Sunday, September 28, 2014

Meredith Pierce: Den fjortonde bruden/The Dark Angel

There's this thing going around Facebook right now (and NO ONE has nominated me, the feckers) where you list your ten favourite books, and a friend of mine had this on her list; a list she'd modified to be "ten most influential books". And I just was so struck with the memory of it. I immediately went to see if the library had it. They did, but only in Swedish. As a matter of fact, I think I might have read this very edition as a child, the cover art is the very same. 

My daughter thought this was so so lame, by the way. Almost as lame as me speaking doge. 

It's not very good, but it's hard to say if it's also the translation doing it no favours. This is high fantasy, so the language is supposed to be saga-like and formal - something that seldom translates well unless you have a terrific translator, more of an interpreter. I realised for example that the word quest is translated to spaning which is just no. But even in English I suspect it's lacking in lasting quality. A bit if a mix of Tolkien (the names definitely), Ray Bradbury (location: the moon?), even some Ursula LeGuin if I'm not way off... But I just don't get into this secondary universe. There are hints of science fiction but without scientific explanations - instead everything is solved by magic. It's a bit of a cop-out. Wouldn't mind reading it in English if it falls into my lap, but I won't go out of my way for it. Fun to revisit all the same! 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

stuff I read this summer or up until like september or so

When we went to Ireland I ploughed through my sister's Agatha Christies and some kids' books they had. And when I got home I was still on an Agatha Christie kick so I borrowed some more at the library and have also been watching Miss Marple on Netflix like some mad thing (the Joan Hickson ones, natch). I tried the Hercule Poirot too but that was just too camp; I couldn't take it. I can't believe they spent (or spend!) so much time and effort at all these Agatha Christie series and made them so shite. Those stiff actors who seem to be sitting on set just waiting for their lines, which they then deliver with the most obvious of acting cues, in manner of school play. I'm surprised they know what to do with their hands, I wouldn't raise an eyebrow if they stood there with their appendages dangling limply or with fingesrs laced together awkwardly over their crotch area, like true amateurs do. Really dire. But after a terrible first four or so episodes the Joan Hickson series does pick up a bit, and she is an excellent Marple. The best, the tops. However, what I like about vintage detective fiction is that there really is a lot of subtext and information about society at the time going on under a repetitive sort of over-structure , and I don't see why they ever pick up on this and play it up a bit when they film the stories. They could easily tweak them darker, or turn a spotlight just ever-so-slightly on the implied gay relationships (I'm not asking for new storylines to be added, thus corrupting the original story, mind, just more interesting bits), or just do anything instead of falling into that god-awful trap of going bananas over the costumes.  Costume away, my dear friends, but think Mad Men instead - script and eye candy. Also - please be period correct!  And a lot of information needed to understand the characters involved seems to go missing in the filming - understandable, because you don't want a scene with somebody reciting the biography of X, Y and Z, in the way you can in a novel, but at the same time it's worth pointing out that it is possible to shed light on the background and motivations of people in films too without voice-overs or recitals. Scripts people, they need work.

Now, I still can't say Christie's my favourite. My previous grumbles do stand, but I'm warming to her. She's uneven though, isn't she? I still find it difficult to guess the killer, which I put down to needing more information than what is given. I am probably in the wrong, since I admittedly don't read carefully enough. Anyway, brief notes below based on memory alone - I'm writing this post in mid-September and half the books were read in mid-August.

4.50 from Paddington is one of my favourites. A great suspenseful killing on a train, that is only witnessed by accident. Maybe I'm just a sucker for train anything after commuting for so long and having a son who was train mad as a youngster. I also like the general set-up, the crumbling grand house in the middle of a changing community, the clever young woman who helps miss Marple by taking a post as housekeeper. Pleasing.
A Pocket Full of Rye is a little less good. A little too fantastical. Also, one has to make a few imaginative jumps here to guess the killer, surely? It's not obvious just from the clues in the text, is it? Or am I stupid? (Don't answer that.)
The Princess Bride: OMG OMG OMG I've wanted to read this for soooo long, why haven't I? And there it was, in my niece's bookshelf!

