Monday, July 02, 2007

Back Link Interesting Women

charlotte from charlotte’s web

I’ve always found the short story to be the novel’s poor relation. I love a fat book, groaning with characters and rich with parallel storylines, and in comparison short stories have seemed meagre and slightly disappointing (with the except of Raymond Carver). This weekend, I read a collection of short stories by Andrea Lee called Interesting Women, which is rich in its observations, its eccentric characters, its sensual images and wit. Almost every story was as satisfying as a novel.

I came to the book knowing nothing about Lee. After reading it, I googled her and discovered that she is an American living with her second husband, an Italian count, in Turin. She is the daughter of a Baptist minister from Philadelphia, and has said that living in Italy as a foreigner is akin to living in the USA as an African-American, where she felt like a foreigner.

Most of her stories revolve around American women who have relationships with Italian men. After the first story, which tells the tale of a woman (American) who buys the services of two prostitutes as a birthday present for her much older (Italian) husband, I was still feeling sceptical. It wasn’t the act of hiring that held me at bay, but more the concept of bored, over-civilised Europeans who are so jaded that nothing is special enough to engage their attention. I felt I didn’t want to read about the problems of a super-rich overclass, for whom everything must be exquisite, from their homes to their women to their food. But there were moments in the story that drew me in. Despite myself, I liked the protagonist, Ariel, who goes about the business of arranging her husband’s birthday surprise with a slightly plodding wifely practicality. Compared to her mother and mother-in-law, and her two half-Italian daughters, Ariel is “lamentably conventional”. However, she does the unthinkable, has sex with her husband afterwards, and lies back knowing that she has kept the prostitute’s number - just in case. The bizarre becomes oddly domestic.

While Lee hints at the strangeness that may underlie many a marriage, she is also hyper-aware of the alienating effect of different cultures. In another story called Brothers and Sisters Around the World, a wife (American) and her husband (French-Italian) are holidaying with their small child in Madagascar. The wife describes how mismatched a couple they are:

I sometimes think the secret is that we don’t know each other and never will. Both of us are lazy by nature, and that makes it convenient to hang onto the fantasies we conjured up back when we met in Milan: mine of the French gentleman-adventurer and his of a pliant black goddess whose feelings accord with his.”

Two local girls, dancers at a nearby club, hang out at the beach near their house. One day, they score a ride with the husband, Michel, in his boat and this somehow accords them power over his wife. They provoke her with loud comments and ribald laughter. Acting on pure instinct, she marches onto the beach, slaps the ringleader in the face and sees them off in French. Later she is ashamed of her behaviour, but discovers she has earned the respect of the girls and indeed the village. Her husband, stunned, says, “You must really love me.” She describes meeting the girls on the beach the next day:

All of us know perfectly well that the man - my European husband - was just an excuse, a playing field for our curiosity. The curiosity of sisters separated before birth and flung by the caprice of history. Now in this troublesome way our connection has been established, and between my guilt and my dawning affection I suspect I’ll never get rid of these two. Already in my mind is forming an exasperating vision of the gifts I know I’ll have to give them: lace underpants; Tampax; music cassettes; body lotion - all of them extracted from me with the tender ruthlessness of family members anywhere.”

My favourite story in the collection is the eponymous Interesting Women. When I first picked up the book, I thought the title was weak. Interesting is about as interesting an adjective as nice, so anodyne as to be practically meaningless. In the story, the protagonist complains that the world, and indeed her hotel in Thailand where she is staying with her 11-year-old daughter, is swarming with interesting women. The interest is never sexual but “schoolgirl crushes in disguise, instant friendships that last as long as it takes to swop tales of love and desperation”. Here men are noticeably absent, apart from two male models who decorate the hotel pool with their perfect bodies, and the focus is on the relationships between women. I think I liked this story best because tales of wives hiring hookers for their husbands bring out my middle-class anxiety, as do rich black sisters slapping poorer ones. This tale of women making instant friends - something I am good at too - sat more comfortably with me. However the instant friendship in this story has the trajectory of a love affair: attraction, confession, rejection; all of which leave the protagonist jaded and wondering whether to start the next instant friendship with a new candidate who presents herself the next day.

In this wonderfully-told tale, Lee’s humour is best presented. Here she describes the confessional aspect of female friendships:

Then I get to the hard stuff. Showing off to this adventurous new acquaintance with chitchat about cities and jungles we both know, I touch scornfully on the inability of men to appreciate canopic jars and shaft tombs, to deal with knavish cab-drivers and bed-bugs. I observe that women are better travelers than men, and superior beings altogether. And then I drop the word ex-husband - that password that functions as a secret handshake in the freemasonry of interesting women.”

Thread through with this delicate wit, Lee’s stories also provoke. I was often uncomfortable - a sensation I am prepared to tolerate in fiction more than in my own life - but also frequently delighted. I would recommend this strange jewel, which above all else celebrates the marriage of odd worlds. It’s intriguing, seductive and funny. Although the title may seem anodyne, Lee seems to rather like sticking her finger in a wound and waggling it around provocatively. She wants to face pain, not conceal it.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Back Link The Post Birthday World

charlotte from charlotte’s web

In Berlin, I finished Lionel Shriver’s The Post Birthday World (TBPW). I am a fan of her writing, having loved We Need To Talk About Kevin - a book, which many people found difficult given its subject matter of a teenage mass-murderer. I thought Kevin was brave, boldly written and above all, scarily honest. I hoped when picking up TPBW that I would have a similar reaction, and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s packed to the gills with Shriver’s trademark intensity, honesty and acid observations.

For anyone who hasn’t yet read an online review of TPBW, it tells the story of a woman, Irina, who goes out for dinner with a friend - a snooker champion called Ramsey Acton - while her husband Lawrence is away on business, and at the end of the evening, either does or does not kiss Ramsey. The plot then forks, one strand following what happens if she does kiss him and the other what happens if she doesn’t. Shriver builds a parallel universe and each chapter alternates between each story strand. It’s a style that could be pedantic in the wrong hands, but in Shriver’s it’s gripping.

I love Shriver’s voice. When I read her, I feel as if I’m sitting in a smoky dive with a favourite friend who’s regaling me with scurrilous gossip - complete with salacious sexual detail - but leavened with insightful and acidic psychological observations. It’s gossip, but it’s top-notch gossip. And yet I wouldn’t call her gossipy. Like Anne Tyler, she has a way of drawing you into an intensely observed world whose characters become quickly known but remain infinitely interesting in their quirks and flaws. It’s a style I relish.

Take this quote, a few pages in. Irina’s reflecting on the first nine years of her relationship with Lawrence:

Monogamy had been effortless. Over nine years, Irina had been attracted to one of Lawrence’s colleagues from the Blue Sky Institute for exactly half an hour - at the end of which the man rose for another round of drinks, and she noticed that his backside was pear-shaped. That was that, like a scratchiness in your throat when you don’t end up coming down with a cold.

Or this, where she notices that she and Lawrence have stopped kissing:

They had a robust sex life, and it semed insensible to focus on the deficits of sensory window-dressing. Yet lately when she watched actors smooching in movies, Irina felt a confusing admixture of alienation - what obscure anthropological custom is this, the pressing of lips? - and jealousy.

Yet before I leave you with the impression that TPBW is knocked together with a series of quotable, funny sound-bites, I have to say that Shriver’s is an assured and strong literary voice. The way she describes Lawrence’s collapse as Irina tells him she’s leaving him (in the Folks, I Kissed Him strand of the story) is visual and poignant:

Rather than take her faithlessness to task, Lawrence had assumed all the blame for their relationship’s shortcomings - head bowed, shoulders humped, knees pressed, while slow, fat tears dropped on his crooked wrists. His gentle, inward collapse resembled those skillful demolitions of large derelict buildings, whose charges are set in such a way that the bricks cave inward; aside from accumulating an elegiac layer of dust, surrounding structures remain unharmed. Since most of the self-destruction of the personal variety sucks everything and everyone in the vicinity into the rubble, the spectacle on the sofa was not only terrible to witness, but wondrous: an implosion so complete, which yet left his onlooker unscathed.

