Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Rösta i faction-frågan!

Svenska: Glöm inte att rösta i faction-frågan! Faction är en genre där skriver fiktion baserad på verkliga händelser. Joyce Carol Oates roman om Marilyn Monroe (Blonde) som kom för ett antal år sedan är ett bra exempel. Den var uttalat baserad på Monroes liv men Oates hade använt faktan för att sedan själv fabulera vidare. Tycker du att detta är ett bra grepp, eller kanske bara otydligt och förvirrande? Rösta här till vänster!

English: Don't forget to vote on the faction issue! Faction is a genre where the made-up story is based on real events and real people. Joyce Carol Oates novel about Marilyn Monroe (Blonde) that came out a few years ago is a good example. This book was based on the life of Monroe but Oates had used the riveting truth as a basis for further speculation of her own. Do you think this is and interesting type of literature, or is it just confusing? Vote in the poll on the left!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Title: Outsiders
Author: S.E. Hinton
Puffin Books, 1997 (1967)

This true teen classic has probably been used a gazillion times in classrooms across the United States and Europe. It is dramatic with its two gangs of kids - rich and poor - and characters you can warm to, be they arrogant abusers or hounded deadbeats. The focus is on the kids from the wrong side of the track and they have all the trademarks usually found there: social strife, money troubles, and academic difficulties. But there is also kids who break this mold and above all, integrity, lojalty and love. My experience when reading it in class, is that teenagers can still relate to the issues brought up in the novel and appreciate it. And for those who are inclined towards cinematic experiences there is also the movie where Tom Cruise has a fantastically adventurous set of teeth!

Monday, October 29, 2007


Title: Gilead
Author: Marilynne Robinson
Picador, 2005

This Pulitzer Prize Winner takes concentration on the reader's part, otherwise it is just bland, which I noticed when I tried to read it in a state of zonkyness one night. An old Bible-belt preacher has been informed by his doctors that he does not have long to live. The year is 1947 and he sits down to write a letter to his young son, who is only seven. It is a kind of closing of the accounts of life as the old man tries to come to terms with death as well as life's unfinished business.

The novel is decidedly pro-religion even if it deals with doubt to a certain extent. I don't mind it, since I don't feel it is art's responsibility to be politically correct. Also, it is enriching to view life from a completely different standpoint once in a while. If anyone is interested in reading a novel that presents religion in a more problematic way: try Robinson's first novel Housekeeping, which is also very good.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

And Then There Were None

Title: And Then There Were None
Author: Agatha Christie
HarperCollins, 2003 (1939)

The fact that this classic whodunit has sold over 100 (one hundred!!) million copies speaks for itself. It may also be an indication that no review is necessary because you have all already read it. Well, nevermind, any reason to clutter up the web is good enough for me. Basic intrigue: ten people, all individually responsible for someone's death and unpunished for it, arrive at secluded island and one by one they are killed off by the elusive U.N. Owen.

This is the third or fourth time I read it with students. Most of them like the story; some find the language a bit old-fashioned and difficult to penetrate; others manage it just fine. And always, the question is raised: why did they have to rename it??!! A perfect entry point for those of us amused by that particular discussion which I am, from time to time. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The literary globetrotter!

Facebook has an application that lets its user pinpoint every single location in the the world that he or she has visited. I had it for a while but when I compared it to many of my friends, I blushed. I will forget my travelultra-friend who has been to Afghanistan and North Korea (and those are just the tip of the iceberg - right now he is doing Tonga with his wife and baby-daughter), but most people I know have left the relative safety of Europe and North America and braved Africa, Asia and Oceania.

But, then I thought, why feel bad when I have no immediate desire to have the runs ( I have ulcerous colitis - I know the runs!), or sleep on cots with friggin' scorpions crawling beneath my uneasy dreams? I enjoy my supercomfy bed, my sofa in the morning and our temperate climate. Therefore, I decided to wallow in my geographically stale state and make a map that will make me the most well-travelled person ever: where have I travelled using the means of literature (instead of shabby Russian planes)- and if I want to spice things up - when have I travelled? This amazing new blog feature will take some work of course, but boy oh boy, will you weary wanderers be impressed when you see it!

