Monday, January 18, 2016

You + Me = US

“I had always been led to believe that ageing was a slow and gradual process, the creep of a glacier. Now I realise that it happens in a rush, like snow falling off a roof.” 

I decided to read "US" by David Nicholls because I simply adored "One Day" and I was secretly hoping this novel would be as good as the previous one. Even if certain critics claim that it has lived up to its expectations, I myself can say that it is a good book, interesting in its story, but not as good as "One Day". In fact, up until the last 50 pages I quite loved it, hoping it would end the way I wanted, then I was brutally disappointed by its quick denouement, just to notice a glimpse of hope for the main character when he decided to call that woman in

"US" tells the story of a man in love with his wife who wakes up one morning, after 20 years of marriage, to hear his wife say "Our marriage has run its course .... I want to leave you." What follows is his struggle to make his wife change her mind, to convince her that he truly loves her and to recreate a broken bond between him and his 17 year old son Albie, all this on a previously planned trip through Europe.

“From an evolutionary point of view, most emotions – fear, desire, anger – serve some practical purpose, but nostalgia is a useless, futile thing because it is a longing for something that is permanently lost, and I felt its futility now.” 

We know we are reading a love story, but sometimes this turns into a comedy, when Douglas, the scientist, remembers the first years or his relationship with Connie, the artist, and into a tragedy when he does not manage to reconnect with Albie, the rebel son. The whole trip though Europe turns into opportunities often missed to win back his wife and son. However, this is not a depressing book, in fact, thank goodness there is still some hope in the universe, both for the main character and for us, readers, looking for books to be inspired by.

“Was it the happiest day of our lives? Probably not, if only because the truly happy days tend not to involve so much organisation, are rarely so public or so expensive. The happy ones sneak up, unexpected.” 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Scream

Art can be serious but you can still enjoy it while having a laugh. I have been familiar with Van Gogh's work for decades, and I am a fan of Munch's The Scream, but to see the two painters together in an amazing exhibition, that was quite extraordinary. While visiting Amsterdam last December I wanted to see The Sunflowers and Starry Night but I did not expect to be caught by surprise with some of Munch's most famous works  of art brought from Oslo, Norway in a parallel between the two painters' creations. I had no idea there are so many similarities in their art but seeing them side by side, I was impressed by the intensity with which they painted life, almost the same life even if they never met, although they were contemporaries. Their self-portraits resemble as well, which is quite astonishing.

The exhibition opened on 25th September and runs until January, the 17th, so there are just a few days in which one can admire both painters in the same place.

If not, there is always the virtual option. Click here to go to the museum site.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Ogawa's Housekeeper and Professor

“A problem isn't finished just because you've found the right answer.” 

Even if Tony has given up on his challenge, January in Japan, I still wanted to read at least one Japanese writer this month, and I have chosen Ogawa's book, mainly because I quite enjoyed her previous book, "Hotel Iris" and then, because 2016 looks like the year of big reading challenges, I have to tackle - or continue - two challenges I really love: Bellezza's and The Women Challenge.
"The Housekeeper and the Professor", published in 2003, tells the story of a mathematician who had a car accident and whose brain was damaged, meaning that every 80 minutes his memory erases, but he can still remember things that happened before the accident. And he loves numbers, prime numbers.
Reading the book you immerse yourself into Maths problems and the struggle of both main characters to relate to each other beyond the 80 minute time gap. You notice how the professor becomes affectionate towards the housekeeper's son, nicknamed "Root" and how they start sharing each other's passions. The professor rediscovers his penchant for baseball while the mother and son find out the pleasures of Maths problems. Until one day, when the professor's memory declines even more.

“The Professor never really seemed to care whether we figured out the right answer to a problem. He preferred our wild, desperate guesses to silence, and he was even more delighted when those guesses led to new problems that took us beyond the original one. He had a special feeling for what he called the "correct miscalculation," for he believed that mistakes were often as revealing as the right answers.” 

Even if at times I was wondering if the Maths problems and equations did not take too much space within the story, I did enjoy seeing the connections beyond the obvious, the mystery that surrounded the numbers, just as there is always a mystery when you read poetry or listen to music.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

My Literary Challenges in 2016

I have read on a lot of people's blogs that they wish to drop challenges in 2016 and rely more on quality rather than quantity when it comes to their chosen books. I think that should apply to anything in life, whether it is food, clothes or time spent at the gym. :) 

However, in the last few years, when I joined a few (or more than a few) reading challenges, I did not see myself as choosing quantity over quality. In fact, the challenges made me focus more on reading while also managing to discover great books and fantastic writers, no matter if I had the time to write about them or not. With this in mind, I realized that there are more and more Romanian writers on my reading list(s) because they write fantastically and I love their style, and also, there is no such challenge on the internet - or one that I could find after attentively looking for - so here I am, starting a brand new reading challenge, one that is extremely simple: 


What exactly do you have to do for this challenge? 

It starts on the 1st of March 2016 and it ends on the 1st of December 2016, when we, Romanians celebrate our National Day. 

So, you have 9 months to read at least one book by a Romanian writer, whether in the original or in translation. 

If you decide to also write a review on your blog or send the review (because you do not have one), you will be entered in a draw on the 1st of December to win a special prize

So, without further ado, please join the following list:

Friday, January 1, 2016

Call me Vicky

I have been planning to write about Cristina Nemerovschi since I first read her book, "nymphette_dark99" a few months ago, but I just did not find the time (obviously). However, at the beginning of December I started reading the sequel to that, "Vicky, nu Victoria" and I knew I had to express my awe towards her writing and thrilling imagination.
Cristina's books are not for weak souls, I can truly say that. Having read only these two, out of 10 that she has published since her debut back in 2010, I am not quite sure I will soon gather the courage to read something else, not because they may not be good, but mainly because they may not be as good as these two.

"She would always tell me that if you bothered with whatever may happen after you did something, you would no longer want to do it. And this is how you become a robot that has given up on living."

What first draw me towards these books was the main character and the controversies surrounding her. Sure, I have read Nabokov's "Lolita" and I was thoroughly impressed by it, but this goes beyond any rebellion you can find in there. Just imagine a much darker Lolita, who loves sex but hates her mother, who has no problem skipping school, using drugs or cutting a stranger's eyes in the woods. I don't remember having read something more "deranged" and yet, captivating. You cannot but want to see how far the main character will be going. "Vicky, not Victoria" is a very violent book, but one that makes you think that it is in some people's blood to start a revolution. I need the writer, seen by critics as "the rebel of Romanian literature nowadays" to write a sequel to the sequel, one that will make me hope that nothing is in vain, not even setting fire to your school.

"Once again, I praise my taste in clothes. It is always harder to spot blood on black."