenges any further. So, the A-Z Challenges were a failure – but I don’t care.

I meant to read at least 10 books in Swedish this year, but for some reason I just didn’t feel like reading in Swedish – at all, really. I managed 6 in total, which is acceptable. I guess.

I started the 100 Classics Challenge in my born month of May, and set for it to run a year. I’ve read 40 (28 this year) and I doubt that I’ll manage 60 books in 5 months (not while Dickens is still there), but I’ll continue with that challenge because it is by far the best one I’ve ever partaken in. I love reading the classics – both the ones that are good, and the ones that are not so good (ok, maybe I’m lying about the not so good ones) – because I like to know what the fuss is all about.

I wanted 40% of the books that I read this year to be classics and I managed 40.4% (not counting anything labelled as a classic that’s written less that 30 year ago).

I wanted at least 60% to have been rated 4 or higher and I managed 61.6 %, which I’m really happy about since I want to know that I’ve really enjoyed the majority of what I’ve read this year.

I’ve managed to review everything I’ve read since starting the blog, except The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore by Tennessee Williams, and I should probably get to it (though I vaguely remember the plot).

Having said all that, I suppose what’s left is the inevitable best of list that I never manage to compile because I can’t rank books that way. But I’m going to make a compilation of some sort after I have a little nap because this brain fever is killing me.

Not literally, I hope.

But yeah, Happy New Year and I hope everyone is as satisfied with their reading year as I am.