I have, of course, loved the film since childhood, and I remember my cousin (who introduced me to it) saying that it was based on this book, and she'd heard that the ending was actually really sad and that the spells wore off so Wesley died and Buttercup returned to Humperdinck. I am very grateful that the ending isn't quite so sad. More ambiguous. This is funny, entertaining, and clever. I don't know what I'd have made of it as a child/teen, if I could have appreciated the way fact and fiction is melded; Goldman writes as though he's adapting an original novel, written by S. Morgenstern, and the book is riddled with notes on what Morgenstern's (boring) original is like, why Goldman is cutting those bits out, loads of commentary on Goldman's own private life (all lies), and this edition has the epilogue where Goldman is bypassed by Morgenstern's estate for the sequel in favour of Stephen King. It's just brilliant. I think I'd have swallowed all the lies, until clocking (being a European after all), that there are no such places as Florin and Guilder. The question is how long it would have taken me. I was confused even now, as an adult. Awesome.

A Wrinkle in Time: Why is this book a classic? One of the poorest works of fiction I've ever read. I am so confused. Not one proper character in the whole book.

Benny and Omar: This was fun to read, but I don't know if it's very good, really. It reads like Colfer went to Tunisia and thought he might make a book out of that, but not like a tonne of research went into it. It was funny to read while in Wexford and hearing the "syrupy accent", that the Tunisians fail to recognize as English, live.

Endless Night is an artsy Agatha Christie. Inside the mind of the killer and all that. Meh, really. Not badly written, just not interesting beyond the props.
Ask a Policeman was a bit of a disappointment. It's a collaboration between several members of The Detection Club:  Anthony Berkely, Milward Kennedy, Gladys Mitchell, John Rhode, Dorothy Sayers and Helen Simpson. Each writer (except Rhode who writes the general set-up first chapter and a concluding one if I remember correctly) wrote a chapter featuring another writer's favourite sleuth. This is a highly entertaining premise if you are accquainted with said sleuths already so you can appreciate the jokes even better - but sadly I am not. I've only read Mitchell and Sayers out of this lot (I borrowed the book because of Sayers, obviously). Frankly I was bored to tears by the end when Rhode worked through the "true" solution. Sayers's bit was very good though. It's worth reading the Goodread's reviews on the book, by the way. The preface in this edition is by Agatha Christie, but was originally written for a Soviet magazine or something so it's not book-specific. (Any mistakes in facts now are due to me having to return this book before writing any notes - someone had put in a reservation for it at the library. Imagine!)

I don't remember what this one is about at all. Let me google... Oh right! Now I remember!  There were bits of this that I quite liked, but I didn't like how everyone was perfectly okay with a child dying because he was "a horrid boy". So that's alright then, push him out the window. Right. Makes perfect sense. Put that in your Discovery channel documentary "What Made Britain a Sick Sick Place", thank you. It's all jolly good and I say and then KILL THE KIDS.
Ah, this was Christie being clever again, causing outrage among the readers I believe. She'd claim she's not breaking the whodunnit rules, but I don't know - she's definitely bending them. I was surprised at the solution but I don't know if I approve. Tut tut.

Aaannnnddd finally a Marian Keyes I picked up on a whim. This novel must have been written during her latest bout of depression. It's very sad in places, very moving. Unfortunately also a bit uneven. The story doesn't hang together all the way. I wonder why these aren't being filmed? If this was a Swedish writer in Sweden the film deals would have come so fast, you guys.

