Honour among thieves

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I did need something to get my mind of things and for that fantasy and YA is just the thing. I did enjoy Six of crows not long ago and it is a testament to how much I liked it that I read the follow-up. I’ve begun several series over the last year but not made it beyond the first installment.

Crooked kingdom is then the further adventures of our favorite dregs from the barrel; Kaz, Inez, Jesper, Nina, Wylan, Mathias and now they have Kula-wei Bo to add to the gang. And there are guest appearances by Jespers father, assorted crooks, legend Grisha and enemies; old and new.

It really is like reading an action movie, and I was royally entertained (*wink wink*). I’ve become very fond of the gang and wouldn’t find a third book actually…

-Suss

Weekend&Vei

My reading of graphic novels ebbs and flows. It’s all about access. I used to pass by the library of graphic novels here in Stockholm quite often at one point as it was along my route but not anymore. So they are a rare occurrence in my book diet these days but it happens.

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Vei, also known as Veicomics, is the result of a collaboration between Sara Elfgren and Karl Johansson. Elfgren is known to a wider audience for The Circle-trilogy that she wrote with Mats Strandberg. Excellent books about teenage witches, the end of the world and small community in Sweden.

In Vei, which is  the name of the protagonist, we are thrown into a series of events starting with Vei floating in the ocean to the point where she has to show her warrior skills in duels to the death. All this takes place in a world inspired by Nordic mythology very well drawn by Johansson.

I’m not smitten sadly although I found it very enjoyable. I think Saga, that I caught up on a while back, has ruined me for other graphic novels. If you want epic stories with strong female characters then Saga is still your best bet, also because this is only available in Swedish so far.

-Suss

Words&wanderings

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When I decided to read more poetry last year I stumbled across Bashō and I haven’t looked back since. Of all the things I read his works was some of the ones I came back to over and over. I was happy to find some in A poem for every night of the year too but ultimately I needed to get more, and thus I bought The narrow road to the deep north and other travel sketches.

What should be noted is that it’s mix of prose and poetry( i.e. haiku) and not only his own work but also that of others; people he met and people he admired. As he undertook his travels almost as a pilgrimage it ends up being the notes from both his inner journey and his reflections of his surrounding. “Delicacy of feeling” are the words used on the back and I agree. There is a tenderness there, and insights. A very good books to read on the commute or when traveling.

I must say that I took in the introduction and footnotes with joy as this is an era(the Heian-Era) that I’m interested in. And I always read the footnotes anyways, I’m just pedantic in that un-charming way. You don’t have to, it makes a lot of sense without it, the translator has done a very good job I believe.

-Suss

Life&London

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I’ve taken you to Venice, I’ve taken you to Paris; might I invite you to one of my favourite places in London too?

I shall not pretend that I’m not very comfortable in Mayfair or around Sloan Square. Which very much has to do with the fact that I actually not belong there; I’m a cat among the ermines and I enjoy it. As a Scandinavian (albeit one that doesn’t look it because short and a brunette) I pretend I own the place. In the east end it’s the same thing but opposite; I don’t belong because I’m not hip nor genuin enough. But I do love that part of London.

The flower market at Columbia Road is so wonderful. I also very much enjoy shopping for fabrics and Bollywood earrings in the Indian shops that I pass getting there. Dennis Sever’s house is one of my fave museums(except it isn’t a museum,it’s a living tableaux). Oh and the beigle bakery in Brick lane. Get the strudel; almost as good as in Vienna. And if If I want a bit of that east end vibe when I don’t have a chance to go ? The Gentle Author takes me there.

I actually saw this book at the Brick lane bookshop when I was in London in 2014 but didn’t buy it because it was a brick of a book(pun intended) and my bags were already full to the brim. But I had a look when I got home and found it online. It started as a blog so it’s divided into many small chapters about the people,places and past of Spitalfields in the East end. There are probably very strict geographical lines to adhere to, as a bloody Swedish tourist it’s all the East End to me and I can’t tell Spitalfields from Shoreditch. I think I might just be a tad proud of that in fact.

The point is that this book is a darling thing to read and it has all those kinds of sweet nostalgic stories that I love on paper but don’t know how to deal with in real life. Like the story about the pigeon fanciers. That’s lovely that is, that someone is still keeping postal pigeons that carry messages. I also think that they are nasty birds, all of them. The kind of thing that I love to read about, I might even throw in an “we have culture anymore. Carrier pigeons was a sign of civilization and now we have the Kardashians”. I don’t mean it at all.

