Film: The Worst Person in the World

Wow, how long has it been since I’ve written about the books I’ve read? Let’s make some clever comments about a few of them.

“Invisible Cities” by Italo Calvino – Marco Polo and Kublai Kahn having a fun chat about everything and nothing.

“A Manual for Cleaning Women” by Lucia Berlin – Short stories about a mom of four in the 50’s America.

“The Wrong End of the Telescope” by Rabih Alameddine – Introspection on the Syrian refugee crisis terrifiingly well written.

“Harsh Times” by Mario Vargas Llosa – American foreign policy sucks.

“Convenience Store Woman” by Sayaka Murata – How to find your perfect job.

“Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro – A boarding school story until..

One in 7 seven days


I’ve been thinking about how much time I spend on chores per week… Here is a quick rundown:

Laundry: 8 hours
Breakfast: 2 hours
Dinner: 8 hours
Tidying up: 5 hours

So, one full day in the week is spent on chores. Fortunately, I listen to audio books while doing this so one full day of the week I get to enjoy some culture I would otherwise not have time for. I am almost done “reading” 100 Years of Solitude.

I’ve also completed another knitting project, a shawl…


I feel very conflicted about this project. On one hand, I really enjoyed making it, on the other, I am not sure if I like it. On some level I really don’t and yet I am not keen on putting it away in the bottom drawer. What should I do with it?


Snotface and books

You know what happens when you kiss this face?


You get a pretty nasty cold. Not without warm fuzzies though 😉

Anyhow, here are some of the books I’ve read in the last little while…

War and Peace
It took me well over a year, but I finished it. The media that won out was the audio book. Though the Croatian translation published in several volumes I borrowed from the Cres library was my favourite by far, I am now a big subscriber to audio books. Overall I liked War and Peace though I must admit to enjoying the fiction sections more than the discourses on the various historical and philosophical topics.

Gone Girl
My resourceful neighbors have started a book club. What fun! Gone Girl was the first book we’ve read. It’s a thriller about the spoiled New Yorker who one day disappears. Where did she go? Why? Suspense!

Complicated Kindness
This was a Canada Reads winner from a few years ago so it was a re-read for me. Strangely enough this book seemed much darker than the first time I’ve read it.

Night Circus
A story of dueling magicians in a magical travelling circus. I hope someone makes a silent movie out of this book. It reminded me very much of “The Artist” and “Blancanieves” films in atmosphere.

Calculating God and The Diamond Age
I put these two Sci-fi novels together because I find them to be kind of the antitheses of each other. They are very much like Star Trek and Star Wars. One takes a philosophical concept, or in this case examines problems with current scientific understanding of particular topic and suggests a fictional resolution and the other one creates a fantastical world with compelling protagonists in an unrelenting bildungsroman.

We have not decided on the next novel yet but I am sure it will be fun!

Kalendar maja
Each year I try to read at least one contemporary Croatian novel. It is a bit more difficult to do in the year I don’t go there. Fortunately, last time I was in Cres the librarian recommended a book but was not able to lend it on the account that it was out and there was a waiting list for it. Nevermind, I wrote down the name and the author and bought it before going back to Canada. I did not read it until this summer because, well, I only read Croatian books in the summer. Kalendar maja is one of the best written Croatian novels I’ve read in a long time. It is somewhat r-rated so I would not just flagrantly recommend it, but it is very good. At 600 pages of small tightly spaced text it is quite substantial but I could not put it down. The novel opens with recently retired Zagrebian gynecologist drinking coffee on a Gornji Grad patio and spying a glimpse of what he thinks might be his ex girlfriend. He decides to orchestrate a reprisal of his graduating class cruise. As he and his septuagenarian comrades slowly float down the Adriatic he recounts his youth from the late forties into the mid seventies.

A Curious Incident of a Dog in the Nighttime
An autistic boy puts on a detective hat in order to figure out who killed the neighbour’s dog. This novel contains the most interesting take on commuting by train.

