Thursday, 26 October 2017

2 x Vampire stories

I have never been very fond of vampire stories, nor watched all the classic films about them. However, that changed a few years ago when I read the absolute classic of vampire tales; Dracula by Bram Stoker. It was a surprisingly, vivid and interesting read, even after all these years.

Today the world of vampires has changed due to a number of modern accounts on them; Twilight, The Sookie Stackhouse series (True Blood) and Interview with the Vampire and many more. Not to talk about the various TV-series following in the wake.

According to the British Library, the first vampire in English literature came with Robert Southey's epic poem Thalaba de Destroyer. The vampire takes the form of Thalaba's bride Oneiza, who dies on their wedding day.

Her very lineaments, and such as death
Had changed them, livid cheeks, and lips of blue.
But in her eyes there dwelt
Brightness more terrible
Than all the loathsomeness of death.

It seems that Southey added a very detailed footnote where he recounts the vampire tales from continental Europe. It was probably the best, otherwise people would not have understood, I guess.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

The Reading Woman

Yesterday, on a very nice, sunny day here in Brussels, I went downtown. It does not happen that often. The trees are changing their colours so you could get quite some nice photos. Passing by the Museum of Art I went into their shop. I really love museum shops. They have so many beautiful things and if you are looking for presents it is perfect.

This time I found a present for myself. I don't know if I mentioned it before, but I am a fan of notebooks. I have therefore put a ban on myself, not to buy any more until I have used the ones I have. It is a little bit like books. I can't resist them when I see something I love. Yes, you are right. I did buy another one. Not a notebook but a calendar.

It is call The Reading Woman - 2018 Engagement calendar. The cover is beautiful, and the calendar is filled with paintings of women, not always reading. However, each painting come with a quote connected to books.

I will use this one to note what I am reading and when. It will also come in handy to plan my blog posts. I always try to be disciplined, but it somehow does not work. Could this be the solution? I don't know, but will certainly try. In the end there is a 2019 planner and Notes & Expenses for each month. I am not sure I want to put down the figures I spend on books, so I might just use it for notes.

Can't wait to use it. Do you have a special system how to plan your posts? A special notebook or calendar? I guess many people just use electronic devices, but I kind of like the idea of having a book in my hand, even if it is just a notebook!

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The Brontës in Brussels by Helen MacEwan

As you might know, I am a fan of the Brontës. While living here in Brussels I came into contact with the Brussels Brontë Group. A group, founded by Helen MacEwan and some fellow enthusiasts. I did not have so much knowledge about the Brontës. Just that they grew up on the moors of Yorkshire and wrote wonderful, passionate novels.

Being part of the group have, for me, opened up a whole new chapter in the history of the Brontës. The group has taken on numerous investigations in order to track the lives of Charlotte and Emily during their stay here in 1842-43 (Emily only the first year). For Charlotte it was a life changing experience. The life she lived here and her studies for the charismatic M. Heger gave her another output in life. She became infatuated with him and he entered into her literary characters.

Helen is the source of information concerning the sisters life here in Brussels. She has written several books related to their stay here. The Brontës in Brussels is a well written account of their reason for coming here, how they saw life, the people they met, the studies and how life was led in the Belgian capital in the mid of the 19th century. Most of all; how it effected Charlotte and changed her life. Most experts today acknowledge that without her stay here, she might not have written the novels she did.

It is an easy read, perfect also for those without too much knowledge of the sisters. Charlotte's novels The Professor and Villette take place in Brussels and Helen shows us references from the books and what inspired Charlotte in real life Brussels. It is a fantastic tour around the old and new parts of Brussels. Cultural happenings, traditional feasts, eating habits and much more. The book is like a bible for Brontë fans, just the right amount of background information, and written in a way that make you feel like you are walking with them, over the pebbled stones of Brussels.

The Brussels Brontë Groups arranges guided walks a couple of times a year. The walk is highlighted at the end of the book. It is easy to follow, cover the places Charlotte and Emily visited, all close to each other. Take the book with your a walk in the footsteps of the Brontës.

Other books by Helen: Down the Belliard Steps: Discovering the Brontës in Brussels, Winifred Gérin: Biographer of the Brontës. Soon to be published: Through Belgian Eyes: Charlotte Brontës Troubled Brussels Legacy. All of them add a little bit more to the life and inspiration of Charlotte.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

This is my first book by the highly appreciated Haruki Murakami. It contains short stories of men and their relationship with women. Although I had a slight problem with the first story, or the way it was written (might have been the translation), it improved with each of the stories.

