Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I may have to order

This book seems interesting. Maybe I could find out if there is anyone writing about a male homosexual detective. For some reason there are several lesbian heroines in the genre, but I have yet to come across a gay man. Which is interesting in itself.

FYI, my birthday is in October. :-P

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Bryson and Bentley

Hb has commented, on my Bryson post below, that he does visit his family in Notes From A Small Island. And that is true. And that reminded me that I should have updated that blog entry, since after writing it (naturally, why do research before you write, when you can publicly humiliate yourself afterwards) I googled a little, found some interviews, and deduced that he just doesn't write about the family trips. Also he confirms that his books are not meant as, and in fact are rubbish if read as travel guides. (That was a bad sentence. But I can't piece it together in a better way at the moment. Very annoying.) So colour me embarrassed and efterklok.

Spent all weekend feeling sorry for myself as I have a cold. Reread Trent Intervenes by EC Bentley. This is a book I picked up somewhere quite accidentally, and I'm glad I did. Bentley only wrote three books featuring his detective/journalist/artist Philip Trent, and they are hard to find. By which I mean that no library in town has even one copy, and I haven't come across them in any second-hand book stalls. I'm not desperate enough to start trawling the internet for copies, but that day may come. Trent Intervenes is the last in the series. It was published in 1938, and preceded by Trent's Own Case in 1936 and Trent's Last Case (great title, considering!) in (wait for it) 1913.

Apparently Dorothy Sayers was a Bentley fan, which is of course a mark of quality. The book itself is a collection of short stories. Trent sometimes aids the police, sometimes acts alone to help a friend or an accquantaince. He always reserves the right to choose how to act on what he has discovered. They are clever, not complete whodunnits as Trent has more information than we do, but close, as there are enough clues so as to help us guess the truth. Recommended.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Marsvinets paradox

Ur dagens DN:

Det vi inte får se fyller katalogen ut med anspråksfulla curatorstexter. På golvet står ett litet marsvin med propeller på ryggen, knöligt skulpterat av Malin Bryntesson. Varför? Jag har svårt att ryckas med av katalogtextens tal om att verket tvingar till reflektioner över "marsvinets paradox - att det å ena sidan symboliserar begreppet experiment och å andra sidan passiviseras som husdjur i stadsmiljö".

Det är sånt här som ger konstnärer dåligt rykte.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Bill Bryson Thoughts

So while reading In A Sunburned Country I was struck by the fact that Bryson always travels alone. Sometimes he'll have a companion, but it's never family, instead perhaps an old high school friend (Katz, in A Walk In The Woods) or a colleague. Maybe he never writes about his travels with his family? Maybe that's too personal? It would be sad to think that his kids never get to see all the things he sees. I was thinking that while his solitary travelling gives him time to think about what he sees, ponder and take notes, and then write these great books that I love, it at the same time makes them vaguely useless as travel guides for those of us who lug the kids along. Hm. What I'm trying to say is that instead of feeling like I want to follow in Bryson's footsteps, I feel like there is no way I can. At the same time he writes in such a way as to make me feel as though I am there too, and so I've already been where he's been.

If you see my point. Rambling though it may be.

Why is Agatha Christie so popular?


My copy of Unnatural Death has about a thousand printing errors in it. I am seriously disappointed. Luckily I have read it before, so I knew that it wasn't meant to be incomprehensible in the places where it was incomprehensible. Now, do I chuck the book (that rhymes, pleasingly)? I can no longer lend it to my editor friend, she'll go into crazy work mode and explode.

Then I re-read Ten Little Niggers. Note: I have never read the book in English, and it's been at least ten years or so since I read it in Swedish. This time around, I was struck by how mediocre it was, really. Not at all as scary as I remember. Plus, the constant use of the word nigger really grates on you. Makes you want to turn up on the island and smack everyone upside the head. In the Swedish translation it was neger, which is not, you know, good, but it's better than nigger. Must've been an excellent translation on the whole, since it made me love the book so much for so many years. She's terribly overrated, Agatha Christie. Don't understand it at all. This is the only book that's ever done anything for me, and now I find out it's all a lot of ... ... ... ... at the end of every single fecking sentence.

