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Wishcraft

A friend gave me a book a while ago with the words: “You need this. Read it.” I thanked her, then put it on the window sill in my office (aka The Graveyard of Random Notes and Lists of Things to be Done), where it continued to live for the next eight or ten weeks. A couple of days ago I finally picked it up. And I must say – she was right. I needed that book and it’s coming at a perfect time as well. Thank you Ilona!

The book in question is “Wishcraft: How to get what you really want” by Barbara Sher. I was sceptical at first. I had a period in my life where I got self-help books by the dozen out of the library and usually didn’t manage to read past the first five pages before I gave up in disgust. They always seemed to be written for other people, not for me. People who cared about career, how to manage a family, how to earn a lot of money. None of which applies to my life. However, Barbara Sher had me by the first page.

Her tone is so warm, so human, so down-to-earth that I immediately felt welcomed. And when I read on and realized that this book is not someone lecturing me on what I ought to have and ought to do to be a valuable member of society, but rather a book written by someone who tells me that everybody has genius inside them and reservoirs of talent and passion, whatever that passion may be! – and then goes on giving me exercise upon exercise for finding out what my passion is and what’s keeping me for living it and how to go about dealing with the things that stand in the way…  then, I think, I have found a new friend. That’s what it feels like. Someone who encourages me, shows me my strengths, believes in me.

I think that I already had a pretty good understanding of who I am and what my strengths are and in which direction my passions lie. That’s not to say the exercises weren’t useful to me – far from it, I found it very useful to really sit down with pen and paper and make lists and think things through, but what I mean, is that there hadn’t been any huge surprises (so far).

However, this morning as I was sitting in the weak spring sunshine that came through the living room window, I did get a surprise. The exercise was to list twenty things that bring me joy. No explanations, no qualifications and the only rule was to get to twenty. So I did. I wrote down things like: reading, developing characters, cuddling with the dog, hiking, swimming, sitting in the sun, taking photos, being with friends, … When I’d got to twenty, I looked into the book again and the next part of the exercise was to make a table and to note for each item the answers to questions like: When did I do this last? Is it cheap or expensive? Do I do it alone or with others? Is it indoors or outdoors? Is it intellectual, physical, spiritual? … and to add as many questions as I wanted.

I started doing it, but noticed very soon that the answers were mostly the same. The majority of things I like are cheap to free, outdoors, physical and intellectual or physical and spiritual at the same time (like hiking… for me, that’s both physical and spiritual), it’s done alone, I usually do it spontaneously and it doesn’t require a lot of planning…. and all of them I haven’t done in a quite a while.

And that brought me up short. So apparently there are all these activities that I enjoy and that make me feel good, most of which don’t cost me anything and can be done by myself without a lot of planning – and I’m not doing them??? Wow. Wait a minute. In other words, I’m forgoing a number of sources for happiness and contentment for no discernible reason except that I didn’t think about it or am too lazy to get up from my desk. What an eye-opener.

Needless to say, I’m going to make a conscious effort to include them into my present life. No use putting things off. Tomorrow morning, instead of talking the dog on our usual round, I’ll pack him into the car and drive somewhere new (up the hill on the other side of the valley, I think) and go for a really long walk. I’ll take my camera and instead of thinking of it as a necessary task that has to be performed, I’ll think of it as something that I have chosen voluntarily.

There, Barbara Sher – lesson learned, and I’m only in chapter 3.

If you want, try this exercise. Let us know what you found out. Even better, get the book and do all the other exercises. It’s fun and – who knows? – you might learn something new about yourself. 

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a grand day out

As befitting a year devoted to courage, I continued the process of unfurling from my self-induced state of reclusion and had a grand day out on Saturday. My youngest sister had to go the airport in the morning to fly back to England and since for unfathomable reasons it’s cheaper and quicker to go by car than by public transport, that’s what we did. I dropped her off and then navigated the car downtown, the town in question being Stuttgart (the capital of Baden-Württemberg, which is a federal state of Germany, the one right down in the south-western corner).

We’d started out from home with blue skies and a rose-and-gold sunrise, but we’d encountered the first snow on the way down already. When I’d parked the car and walked the couple minutes to the centre, I sent my middle sister this picture and text:

"It's snowing here."

