27 June 2010


Beatles by Lars Saabye Christensen was a delightful stroll through the Beatlemania of my youth. Each chapter of the novel is the title of a Beatles album or song and I did not have to try hard to transport back to that year in my life. It was fascinating to view the same time period from a Norwegian perspective. To make the novel even more interesting the perspective was male.

The novel follows four young Norwegian boys from 1965 until 1972. As you might imagine, Kim (our narrator) and his friends Gunnar, Ola, and Seb are obsessed with the Beatles. I was as well during the 1960s! In fact Kim and his friends thought of themselves as the Beatles. They dreamed of starting their own band which would be named the SNAFUs. But, as with many dreams, life got in the way. The four friends changed from boys to men. They smoked, drank, played, fought, fell in and out of love, made a mess of things, and put things straight. We were introduced to their parents, other friends, rivals, girlfriends, and teachers. These boys felt like family. Close family!

I think this is one reason I loved the book so much - reading it felt like being admitted into a secret club, one usually closed to girls. Growing up, I had only one younger sister. Each summer, we went to stay with family in Tennessee. I loved staying with my three males cousins who lived out in the country. They teased me unmercifully as the city girl lost in the country. And we had some fun capers, and like the characters in the novel, more often than not got caught. Still some parts of my cousins' though processes were closed to me. I wasn't quite a member of the club!

Another idea which was prevelant in the novel was the protest against America in VietNam. I lived both sides of the same protest in the United States. I was told that the Communists were going to come take over our country if we did not defeat them in VietNam. When friends died, I wasn't sure that I cared about the Communists anymore. The distaste for what was viewed as American imperialism is palpable in the novel. Somewhat reminds me of the world response to our invasion of Iraq. We may never learn.

The author was born in Oslo in 1953, the same year I was born. He began writing Beatles when he was 25 years old. It is interesting that in 2006 readers in Norway voted this book the best Norwegian novel of the last 25 years.
I found an interesting anecdote about the book in an August 2009 review by Tone Sutterud found in the British The Independent:

Unbelievably, Beatles was almost lost to the world. Having written the entire tome by hand, Saabye Christensen thought it might interest his old schoolmates at most, and carelessly stuffed the script in a suitcase travelling from France. The suitcase got lost, but found its way back to Oslo after a two-week European round trip that took in London. "Which was only right and fitting," the author says. "Now the book has come home, so to speak."

TITLE: Beatles
AUTHOR: Lars Saabye Christensen
TRANSLATOR: Don Bartlett
COPYRIGHT: 2009 (English translation), original 1984
PAGES: 534
TYPE: fiction
RECOMMEND: This was a book that I did not want to end. The characters were so well defined, that I felt they were people I knew. I have seen one reference to two books which have already been written and are untranslated sequels to this book, so maybe I will get my chance to catch up with this fab four! Interesting to see the comparison between times here and in Norway.

21 June 2010

Who Am I?

Who am I? Just for Fun!
If I were a...

I saw this on The Black Sheep Dances' blog and thought it was wonderfully funny. So here are my answers....

If I were a month, I'd be May.
If I were a day, I’d be Sunday.
If I were a time of day, I'd be 11:11.
If I were a font, I'd be Lucinda.
If I were a sea animal, I'd be a dolphin!
If I were a direction, I'd be South.
If I were a piece of furniture, I'd be a Victorian chaise.
If I were a liquid, I’d be crystal clear water.
If I were a gemstone, I'd be a sapphire.
If I were a tree, I'd be a magnolia.
If I were a tool, I’d be a hammer.
If I were a flower, I'd be a tulip.
If I were an element of weather, I'd be rainstorm.
If I were a musical instrument, I'd be a guitar.
If I were a color, I'd be purple.
if i were an emotion, I'd be sweetness.
If I were a fruit, I'd be a cherry.
If I were a sound, I'd be a whisper.
If I were an element, I'd be water.
If I were a car, I'd be a Camaro.
If I were a food, I'd be cream.
If I were a place, I'd be the beach.
If I were material, I'd be brushed cotton.
If i were a taste, I'd be salty.
If I were a scent, I'd be confederate jasmine.
If I were a body part, I'd be feet.
If I were a song, I'd be Imagine.
If I were a bird, I'd be a canary.
If I were a gift, I'd be a book.
If I were a city, I'd be Bratislava.
If I were a door, I'd be open.
If I were a pair of shoes, I'd be barefoot.
If I were a poem, I'd be any Neruda poem.

What are you? Leave us a link!

16 June 2010

Growth of the Soil

Growth of the Soil by Knut Hamsun and translated by W. W. Worster is an excellent and thoughtful book I read for the Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2010 hosted by The Black Sheep Dances. If you would like to participate, visit her blog.

First a bit about the author. Knut Hamsun (1859-1952) won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1920 for this book. The review on the Nobel Prize website made sense to me -

Hamsun's work is determined by a deep aversion to civilization and the belief that man's only fulfilment lies with the soil. This primitivism (and its concomitant distrust of all things modern) found its fullest expression in Hamsun's masterpiece Markens Grøde (1917) [Growth of the Soil].

