Thursday, December 22, 2011

Man Walks Into a Room - Six Word Sum Up

I have been planning to read "The History of Love" for more than a year, but it "strangely" happened that I decided to discover Nicole Krauss starting with her first book, "Man Walks Into a Room". I really enjoyed reading it and I can say I found it quite intriguing. You might too.



Losing your memory means finding freedom.

For a more in-depth review, click here.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The European Reading Challenge



I could not have resisted this challenge, simply because the majority of writers I use to read are European, and there are so many books by them or taking place in Europe that I have planned on reading in 2012. Rose City Reader in hosting this challenge in its first year and I am sure it's not going to be the last :)
As you have figured out, the simple thing that you have to do is read books by European authors or books set in European countries. Easy? To make it challenging, each book must be by a different author and set in a different country. There are five levels of participation and I decided to go with Five Star (Deluxe Entourage), but I will most definitely read more than five, thus qualifying for the Jet Setter Grand Prize!

And since we are speaking of challenges, do not forget to join our own (mine and Bellezza's) VENICE IN FEBRUARY :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Friend with a Story

Birgit from The Book Garden has written a book and she has kindly sent me a copy. What a great surprise! I found the story quite uplifting and optimistic. It felt like a rendez-vous between Madonna's children stories and Coelho's "Like a River Flowing", with advice not to give up and never stop following your dreams. Is there something more important in life? We all have our secret garden inside us and it's up to us to rediscover it and its mysteries. Isn't that a simple, yet utterly true message? To have more smiles on your face, click here.



P.S. Dandelions are not just dandelions! :)

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Bigger, the Better? We shall see!



I have decided to join one more challenge, the one hosted by Birgit from The Book Garden, since huge tomes seem to be a problem for me, always postponing them till next year, and next year... and next year. The books in question have to be of more than 700 pages (yup, that's seven hundred) and they should be read sometime next year, meaning 2012 :) There are several levels of the challenge that you can check here. . I decided on the first level, The Chamomile Lover, since it's always better to read more than you planned rather than read less, and the two chunksters are Pamuk's "The Museum of Innocence" and Murakami's "19Q4". So, are there any huge books haunting your shelves?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What Work of Literature Would You Recommend to Someone Who Doesn't like Literature?



This question is part of the Literary Blog Hop, and it is definitely not an easy one.

If someone doesn't enjoy reading literature, how could you fix this "issue"? A work of literature cannot truly and entirely be revealed unless one finds pleasure in solving its mysteries page by page.
And yet, if there were a book that could turn a non-lover into a passionate lover of literature, that book should be THE BOOK. Is there such a thing? Well, (un)fortunately, not really. Surely, we can recommend our favorite books and that might work, but the true spirit of literature lies in every single book worth reading.
How could anyone not recommend one of Shakespeare's plays (and how difficult it would be to just choose one) or a poem by Wordsworth? They are not among my favorite writers, but can we skip them? Wasn't their writing and our reading that brought us closer to what we now call our favorite writers? How can we say that we like Ionesco if we haven't read any other play? Could we recommend Jeanette Winterson and completely forget about Virginia Woolf? Is that even possible?
To sum up, any work conveying literary value is worth reading in order to savour literature, but one is never enough to fully discover what lies beneath this word: LITERATURE.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

One Day - 6 Word Sum Up

"One Day" has been the best book I have read this year. It is one of those books that stays with you forever, though incredibly sad at the end, but maybe that is one of the things that makes her unforgettable. I have also seen the movie and for a perfect book I could not have imagined a better way to personify the two main characters, Emma and Dexter.



True Love Stays with You Forever.

Movie trailer for book clubs here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wednesday Meme - What I Am Listening to (when I have the time) 4



The psychotherapist Susie Orbach speaks during the Free Thinking Festival, 2011, about a constant obsession: our body and the world we live in. Definitely note taking :)

Meme initiated by Bellezza.

Click here.

More about Susie Orbach's work and campaign here.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Venice in February Reading Challenge 2012



And the time has finally come to reveal the challenge I have been hinting at for a few months now: in February, together with Bellezza, I will be hosting a simple yet marvelous reading challenge: read one, two or how many books you would like and have the time for, that are related/based in Venice.

We have chosen Venice because it's a unique city, with a dreamlike atmosphere and yet, with secrets to discover. Whoever visited Venice once still wishes to go back and this challenge may be the next best thing :)

There are two buttons that you may choose from if you want to join us, a very long list of books to choose from - or come up with others - HERE and a BLOG where you could link your reviews and also enjoy "other things Venice".

So, are you up for the challenge of (re)discovering the mysteries of VENICE, A PURE CITY?

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Jane Austen in Me

I am Marianne Dashwood!


Take the Quiz here!



Marianne Dashwood is a fictional character in the Jane Austen novel "Sense and Sensibility". The 17-year-old second daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Dashwood, she embodies the ‘sensibility’ of the title, as opposed to her elder sister Elinor’s ‘sense.’