The strands of Shriver’s parallel narratives wind expertly around each other throughout the book, so that the action in one Folks, I Kissed Him chapter will reflect but not entirely mirror the action in the next Folks, I Kissed Him Not chapter. In the same way the protagonists must reflect themselves characteristically, while also showing the emotional pressures that a different set of actions will exert. Shriver manages to do both successfully, which is testimony to her talent. Irina is mercurial and self-doubting, Ramsey is consistently passionate and volatile, Lawrence is kind and devoted. And yet all three explode your expectations of them, as if one division in life’s path will inevitably lead to many more possibilities opening up. It’s a fascinating proposition.

Her final message, as I see it, is that we are ultimately alone and whatever path we choose, we need to make damn sure we enjoy our own company because that’s who we’re going to end up with. Irina is a woman who admits she “needs a man”, rather desperately too, and in my own experience I have noticed that women (or men) who seem to desperately need a partner are often forced by some twist of fate to learn to live alone. I suspect that TPBW is a testimony to emotional self-sufficiency - and that’s an idea that strongly appeals to me.

Now that I’ve come over like the secretary of the Lionel Shriver Fan Club, let me also say that I have one peeve about the book. Irina and Lawrence are expat Americans living in London; Ramsay is English. He plays snooker, a uniquely English game, which many Americans might imagine is like pool, but which is vastly different. Shriver is quite lyrical about snooker, describing intricately and knowledgeably some of Ramsey’s snooker battles. She allows the reader’s knowledge of snooker (if it doesn’t exist) to evolve through the characters’ perspective: Ramsey the expert, Lawrence the fan and Irina, who’s ignorant but prefers its background noise (”the vitreous click-click of balls and civilised patter of polite applause”) to that of cop shows.

Irritatingly, though, she doesn’t do this with two other uniquely British institutions - the National Health Service and the London property market. Shriver, in a moment of tangential superfluosity, explains the NHS to her imagined American audience:

Yet however sterling in theory, in practice the NHS was chronically underfunded. Its waiting lists for treatment were infamously and sometimes fatally long. Scandalous cases made headlines in which cancer patients had the wrong breast removed, the wrong kidney, the wrong leg. In public hospitals, the superbug MRSA was killing twelve hundred patients a year. A full third of the NHS budget was dedicated to paying off malpractice suits.

All very true, I’m sure, but why tell us? I can’t remember reading a single American novel that takes the trouble to pull me aside and whisper in my ear about how the healthcare system works. Sure, it’s interesting to the plot (Ramsey, now bankrupt, has to go public with his cancer treatment, poor poppet), but show us the NHS works, please don’t tell us. There was a similar moment with the property market, which is once again “explained” for the jackasses over the pond.

However, in the scope of a gripping 600-page book these two mini-moments were a mere speck. Coming right at the end as they did, perhaps Shriver and her editor were just plain tired. I remain in awe of this splendid, exacting and unputdownable novel.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Back Link Ein Jahr in den Ozark Mountains

Buchbesprechung von Caterina aus Lübeck

Sue Hubbell

Ein Jahr in den Ozark Mountains

Ich habe gerade dieses Buch gelesen und bin ganz eingetaucht in die wunderbaren Naturbeschreibungen und das Landleben in den Ozarks. Sue Hubbell hat einen ganz eigentümlichen, ruhig gelassenen Stil gefunden über die Tiere, Pflanzen und auch die Menschen ihrer Umgebung zu schreiben.

Haben Sie schon einmal den sanften, aber deutlichen Wind gespürt, wenn sechzigtausend Bienen per Flügelschlag den Wassergehalt ihres Nektars zum Verdunsten bringen? Wußten Sie, dass Fledermäuse sich nicht nur untereinander, sondern auch mit Nachtfaltern – also ihrem Abendessen- unterhalten? Daß brave Haushunde sich in Kojotinnen verlieben können? Daß graue Laubfrösche, wenn sie sich unter Ihr Bett verirrt haben, verwunschene Prinzen sein können?

Als nach dreißig Jahren ihre Ehe zu Ende ging, saß Sue Hubbell plötzlich allein auf ihrer Bienenfarm in den Ozark Mountains, im nördlichen Missouri. Die Natur, die sie umgab, bedeutete nicht nur Trost – und viel Arbeit -, sondern vor allem eines. sie zeigte Sue Hubbell, wie faszinierend logisch sie eingerichtet ist und dass es nur darum geht, seinen Platz darin zu finden. Mit lakonischem Humor und glasklarer Sprache berichtet Sue Hubbell von ihren fünf Jahreszeiten auf dem Land und öffnet uns die Augen für dessen Schönheit, Poesie und manchmal fast komisch anmutende Perfektion.

Ein Jahrbuch der besonderen Art : Sue Hubbell, ehemals Bibliothekarin in Toronto, jetzt Bienenzüchterin auf einer einsam gelegenen Farm im nördlichen Missouri, gelingt es mit diesem persönlichen, gleichzeitig so universellem Buch, uns für Dinge in der Natur zu faszinieren, die wir zuvor nicht einmal wahrgenommen haben.

Hier ein kleiner Ausschnitt aus dem Buch, der eigentlich eher untypisch für das gesamte Buch ist, aber sehr schön Sue Hubbells Einstellung zum Leben aufzeigt. Anhand ihrer Erlebnisse und Beobachtungen in der Natur reflektiert sie immer wieder auch ihr eigenes Dasein:

Manchmal frage ich mich, wo wir älteren Frauen unseren Platz im sozialen Gefüge haben, nachdem das Nestbauen seinen Reiz verloren hat. … Es gibt so viele von uns, dass man versucht ist, von einer Klasse zu sprechen. Unsere fruchtbaren Jahre haben wir hinter uns. Die Männer wollen uns nicht mehr, sie ziehen jüngere Frauen vor, und biologisch ist es auch sinnvoll, dass männliche Wesen sich zu weiblichen hingezogen fühlen, die noch fortpflanzungsfähig sind und ein Nest bauen wollen. Das nimmt uns zwar die Möglichkeit, uns in den Freuden und der Intimität der Paarung zu verlieren, aber dafür haben wir uns selbst gefunden. Und noch etwas Wertvolles besitzen wir: Zeit, oder zumindest ein Bewusstsein der Zeit.

Wir leben lange genug und haben genug erlebt, um auf mehr als nur intellektuelle Weise zu begreifen, dass wir sterben werden. Wir haben gelernt, im Bewusstsein unserer Sterblichkeit zu leben, und treffen unsere Entscheidungen mit Bedacht, weil wir sie nicht noch einmal treffen können. Für uns hat die Zeit ein Ende; sie ist kostbar, und wir wissen um ihren Wert.

Ja wir sind viele, aber wir sind so verschieden, dass mir bei einer soziobiologischen Analyse nicht wohl ist; die Lösung ist, vermute ich, eine persönliche, individuelle. Die Zeiten sind günstig für eine erwachsene Frau mit ihrer Individualität, ihrer Kraft und ihren Marotten. Wir sind wunderbar frei. Wir leben lange. Unsere Kinder sind zu den selbständigen Erwachsenen geworden, zu deren Entwicklung wir beigetragen haben; unsere Liebe wollen sie vielleicht noch, aber unsre Fürsorge brauchen sie nicht mehr.

Die gesellschaftlichen Regeln sind heute so flexibel, dass nichts, was wir tun, Anstoß erregt. Auch politische Barrieren gibt es für uns nicht mehr. Sofern wir gesund bleiben und in der Lage sind, für uns selbst zu sorgen, können wir alles tun, alles haben und unsere Fähigkeiten einsetzen, wie es uns beliebt.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Back Link What Madame Bovary and Stephanie Plum Have In Common

charlotte of charlotte’s web blog

Charlotte of Charlotte’s Web blog very kindly allowed us to reprint this entry of hers in the Redt Tent blog Book Corner.