The stories are about different men from different parts of the society and their often troubled relationship with their women. Together, they show the different ways of love. One of my favourite was the one about a man who did not want to get married, and had a lot of different affairs. It was always him that ended the affairs. Then, one day, the thing happened, that I always think happens to most of us, he fell in love with his mistress. All of a sudden the situation was the reverse. He was the eager one and she withdrew. It lead to a total downfall for the man and ended in disaster.

This is just one of the extremes of the stories Murakami tells us. They are all told in a calm, matter of fact way, and it is almost like you see a movie, rather than read a text. The stories are very visible. Although it takes place in the Japanese society, I think the stories are universal. Love is a very complicating thing, no matter what happens.

I loved the book and am looking forward reading more by Murakami.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

The Poems of Catullus

A book from my TBR shelves came in handy for the literary course I am taking. The history of literature, starts, like so many other things, with the Greeks and the Romans. The Poems of Catullus has been on my shelves for several years, and finally, I read it. It is not entirely easy to interpret the poems, even with the very good introduction by the translator, Peter Whigham.

Here a few lines from the introduction.
"We know very little about Catullus's life: even the dates of his birth and death are uncertain. The likeliest figures are: born 84, died 54 B.C. His full name was Giaus Valerius Catullus. … He appears as one of the lovers of the notorious Clodia Metelli, and a leading figure - perhaps the leading figure - in the new movement in poetry. … In short, the tradition that he died of what our grandmothers called 'a broken heart' finds no support in the poems. It is based solely on the assumption that his love for Clodia was of the conventional type of romantic - i.e. 'fatal' - passion. But I believe that many of the poems point to an altogether different and more complicated state of mind. All we can say for certain about his death is, that like his birth, it happened."
In the poems Catullus calls Clodia for Lesbia. Here are three of my favourite poems. In the first one I recognise some lines from "The Outlander" TV-series (Season 2, episode 13). It is slightly different in the TV-series, it seems that version is based on a translation by Richard Crashaw, from the 17th century (suitable of course).  I found it beautiful when I heard it and so it is when you read it. This version probably more strictly translated.

Poem no. 5

         Live with me
& love me so
we'll laugh at all
the sour-faced strict-
ures of the wise.
This sun once set
will rise again
when our sun sets
follows night &
an and endless sleep.
Kiss me now a
thousand times &
now a hundred
more & then a 
thousand more again
till with so many
hundred thousand
kisses you & I
shall both lose count
nor any can
from envy of
so much of kissing
put his finger
on the number
of sweet kisses
you of me & 
I of you,
darling, have had.

Poem no. 49

Silver-tongued among the sons of Rome
the dead, the living & the yet unborn,
Catullus, least of poets, sends
Marcus Tullius his warmest thanks:

- as much the least of poets
as he a prince of lawyers.

Poem no. 87

No woman loved, in truth, Lesbia
               as you by me;
no love-faith found so true
               as mine in you.

This is the first time I read Catullus. Have you read any of his poems? Are you a fan?

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Swedish Crime Novels

Continuing my crime novel streak, I want to share two great crime stories from Sweden. One is Spring Tide by Cilla & Rolf Börjlind and the other is Tjockare än vatten (Thicker Than Water, my translation) by Carin Gerhardsen. Both are of the kind, difficult to put down. That is why you read until 1 a.m in the morning, just to finish it.

Spring Tide was spoken of quite a lot in Sweden some years ago. It has a different set-up of characters from other novels, and this is the first in a series involving Olivia, a trainee at the police academy and Tom, a former police inspector, now home-less. Olivia is given a cold case to look at during the summer holidays. It concerns the murder of a woman in 1990 on an island on the west coast of Sweden. The case was never solved, and the identity of the woman was never found.

Olivia gets involved in the case, and starts her own investigation. At the same time people involved in the actions years ago are feeling nervous and unexpected things happen. It is a fascinating story, good characterisation and many side stories. In the beginning you don't know why they are there. They don't seem to have anything to do with the main case. But, as the story evolves it all comes together. It is exciting, scaring and you hear a lot of sounds around you, lying alone in the dark, reading! Huuh! The ending is unexpected to say the least.

The other crime story I read Thicker Than Water is part of a series about a team of policemen and women in Stockholm. Also here we find several side stories, which come together in the end. However, not as you expect. Tragedy follow the main characters, a sister and brother who become orphans at a young age, when their mother dies in a drowning accident. People seem to drown in their surroundings. Are they accidents or murders? Many years later a case with cats that are drowned hits Stockholm. The team realises that it might not be what it seems. This is one of these books where you think you know the culprit as you read along. In the end it is a total surprise! Love it.