Friday, October 26, 2007

80 romaner för dig som har bråttom

Titel: 80 romaner för dig som har bråttom
Författare: Henrik Lange
Kartago förlag, 2007

Idén är god och det var med stora förväntningar jag började bläddra i den här lilla historien. 80 romaner vardera sammanfattade till en seriestrip på fyra bilder kunde ju blivit alldeles, alldeles underbart. Men, det blev det inte. Romanerna är reducerade sönder och samman till skuggor av sina forna jag och några nyckelhändelser och en tillstymmelse till intrig är (i bästa fall) allt som finns kvar. Lange har inte lyckats fånga känslan eller stämningen i verken vilket jag ändå tycker borde vara möjligt. Detta är 80 romaner för dig som har bråttom, vilket författaren själv verkar ha haft för han har nog inte tagit sig tid att läsa och begrunda dem som han borde.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Notes from a Small Island

Title: Notes from a Small Island
Author: Bill Bryson
Black Swan, 1995

Parts of Bryson's non-fiction trip through Britain are fantastic, for instance when Bryson makes a case for Britain's eminent suitability as a Communist state: "It has long seemed to me unfortunate ... that such an important experiment in social organisation was left to the Russians when the British would have managed it so much better". (p.68) And after hearing him out, and almost wetting myself, I agree. The British stiff-upper-lip approach to life would have served them well in a totalitarian state.

However, the book is uneven, and the hilarious parts are not seldom followed by mediocre ones. But, hey, you can skip a few pages here and there. Bryson does not seem to be the sort of fella who would mind!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Datorns lockelser...

Efter att ha startat bloggen, upptäckt digitalkameran och photoshop, blivit slukad med hull och hår av facebook och lockad till msn har jag upptäckt att all tid som tidigare gick till läsning av intressanta böcker nu mer och mer går till att sitta i datorns sken. Dessutom finns drömmar om en hemsida alternativt en till blogg som mer är inriktad på lifestylefrågor. När dessa planer försiktigt luftades inför vänner och sambo igår blev reaktionen samstämd och bestämd: "det är nog inte en bra idé".

Jag får tyvärr ta och hålla med. Bloggen får överleva och photoshoppandet har jag redan dragit ner på. Och kanske kräver facebook någon slags gräns - bara två inloggningar om dagen - eller något i den stilen. Msn får jag helt enkelt avinstallera innan jag träskat ner mig alldeles. I denna nya andas tid, ska jag hem och banne mig läsa ut Notes from a Small Island så att jag blogga den imorgon. Daniel får helt enkelt vänta på mitt nya drag i Scrabulous (fabulous facebook application!)!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Seinfeld literary dialogue!

In the "Yada, yada, yada"-episode of Season 8, George and Jerry are standing by a urinal, discussing, of all things, literature. Well, discussing may be stretching the truth a bit... Anyway: very funny! Enjoy:

J: All right, you're on a desert island. You can bring five books. Which five do you take?
G: I gotta read five books?
J: All right, one!
... [George is thinking hard]...
Come on!!!
G: I got it! Three Musketeers.
J: You've read that?!
G: No, I'm saving it for the island.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Faction friction!

After one focaccia (with chicken, apple and parmesan cream), one hot scone (with butter, cheese and jam) one pot of tea and one big hunkin' chocoroll (chokladboll), I, with a mind culinarily sedated, happily showed my friend, the history teacher, my new book purchase: The Castle in the Forest by Norman Mailer. This is Mailer's first novel in ten years and, according to The Guardian, tells the story of "the childhood of Adolf Hitler, narrated by the devil, inhabiting the body of an SS officer, Dieter". Thus, being a mix of real fact and the author's fantasy, the book belongs to that elusive genre coined "faction". Because of the book's faction-status, my innocent display led to a discussion about faction that did not end until the cafe hade emptied and more mundane duties called a good hour later(vacuuming and unclogging the sink for me and my man, high-level tv-watching and navel-picking for the friend) .

Apparently, faction - a blend between fact and fiction - is not an uncontroversial subject. This anonymous history teacher friend felt (I am now in a faction-like way putting words in his mouth; please note the disclaimer at the end of this blog entry), firstly, that the genre is not satisfying as an artform because its dwelling in the misty borderland between biography and fiction, makes it difficult to know what to make of it and, therefore, boring. Secondly, he meant that these kinds of books are potentially dangerous or at least problematic, because many people are not able to read such a work with a critical eye and will thus, maybe subconciously, store the information in their brain's "fact storage" instead of where it belongs, in the "cultural experiences storage".

In the end, we realized that our educations might have something to do with our different perspectives, i.e. literary vs. historical. This was in itelf an interesting discovery and now we will all have to read the novel to be able to continue this riveting discussion. Mailer himself says that people who read it are likely to "have a shit fit", and who on earth would want to miss out on that, I ask you?