I’ve recently read two very different books, one set in the nineteenth century and the other set now, with two apparently very different protagonists. The first is Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, which I found surprisingly accessible, and, despite the tragedy, often amusing. The other is Janet Evanovich’s Eleven On Top, which is the eleventh novel in her series about bounty hunter Stephanie Plum. It’s the only one of the series I’ve read, but a colleague recommended the Evanovich books to me many years ago as an example of witty crime writing. I remember thinking, “You’re German and you’re a man, what do you know?” which wasn’t entirely fair. If only I’d listened to him, I’d have had a decade of fun with Plum.

While the two are on opposite ends of a continuum of modern women, I found similarities between them. Like Bovary, Plum disregards danger, is unconventional, swept off her feet by passion and somewhat childlike in her pursuit of her desires. Both are not afraid of flouting norms. Emma Bovary, with her head all messed up by romantic fiction, and bored by her very ordinary husband and dull provincial life, finds illicit love with a local squire and later with a young clerk. She has to lie to mask her behaviour, but as her addiction to retail therapy becomes more overt and her debts mount up, her situation becomes inescapably dangerous, and she commits suicide. In her profession, Stephanie Plum straddles the boundary between legal and illegal behaviour, also toying with danger. She helps to catch people on the wrong side of the law, but often strays there herself, beating them up, breaking into buildings and lying. Both heroines trangress convention, but Emma pays for it with her life. At Plum’s end of the spectrum her behaviour gets sighs and raised eyebrows, while Emma’s requires her to die.

During the course of her marriage, Emma takes two lovers. Both times she gives herself whole-heartedly. As she becomes too demanding her first lover, Rodolphe, rejects her. He represents her grand love, her passion. The second time, as she becomes more jaded with excessive love, the affair peters out through mutual lack of interest. Stephanie Plum also has two love interests, a policeman and another bounty hunter, one representing stability and the other representing a wild, transgressive freedom. She refuses to be in love with either, and, while she leans towards the policeman, prefers to retain both as sex objects. There is much jokey talk of the physical attributes of either man, which, although far more frank and graphic than Flaubert’s lovely nineteenth century prose, call to mind Bovary in thrall to her lover.

Bovary’s frantic shopping I see reflected in Plum’s obsession with sugar. They both have a need for instant gratification, and become addicted to the short sharp high the hit brings. When things go badly for Plum, she has to stop and get herself doughnuts, and likewise for Bovary, shopping briefly relieves the tragedy of her situation. They are both single-minded: Plum will risk all danger and put herself in the worst situation (being trapped in a coffin, threatened by a stun-gun wielding murderer) in order to solve the crime, while Bovary is so headlong in love with love that she will risk anything (rushing home at daylight, taking off to visit her lover without leaving a valid excuse for her husband).

As I read Eleven on Top, in which Stephanie Plum tussles with criminals and solves mysteries, I thought what Emma Bovary probably needed to keep her out of trouble was a job. She has servants to do all her housework for her, a wet-nurse and later a nanny to do her parenting for her, and far too much time on her hands. It’s a bit disingenuous to suggest that a nice occupation would have kept her passions reigned in, because without her passions, we wouldn’t have Emma Bovary, but that is the difference between a nineteenth century middle-class female protagonist and today’s heroines - they didn’t have jobs. They weren’t participating in the economy and so were disenfranchised and powerless. Instead, Emma uses the power she does have - her sexuality - to make her provincial life a little less stultifying. And she does a fine job of that.

Before I strain the comparison any longer, let me also point out that I recognise it’s not possible to compare Flaubert’s achingly lovely prose with the tongue-in-cheek, saucy writing of Evanovich. Both are satisfying in very different ways; for Flaubert the outer landscape reflects the inner one in the tradition of his time. After Emma “surrenders” to Rodolpe for the first time, she hears “a strange, long-drawn cry that hung on the air, and she listened to it in silence as it mingled like music with the last vibrations of her jangled nerves”. Evanovich’s heroine, in the tradition of our time, is allowed to be a lot more overt about sex. When her policeman boyfriend is immobilised in a cast, she realises that: “Once I got him on his back he was going to stay there, and I’d have the top all to myself.”

According the dustjacket of my Penguin Popular Classics edition of Madame Bovary, it says that the novel has been recognized as a “milestone in European literature”. While Eleven on Top is not in any way its literary peer, it can be seen as part of the Bovary continuum: a centuries-long tradition of feisty, unconventional female protagonists who risk danger and opprobrium to get what they want. Emma Bovary died so that heroines like Stephanie Plum can live.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Back Link Books, Books, And More Books

Oh, what a delight… booklists (here, here, here (Dec. 18th entry), and here (Dec. 18th entry)). Maybe a bit late to put on the Christmas list for this year, but definitely worth browsing through and making a choice selection for the long, dark, cold winter. My toes get all tingly just thinking about all the good reading waiting ahead.

Dorothy of the Books and Bicycles blog wrote an interesting article on Dec. 19th about how blogging has changed what and how she reads.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Back Link A Spot of Bother

charlotte of charlotte’s web blog

Charlotte of Charlotte’s Web blog very kindly allowed us to reprint this entry of hers in the Redt Tent blog Book Corner.

I’ve come over all warm and fuzzy, and it’s not only because I’ve been overdosing on the Christmas chocolates. It’s really because I’ve just finished reading Mark Haddon’s A Spot of Bother. Haddon is the author of the hugely successful The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a tale of a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome who has to work out how there came to be a dead dog with a fork in it in the neighbour’s garden. It was marketed to both adults and children, won a slew of awards, was the book everybody was reading and talking about for a couple of years, and was voted best book-club book of all time by the Swindon Swingers’ Alternative Reading Group (okay, that bit I made up, but it was very, very, VERY successful, even in Swindon, where it is set).

Haddon is a prolific writer (and cartoonist and artist), and has written many children’s books and scripts for children’s TV. Although Curious Incident was intended for an adult audience, his publishers also marketed it to young adults. So A Spot of Bother, his recently published second novel, is arguably his first book for adults. It is immensely readable; like Nick Hornby, he has an ear for dialogue and how different kinds of people speak. The narrative rockets along in short, sharp bursts, during which he alternates between the points of view of the four main characters. I have read novels where this doesn’t work too well and you’re always struggling to work out who’s speaking next, but with Haddon this is crystal clear. I was briefly irritated with the flipping, but once I gave in to his style (deciding that it was like reading a fiction blog with four bloggers as main characters), I grew to enjoy it. The short sections and the ability to tie point of view so well to each character may be skills he has garnered during his screen-writing years, and he puts them to great use building up tension, which caused me flip faster and faster through the last section of the book, dying to find out what happened next.

The book’s plot - a father going mad, and the rest of his family falling apart in the run-up to a big family occasion (here, a wedding) - calls to mind to the plot of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, where there is a father going mad, and the rest of his family falling apart in the run-up to a big family occasion (in this case, Christmas). Both write with wit and insight, but there is a crucial difference in their styles.

Recently Dorothy was talking about different types of prose, and how writers usually fall into one of two camps - either the Hemingwayesque camp of spare, sparse prose where each word counts or they adopt the more Dickensian style of lush, wordy, descriptive prose. Where Franzen’s prose is funny, lush and lyrical, Haddon’s is equally funny but far leaner. Here is Franzen on his character’s incipient madness:

By the time he’d established that his daughter, Denise, was handing him a plate of snacks in his son Chip’s living room, the next moment in time was already budding itself into a pristinely ungrasped existence in which he couldn’t absolutely rule out the possibility, for example, that his wife, Enid, was handing him a plate of feces in the parlor of a brothel …

And here is something from Haddon, also on the main character’s increasing (in this case, imagined) dementia:

There was oily water in his windpipe.

He put his head between his legs.

He was going to throw up.

He sat back.

His body went cold and the blood drained from his head.

He put his head between his legs again.

He felt as if he were in a sauna.

He sat up and opened the little window.

The woman in the mauve raincoat glared.