But many of the things in this book I do love, and I do appreciate diversity in real life. It should be noted that because it’s so many small chapters,and about a variety of things it doesn’t have to be read from cover to cover, and it’s an easy read too or browse. But possibly hard to get. I would advice to read the book before going to London,not after. Or you know, make another trip. London is always a good idea.

Things mentioned in this post;

The Gentle Author

-Suss

Carbs&Chignons

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So the world is rejoicing that the French decided not to elect a right wing populist as president. Of course,always contrarian the french; electing a right wing leader is what everyone else is doing. So I guess the fascination with them will continue. The food,the style and the attitude. Paris, the city of lights, the undulating hills of Provence and the glamorous life in Nice; they are the object of our dreams and desires. How to get there without leaving the comfort of your own home?

Many a books have been written by the french, by people living in France and about the french themselves. And on a few occasions by the french about the french;  to explain to us mere mortals how they do it. I’ve read more then one of those books, and even when I open the book with the intention of not liking it and assume they are making fun of me, I still manage to find a few tips and tricks along the way.

Why french women don’t get fat supposedly got quite a buzz when it was published. I have the Swedish translation that I bought at a gift shop a few years back. And Giuliano is a bit full of herself, i.e. lives up to the myth of the french woman, but many of the recipes are good I have to admit. I don’t know how “valid” it still is. She advocates a life with carbs,and I agree, but many of the food fads continue to rage, get exchanged for new ones and obesity is still one of the biggest health problems in the world.  So maybe she sold a lot of books but her solutions probably mostly preached to the gospel. I don’t think she did intend to save the world however.

A book more recently published is How to be Parisian wherever you are-love style and bad habits written by a group of very chic french women. the kind that has an inherited Hermés bag, a cool piece of new Chanel and has perfected the art of messy hair. I would say that this book,also intended for the hapless non-french, doesn’t take itself to seriously. And it does involve some good recipes. If we are talking style ideals and role models I would say that this bunch isn’t all that bad. I’m obviously biased; I think french pharmacies are brilliant with their affordable skincare, love good food and have a had a penchant for striped tops since childhood. Also any excuse not to wash my hair to often,or brush it, will be used. They say it’s chic, I nod my head and wear my hair in a messy bun for the 19th day in a row. But it is a fun book to browse through. I liked it more then I thought I would.

One thing that the french has figured out is that older women aren’t a menace to society. Yes, they do love young women, the femme-infant has a place in the french heart, but there seems to be room for all women.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I just thought I would mention these two books, that have in common that I gained more from them then I thought I would. The good thing about advice from a book about how to be french is that you can pick what you like and ignore the rest, which really is the best kind advice book. And I haven’t visited France since 2015 so aching to go back.

-Suss

 

Art&Amaretto

For all it’s grandeur it’s built to the human scale. While the tangle of streets,alleys and canals form a maze that can confuse even old-timers,the city is small enough to be comprehensible. You will continue to get lost,but in places that are familiar and welcoming.-p. 29 of No Vulgar Hotel

More cocktails I’m afraid. I had a trial monkey over and decided to make the most of it. And as the Venice Biennale has now begun it seemed like a good idea to make a cocktail named after that habitat on the marshes. But let’s be honest; for me Venice is always “top of mind”. It is one of the most magical places on earth. I’ve visited twice and would love to go back, but we’ll see when it happens. Until then there is plenty to read to take me back.

One of my all time favorite books,Jonathan Strange&Mr Norrell, partly takes place in Venice. In Proust’s epic suit A la recherche de temps perdu the narrator makes a visit. I recently read The passion by Jeanette Winterson which also is set partly there. And many many others. I’ve read more then one book purely because it takes place in that decaying city that has been described as a living museum. My tip for getting a genuin feel for the place is to get up early and move around, have breakfast at a cafe to view people who live and work there. Try to get away from the crowds a bit and visit the outskirts of the city, which given the small size of the plan isn’t that difficult.

A fun read, a bit out of the ordinary, that I picked up on one of my visits is No vulgar hotel by Judith Martin. She is a Venetophile and isn’t afraid to say so(nobody is; a love of Venice is a love that totally dares speak it’s name). With a a dark sense of humor Martin tells the story of Venice and how to make the most of your stay. Somewhere between “A Year in France” and “1066 and all that”, but you know, Venice, is how I would describe it. Byron makes an appearance, obviously.  Martin is American and writes from that perspective, just skim the fist chapter or so where she draws parallels between the US and The Venetian Republic. Or read them, rather interesting actually.