Both quotes are from the interview with Norman Mailer by Robert McCrum in The Guardian. To read it in full, please visit:,,2004873,00.html#top

Disclaimer: I have used my highly subjective memory to approximate the opinions of my good friend (the history teacher, who will reamin anonymous). Any misunderstandings or blatant embellishments are mine, and I will surely get my comeuppance in due time; I have heard that any such sins are bound to come back and smack you in the face!

Friday, October 19, 2007


Title: Hatchet
Author: Gary Paulsen
Macmillan Children's Books, 1996 (1987)

This is an exciting novel for young people! Brian Robeson a 13-year-old American kid who is going to visit his father in Canada over the summer, when the pilot of the small plane which is to take him there suffers a fatal heart-attack. The plane crashes in the middle of the North American wilderness. As a puny, modern Robinson Crusoe, Brian, the typical city boy, has to fend for himself and survive in the dense woods.

I use this book for the English A-course and as a bonus to all teachers, this story is rife with passages where you can test the students' ability to read between the lines! Also, for the kids who really take a shine to the book, there are sequels!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Century - libra fantastica!

I don't know Italian so my catchy phrase in the title might be all wrong, but I trust you to get the gist of it. Phaidon's tome (comes in sizes small and large!) is a must in all homes and you can safely buy it as a birthday- or Christmas gift to all people you know, who are unlucky enough not to own one. If they are crazy people and don't like it, they can always use it as a doorstop or a handy weapon.

The basic thing is that the book tries to take a scope of our last century and present it to you in fantastic photographs. But, that's not all! Each time period starts with a short introduction, followed by some of the things really, really clever people of the time said (you know, Churchill, Hemingway, Sitwell and Camus for instance). Then you are awash in photos galore - all in all more than a thousand of them. But, just to make sure you know what you are looking at, each chapter ends with brief presentations of each picture.

For those of you who are linguistically challenged I have illustrated the last paragraph in a supremely pedagogic image to your right. Click on the image to enlarge it. Enjoy!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Läsning - en unisexhobby?

I min ungdoms dagar tränade tjejer aerobic och killar fotboll. Tjejer läste Veckorevyn och killar Slitz (eller Kalle Anka om det ville sig illa åt andra hållet). Tjejer fikade och pratade killar och känslor och killar söp och pratade tjejer och sex. Ungefär så. Jag vill därför gärna inbilla mig att skönlitteratur och läsning, i den mån folk fortfarande har det som hobby, är en unisexsysselsättning. och det är det säkert i större utsträckning än mycket annat.

Men, en dag läste jag om en undersökning som gjorts på skolbarn och den gjorde mig ledsen. Tydligen är det så när det gäller läsning att flickor kan läsa böcker med både killar och tjejer som huvudpersoner och ha behållning av dem. Pojkar däremot har svårt att ta till sig böcker med tjejer som protagonister. De kan inte identifiera sig med en tjej; de kan inte tycka att det verkar vara ett viktigt perspektiv.

Naturligvis finns det, trots detta, mycket att vara glad för. Kvinnliga författare har slagit sig in i deckargenren med besked och läses av både kvinnor och män (tror jag...) Chick lit:en har fått en manlig motsvarighet (med manliga huvudrollsinnehavare i och för sig), och t.o.m. fantasyn har fått kvinnliga protagonister som t.ex. detektiven Thursday Next i Jasper Ffordes romaner . Dessutom finns det ju de magnifika, moderna författare, Ishiguro, Proulx och Fowles för att nämna några, som både skriver om och läses av bägge könen.

Jag önskar ändå att föräldrar, när de sitter där hemma med sina små pyren i famnen och ska bjuda in dem i böckernas underbara värld, väljer böcker som berättar spännande och härliga historier om både små pojkar och flickor, så att även pojkar kan få lära sig att det där med att vara tjej, det verkar vara rätt härligt ändå!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

What is the What

Title: What is the What
Author: Dave Eggers
Penguin Books, 2006

I loved Dave Eggers first novel, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which, incidentally, also had one of history's best titles. How a true story about losing both your parents to cancer (within three months of each other) and being stuck raising your kid brother can be wildly funny, I'll never know but it was. His second book, You Shall Know Our Velocity! was too depressing to finish, and his third went ignored by me.

Therefore, I started his fourth book feeling hopeful but a bit wary. I need not have worried. It is based on the true story of Valentino Achak Deng, a Sudanese refugee, living in America. Since I know very little of the conflict in Sudan this is an interesting read merely because of its subject matter. To make the experience even more worth while, Edders is a good writer and a tender biographer. Deng's voice is present at all times, without compromising the literaryness of the work. Definitely worthy of people's attention!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Doris Lessing - reading tip!

