From Nutcracker (1816) to poo, because variety is the salt of life.
Poo comes out of (almost) every living creature. Some of them feed it to their ofFrom Nutcracker (1816) to poo, because variety is the salt of life.
Poo comes out of (almost) every living creature. Some of them feed it to their offspring, some use poo to pass messages on. Even princesses need to poo.
Davies's compact and clear overview about the importance of poo is both funny and informative. The topic can of course be disgusting (I wouldn't stick my finger in poo), but despite all the shame surrounding it, poo is an extremely important part of nature (doesn't help you forget the scene in Salò , though). Funny little books like these can also inspire kids to be part of natural sciences or conservation work.
So, what can you learn from this? Among other things, you can learn that poo comes in all sizes and shapes. It helps you get rid of the waste in your body, baby koalas get vital microbs from it by eating it, it can signal the location of prey, and it can also function as building material.
And why were dung beetles important for Australian farmers? You find out, when you read Poo!
(Part of a Finnish project that celebrates Finland's 100th year of ind(Arvio osallistuu Kirjojen Suomi -hankkeen Kirjablogit ja 101 kirjaa -osuuteen.)
(Part of a Finnish project that celebrates Finland's 100th year of independence. 81 bloggers read altogether 101 books, and each book was selected on the basis of how it represents its publication year. I'm reading two, and although I didn't particularly like my first one, the second looks promising.)
Kun aika loppuu on monella tapaa ajaton. Vanhemmuuteen liittyvät tunteet, kuten syyllisyys ja voimattomuus, ovat sekä menneisyyttä, nykyisyyttä että tulevaisuutta. Riitänkö minä? Teenkö tarpeeksi? Arjen pienet onnen hetket voidaan muistaa vasta jälkikäteen. On laskujen maksua, harrastuksiin kiitämistä, töitä ja mitä vielä. Koko ajan rakastetaan, mutta sitä ei välttämättä sanota ääneen. Rakkautta on esimerkiksi sisarusten iltasatuhetki peiton alla vanhempien riidellessä toisessa huoneessa.
Hirvosen romaanistakin huokuu rakkaus, mutta vahvimpana epätoivo sekä epäusko. Lauran ja tämän tyttären näkökulmien vuorottelu tuo romaaniin kerroksellisuutta, ja näin muodostuva kuva muistoista on täynnä ristiriitaisuuksia ja säröjä. Muistot koostuvat pitkälti tunteista, ja faktat voivat sekoittua kuviteltuun. Tai ehkä toiveisiin.
Oma lapsi muistetaan ehkä sellaisena kuin tämän haluaisi olevan, tai millainen tämä on joskus ollut. Ehkä kuviteltua lasta ei olekaan ollut, vaan sisäinen maailma on jotain ihan muuta. Tässä onkin mielestäni yksi romaanin kiehtovimmista ajatuksista: missä määrin toisen ihmisen voi tuntea? Oli kyse sitten omasta lapsesta tai ei, kenenkään pään sisään ei voi täysin päästä. Hyvin usein myös kysytään, että miten kukaan voi antaa lapselleen anteeksi tämän tekemät rikokset. Ehkä tässä taas päästään takaisin alkuun, eli alkukantaiseen vanhemman ja lapsen suhteeseen.
Tarinan kehämäinen ja sirpaleinen rakenne on melkeinpä päällekäyvää. Hirvonen kirjoittaa elegantisti ja koskettavasti, mutta aiheiden runsaus ja tarinan rönsyily ja poukkoilu sinne tänne aiheuttaa väkisin sen, että kaikkeen ei päästä niin syvälle kuin toivoisi. Olisin kaivannut lisää iskevyyttä ja lihaa luiden päälle. Esimerkiksi ilmastonmuutosta käsitellään lähinnä sivujuonteena. Se on läsnä henkilöiden elämässä ja käynnistää tapahtumasarjan, mutta muiden teemojen rinnalla se tuntuu ohuelta. Romaanin keskiössä oleva Aslak antaa myös vaikutelman ohuesta monen asian summasta, eikä stereotyyppinen käsittelytapa paranna asiaa.