“It’s snowing here.”

I’d forgotten the acute sense of being connected and at the same time gloriously alone that you get when drifting through a big city, but I recaptured it as I tried my way through some new clothes (everything sorely needed, some of it coveted, practically nothing that fit), navigated some shoe stores (same story), ate my way through a variety of international take-away food, listened to street musicians, smiled at the pigeons huddling everywhere to be away from the snow, and looked out for the small human interactions, the gestures, the words, the movements that make a city come alive.

the new palace

the new palace – a cool place to hang out in summer, when people sit everywhere on the grass and the park benches, but very much less so in this weather

At one point it got really cold and I bought myself a cheap pair of finger-free gloves, choosing, from the rainbow of available colours, the electric-blue ones, which went together awesomely with my choice of nail polish for the weekend, hot pink. The rest of the day, I felt like shoving my hands in front of every stranger’s face and say: “Look! Pretty, isn’t it?” I didn’t. I didn’t take the gloves off again though, not even when I was sitting in a café. I enjoyed too much the feeling of being colourful again. And since you guys are my friends and won’t call the police on me for harassment, I’m gonna shove my hand in front of your faces. Look! Pretty, isn’t it?

gloves

exactly the right colour combination for a grey winter day

I’d toyed with the idea of spending part of the afternoon in one of my favourite museums (an ethnological museum that has the most interesting special exhibitions and is a mine of creative inspiration!), but they closed early, so I didn’t manage. Instead, I spent the time in the two major book shops, feeling calm and happy in a way it’s only possible to feel in the presence of large numbers of books. These are the ones I eventually chose to take home with me:

... aren't those covers pretty?!

… aren’t those covers pretty?!

They are all in the area of contemporary fantasy, which wasn’t planned as such. I pondered the poetry and the crime section just as long and the classics even longer. I was very tempted by a new edition of On the Road, with beautiful photography and set in a clear, stark font, but eventually decided to go for new stories. Now I wonder if there’s a deeper meaning behind my choices. Maybe I long to escape into a magical world as well. (Well, I know I do, I just didn’t know it was this easily translatable into book choices).

I’d also thought about going to the theatre or the opera in the evening, but there was nothing on that particularly interested me and after a whole day of walking and strolling and standing I was pretty tired anyway. Tired, but happy.

Happy because I bought four books whose covers I adore and that I can’t wait to read. Happy because I let myself drift, which is freedom and pleasure in itself. Happy because I smiled at people in cafés and behind counters and people making music and most of them smiled back at me. And happy because I haven’t lost the knack of noticing small, easily-overlooked details in the rushing crowds that make me laugh and think.

Life’s pretty good, all in all.

love hope dream imagine

the sign on the wall (of the old palace)

How was your weekend?

some good reads

Alright, so I found the perfect way to distract myself from my NaNo panic. After spending ALL day yesterday procrastinating by doing “research” into how to create perfect characters – everything from character charts, questionnaires, articles on character voice and how to write the opposite gender, … – I saw an update on “Princess” Monica’s blog where she raved about GoodReads and I caved in and signed up.

Now, I know you won’t believe this, but I really, honestly had not been a member there before. I hadn’t even checked it out. Yes, you’re allowed to laugh and no, I won’t hold it against you if you shake your head in disbelief and tut-tut disapprovingly. It’s justified.

I had been meaning to check out what it was all about forever, but it always landed at the bottom of the to-do list, plus, I don’t much like hypes and that’s what it felt like. But since I signed up last night, I have already acquired deep circles under my eyes, who in turn have gone red and swollen from staring at the screen so hard. My fingers on my mouse-hand are hurting from clicking on those teensy stars and I have landed myself with a new addiction. Hussa!

I’m also slowly starting to see why so many people are on there. True, so far all I’ve done is set up a basic profile and wreck my brain trying to think of all the books I’ve ever read and enthusiastically clicking ‘Want to Read’ on everything remotely interesting, but I can see that’s it’s a really good way of discovering new things to read. It’s also a really neat and specialized way of exchanging opinions about books and I think I’ll head over and check out the lists now, because I’ve been meaning to start reading some steampunk and I just don’t know where to start. I’m guessing the lists will be helpful there.