As a reader, I would usually place myself in the Dickens/Franzen camp of tidal, roiling prose that washes over you, but I do love Haddon’s style. He has a strong sense of the ridiculous, which always appeals to me, is not scared of being gruesome, and is brutally matter-of-fact about sex. While his prose may be sparse it is not scant, and he fleshes out his themes of communication, fidelity, fear of dying, fear of commitment and just plain fear most satisfactorily.

It’s also resolutely English (it’s set in Peterborough, which I know, as well as London), where the characters drink tea often, don’t say what they mean, feel embarrassed about their feelings, drop hints and feel let down when their hints aren’t taken. The book is full of understatements, such as the title itself, which make the characters failure to communicate with each other even more poignant. I couldn’t help feeling if it was set in Germany, where people are extremely, scarily frank, there wouldn’t be much of a novel. But in Haddon’s expert hands, the Englishness is real, not twee, and the characters have to scrabble through fear and social embarrassment in order to find a new way to talk to each other.

I hope this book will be very, very successful too. Even in Peterborough.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Back Link Leihst Du mir Deinen Blick?, Valerie Zenatti

Caterina von Luebeck, Deutschland

Leihst Du mir Deinen Blick?
Eine e-mail-Freundschaft zwischen Jerusalem und Gaza (ab 14 Jahre)
Valerie Zenatti
Dressler Verlag

Tal ist siebzehn, sie lebt im jüdischen Teil Jerusalems.Welten trennen sie von der palästinensischen Bevölkerung in der Stadt. Nach einem Anschlag in ihrer Nachbarschaft beschließt Tal zu handeln: Sie möchte endlich wissen, wie die Palästinenser leben und fühlen. Also schreibt sie einen langen Brief und schickt ihn als Flaschenpost los. Tal hofft, dass ein Mädchen antwortet. Aber nach langem Warten erhält sie eine e-mail-Antwort vom zwanzigjährigen "Gazaman"; der Beginn einer ungewöhnlichen Freundschaft.

Back Link Mutige Menschen, Frauen und Männer mit Zivilcourage

Caterina von Luebeck, Deutschland

Mutige Menschen, Frauen und Männer mit Zivilcourage
Hrsg.v. U.Kühne, Vorw. V.Ulrich Wickert
Sandmann Verlag

Zu jeder Zeit gab es Menschen, die sich nicht abfinden wollten mit den gegebenen Verhältnissen, die ihr eigenes Wohl zugunsten anderer vernachlässigten- ob im Widerstand gegen herrschendes Unrecht, bei der Bekämpfung von Armut oder der Verteidigung der Freiheit. Und es gibt sie auch heute-mutige Menschen. Es wäre ein Verlust, wenn wir vergessen würden, was sie getan haben. Wer weiß noch heute, dass Elisabeth Selbert 1948 den Satz "Männer und Frauen sind gleichberechtigt" im Grundgesetz verankern konnte- und wie würde sich unsere Republik ohne diesen Satz entwickelt haben? Wer weiß noch, dass 14-16- Jährige im Widerstand gegen Hitler aktiv waren - und wer waren diese unerschrockenen Menschen? Es gibt viele Facetten, Mut zu zeigen, einige davon stellt dieses Buch mit einem Vorwort von Ulrich Wickert vor. Persönlichkeiten aus Politik und Kultur haben engagierte Texte über Mut und Entschlossenheit geschrieben.

Back Link Lob des Golfstroms, Erik Orsenna

Caterina von Luebeck, Deutschland

Lob des Golfstroms, Erik Orsenna
Beck Verlag

In diesem Buch begibt sich Eric Orsenna auf eine ungewöhnliche Entdeckungsreise : Er möchte dem Freund seiner Kindheit, dem Golfstrom, seine Geheimnisse entwinden und auch den anderen großen Meeresströmungen nachspüren. Die Reise führt ihn von den sonnigen Küsten Floridas zum Kap Hatteras, wo der Golfstrom seine verheerende Kraft entfaltet, von den üppigen Gärten Schottlands zum Malstrom, der vor der Küste Norwegens tobt. Dabei begegnen wir den verschiedensten Menschen, die alle ihre eigenen Geschichten erzählen: Seeleuten, Admiralen und Meeresforschern, seefahrenden Entdeckern und Schriftstellern, die sich von den großen Strömungen inspirieren ließen. Von Abenteuerlust und Wissensdurst getrieben, entlockt Orsenna seinen Gewährsleuten nach und nach auch eine Biographie seines geliebten Golfstromes.

Back Link Die kommende Welt, Dara Horn

Caterina von Luebeck, Deutschland

Die kommende Welt, Dara Horn
Berlin Verlag

Mit atemberaubendem Witz verbindet Dara Horn die Geschichte des Kunstraubs eines Chagall-Gemäldes mit einer berührenden Familiensaga, die vom Russland der 20er Jahre bis ins heutige New York reicht. Große menschliche Wärme und ein Sinn für Komik, der an Woody Allen erinnert, zeichnen Horns Erzählstil aus.

Back Link Östlich der Sonne und westlich vom Mond

Caterina von Luebeck, Deutschland

Östlich der Sonne und westlich vom Mond, Die schönsten Kindergeschichten
Hrsg.v.Paul Maar, Illustr.v.Philip Waechter
Ein Buch für die ganze Familie

"Kinder brauchen Geschichten so nötig wie Vitamine und Mineralstoffe." Paul Maar, der Erfinder vom Sams, hat so viele schöne Kindergeschichten ausgewählt, wie in ein tragbares Buch hineinpassen. Über 100 kurze und lange, realistische und phantastische, lustige und traurige Geschichten, Märchen, Anekdoten und Fabeln von Aesop bis Wilhelm Busch, von Astrid Lindgren bis Christine Nöstlinger, u.v.a.. Ein großer unterhaltsamer Bogen durch die Kulturgeschichte und Tradition des Erzählens.

Back Link Aminas Restaurant, Michael Lüders

Caterina von Luebeck, Deutschland

Aminas Restaurant, Michael Lüders
Arche Verlag

Ein modernes Märchen über ein marokkanisches Restaurant in Norddeutschland, in dem Speisen und Geschichten die Gäste einen Sommer lang verzaubern. Mit Rezepten zum Nachkochen.

Back Link Lesen, Isolde Ohlbaum

Caterina von Luebeck, Deutschland

Lesen, Isolde Ohlbaum
ars vivendi

Alle tun es: morgens, mittags, abends und manchmal auch nachts. Auf der Wohnzimmercouch, dem Weg zur Arbeit oder ganz genüsslich im Cafe: Isolde Ohlbaum hat Lesende an den unterschiedlichsten Orten der Welt fotografiert. Ihre Porträts zeigen Momente größter Intimität und halten uns vor Augen, wie schön Lesen sein kann. Zitate von Kafka, Rilke, Sartre, Canetti und anderen Lesebesessenen erzählen von der Freude, ein Buch zu verschlingen, sich auf fremde Welten einzulassen und alles um sich herum zu vergessen.

Back Link Tag und Nacht und auch im Sommer, Frank McCourt

Caterina von Luebeck, Deutschland

Tag und Nacht und auch im Sommer, Frank McCourt
Luchterhand Literaturverlag

Dreißig Jahre hat Frank McCourt, der Amerikaner mit der unglücklichen irischen katholischen Kindheit, in New Yorker Schulen unterrichtet. Jetzt erzählt er, was er von seinen insgesamt zwölftausend Schülern gelernt hat- als Lehrer, als Geschichtenerzähler, als Schriftsteller. Ein Buch, wie man es liebt, aber selten findet : voll Witz und Charme, voll Verzweiflung, Ironie und Lebensweisheit.