Ajattelemaan haastaminen taitaa tässä kuitenkin olla se juttu, mihin lukijat ovat tarttuneet. Vaikka itseäni jäi häiritsemään pinnallisuus ja teemojen polveilu, niin tämä on kuitenkin selvästi ansainnut paikkansa 101 kirjaa -listalla. Se on parhaimmillaan juuri perhesuhteiden ja muistojen kuvauksessa, eikä se taida menettää otettaan myöskään tulevaisuuden lukijoista.
Kun aika loppuu jättää jälkeensä myös erään hyvin olennaisen kaiun, joka voi ehkä olla peräti se kaikkein tärkein anti: toivon kipinä on aina säilytettävä, vaikka se olisi kuinka vaikeaa....more
Let's return to Christmas time for a moment with the last book I read in 2016 (while my dad was suffering from influenza, and I myself had a cold andLet's return to Christmas time for a moment with the last book I read in 2016 (while my dad was suffering from influenza, and I myself had a cold and was in bed throughout Christmas with chocolate pralines, so perfect time for something light), and the last book from that year I'm going to review. The story of the Nutcracker is best known as the Tchaikovsky ballet, which in turn is based on Alexandre Dumas père's adaptation of Hoffmann's story. The ballet's gorgeous music and the beautiful sets and costumes bring just the right kind of magic to Christmas, which I think is what many traditionally-inclined Christmas lovers need at that time of the year.
Hoffmann's story is magical as well. Even though the ballet is great in many ways and the Christmas magic is unrivalled, it kind of grows old really quickly if you watch a lot of similar productions. Sometimes it seems a bit stretched as well, and compared with the original story, almost too straightforward.
I read the newest English translation by Ralph Manheim, and I have no complaints there (I occasionally like to read aloud whenever I'm reading nonfiction or a children's book in English, so I often gravitate towards the English translation/edition even when there's a Finnish one available). The illustrations are by Maurice Sendak (who also created the sets and costumes for the 1983 Seattle production). At first glance Sendak's pictures are pretty and just the right kind of traditional I usually like, but they started to seem a bit flat at one point. I love Tove Jansson's black and white Moomin illustrations and Rudolf Koivu's atmospheric works, but at least in Nutcracker Sendak's illustrations seem a bit lifeless. Maybe I'm thinking this too much, but they're just not something I'd expect to see in a German children's classic.
You see, Hoffmann's Nutcracker also has darker tones. It's not a colorful marshmallowy story, but occasionally it crunches like brittle between your teeth. The joy of getting presents each more gorgeous than the other turns into a bloody battle between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King. Marie's dreamlike adventures draw you into a fairy tale land that isn't simplistically innocent, but has also cracks and faults. It's a world where mice threaten to bite a baby in half and a creepy dude with a sweet tooth comes to chew your marzipan house to pieces.
So, when next Christmas the roofs are (hopefully) covered in snow and silence descends, make a cup of hot cocoa and sink into the depths of your arm chair. The Nutcracker is waiting on the pages for the next Marie.
"The children must have been especially well behaved that year, for they had never before received so many splendid presents. The big Christmas tree in the middle of the room was decorated with any number of gold and silver apples, and sugared almonds, bright-colored candles, and goodies of all kinds shaped like buds and blossoms hung from every branch. But the most startling thing about this wonderful tree was that hundred of tapers glittered like stars in its dark branches, and the tree itself, shining with an inner light, invited the children to pick its blossoms and fruits."
(An entertaining and vivid story of Helsinki, the Finnish capital city, in the 1920s. Lots of familiar things, like "drunk trains" aka last trains of(An entertaining and vivid story of Helsinki, the Finnish capital city, in the 1920s. Lots of familiar things, like "drunk trains" aka last trains of the night, sausage carts for late night partiers [today it's mostly burgers, though... and now I'm hungry], Tallinn tourism etc. Basically lots of alcohol despite the Prohibition and great pictures.)
Ah, 20-luku. Yksi kiehtovimmista ja erottuvimmista historian aikakausista. Tutustuin vuosikymmeneen ensimmäistä kertaa F. Scott Fitzgeraldin kautta, mutta en muista mikä sai todellisen rakkauden syttymään. Rakastin kuitenkin sitä kuumeista intohimoa, jolla juhliin ja elämään yleensäkin suhtauduttiin. Maailmansodan kauhut haluttiin unohtaa ja nauttia siitä, että oltiin elossa. Pörssiromahdus olikin sitten ensimmäisten joukossa myrskyn enne, ja muutaman vuoden päästä syttyi toinen maailmansota.
