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

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

7 lots from an auction catalogue

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Important artifacts and personal property from the collection of Leonore Doolan and Harold Morris, including books,street fashion, and jewelry by Leanne Shapton is a novel told in the way of an auction catalogue. It’s a brilliant idea and it plays to my weaknesses, as I’m the nosey kind. But, and I’ve pointed this out before, no harm done as these are not real people. A few of the items “for sale” that I might just have put a bid on.

  1. Lot 1026- A Smythson of Bond Street day to a page diary; I have a weak spot for anything Smythson. At some point  I will get some personalized stationary. And a few of their notebooks. My hot pink camera case from Smythson that I use for my emergency meds has been in my bag every day for three years, still in great knick. Quality goods.
  2. Lot 1069 -A group of striped clothing items; I can never have enough striped clothing but I’m suffering a shortage due to things falling apart, and my reluctance to buy anything new has intensified since reading yet another book about the fashion industry. Buying second hand is a reasonable middle way. This lot includes both cashmere and Sonia Rykiel so all my bases are covered.
  3. Lot 1077 -Du Maurier,Daphne Don’t look now and other stories; wonderful cover on this edition(the one in the catalogue that is) pure 80’s kitsch. Since reading Rebecca I’ve been meaning to read more by du Maurier.
  4. Lot 1012 -Cast-iron flower frogs; I already have one of those clever little Japanese “hedgehogs” to put at the bottom of vases when making arrangements but have been on the look out for “frogs” i.e. slightly bigger and often with spirals you can but flowers in. Makes arranging flowers easier.
  5. Lot 1177 -Six jars of homemade strawberry jam; I often give away homemade things around Christmas but these have the words “Tidings of comfort and jam, love from Hal and Lenore” and “have a Berry Christmas, love from Hal and Lenore”. Great puns, I wish I would have come up with them and I must use it sometime(bc. puns are lyfe as the kids say)
  6. Lot 1242 -Elsa Schiaparelli astrakhan coat; An amazing coat in size 36 with a short sleeve. Supposedly belonged to Maria Callas at some point. Doesn’t everyone want this coat?
  7. Lot 1267 -A candle with a handmade label; to make my own scented candles is something I very much would like to manage, and I have failed a few times already so I’m getting there. I dissect candles and try to figure out what works and not. This would be purchased for research purposes. Also it looks like it’s a reused Diptyque glass and I need a few of those as they make great double old-fashioned glasses when used up. However this one is a bit overpriced. No reserve noted so might make a sham bid.

-Suss

Weekend & wrap-up

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April is coming to an end, although winter still has us in a tight grip. As I’ve started A place of greater safety by Hilary Mantel which will take me well into May I decided to do my wrap-up now. These are my monthly stats;

Books read; 10. All of which were good or great. I loved Augustus by John Williams and look forward to reading Butcher’s crossing soon. Six of crows and Stet were both books that I very much enjoyed, as was the book by Gessen. I do enjoy reading different things and this month was a nice mix, also in terms of language. The only reading goal I had this year was to read more in Swedish and that I have done. I also managed to finish the Ferrant book and will read the second when I have time to really get in to it.

Re-reads; 0, all new to me this time, despite being a notorious re-reader.

Most worn perfume; L’ombre dans L’eau by Diptyque followed by Flagrant délices by Terry de Ginzburg on cold days(then I need that sweetness).

Accessory watch; It’s been all about the cameos this month. Have not found a third pin sadly but after posting about Jewels-a secret history I dug out my aquamarine pendant and have been using that with my brown intaglio/cameo pendant. Necklaces often look good in twos.

Complaints about the weather; all day, every day. April weather is notoriously unstable but it’s been worse then usual(which swedes say every year to be honest. We never learn).

Happy moment; Lent is over, I’m back on sugar.

-Suss

 

Filigree Street&further reading

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One of the upsides of being the last person in the world to read a hyped book, the dividend of uncool if you like , is that reading it is a well-trodden path. I was aware of the compliments and the critic this book had gotten beforehand and did not go in searching for a brilliant plot or characters that would be my new best friends. I went in looking for charm and atmosphere, and in that regard I think this book delivered.

