7 pieces of literature related data.

I have run around with Nabokov’s favorite word is mauve by Ben Blatt in my bag for the last few days and what a joy it has been. This was exactly what I needed right now in terms of literature, something light and easy access but not too long as my attention span right now is down to 0.5 seconds. Blatt does study writing quirks or oft used expressions by a variety of authors, a similar study of my blog would probably reveal that I use the phrase “I’ve been meaning to read it for ages” very often. Not my favorite expression but one I use a lot because a) it’s usually the case b) I’m probably too lazy to write in a different way, as it’s not the point. It’s a bridge to the book I want to discuss, and I’ll save my fancy words for that. When it comes to this book all of the above is true.

As I love literature and have a fondness for statistics, this is right up my alley. But even without being the kind of person who goes through the appendix, checks method and make little notes on the very neat and logical arguments in regards to sample size and variables, this is worth reading. Because it’s fun, irreverent and infused with a love of books. It is heavily skewed towards the Anglo-saxon of course. I hope somebody does similar studies in other languages because it would be fun to see the results.

That said let me share some of the cool, cute, quaint and relevant data about literature that I have learned in this book.

  1. James Joyce uses a lot of exclamation points. I will use this piece of data as another excuse not to read him. I will claim that I have a problem with exclamation marks. Anyone who has seen me comment knows that is not really the case. However in literature I will claim it is vulgare.
  2. The opening sentence in A tale of two cities by Charles Dickens uses 119 words, 17 commas and an em-dash. However because he sometimes started his books with short sentences he has a reasonable average. A Christmas carol starts with the words “Marley was dead: to begin with”. The lesson here is that Dickens knew how to start a book.
  3. Danielle Steel has gone beyond writing opening sentences about weather. Reading the compilation of 42 of her opening sentences is like looking at a piece of post-modern textual art. I feel OK about not reading Danielle Steele now.
  4. Dan Brown uses the expression “O Draconian Devil” several times in his books. Like why? That’s the worst. It’s making me not wanna read Dan Brown ever. I wasn’t interested before either but that’s beside the point. He also uses the expression “O lame saint” a lot (it’s on the same list). However I feel that “Draconian devils & Lame saints” might be a great name for an electro-pop band (dibs on being the cool girl behind the synth).
  5. Nabokov’s favorite words were mauve, banal and pun. The first one was no surprise in one sense, it’s the title of the book but it’s not a colour that I think of when I think of his books. I wasn’t too surprised by the others though as those are words that I think fits well with his style.
  6. The road to hell kind of is paved with adverbs, as Stephen King says. A particular adverb though, that ends in -ly. Suddenly, hastily, quietly, etc. If you are gonna use those word be sure you know what you are doing.
  7. There are no rules when writing books. There seems to be an opinion that a book shouldn’t start with weather, but then Orwell wrote 1984 which does just that to great effect. Don’t use to many “-ly words”, unless you are Nabokov in the process of writing Lolita in which case you do it like a boss. There are patterns but a good writer knows when to break the rules or use expectations to his or her advantage.

-Suss

Advertisements

Thursday & The Accusation

IMG_4352

When I rounded up some of my recommendations for books about North Korea I mentioned The accusation by Bandi because I had heard great things from people whose opinion I trust, but now that I have actually read it I can verify my statement.

I still think that if the point is to get an insight into life in that country, then one book is not gonna be enough; this does a great job does a good job of explaining the everyday life  of citizens, trying to be human in an inhumane society. In addition to that I would suggest Dear Leader and Nothing to envy  from my list get the perspectives of those higher up and those that have left. Not that I claim to have full knowledge or anything, but they are different parts in a rather complex puzzle.

According to the afterword there has been a discussion about the veracity of what has happened in this book, if it is in fact not fiction but autobiographical. I personally think that it’s beside the point as what happens in this book does speak of a bigger truth. The details have been changed to protect people but in general it does give a feeling of what life in the republic is like. Then there is the curiosity of it being written by someone who still lives there but does it matter? Should it?

I read the Swedish translation (Called Anklagelsen) which has footnotes to explain some of the words, plays on words or phenomena that Bandi makes use of to tell these stories. In terms of literary qualities it does stand on its own two feet I think. There is a tenderness and intimacy in the stories and Bandi manages to convey feelings and mood with few well-chosen words.