Here are a few of this character's words of wisdom:

"It is not time or opportunity that is to determine intimacy it is disposition alone. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others."

"I could not be happy with a man whose taste did not in every point coincide with my own. He must enter into all my feelings; the same books, the same music must charm us both. . . ."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wednesday Meme - What I Am Listening to (when I have the time) 3

An out of this world composition by the world's fastest pianist, Havasi Balasz. Go to Bellezza to see who else is taking part in this musical meme.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

New Authors Challenge 2012



It seems I quite enjoy challenges, especially when that means (re)discovering new authors, as it happened with The Japanese Literature Challenge. For next year, besides the challenge I will be hosting together with Bellezza, and which will be announced very soon, I will be taking part in the New Authors Challenge, hosted by Literary Escapism and Seduced by the Book that will take place from January to December 2012 and my goal is to discover 10 new authors. Let's see if that will happen!
Do you plan on discovering new authors next year?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

To analyze or not to analyze?

I decided to take part in the Literary Blog Hop, mainly because I find the questions to be answered every month quite clever and sometimes even challenging. This blog hop is hosted by The Blue Bookcase and this month's question is: to what extent do you analyze literature? Are you more analytical in your reading if you know you're going to review the book? Is analysis useful in helping you understand and appreciate literature, or does it detract from your readerly experience?



The days of thoroughly analyzing literature are long gone. Back in college, when I had to analyze everything I was reading I really enjoyed writing long papers on different literary works, especially when I would discover great books and fascinating writers that became my favorite ones(Winterson, McEwan, Tim Parks). Now, in my adult life, I am too pressed for time to think about certain literary aspects in depth, so I just read for pleasure or stop reading the book if it doesn't appeal to me. Lacking time to write "serious" reviews has made me go for a less demanding task, The Six Word Sum Up. Yet, the literary brain finds itself thinking while reading whether certain words are or might be the key ones in this sum up! :)
As for better understanding literature when analyzing it, I do agree that one could grasp a different or a deeper meaning when reading pen in hand and notebook aside, but sometimes the more you analyze, the more tired of that work you may become.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Aleph - 6 Word Sum Up

This book deserves more than six words about it, but lacking time to do that, I leave you with one of those quotes that you cannot forget: "I love you like a river flowing."



Past Lives/Loves always save you.

To read more, click here.
To read a very inspiring interview click here.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Picture = 1,000 words



More images from the "2011 United Nations European Ad Competition to Say No to Violence Against Women" here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wednesday Meme - What I Am Listening to (when I have the time) 2

I'm assuming this meme, started by Bellezza will happen every two weeks, simply because I don't seem to have enough time to listen to things/music worth mentioning every single week.(except Madonna, of course)
But today, probably for the 4th time, I am listening to Jeremy Irons' speech that happened on the 17th of October, during the World Food Day Ceremony in Rome, when he was nominated Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. More about his very important work to eradicate hunger here.

There is no excuse for us not to care!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

4 Is Not a Crowd

A few days ago I read an interesting post here and it made me seriously ask myself the same question: What writers should I invite to my (fancy) dinner?. The tricky thing is that they have to be from different centuries, so after I struggled with a list of 10 or so writers, I decided to have a "ladies' night" with three of the most inspiring women writers. EVER.

Jeanette Winterson (21st century, born in 1959)


~ first encounter with her work: 2001
~ adopted by Pentecostal parents, she used to hide in order to be able to read books.
~ she wrote her first and probably her most talked-about novel "Oranges are not the only fruit" at 23, which she published in 1985.
~ owns an eco-shop in London, called "Verdes".
~ has just started using twitter and is about to have her first autobiography published - "Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?".
~ her best book, in my opinion: "The Passion".
Everything she writes feels enchanting and yet, utterly true and about myself :)

Anais Nin (20th century, 1903 - 1977)


~ first encounter with her work: 2002
~ probably most famous for her tumultuous affair with Henry Miller.
~ of French-Cuban origin, she also used to live by herself, although she was married, on a boat on the Seine.
~ studied psychoanalysis and briefly practiced as a lay therapist in New York; she was a patient of Carl Jung for a time as well.
~ was an obscure literary figure until 1966, when her diary in ten volumes was published.
~ her best creation (IMHO): the love letters addressed to Miller in "A Literary Passion".
Her journal is incredibly sultry and passionate.

George Sand (19th century, 1804 - 1876)


~ first encounter with her work: 1997
~ her real name was Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, later Baroness Dudevant
~ her reputation turned scandalous when she started smoking cigars, wearing men's clothing in public and all this after she had left her husband.
~ visited Venice in 1834 with her lover Alfred de Musset and stayed at Hotel Danieli, then known as "Albergo Reale".
~ fought for women's role in political life and took part in the events of June 1848 in Paris.
~ my favorite work: "Histoire de ma vie".
As Musset, her lover, said, she was "the most womanly woman."