Vaikka 20-luvusta olenkin kiinnostunut, tiedän kuitenkin vielä tällä hetkellä enemmän vuosikymmenen elokuvista, joten en osaa valitettavasti kommentoida laajemmin sitä, miten Suomen 20-luku eroaa esimerkiksi Yhdysvalloista. Pinnallisesti samankaltaisuutta löytyy, mutta yksityiskohdissa voi olla eroja, jos alkaa kunnolla vertailla. Suruton kaupunki on joka tapauksessa suoranainen unelma jokaiselle 20-luvusta kiinnostuneelle. Kannessa on asiaankuuluvasti ihanaa art deco -tunnelmaa (vaikka etukannen hahmot ovatkin omaan makuuni hieman liian sarjakuvamaisia), ja Seppälän kirjoitustyyli on mukaansatempaavaa ja eläväistä. Kokonaisuus on populaariksikin tietokirjaksi yllättävän koukuttava.
Kirja on jaettu temaattisesti, eli luvut käsittelevät muun muassa musiikkia, urheilua, arkkitehtuuria ja terveyttä. Tällöin on ihan selvää, että kaikki aihepiirit eivät välttämättä kiinnosta kaikkia, mutta hyvää tekstiä lukee silti mielellään. Punaisena lankana kulkeva kieltolaki ja sen seuraukset oli itselleni yksi kiinnostavimmista aiheista.
Mehän tiedämme, ettei totaalikielto ollut hyvä ratkaisu. Sekä Suomessa että Yhdysvalloissa (ja varmasti muissakin kieltolakimaissa) kuoli ihmisiä huonolaatuisen tai "jatketun" viinan seurauksena. Alkoholiveron poistumisen myötä menetettiin myös merkittävä tulonlähde, sillä saatiinhan verotuloilla rakennettua Suomeen esimerkiksi kokonainen rautatieverkosto (teemaa on käsitelty esimerkiksi Juhani Ahon Rautatiessä ). Osa ravintoloista pystyi trokarien ansiosta pysymään toiminnassa, ja joskus poliisitkin olivat vastahakoisia jakelemaan rangaistuksia. Jos ratsia lähestyi, viinat laitettiin piiloon ja sen jälkeen meno jatkui kuten aiemmin.
Runsas määrä lainauksia sekä aikalaisilta että aikalaisten kirjoittamista romaaneista (monta menikin lukulistalle) elävöittävät tekstiä vielä lisää. Hauskoja kohtia on monia. Esimerkiksi eräässä kappaleessa kerrotaan, miten ennen poliisiautoja juopuneet joko talutettiin kamarille tai kuljetettiin avolavalla, ja jossain vaiheessa lauantaiyötä loppuikin sitten tila kesken: "Konstaapeli Otto Kosonen kertoi, miten Kaisaniemen lammikosta ongittu "Varapormestarin" nimellä tunnettu juoppolalli nostettiin kerran tilan puutteen vuoksi hellalle kuivumaan: "Ei se hella nyt niin kuuma ollut, että hän olisi palanut, mutta kovasti se höyrysi".".
Historia on monesti tuomittu kuivaksi ja pölyiseksi, mutta Surutonta kaupunkia lukiessa kyseistä mielikuvaa voi vain ihmetellä. Vaikka lait, olosuhteet ja muoti sun muut muuttuvat, on ihmisen perusluonne kuitenkin pohjimmiltaan hyvin samanlainen aikakaudesta toiseen. 1920-luvulla oltiin jo selvästi modernilla aikakaudella monessa asiassa, ja Seppälä tuo esiin monenlaisia nykypäivästäkin tuttuja piirteitä.