Back Link Meine Frauen-WG im Irak, Susanne Fischer

Caterina von Luebeck, Deutschland

Meine Frauen-WG im Irak, Susanne Fischer
Malik Verlag

Sie kamen in den Irak, um beim Aufbau einer freien zeigt Susannne Fischer, wie sie und ihre Mitbewohnerinnen fern vom Alltag daheim entdecken, was im Leben wirklich zählt. Gemeinschaftsküche, drei Shampoos im Bad, ein Fernseher für alle. Eine ganz normale WG in Hamburg oder Berlin, könnte man meinen, stünden nicht die Wächter vor dem Haus, Männer in Pluderhosen mit Schnellfeuergewehren. Und wären da nicht die Muezzins, die fünfmal täglich zum Gebet rufen. Susanne Fischer und ihre WG-Partnerinnen wohnen im Nordirak, im kurdischen Sulimania. Aus den verschiedensten Ländern sind sie gekommen, um irakische Journalisten auszubilden, sie Meinungsfreiheit und unabhängiges Berichten zu lehren. Lichtjahre entfernt von der westlich-modernen Welt werden die Frauen, die daheim vielleicht nie Freundinnen geworden wären, zur verschworenen Gemeinschaft. Denn die Welt vor der Tür ist viel fremder, als sie es sich je sein könnten.

Back Link Letzte Reise, Anna Enquist

Caterina von Luebeck, Deutschland

Letzte Reise, Anna Enquist
Luchterhand Literaturverlag

Captain James Cook war einer der berühmtesten Entdeckungsreisenden des 18. Jahrhunderts, aber vom Leben seiner Frau Elizabeth, die zu Hause in England immer wieder auf ihn wartete, weiß man wenig. Anna Enquist erzählt in ihrem großen Roman von Elizabeths Leben als Frau und Mutter, als Geliebte und als Verlassene, und zugleich schildert sie farbenprächtig die vorviktorianische Zeit, Cooks Abenteuer und Ideen.

Back Link Caterinas Bücherzettel Winter 2006

Caterina von Luebeck, Deutschland

Ich wünsche Ihnen eine schöne Advents- und Weihnachtszeit
Ihre Bücherstube Caterina Rex
Mühlenbrücke 4A 23552 Lübeck, Tel:0451-7079738
Öffnungszeiten im Dezember Mo-Sa 10 – 18 Uhr

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Back Link An Interesting and Provoking Idea

I am reading the book, Teacher Man, by Frank McCourt. As with Angela’s Ashes, I am overwhelmed with the eloquence of style and his forgiving nature. It is hard to imagine someone who has suffered a childhood such as his growing up and becoming an elderly (he was 66 years old when he published Angela’s Ashes) man with such a grand and generous heart.

He wrote one of the most brilliant prologues in Teacher Man. It starts with:

“If I knew anything about Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis I’d be able to trace all my troubles to my miserable childhood in Ireland. That miserable childhood deprived me of self-esteem, triggered spasms of self pity, paralysed my emotions, made me cranky, envious and disrespectful of authority, retarded my development, crippled my doings with the opposite sex, kept me from rising in the world and made me unfit, almost for human society…

… I could lay blame. The miserable childhood doesn’t simply happen. It is brought about. There are dark forces. If I am to lay blame it is in a spirit of forgiveness. Therefore, I forgive the following: Pope Pius XII, the English in general and King George VI in particular…”

Frank McCourt

When I read this part of the prologue I was totally intrigued and provoked by the idea that we, the little guys, have to learn to forgive the Pope. Forgive this man the misuse of his powers that kept/keeps many people living in servitude and ignorance. My forefathers were Irish Catholics. I was raised in Quebec at a time when the priests still told their congregations who to vote for (amongst other things). And my Italian mother-in-law had nine children even though, after the birth of her first child, the mid-wife warned my father-in-law that she might not survive another labour and he should content himself with one child.

I am just fascinated with the concept that perhaps what is needed in this time of the AIDS epidemic, over-population, no consideration to allow women to become priests, continued insistence of celibacy, etc. is for all of us little people to practice a collective act of forgiveness.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Back Link Ein paar Buchtipps zum Thema: Frachtschiffreise

caterina von luebeck, deutschland

Ich habe vor wenigen Wochen eine Frachtschiffreise unternommen; durch den Kanal nach Rotterdam und über die Ostsee nach Sankt Petersburg. Ein- und Ausstieg war die Kanalschleuse in Kiel. Ich schreibe gerade an einem kleinen Reisebericht darüber; da es aber noch etwas dauert, bis der fertig wird, hier schon einmal vorab ein paar Buchtipps zum Thema:

Redmond O’Hanlon , Trawler

Der englische Kultautor Redmond O’Hanlan ging an Bord eines schottischen Trawlers- und schrieb einen originellen, mitreißenden und witzigen Bericht über das raue Leben auf einem Hochseekutter. Meeresgischt, tosende See, so gut wie kein Schlaf, Wasser von oben und unten und ein Orkan mit Windstärke zwölf. Ein erstklassiges Stück Abenteuerliteratur von einem der besten Reiseschriftsteller der Gegenwart.

O’Hanlon schreibt mit extrem englischem Humor, beschreibt sehr genau und fachkundig; wenn man sich auch nur ein wenig für Seefahrt und Meeresbiologie interessiert, erfährt man in diesem Buch Unglaubliches in sehr unterhaltsamer Form.

Dea Birkett, Jella

Als einzige Frau an Bord eines Frachtschiffs will Dea Birkett von Westafrika nach England zurückkehren- die Überfahrt gerät für sie zu einem umwälzenden Erlebnis, das ihr Leben verändert.

Nicht ihre zuvor unternommene Reise auf den Spuren Mary Kingsleys durch Westafrika- für sich schon spannend genug- erweist sich als das eigentliche Abenteuer, sondern die Entdeckung einer fremden Welt an Bord eines Schiffes: das faszinierendste „Land“, das sie je bereist hat.

Das Buch ist bereits 1992 erschienen. Ganz so spektakulär ist eine Frachtschiffreise heute nicht mehr, aber um sich auf eine solche Reise einzustimmen oder davon zu träumen, ist es eine spannende und informative Lektüre.

James Hamilton-Paterson, Seestücke

Ein Meeres-Mosaik zum Staunen: Historie, Mythologie, Literatur, Zoologie und Exkurse über die Absurditäten internationaler Fischfangabkommen vereinen sich mit ganz persönlichen Erlebnissen des Autors zu einem Netz lebenspraller Geschichten, in das man sich als Leser mit wachsender Begeisterung verstricken lässt.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Back Link Book Recommendations For Young Children

Just went through my daughter’s bookshelves and sorted out the many children’s books for young children. Some of these books are from my childhood, some I bought as an adult because I’ve always loved illustrated children’s books, some were bought fifteen years ago, when my son was a baby, and some in the last eleven years since my daughter was born. Oh, what wonderful books they are and what happy memories they hold; lying in bed at night reading them to my children.

I will pass a good amount of them on to kindergartens, grade schools, and friends with young children, but some I will hold on to. They are the type of books I will read over and over again. And, might I risk making a wish, to read them to my grandchildren in years to come?

In case any of you are looking for some good books for young children here are a few keepers:

I love the following six books because of their storylines and use of language…

Sloppy Kisses, by Elizabeth Winthrop, illustrations by Anne Burgess

This is a wonderful book about a young girl pig, Emmy Lou, who shuns her father’s exuberant unselfconscious sloppy kisses, after her (so-called) friend, Rosemary, pronounces kissing being just for babies.

“Could Be Worse!”, by James Stevenson

Two young grandchildren learn that even the most steadfast of grandfathers can become throw predictability aside and lose himself in a marvellous flight of fantasy.

Irma hat so große Füße, by Ingrid and Dieter Schubert

(English translation is available, Little Big Feet)

Nearly all of this couples’ books are wondrous: Hole in the Bucket, There’s a Crocodile under my Bed, etc. But there is something delightful about little Irma, a miniature-sized witch who runs away from her witch village because of being teased. Every magic spell she tries doesn’t work out at all and, to make matters worse, they only succeed in making her feet grow larger.

Tales Of A Gambling Grandma, text and illustrations by Dayal Kaur Khalsa

This is the grandmother any young girl with an ounce of spunk in her blood dreams of having.

