This is How You Lose Her – Junot Díaz

Ikke boka som har vært hyllevarmer lengst, akkurat, men med over et år på hylla bør vel denne utgaven av This is How You Lose Her likevel greit kvalifisere til Bokhyllelesing 2018 sitt januartema: Gult omslag. (Resten av innlegget blir på engelsk, siden boka ble lest på engelsk.)

I must admit that had I noticed that This is How You Lose Her was described as a «collection of stories» rather than a novel, I would probably have left it on the book-sharing table at the bookblogger meetup. And I would probably not have started it now, even if I hadn’t left it. But I did. And since I brought it along to read on my way to London – the only book I brought, seeing as I knew I’d be purchasing books enough once there – I decided to stick to it in any case. The book was finished on the tube from Heathrow, so the timing was pretty good, though I must admit that I pushed through the last half knowing that if I didn’t finish before aqcuiring new reads I would probably have to log it as dnf.

So. A collection of stories, they say. And so it is. However, I found it a weird collection. At least four of the stories are about the same family (or at least uses the same names, the narrator, Yunior and Rafa – his elder brother – and the same basic plot), which ought to please me, I guess, since my main gripe with short-stories is that I don’t get to know enough about the characters. However, I’m not so sure I wanted to know quite so much about these characters, so that’s a hitch. On the other hand, the story I liked best (and which I would recommend, despite the coming gripe), Otravida, otravez,  ended a bit too abruptly for me. I want to know what happened next! And yes, I can quite see why the author would leave it open-ended, but I still want to know.

On the whole there are positive things to say about the book. Some of the insights into the plight of immigrants are both poignant and illuminating (to those of us privileged enough to not have been in that situation for generations). The language is frequently quoteworthy. The casual sex and infidelity, though, that just gets too repetitive for me. And some of the stories are written in second person narrative (echoing the «you» in the title) and I may have mentioned before that I HATE second person narrative? It may be meant to connect the reader to the story, for me it does the complete opposite. In the end, as mentioned, I finished mostly out of defiance (and lack of other reading options) and gave it a lukewarm two stars on Goodreads. Still, it had its moments, and I’ll end with a quote from the story I most recommend, Otravida, otravez, page 66:

Ana Iris once asked me if I loved him and I told her about the lights in my old home in the capital, how they flickered and you never knew if they would go out or not. You put down your things and you waited and couldn’t do anything really until the lights decided. This, I told her, is how I feel.

I left the book in a phone booth by Christchurch Gardens in London, if it gets logged its journey can be followed on Bookcrossing.

Talking About Jane Austen in Baghdad – Bee Rowlatt and May Witwit

rowlatt_witwitI’d seen this book before and was curious, so when Elin had it as part of a Bookcrossing bookray I grabbed the chance and snuck in ahead of the last person on the list (sorry!). I then somehow left it in the tbr pile for a few months (double-sorry!). But it’s moving on now, really!

Bee Rowlatt is a producer for the BBC World Service and comes into contact with May Witwit while searching for English-speaking Iraquis to interview in the run-up to elections. While their e-mail correspondence starts out with a purely practical purpose, the two women soon start «chatting», about work and about life and a friendship develops. As life in Baghdad is hardly a bed of roses, they soon start discussing possible ways for May and her husband to get out of the country, and eventually hatch a plan to get them to Britain.

So far so good. Now, I have a few gripes.

Firstly, the spiel on the outside of the book goes on and on about how unlikely the friendship is and how «they should have nothing in common». Really? Two intelligent women with «intellectual» careers should obviously have nothing to talk about. Turns out they do.

My second gripe is more serious, I suppose, and that is that the book is around twice the length the «plot» and language can support. Let me elaborate. The «plot»: Not much happens. Bee talks about her kids, her globe-trotting husband and trying to balance career and family. May tells her about her life and about the everyday struggles of living in Baghdad (serious enough, don’t get me wrong, but even life in a war zone gets pretty mundane and boring in the long run). The title promises literary discussions, and, frankly, the bits where May relates how her students react to the books she teaches are the most interesting parts of the books, but they make up perhaps four pages of text all together – out of four hundred. And while both women write clearly and intelligently (for the most part), this is a real e-mail conversation, so, let’s face it, we’re not talking Nobel laureate quality of language and imagery here. The form does not make up for lack of action.