On "juoppojunia" eli illan viimeisiä junia, jotka ovat varmasti monelle myöhään liikkeellä olevalle joko enemmän tai vähemmän mieluisia kokemuksia (Lontoon yöbussitkin ovat ihan omanlaisensa maailma). On juhlijoita, joilla on sieraimet valkoisena kokaiinista. On myös makkarakärryjä, jotka ovat suosittuja ravintoloista myöhään palaavien keskuudessa (eräs yleisönosastolle kirjoittanut henkilö valittelee makkarakärryjen puuttumista katukuvasta, ja sieltähän olisi poliisinkin helppo noukkia ihmisiä talteen, eikä tarvitsisi kenenkään hoippua kotiin pimeitä katuja pitkin). Yhdysvaltojen tähtikultti ulottui myös Suomeen, sillä elokuvatähdet olivat esikuvia muodissa, tyylissä ja kauneudessa. Niin, ja nykypäivänäkin tuttu ilmiö oli jo tuolloin suosittua: koska Virossa ei ollut kieltolakia, Tallinnaan ja sen kapakoihin tehtiin säännöllisiä retkiä (1929-31 välisenä aikana turisteja oli jopa 40 000).
Hyvä populaaritietokirja tarvitsee myös kuvia: taiteilijapariskunnan kotiviinipuuhasteluja, uimarannan ihmisjoukkoja nauttimassa kesäpäivästä, Helsingin ensimmäinen bensa-asema, Pörssiravintolan vappujuhlintaa sekä taskumattien avointa torikauppaa. Kaiken kaikkiaan siis erittäin kiehtova kirja, joka sai ainakin jossain määrin innostumaan Suomen historiasta, ja joka tulee varmasti olemaan yksi niistä suomalaisista kirjoista, joita juhlavuoden lopussa suosittelen....more
It's time. A while ago I decided to slowly reacquaint myself with Fitzgerald, and I feel it's now the perfect time, because my taste in prose has someIt's time. A while ago I decided to slowly reacquaint myself with Fitzgerald, and I feel it's now the perfect time, because my taste in prose has somewhat evolved since my experience with The Great Gatsby (1925), so I want to see whether there's something I've missed or if there's a quality to it I can appreciate more now that I'm older. First, though, I was intrigued by Fitzgerald's first short story collection.
Published the same year as his debut novel, This Side of Paradise (1920), Flappers and Philosophers is mostly a subtle and sensitive look into the 1920s with echoes of Fitzgerald's private life here and there. There's the mismatched pair of Head and Shoulders, where at its melancholic conclusion comes a realization that romance comes with a price. There's Bernice Bobs Her Hair, where bobbing your hair (a recognizable feature of flappers) becomes a symbol for courage and a way to attract boys, but which in the end is only revered as an image (a wet dream of the conservatives), not a concrete act.
However, only two of the stories stood out to me and to which the rest don't measure up (especially the four I haven't mentioned). The Offshore Pirate, the opening story, was a big surprise for me, because it's essentially a love story. It's not your typical cotton candy fare, though. It's as zesty as the main character, Ardita, in all her spoiled flapper glory, and as glimmering as a turquoise sea during a summer day. It's a glass of bubbly under a starry sky and the sound of waves hitting against the sides of a boat. The Ice Palace, on the other hand, is mostly about the difference between the South and the North. Sally's growing disillusionment and the abstract need for something big culminates in an ice palace, where loneliness turns into a hazy and dreamlike wave of crystal clear ice, and Fitzgerald's prose tinkles like ice cubes in a glass.
For me, Flappers and Philosophers wasn't a complete success, but the few diamonds made me confident to continue with more Fitzgerald. More zestiness and tinkling, please!
"And courage to me meant ploughing through that dull gray mist that comes down on life - not only overriding people and circumstances but overriding the bleakness of living. A sort of insistence on the value of life and the worth of transient things."
"We're going through the black air with our arms wide and our feet straight out behind like a dolphin's tail, and we're going to think we'll never hit the silver down there till suddenly it'll be all warm round us and full of little kissing, caressing waves."
The song Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? was featured in the Disney short film Three Little Pigs (1933), where two of the pigs are convinced they'The song Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? was featured in the Disney short film Three Little Pigs (1933), where two of the pigs are convinced they're safe from the wolf in their straw and twig houses.
In Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, George and Martha return home from a party with a younger couple, Nick and Honey, and end up downing a drink or two or ten during the night. Nick and Honey can't seem to drag themselves away from the revelling that seems more like a surreal nightmare of funhouse distortion mirrors. The guests are dragged into the endless pit of hell that is the marriage of George and Martha, who poke each other in soft spots, rave and scream, and act like 5-year-olds or like they're possessed with demons.