Sleeping Dragons All Around, by Sheree Fitch, illustrated by Michele Nidenoff

A young girl goes off on an adventure of avoiding a lair of dragons while she sneaks around her house at night in pursuit of a piece of deeee-light-ful dee-dragon-dee-licious Mocha Maple Chocolate Cake.

Leon and Bob, by Simon James

This is a delightful story of making a new friend and a miraculous coincidence.

The following four books are brilliant because the illustrators managed to illuminate the storylines:

The Owl and the Pussycat, by Edward Lear, illustrations by Jan Brett

The Nightingale, by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrations by Lisbeth Zwerger

Ooh-la-la (Max in Love), text and illustrations by Maira Kalman

Snow-white and the Seven Dwarfs, A tale from the brothers Grimm, translated by Randall Jarrell, illustrations by Nancy Ekholm Burkert

On a parting note, Maira Kalman is truly one of my heros. If you ever get a chance to read her work, please do so. She is presently doing a monthly blog entry for the New York Times, Time Select (subscription required) section. She writes, she draws, she is fanciful, provocative, free-spirited, complex, intelligent, witty, and a complete hoot.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Back Link Bücher zum Thema Israel/Palästina

Caterina aus Lübeck

Heute möchte ich einige Bücher zum Thema Israel/Palästina vorstellen, da ich mich immer mal wieder mit diesem Konflikt und dem Leben der Menschen in dieser Region beschäftige. Das gleiche gilt für die Länder Afghanistan und Irak, die ich dann beim nächsten Mal mit einer Buchauswahl vorstellen möchte.

Margret Greiner
Miss, wie buchstabiert man Zukunft?
Als deutsche Lehrerin in Jerusalem

Margret Greiner ist mit ihrem Mann, einem Diplomaten, nach Jerusalem gezogen. Sie wohnt in einem israelischen Viertel und unterrichtet, da sie dort keine Stellung findet, an einer palästinensischen Schule Mädchen und junge Frauen. Doch nie hat sie sich vorgestellt, wie schwer es werden sollte, immer wieder die unsichtbare Grenze zwischen der westlichen und der arabischen Welt zu überwinden. Margret Greiner ist zerrissen wie die Stadt Jerusalem, daher kann sie so eindringlich von den Widersprüchen und der ausweglosen Situation erzählen.

Sie berichtet von ihren täglichen Wegen durch die geteilte Stadt und gibt die Gespräche und Fragen ihrer Schüler wieder, die nach anfänglicher Zurückhaltung immer offener auch über ihre persönlichen Empfindungen mit ihr sprechen.

Margret Greiner
Jefra heißt Palästina
Ein Mädchen in Jerusalem

Am liebsten würde sie zum Shoppen in die Jaffa-Street gehen, nach Ramallah ins Kino oder ans Meer fahren. Doch seit der Intifada ist all das für die sechszehnjährige Jefra unerreichbar, denn sie lebt mit ihrer Familie in einem besetzten Land. Sie versucht den Teufelskreis von Gewalt und Haß zu durchbrechen und zwischenmenschliche Brücken zu bauen – gegen alle Widerstände in der eigenen Familie. Die authentische Geschichte einer jungen Palästinenserin, hin- und hergerissen zwischen der arabischen Tradition und dem Traum von Freiheit.

Jefra versucht eine Brieffreundschaft zu einem gleichaltrigen israelischen Mädchen zu führen und nimmt an einem Sommercamp in den USA teil, wo sich israelische und palästinensische Jugendliche kennenlernen und austauschen können. Sie versucht sich nach zögerlichem Beginn dem Dialog zu öffnen und findet auch Freunde, aber zurück in Jerusalem, in der Obhut ihrer Familie kann sie diese neuen Freundschaften und Kontakte nicht aufrechterhalten.

Lizzie Doron
Warum bist du nicht vor dem Krieg gekommen ?

Voller Witz und Trauer sind diese Erinnerungen einer Tochter an ihre Mutter, eine eigenwillige, kämpferische Frau, die mit viel Einfallsreichtum im jungen Staat Israel ein neues Leben aufzubauen versucht – „trotz allem“. In eindringlichen und zum Teil aberwitzigen Episoden erzählt Elisabeth vom Leben ihrer Mutter Helena in Tel Aviv. Als Überlebende der Shoah voller Ängste und Trauer versucht sie mit typischem jüdischem Witz immer wieder ihre Würde zu wahren und ihr Leben auch in den schwierigsten Situationen zu meistern.

Suad Amiry
Sharon und meine Schwiegermutter
Tagebuch vom Krieg aus Ramallah, Palästina

Eine Architektin aus Palästina schreibt ein Tagebuch vom Krieg. Scharfsinnig und klug erzählt sie vom Alltag unter der Besetzung. Die Israelis haben sie ins Visier genommen und in den eigenen vier Wänden inhaftiert – zusammen mit der Mutter ihres Mannes. Mit bissiger Klarheit und voller Humor berichtet Suad Amiry, wie die Tiefschläge Sharons und seiner Regierung sich mit den Zumutungen der tyrannischen Schwiegermutter vereinen.
Neben Alltagsszenen von unmittelbarer Eindringlichkeit, die von Schikanen, Angst und Tod unter der Besetzung berichten, den Familiengeschichten und der handfesten Satire eines fiktiven Telefongesprächs mit George W. Bush, ist es vor allem der Ton ihrer Darstellungen, der in den Bann schlägt.

Hans-Joachim Löwer
Heilige Erde, unheiliges Land
Eine Grenzwanderung durch Israel und Palästina

Der Untertitel ist wörtlich zu nehmen. Löwer durchwandert das gesamte Westjordanland von Nord nach Süd. Das Buch wechselt zwischen seinen Tagebuchaufzeichnungen und den Begegnungen und Gesprächen mit den Menschen, die er auf seinem Weg trifft, ab. Seine Schilderungen sind das krasse Gegenteil von offiziellen Pressemeldungen und arrangierten Terminen, sie erzählen von den tagtäglichen Geschehnissen, Sorgen und Problemen der Menschen dieser Region.

Ulla Gessner
Frauen in Israel
Fünfzehn Porträts

Im Mittelpunkt des Buches stehen 15 Frauen, die in Israel leben: eine in Palästina geborene Schriftstellerin, die unter anderem davon erzählt, wie sie erstmals Deutschland besucht, woher ihre Eltern stammen, eine Sozialpädagogin, die in einem Kibbuz aufgewachsen ist, eine aus Polen stammende Ladenbesitzerin, eine Psychologin, deren Familie aus Prag nach Chile floh und die erst im alter von 20 nach Israel kam, eine 32-jährige Witwe, die in einer kleinen Drusenstadt im Karmel-Gebirge lebt, eine Computerdesignerin aus Haifa, eine Rechtsanwältin aus Tel Aviv, die vor acht Jahren aus Deutschland eingewandert ist, eine 57-jährige Versicherungskauffrau, eine Leiterin einer Schule für Tanz-Performance-Künste, eine Holocaust-Überlebende, die in einem Altenheim lebt, wo österreichisches Deutsch gesprochen wird…

Diese Buchtitel sind zwar nicht gerade leichte Sommerlektüre, aber wenn man sich ein wenig für die Thematik interessiert, lassen sich alle gut lesen. Sie sind trotz des ernsten Hintergrundes unterhaltsam und oft auch humorvoll.

Richtige Sachbücher lese ich nicht so gerne. Nur auf trockene Faktendarstellungen kann ich mich nicht lange konzentrieren und vergesse die Daten schnell wieder. Wenn politische, historische oder selbst auch wissenschaftliche Fakten jedoch in Romanform, Biographien oder Reiseberichten verfasst, also mit Menschen verbunden werden, ist es viel einfacher, sich hineinzufinden.

