Sunday, 31 December 2017

New books | Happy New Year

New books | Happy New Year · Lisa Hjalt

On this last day of the year I'm sitting at the computer with a patterned turban on my head, a glass of Christmas beer, and tortilla chips in a bowl; the steak is slow-roasting in the oven, my gang is watching The Hobbit, and there is nothing better for me to do than blogging about new books. I wanted to share this entry earlier in December but I never found the time to finish it. At Christmas it kept popping up in my mind and since most of these works, fiction and coffee tables books, were published in 2017, I thought it best to share the list before the new year. To save time I skip commenting on each book because all the links, apart from one, lead to the website of Book Depository, where you will find a short intro. I would like to read all the books that appear on the list above the thumbnails, so chances are high that you will one day find them on a reading list on the blog. I wish you a peaceful New Year.

New books:
· Spy of the First Person  by Sam Shepard (Knopf). The final work before his death in July this year.
· Debriefing: Collected Stories  by Susan Sontag (FSG). Edited by Benjamin Taylor.
· Sing, Unburied, Sing  by Jesmyn Ward (Bloomsbury). Winner of The National Book Award 2017.
· The Origin of Others  by Toni Morrison (Harvard UP).
· In Search of Ancient North Africa: A History in Six Lives  by Barnaby Rogerson (Haus Publishing).
· The Rub of Time  by Martin Amis (Random House).
· Philip Roth: Why Write? Collected Nonfiction 1960-2013  by Philip Roth (Library of America).

· Persian Art: Collecting the Arts of Iran for the V&A  by Moya Carey (V&A).
· Modern Art in Detail: 75 Masterpieces  by Susie Hodge (Thames & Hudson).
· Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Decisive Moment  by Henri Cartier-Bresson (Steidl). Originally published in 1952, embellished with a collage cover by Henri Matisse.
The Atlas of Beauty: Women of the World in 500 Portraits  by Mihaela Noroc (Penguin).
· Morris  by Charlotte and Peter Fiell (Taschen). Richly illustrated book about the life and work of the designer William Morris (1834-1896).
· Map Cities: Histoires de cartes  by Francisca Mattéoli (Chêne). Currently available in French only but here is hoping for an English translation. I have already featured Map Stories by Mattéoli on the blog.
· Haute Bohemians  by Miguel Flores-Vianna (Vendome Press).

From Haute Bohemians by Miguel Flores-Vianna, pp. 80-81, Vendome Press

Sunday, 24 December 2017

№ 13 reading list | Happy Holidays

№ 13 reading list | Happy Holidays · Lisa Hjalt

Earlier this week, I promised to share a short reading list - this one is № 13 - before the holidays (I snapped the photo a couple of days ago between the gift-wrapping; you should see how much the hyacinths have grown since then!). At this moment, I'm enjoying a coffee break while leafing through the latest issue, January 2018, of The World of Interiors, which our oldest brought me from the UK. Tonight and tomorrow's desserts are ready and soon we will start preparing our Christmas Eve feast. The Nordic tradition is to celebrate Christmas on this day with a fancy meal, following the opening of presents.

№ 13 reading list:
· The Underground Railroad  by Colson Whitehead
· Giovanni's Room  by James Baldwin
· Der Gute Mensch von Sezuan  by Bertolt Brecht
· Jane Eyre  by Charlotte Brontë

Last summer I bought a copy of Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin and I have been waiting for a more quiet time to read it. If my last blog post escaped you, he has become my new favourite author. Over the holidays, I have made it a habit to reread one classic and this year I chose Jane Eyre. It's been years since I read it and last Christmas my husband gave me this beautiful Penguin clothbound edition. It's been staring at me for a year and I swear I can sometimes hear it whisper, Read me!  The other two you may have spotted on Instagram already; Whitehead was part of a book gift from a dear friend in Iceland and the play by Brecht was the first book I bought in German after the move (here is a Bloomsbury edition in English, The Good Person of Szechwan, translated by John Willett). I'm already reading it, but slowly. Very slowly. It's my way to try to reclaim my German vocabulary.