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Strangers - 6 Word Sum Up



Desperate Lonely Soul Saved by Ghosts
More about this great book here and here.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wednesday Meme - What I Am Listening to (when I have the time) 1

I have been aware of so many memes throughout the blogs I follow but this is the first time I have decided to take part in one, simply because it is easier to listen to yet another album/song/podcast/interview than to move on to the next book. Thanks to Bellezza, who initiated this great meme, here's what I am listening to this Wednesday (when I'm not listening to Absolute Radio, Candy Station, NRJ French, BBC or Venice Classic Radio ):



My affair with Tori Amos started back in '93 when tapes still existed and "Crucify" was the song that I kept rewinding. She still amazes me with her unique style and perfect voice.
Favorite track on the album: Nautical Twilight

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Peonies

"Out of the gravel there are peonies growing. They come up through the loose grey pebbles, their buds testing the air like snails' eyes, then swelling and opening, huge dark-red flowers all shining and glossy like satin. Then they burst and fall to the ground." (p.5)

"I watch the peonies out of the corners of my eyes. I know they shouldn't be here.It's April, and peonies don't bloom in April. There are three more now right in front of me, growing out of the path itself. Furtively I reach out my hand to touch one. It has a dry feel, and I realize it's made of cloth." (p.6)



"It was Agnes who helped me with the burial. We put flowers from Mrs. Alderman Parkinson's garden into the coffin, having asked permission; and it being June, there were long-stemmed roses and peonies; and we chose only the white ones. I scattered the petals of them over her as well, and I slipped in the needle-case I'd made for her, but out of sight, as it might look wrong otherwise, being red; and I cut a piece off the back of her hair to remember her by, and tied it together with a thread." (p.229)

"It was a lovely and windless evening, and the birds were twittering, and the trees in the orchard near the road were golden in the late sunlight, and the purple milkweed flowers that grew beside the drive smelled very sweetly; and also the last few peonies beside the verandah, and the climbing roses; and the coolness came down out of the air, while Jamie sat and played on his flute, so plaintively it did your heart good." (p.268)

"If you stare into the darkness with your eyes open you are sure to see something after a time. I hope it will not be flowers. But this is the time they like to grow, the red flowers, the shining red peonies which are like satin, which are like splashes of paint. The soil for them is emptiness, it is empty space and silence. I whisper, Talk to me; because I would rather have talking than the slow gardening that takes place in silence, with the red satin petals dripping down the wall.
I think I sleep." (p.344)

All quotes taken from Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood, book offered by Corri.

Monday, September 19, 2011

How do yo like your eggs?



Fried? Boiled? Poached? Scrambled?
If you run out of ideas, here are 100 ways to cook an egg.
And if you manage to put all your eggs in one basket without laying an egg or killing the goose that lays the golden egg, then you may consider that your chickens have come home to roost! :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pieces of Sky

I stumbled upon this song here, and the post that goes with it is simply amazing! Whoever is behind those lines is a true master of words and emotions. :)

Eskmo - Cloudlight (Official Video) from mc707 on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

All I know about Gertrude Stein

"Sometimes I have affairs. But though I enjoy the bed, I feel angry at the fraud; the closeness without the cost. I know what the cost is: the more I love you, the more I feel alone."

This is not Jeanette Winterson's first encounter with the British literary journal GRANTA - in fact, it is her fourth - nor with Gertrude Stein, whose work and daring attitude are analyzed in "Art Objects" and this short story is available entirely to be read on their site here as part of the 115th issue devoted to Feminism (which is not such a bad word, after all :) )



As with other short stories in which Winterson mingles her passions and interest with the almighty creativity (in "Goldrush Girl" she mixes parts of Puccini's opera "La Fanciulla del West - one of her favorite operas - with the story of the two lovers) here, in "All I know about Gertrude Stein" she sets her story in Paris - Jeanette has been musing for a long time whether to settle or not in the city of lights - and names her character Louise (that's a clue for the more avid Winterson readers), while she also juxtaposes anecdotes from the lives of Stein and her lover, Alice B. Toklas.
If you want to discover how women can love you will truly savour this short story and why not, become a Winterson fan, just like myself.

"But love has no limits. Love seems to be a continuous condition like the universe. But the universe is remote except for this planet we call home, and love means nothing unless it is real and in our hands."

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Schopenhauer Cure - 6 Word Sum Up



Compassionate Friends, Death Overcome by Philosophy

More about this fantastic book here.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

D. H. Lawrence Poetry

To Women, As Far As I'm Concerned

The feelings I don't have I don't have.
The feelings I don't have, I won't say I have.
The feelings you say you have, you don't have.
The feelings you would like us both to have, we
neither of us have.
The feelings people ought to have, they never have.
If people say they've got feelings, you may be pretty
sure they haven't got them
So if you want either of us to feel anything at all
you'd better abandon all idea of feelings altogether.



A White Blossom

A tiny moon as white and small as a single jasmine flower
Leans all alone above my window, on night's wintry bower,
Liquid as lime-tree blossom, soft as brilliant water or rain
She shines, the one white love of my youth, which all sin cannot stain.