She should allow herself to not have to be funny, I think she could write a better book. That said, the depressing paint scheme of the missing singer's house is hilarious! I found a quote on Goodreads so I'm pasting it in here, since I don't have the book anymore: “He'd done his walls with paint from Holy Basil. God, I yearned for their colors. I hadn't been able to afford them myself but I knew their color chart like the back of my hand. His hall was done in Gangrene, his stairs in Agony and his living room--unless I was very much mistaken--in Dead Whale. Colors I personally very much approved of.”  Paint colours for the depressed! 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Marisha Pessl: Night Film

My eldest got this as part of a gift when she graduated from school this June. I told her great, I really enjoyed Special Topics of Calamity Physics, Pessl is really good! And apparently she thoroughly enjoyed Night Film herself. She was "gripped and hypnotised" as the covers promised - me not so much. Because a) why are random words emphasised in italics through the whole book? So annoying, like in comics! I stopped after half a chapter to read only the italicized words to see if they spelled a different story but if there is a code (there might still be) I didn't get it. Also, not one of the characters really came alive for me, so I didn't care thus didn't scare. A bit meh for me I'm afraid. Written like she wants a movie deal. 

Diana Wynne Jones: Enchanted Glass and The Lives of Christopher Chant

I had a hankering to read some Diana Wynne Jones. Christ, what an imagination that woman had! So much that if I'm truthful the stories aren't even finished, they're tacked together at the end with more bits of fantastic events and creations peeking in that we hardly get to know. Always ending with the feeling that there could be more - just perfect for kids. I wish I'd read all of hers as a child.

The pictures crack me up. Underneath Enchanted Glass you see the heat wave phenomenon of Swimming Towel Drying on Balcony and my pajama legs and bare toes. Christopher Chant is held by a hand already busy holding a sports bra. I am just the BEST at snapshots.

Rennie Airth: The Dead of Winter

Last I read a Rennie Airth book was back in 2006, and then I was in such a mindset that I liked it. I am in no such mindset now, instead the formula bores me. All these serial killer books are always written in the same way, I've long since stopped feeling any suspense. Airth isn't great at producing characters with personality either, it's more like he only tells us that they have personality (like the producers of Doctor Who, Torchwood and Sherlock do, they turn to the camera and say, hey, these people care about each other, ok? now we shall proceed with a television production that never makes  you feel it but that's ok because we're after telling you sure). You can see Airth's "this is personality" tricks a mile off. Anyway, serial killer, WWII, rations, snow, bombs. There you go. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Vary the length of your sentences please

In my second to last post I gave out about staccato writing, and thanks to soshul meeja I've found this link to Gary Provost's 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing. Quote:

 This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It's like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals--sounds that say listen to this, it is important.
Got to love the internet - there's always someone out there who has already expressed what you were thinking in a coherent and succinct manner.

Sunday, June 29, 2014


Completely unreadable. Completely. I'm guessing this goes for the entirety of the authorship.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Ondvinter av Anders Björkelid (plus Eldbärare och Förbundsbryterskan)

Såvitt jag förstår är Björkelid oöversatt, så vi tar det väl på svenska då va. För omväxlings skull.

Faktum är att en av döttrarna haft författaren som lärare de senaste tre åren (hon tog studenten i år, hipp hipp och allt det där, och om detta var en normal blogg hade jag skrivit något smart om det då). Hon säger att han var väldigt bra, så det är ju kul. ("Har du haft den här Anders Björkelid som lärare förresten?" "Men mamma! Ja, i TRE ÅR. Jag har pratat jättemycket om honom! Varför lyssnar du inte?")

Boken är sådär, den är inte dålig men jag är inte helt såld. Jag ska läsa nästa så får jag se om det tar sig. Problemet är att det inte känns som om så mycket händer, fast huvudpersonernas liv vänds på ända när deras mystiska far dör och de attackeras av professionella strypare och monsterhundar och tvingas fly ut i vinternatten. Jag tror problemet är att allt är så mystiskt och de inte får svar på några frågor, vilket gör att berättelsen stampar. Först på slutet får de veta allt, men då är det fortsättning följer. Det blir lite lajvmanus över det hela, roligare att spela än att läsa kanske?

Uppdatering 2014-06-27: Nu har jag läst de följande två, Eldbärare och Förbundsbryterskan. Rättare sagt, jag har skummat dem, speciellt den senare. Och nu är jag inte snäll längre. Det är i stort sett omöjligt att få flyt i läsningen. Efter en tag upptäckte jag att jag läser den med rösten från killen som leder Barda på SVT i huvudet - något som är en bekräftelse på att boken känns som en lajvmanual. 
För så här går det, hela böckerna igenom: Någonting händer, dvs författaren lägger upp en scen som ska föra handlingen vidare - folk som träffas, dialoger, ev slagsmål - och därefter pratar huvudpersonerna Sunia och Wolf om vad som precis hänt, antingen med varandra eller i en inre monolog. Eller både ock. Det är precis som ett Barda-avsnitt! Och enormt tråkigt.