In other words, I lost interest about half way through. I vaguely wondered whether May would make it out, but I would have simply skipped ahead to the last page to find out if it wasn’t for the fact of this being a Bookcrossing book and I was loath to give up on it after having kept it so long.

Incidentally, my father happens to be reading Reading Lolita in Tehran at the moment. He saw my picture of Talking About Jane Austen in Baghdad on Instagram and commented that it seemed to be a case of one title being a rip-off of the other. I don’t know which title came first, but I do know that if you were to ask me which one to read I would go with Nafisi’s book every time.

This copy’s Bookcrossing page.

Bookcrossing på bokfestivalen

Disse bøkene tar jeg med meg til Oslo for å slippe:

Om noen vil overta noen av disse direkte er det bare å gi lyd, ellers slippes de nok «villt».

(Jeg skal ta en runde i hyllene og lete etter flere kandidater, så listen kan bli lenger.)

Forresten, i tillegg har jeg følgende fra 1001-listen som jeg ikke har lest ennå, men som jeg har dårlig samvittighet for å ha beholdt så lenge, så om noen andre vil lese dem og sende dem videre kan jeg ta dem med:

  • Native Son – Richard Wright
  • The Jungle – Upton Sinclair
  • The Ambassadors – Henry James

Candle for a Corpse – Ann Granger

gangerI had occasion to stop by Gjest Baardsen this week, where there is an OBCZ, and picked up a couple of books, one of which was Candle for a Corpse by Ann Granger.

The book was unregistered, but I have now registered it on Bookcrossing, and I’ll get it passed on. I’ll try to figure out if I can get it journalled by the OBCZ first, though.

Anyhow, this was pretty perfect reading for me at the moment. What with having a newborn in the house I do get a lot of reading done (it’s something I can actually do while nursing), but my concentration is not at its best. So I’ve been doing a bit of rereading, which is always good for a «rest», but I need a bit of new input too.

Ann Granger’s sleuths are a perfect pair, really. One – superintendent Alan Markby – is a policeman and therefore a pro, the other – Meredith Mitchell – works for the Foreign Office, and is thus just a curious amateur as far as detective work goes. So you get the best of both worlds as far as sleuthing go. They are also a pair in the romantic sense, which provides a little bit of personal interest (which I like in a crime story, as long as it’s a little bit and doesn’t take the focus away from the main plot) and a little bit of tension, too.

In this book, the lokal grave-diggers dig up a corpse which is too close to the surface and too recently interred to be legitimately buried, and that sets off the investigation. The plot twists are just clever enough to keep me guessing while still being believeable. The gallery of characters is charming (mostly, and I suppose in this context even nasty characters have their charm), and the feel of the setting is spot on.

All in all, I’m very happy to have made the acquaintance of Markby and Mitchell.

Another roundup

Not to be avoided, obviously.

The Great Western Beach by Emma Smith – charming.

The Rune Blade Trilogy by Ann Marston, consisting of The Kingmaker’s Sword, The Western King and Broken Blade. Engaging, well worth the time. My one gripe, if you can call it that, was that I’d have preferred to stay with the same protagonist throughout the trilogy. But I suppose that’s more of a «the books were too short» kind of complaint, which isn’t neccessarily a bad thing. Picked up the whole set as bookcrossing copies and have been meaning to release them, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Must see about picking up further books from Marston.

One of our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde. A delight as usual, even more twisted than its predecessors, though I’d hardly have though that possible.

At Home by Bill Bryson. If anyone can tip me off about other authors who are as good at collecting, organising and relating anecdotes as Bill Bryson, please, please do.

That Old Cape Magic and The Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo. Both quite magical in a very everyday, humdrum sort of way, if that makes any sense. Confirms Russo, again, as one of my all-time favourite authors.

And that’s mostly what I read during the holidays. Now, what did I read between March and July I wonder? Think, think, think.