Now being into crime novels, I feel like continuing. Alas, no more such books here and I have a mission to finish a few books from my TBR shelves. Not to talk about my studies, where I will have to read a lot of books outside my natural choice. It does not mean it is a bad idea. It makes you go outside your comfort zone.

What about you? Are you into crime novels? Or crime novels with a mixture of other novels?

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

2 x Indridason

I have spent a couple of weeks in Sweden, seeing my son and friends, decorating the flat and doing some studies. The last was more of an emergency call, since I had misread the dead-line! Well, know I have caught up again.

Looking at my TBR shelves in Sweden (yes, these shelves exists both in Belgium and Sweden!) I discovered to my great pleasure,  two unread books by Arnaldur Indridason.  Nordic crime writers are very popular these days. For one reason or the other, I don't read so many crime novels. However, having found some unread on my shelves, I went all crime fiction during these weeks. I start with one of my very favourite author.

Artic Chill and Reykjavik Nights by Arnaldur Indridason. As usual, interesting cold case stories mixed with a murder mystery.

In Arctic Chill a dark-skinned young boy is found dead and his Thai half-brother is missing. Is it a racial murder? Or a paedophile murder? Or did the boy see something he shouldn't see? The options are many and Erlendur and his team find tension in the boy's surrounding. As usual there is a lot of tragedy connected to the people surrounding the case. At the same time Erlendur faces shadows from his past.

In Reykjavik Nights I found, to my surprise, a young Erlendur, just having started working for the police and doing night patrols. Checking the book on the internet, I saw that there actually are four books in a "Young Inspector Erlendur" series. Here he is solving a case with a murdered home-less begger and a missing wife. He is not yet and inspector and pursues the case on his spare time.  We can see the future inspector and his special way of approaching a murder case, already here. A different case, but not less interesting.

As always Indridason makes you guess until the very end. I really love his books, and they have a lot of interesting, touching stories of ordinary people. Many of them from the dark side of society. His characterisations are very good and you always get a dose of the Icelandic scenery! What is not to love?

Have you read anything by him? Do you like the books?

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Mount TBR Reading Challenge - check point #3

October is here and time for another check point for our mountaineering efforts. Bev at My Reader's Block has called upon us to tell you where we are. So far I have read 35 books from my TBR shelves. Well, it is really some more, but for this challenge it has to be books which were on the shelves before 1 January 2017.

On 1 July, I had read 23 books, and now I am at 35 books. That is just one book short of climbing Mt Vancouver. It is 4,812 m to the top, and I am on 4,678 m. Another book and another 135 meters and I am there!

Bev has given us a few tasks to complete, based on the books we have read. Here we go!

  • Who has been your favourite character so far? And tell us why, if you like.
I think I go for a family, the Buddenbrooks. Thomas Mann manages to fully engage us in the members of this family and their rise and fall. A fantastic book.

  • Which book (read so far) has been on your TBR mountain the longest? Was it worth the wait? Or is it possible you should have tackled it back when you first put it on the pile? Or tossed it off the edge without reading it all?

I think it has to be "The World Around in 80 Days" by Jules Verne. Probably should have read it then. Although the idea behind it is great, the prose as such was a little bit static. This is the only book by him I have read, and it seems he is not famous for his characterisation, but more for his ideas. Good enough. 

  • Choose 1-4 titles from your stacks and using a word from the title, do an image search. Post the first all-eyes-friendly picture associated with that word. 
Unsolved Mysteries of Amsterdam

That was all from me on this quest for Mt Vancouver. Hopefully, see you on Mt Ararat or Kilimanjaro at the end of the year!


Saturday, 7 October 2017

6 Degrees of Separation

I don't know where the time goes. Reading your blog posts I realise it is time again for a 6 Degrees of Separation, hosted by Books Are My Favourite And Best. This month starts with the book Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. I have not heard about the book and thus, not read it. "Earthy, magical, and utterly charming, this tale of family life in turn-of-the-century Mexico blends poignant romance and bittersweet wit. " Sounds like an interesting read, just what I like. It will be added to my to read list.

Being about cooking, my first thought goes to The Dinner by Herman Koch.  It is about a family
drama where two brothers with their wives meet up for dinner to discuss what their sons have been up to. A drama slowly evolves and it keeps you in suspense to the very end, what the sons have really done.

Thinking of family dramas I opt for The Go-Between by L.P. Harley and one of my favourite books. Leo is invited to his best friend Marcus' manor house and during the summer he is the go-between for Marcus' sister and her lover. The act has unexpected consequences.