That’s it for now. I am reading the latest issue of Bicycle Quarterly and First Class Tips for Suzuki Parents while waiting for the next Book Club choice to be announced.

Canada Reads 2013

I have now read four out of five Canada Reads 2013 novels. I am currently making my way through the last one. Here they are in the order I think they deserve the prize:

1. “Indian Horse” by Richard Wagamese. This is a story about an Ojibway boy who survives residential school. As the novel is about residential schools the subject matter is quite brutal. I am guessing that during Canada Reads people will argue that this novel is important for Canadians to read because of socio-political reasons. While these are certainly good reasons to read this novel, I would argue that this novel should be read because it is amazingly well written. The prose is sparse, clear and effective.

2. “February” by Lisa Moore. The story of a family whose father dies when an oil rig sinks off the coast of Newfoundland in the 80’s. The novel is a collection of vignettes of the family, mostly the mother, before the after the accident. The main story line follows the mother and eldest son as they enter new relationships in 2008. I really liked the story and I am looking forward to reading more by Lisa Moore, though I think she still has a bit more room to mature as a novelist. I found some of the prose choppy and some of the vignettes, particularly the ones about the son’s girlfriends master’s degree and the mother’s sister’s misadventures, to be a bit disconnected from the main narrative.

3. “Away” by Jane Urquhart. I have been looking forward to reading Jane Urquhart for a while and now I finally got around to it. I am a little bit disappointed because I really did not like this novel. It is about four generations of Irish Canadians starting just before the Potato Famine in Ireland and ending in present day Ontario. Quite opposite of “February”, I loved the prose but hated the point of the story. The images of rural Ireland and Canada in the 19th century were poignant and exciting and some of the characters were quite interesting. However, the concept of being “away”, treated with such precious care in the novel, is to me farcical at best and glorifying idleness of mind and abdication of responsibility at worst. While I fully support teenagers moping, even excessively, moping as a life pursuit of adults is not something I would look at with any sort of admiration and this is precisely what I got from this novel. If moping adults do not get on your nerves, you will enjoy this novel more than I did.

4. “The Age of Hope” by David Bergen. The novel follows a woman named Hope from when she finished high school in the mid 1940’s into her dotage in the 2010’s. She is a stereotypical suburban housewife spending most of her life in a small Manitoban Mennonite community. The novel is written well enough and I suppose it is very true to life. There is a hint in the novel that one of the woman’s children had written it and as such it is lacking a certain level of objectivity. My complaint of the novel is that Hope is miserable and it made me miserable to read about her life. Her negativity and unhappiness grated on me because she had no reason to be unhappy. She chose her path in life, got what she wanted to get, was as fortunate as any random Canadian and yet was constantly unhappy.

I did not include “The Two Solitudes” by Hugh MacLennan partially because I have not finished reading it and partially because I don’t think it fits the spirit of the “Canada Reads” prize. I love this show and concept because it gives people an opportunity to read novels they would not otherwise read. I had no intention of reading any of these authors save for Jane Urquhart and even so it is quite unlikely that I would have ever gotten around to reading her. By the same token, this show gives publicity to novels that deserve to be introduced to a larger audience. I have heard of “The Two Solitudes” a million times and the only reason I have not read it by now is because I skipped grade 8 where it was part of high school curriculum. The large publicity this novel already enjoys disqualifies it from me wishing it wins the prize. I will finish reading it though and will amend my opinion if I find that I absolutely love it. We’ll see.

Film: Anna Karenina

Remember how I was reading “War and Peace”? Yes, I am still at it. Because I expected this to be a long and laborious process, I decided to read it through different media.

1. Online though on the iPad
2. Downloaded the Gutenberg Ebook onto the iPad
3. Took out Croatian translation from the Cres library
4. Took out english translation from the Ottawa library
5. Took out e-audio book from the library
6. Took out a different english translation from the library
7. Audio book in CD format is waiting for me at the library
8. Mystery format or one of the above repeating or I might actually finish the book at stage 7….