Then my husband's colleague (also my former teacher, did I mention that? Pretty cool) lent me 44 Scotland Street, not knowing that I've read it. Still very sweet gesture that I appreciate, and I also got a present! A little Reading Diary. So I shan't be needing to blog anymore, I guess. ;-)

Then I got sick. *coughs* So I'm mostly lying in bed reading Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country, laughing out loud. Because, let's face it, Australians are funny without even trying. The accent is enough. Bill Bryson just ices the cake, really.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Blue Shoes and Happiness (and More)

Blue Shoes and Happinessis the latest from Alexander McCall Smith. My darling husband borrowed it for me from a colleague (so this is the first one I've read in hardback, incidentally).

It feels a bit repetitive to gush about how much I enjoy these books, so I was going to say that I first found myself a little disappointed in this one. I think I was a little surprised that there weren't more references to stuff that has already happened, like the adopted children and the Kalahari Typing School (note to self: you haven't read that one). But then I found myself backtracking on that sentiment, since this book is a little more introspective than the others. Just a little, but it seems like the theme is a different - the action takes place as much on the inside as on the outside. And there are still beautiful passages (that yes, make me cry), such as this one:
She thought of her father, the Daddy as she called him, every day. And when she had those dreams at night, he was there, as if he had never died, although she knew, even in the dream, that he had. One day she would join him, she knew, whatever people said about how we came to an end when we took our last breath. Some people mocked you if you said that you joined others when your time came. Well, they could laugh, those clever people, but we surely had to hope, and a life without hope was no life: it was a sky without stars, a landscape of sorrow and emptiness. If she thought that she would never again see Obed Ramotswe, then it would make her shiver with loneliness. [...] And there was somebody else she would see one day, she hoped - her baby who had died, that small child with its fingers that had grasped so tightly around hers, whose breathing was so quiet, like the sound of the breeze in the acacia trees on an almost-still day, a tiny sound. She knew that her baby was with the late children in whatever place it was that the late children went, somewhere over there, beyond the Kalahari, where the gentle white cattle allowed the children to ride on their backs. And when the late mothers came, the children would flock to them and they would call to them and take them in their arms. That was what she hoped, and it was a hope worth having, she felt.

Oh Lord, that has me in tears again. On to something funnier.

I also reread Dorothy Sayers' Strong Poison, which is still brilliant. Got so bitten that I'm reading Unnatural Death now. So a quote from the latter:

'I wish you wouldn't talk so much', complained his friend. 'And how about all those typewritten reports? Are you turning philantropist in your old age?'

'No - no,' said Wimsey, rather hurriedly hailing a taxi. 'Tell you about that later. Little private pogrom of my own - Insurance against the Socialist Revolution - when it comes. "What did you do with your great wealth, comrade?" "I bought First Editions." "Aristocrat! à la lanterne!" "Stay, spare me! I took proceedings against 500 moneylenders who oppressed the workers." "Citizen, you have done well. We will spare your life. You shall be promoted to cleaning the sewers." Voilà! We must move with the times. Citizen taxi-driver, take me to the British Museum. Can I drop you anywhere? No? So long. I am going to collate a 12th-century manuscript of Tristan, whole the old order lasts.'

I just realised typing that (whew!) that it might just be several slurs against Jews. The words pogrom and moneylenders in combination... Which would not be funny at all. But I never saw it like that before, maybe largely because I have never viewed DLS as an antisemite. As a matter of fact, in Strong Poison, Lord Peter's friend Freddy Arbuthnot announces his engagement to a Jewish girl, and the whole thing has a anti-antisemitic feel to it. Hm. Must think about that some more.