Språket är genomgående stackatoartat och upphugget, vilket gör läsningen monoton, och eftersom handlingen tydligen inte kan föras framåt utan att man pratar om den är det väldigt mycket dialog, något som också bidrar till en hackig läsupplevelse. Jag klarar inte av att läsa böcker där ingen mening tillåts vara längre än tio ord, jag minns att samma stilistiska grepp drev mig till vansinne den enda gången jag läste Ken Bruen. Det ska väl vara sparsmakat antar jag? Spända meningar = automatiskt spännande text? (Fast nej.)

Redigeringen är slarvig; kursiv stil används för att markera t.ex. en drömsekvens, men ibland kursiveras även det normala skeendet när korrekturläsningen inte fungerat. Och rent generellt hade hälften varit nog, böckerna hade mått bra av en riktigt sträng redaktör. Jag lämnas också med ett intryck av ett torftigt och enahanda språk, vilket jag misstänker kan vara orättvist för när jag söker på nätet ser jag att många uppskattar böckerna just för språkets skull. Själv hakar jag upp mig på att huvudpersonerna hela tiden utbrister och ropar. Nej, detta är ingen författare som målar bilder med sitt språk som Selma Lagerlöf, eller till och med Astrid Lindgren (som i ärlighetens namn kan vara mer än lovligt tjatig ibland) gör. I princip hela Förbundsbryterskan utspelar sig i underjorden, hos vittror och annat knytt, med referenser till sagor och de regler som finns i sagor, det är blod och mörker och det BORDE vara bra, men det är sååå trååååkigt. 

Kommer INTE att läsa den sista. Däremot barnböckerna var skojiga! De lånade jag och högläser för sjuåringen, så de är helt ok.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Traction man

This is one of our favourite books. We've borrowed it twice from the library - at the moment I'm forcing Minimus to listen to proper "chapter books" as we say in Swedish and have actually managed to make him PAY ATTENTION and ENJOY it, so we may be moving away from picture books. You never know, hope springs eternal. But Traction Man is a brilliant picture book, I highly recommend it. So funny, such a lot of little clues and extra information in the pictures, I love stuff like that. Sadly the library doesn't have the first Traction Man book - this is the second - and I was considering buying it but now that we are growing up, book-wise, I might not. We'll see. I should get it and donate it I suppose. I never blog about all those scores of kids' books I read for my son, but I thought I'd make an exception.

Fire and Bitterblue by Kristen Cashore

The second and  third part of the Graceling  series had to be read of course. My eldest daughter lolled and lolled at the covers of Fire and Graceling, which show the silhouettes of beautiful lithe girls ready to shoot arrows or something. Pretty lame, and they don’t really do the books justice. Somewhere on the internet someone has written something intelligent about this pervasive image of strong girls with bows or crossbows - as in, without one you're not strong, and you can't be strong in any other way. I don’t think these books are fantastic by any means, but they are, on the whole, well written and imaginative, with a strong ambition to discuss more difficult subjects – like how to forgive people who have been coerced to commit terrible acts of violence under an oppressive regime, with definite nods to the South African truth commissions (Bitterblue), or if a person whose parent was violent and tyrannical has a duty to atone for said parent, or a right to atone (Fire). The covers, however, are just pretty and shallow and kick-ass; elements that exist in the books, but aren't the most important by any means. The stories are darker than you'd imagine, but in my opinion they could have gone a little darker yet, and more philosophical.

Anything else I wanted to say I've long forgotten (this is another overdue draft being finished). 

Maze Runner by James Dashner (ha)

Enjoy my Paint skillz. Can't help but feeling my internet friend wasn't sharing my indignation enough.