Tuesday, December 14, 2010
I can't believe I haven't ever written a blog post about Scandinavian noir. So here's how it all started: I was in college and had to take my world literature requirement for my English major. I chose Global Detective Fiction a) because it fulfilled the requirement, b) I had a crush on the professor, and c) it sounded cool. Perfect, right? And it was.
In that class, in addition to books that took place in Italy (written by Donna Leon) and Africa (written by Alexander McCall-Smith), we read Henning Mankell's Sidetracked which is set in Sweden. I was hooked. It was so dark and multi-faceted that I had to read more. So I read more by Mankell, and then some Karin Fossum (Norway), Kjell Eriksson (Sweden again), and Arnaldur Indridason (Iceland). The whole genre is fascinating. First, it's COLD in the winter, which makes the hideous crimes mean more, at least to me, because it would seem that there would be less crime since people are inside trying not to freeze to death. If you are making that effort of killing someone, it better work and be worth the trouble. Second, the nights are long and dark, which is spooky. The countries are very isolated, especially Iceland which is just floating out there in the middle of the North Atlantic, so one could easily kill someone and get away on a boat, or toss a body into the sea. Finally, these are not vast countries, so there is a great sense of local color, food, and names that often end in -son or -dottir.
That brings me to Stieg Larsson. He wrote the wildly popular Millenium Trilogy consisting of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. At first, I thought this was another author who jumped onto the bandwagon. But I was so wrong. I've only read Dragon Tattoo so far, but it was so exceedingly amazing and carefully crafted that I could not stop reading it. I then watched the Swedish movie of the book, starring Noomi Rapace, and I was clinging to my couch. I can't even describe the detail that Larsson has put in his books. Dragon Tattoo starts off slow with a lot of background, as most of the Scandinavian noir that I've read does. It is rather boring, to be honest. But then BAM! You're hooked into this complex web of awesome.
I read that Larsson intended the Millenium Trilogy to be ten books, but sadly he died suddenly in 2004 leaving us with only three. Also, there may possibly be a fourth book out there in the ether, but it is unclear if it is supposed to be fourth or fifth in the series. Larsson wasn't married, but he did have a longtime partner, but since he didn't leave a will, his estate goes to his father and brother under Swedish law. However, Larsson's partner Eva Gabrielson has the laptop with the fourth book but won't publish it unless she gets rights to Larsson's literary property. It's all very convoluted and mysterious. If you're intrigued, you can check out this website about Larsson and the whole series, characters, etc.
So, in summary, try some Scandinavian noir! I like Henning Mankell and Karin Fossum the most. Stieg Larsson is absolutely amazing and I hope the fourth book gets published someday. In the meantime, the Millenium Trilogy is intense, violent, and breathtaking and I recommend it. If you're not a book person, the books have been made into films in Sweden that are available in the US, and the US film industry is making them here into what I anticipate will be watered-down versions. Get the originals and watch them with the subtitles ON.
Enjoy the darkness.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
I was just on Cape Cod for the holiday weekend, and Linda Greenlaw was making an appearance at Booksmith in Falmouth, MA. The coincidence is that I had just finished listening to Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm on the ride up to the Cape, which is the book that first referenced Greenlaw and the sinking of her ship's sister boat, the Andrea Gail. Junger's book was later made into a movie. Greenlaw just released a new book, Seaworthy, about her return to swordfishing after ten years. She spoke about her book, and she is well-spoken and quite hilarious. She's written mostly nonfiction, but has authored two mysteries. I asked her which she preferred, and she said that she thought fiction would be easier because "you just make shit up" (HA!), but she prefers writing about what she knows. Greenlaw also spoke about the situation in the Gulf, her experiences in the publishing world, and the time she was most scared on a trip (when a crew member died onboard and had to be packed in ice in the fish hold). She's been fishing since the age of nineteen and, even though she got a degree in English from Colby College, she went back to fishing because she loves it. I admire people who have such conviction and pursue their passion! I had her sign my book and told her that she had done something much more adventurous with her English major than I had with mine, and I told her I was a librarian, to which she responded that librarians are, by far, the smartest people she knows. I couldn't believe she said that! It was so great to meet her. My dad and I had a great time and we both bought her book-- which I was originally going to get my dad for his birthday, but alas, I will have to find a different present for him.