What’s your opinion on GoodReads? And what should I definitely try/look out for/experiment with? Any tips?

updating the blog, part 2 (or: blogs! more blogs! and still more blogs!)

I haven’t changed anything on my blogroll (see right side column, a bit further down) for months. Or maybe, for ever. I’m not sure. Anyway, it does not reflect the number of blogs I read. So, I’m updating it and so that you have some kind of gain from it (hopefully), I’m introducing them here in this post, on my day of updating my blog.

Part one of this day’s work dealt with two awards I received and features me, gushing about some of my favourite books, and some fabulous book-related blogs which you should totally go and check out. Part two is this one, where I introduce you to some cool blogs. Part three will ask you a question on which I need your advice.

And now, for the blogs! This is a list – completely non-hierarchical – of blogs that are awesome and well worth your time. Oh, and I should add that I’m only including blogs that are somewhat topical, all centering around writing and reading.

brainsnorts – a writer, sometimes funny, sometimes critical, always direct, always interesting

Coco J. Ginger says – the most amazing writing

I kissed my date goodnight – very interesting to read (even though I live a very, very different life)

wonderings & wanderings – one of my most-favourite blogs, beautiful writing, wonderful photos (and great title!)

For love or funny – a funny (obviously!) blog about being a romance writer, a dog owner and the mother of two teenage daughters

Almota Roses – I love, love, love the photos of this talented photographer!

coastal traveler – a travel and photography blog with wonderful pictures

photosteam – a beautiful photography blog with lots of photos from London (yeay!) and other places

retireediary – a travel blog with interesting, insightful posts and wonderful photos

Confessions of a Pioneer Woman – this is a classic, of course, but I just adore her blog

70 Degrees West – a travel blog with a twist, and stunning photos

Fevered mutterings – the blog of a professional traveler and writer and storyteller (check out his free e-book on storytelling, it’s funny and interesting and just cool)

Upgrading your life with less – interesting thoughts on de-cluttering your life

A literal girl – a wonderful blog with (often quite philosophical) writing on ideas like home, place and spaces

Alexandra Sokoloff – the professional blog of screenwriter and writer Alexandra Sokoloff, from whom I’ve learned so, so much and whose posts I LOVE reading and if you’re a writer, you should very definitely check this out

Always lost in stories – full of really interesting book reviews, most of them from the fantasy and YA fantasy area

Boomie Bol – a poet who is not afraid of baring her soul in her work

Emily’s Tea Leaves – a writer’s blog (who I nominated for two blog awards in part one of today’s posts)

Fabulous Realms – very informative posts on all things fantasy

Five Reflections – haikus – lots and lots of haikus, each a little polished gem

Gin & Lemonade – one of the earliest blogs I followed, almost always makes me laugh

Jane Austen’s World – a wonderful resource for all things Jane Austen and Regency – recommended for all Austen fans

Web Petals – the blog of writer Marjorie M. Liu

Nicolette Reed – a blog on writing, editing, publishing… everything about books

Novel ideas – another blog by a fellow writer, this one a courageous teenager

Obsessions of a Workaholic – on the struggles of being a writer and a grad student and working two jobs

Paperback Writer – a wonderful blog on writing from an experienced writer, one of my favourite blogs

Patricia Awapara – writer, painter, photographer… this woman is mulit-talented and also a on the road of self-publication and the one who kindly awarded me the One Lovely Blog award

Peggy Isaacs – funny and interesting blog with cool links and even cooler photos (and I nominated her for two blog awards here)

Pretentious Title – blog of writer Rachel Aaron, who has very interesting things to say on the writing life

Rachelle Gardner – this literary agent shares her insights into the literary world and has interesting guest bloggers

read wear write – a blog on reading, fashion and writing (duh!) by fellow NaNo camper Kate – she was also the wonderful person who awarded The Booker Award to me

Science and Story – always interesting blog on, as the name suggests, science and stories (aka books) and I nominated the woman behind it for two blog awards

sharing me myself and i – a poet with short, descriptive and to-the-point poems

storytelling nomad – a writing and travel blog with neat post ideas, always worth reading

succumbing – a poetry blog, which I nominated for two blog awards earlier today

The Author-in-training – I think the name says it all, doesn’t it? I also nominated this blog for the blog awards today

Maggie Stiefvater – blog of the author Maggie Stiefvater

Where landsquid fear to tread – rather quirky blog about landsquid, alpaca and ceiling turtles – oh, and about writing and editing

Word flows – chronicling the steps and successes of a very fast and efficient writer (yes, I’m envious!)