-Suss

Monday & Mermaid & Mixology

IMG_3975

As the season, and I will point this out many times more, has taken a turn for the colder and more colorful my mood turns to meatier reads and stiffer cocktails.

This is the perfect time of year for historical fiction, Dickens, Balzac and a few horror stories. Then in November when the mornings are frost nipped and there is a possibility of snow we’ll turn towards the Russians and possibly fairytale interpretations. Then for spring the taste is for the new and contemprary fiction is where it’s at. Or so this seasonal reader lives anyways. I don’t know about you.

But back to the season at hand, which is off to a flying start with The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar. Let me first point out the obvious; this is a stunning cover. It has been remarked upon by many people this week as I’ve been carrying it around everywhere (with no thoughts to my back). Kudos to the publisher that they let this debutante be presented to society in such fine and eye-catching attire. It can only improve its reputation and increase the general interest.

But you should never judge a book by its cover, it’s always (always!) about the story.

If I’m going to try to sum it up it sounds like this; Mr Hancock, a trader, one day finds himself in the possession of a mermaid. It has procured by one of his captains, without authorization, in exchange for one of Mr. Hancock’s ships. In order to recoup his losses he puts it on display and by doing so enters into a part of society of which he has known but never taken part; the courtesans of London. His life is forever altered as is the lives of those he comes in contact with. Maybe some of those things would have happened anyways, maybe not. As readers we are following a chain of events both likely and unlikely. I don’t want to give too much away but I was surprised more than once. And I did get attached to Mr. Hancock, his niece Sukie, the infamous Angelica Neal and to some degree the cat that lives in Mr. Hancock’s house. This is a story of obsession, passion, fear and the stories we tell ourselves to justify our actions.

What I will say is that I was a much darker novel then I expected, it doesn’t  view the Regency era with rose-tinted glasses and is brutally honest about the life of courtesans. I have A harlot high and low by Balzac in fresh memory and thought about it more than once; Old Honoré was always very observant and honest about human nature in his books and that’s why I love him. That I even make the connection, and mention the two in the same review,  should be interpreted as the highest of compliments.

So the idea is a fabulous one in many ways but how does it do on the page? It is told in a rather detached way which reminded me of The Essex Serpentt. The language however is much more colorful and of that time I guess, which is both entertaining and mood setting. I also love the attention paid to details of interior and clothing, little vignettes that set the scene.

Are there flaws? Yes, but this is a debut novel so I have a very forgiving eye. And the fact that I like all my storylines tidied up in the end, which I didn’t get, might be more a reflection on me then the book.

I did thoroughly enjoy this book despite it giving me a knot in the stomach at times, and I don’t hesitate to recommend it. This was as ARC given to me by Vintage Books but I probably would have bought it/lent it at the library when it came out anyways. The book is published February 8th 2018. Make a note in your calendars people.

Also; about the stiffer drinks I must warn you that Old-fashioneds will feature heavily in the next few weeks. To sip on whilst reading the last few pages of this I made one with bourbon, plum syrup and plum bitters from Fee Brother’s. The bitters, inspired by the spices in plum pudding, seemed to tie in nicely with the book as plum pudding is actually mentioned (it is historical fiction in the Regency Period. I assume the law demands that plum pudding is mentioned). The flavours worked really well together. Just an idea.

-Suss

7 things that say summer

IMG_3427I’m not saying it’s a heatwave yet but the weather has improved. I’m trying my best to get into a summer mood and books and attire are a part of that. These are a few of the things setting the tone for my life right now.

1.Nuxe oil. There is no getting around it, I love a bit of Nuxe in general and like so many the scent of their classic dry oil is a summer stapel. I was given a small bottle of their oil with shimmer in it and use that on hair and a little bit of everywhere for a nice glow. On top of a proper SPF obviously( La riche-posey Anthelios SPF 50 is my go to).

2.Sandals. The only time of year that you can wear them. I went with a very basic black sandal this year but it is an area where I have been known to be very colorful.

3. Hot pink lips and nails. The nail polish is “So there” from H&M(both on fingers and toes) and the lipstick is “Giacomo” from Tom Ford for daytime and “Electroclash” from H&M Beauty for evenings. I bought a nice tinted lip balm from Tom Ford earlier in the season but it was rubbish and just broke off and then I couldn’t apply it. I guess I should have gotten a little pot to put it in(it was expensive) but I was so pissed off that I just threw it in the bin. Only time I’ve had a bad experience with a product from that range.