The watchmaker of Filigree street combines Victorian London with a dash of feudal Japan, watches and it has been pointed out that there is a fair bit of Sherlock Holmes-fangirling going on. All things I approve of. I liked the lovely description of the watches and other devices, to be honest I think the mechanical octopus Katsu was one of the best characters(reminded me of I cat I used to have), the interiors and the time devoted to the small moments. But a great book is rarely made up of stylish vignettes, which is my take away from this. It was charming, and a comfort but could have used more editing. I’m sure it was a joy to write, and there is enough there for me to check kout her next book(which has already arrived or all soon). Until then what?

In the back of the book(because I read every.single.page) there are some suggestions. Let’s talk about those shall we?

Jonathan Strange& Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke; Yes,yes,yes. This is one of my all time favorite books and I encourage everyone to read it at least once, but two or three times is preferable. It gets better with every reading. And I say that as someone who has read it like 6 or 7 times at this point. It’s utterly brilliant in the world building, the language, the narration and the story itself. It combines so many things I want in a book, it truly was love at first read.

A room of one’s own by Virginia Woolf; I’m not surprised by this, I thought about it when reading the Watchmaker as there is a passage in Woolf’s essay, that I recently reread and thus have fresh in memory, that is alluded to in a way. The bit about not walking on the grass. I wish I had marked the exact passage in the Watchmaker but the essence of it “if you can’t walk on the grass, you hop, and if you don’t understand that you don’t get what Oxford is about”. Everyone should read Woolf’s essay, even though I understand that her fiction isn’t for everyone.

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton; So.much.this. Catton’s book is genius. I was riveted when I read it. I’m obviously not afraid of big books, but  this really had my attention all the way. The interwoven stories of the people in a small mining outpost in New Zeeland manages to be both subtle and violent at the same time, it’s written with a light hand but with  a heart for all the characters. Look it up!

The thousand autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell; As I wrote about yesterday I love the world that Mitchell has created in his books, his novels are all independent but also interconnected. And the fight between Horologist and Anchorites is one that I’m invested in. This one starts rather slow but ended in a way I could not have imagined. I will say that maybe The Bone clocks, that came after, is a better place to start.

The Thirteenth tale by Diane Setterfield; Never heard of it but no surprise there, I live under a rock. Will look it up in future.

Tipping the velvet by Sarah Waters; On my TBR. I’ve read other work by Waters (Fingersmith) and enjoy the adventures in the Victorian underbelly that she provides. Best during the dark season so it will have to wait.

Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy; My nemesis Hardy. I’ve made two attempts to read Far from the maddening crowd. Will add this, not because this recommendation but because people I know to have exquisite taste in books very múch enjoy him.

The night circus by Erin Morgenstern; When it comes to books that manages to combine an amazing world and a captivating story, this is a great one. I felt for the characters and got deeply invested in the world and the people of the night circus. A very human experience in a magical setting.

Fool’s Errand by Robin Hobb; I’ve read most books in this series by Hobb and enjoyed them all thoroughly. It’s one of the few books that I’ve been so in to that my mother got interested and ended up reading them too, with the same verdict. Mind you we are crazy cat people who are already completely sold on the idea of communicating with animals. We needed no convincing of the underlying premise that animals are capable of intelligent conversation(that we are  mostly given orders by the cats of our lives is a different story; we are still hoping for more. My cat should at this point be able to have an informed opinion on Proust)

Never where by Neil Gaiman; Can’t go wrong with a bit of Gaiman can we?

Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata; I have heard of this and will look for it. Described as almost a novel in haiku about a doomed love affair between rural geisha and a young nobelman sounds like my thing.

-Suss

January wrap-up; books and what not

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I managed to get a fair bit of reading done this month, much thanks to a few days off in the beginning of January.

Autumn by Ali Smith

I have already written about this here but the short version is that I loved it.

Kärlekens samtal(The lover’s discourse) by Roland Barthes

I’ve read Barthes before but not extensively. This one is wonderful; a collection of mini essays gathering his thought on love and intimacy based in his experiences, discussions and extensive reading. It’s not all brilliant but when he gets it right, it’s on point. Food for thought, and a surprisingly enjoyable read.