Writer in progress – another interesting blog of a writer and avid reader, featuring book reviews

Writing through the fog – wonderful blog with posts on home, spaces (digital and real) and writing, also beautiful photos

Zen Scribbles – another favourite blog on writing, chocolate and other things to do with being a writer – I also nominated Zen for the two blog awards, but I messed up a little because she’d already received both of them

That’s it for now, folks!

There’s more that I have bookmarked, but I’m not at a point where I can recommend any of those yet.

Oh, and part three is coming up in half an hour or so, and it will be short, I promise. But remember, I need you to answer a question in part three!

updating the blog, part 1 (or: the honour of receiving and the joy of passing on awards)

Alright. Today is the day. The day I have been putting off for weeks: the day when I work through a whole list of things to do on and for and about this blog.

But because there’s so much all at once, I’ll split it up into three parts. Part one is all about awards. Part two is introducing and reviewing and adding a number of wonderful blog links. Part three will ask a serious and important question to which I need your answers.

So, first things first:

the awards

Kate at read wear write kindly passed The Booker Award on to me – back in June, but I don’t believe there’s a best-by date on awards, is there? Kate has interesting book reviews on her blog, funny photos of Al, her traveling alpaca (yep, I knew that’d interest you – here you have the direct link!) and she’s a fellow writer and always has interesting links to share! Go and have a wander around her blog!

There are some rules to this one:

This award is for book bloggers only. To receive this award the blog must be at least 50% about books, which includes reading or writing. Along with receiving this award, you must also share your top five favorite books you have ever read. Listing more than five books is still within the rules. You must give this award to 5-10 other lucky book blogs you adore.

And then there’s the One Lovely Blog Award, to which I have been nominated twice by Patricia, from Patricia Awapara. Patricia is a writer who plunged fearlessly into the adventure of self-publication and writes in English, even though it’s not her first language (like me! do we get extra-glittery bonus points for that?) and she’s also a really great artist – go have a look at her paintings – I love the colours!

And also some rules for this one:

1. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to them in your post.
2. Share 7 things about yourself
3. Nominate 15 bloggers you admire
4. Leave a comment on each of these blogs letting them know they’ve been nominated.

the conditions (or, books I LOVE)

So how to do this… I’m going to combine, alright? Here are seven books I love and why I love them (which is also saying something about myself, so that’s within the rules, right? Not that I care too much… 🙂 )

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I love Austen’s characterizations. The people in this book are alive every time I open it again (and I’ve read it upwards of a hundred times). I feel the embarrassment that Mrs. Bennet inflicts on her daughters, I get outraged at Wickham’s duplicty, I get all tingly from the tension between Darcy and Elizabeth… *sigh* I guess it’s something that Helen Fielding let her character Bridget Jones say about those two: in the same way that men choose football teams as representatives and feel the team’s successes and failures as their own personal successes and failures, so she, Bridget Jones, chose Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet as her own representatives of love, celebrating and enjoying their relationship as her own success.

I’m not particularly romantic, but I love it for the same reason.

2. all the Tortall books by Tamora Pierce

I’m talking the Song of the Lionness quartet, the Immortals quartet, the Protector of the Small quartet, the two books around Aly Cooper, the trilogy of Beka Cooper… all these books, I love with a fierce and reckless abandon. I’ve read each one … oh, I don’t know how many times, but it’s most definitely upwards of twenty, for each. I want to be all of her girl heroes at once, I want to live in Tortall, I want to travel around its world and I want to meet all of the people who inhabit this world. I think every girl should read these books. And all boys, too. Actually, everyone should. For me, Tortall feels like another country somewhere in the world, it’s that real. Much more real than some countries I don’t know much about. I become completely submerged in this world and in the people every time. No matter how often I’ve read them, once I open any one of them, I can’t stop reading till the end.

I love these books for how real the people feel to me.

3. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

One of the books that made me cry. Also one of the books that opened my eyes to my own ignorance. Also the book that made me fall in love with Hemingway’s writing. There is so much in there, and it’s so human. The human condition, I guess. It tells of gut-wrenching fear, of superhuman bravery, of deep and passionate love, of selfless compassion and of the cruelest kind of greed for power and revenge, and all the time without once using any of these words. He’s so serious, yet so unobtrusive about it all, so deep and important without once being obvious, instructive or philosophical. It’s most of all a story, an exciting story of a the struggles of a group of guerrilla fighters to sabotage a bridge and also a love story. Yet at the same time, between the lines, it tells of everything – the best and the worst that humanity is capable of.

I love this book for how it gets under your skin and stays there and never lets you go again and makes you feel as if you’ve held the world in your hands while you read it and when it’s done, how you have become a better, more compassionate, more empathetic person. And all of it just through the style of writing.

4. Bluebells on the Hill by Barbara McMahon

This is a romance. I used to read lots of romance, I don’t so much any more. This book, however, I love very much, mostly for the vivid and wonderful description of the area it’s set in, namely California’s Sierra Nevada. I read the book before ever being there and loved it and once I’d been there (years ago now, but still fresh in my memory), I loved it even more, because every time I read it, I can just see the tall pines, smell the tree-sap-saturated heat, listen to the creaks and groans of the wood expanding in the heat… It’s a daydream come alive. I also like the heroine, because I can relate to her on quite some levels – her love of solitude, her independence, her adventurous side.

I love this book because it brings to life a beautiful landscape and because it provides me, again and again, with wonderful daydreaming material.

5. The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas

One of a series of novels chronicling the cases of Commissaire Adamsberg, a highly unusual policeman living and working in Paris (I don’t know the corresponding title in English – chief inspector?). I like all of the series, but this one was the first I read and I have a special soft spot for it because it has a very romantic vein running through it. I just like the way these books are written – they read much more like literary novels than like crime, even though they are plainly crime stories. This one is especially creepy, with blue chalk circles appearing all over Paris, painted around seemingly unimportant objects to be found on any city pavement, and Adamsberg is the only one who can feel the cruelty and the threat of violence running through them, of course he turns out to be right. He also makes friends with a formidable and beautiful lady who has an exotic job, a strange hobby and the weirdest tenants possible. It just feels so real, so gritty and yet so magical. It’s a book I can read again and again, without becoming tired of it.

I love this book for the dreamy, beautiful way it is written and for the loving and sharp attention to details that makes it feel so alive.

6. Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry

This is one of the most intense books I have ever read. Apart from the first chapter, which is a kind of introduction, the whole story takes place in one day and it takes the reader on a wild, painful, joyful, beautiful and horrible ride through the life of one man. Like Hemingway, Lowry is unobtrusive in descriptions of emotions or states of mind, but he manages, in a masterly and utterly breathtaking fashion, to put the interior into the exterior, meaning: everything going on inside is reflected in the landscape, both natural and man-made. Two volcanoes, of whom legend says they are lovers, tower over the whole area and the whole story, and plants can be as fleshy, glistening, threatening and dark as any man’s soul and the ravine running throughout the town takes on a significance and almost a life of its own. This books is disturbing and grandiose and  and sweeping and detailed and it contains the most intense, the most heart-breaking, the most touching love letter I have ever read.

I love this book for its combination of the most gentle and passionate love and the most depressing, disheartening, desperate failure and loss and the way both are written into the very fabric of the setting.

7. The Unseen by Katherine Webb, The End of Everything by Megan Abbott, Orange Mint and Honey by Carleen Brice

These three are books I’ve read in the past months and that have impressed me and touched me so much that despite having only read them once, I still think about them a lot and can still get caught up in their stories. The Unseen is a heartbreaking story of a girl’s desire to be free and independent, set at a time when women were anything but, and despite the desperate end being inevitable from the start, there are still surprises left. The End of Everything touched me quite a lot, and I wrote about it on here, how this book was eating me alive, and I haven’t changed my mind since. Orange Mint and Honey is a story that taught me quite a bit about music, even though I know quite a bit about music already anyway, and it also impressed me with the very unobvious way the story and the characters developed.

I loved all three of these books for themselves and for how they taught me about things I didn’t know before and for how they enriched my life.