Cherry Robbers

Under the long, dark boughs, like jewels red
In the hair of an Eastern girl
Shine strings of crimson cherries, as if had bled
Blood-drops beneath each curl.

Under the glistening cherries, with folded wings
Three dead birds lie:
Pale-breasted throstles and a blackbird, robberlings
Stained with red dye.

Under the haystack a girl stands laughing at me,
With cherries hung round her ears--
Offering me her scarlet fruit: I will see
If she has any tears.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lucky Girl in the Book Garden



When you enter giveaways, do you really expect to win? I didn't, but I won the 500 follower giveaway, graciously offered by Birgit from The Book Garden YAAY!
The next complicated step was to decide on the books to be ordered by Birgit, which was a tough task, since there are around 70 books on my wish list, but it just dawned on me that in February I am going to host my first Reading Challenge together with Bellezza (more details to be posted soon), so all the three books I chose are about or set in Venice (does that give you a clue about the Reading Challenge?:))
And remember, there's only one Venice and probably just one lucky little girl... ME :) Thank you, Birgit!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Happy Birthday, Your Madgesty!



Madonna - Like a Virgin (Addiction 2011 Mashup Mix)

Asculta mai multe audio pop

Monday, August 8, 2011

Aimez - vous Francoise Sagan?

"Love lasts about seven years. That's how long it takes for the cells of the body to totally replace themselves."



After a Murakami marathon, I decided to take a break and read something "light" but still enjoyable. Francoise Sagan seemed the perfect choice.
"Avec mon meilleur souvenir", written in 1984, is a book about what Sagan loved the most: gambling and how she won her only possession - a big house in Normandy; speeding up, jazz and her Favorite BIllie Holliday for whom she travelled all the way to New York; writers, especially Tennessee Williams whom she considers to be amongst the greatest writers; the theatre, which she started as a way to amuse her entourage but which ended up being a passion that she would never give up, just like gambling.



The book ends with a love letter to Jean - Paul Sartre in which she acknowledges him as the most important writer in French literature, the one that delivered what he had promised in his books: to be true to his words and beliefs. The sequel? A blind Sartre wishes to meet Sagan...

Everything that Sagan writes about is what moved her along the years. She reveals herself in a tender way, while sincerely narrating about the years long past and the fascinating people that she encountered. We discover between the lines a writer that fears loneliness, and who spends nights on end in the casinos of Saint-Tropez.
Still, Sagan returns to literature, fearing the fact that she might not write and reminding us of the four books that she considers to be her guiding light in a troubled universe. These books are Gide's "The Fruits of the Earth", Camus' "The Rebel", Rimbaud's "Illuminations" and Proust's "Albertine gone".

Here are a few of her words of wisdom:

“Jazz music is an intensified feeling of nonchalance.”

“I shall live badly if I do not write, and I shall write badly if I do not live.”

"I have loved to the point of madness; that which is called madness, that which to me, is the only sensible way to love."

Monday, August 1, 2011

More Banana(s)...

"Everything in life has some good in it.And when something awful happens, the goodness stands out even more – it’s sad, but that’s the truth."

Not long ago I posted a few impressions on N.P., by Banana Yoshimoto. It was my first read by the Japanese writer, but it seems, not my last. At the end of June I was the lucky winner of Bellezza's Giveaway and so, I dipped into my second book. Needless to say, whenever I read a second, third, etc. book by the same writer, I compare them. "The Lake" was a bit different from "N.P.", but still, dealing with the same recurrent themes of feeling alone in the world, the impossibility of communication, the drowning need to commit suicide because there's too much "otherness" and little "you" in the world.



"When things get really bad, you take comfort in the placeness of a place."

"The Lake" is about Chihiro, a graphic artist who finds herself falling in love with Nakajima, a student in biotechnology with whom she previously shared glimpses and smiles from their opposite windows. Her feelings oscillate between "Just being with Nakajima made me feel as if we were detached from history, and had no particular age" and the impulse to remain independent. However, Nakajima's attitude towards sex makes her wonder what had happened in his past that traumatized him so deeply.

"When someone tells you something big, it's like you're taking money from them, and there's no way it will ever go back to being the way it was. You have to take responsibility for listening."

Do we discover in the end the mystery surrounding him and the ghostly lake, that force that relentlessly calls for both characters? We definitely do. Do we see them having a cup of tea in a small cafe in Paris? We might...

"Here we were, two ridiculously fragile people, sliding along on a very thin layer of ice all the time, each of us ready to slip and take the other down at any moment, the most unsteady of couples – and yet I believed what I had said. It would be all right."

This is not an ordinary love story, but it's definitely a simple one. Not that simple means dull!

"Love isn't only a matter of fussing over each other, hugging, wanting to be together. Some things communicate, inevitably, precisely because you keep them in check."

