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the first day of August

After scorching temperatures and then a spell of spring-like weather, the first of August was beautiful. Twenty-five degrees or a little above, sunny with a few fluffy clouds to make the sky look pretty, and after everyone being very industrious all the morning, the family sort of informally congregated on the terrace in the afternoon, lying about in bikinis or rolled up T-shirts and reading books. It was very relaxed.

In the evening, we had a little BBQ, just the family (all of us except my brother, which is still six people, five of which are women… poor Dad!) and some steaks and sausages and three bottles of dry red wine. We ended up exchanging family histories. ‘Do you remember when…?’ Most of the time, I don’t remember, which leads me to conclude that I have a very bad memory. Or maybe to put it more positively: a not very organized and highly individual memory, because I remember a lot of things, I just can’t place them in any context that makes sense.

There’s the memory of me and my brother and my middle sister sitting in a dark green tent with our Dad while outside there’s a huge summer thunderstorm and we’re not allowed to touch any of the canvas because the water’ll seep in otherwise. Which apparently happened on a totally different vacation than the one I thought it happened on. Then there’s the bike tour that I remember was during an incredible heat spell and I remember my middle sister refusing to go on because she was so tired and it was so hot, and I remember that we all tried to divert her mind because there was no choice – we had to make it to the next hostel on our bikes and that hostel was another twenty or thirty kilometers away. She can’t remember that, however.

Then there’s the things I’ve forgotten: how I diverted my two youngest sisters’ minds from the exertions of biking uphill in the pine-forest midday heat by telling them a story. How I told my youngest sister a story to make her go on after she’d inadvertently sat down in a bunch of nettles by telling her another story. She says that every time I didn’t know how to go on, I’d say that I’d continue at the next crossroad. And my middle sister reminded me that I told her a story once that she liked so much that we tried to record it on cassette, but after a lot of experimenting with water, we gave up because we couldn’t get the sound effects rights. (It involved a kind of monster that was made entirely of water, in case you’re wondering.)

So apart from spending a really nice evening talking and telling stories of our shared past, and sitting outside – next to the fire – until almost midnight, which is one of my favourite things about summer, and admiring a beautiful full moon, I also realized that maybe I started this whole thing with inventing people, inventing worlds, inventing stories that happened in these worlds, … so much earlier than I thought. That’s a nice thought. Although I didn’t write them down, it appears that my younger siblings have fond memories of me telling them stories and that these stories were good enough to keep them amused even when they were bored, exhausted or ill. I find that a very encouraging thought.

So have you had a good start into August? And when was the last time you sat around swapping memories with your family?


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?



a writer’s dream: Vigelandsparken, Oslo

On Monday I visited Vigelandsparken (Vigeland Sculpture Park) in Oslo. I was there before, years ago, with my family. I can vaguely remember it. I remember we had a lot of fun climbing around the statues and posing with them. I remember I liked it. What I didn’t remember was that it is absolutely awesome and what I couldn’t remember, because at the age of thirteen or so, I wouldn’t have noticed, was that it is a writer’s dream.

The whole park is the design of the sculptor Gustav Vigeland and all the 200+ statues in there are his work. They are all concerned with one topic, and one topic only: humanity. Every expression of every emotion from childhood to old age is represented – from birth to death to birth with everything in between. All the statues are naked, making them timeless and focusing the attention on the feelings and motions. Yes, motions, because hardly any of them is in repose – they are all caught in movement and expression. I dare anyone with the tiniest amount of fantasy to look at those statues and not immediately be caught up in their individual stories! Just watch the slideshow and see…

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