And finally… the nominations!

Because a lot of the (personal) blogs I read are reading- or writing-related anyways, I’ll combine both awards, because these blogs are all about books and they are lovely. The nominees may choose to accept one or both or none. Fair deal?

So, in no particular order, I give you:   *cue drumroll*

1. Emily from Emily’s Tea Leaves – I’m not sure if she has received either of them yet, because she’s not telling! 🙂 Emily writes about writing, has a romantic novel in the works, and has interesting author interviews and book reviews on her blog.

2. tsena from succumbing – She writes poetry. Poetry that keeps me going back to her blog. Poetry full of wonderful and direct images. And she has a great feeling for language.

3. Peggy from Peggy Isaacs – She makes me laugh. I envy her talent to capture really great pictures of really cool stuff like dragonflies and lizards. She’s a writer.

4. Zen from Zen Scribbles – I’ve lost track of which awards she has or hasn’t got yet, so I’m just putting her on this list and crossing my fingers that the one or the other might be new to her. She is a published author of a book I’m just about to start reading, she loves chocolate, and she writes about writing, reading, books and anything to do with literature or chocolate in the most engaging way (I almost always feel compelled to comment – I challenge you to read her posts and not want to comment!).

5. Arlene from Science and Story –  Her blog is full of clever, insightful posts that I always enjoy reading. She’s a writer by profession and she has an extra side-blog, Wednesdy Book Review, just for book reviews – how devoted to reading is that?

6. Mieke at The Author-in-Training – I like her blog mainly for being inspirational and upbeat. The Sunday Inspiration photos are always worth a watch and a thought (or two or three) and the ‘note to self’ posts are special as well.

A big thank you to all these women – you make my days more colourful!

Reading is dangerous

Beware of reading novels.

You get eaten alive. Your thoughts are not your own. Your dreams are being taken over. Your waking moments are haunted by others’ thoughts. Your language changes. Your outlook changes. Your perception of the world changes. Your priorities most definitely change. (I’ll just finish this one chapter, and then, then I can finally sleep, like I wanted to at the beginning of each of the last five chapters.) You are out of your own control.

And not always, upon finishing a book, are you richer for the experience. Often, a bit of yourself stays in that story. It calls you back and makes you remember long-forgotten passages or characters or pictures from a book you read many years ago and have not thought of since and that you cannot recall and that passage will haunt you for days and weeks like a ghost at the back of your mind and not let go and everything you see will remind you of what you loved and then lost and then forgot and then remembered and lost again – that world that you lived in for a few days and cannot go back to, and you will feel poorer for it.

defining ‘a good story’

I just found another way to define what is a good story: a story that makes you cry even though you’ve read it 10+ times already.

Another one: a story that will not allow you to put down your book, no matter if you have all hell break out around you and should be doing a gazillion other things rather than read – even though you’ve already read the book more than once and know exactly what’s going to happen.

And another one: a story that makes the world around you seem less real than the one on the page (yes, even though you’ve read it more than once before).

All these things happen to me whenever I pick up any of Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books. Any. No matter how often I’ve read them (and I’ve read them VERY often).

I wish I could tell a story like that. I wish more other people could, as well.

Do you have any stories that fit into these definitions for you? Or do you have any definitions of your own?

the classic question: to read or not to read?

Yesterday’s awesomeness appreciation post on Dylan Thomas received a hitherto unknown-on-this-blog amount of interest. Which was really neat and very much appreciated!

It leads me to the idea that maybe a lot of the people who dropped by love literature. Or good writing. Which leads me to the thought that maybe they also love classics. Or maybe they don’t (but that’s okay). Which leads me to the thought of asking for advice: to read classics or not to read classics?

By classics I mean those kind of books that you are supposed to have read to have a good (classical) education. The kind of books that appear in literary canons. I’m ambivalent about reading them. On the one hand, I think they did not become known as classics for nothing. They are probably really good and have great things to say. On the other hand, there are so many books that are also really good but relate so much more to the world I live in. They just haven’t been endorsed by generations of readers yet.