Monday, July 25, 2011

Un peu de Paradis :)



Nouvelle Vague & Vanessa Paradis - ''Couleurs sur Paris'' (2010) - ''Week-end à Rome''

Asculta mai multe audio pop

Monday, July 18, 2011

Man and Wife



"The stars are like photographs. You can read into them what you will. You can believe that they measure all you have lost, or you can believe that they represent all you have loved, and continue to love."

"Life holds hostage all those we love."

"It was all or nothing with this woman. That's why I loved her - and I can say that now. I loved her. But she wasn't cut out for an affair. The right girl in so many ways, she was the wrong girl to play that role. She was a romantic. Say what you like about those starry - eyed souls, about the upheaval and destruction they always leave in their wake, but there is one thing about romantics that nobody can deny. They never settle for second best."

"Sometimes we have to stay away from the things we love, and learn to appreciate the things we need."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Oranges ARE the Only Fruit :)



To play with Jeanette Winterson's words, this month you can only have oranges... No, I am not imposing on you to only eat oranges, but to only read books that were longlisted, shortlisted or winners of the Orange Prize for Fiction. The lists of books are on the side bar, and you can find more information on the Orange Prize here.
The Orange Prize is all about women writers and the books that you can discover are fascinating: "Gut Symmetries" or "The Powerbook" (Jeanette Winterson), "Girl with a Pearl Earring" (Tracy Chevalier), "The Lovely Bones" (Alice Sebold), "The Time Traveler's Wife" (Audrey Niffenegger) and the list can go on.
I have read books nominated long before knowing about the prize, but a few weeks ago I discovered there's an Orange January/July challenge and I am taking part right at this very moment, reading "The Night Watch", by Sarah Waters.
Hopefully, the next one will be "The History of Love" :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Ice Man

"When I cry, the ice man kisses my cheek, and my tears turn to ice. He takes those frozen teardrops in his hand and puts them on his tongue. "See how I love you," he says. He is telling the truth."

Once you rediscover Murakami, there is no going back. :)

"The Ice Man" is a story that you can't forget easily. It's about love that persists below zero degrees. It starts in a ski resort, with HER being drawn towards HIM.
“…I couldn’t help myself. I had to talk to him. This was my last night in the hotel and if I let this chance pass I probably would never have another."



After dating every week in Tokyo, talking only about her, they finally fall in love and decide to get married.
“I fell deeply in love with him, and he came to love me, the present me, apart from any past or future. And I came to love the Ice Man for who he is now, apart from any past or future…the Ice Man was the first person I’d ever truly loved”
Because no one accepts the Ice Man, and by consequence the narrator, she does not have friends or family to talk to, so loneliness invades her.
The story ends “in the coldest, loneliest place in the world”, the South Pole, where she eventually discovers that her heart is frozen, and also that... but here's the whole story. Enjoy! :)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Sputnik Sweetheart

"I dream. Sometimes I think that's the only right thing to do."

My first encounter with Haruki Murakami happened years ago, when I was offered two of his books, "The Elephant Vanishes" and "A Wild Sheep Chase". I liked them, but I also found them a bit strange and I wasn't very eager to go back to other works. That was until I decided to read "Norwegian Wood" for The Japanese Literature Challenge (and discovered that there's a Murakami Challenge taking place as well)but things almost never turn out as planned, so I started reading "Sputnik Sweetheart" instead and I was MESMERIZED. Sure, different times, different self, but what an incredible writer I have rediscovered!!!!




"And it came to me then. That we were wonderful traveling companions but in the end no more than lonely lumps of metal in their own separate orbits. From far off they look like beautiful shooting stars, but in reality they're nothing more than prisons, where each of us is locked up alone, going nowhere. When the orbits of these two satellites of ours happened to cross paths, we could be together. Maybe even open our hearts to each other. But that was only for the briefest moment. In the next instant we'd be in absolute solitude. Until we burned up and became nothing."

Murakami's writing is quite different from that of a European writer and the way he takes you into the story and leaves you to wander between the real and the surreal is truly unique.
The story is about Sumire, a twenty two year old girl, with plans to become a (famous) writer and K., her best friend and madly in love with Sumire but whose love is never returned. Once Sumire meets Miu, a sophisticated businesswoman, the plot starts to develop and we find Sumire drawn towards Miu, while K. is the spectator of their (strange) relationship. The love traingle turns into a mystery when Sumire suddenly disappears on a Greek island and Miu calls K. to help find her. This is the moment when K. discovers things "out of this world" about Miu and a possible answer to Sumire's disappearance.

"So that's how we live our lives. No matter how deep and fatal the loss, no matter how important the thing that's stolen from us--that's snatched right out of our hands--even if we are left completely changed, with only the outer layer of skin from before, we continue to play out our lives this way, in silence. We draw ever nearer to the end of our allotted span of time, bidding it farewell as it trails off behind. Repeating, often adroitly, the endless deeds of the everyday. Leaving behind a feeling of immeasurable emptiness."