The night is a mud-slinging disaster you can't look away from. Filled with pitch black humor, Albee's play ploughs all the stuffy 1950s social conventions and delusions about the American nuclear family dream, and plays with its characters by shaking them to the core and spitting them out. Long before the shock revelation at the end, the mood becomes increasingly oppressive, and the ominous hints thrown here and there confirm that George and Martha aren't just a middle-aged couple who want to drive each other insane for the heck of it.
With all their spiteful screeching, they turn into a big gust of wind that blows the straw and twig house down. When George gives the ruins the final tap, the rest of the structure falls, and Martha is forced to face the reality that follows her breaking the rule of their game, and they both need to figure out how to survive in the open air. The raving has been reduced to emptiness, and the guilt and disappointment have turned into exhaustion. The future remains uncertain, but it's entirely possible that George and Martha can't handle a brick house, because that would remind them of their misery and hatred. Martha certainly isn't ready to live without illusion, and the couple's weaknesses might just lead them to harboring their wolf again.
Finally, I feel like I need to address the 1966 movie. I saw it a couple of years ago, and... Well, could there be any more perfect George and Martha than Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor? She claws her way through the movie and he's seething with disappointment, and together they form one big firecracker that might at any moment explode on your face, but you still can't turn away.
MARTHA: I can't even see you... I haven't been able to see you for years... GEORGE: ... if you pass out, or throw up, or something... MARTHA: ... I mean, you're a blank,a cipher... GEORGE: ... and try to keep your clothes on, too. There aren't many more sickening sights than you with a couple of drinks in you and your skirt up over your head, you know...
Before my last year's trip to London, I somehow failed to check the theater schedule, and on a bus tour I had an incredible sinking feeling when I spoBefore my last year's trip to London, I somehow failed to check the theater schedule, and on a bus tour I had an incredible sinking feeling when I spotted the theater with The Elephant Man sign. That feeling worsened when after the tour I checked the show dates at a ticket booth and noticed the play had closed just on the previous day. The most interesting story in the whole world, one that I've been obsessed about for years, and just a few months before I was disappointed I couldn't see Pomerance's play on Broadway, where it got rave reviews. As an effort to console myself and because the next best thing is to read the play, I loaned it from archive.org.
"[T]he most disgusting specimen of humanity". "[A] perverted object". These are the words Frederick Treves used to describe Joseph Merrick (sometimes mistakenly named as John), one of the most famous figures of the Victorian era, in The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences (1923). Showing symptoms at a young age, Merrick ended up severely deformed, and had to sleep sitting up to make sure he wouldn't die because of the weight of his head. His deformities also prevented him from working in regular jobs, and after a few years in the workhouse he decided to try his luck in a travelling sideshow. It was when he ended up in London on display at a Whitechapel shop that he first met Frederick Treves. After an unsuccessful stint in Brussels, Merrick returned to London and was eventually allowed to stay at the London Hospital for the remainder of his life.
Fiction about real people is in many ways problematic. As in David Lynch's The Elephant Man (1980) (whose production company ended up being sued because of the similar plot to Pomerance's play), Pomerance's The Elephant Man shows Merrick as the victim of patronizing Treves, and as the center of attention of his high society acquaintances who lavish him with gifts, but don't seem to be interested in him as a person. They all see something of themselves in Merrick, making him a blank canvas where others can project their fears and desires.
It's troubling, because victimizing Merrick more than is necessary turns him into a mere object of pity. It might make it easier to explore the themes associated with his life story, but it's a questionable strategy. In Pomerance's retelling, Merrick is physically abused in Brussels, although despite his reluctance of speaking about his years in the freak show, there's no reason to presume there was any misconduct. According to the newest research, Treves embellished some aspects in his memoir (he didn't realize the freak show was Merrick's way of earning a living), but unless evidence to the contrary is found, I'd rather see Merrick being remembered as a sensitive theatre-loving young man, who spent time reading books and constructing models of buildings. He did have difficulties, but he tried his best to survive.