Durch die Verbindung mit persönlichen Lebenswegen und Schicksalen wird auch der Gesamtzusammenhang einer politischen Situation oder einer historischen Zeit deutlicher.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Back Link Joan Anderson, Spaziergang am Meer

crx aus luebeck, germany

Hallo, mein Name ist Caterina. Ich habe vor drei Jahren eine kleine Buchhandlung in Lübeck eröffnet und Lia hat mich gebeten, ab und zu einen Beitrag für die Bücherecke des ROTEN ZELTES zu schreiben. Da mir die Idee dieser Internetseite sehr gut gefällt, will ich es gern versuchen. Als Erstes ist mir sofort folgendes Buch als wunderbar passend eingefallen:

Joan Anderson
Spaziergang am Meer

Joan Anderson verabschiedete sich für ein Jahr von Alltag und Ehe und verbrachte diese Zeit in einem Cottage auf Cape Cod. Diese Auszeit beschrieb sie selbstkritisch und ohne zu beschönigen, in tagebuchartigen Aufzeichnungen, die stark an Anne Morrow Lindberghs „Muscheln in meiner Hand“ erinnern, in „Ein Jahr am Meer“. Hier nun erzählt sie die Geschichte einer außergewöhnlichen Freundschaft. Bei einem Spaziergang am Strand lernt sie zufällig die über neunzigjährige Joan Erikson, Ehefrau des berühmten Psychoanalytikers Erik Erikson, kennen. Die beiden Frauen finden rasch gefallen aneinander und tauschen sich über ihr Leben, über ihre Sorgen, Wünsche und Hoffnungen aus. Joan Erikson, die mehr vom Handeln als von weisen Ratschlägen hält, gibt viel von ihrer Lebensklugheit weiter. Sie erinnert Anderson daran, wie wichtig es ist, nicht stehen zu bleiben, sondern ein Leben lang bereit zu sein zu lernen, sich zu verändern, und vor allem sich eine spielerische Herangehensweise an die Herausforderungen des Lebens zu bewahren.

Freundschaften, nicht nur im gleichen Alter, sondern gerade auch sowohl mit Älteren als auch mit Jüngeren, zu pflegen, finde ich sehr wichtig. Unter Gleichaltrigen ist man oft in ähnlichen Lebenssituationen und –phasen und kann sich daher sicher gut austauschen; hat oft gleiche Erfahrungen und Lebensumfelder. Durch Gespräche mit Älteren kann man aus einem viel größeren Erfahrungsschatz profitieren, kann vergleichen, wie sich Vieles an Ansichten und Gegebenheiten im Laufe der Jahre verändert hat. Dies gilt in beide Richtungen. Durch den Dialog mit Jüngeren bleibt man „up to date“. Auch hier erfährt man, dass mit einer Situation vielleicht ganz anders umgegangen wird, als man es selbst im gleichen Alter getan hätte.
Man kann sich gegenseitig unterstützen und helfen und erhält bei Sorgen, Problemen oder auch einfach bei Gesprächen zu allen möglichen Themen Anregungen und Lösungsvorschläge aus ganz unterschiedlichen Perspektiven.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Back Link Best Travel Books

Here is a link to an entry of an interesting blog, Marginal Revolution. The blogger wrote about his favourite travel books. Ok, he references a list, from WorldHum, but as far as blogging is concerned that is very much allowed.

The only books I would add to their lists are:

The Curve of Time, M. Wylie Blanchet
My Old Man And The Sea, A Father And Son Sail Around Cape Horn, by David Hays and Daniel Hays
A Quest Fro Adventure, Chris Bonington

And I disagree with WorldHums choice of Bruce Chatwin’s Songlines as his best travel book, I prefer In Patagonia. I remember reading it way back then (1977) and being completely inspired by the country and the author.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Back Link Theft: a Love Story - Peter Carey

Carey fans and newcomers alike will be delighted by his latest novel, a feat of literary ventriloquy every bit as accomplished as his second Booker winner ‘True History of the Kelly Gang’. The story is told in two voices, that of scurrilous, self-important artist Michael Boone, aka Butcher Bones, and the observations of his brother Hugh, who Michael euphemistically describes as damaged. Following release from prison - an unfair incarceration, Michael insists, after he ‘liberated’ some of his own work unfairly awarded to his ex-wife during their divorce (said unflatteringly-portrayed ex being allegedly based on Carey’s own estranged spouse) - Boone is trying to rebuild his career within an uncaring eighties art world that has moved on. Then glamorous blonde Marlene Liebovitz tumbles into his life one stormy night, claiming that his neighbour is the possessor of a priceless original Jacques Liebovitz painting… a painting that is subsequently stolen. What follows is part crime-caper, part love story, an exuberantly amoral romp that inevitably ends in disaster.

The book appears to be semi-autobiographical, the character of Michael pointedly sharing details of Carey’s own life and upbringing. This makes it all the more enjoyable when Carey allows Michael’s artistic ego to run riot through the pages, commenting on everything from the unfairness of divorce to the narrow minds of artistic commentators. How much of this is Carey’s own views, refracted through the lens of Michael’s monstrous self-regard? Michael’s rants are balanced by the observations of his idiot savant brother, whose internal life is far more complex than Michael allows for, and who in turn sees his brother more clearly that he sees himself. But it is Michael for whom everything is at stake, as his passionate nature pulls him three ways: his love for Marlene, for art, and for Hugh, who, though volatile and dangerous, is bound to him through unbreakable ties of family and loyalty. Eventually, Michael is forced to choose which of these matter most to him.

Theft: a Love Story is equal to Carey’s best work, by turns hilarious and moving, its central trio of characters and their dilemmas brilliantly portrayed. Michael and Hugh are amongst Carey’s most memorable creations, and their voices will stay with you long after you have finished this joyous, remarkable novel.

Marie from London, England

Back Link Tenderwire - Claire Kilroy

An exceptional literary thriller recounting an obsessive love story - between a girl and an antique violin. Eva Tyne is an accomplished but volatile young Irish violinist living in New York. Her collapse on the night of her first major solo performance is the trigger for her descent into increasingly self-destructive behaviour. She drinks heavily, ends her long-term relationship and takes up a new one with a virtual stranger, and begins treating her closest friends with paranoia and suspicion. Then one night, in a bar, she encounters a mysterious Chechen who offers to sell her a lost Stradivarius violin. Eva’s efforts to obtain and hold onto the violin lead her into ever darker territory, eventually forcing the revelation of a secret she has been desperately trying to keep, even from herself.

What makes this book so powerful is its insight into the psychology of the young woman at its centre. While Eva is torn between her former boyfriend and her new lover, it is really the violin that is the emotional focus of her life and of this story. Her need to possess the instrument is akin to the consuming obsession of love, a desire so profound that at one point she bites into the varnish, leaving an indelible mark of her possession of it. And yet even beneath this overwhelming need lie still deeper motivations that only gradually emerge as the story unfolds.

Kilroy deftly constructs a gripping narrative whilst never allowing us to lose sympathy with her heroine, whose passions and weaknesses make her all too recognisably human. The lives of struggling young musicians is convincingly portrayed, New York’s dangerous underbelly of mafia and organised crime chillingly explored. In all this is a fantastic and unusual page-turner from a bright new talent. And to date seems to have fallen below the media radar - discover it first at Crockatt & Powell!

Marie from London, England

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Back Link Pompous Circumstance

I just received my first book package from the London independent bookstore, Crockatt & Powell. In their blog they sung a hymn about Summer In Baden-Baden, by Leonid Tsypkin; so I ordered it and I’ve been reading it the last day or two.