Murakami gave the story such a surprising ending when six months later Sumire calls just to say “Hey, I’m back. Come and get me.”, then the phone cuts off. Is it a hallucination or Sumire is really back, and back from where exactly?
I found the whole story intriguing and it left me thinking if such things are possible... What things? Well, you'll have to read the novel if you want to know more.:)

"The answer is dreams. Dreaming on and on. Entering the world of dreams and never coming out. Living in dreams for the rest of time."

Friday, June 24, 2011

Banana ... Yoshimoto

"I saw the sky and sea and sand and the flickering flames of the bonfire through my tears. All at once, it rushed into my head with tremendous speed, and made me feel dizzy. It was beautiful. Everything that happened was shockingly beautiful, enough to make you crazy." (N.P.)

I heard about Banana Yoshimoto a few years ago, when Humanitas published her novel "Kitchen", but I didn't manage to read it or other books by this author,whose real name is Yoshimoto Mahoko, until this week, when I came across N.P.



N.P. (North Point) is the name of an old song and the book of ninety seven stories that an obscure writer called Takase Sarao wrote before committing suicide, and the newly found ninety eighth story makes its translator kill himself as well. The characters seem to linger between possessing and being possessed, moving towards one another with the slow pace of the burning sun during a hot summer day.
Kazami, the narrator of the story befriends Takase's twins, Otohiko and Saki, but later in the novel develops a strange relationship with Sui, the lover but also daughter of Takase himself. Between incest and melancholy, the characters go in search of passion just to find the obsession of suicide, as a curse for those who get near the ninety eighth story... Will they go beyond this presumed curse to find just the sad love story of a summer? It's for you to discover...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Book Binge

"If a man wants to read good books, he must make a point of avoiding bad ones; for life is short, and time and energy limited."
— Schopenhauer




More often than not I am trying to stick to these words, but then I find myself wondering: "What makes a book worth reading?". I usually read books whose authors I am familiar with and I really enjoy their style, but this has also been the year of new discoveries: ONE DAY by David Nicholls is still among my top ten favorite books; Tony Parsons is a writer I will keep on reading, since I love the authentic way in which he portraits relationships and people in their 30s with the (un)necessary struggles they have to face; I finally read Borges - Aleph - a collection of stories - and I found him too cryptic for my taste; I had a second and yet unforgettable encounter with Alice Sebold and her "Lucky" memoir and with Marc Levy whose third book "Le premier jour" I am about to finish, but what thrilled me the most in these six months (bookwise) was reading the letters of Anais Nin and Henry Miller. The passion between them was out of this world and I am sure it's going to be one of those books I will always return to.
What other books await me? I will be going back to Haruki Murakami due to the Japanese Literature Challenge I entered and I will keep on reading about teaching ESL reading for my dissertation. Also, I will try to discover why FRENCH WOMEN DON'T GET FAT, but that's for another post :)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lucky

"I live in a world where two truths coexist: where both hell and hope lie in the palm of my hand"



"Lucky" is the story of a girl being raped; it is in fact Alice Sebold's memoir of her own rape that had taken place eighteen years before the publication of the book. If you are familiar with "The Lovely Bones", then this book, rather unfortunately, is better written, with short sentences that aim for the heart finding you with tears in your eyes. If you haven't read anything by Sebold, then it's high time you got down to some powerful, yet sad reading. Why? Simply because life is not just about laughter.

P.S. Careful! This is not a comfortable book. Some phrases might leave you speechless, since Sebold's confessions are gut-wrenching and disturbing.

"I knew, now that I had been raped, I should try to look good for my parents. Having gained the regulation freshman fifteen meant that my skirt that day fit. I was trying to prove to them and to myself that I was still who I had always been. I was beautiful, if fat. I was smart, if loud. I was good, if ruined."

"No one can pull anyone back from anywhere. You save yourself or you remain unsaved."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"As you sow, so shall you reap" - Paulo Coelho and his secrets

Question: What do you do after you meet your favorite writer, that is Paulo Coelho?
Answer: You read his official biography! :)

After having read "A Warrior's Life: A Biography of Paulo Coelho" I could not help but marvel at Paulo's incredible strength and character. Surely, people interested in glimpses of his life before becoming the best selling writer that he is today know about the time he spent in psychiatric hospitals, his travels around the United States and Europe with of without (a) wife, his involvement in witchcraft... BUT this biography brings along facts and details never mentioned before, mainly due to the fact that Paulo's official biographer, Fernando Morais, had access to 170 handwritten notebooks and 94 cassette recordings that the writer has kept for more than thirty five years and which he wishes to be burnt when he dies.



Thus, we are able to read extracts written decades ago about Paulo's struggle to become who he is today, his insecurities, his black magic rituals and their effect on him, and we are amazed to discover that he is an incredible person with an incredible dream who had his doubts but never gave up. Here are a few interesting facts about his life:

* the small, white ponytail some 10 cm long is a sikha, the lock of hair worn by Brahmans, orthodox Hindus and Hare Krishna monks.

* he performs a short prayer at least three times a day and also when a plane takes off/lands or a car drives off.