Linda's biography and information about her books are available on her website.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
This is the second year I've bought a book for the library I work at. This year, I chose Playing With Books by Jason Thompson. The book is full of great ideas for using old books. We've already used the paperback postcards tutorial for a drop-in teen craft at my library, and we're going to be using the kusudama flowers tutorial next week. In addition, Thompson is the proprietor of Rag & Bone Bindery, a bindery that creates gorgeous albums and journals. I wanted to work for Rag & Bone after college, although there wasn't an opening and it was a pipe dream! I bought my sister one of their paper page albums after my niece was born, and it's now the only thing she ever asks for.
In summary, giving a gift on your birthday is good karma, as is finding new uses for old books. And if you need a new book, try Rag & Bone.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Today is the last day of school in the town where I work, which means it's time for summer reading! I always loved summer reading. Here are a few of my goals for this summer.
1. Get through the top ten of the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. My sister and I started the list and she's already through the top thirty! You can read about our progress on The 1001 Books Project (shameless plug). :)
2. Read the next few of the Luxe books by Anna Godbersen. They are pure YA escapism.
3. Read a few more of Cara Black's Paris mysteries. I love Paris so much and these bring me back.
4. Read a lot of YA! I love YA books. I'm looking at my "to read" list and a lot of them are YA.
I have a class starting July 6, so we'll see how I do with these goals. What are you reading this summer?
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
About six months ago, Jill Thompson, an awesome cartoonist, tweeted about Do Nothing But Read Day, launched by a library student named Amanda. Since then, Amanda and I have become, I like to think, thick as thieves. We are Twitter friends and I hope we get to hang out in real life one day! In addition to running her own Do Nothing But Read Day blog, she also contributes to another blog called the Modern Day Pirates. On said blog, she collaborates with her longtime friend Brandon on a podcast about reading! They've done seven episodes to date, and it's great and funny and interesting and you should check it out. I never really understood podcasts, but I subscribed to this one and I love it. I listen to it while I'm shelving in the library, and I have laughed out loud and earned weird looks from library patrons. I also have added a bunch more titles to my "want to read" list. So go subscribe now and enjoy! And check out those blogs, which are updated way more often than mine and have better web design!
Libraries in New York are facing budget cuts, as are libraries everywhere. I don't understand why politicians and other lawmakers always think that it's a good idea to cut libraries because they offer so many services! It makes me angry! Well, the Brooklyn Public Library hosted an event called "We Will Not Be Shushed." It was a 24-hour read-in to protest proposed budget cuts. The New York Times ran an article about the event that you can read here. What a great way to advocate for your library! Great idea, Brooklyn!
Also, I changed the blog design...like?
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Dear blog, I am sorry for neglecting you. I will not make excuses for my behavior. Just know that I am sorry.
I read 76 books in 2009, and now, almost halfway through 2010, I'm up to around 30. Here's the best so far, January through May.
1. Going Bovine by Libba Bray. This book won the Printz award this year, and rightfully so! I laughed, cried, sang Man of La Mancha, and gained new respect for yard gnomes. Libba talks about the book here.
2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Teens fight to the death in a gigantic arena. Dystopia, scifi, romance all in one, plus it's a trilogy, so the amazingness is not confined to one book! The third in the trilogy, Mockingjay, comes out in August. Kudos to Suzanne for not drawing this series out longer than it needs to be.
3. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. Another YA dystopia novel. Actually, this whole list is YA because that's one of the courses I took this past semester, and YA literature is AMAZING right now. In this one, there is a terrorist attack and San Francisco becomes a police state. Marcus, a tech-saavy teenager, has to bring down the Department of Homeland Security. There is a lot of tech-speak in here, but it is fascinating. Cory Doctorow allows his book to be downloaded for free and this guy Bill Clementson has created a hyperlinked version of the bibliography which you will appreciate once you finish the book!
4. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. Two of the greatest YA authors + two boys named Will Grayson + a chance meeting = GOLD. I so don't want to give anything away, so I won't, but go read this nownownow.
5. Gentlemen by Michael Northrop. I feel that this book has flown a bit under the radar, but it's definitely one of the best I've read so far this year. What would you do if you thought your teacher had murdered your best friend? The three protagonists of this book suspect their English teacher of kidnapping their friend and stuffing his body in a barrel after the teacher starts acting strangely toward them. The power of suggestion looms large in this mystery. A great read.