I had totally forgotten how delightfully strenuous Russian prose can be. Just now I gave out a hoot after reading a six-page sentence (yes, six pages long = one sentence). What made me laugh was the part of the sentence in italics below:

(first five pages)

“… and I was very pleased by her answer because I scarcely ever come across people who do not regard Pushkin as an idol – especially women, women poets in particular, from Marina Tsvetayeva who wrote of him as the ‘terror of husbands, delight of wives’, devoting an entire book to him and manifestly in love with him, to Bella Akhmadulina who celebrates him in that hazy, somnambulistic verse of hers – but you will probably never find as fierce and passionate an admirer of Pushkin as Dostoyevsky, for who Pushkin may have been just as unattainable an antithetical dream as Stavrogin, embodying as he did harmony of spirit (though it may only have appeared that way), a high sense of honour (did Dostoyevsky know who loyally Pushkin used to bow to Count Orlov at the Mariinsky Theatre?), strength and constancy of character (did Dostoyevsky realize that the Decembrists did not really trust Pushkin very much, considering him both unstable and indiscreet?), and finally the nonchalance of a seducer who always achieved success (here there is really nothing to add in brackets, as Pushkin’s perfection in this sphere was genuinely beyond dispute)…

Now, Tsypkin admittedly does not write the type of prose for those readers weaned on the “one thought, one sentence” literary doctrine. I usually find this type of prose pompous, complex, and not always worth the effort. Yet, Tsypkin’s story of Dostoyevsky managed to produce a whole spectrum of emotions in me: exasperation, irritation, frustration, as well as, delight, wonder, and a large portion of grudging admiration.

I reacted this way because, though the subject material is, at times, very difficult to digest (I find the lengthy material of Dostoyevsky’s appallingly condescending relationship with his wife and his gambling addiction difficult to read), Tsypkin is so unrelenting honest in his presentation of the material, as well as grandiose in his perceptions and insights, it makes every moment spent with the book worth it.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Back Link Collage

I have spent the last week listening to podcasts: especially a new series from the BBC, The Gaurdian, and the New York Times (more later in Media Safe 101). Since I am not one of those people who can read and listen to music or audio documentary programs simultaneously, I create collages as well.

The collage above was inspired by various book- or author-related blogs (here, here, and here) and some book related podcasts (here, here, and here). I am still in the first flush of trying to figure out whether there is anything out there that can keep my interests. I would very much appreciate some direction here.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Back Link Reading Experience

This is what my eight-years-old son discovering the world of books said about reading: "At the beginning it is a bit boring, because you don`t know where the book will take you. But then it becomes very interesting, as you want to know what happens to the people in the book." That is an important reason for reading, isn`t it? What other reasons make us continue reading a book? What reasons make us throw it into a corner - thinking "I`m not going to spent my time on this stuff any more"?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Back Link Travels and Adventures in a Foreign World

Don’t you love a good yarn about someone else’s travels or tales about how someone lived and survived in another era, culture, country or world foreign to your own? Especially when you can read about all their trails from the comfort of your sofa. Another list!

Voyage to Greenland, Frederica de Laguna
The Road from Coorain, Jill Ker Conway
My Old Man and the Sea, David Hays and Daniel Hays
Hindoo Holiday, J.R. Ackerley
Voyages, At Sea with Strangers, Joan Skogan
In Patagonia, Bruce Chatwin
Teaching a Stone to Talk, Annie Dillard
A New Kind of Country, Dorthy Gilman
The Ten Thousand Things, Maria Dermoût
Fishing with John, Edith Iglauer
The Curve of Time, M. Wylie Blanchet
An Anthropologist On Mars, Oliver Sacks
Life of Pi, Yann Martel
The Solace of Open Spaces, Gretel Ehrlich
Migrations to Solitude, Sue Halpern

Monday, April 24, 2006

Back Link Reading Myself Well

This might sound strange to you, but when I am ill I can not read some books that I normally read (e.g. murder mysteries) because I often have the feeling that my mind and dreams, and in some indirect way, my body is influenced by the content of the books I read. OK, crazy, but true. So, I am always out for the look out for books to put on my “reading myself well” book list. These books have to fall under one of the following categories to be included on my list:

  • Funny
  • If not funny, then endearing or touching without being too heart rendering (admittedly since I am a North-American-happy-ending addict of Irish descent, married to an Italian category)
  • A none existent suspense curve
  • Something I’ve read at least twenty times (i.e. no surprises)
  • Light and frivolous
  • Wonderfully written
  • No complications (translation no tragedy)

    Here is a list of some of the books I have had on my list for many years. Some of them have been on this list since I was a child, but I still read them when I am feeling the need. I would reallyreally like new suggestions. As you can see, as in the case of “Three Men in a Boat”, many of these books have been on the list longer than I have been alive! So, take mercy and send me a comment with any book you think would fit on the list.

    The list:
  • Three Men in a boat, Jerome K. Jerome
  • Never Cry Wold, Farley Mowat
  • Bachelor Brothers' Bed and Breakfast, Bill Richardson
  • Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery
  • The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • The Blue Castle, l.M. Montgomery
  • Precious Bane, Mary Webb
  • Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott
  • Dear Enemy, Jean Webster
  • Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, T.S. Eliot
  • 84, Charing Cross Road, Helene Hanff

I was recently ill and read all the above mentioned books. It is time to branch out. Please help me extend this list.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Back Link German Authors Dear to my Heart

... Here comes the culture clash: authors dear to my heart are - among others -:
Theodor Fontane (Effi Briest, Der Stechlin)
Ingeborg Bachmann (Erklär mir Liebe)
Kurt Tucholsky (Schloss Gripsholm)
Erich Kästner (Als ich ein kleiner Junge war)
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Wanderers Nachtlied)
Jane Austen (all her novels)
Wiliam Makepeace Thackerey (Vanity Fair)
William Somerset Maugham (Of Human Bondage).


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Back Link More Authors of the Heart

from karen, williamstown, usa

I'm not sure I can answer the question about which book I'd recommend for each of the authors you list - it's a great list, which makes it all the more difficult - but I can add a few more authors to the list. How about:

E.H. Young (whose books are so extraordinarily insightful and haunting that I can never fathom why they are so little known)
Virginia Woolf
Barry Unsworth
Dorothy Dunnett

I think the purpose of this post is to try to make contact with people who either have read the same great books and can tell you what they liked and why, or who have other great books they can tell you about and then you can read them.

Reading this post reminds me that it has been too long since I read Sue Hubbell's books;perhaps I'll start A Year of Bees tonight....

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Back Link Authors Dear to My Heart

I was also thinking of “I Heart Authors”. In the last entry good books were mentioned for the following of my favourite authors:

Sue Hubbell
Anne Lamott
Margaret Atwood
Bruce Chatwin
Jane Austin

There are still numerous authors who I just adore, but their books aren’t necessarily included in my favourite book lists. Not because there books don’t belong there. There are authors whom I love as a whole, for all their works, and not for one specific book they’ve written.

Actually, there are authors where I don’t remember which book was The Book, which convinced me to read everything and anything they’ve written. So my question is of you readers of this blog entry… If you were to recommend any one book of each of the following authors, which would it (they) be:

Ellen Gilchrist
Jane Gardam
Annie Dillard
Anne Tyler
Elisabeth Bowen
Barbara Ehrenreich
Michael Ignatieff
Bruno Bettelheim

Please just place your suggestions in the comment window.

Back Link Books Dear to My Heart

Marie, one of authors in a blog (Crockatt & Powell Booksellers) I read regularly, wrote an entry titled, I Heart Books. The list of her favourite books was not based on notable literary merit rather it was complied of books close to her heart. The best types of books, don’t you think?

Here is Marie’s, from the Crockatt & Powell Bookseller shop in London, list:

Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
Tales of the City - Armistead Maupin
Once More With Feeling - Victoria Coren and Charlie Skelton
Cat's Eye - Margaret Atwood
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
Frog In Winter - Max Velthuijs

My list is as follows:

The Book of Ebenezer LePage, G.B. Edwards
The Curve of Time, M. Wylie Blanchet
A Country Year, Sue Hubbell
bird by bird, Anne Lamott
In Patagonia, Bruce Chatwin
Running in the Family, Michael Ondaatje
Kindergarten, Peter Rushforth

If would be interesting if you could send in some of your favourites…

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Back Link Book Suggestion

Karen sent me the book, "Everyday Zen", by Charlotte Joko Beck.

I read the book about about six or seven years ago, during a time of great confusion, complicated by chronic insomnia. I don't remember being as entralled with the book as I am on this reading. It just goes to show how your mental, emotional, and physical state can often determine your opinion of a book.