I can't say I peed my pants with excitement (something that has become quite within the bounds of probability in my present condition) when the news were announced yesterday. It was more a sort of mild, pleasant-feeling surprise. I have only read one novel by Lessing, but, it was a good one: The Fifth Child (1988).

In this slim volume Lessing introduces a young couple eager to start their life and family together in their newly purchased, rambling Victorian house. The first child, however, gives mother Harriet reasons to worry while still in the womb, and her fears are realised when it turns out that the boy, Ben is indeed - dare we say it - born evil .

The family grows, as do the problems with Ben and the family is emotionally torn asunder while trying to cope with him, each in their different ways. The novel is interesting for taking on life when you're dealt cards you did not expect and because it raises the very taboo question of children who seem evil. Harriet's own theory to explain her son's' behaviour is extraordinary, but that's a nugget I'll leave for you to discover.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tydligen måste man jobba...

Ja, det verkar inte bättre än att man faktiskt måste jobba ibland också. Man kan inte bara blogga. Sabla tonstigt, asså, som min sambo brukade säga i unga år. What is the What är dock en riktigt finfin läsupplevelse. Recension blir det till helgen. Hatchet och Outsiders kommer också inom kort under rubriken "Books for school".

Idag är det ju dessutom dags för Svenska Akademien att avslöja årets Nobelpristagare i litteratur. Spännande. Det må vara hänt att det är dags för en lyricist, men jag är ju prosaälskare så mina förhoppningar ligger där. Blir det Philip Roth får jag dock stora toktuppjucket. Maken till mansgris är svår att hitta... även om det finns en del att välja på. Den som lever (kl. 13.00) får se!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Uppdrag: familj

Titel: Uppdrag: familj
Redaktör: Karin Salmson
Månopocket fakta, 2006 (2005)

Uppdrag: mamma var mestadels rolig och kanske speglar det hoppfullheten och den gränslösa glädjen som (förhoppningsvis) råder när man nyss satt ett litet barn till världen. Uppdrag: familj är avgjort mörkare. Här har vardagen hunnit ifatt föräldrarna vi mötte i den förra samlingen. Barnen har blivit större, fler - och föräldrarna jobbar, ofta något rent kopiöst verkar det som. Flera inlägg är trots detta vackra, som det om mannen som i vuxen ålder lärde sig leka när hans son kom till . Vilken värld de upptäckte! Och andra artiklar är naket självutlämnande, som det om den ensamstående mamman som försöker köpa sig fri från skuld - och misslyckas. För att muntra upp mig själv när jag läst färdigt, säger jag till mig själv: går det åt helvete så är vi i alla fulla fall tillräckligt många pumpgångare för att bilda stödgrupp.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Echo Maker

Title: The Echo Maker
Author: Richard Powers
Vintage, 2007 (2006)

This novel was the National Book Award Winner of 2006, and that's no surprise! Some books can be about anything because a supreme language and narrative voice can make any story interesting. The Echo Maker has that, but the plot still transcends its form. Here, the brain and its myriad meandering ways is the real protagonist.

A young man ends up in a coma after a mysterious high-speed car crash. His only living relative, his beloved sister, rushes to his side, but when the man wakes up, he thinks she is an imposter posing as his sister. The sister calls in a famous neuro-scientist to help her brother, but eventually, they all end up disoriented as to who they are. The story is set in Nebraska and the migrating cranes of the region serve as a parallell to the three characters' sense of loss. Any drawbacks? Could be shorter. But, then again, I almost always say that.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Poll - what kind of format is preferable?

Well, according to the nine (9) people who answered the poll, paperback rules! This feels kind of nice since it economically democratised reading and made good books available to everyone. The Swedish equivalent to quality paperback, storpocket, can obviously give up and die. No one voted for it. Personally, I have now reached the conclusion that it must be an issue of price. The Swedish format costs almost twice as much as its smaller counterpart while the English/ American format is only mariginally more expensive.

I will have to think about a question for a new poll that interests more than nine people though. Any suggestions will be happily accepted. The Jane Austen poll is the top one so far with 17 voters. My next goal is to have 20!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Knus - bästa läshörnan!

I somras öppnade Café Knus på V. Rönneholmsv. 53 (en bit ifrån Hästhagens idrottsplats) och det var ju på tiden att jag fick ett trevligt fik i mitt hemkvartér! På Knus finns nämligen stans bästa läshörna och den godaste lunchen.

