Sep 25, 2011

Sep 22, 2011


source: Words Without Borders
Reviewed by Mythili G. Rao

“He’s thirty-seven years old, but I wouldn’t call him a grown up.  That would be an exaggeration.  He’s getting a divorce.  I don’t know what to do with him.” These words, spoken by protagonist Arvid Janson’s weary mother in the final pages of Per Petterson’s latest novel, I Curse the River of Timeare an apt assessment.  Newly diagnosed with stomach cancer, Arvid’s mother has left Norway for her hometown in Denmark, and Arvid, burdened with a host of ailments of his own, has followed her, his intentions unclear even to himself. Arvid wants to console and support his mother, (“Damn it, I knew she was ill, she might even die; that was why I was here, that was why I had come after her, I was sure of it,”) but not only is there an old, open wound of misunderstanding between  mother and son to contend with, there is also the creaking failure of Arvid’s fifteen-year marriage weighing on him, as well as the final collapse of his political ideals to reconcile with:

“‘It’s me,’ I said.
‘I know who it is,’ she said. I heard your thoughts clatter all the way down from the road. Are you broke?’”

“Are you broke?” is the question Arvid’s mother used to playfully ask her son while he was still a carefree, penniless college student—before he dropped out of school to put his faith in Communism to test, trading an education for a production-line job at the factory where his father had labored for a lifetime, and leaving his mother (a factory worker herself) incensed. Arvid settled easily into the physical rhythms of the job and was convinced that the act of work was inherently important, but it did not take long for him to see that he had “joined the proletariat which did not actually exist anymore, but was an anachronism.” In breaking with the promise of his old life, he had become “a man out of time.”

Petterson has written about Arvid Jansen before. In the Wake finds its protagonist grappling with the horrific death of his parents and younger brothers in a ferry accident just like the one that took the lives of Petterson’s own parents and two of his three brothers two decades ago. The Arvid Jansen of I Curse the River of Time may still have two living parents and more than one living brother, but his story is still an unflinchingly dark one.   read more....

Sep 18, 2011


source: Stainless Steel Droppings

Several years ago I recall poo-pooing the concept of the book trailer. Experience has taught me that the quality of those early trailers had a lot to do with my assumptions about their value and effectiveness. That said, I had not been swayed to buy a book based on a book trailer. That all changed when the trailer for Ransom Riggs’ debut novel found its way to me on Twitter.

I watched it…

And I was lost…

It is easy for a young boy to believe the tales woven by a loving grandfather–of monsters, a magical home, and children with amazing powers. But as that boy matures his grandfather’s tales develop the taint of untruth and what once seemed so very real is now nothing more than fairy stories. So what if his grandfather had pictures of these children, pictures that in childhood were quite convincing? To the boy’s eye these photos now appear faked, doctored, impossible. And so the grandfather stopped telling the stories and a special bond was lost. Then one night tragedy struck and the now adolescent boy saw something–something that should not be real, could not be real. That one night will send the boy on a journey in which he discovers that truth is sometimes stranger, and scarier, than fiction. read more...

Sep 17, 2011

THE HIDDEN CHILD by Camilla Läckberg

source: Nordic Bookblog 
review by Peter 

The Hidden Child (original title Tyskungen) is the fifth novel in Camilla Läckberg’s bestselling Swedish crime fiction series, and the sequel to The Gallows Bird.

Like many Swedish fathers, Detective Patrik Hedstrom has chosen to take a paternity leave to stay home for awhile with his one year old daughter Maja. His wife, Erica Falck, wants to spend this time writing a new crime book. However, they both have a hard time adjusting to the new situation. Erica has discovered her mother’s wartime diaries in her attic, along with a mysterious Nazi medal and a blood-stained baby shirt. Curious to learn more, she consults a local World War II historian about the medal and begins to read her mother’s diary.

Soon after, the ageing historian is found brutally murdered in his house, where he lives alone with his brother – a man engaged in the worldwide hunt for Nazi war criminals. Why has the historian been killed now, so long after the war? Did he represent a threat to the growing Neo-Nazi movement in Sweden? Did he have knowledge of long-hidden secrets from the war years in Sweden?  read more....

Sep 14, 2011

Is this the end for books?

source: The Guardian

Avid Reader
From books to bytes … Willis's bookshop in Edinburgh, 1955. Photograph: John Murray/Getty Images

In 1996, the US computer entrepreneur Brewster Kahle set up the Internet Archive, its mission being to provide "universal access to all knowledge". This admirable project strives to store copies of every single web page ever posted: a ghostly archive of the virtual. So what are we to make of the fact that, a decade and a half later, this digital pioneer is turning from bytes to books? In what seems, on the face of it, an act of splendid perversity, Kahle has set up a series of converted shipping containers in California where he hopes to create another archive – one that contains a copy of every book ever published.

His action touches on an anxiety. Are books, like defunct internet pages, heading towards the point where they will be archived as an academic curiosity? Some think so. You won't find any shortage of people willing to pronounce the printed book doomed, arguing that the convenience and searchability of digital text and the emergence of a Kindle-first generation will render them obsolete.

Certainly, electronic books have overcome their technological obstacles. Page turns are fast enough, battery life is long enough, and screens are legible in sunlight. Digital sales now account for 14% of Penguin's business. But there are reasons to reject the idea that the extinction of the printed book is just around the corner, just as there were reasons to reject the notion that e-books would never catch on because you couldn't read them in the bath and, y'know, books are such lovely objects.  read more...

Sep 6, 2011

THE CAT'S TABLE by Michael Ondaatje

source: The Telegraph 
By Beth Jones

Towards the end of Michael Ondaatje’s 1982 memoir, Running in the Family, is a chapter entitled “Harbour”. Describing the luxury liners, the blue tugs and the Maldive fishing vessels that skim out into the thick night air from Sri Lanka’s main port, the author recalls a “frail memory dragged up out of the past”: it is the early Fifties and he is going to the harbour to say goodbye to a family member at dusk.

It is the briefest of chapters, a mere 200-odd words, yet faint crepuscular memories are sketched with such deftness that it’s impossible not to imagine sailing out into the night upon dark infinite waters.

Turn the opening pages of Ondaatje’s sixth novel, The Cat’s Table, and this harbour landscape greets the mind’s eye once more. The narrator, Michael, is remembering himself as a boy of 11 waiting for the ocean liner Oronsay to sail from Colombo docks. This time he is a passenger himself, travelling alone on the 21-day voyage to England.

Each day of the crossing he dines at the cat’s table, Table 76, “the least privileged place” in the ship’s dining room, shared with a cast of misfits including two other boys, Ramadhin and Cassius. Exploring the ship, going where young boys shouldn’t, the three soon learn that what’s important “happens mostly in secret, in places where there is no power”. read more....