If one tries to forget the discrepancies and unfortunate interpretations of Merrick's character, Pomerance's play is absolutely an interesting piece of fringe theatre. With only 21 short scenes (including a striking dream sequence), it offers a different perspective to Merrick's story. He was under good care until his untimely death at the age of 27, but Pomerance challenges to think about the notion of being on display. How many donators and high society members actually cared about Merrick as a human being instead of as a charity case? Was Treves a real friend, or just someone who considered him as an interesting medical anomaly, and who tried to change him into something more normal?
TREVES: Have we nothing to say, John? MERRICK: If all that'd stared at me'd been sacked - there'd be whole towns out of work. TREVES: I meant, "Thank you, sir." MERRICK: "Thank you, sir." TREVES: We always do say please and thank you, don't we? MERRICK: Yes, sir. Thank you. TREVES: If we want to properly be like others.
Hanna Frankenstein, disappointed in her nephew's antics, decides to restore the Frankenstein name by sprucing up the castle. The task gets easier whenHanna Frankenstein, disappointed in her nephew's antics, decides to restore the Frankenstein name by sprucing up the castle. The task gets easier when she finds something from the cellar, but the villagers become increasingly alarmed when they start seeing signs of activity in the crumbled castle. Can Aunt Frankenstein really make up for her nephew's past mistakes?
Monster mashes can sometimes be problematic, because introducing several classic horror characters in one story can seem overwhelming. Pettersson keeps it fairly well together, though, and the characters don't come across as glued on despite not having that much use in the story overall. The lack of a major plot, where each of the character would have a more sensible part, is the one weakness of Frankenstein's Aunt.
However, Pettersson's vivid use of language and sense of humour are a delight, the latter which is most evident in the suggestive scene between Aunt Frankenstein and Dracula. Dracula would rather stand because of his circulation, and Aunt comments how she's the type of old lady who doesn't have much money in the bank. Dracula's bloody toy boy aspirations quickly come to an end, though.
Frankenstein's Aunt is the type of novel I imagine wouldn't be published today, and not just because of Aunt's addiction to cigars and sherry. It's easy to make monsters caricatures in novels aimed at a young audience. Pettersson avoids that trap and doesn't treat the monsters like clichés, but comes up with something at least a little bit new for each without them coming across like out of character. Like in the very best monster mashes, it's enjoyable to see the creatures interacting. The Fearless Vampire Killers ending is pretty great as well....more
Anton and his parents arrive on the farm, where Rüdiger has already settled in. He seems to have trouble feeding himself, which makes him appear slighAnton and his parents arrive on the farm, where Rüdiger has already settled in. He seems to have trouble feeding himself, which makes him appear slightly creepy and, well, vampire-like when he first sees Anton. I don't know if it's the farm, but Rüdiger seems even more childish, confrontational and a general dick than usual, in addition to flat out lying and causing him and Anton falling out.
Anton's father has mellowed since the first book, but his mother is increasingly annoyed about Anton's obsession about vampires. In this volume she's desperately trying to change Anton into her and forcing him to be something he's not, which was depressing and infuriating. Let the kid be passionate about what he wants, for Christ's sake! There are worse things than reading books, and it's certainly not something to get pissed off about.
Interestingly, she also seems to think that fresh country air smelling of cow shit is not bad, unlike the musty smell of the grave she's always complaining about in Anton's room. Having grown up in the countryside, I can say that cow shit DOES NOT smell better than soil. Or maybe she just didn't smell any cow shit, and the vampire smell is something entirely different than just soil.
The countryside setting didn't prove to be as interesting or exciting as it could have been, despite Rüdiger having trouble with the "monsters" of the farm and getting very close to being imprisoned/killed....more
In the middle of blood, guts, and strange encounters of the spirit world, I thought I'd take a break from my usual Halloween diet and read something lIn the middle of blood, guts, and strange encounters of the spirit world, I thought I'd take a break from my usual Halloween diet and read something light. The Little Vampire series has been my favorite since I was a kid, and I figured October would be the perfect month to continue with the series.
Rüdiger, a vampire who's scared of the dark and loves reading vampire stories, has settled back into the vault he was banished from in the previous installment, but now he's once again gotten himself into a bit of a jam. He needs to avoid a guest who's been invited for a visit in his family vault, but luckily reluctant Anton is going to the countryside for a holiday with his parents, and Anton invites Rüdiger to keep him company.