Both and Gutenberg downloads were cool. They were free and good quality. I enjoyed the versatility of the iPad but I don’t think I will want to read much more in this format. Perhaps other specialized readers are a little bit better in this aspect, but I was still looking at a computer screen. I read to relax and I spend too much time in my life in front of the screen for fun or business to find it relaxing.

The Croatian translation was my favourite. For one thing, the book was split up into several volumes so it was not too heavy to carry and it did not feel daunting to read. The language used was archaic which was good because it amused me, but at the same time there were many words that in previous life as a Croat I never heard often enough to figure out what they mean. “Preneraziti” was one of the mystery words, but there were others. Unlike “preneraziti”, they did not appear often enough in the text for me to figure out what they mean.

The next was an english translation with the entire novel fitted in one volume which made it difficult to hold. The translation was good, but the characters no longer spoke proverbs and expressions in French as they did in the copies I’ve read up until this point. I am not sure whether the translator decided to bypass this aspect altogether or the characters no longer spoke French due to the war with Napoleon and such speech fell out of fashion as the novel progresses. I think this was definitely one of the problems with switching translations.

The next was the e-audio book I got from the library. Though I attempted to get a few e-books from the library previously, this was the first that I have successfully taken out something. Some of my friends had better luck, but I found the process laborious and I needed Chris’ help (i.e. it required some tinkering and installing which I can’t be bothered with) to get the novel onto my phone. Once it was on the phone, it worked great. The reader had a slight (fake?) russian accent and he read women’s lines with a cutesy voice that was a bit surprising at first but pleasant as I got into it. Alas, I had to wait for the e-book to become available (!!!) from the library and it expired and self destructed way too soon for me to have a chance to get through more than a few chapters. I love that we have e-books available, but there is still some getting used to it for my part.

Finally I got another monovolumen copy with another translation, but as it arrived at the same time as the Erich Kastner book I reviewed earlier, I did not even crack it. Oh well, a CD is waiting for me a the library so as soon as I am over this cold, I’ll go get it.

Book: Going to the Dogs: The Story of A Moralist

A few years before I fell for Orwell, Kästner was my first literary boyfriend. His most famous book is “Emil and the Detectives” though most of you would know him as the writer of the novel on which the “Parent Trap” film was based on. In every library I went to I would look him up first and a copy of “Toncek i Tockica” (“PĂźnktchen und Anton” in original) was amongst few of my possessions I brought with me when we first came to Canada.

Though he is particularly known for the children’s lit, he was also a poet, screen writer and satirist. Over two decades ago, while I was watching some film in which Nazis were burning his books, I made a mental note to read his adult fiction once I am old enough to. This month I finally got around to it.

“Fabian. Die Geschichte eines Moralisten” is set in Berlin after the stock market crash a few years before Nazis came to power. The protagonists are underemployed or unemployed and some form of prostitution or other seems to be the only sure way of making money. Marriage as an institution has collapsed, loneliness and domestic violence run rampant and the only people who do well in this environment are those that have no scruples or are able to overlook them. Women’s issues (pretty sorry state at that point) and the effect of new technologies (weapons production and machines replacing human labour) are discussed. In the final chapters Kästner seems to blame German penchant for order and tolerance of brutality for the mess they are in, though interpretations of the final chapters may vary. There is some talk of the bourgeois organizing and improving the situation through pan European effort but it comes to nothing. The novel takes for granted that some sort of violent clash is imminent.

Needless to say this novel is suitably depressing. I never thought of Kästner as a pessimist writer and I do not think of him that way now. Given what was to happen in Europe in the decade and a half following the publication of this novel, the “oh crumb, what is to become of us?!?” tone is merely realistic. Despite this the Kästner writing that I know and love from his children’s novels comes though. At some point in the novel Fabian befriends a destitute inventor, and hides him in his room for a while before the inventor is taken away. The interaction between Fabian and the inventor has that humour full of absurdity and warmth that brought me back to my childhood and reminded me why I loved “PĂźnktchen und Anton” so much. Coincidentally, “PĂźnktchen und Anton” must have been written within a year or two of “Fabian”.