Update number 1: Well, of course, I reread the whole series that will not be named. That took a couple of days.

Update number 2: The School at the Chalet by Elinor Brent-Dyer. I’ve never read any of the Chalet School books before, and found this copy by chance so thought I’d try it. It’s niceish. I’ll probably buy more from the series if I come across them second-hand, but I doubt I can be bothered to search very hard.

Update numer 3: Karin Lindell, better known as Ketchupmamman, of course. I even registered it on Bookcrossing before passing it on. Her blog is hilarious at times and thought-provoking at times, which is a good mix. The book follows along the same lines, and is highly reccommended as a present for any new parents.

Nåde – Linn Ullman

ullmannJeg plukket opp Linn Ullmans Nåde på forrige bookcrossingtreff i Trondheim, siden jeg jo til stadighet tenker at jeg burde lest mer norsk samtidslitteratur. Når vi skulle en tur til Oslo i helgen ble den med, delvis fordi den så ut til å være noe jeg kunne bli ferdig med i løpet av turen og dermed sette igjen på OBCZ’en på Oslo S. Og slik ble det. Bokens bookcrossingside finner du her.

Fra forlagets omtale:

Da Johan Sletten blir alvorlig syk, inngår han en avtale med sin kone Mai. Den dagen livet oppleves som uverdig eller uutholdelig, den dagen han blir en byrde for henne og sine omgivelse skal hun bistå ham med en siste handling. Da øyeblikket nærmer seg, er han likevel usikker på om det er dette han vil. Uforvarende krysser ekteparet grensen til et landskap de ikke kjenner, der språket forvitrer og kjærligheten er utrygg.

Det er jo en grei oppsummering av handlingen. Selv synes jeg at boka langt på vei var vakker, men at den kom litt til kort i å skape den nødvendige, vel, nerven for at historien virkelig skulle treffe meg.

Ah, poor, neglected bookblog

I guess a catch-up post is in order, and then I need to get back into proper posting. But, really, APRIL? How am I supposed to remember all I’ve read since April?

What with moving house and all, there’s been less time for reading than I could have wished, so there’s less to remember, but still.

Ah, well, let’s see:

Somewhere South of Here by William Kowalski, engaging, now bookcrossed.

Seventy-Seven Clocks by Christopher Fowler. Less funny than I had hoped, but still entertaining. Bookrcossing copy.

Theatre of Fish by Gimlette, found in my father’s colloection, an interesting account of Newfoundland, a place of which I knew very little, now I know a little more.

It’s a Long Way from Penny Apples, autobiography by Bill Cullen. An absorbing read. My two gripes were that though it’s supposed to be a memoir the author is referred to in third person throughout, which to me makes it more impersonal, and that in passages the sentences are waaaaay too short (unlike mine, as you can tell, I rather like run-on sentences). Now bookcrossed.

The Importance of Being Seven and The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith. Brilliant, as usual.

The Bronte Project by Jennifer Vandever. Picked up at a bookcrossing meetup in Mainz (of all places). Nice enough, but left me feeling a little, uhm, I don’t know, deflated perhaps?

Tonje Glimmerdal og Vaffelhjarte av Maria Parr. Disse fortjener egentlig egne innlegg, særlig Tonje Glimmerdal som muligens er den beste boka jeg har lest dette årtusenet, uavhengig av genre.

Peat Smoke and Spirit by Andrew Jefford, a reread in preparation for this summer’s  trip to Islay.

Call the Midwife: A True Story of the East End in the 1950ies by Jennifer Worth. A very worthwhile read. I see it’s available from Amazon in a set with its two sequels, and I think I have to ordr it, because I do want to read the sequels.

Vidunderbarn av Roy Jacobsen. Vidunderlig, sår, ekte og gripende.

Norske helter – Vetle Lid Larsen


Jeg begynte, som nevnt, å høre Norske helter som lydbok på vei til jobb og oppdaget når jeg kom fram at spilleren hadde stått på random play (bare CD1, heldigvis). Det var en hyggelig oppdagelse, da jeg hadde ment historien var en del mer usammenhengende enn man kunne ønske (men ikke nok til at jeg hadde blitt skikkelig mistenksom, altså, mange forfattere velger jo usammenhengende fortellerstil med vilje).