When Breath became air by Paul Kalanithi

I know this one is loved by many and has effected people deeply; as I had just read Autumn, which to me was more about the end of life then post-Brexit sentiment, it was “cake upon  cake” as we say in swedish. But it’s a good book to read and reflect upon and I don’t hesitate in recommending it.

The tengu’s game of go by Lian Hearn

I have loved this series and it was both a joy and a sorrow to read the last installment. This is great escapist literature and the mythical feudal Japan that Hearn has created has me purring with delight. This one is darker and more mature  The Otori saga but to me that’s a good thing.

The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla

So so relevant. I have written about it here but let me state again that this should be read by many.

Nicholaus and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie

The joy of spending snowy days wrapped up in a blanket getting stuck in a thick biography. I have written about it here already so will just state again that I’m reading more Massie in the future; I loved this.

The Alice B.Toklas cookbook by Alice B.Toklas

A very random find, bought for giggles, that turned out to be a delight. I love a good foodie memoir. I will come back to this as I’m hosting a dinner based on recipes from this book shortly.

Snöstormen(the Blizzard) by Vladimir Sorokin

I listened to this as an “audio-serialization” by swedish radio and I will point out again how much I loved the reading and acting by Rolf Lassgård. This was my first Sorokin so don’t know how it measures with his other works. It’s a zombie book without zombies really, a dystopian vision of a Russia in the future that is still much like that of Dostoevsky and Gogol. The efforts of Doctor Garin to get to a village with vaccines, in a horrible storm makes my commute seem reasonable.

Moongloow by Michael Chabon

Chabons fictionalized account of his family’s history is well-written, funny and very enjoyable. This starts with conversations he had with his grandfather just before he died, and weaves a a tale where Chabon himself makes several appearances. Much recommended.

Lace Bone Beast by N.L Shampole

I found this to be uneven but then so many poetry collections are. I probably would’t have read it(or even come across it) had I not been offered and ARC by the publisher. That said I did like parts of it as I enjoy a little fairytale-esque flavor in my life. Think Angela Carter meets Rupi Kaur.

Mellan världen och mig(Between the world and me) by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Another of those hyped and relevant books. But it does live up to it. Coates is an intelligent writer and manages to put his feelings into words, and tell his story in a way that is relatable despite there really being a world between him and me. His anger is justified, and he is entitled to his emotions regardless, but he reasons with himself and manages to make it into something that is both raw and reasonable.

Step aside,Pops by Kate Beaton

This one made me laugh out loud several times. I am an eclectic reader and have come to a point where I have the time and space to pick up whatever tickles my fancy, like a comic strip collection that I’ve never heard of found on the shelves at the library. Beaton makes this comic riffs, and mash-ups, of classic literature and popular culture.

The Missolonghi manuscripts by Frederic Prokosch

The imagined notebooks and diaries by Lord Byron. What can go wrong? A very entertaining book, and elegantly written but I will (as I have done elsewhere) issue a warning to sensitive readers as this is sexually explicit(it’s Byron; no surprise there).

I’ve also read on in A poem for every night of the year as compiled by Allie Esiri. A book I very much recommend, I adore it, and it is nice to read a little poetry everyday, especially since it really is from the whole spectra.

Other January stats;

Clothing items lost; a few socks and tights,a pair of winter boots had to be retired and I’ve lost two earrings(from different sets) and two pairs have broken.

Sewing projects completed; a few actually. Will post soon.

Most worn perfume; Flagrant délices by Terry de Ginzburg. In this grey cold weather I’ve been craving sweetness.

Sick days; None. A vicious strand of stomach flu hits this town every winter and I’m always worried I’m gonna get it. I actually threw up once, then ran home to put myself in quarantine, but I had no other symptoms so I was either food poisoned or my stomach acted up. So far I’ve also managed to not catch a cold but its probably just a matter of time.

Most enjoyed viewing; Taboo with Tom Hardy on HBO. The first four episodes has me wanting more. It is very much filling the gap left by Penny Dreadful.

-Suss