And really, it’s not like I haven’t read anything. I’ve read quite a bit of the English classics, and I’ve read the usual German ones (Goethe, Schiller, and anything else they wanted us to read at school), and some of the international ones, like the Odyssey, and when I think about it, actually I have read quite a lot. But even as I type, I have the likes of Hebel, Storm, Hesse, Kleist, Stifter, … (= all of them are on the ‘should-be-read’ list of German literary canons) staring down at me from the shelf with reproachful bindings. Not to mention all the American and English ones I haven’t read. 

So, a question to you guys and girls reading this: should I read them? Or may I indulge my secret desire to re-read one of Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books without feeling guilty?

on being eaten alive

Have you ever been eaten alive? No? Well, I have. Often. Most recently, yesterday.

The culprit is called “The End of Everything” and was written by Megan Abbott.

It’s a slim book, so I started and finished it within 24 hours. As far as the actual reading went. As for the story… The story is still alive in me, gnawing at my heart, insinuating itself into my imagination and taking over my thoughts. Do you ever catch yourself out thinking thoughts that aren’t your own? Or having inner conversations with yourself, only, you’re not talking to yourself? I do. It’s creepy, but somehow I start thinking in the style, in the rythm, in the language of a story that enthralls me. I talk to myself in a way and in words that I normally never would, but that are intrinsic to that story.

That’s what I call being eaten alive. And “The End of Everything” has done that to me.

It’s a beautifully written story of the friendship of two thirteen year old girls who grew up together and shared everything – until one of them disappears and the other one is left to discover that however close they might have been, there were things that her friend did not share with her. Her whole world is changed and nothing is quite like it was before. It’s a crime story, a story of friendship, a story of girls, a story of awakening sexuality, a story of loss and jealousy and love and despair, told through the eyes of a young girl in simple and beautiful language. It’s magnificent.

And I can’t shake off its spell. I had trouble sleeping because I kept re-running scenes in my head (and I never have problems with falling asleep!). I also feel emotionally drained and exhausted, as if I truly went through all the events of this story. You know what? Delete that “as if” – I did go through all these events.

What do we learn from that (again)? Being eaten alive by a story will make you go through experiences that might never otherwise come in your way. You will learn from it. And if you’re lucky, you’ll get your thoughts back to yourself after some days.

Now go off to your nearest library and find that book. And by the way, have you ever been eaten alive?

 

 

24h of reading

Pheeeww…. I have just this minute emerged from a 24-hour-reading-sprint. The first time in years that I took up a book, started reading and was finished reading 24 hours later, with six hours of sleep squeezed in between 6am and noon. My mind and imagination are still caught up in the story and somehow I don’t want to wake up, just float in that world and feel a part of it.

The book that has kept me enthralled so much is one I picked up almost randomly in an Oxfam shop and it’s called ‘Rivers of London’, written by Ben Aaronovitch. I’d never heard of either him or the book before, but apparently it was a Sunday Times Bestseller, so I guess it got the following and praise it deserves.

(I took a short break just there in writing this post to check out the author/book website, The Folly. Come on, click on the link, it’s fun!)

I still can’t shake off the imaginary world created in the book – not that I want to. This is what a good story is supposed to do: suck you in, make the world it conjures up believable and real and make it linger in the heads of the people. And leave them wanting more (to quote a line of the main character). And I do want more. There’s a second story revolving around the character cast and tomorrow I’m so going to go to the nearest library (which is only a leisurely ten minute stroll away from my front door, lucky me) to see if they have it. I hope they do.

I won’t write what it’s all about, you can check that our yourselves, e.g. at the relevant amazon site, or the book website linked to above, or just trust me and go and get it, because it’ll have you reading through the night!

But since I’m a nice person, I’ll give you the book blurb anyway… just to save you the trouble of clicking on the links.

My name is Peter Grant and until January I was just probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service (as the Filth to everybody else). My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit – we do paperwork so real coppers don’t have to – and finding a way to climb into the panties of the outrageously perky WPC Leslie May.

Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from someone who was dead but disturbingly voluable, and that brought me to the attention of Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England. Now I’m a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated: nests of vampires in Purley, negotiating a truce between the warring god and goddess of the Thames, and digging up graves in Covent Garden . . . and there’s something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious vengeful spirit that takes ordinary Londoners and twists them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair. The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city, and it’s falling to me to bring order out of chaos – or die trying.

…….. well? Does that sound enticing or what? Read it. Really.