Which leads me to my review of the book. First, I should explain that it has always been a standard silliness at my house that my goal in life is to be a Slovak peasant (and I say that with a sincerity that might be difficult for some to believe or understand, but I think of it as a simple life unencumbered by the rush of daily life here). There would be hard work to be sure, but also a sense of accomplishment in living by one's own hands. So, you can only imagine my delight with this novel.

In the beginning, Isak starts out in the wilderness seeking a place to build a home and till the soil. He is alone and seeks a wife to help him. After some time, Inger comes to him and agrees to be his wife. She was born with a harelip and could not have hoped for a better situation. The two live a long way from a town and together they make improvements to the land and have children. But life is hard in Norway at the turn of the century, especially in the wilderness when a man and woman must work very hard. And things can change very quickly. Things change dramatically when Inger gives birth to a daughter who has a harelip and Inger kills her. She goes to jail leaving Isak and his younger son to take care of the land. The older son has gone to town and is too sophisticated to come back to the farm. While she is gone Inger has surgery to repair her harelip and she returns a little different causing even more disconcerting scenes on the farm. There are other characters who come in and out of the story, but this is Isak and Inger's story of building a life on the frontier in Norway in the early 1900s. I absolutely fell in love with this family.

Just as an aside, there was a small focus on women's issues in this book. Did a woman have to give birth to a baby just because a man got her pregnant? Should the woman be punished if she killed an unwanted, or even disfigured, newborn? How was the man punished?

I find it interesting that it is possible to read this novel online. Click here for the book and an essay by Worster.

TITLE: Growth of the Soil
AUTHOR: Knut Hamsun
COPYRIGHT: 2006 (English translation), original 1917
PAGES: 435
TYPE: fiction
RECOMMEND: This was a phenomenal story of a family and the people they knew in the wilderness of Norway. I really enjoyed getting to know and understand the people who worked hard to bring a home into the wilderness and deal with civilization as it came nearer to them.
AWARDS: Nobel Prize for Literature (1920)

08 June 2010

Another award, Oh My!

Thank you so much to Missy B. at Missy's Book Nook for giving me this award. Two in one day - I should play the lottery! This all started as a place for me to keep up with books I was reading - now I feel like I have friends all over the country. And I learn so much from reading about their lives and what they like to read, cook, or _________! (insert your own passion)! It makes it even nicer to have someone send a virtual award!

The Rules for the award are:
1. Thank the person who gave you this award
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to 15 who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic for whatever reason! (in no particular order…) no way to get to 15
4. Contact the picked and let them know about the award.

About Me:
1. I was born and raised in Pensacola, Florida so right now I am frantic about our beautiful white sand beaches. Please don't buy gas from BP.
2. I live with four chihuahuas and wish I had room for another dozen. They are the sweetest animals ever.
3. My husband is 15 years younger than I am (I am a Charter Member of The Cougar Club, too)
4. I love to cook. I wish I had more time to do so. But there are only so many hours in a day.
5. My dream is to own a camper and travel around the US - assuming I ever get to retire.
6. I am a librarian in a very small Curriculum Materials Library on a college campus and I love my job.
7. My dream job would be to work at the US Holocaust Museum.

Now, I am passing this award on to:

Bermuda Onion - She is a phenomenal reviewer of all different sorts of books.

Dawn @ She is too fond of books - They have addled her brain.

The Friendly Book Nook - reviews kids books and many other genres

Reading in Appalachia - posts reviews on Appalachia regional fiction

Girl From Florida - a military spouse with two children, frequently posts the most delicious pictures of Southern food!

Tina Says - an elementary school librarian who reviews books of all sorts

The Three R's Blog - a little bit of everything booky!

Since 7 is a lucky number, I think I will stop now. Obviously I could go on and on, but others already have. So many blogs are spectacular. Thanks again to Missy!

What I Loved

For me, the mark of a great book is one that, while I am reading it, I say to myself "This is the best book I have ever read." Now granted I am prone to saying that with some frequency, but for me, What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt was just such a book. I loved every part of it - the mundane, the excitement, the familiar, the unknown, the art, the critic, the loneliness, the camraderie. This book has everything and then some. The focus is clear as we have a single narrator who leads us through his twenty-five year friendships in New York's art world. Before I delve any further into the plot, let me tell you a bit about the author.

Although Siri Hustvedt was born in Minnesota, her early life was steeped in Norwegian culture. Her mother had moved from Norway the year before she was born and her father was third generation Norwegian American. Siri's first language was Norwegian and she had her first visit to Norway at the age of five. Her father was recognized for his work with the Norwegian American society and taught the language and literature at a local college. Siri spent her last year of high school in Norway and graduated there. Her novels have been translated in twenty-nine languages. Visit her website for more information about her other works.