* his favorite cigarettes are Galaxy, a brand found in Brazil.

* after his Pilgrimage brought hundreds of pilgrims a day to Santiago de Compostela, the Galician government named one of the streets of Santiago "Rua Paulo Coelho".

* Hotel Le Bristol of Paris, where Paulo sets parts of "The Zahir" has named a drink from the book as "Le chocolat chaud de Paulo Coehlo".

*when he was young, he didn't enjoy dancing, thinking it would make him ridiculous. (from my experience, he has no problem now :))

* Paulo wrote a parody of Kipling's "If..."

"If you can ask your friends and enemies for a chance.
If you can hear a 'no' and take it as a 'maybe'.
If you can start from the bottom and yet still value the little that you have.
If you can improve yourself each moment and reach the heights without succumbing to vanity.
Then you'll be a writer."


TO BE CONTINUED. SOMETIME.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bodies



“Bodies”, written by Susie Orbach is one of the books that made me better understand the relation between body and mind. In a world in which the fact that you do not fit the pattern imposed by the ones around you becomes a great tragedy, psychoanalyst Susie Orbach explains why we are anxious when it comes to our bodies and why we sometimes end up hating it so much as to mutilate it, keep diets that make us risk our life, become anorexic and endlessly be preoccupied with the way we look and if we look according to the rules imposed by a society that supports shame towards our bodies through the ideal images imposed by it.

"Like many of us, the people I work with wish to and do reshape their bodies in both small and dramatic ways. They find fault with their bodies and say it makes them feel better, more in control, to improve them. Like most of us, they do not like to believe that they are being unduly influenced by outside pressures and may disdain such an idea, with its crude sense of manipulation. Whether followers of fashion or health trends or not, we take for granted that looking good for ourselves will make us feel good. And yet there is a subtle tracery of outside urgings which works on us, creating a new and often dissatisfied relationship with our bodies."

"The slim aesthetic – with pecs for men and ample breasts for women – bedevils those who don’t conform, and even those who do happen to fit can carry a sorrowful insecurity about their own bodies. A constant fretfulness and vigilance take hold for many from the moment they wake until the time they fall asleep. Their bodies are on high alert. The norm has become to worry. In another time, we would have called such anxieties an illness and, seeing how many suffer, we would have called it an epidemic. But we don’t. We have become so implicated in variants of body preoccupation ourselves, and girls and women in particular so colonized by it, that the preoccupation has become second nature – almost ‘natural’ and invisible."

The majority of the examples and cases presented in the book are shocking and they demonstrate the power of those around us to influence our psyche, whether those around us are tv commercials or our own parents.
“Bodies” has revealed how vulnerable we are to exterior stimuli and it has made me rethink the attitude I have towards my body so that this does not turn into a daily burden.
In short, we are more than our own bodies and from time to time it is of utter importance to remind ourselves of this fact.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

My Life in HER Books

The incomparable Jeanette Winterson is talking about the books that marked her life.

Jeanette Winterson: "My Life in Books" with Ann Robertson from pedalo on Vimeo.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bitch?

Bitch

by Carolyn Kizer (1984)

Now, when he and I meet, after all these years,
I say to the bitch inside me, don’t start growling.
He isn’t a trespasser anymore,
Just an old acquaintance tipping his hat.
My voice says, “Nice to see you,”
As the bitch starts to bark hysterically.
He isn’t an enemy now,
Where are your manners, I say, as I say,
“How are the children? They must be growing up.”
At a kind word from him, a look like the old days,
The bitch changes her tone; she begins to whimper.
She wants to snuggle up to him, to cringe.
Down, girl! Keep your distance
Or I’ll give you a taste of the choke-chain.
“Fine, I’m just fine,” I tell him.
She slobbers and grovels.



After all, I am her mistress. She is basically loyal.
It’s just that she remembers how she came running
Each evening, when she heard his step;
How she lay at his feet and looked up adoringly
Though he was absorbed in his paper;
Or, bored with her devotion, ordered her to the kitchen
Until he was ready to play.
But the small careless kindnesses
When he’d had a good day, or a couple of drinks,
Come back to her now, seem more important
Than the casual cruelties, the ultimate dismissal.
“It’s nice to know you are doing so well,” I say.
He couldn’t have taken you with him;
You were too demonstrative, too clumsy,
Not like the well-groomed pets of his new friends.
“Give my regards to your wife,” I say. You gag
As I drag you off by the scruff,
Saying, “Goodbye! Goodbye! Nice to have seen you again.”

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I Love Reading about LOVE



David Levithan's book "The Lover's Dictionary" is a true poem, some even call it a prolonged haiku. I sipped every word hoping I would not have to finish it so soon; I even allowed myself only a few definitions a day in order not to spoil their beauty by taking in too much. When the book ended I wanted to wrap myself up in half the definitions so I would not forget them. Then, I remembered I had a blog :)

* AUTONOMY, n.
"I want my books to have their own shelves," you said, and that's how I knew it would be okay to live together.