4. Sunglasses. Obviously. These are a big pair of Jackie O style things I’ve actually have managed to hold onto since last year. I famously leave sunglasses and umbrellas all over the place and thus stick to inexpensive ones.

5. A big ring. This is something that I’ve made out of an old button but it looks the business. And as I don’t have to worry about gloves it’s the season to wear this in daytime.

6. Un jardin sur le Nil from Hermès. This is a very good scent for summer, almost a cologne but just enough of citrus and herbs to work in heat and yet be refreshing. It smells sweeter on me in summer which I like, still crisp, but softer than when I wear it during the rest of the year (it is s very good perfume if you work in an office environment where people are sensitive).

7. Crime novels. I don’t often read this genre but if I do it’s during June,July and August. I have read two Agatha Christie short stories, The return of Sherlock Holmes and some contemporary stuff, and I’m eyeing the shelves for more. I’ve received some great recommendations so we’ll see where I end up.

-Suss

Midweek & more suggestions for your TBR.

IMG_2262

You probably have a big stack of unread books beside you. And possibly a list, mentally or on paper, about the books you want to buy in the future. Let me add to that.

I’m always on the look out for good suggestions and in the bookstagram-community we encourage and enable each other, in the best possible way of course. Here are some of the lists and round-ups I’ve seen around that you might want to look at for inspiration for further reading.

1. My own summer reading list published a while back: Not obvious choices for summer reading but good books all of them and stuff that doesn’t get much attention. I stand by it. Find the full list here.

2. Life in a cold climate’s fiction list: A few of these books I have already read, in fact I recommended one of them. In addition a someof them have gotten a vote of confidence from people who’s taste is equal to mine notably @biblibimbo and @anicegreenleaf so I will make an effort. I have zero interest in that Carver though, don’t know why. Read the full list here.

3. Life in a cold Climate’s non-fiction list: non-fiction is close to my heart so I made several notes when reading this one. I understand the arguments for not reading Sapiens, I really do,  but I will probably read it just because it is, and I’m paraphrasing, a broad strokes, bombastic macho thing that ignores everything that doesn’t agree with it. I like to make up my own mind despite having all of the confidence in Kate. And unlike Annikky and Kate I cannot apply eyeshadow at all. You can read the whole list here.

4. The booksatchel list of best reads so far in 2017: of the books mentioned in this post The bear and the nightingale is the one I’m most curious about but it will have to wait until winter because anything remotely related to Russia is better read when there is snow on the ground. You can find the list here.

5. Tea with Darcy round up of best reads: Landfalls is high on my list. This vlog-post was the final nudge I needed to start the process of getting my hands on a copy. See it here.

6. The Jen Campbell round-up of best books so far; I don’t watch a lot of booktubers and but Jen is one of them and she has a lot of good suggestions. Mostly her poetry picks intrigue me and then Girls will be girls because feminism is everything. See the video here.

7. Not an actual list; @theartfulelle posted a pic of her TBR-pile(or some of it) and everything in it seems like something I want to read, or rather I few things already are and so I made a note of the rest as our tastes often coincide. See it here.

-Suss

 

Wednesday&Walking

IMG_2382

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times when Patrick Leigh Fermor decided to walk from Rotterdam to Konstantinopel in 1933. He was a young man with very little in the way of money, but his life ahead of him whilst Europe was on the verge of war.

A time of gifts is a brilliant book I must say; I do like reading this sort of thing but it really is in a league of its own. This was written much later and is based on his memories and his diaries, as well as reflections on the bigger picture with his story being put into a perspective. These different strands of thought form a narrative that is bigger than the sum of the parts in a way.

It was a different time back then; 5 pounds was a fortune, Czechoslovakia was a new nation and communication across boarders was difficult. For better or for worse he was left to his own devices in large parts. Although Leigh Fermor coming from a good and well-connected background he has letters of introduction to good tables and his roughing it in barns is interspersed with nights at various schloss and dining like a king. Those glamorous interludes does bring more of an adventure to the trip. I’m surprised his life hasn’t been turned into a movie yet. After this he was a bit of hero in the war and then became a writer and hob-nobbed with the aristocracy. He was a looker too; I’ve seen pictures. Nice face to have across the table, if I were to have a “list of hotties from history” he would be on it (I’m not saying I have such a list. Explorer Joseph Banks cirka 1771 would also be on it. Again; not saying I have such a list).