Varje dag är det ny fantastisk soppkreation med gott bröd till. Denna veckan har potatis- och purjolök-, lins- och majssoppan avsmakats. Alla delikata! Musiken är bra (lite retrosoul kanske man kan kalla det?) och spelas på resonabel volym och här finns inga horder av skräniga ungdomar. Lugnt och skönt med andra ord. Ta med gott mod med din bok eller lite gott sällskap och njut av godsakerna. Lite klassisk radiokaka med smaskig latte till är ju inte helt fel som efterrätt nu när vädret börjar bli lite ruskigare.

Pax för platsen på bilden!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Sex and the City - Kiss and Tell

Today, I will use a book as an excuse to interview myself about my favourite television show (sit-com length) - Sex and the City.

What does the book contain? For all SATC-freaks, the book is a memento. It encompasses the first four seasons and there is a short guide to every episode and a lot of behind-the-scenes information, which to me is the most interesting, because it explains how the series came to be so extremely well-made. There is a later (less fancy) version of this book that covers 5½ seasons. I may get it one day.

People tend to either love or hate the series. How do you explain this? Well, I think that people who has seen the series from start to finish are bound to love it, or at least to recognise certain qualitites that would appeal to anyone who enjoys television as an artform. However, if you have just seen a few isolated episodes, especially from the earlier seasons, I can understand that it would look like a poor excuse for soft porn, or that people would have a difficult time identifying with the girls. The developement when they fleshed out the three supporting roles was remarkable. The series went from being a sit-com about, well, sex in the city to being a cut-up movie about friendship.

Is it feminist, really? I could definitely see that it would feel groundbreaking and feminist to an American audience in the 1990s, and that's the context in which it was made. I don't know if things have changed because I haven't been to the States for 7 years, but back then, mainstream culture certainly supported the notion that the greatest happiness for a woman, involved a diamond ring and a cheesy engagement story. Charlotte, admittedly, agrees with this, but the other women represent choices and feelings that are diametrically opposed to society's norm and, furthermore, what is really the most important thing to all of them, is their friendship with each other. However, I can also see that Swedish women did not feel the show was feminist, because we already felt that we had those other choices (at least to some real extent).

Could you give an example that illustrates this?
Yes, in the final hour-long episode, before Mr. Big is heading off to Paris to fight for Carrie, he meets her friends in the coffeeshop to gain their approval. He says (something along these words): "You are the loves of her life, a guy is just lucky to come in fourth (place)". And that is exactly the point. The show, seen as a whole, is about friendship and how the security of having good friends gives you the opportunity to embrace life, make mistakes and always be welcome back to the fold.

So, is there any point in buying the book?
It will sure be a sweet walk down memory lane, if you are a die-hard fan. If you haven't purchased the series itself yet, though, I would use my money for that instead.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Cover Her Face

Title: Cover Her Fcae
Author: P.D. James
Penguin, 1989 (1962)

For those who pine for a classic whodunit from time to time, this one is as good as any. We have the country house, set in the appropriate English village and we have all the appropriate characters: the maid, the housekeeper, the lady of the house, the vicar, country doctor and so on. The novel is quite well put together and doesn't leave the reader wanting. What you see is what you get. No more, no less.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Secret History

Title: The Secret History
Author: Donna Tartt
Penguin, 1993 (1992)

The ingredients for this smashing compund are as follows: a liberal dollop of the classic themes of the Greek tragedy: death, deceit, retribution, guilt and unrequieted love. This is thouroughly blended together with the brash, inane, shallow features of the American college campus: rich kids, drugs, nutty professors and Thirsty Thursday. Tartt has mixed these two genres with great gusto and the result is thrillingly appetizing. Despite its +600 pages it does not make you full and the only weakness, really, is the somewhat flat "love story" between Camilla and Henry which doesn't quite has the ring of truth to it. Thank you Björn, for making me read this novel!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Månadens böcker - september

Sådär bokskörd får jag väl säga för denna månad. En hel del böcker har varit helt okej, men få har känts som riktiga fempoängare och jag märker på (den korta) listan att det blir tema krig:
  1. På västfronten intet nytt
  2. Storm över Frankrike

Nummer ett är ju en klassiker och jag har nog läst den ett tiotal gånger eftersom jag använder den i undervisningen där den funkar bra. Är det någon som inte läst den så sätt igång. Som krigsskildring är den oöverträffad. Nummer två är en av de bästa skildringar av människan som varelse jag har läst. Nog får man erkänna att mycket känns igen och återkommer inte bara i den svåra situation karaktärerna befinner sig i (ockupation) utan även i vår kära vardag.