Anyway, Eurovision in 10 minutes now!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Dental Literature

So today I went to the dentist. At 8 o'clock in the morning no less, which translates into "stupid o'clock in the morning", although not as stupid as 7.40 which is when my youngest went the other week (yawn). So I'm thinking "mutter mutter, brilliant start to the day this" and to ice the turd cake someone I really would rather not meet or even see was in the waiting room... :-((( But anywhoo. I get up on the chair, and we start chatting, and we went from anaesthatic to pulling out teeth to Louis XVI (I thought it might have been) to my dream of future dental care, which will involve the extraction of all my (crap) teeth and then the stimulation (via tricorder or similar instrument) of my genes to grow new, sparkly ones, and then conversation turned to science fiction.

See, I don't like going to the dentist. They always get on my case about not flossing etc., and refuse to listen when I say that it's really hard for me to floss, because my teeth are all cramped into my mouth and the floss WON'T FIT, and I think they should cut me some slack because the dentists obviously let me down bigtime when I was a kid. But when I first walked into this dentist's office I knew he was okay, because he had a Matrix screensaver on his computer. And this was before Matrix 2 and 3, which are rubbish. So he's pretty cool.

We ended up chatting about sci-fi books (I'm going to have to read Asimov now, as per his instructions) and films, and Swedish literature as taught in schools, and

Nurse: "Remember that phase when we read all those Russian authors? Tolstoy, Gogol..."

Dentist: "Gogol...Gogol... Dead Souls... and what was the other one?"

Me, with mouth full of stuff: *points to nose*

Dentist: "Nose? The Nose?"

Me: "Mrgh."

Dentist: "Don't remember it. Hang on, I'll let you speak in a moment."

And so on.

Not a bad way to start the day after all.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

More Dorothy Sayers!

Found Strong Poison in the second-hand book stall today! This is the one where Lord Peter meets Harriet Vane, the love of his life, who is on trial for murder. She is accused of poisoning her former lover with arsenic. It is a brilliant little novel, especially enlightening if you wish to learn more about the moral code of the time, and really understand better how people thought re: marriage and free love. Am very pleased.

Moby Dick is not going so well. *blush* Perhaps I should give it a rest for a bit.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Cheating on Moby

So at 2 o'clock Saturday morning my husband came back from Paris. He had naturally (for him) left something behind somewhere along his itinerary, this time his jacket with his house keys - luckily only in the car that gave him a lift from the airport shuttle. Anyway, he had to ring me to let him in. At 2 o'clock in the morning. Brutal.

Anyway, he bought me books. In English. It's funny really, how one of his favourite stops in Paris is Shakespeare and Company, a more or less English-language bookshop, but then he doesn't speak French. He got me The Girl Who Married a Lion by Alexander McCall Smith, which is a collection of African stories/fabels. Probably very good, so I'm glad to now own it, but I'd come across it before and elected not to read it since I didn't want to read fairy tales at the time. But it'll come in handy one day, I'm sure. Also he bought A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson - again, a favourite of mine. I'm always in stitches reading his books, and it's best when he's writing about things I know nothing or little of, as I won't spot any glaring errors then. ;-) This is a good one, of how he and his annoying friend Katz hike the Appalachian Trail. A lot of info, environmental debate, hilarious episodes. Recommended.

Also, yesterday down town I bought myself two books, because they were there. For any out of town readers I have - in Uppsala, on Saturdays, you find second-hand book stalls along a part of the river. Sort of "diet Paris" style. On my way to my bike I peeked, and found two old paperbacks: Ten Little Niggers by Agatha Christie, and Unnatural Death by Dorothy Sayers.

Ten Little Niggers was obviously renamed Ten Little Indians later for the film (which the cover of my paperback also points out, almost apologetically). It's a truly awful title, I cringe even typing the word. But hey, those where the times, that's the word she used, I can't change it. :-/ Substituting "indians" for "niggers" is really not a great improvement either. This is still one of the creepiest crime stories I've ever read. Admittedly, I haven't read it for years, I might start picking holes in it now, but as a child on summer holidays with my grandparents in Värmland I'd always read their (Swedish) copy, and it freaked me out. Storyline is that ten people are invited to a mansion on an isolated island. They don't know the others or that they are coming, and have nothing in common. They think. Once there, the supposed host is missing. A recording informs them that they are all going to be punished for being murderers that have escaped the law. And then they die, one by one. Most chilling.