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But the where is the drink I promised? Ah. Most who have visited Italy are familiar with The Spritz; white wine, Aperol or Campari and soda. Very good stuff on a hot day. So called low ABV i.e. low alcohol but very refreshing. Served with olives or crips. This cocktail, the Ventian, comes from a cocktail book I have somewhere. Iused to make it often and feel it’s time to bring it back into my repertoire as Campari is always a good idea and Amaretto has a bad rep despite being a very nice thing to have on the bar cart.

Venetia-cocktail;yields 1 drink

4 cl dry gin

2 cl dry vermouth

1 cl Campari

1cl Amaretto

for serving;

chilled coupette or other cocktail glass

lemonzest

  1. Stir ingredients in an ice-filled mixer glass until chilled.
  2. Pour into the coupette and add the lemon zest.
  3. Enjoy responsibly.

This is a very nice drink with a mix of bitter and sweet. Very refreshing but also potent. On a hot day a spritz is a better option, and if you find yourself in the actual city you may not find this but then a Martin at Harry’S Bar is a nice substitute. For rainy nights when you wish you were somewhere else? This is just the thing.

-Suss

Tangerines&a thousand columns

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In her bok Husmoderns död och andra texter, Sara Danius points out how everyone can play the role of the intellectual and analyst of our times by putting editions of the same cookbook, but from different eras, side by side you have the material to critic the contemporary by comparing it to the past.

Another way to fiddle around in the field between the then and know, to alternate between the historian and the critic and think vertically is;

1.Be a french sociologist in which case you will have rockstar status and opinions on everything

2. Repeat what has been done. Cook through a cookbook someone else has written, live like Gwyneth Paltrow for a week or travel in the footsteps of a man who lived cirka 700 years ago.

Obviously it is a good framework; “a year of” is a good start for a book title or a blog like the famous example Julie&Julia about cooking though the cookbook of Julia Child. Living a week like Gwyneth Paltrow(which is probably the maximum amount of time anyone can manage) is high level social anthropology and there should be an award for it. Tim Mackintosh-Smith chose to walk all the way from Tangiers to Mecca, and then he walks some more. The man he is following is Ibn Battutah, the man in green, and the great Arab traveler.

Battutah’s own travels happens between 1325 to 1355 and he did write an account of it, one that has remained in publication and I know that Penguin has a version of it that I keep meaning to read. I have however read Both Travels with a Tangerine and The hall of a thousand columns,both by Mackintosh-Smith. The latter did not take 30 years to traverse the world but he did the best he could and I recommend both warmly.

Here I find it a good time to point out that Mackintosh-Smith is fluent in Arabic, lives or has lived in San’a,Yemen and has written a book called Yemen-the unknown Arabia which was published in 1996. I do recommend that also, especially since it’s one of the few books written about Yemen and it’s a region of conflict(even though it seems to have dropped of the media radar). And my copy seems lost somewhere on my shelves.

The travel books came after that; from 2000 to 2005 was when the traveling and writing happened although it is hard to tell or I should say that it’s been a while since I’ve read them, and then they already had a few years on them. But they had that timeless quality which is partly because so much of what is discussed is the travels of Ibn Battutah and,partly at least, Mackintosh-Smith’s decision to highlight the personal encounters. And that dry english wit always get me in a good mood.

I still enjoy watching clips of when Micheal Palin traveled around the world in 80 days(again; repeating what someone else has already done lends legitimacy to both them and you actually) and he is given the advice at some point that the best thing is to never apologize or acknowledge danger but just go ahead with his BBC-self “jolly good chaps, coming through. Just the BBC. Toodles”. And he was very clever in that series to refer to the camera crew as Passepartout; which was the servant in Jules Verne’s story.

In fact I much imagine it was the same when Mackintosh-Smith undertook his journey. I romanticize wildly, and will continue to do so as far as this is concerned. Travel writing might just be the last bastion of romance and glamour. Which is enhanced by the fact that both books,and the one about Yemen too I think, have wonderful illustrations by Martin Yeoman.

Things mentioned in this post;

A snippet of that Palin show from 1988(I had a look at this and now I want to see the whole thing again).

An example of living like Gwyneth 

More of living like Gwyneth

-Suss