I wish you all Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Reading journal 2017: Baldwin, Bandi, Bellow ...

Reading Journal 2017: Bellow, Baldwin, Bandi · Lisa Hjalt

My Reading journal posts, remember those? I have fallen behind with the blog (which gave me the idea to use my Instagram photos for this category). I'm just going to play my moving-to-Germany card. We are still navigating our new surroundings and getting used to the language. There have been good moments, but also frustrating ones and the occasional setbacks. Oh well, we will get there. Shortly after the move, our oldest returned to Scotland for school and I may have left part of my heart behind at the airport. Not that it was a dramatic scene, it simply hit me that one day the nest will be empty. (I could pull a Faust and make a pact with the devil, exchanging my soul for the kids choosing to go to university in the area when the time comes. The problem is I don't believe in its existence.) At Christmas the family will be reunited; ahead is leisure and good food (during a recent Skype moment I mentioned the presents and two of the kids responded: 'Mom, we don't care about the presents, we just want the food!'). Before the holidays I intend to share a reading list, a short one. Just have to find the time to take a photo.

№ 8 reading list (5 of 8):

· The Accusation by Bandi. I gave this collection of stories, smuggled out of North Korea, a special mention when sharing the reading list. They still haunt me, especially one called 'City of Specters', which is the second story in the book. Every time North Korea is on the news - that would be every day - I'm reminded of these stories, of the injustice, the hopelessness, and inhuman conditions of its people.

· Another Country by James Baldwin. I knew he would become my new favourite author when I reached this character description on page 18: '[H]e had discovered that he could say it with a saxophone. He had a lot to say.' The moment one starts reading this book one picks up its rhythm. I read somewhere online that it was jazz and thought to myself, Jazz, that's it! The novel is set in the late 1950s, in Greenwich Village, NY. It's not for everyone (if you're a prude don't even think about reading it; I have to add you're missing out on a superb writing style), as it deals with daring themes such as affairs, homesexuality, bisexuality, and interracial relationships. Keep in mind it was published in 1962! I am ashamed to say that this was my first work by Baldwin. I had only read old interviews with him and magazine features citing his works and now I intend to read everything he has written, his fiction and essays.

· Seize the Day by Saul Bellow. My first Bellow, a memorable novella set in NY, which, honestly, didn't quite grab me from the start (I say this with the greatest respect for all his fans: during the reading Bellow may perhaps have slightly paled by comparison to Baldwin, who had consumed my inner bookworm). It wasn't until after I had finished that the story kept popping up in my mind and I'm eager to read it again.

· The Blue Touch Paper by David Hare. A memoir I enjoyed reading, though some parts were more interesting than others. Often when reading memoirs the childhood part bores me (sometimes it's a lack of honesty on the author's part; sometimes an author paints a too rosy picture), which was not the case with Hare. Before reading the book, I knew nothing about his upbringing and he kept me reading with an entertaining and honest, or so I believe, account. There is plenty of politics in this book, which may not appeal to everyone, but the London theatre scene becomes alive on its pages and the reader gets to share in Hare's triumphs, and failures.

· Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov. I didn't finish this one. Not my cup of tea. Here we have a fictional poet, Shade, who has written a long poem before his death. A neighbour and colleague, Kinbote, writes a long commentary on it and very soon the reader realises that Kinbote is way off. I lost my patience with Kinbote's commentary, with his delusion (it had nothing to do with the writing of Nabokov).

[As I have said before, in my 'Reading Journal' posts I don't comment on my rereads or on books already featured on the blog. Please visit separate blog entries for these two from the list: A World Gone Mad: The Diaries of Astrid Lindgren, 1939-45 and the novel Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.]

image by me, appeared on Instagram, 29/07/2017