Alienation – a book chain

January 12, 2009

Hans Persson is doing something interesting over at his book blog Du är vad du läser: a weekly book chain, where you start with a theme, write a paragraph about a book you associate to that theme, then another para about a book you associate with the first one, and so on. The paragraphs are not exactly book reviews, because that would make each link too long, He’s been doing it for a few weeks now, one every week. Take a look if you read Swedish.

At any rate, this week’s starting point is “Alienation” (Utanförskap). The first book I associate with that theme is Jo Walton’s Farthing. The setting is England in 1949, in an alternate history where Britain negotiated a peace settlement with Hitler in 1941. The protagonist is married to a Jewish man, and one of the main themes of the book is the systematic alienation of Jews in Britain – another theme is the failure of the ordinary people to see what is going on. It is utterly plausible and quite, quite chilling. One of the most worthwile reading experiences I had in 2008. (There are two other books in the series. I haven’t read them yet, but I most definitely will do so.)

Another fiction book which deals with World War 2 is Briar Rose by Jane Yolen. This is a retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story, in the form of a young American woman’s journey to Poland to find out more about her late grandmother’s background. She makes some very terrible discoveries indeed, and just as in Farthing, the reader is confronted with the inaction, or inability to comprehend what was going on, by the ordinary people. In this case, the ordinary farmers who lived near the Chelmno extermination camp.

Jane Yolen is an excellent short story writer as well (in fact, I tend to prefer her short fiction – I’ve read over 80 of her short stories and like all of them, but a couple of the novels I’ve read by her haven’t really done it for me), and she is one of the contributors to the short story collection Starlight 1. It is a collection of science fiction/fantasy short stories, edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden. It won the World Fantasy Award in 1997. Two of my favourite genres, in a format (short stories) which I really like, only the best authors… what’s not to like? It’s years since I read it, and now I want to re-read it. And the other two collections as well. They are a good introduction to the science fiction field, especially for people who believe that SF has to be about spaceships and aliens.

Starlight 1 naturally leads me to Stardust, by Neil Gaiman. Not a heavyweight in any way, this book, but utterly sympathetic and readable. It is a fairy story for adults, and considerably less grim than many of Gaiman’s works. There is a rather beautifully illustrated edition with illustrations by Charles Vess – and the of course there is the movie, which was made rather later, and which I liked despite not usually being a fan of movies made from books.

I’d better end the chain here, even though I see several directions it could go in (The Jungle Book, Pride and Prejudice and Fray could equally obviously be the next link.) Nice idea, Hans. I hope you’ll keep doing this.


A Sunday afternoon’s entertainment for a Gentle Lady

April 6, 2008

When we were in London, I bought a DVD with the recent TV series Cranford. I’d heard it lauded to the skies, and now I’m about to start watching it. I think it’s about 5 hours long, so will not finish it today, but I’ve been looking forward to it very much. I love the novels, and would watch almost anything created by Sue Birtwistle, so I don’t think I’ll be disappointed.

Not sure I’m qualified to call myself a Gentle Lady, but who’s going to complain?


Tea and Galaxy Quest

April 5, 2008

Drinking peach ball jasmine tea – the kind where the tea leaves are rolled up tightly, and unfold into a kind of blossom when you pour hot water over it. We’ve had this tea for some time, and so I thought I’d finish it before it gets too old. Also, I’m watching Galaxy Quest. I’ve seen it once before but remember almost nothing. It’s a lot of fun, and has Alan Rickman.

An hour later – subtitles rolling: oh yes, lots of fun. So very cheesy and sentimental in such an intentionally over-the-top way. A good evening’s entertainment.

In my tea glass is now something that looks like a sea anemone, or a Tentacled Being (TM). I don’t think I’ll add more water – it’s still nice, but I’m about to go to bed instead of taking in more caffeine.


New toy

April 3, 2008

Got an iPod Shuffle, the new clip-on kind, 2GB. I love it. My old iPod (2nd generation) was excellent, and I’ve had a lot of use out of it, but it was a bit difficult sometimes to know where to keep it, because it is too large for a trouser pocket, and also its battery only lasts for about 40 minutes these days, which is not even a return journey to Uppsala.

The new one has one single drawback, which was obvious before I bought it: there is no display. On the other hand, that hasn’t caused any problems for me yet, in particular because when I plug in the iPod to change the play list, I can see in Itunes when I last played a track. This is important, because so far I’ve pretty much only used it for audiobooks. (Anna Karenina, as I mentioned in a previous post.)


Too many witty T-shirts

March 18, 2008

Once upon a time, I had two or three T-shirts with funny prints on. (That’s funny peculiar and/or funny ha-ha.) When I went to a long sf convention such as the four-day Eastercon, I brought them all, plus a couple of shirts without wittiness.

THis has changed. In my choir, and also at work, I am known for my funny T-shirts with unusual prints, and as I packed my bags tonight for tomorrow’s journey to England and Eastercon, I had to pick and choose which ones to take. And I still brought about two T-shirts for each day. I’ll just have to go off to our hotel room and change at lunchtime. Nothing wrong with that. Because I didn’t want to leave my two new Steven Brust-themed shirts, nor my new NAFS(k) shirt, or the Book Wyrm one, or the Edward Gorey one that says So Many Books, So Little Time, or the Nightmare before Christmas-themed one, or…

The paradox here is that (as you probably know, if you are reading this blog, because those who read it generally know me) I don’t like to buy clothes. It’s boring, and tedious, and difficult, and expensive, and as soon as I enter a clothes shop I want to leave again; but T-shirts are different. They are like jewelry, or something. Just decoration with the extra benefit of also functioning as clothing; and I don’t have to pay any attention to the clothes part of them, except to check that they are the right size.


Happy Birthday

March 11, 2008

kråkan tittar åt höger Happy Birthday, Johan. kråkan tittar åt vänster



March 8, 2008

I had no idea they were making a movie on the life of one of the people I admire most in this world: Barbro Alving, who wrote under the pen names Bang and Käringen mot Strömmen. Am listening to a review of the film now – it opened yesterday in Stockholm. I do hope it will be shown in Uppsala at some point, even if it’s apparently not the best film ever, according to reviews. I really, REALLY want to see it. Here is a trailer. The voice overs don’t sound much like her – much too modern inflections. Oh well, it’s a quibble.

There’s also a book I will need to get, Bang’s diary from the Olympic Games in Berlin 1936, which has just been published. I’m very pleased that I am not the only person who thinks she isn’t yesterday’s news and irrelevant today.