* CORRODE, v.
I spent all this time building a relationship. Then one night I left the window open, and it started to rust.

* HUBRIS, n.
Every time I call you mine, I feel like I'm forcing it, as if saying it can make it so. As if I'm reminding you, and reminding the universe: mine. As if that one word from me could have that kind of power.

* QUALM, n.
There is no reason to make fun of me for flossing twice a day.

* YEARNING, n./adj.
At the core of this desire is the belief that everything can be perfect.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Hafiz



Your love
Should never be offered to the mouth of a stranger,
Only to someone
Who has the valor and daring
To cut pieces of their soul off with a knife
Then weave them into a blanket to protect you.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Man and Boy



Harry and Gina love each other tremendously so they get married. Nothing seems to disturb their bliss, but after five years in which they raise their child, Pat, Harry has a one night stand with no meaning to him but unfortunately (or not) Gina finds out about his escapade, so she decides to start her life all over again, but this time away from Harry, in Japan.

The important question that Harry asks himself (and we should try to find an answer to it, just in case...) is: "Can one stop loving and give up on a relationship that they thought it would last forever just because of a mistake, be that sleeping with a colleague?"

"People don't break up because of a one-night stand, Gina. It's not what grown-ups do. You don't chuck it all away because of something like that. I know it hurts. I know what I did was wrong. But how did I suddenly go from being Mr Wonderful to Mr Piece of Shit?"


The answer is in the book, but what kept me reading on was how Harry managed to cope with it.
"Man and Boy" reminded me of "One Day"'s male voice and that was one more high point in the story, which also takes a look at how we (should) act at thirty, wondering if we made a good choice giving up some dreams just to follow others.

"That was my problem. When I thought of turning thirty, I thought of somebody else's life."

Find time to read it! ;)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Word of the Week: Horses

We may say we love horses, but the English love them more, since they have so many idioms and expressions about them :)

~(straight/right) from the horse's mouth: if you hear or get information straight from the horse's mouth, you are told it by someone who has direct knowledge of it
~ a horse of a different color: (Am.E.) something that is completely different from another thing
~ horses for courses:(Br.E.) the process of matching people with suitable jobs or activities
~ never/don't look a gift horse in the mouth:(spoken) used to tell someone to be grateful for something that has been given to them, instead of asking questions about it



~ white horses: (Br.E.)waves in the sea or on a lake that are white at the top
~ put the cart before the horse: to do two things in the wrong order
~ hold your horses!:used to tell someone to do something more slowly or carefully
~ dark horse: (Br. E.) someone who does not tell people much about themselves, but who has surprising qualities or abilities
~ be flogging a dead horse:(spoken) to be wasting time or effort by trying to do something that is impossible

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Monday, January 3, 2011

Eat Pray Love (or a book about an American woman bored with life)

It is a wonder I went on to finish this book, taking into consideration that I stopped enjoying the main character, Elizabeth Gilbert, after the first fifty pages.
Still, I do understand why it has become a bestseller: it presents a rather selfish American woman who has it all, including plenty of money to take a year off and travel to three foreign countries - Italy, India, Indonesia - drops it all, messes with her life and, of course, just as in a soppy American movie (yes, I have seen this as well) finds happiness in the end. Don't we all want this?

I don't want to be married anymore. I don't want to live in this big house. I don't want to have a baby.



Surely, I understand her struggle with not wanting a baby, her wish to discover God and love after divorcing her husband, her craving for good food, her drive to feel free, her need to satisfy both spirit and body through her actions, but her journey was not at all convincing. I found her quite naive to just travel to Bali a second time because a Yodalike medicine man told her she would do so, to pretend to be such a post-feminist liberated woman and then long for a handsome Italian to kiss her, while still analyzing his status and not being satisfied with the fact that he lived with his mother (while she gave up a marriage to a powerful man who loved her very much)and he was younger (I found no reasonable explanation for this, only maybe that she was more into older guys, seeing that she chose Felipe, a Brazilian man much older that her).

I wish Giovanni would kiss me.

Oh, but there are so many reasons why this would be a terrible idea. To begin with, Giovanni is ten years younger than I am, and, like most Italian guys in their twenties, he still lives with his mother. These facts alone make him an unlikely romantic partner for me, given that I am a professional American woman in my mid-thirties, who has just come through a failed marriage and a devastating, interminable divorce, followed immediately by a passionate love affair that ended in sickening heartbreak.


Even if certain American critics claim that this is not chick-lit but an irresistible memoir, my view is that her whole spiritual journey is rather fake. It is a good book if you have nothing else to read and the only ideas that you remain with after the final chapter are a) people can be so superficial, even on a spiritual quest b) each person has his/her own word. Hers was "antevasin" (in the book) and "attraversiamo" (in the movie, demonstrating that, after all, anything is changeable when it comes to "serious" literature). As for my word, I haven't found it yet, maybe I will go on a spiritual journey in its search :)