På hjemveien fikk jeg satt den i gang i rett rekkefølge og nå ble alt så meget bedre. Faktisk så meget bedre at jeg noen dager senere, når jeg begynte å nærme meg slutten, var nødt til å høre en halvtime ekstra etter ankomst jobb fordi historien var på et punkt hvor jeg simpelthen ikke klarte å legge den fra meg.

En mann våkner på et rehabiliteringssykehus et sted i Norge etter en alvorlig bilulykke. En osp tok av for støtet når bilen hans skjente av veien, ellers hadde han vært død. Nå er han i stedet sengeliggende og med en hjerneskade, hvis omfang er uklart. Han blir fortalt at han er Frank Jørgensen, 37 år, selvstendig næringsdrivende i eksport/import. Litt etter litt kommer både førlighet og hukommelse tilbake.

Vetle Lid Larsen hadde selv vært innlagt for hodeskade før han skrev denne romanen, vi får håpe at mye allikevel er fri fantasi. Det avdekkes hemmeligheter og systemsvakheter innen både behandling, finansiering og forskning i boka, og enkelte ting er såpass skremmende og absurde at alt man kan gjøre er å le (men en liten stemme i bakhodet mitt lurer i hvert fall på om ikke slikt «lett» kunne skje i virkeligheten). Jeg skal ikke røpe for mye, siden noe av drivet i boka kommer av de gradvise avsløringene, men å si at jeg fikk assosiasjoner til Gjøkeredet må med.

Norske helter anbefales. Lydboka er glimrende lest av Mads Ousdal, og eksemplaret jeg hørte på er et bookcrossingeksemplar på leting etter nytt hjem, så om du er kjapp kan du overta det.

A different sort of catch-up post

I’m going to a bookcrossing meetup this afternoon, and have gathered a pile of books to bring, most of them bookcrossing copies that have been lying around for over a year without being read, and I feel it’s time to let them go. But then the odd one shows up that I have read, but that I have neither journaled nor blogged. Remiss of me. So here:

Terra Incognita by Sara Wheeler was sent to me as an rabck. I had it on my wishlist following a discussion in the forums about travelogues written by women. I actually read it when I said I would, that is following the reread of Aubrey/Maturin last winter, but I didn’t want to wild release it, and so it ended up on a pile of «need some effort on these» books and has been neglected ever since. The book is pretty good, and I did enjoy it, but it didn’t quite hit its mark with me. I think one reason is I simply don’t understand the obsessive fascination with Antarctica (or the poles) which Sara Wheeler certainly seems to share with a lot of people, and she doesn’t really help me understand it either. I’m not suggesting she should have explained better, as I’m pretty sure it’s not something one can explain, like a phobia, obsession is hardly rational, but I do wish she’d made me feel it. Without that the book is a bit too long, too dry, dare I say too cold? Still, worth reading. I’ll try to find someone who wants it this afternoon.

Alice by Lela Dowlings is a graphic rendition of Alice in Wonderland and is simply wonderful. I’m putting it on my «be on the lookout for» list, as I want this in my permanent collection, but this copy is travelling on.

Thirteen Orphans by Jane Lindskold is a competent fantasy, with clever use of Chinese cultural symbols and with the nicely executed «people with affinity with animals» theme that I’ve come to expect from Lindskold. First in a series, and I’ll be looking for the rest, but I don’t think I’ll reread, so I will register and bring it today.

Ut å stjæle hester – Per Petterson

Blogging med tilbakevirkende kraft, april 2010.

Jeg fikk Ut å stjæle hester i en bokring på Bookcrossing og leste den sommeren 2008, på bokens bookcrossingside hadde jeg følgende å si:

Jeg ble nok en gang minnet om hvorfor jeg leser så lite norsk samtidslitteratur. Synes slett ikke dette var dårlig, men det var liksom ikke helt den store opplevelsen heller.