For me, the appeal of the series is seeing how differently vampires live compared to humans, and the little sparks of suspense when the friends face difficulties. Here, Anton gets to spend a so called vampire day by jumping on coffins and drinking spoilt cocoa. Before the holiday begins, though, he and Rüdiger take Rüdiger's coffin to the cottage by train, but they need to keep an eye on the old lady who shares their compartment, in case she finds her glasses and sees she's sitting opposite a real vampire. Again, Anton's parents are oblivious to what their son is up to when they're out of the house or when they're sleeping!
Aunt Dorothee, on the other hand, is again a constant danger to Anton. Even when she doesn't appear in the flesh, she's still usually mentioned several times in passing in the books and gets to be a kind of villain who might jump (or fly) out of the shadows at any given moment. This makes the nightly excursions slightly creepy, so despite there being cute or funny stuff happening, you won't forget these are vampires who feed on humans. Then again, it never gets too scary, so Aunt Dorothee feeding on drunk people and getting an alcohol poisoning is just a source of amusement....more
Oh wow. I didn't even realize how much I had missed Thompson. I read a few of his short stories a while ago (they were mostly not that great), but it'Oh wow. I didn't even realize how much I had missed Thompson. I read a few of his short stories a while ago (they were mostly not that great), but it's been ages since I've gobbled up one of his novels. He really does handle noir well, the punch-in-the-stomach kind that leaves you gasping for air, but also simultaneously tickles you a bit with splashes of great writing.
The Grifters isn't the blackest or the craziest Thompson, and probably not even his best (despite the amazing rating on Goodreads that kind of confuses me), but it's a solid story with great characters. Sure, Carol is a bit of an oddball, because it turns out that the revelation about her past has no purpose whatsoever, but in a way that's a very familiar Thompson strategy. He just throws some off-kilter things in the mix, and it still works somehow.
You don't necessarily get that many surprises in classic noir, and The Grifters isn't an exception in that regard. It doesn't offer major plot twists, but one of the reasons why I like the genre in the first place is that the novels are like mood pieces of a cynical world, and that it's achieved in simple and no-frill terms (Well, ok... Who am I kidding? It's also entirely possible that I'm easy when it comes to noir). I can always rely on some crazy character getting all wacky or neurotic. Throw in a murder or two, and we have an excellent weekend read there. Thompson, on the other hand, decides to go further by making the relationship between mother and son seem very wrong and vile.
Another thing about Thompson is how well he handles his endings. They leave you hanging and wondering what will happen in the next chapter, until you realize there's no next chapter in this life. The Grifters is a classic storyline of a man who starts balancing between different worlds. There's a lot of foreshadowing going on, but Thompson executes it delicately and ambiguously. Then you start to get this very bad feeling that something's about to go down, and it's too late for anyone to turn back. A glass is teetering on the edge of the table, and just when you think it's going to stay where it is and survive, someone comes and smashes it to smithereens....more
I'm not a Shakespeare expert by any means, nor is he my favorite author yet, but every once in a while I think: "Hey, I wonder how Shakespeare's doingI'm not a Shakespeare expert by any means, nor is he my favorite author yet, but every once in a while I think: "Hey, I wonder how Shakespeare's doing?" This time it was Hamlet's turn, because I had a ticket for a production that was organized on a stormy autumn night in my hometown's gorgeous medieval castle (pictures here & here). We exchanged our phones for skulls and wandered through the rooms in groups. Combining puppet theatre, singing, the art of clowning and pop culture references, the whole thing was amazing, but it was useful to read the play first in order to understand all the nuances.
In the end, I ended up liking the Grus Grus Theatre's production more than the original. When something's as legendary as Hamlet, there's always the fear that it doesn't live up to expectations. Hamlet definitely has interesting themes ranging from madness, guilt, and revenge, so all the pieces are there for a great tragedy, but as a whole it just didn't do anything for me. I did write down a couple of great quotes, and I'm happy that I finally got around reading something that is such a big part of culture, but that's all. Although I have to end my review on a high note: I had really missed Shakespeare's humor. Maybe I should try one of his comedies next?
Anyway, don't mind me. There's a reason why Shakespeare is popular, so you won't lose anything if you read his plays. Go Will!
This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.