Now on to my review of What I Loved. The sole narrator of the novel is Leo Hertzberg who is a middle-aged art historian who teaches at a New York college. Through his memories we meet the other major characters. Because we come to know them through Leo, the novel is character driven with our opinions spinning out from Leo's encounters. Initially we meet Leo's wife Erica who is a writer. Leo's life changes when he purchases a painting by Bill Weschler. Leo befriends the artist, Bill's first wife Lucille, and his second wife Violet - the woman in the art Leo purchased. The two families bond and the novel recounts their intertwined lives for twenty-five years. With Leo, we struggle with what is real and what is really only remembered - altered for psychological reasons unknown even to ourselves. We witness joys and sorrows, loves and betrayals.

My favorite parts of the book however were the descriptions of Bill's art work, especially as they came from an art historian and critic (and beloved friend). Further, Bill's work was influenced heavily by Violet's research - first on hysteria in women in past centuries and second on eating disorders of both men and women. One art exhibit was a series of doors which actually opened into variously sized rooms containing multi-media art scences. One scene showed Holocaust victims starving to death. The descriptions were fascinating and needed to be read slowly to take in all they had to offer.

As you see, this novel provides the reader with multiple levels of scrutiny. There is the physical, the art, the psychological, and even the meta-physical. I plan to read the novel again and again. My favorite passage is near the end of the book:

Every story we tell about ourselves can only be told in the past tense. It winds backward from where we now stand, no longer the actors in the story but its spectators who have chosen to speak. (p. 364)

TITLE: What I Loved
AUTHOR: Siri Hustvedt
PAGES: 367
TYPE: fiction
RECOMMEND: This was a deep and expansive novel. The stories and remembrances will remain with me for some time and I will return to Leo's story again and again.
AWARDS: New York Times Notable Books of the Year (WON AWARD) 2003
Galaxy British Book Awards (NOMINATED FOR AN AWARD) 2004
Orange Prize for Fiction (NOMINATED FOR AN AWARD) 2003

Premio Dardos Award

Thank you so much to Kate, from "Kate's Library, for the joy of reading", who has honored me with the Premio Dardos Award. What a nice surprise and one that will keep me thinking for weeks about how to make my site better and more deserving.

"The Premio Dardos is a way to acknowledge the importance of bloggers committed to spreading cultural, ethical, literary and personal values, showing their letters and words."

Premio Dardos means “prize darts” in Italian. I would like to think this means that darts are used to pinpoint blogs that do their best to be honest and specific in their writings. I think my task now is to bestow the honor on at least eight other bloggers.

Presenting Lenore - Wonderfully written reviews of Young Adult books, and of course pictures of her beautiful cats

Black Sheep Dances - Wildly international books are reviewed while she challenges others to join her in a romp around the world

Boston Bibliophile - Intertwining her travels around Boston with beautifully thoughtful and well-written book reviews

Jew Wishes - Weaves all things Jewish with exceptional book reviews of Jewish themed or authored books, and the photography - WOW

Attic24 - From across the pond, she writes with delight about her every day and beautiful life and teaches the world to crochet, one post at a time

Musings of a Bookish Kitty - indepth book reviews and heartfelt interactive questions for her readers, and the dog and cats, of course

Lori's Reading Corner - eclectic mix of reviews, interviews, memes and give-aways; a pleasure to read

We'll Always Have Books - I love the mix of book reviews, recipes, and daily living; delightful

Reading what others write brings a sweetness to my day and the authors create just a few of the blogs that I try to keep up with each day. Each woman has something wonderful to share and it is in the sharing we all learn and grow. Thank you again Kate for this honor.

06 June 2010

Dragon Tattoo and Played with Fire

I read this book, the first in a trilogy by deceased author Stieg Larsson, and while the opinions were varied at the book club meeting, I loved this page-turning adventure. Many did not like the violence, but I felt it served a purpose in exposing violence against women. And at times, it was personally satisfying - when you read it, you will understand - let's just say someone had it coming!

In particular, I fell in love with computer hacker, bad girl, Lisabeth Salander ,who is one of two main characters. She is unique and has a nasty past as a ward of the state. She is on her own now and teams up with Mikael Blomkvist, a financial journalist who has been sued for slander. Together they solve a decades old murder mystery under extreme conditions. Blomkvist brings out the best in Salander, who has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.

There are other supporting characters who are equally intriguing. When I finished the book, I could not wait to read the second book in the trilogy.

TITLE: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
AUTHOR: Stieg Larsson
PAGES: 608
TYPE: Scandinavian ficton, crime
RECOMMEND: I loved it.

Althought this second book had a different feel to it, Ther Girl who Played with Fire, was excellent in its own way. What I liked the best was slowly learning more about Lisbeth Salander. She has been hiding out and spending her secret stash of money for two years since she worked with Blomkvist. But three murders finds her before Blomkvist and she is implicated.

While the first book in the Millenium Trilogy focused on the abuse of women, this book seems to take an indepth look at the sex trade and how women are caught up in this nightmare. Perhaps Salander has too much information. I know that I could not stop reading until the duo figured it out. Sadly, the end of the book finds Salander almost dead with Blomkvist hoping he found her soon enough to save her. I cannot wait until I can run out and get the final book.

TITLE: The Girl who Played with Fire
AUTHOR: Stieg Larsson
PAGES: 630
TYPE: Scandinavian fiction
RECOMMENDATION: I loved it too!