Leigh Fermor was trying to find his way though a Europe but also find his own place in the world; the journey is also a spiritual one. In the introduction Jan Morris makes a reference to the works of Ibn Battutah (which I have yet to read) but maybe The narrow road to the deep North and other travel sketches by Bashō could also be in that category; I feel there is an affinity between them.

He must have had a knack for making friends although as someone who has on occasion travelled alone I find that one does turn on the charm and people do open up to a lone stranger in a way they wouldn’t to a group of friends. As learned as he was (the Shakespeare quotes are many and not far apart) he also acknowledges his naivety in regards to politics ,and German politics in particular, in retrospect. Nazism does throw a dark shade over the whole thing reading it now. But his trip is is about people and places; the meetings along the way, the everyday life and conversations.

With people we do not know we make the most trivial small talk or tell them our deepest secrets; the risk or chance of never having to meet someone again can be a possibility I guess. This also speaks through the ages; who hasn’t pretended to be someone they are not on vacation, or taken the chance to be who they truly are when out of the usual context and role we are given.

All in all; an engaging read that takes you away. It’s a feel-good book it really is. It was an act of generosity from his side to share his adventures I think. And so well-written.

-Suss

 

 

 

Monday&Mothertongue

NB; I wrote a long post about these three books but when I pressed “publish” is just disappeared. I made a sour face, got on with life for a bit and then sat down to try to recreate it. Hence the somewhat short post and dispirited tone.

IMG_2394

Over the years I have kept a reading journal and the sum of books read has stayed much the same over time until I made the decision to stop carrying around big books as they were literally breaking my back. So for the last two year I have read more books but the number of pages has probably stayed roughly the same.

In terms of language though there was a big shift when I created my Instagram account devoted to books; as I use English in my posts and I want to partake in a bigger discussion about those I chose to read it felt more natural. However it came to a point where I started to long for the elevated prose in my first language, Swedish, and also all of a sudden there where so many good books on the literary scene up here.

I was talking about this with someone I know just the other day, when did so many books on the best-seller list and that are being talked about become so interesting?

I’ve already written about Århundradets kärlekskrig by Ebba Witt-Brattström and will probably bring it up again. Today I noticed that one of my fave podcast, Februari-podden, had released a new episode( they are very sporadic but always worth listening to) and it was also on the subject of contemporary relations and what can happen when the woman is the breadwinner, and how it is impossible to be both the one that takes care of house and home whilst being the one that is responsible for paying the bills, at least in the long-term. A discussion by two Swedish male comedians might not sound like the place for great insight but they are men who leave no stone unturned in their talk and are not afraid of uncomfortable topics.

The book by Liv Ullman was a wonderful read. Where I was tickled in the beginning by the fact that she wrote about her famous parents, her mother is actor Linn Ullman and her father was director Ingmar Bergman, it soon became much more. It’s about a child trying to find her place in the world when both her parents are larger than life, and when she does finally find her own footing it starts slipping away again with her fathers aging. Well-written in an airy way as part of the book is transcripts of the recorded conversations they had towards the end of his life, in the hope of a joint project.

Both Witt-Brattström and Ullman call their books “novels” although it is safe to assume that much is based on a true story. The expression roman à clef could probably be used but rarely is anymore. And labeling it as a memoir is tricky as libel-suits can follow and as I recall at least two scandals from the last few years about books label as memoirs that had the percentage of truth questioned (James Frey and that book called “Running with scissors”) I imagine people are shy of that too. And as Bergman has passed away and cannot comment it wouldn’t be fair I guess. But fiction can be a place to explore ideas and say things that are true though not necessarily facts if that makes any sense (not a new insight that last bit admittedly).

The third book in this stack is De polyglotta älskarna by Lina Wolff that got the August-prize last year, and even though I’m only halfway through I understand why. Such characters and great writing. It’s mad up of three short stories that together form an arc on the theme of love and relationships. I’m very much enjoying it.

-Suss