Unnatural Death is Sayers' third Lord Peter novel, so he's still very much happy-go-lucky and debonair in character. Not that he ever really was, if you read between the lines. Sayers was much too good a writer for that. I love her work, and have read all her Lord Peter novels, including the one finished by Jill Paton Walsh (Thrones, Dominations). So I've already read this one too, but couldn't pass up a chance to own it for 20 crowns. Anyway, I don't seem to remember every detail of the storyline, so I'll have to re-read it sometime - the snappy Lord Peter dialogue should make it well worth it! It's something about an old woman who dies, and some people suspect her nurse murdered her. The doctor however concludes that there was no foul play involved, but Lord Peter is interested and starts picking at the problem. Then the maid is murdered, and things escalate.

The best thing about this one is the introduction of the estimable Miss Climpson, the shrewd middle-aged lady who sleuths for Lord Peter, writes lengthy italicized letters and runs his secretary school (or whatever it is). She's great. Oh, and there is a Reverend Hallelujah Dawson in this one, that's something to remember.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Du viet, han är polacken

I bloggens begynnelse tyckte Frida att jag skulle läsa Hjälp, jag heter Zbigniew av pseudonymen Zbigniew Kuklarz. Jag var lite avog, för maken hade just fått boken i födelsedagspresent av sin moder, och han tyckte inte den var så fantastisk. Men häromkvällen (innan han for till Paris den lyckans guldgossen) läste han upp ett stycke högt för mig, och nu har jag läst hela boken själv. Om än inte i ordning. Den är väldigt episodisk, och jag bläddrade fram och tillbaks till de roligaste/sorgligaste/mest givande bitarna. Påminner om Baktharis Kalla det vad fan du vill på det sättet.

I alla fall, stycket min man läste:

Tomek är inte ensam om att prata mycket. Det gäller de flesta polacker, i alla fall de jag träffat i Sverige. Framförallt efter att man ställt en simpel fråga. Då får man ofta en föreläsning till svar. De kan inte bara svara ja eller nej, det skulle vara alldeles för enkelt, och ett missat tillfälle att få bevisa sin smarthet.

Här började jag rågarva. Det är PRECIS SÅ DET ÄR. Maken skrattade också medan han läste, och sa vänta vänta, det kommer mer! Så fortsätter han läsa, med en grym polsk brytning:

Jag frågar: "Har du klippt dig?"
Polack svarar: (lång inandning) "Du viet... (lång suck) när min mormor var litten hon bodde i en by. Där fanns en man som rakade alla fåren med en maskin. Så varje år min mormor lät håret växa och sen hon gick till fårmannen och gav till honom en påse potatis så att han skulle klippa lite med maskinen i hennes hår va... bla bla

Jag höll på att krevera. Detta måste läsas med polsk brytning. Det är så exakt. Been there, heard that! Hur kul som helst! Usch, jag kanske är typ lyteskomiker? Det är brytningsskildringarna jag uppskattar mest i Kalla det vad fan du vill också. Läskig tanke. Föredrar att tro att det är mitt stora språkintresse som spelar in. I alla fall:

Vid det här laget ångrar man sin frågvishet [...] Lik förbannat ställer man dumt nog en fråga till som för att avbryta babbelsvaret från den första.

Jag frågar: "Vilket dagis valde ni åt er dotter?"
Polack svarar: "Nej du viet, (lång suck) kommunen har problem va. De diskutierar och diskutierar förbättringar utan att komma fram. Du förstår, det är politik i en nöt. Och var går pengarna, jag frågar sig...?"

Herregud, svara på frågan idiot!

Nu är mitt nya favvouttryck "nej du viet". Bara så ni viet. Vi tillbringade en god stund med att prata om alla polacker vi känner som är precis så där. Och min man hade en stunds ångest över huruvida han var en av dem (vilket jag försäkrade honom om att han inte var).

Moby Dick knallar på. Jag uppskattar geniet bakom, men historien i sig tilltalar mig inte, så det går trögt. Dock ändock, det går.