Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Child and King

A trip to the library generated a Jack Reacher novel, The Hard Way, and The Pirate King by Laurie King. I had to get a Jack Reacher because we saw the film sort of and it was too ridiculous for words. Too too too. How on earth it got made is beyond me. I'm not saying the books are great literature or anything, far from it, but they do have a certain individuality that is appealing if you want a thriller novel and this individuality bears no resemblance whatsoever to Tom Cruise. This novel has a very simple plot line that I guessed in the first chapters and was right, so no points for originality there.

Sadly not many points for Laurie King either, because the book feels sort of rushed. I love the idea, and I love the idea of an ensemble stuck on a boat together, but can't help but long for Ngaio Marsh or Josephine Tey or even Dorothy Sayers to write the dialogue. This is the sort of setting that they'd excel in. Mix in a bit of modernity in Ms King's way (i.e. no fear of a censor) and it'd be great. Frankly, as it is now, it's seems a little as though - dare I say it? - it was written with a screenplay in mind. Never write for the movies folks! Still enjoyed it though, still devoured it.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Peter Høeg: Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow

Every now and then, say every five years or perhaps even more seldom, this book is taken down and re-read. It seems like we've had it forever - our copy was printed in -95, so I think it's a budget print my husband around the time when we'd moved in together so we could see what the hype was about. I've always had a soft spot for it. It's been put in the charity pile every time we've had a bookshelf clearout but it's always been moved back to the "keep" pile by me, and now I'm happily resigned to the position of defender of Smilla; she's not leaving us anytime soon, that's my firm stance on the issue. The film was of course a huge disappointment. Let us not speak of it. This is a film that should have been made in Danish by Danes. In Danish nothing in Smilla's Feelings for Snow is sentimental or moony - in Danish Smilla is brutally self-sufficient and both whole and broken. There is beauty and dirt. This time reading it (which I am doing completely by coincidence based on the book being moved into my line of sight by my husband who was looking for something else I think) I am the same age as Smilla. We are both 37 and I know what she means when she calls herself old and at the same time can feel like a child. The darker parts of Smilla's personality are clearer to me this time and more understandable. When she wants to revel in her misery on her own I understand how she is thinking, and also how bittersweet it is that she isn't permitted that kind of solitude, now that she has made some connections to others.  And it's not just a crime novel, it's more. Which is why it's good.

I wonder if it's worth the trouble trying to read this in Danish. Granted, Swedish and Danish are not that far apart, but I think there is a certain something extra-terse and ass-kicking about the Danish language that is probably lost in translation. Reading in Danish and Norwegian is oh such a pain though. Could they not film this, the Danes, and do it properly, and let me hear Smilla's rude remarks the way they're supposed to be heard?  Do it well and it'll be a good story about their colonial past aswell, which may be needing to be told to the world.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

I have to post something this time of year

I do believe I always post this time of year, my favourite time, and waffle on for a bit about nature being at its finest now before the greenery starts greening, the bare bones of it all so to speak yada yada yada. Which is all true. We've had a long, cold spring so here we are in May still without more than a few buds and very early spring flowers, so even though this spring post is late it really isn't.

I'm in the unfortunate position of not being able to keep the blog up, since I don't have computer time. It has led to me not reading. I want to blog about the books I read. If I can't blog, I don't read. I actually find this ridiculously upsetting. Haven't decided if I should just call it quits and live in the Now of the IRL  instead of getting too hung up on a digital journal that shouldn't be allowed to become the reason for enjoying literature.

I read all the Gregor the Overlander books, bar one, which I don't think I'll work to hard on getting hold of. I liked them, and like some reviewer I read find it a little surprising that they're not better known. Collins writes so well for kids, the stories don't shy away from darkness and difficult moral choices and are still easy to understand. I also read something somewhere about how this is one book that is NEVER going to be filmed - this may be a very accurate assessment. Giant rats and bats and other creepy-crawlies? Not really workable. I'd post links but this was ages ago and I'm not looking for them now (feel like I'm writing on borrowed time).

Other than that I've read nothing, bar a novel written by a fella I work with. Exciting, isn't it! It hasn't been published, so we'll keep it anonymous. Ever since he mentioned that he wrote a novel I've been pestering him to let me read it - especially after he showed me the rejection letter he got from a publisher. It was rather a good rejection letter as such ones go, pinpointing briefly but accurately what the problems were with the book. Anyway, my colleague is a tad miffed because he'll never get it printed now, because it's much too much like Kristian Lundberg's Yarden (which I've written about before and which was one reason why I was so keen to read this one). This is true. It's just bad luck. They wrote at the same time, and Lundberg got there first. And Yarden is a better book, I have to say. How much this is thanks to it being actually published and having the benefit of an editor (let's hear it for editors!) I don't know  (as I've also said I wasn't keen on book 2 so my confidence in Lundberg's writing went way down). My colleague's book could benefit from some sprucing up, some tightening up of certain passages and a clearer purpose in the storyline; all things he admits, but he says he just accepts that it's not going to be published now, so he'd rather keep it the way it is. It's sort of a document of himself, I suppose, since it's about a young man working a menial, soul-sucking job in a warehouse, despite being from a cultural middle-class background and "so promising" - which is what my colleague did a few years ago. In short sparse episodes he describes situations, emotions, people trapped in the warehouse, like a separate universe. I've become very curious about my colleague after reading this. How much is based on himself? If it's a lot, I'm immensely flattered and touched that he let me read it at all, because then it's very revealing and personal. But he's an intelligent man with plenty of empathy, so it's not at all impossible that it's only loosely based on himself and perhaps more inspired by someone else he worked with.

Because of this I've found that it's been a bit disconcerting to have read it, actually. Since I know the author it opens up for lots of questions - did you feel like this? Tell me more! What really happened? How much is true? - but the coffee room at work, with all the others around is not an appropriate place for the third degree. Probably, if I'm honest, nowhere is - we don't know each other well enough for me to be permitted to quiz him on personal matters. But he did let me read it, and I'm a very curious person and I want to know darn it. Ah well. So I passive-aggressively write about it here instead, in my own anonymity. I'm so terrible at this blogger lark, I should obviously have posted an interview with him instead, but there you go.