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My copy of De Ongelofelijke ReisThis is my my first favourite book — or is it my favourite first book? Anyway, not having kids myself I’ve waited 10 years (!) for the first child in our family to become old enough to read my childhood favourite: The Incredible Journey, by Sheila Burnford.

The story of two dogs & a cat crossing the Canadian wilderness in search of their owners moved me beyond words. I have mentioned several times before that I don’t like to reread books, but De ongelofelijke reis (as the book is called in Dutch) was read to, and by me several times. I’m remembering at least 4 sessions ;) The first time being on a summer holiday to France. My mom read it to my big brother and me — a memory I cherish :)

This is me on my way to France…

Gnoe en route to France 1979

Gift copy of De Ongelofelijke ReisSo now that our animal-loving nephew turned 10, I really wanted to give him the book! :) But what the heck?! It is out of publish in Holland! OH NO! :-o

But I am not.to.be.deterred. Thank God for the internet… I managed to get a second hand copy. This will be my first time giving a used book for a present, but it can’t be helped! He needs to read this book. Or I need him to ;)

And no, I have never seen the Disney movie that was made of the book. I’ve never wanted to, and I still don’t. But now I do feel like rereading The Incredible Journey..!

This post is part of Weekly Geeks 2010-11: ‘In the beginning…

The Year of the TigerToday is a special day: Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year. Yay, The Year of The Tiger has started! This afternoon I went to a Chinese festival and released Paper Tiger (Papieren tijger) by Olivier Rolin for our Bookcrossing Monopoly Game. And I hopped by our city’s red light district for a Valentine’s release called Solely Lust (Louter lust): erotic stories for women. Both have been caught already!

In the past week I finally managed to post my review of In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. And I wrote a (belated) Weekly Geeks post revealing a fun fact about author David Mitchell.

Cover The RomanticNow, this Valentine’s Day Sunday Salon provides me with a good opportunity to talk about Weekly Geeks 2010-6: ‘Romancing the Tome’. Have you heard of The Romantic, a book by Barbara Gowdy (one of my favourite authors)? You should have! It got longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2003, and was in the running for several other awards. I haven’t been able to write a coherent review of this book about a zillion kinds of love; I had too many feelings to make any sense of them. So I’m going to give you the synopsis from Waterstones:

How do you love someone who sits, smiling, at the edge of oblivion? Award-winning Canadian writer Barbara Gowdy unravels a romance, and the idea of romance, in this spry, witty, agile novel full of all the species of love. Louise Kirk falls in love. She’s 10, lives in a cosy, unremarkable suburban home, but, remarkably, has lost a mother already. Or, rather, her chic, sharp mother has disappeared. So, Louise, lonely and steeped in complicated yearnings, decides to fall in love. Furiously. First, she falls in love with her magnificent new neighbour, the operatic and exotic Mrs Richter. Then, within the year, she falls for Mrs Richter’s brilliant son Abel. Distracting him from his attentive study of everything around him — the constellations, the moths, the music — proves quite a struggle. But before long Abel finds he loves Louise ‘too much’. A dozen years later, Abel is gone and Louise is devastated. This is the unravelling story of their romance! In The Romantic, Barbara Gowdy tracks and identifies all the species of love. Each of her characters is iridescent, but Louise Kirk, who flies to love again and again like a moth at a lamp, is a creature from whom no reader will easily tear their gaze.

I am not a person to reread books — so many books, so little time! But I have been wanting to start over in The Romantic ever since I finished it (and that was in 2004). Yes, that’s how much I loved it. Well, I’d better finish my current book first — I seem to be STUCK in it! :-o That’s the 3rd part of I Am a Cat by Natsume Sōseki. And the bookgroup discussion starts tomorrow! I guess I’ve left it for too long. But I don’t want to put the novel aside; I should be able to finish the last part of this classic! Although it seems to be keeping me from reading at all…

The Pillow Book read-along

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My Name Is Sei Shonagon (book)Oooops, I still haven’t started reading yet! It’s because of my problems with I Am a Cat. I hope I’ll have some better news for you next week! Anyway, I did buy another book to read once The Pillow Book read-along has ended. A bit premature, I knoooow LOL, but I couldn’t leave this discarded library book for someone else to find, could I?

It’s My Name Is Sei Shonagon in Dutch (Mijn naam is Sei Shonagon), by Jan Blensdorf. You can find a review on Curled Up With a Good Book.

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, where they blog about bookish things of the past week, visit each others weblogs, oh — and read ;)

Linnen Dinosaur Postcard
Did you know author David Mitchell collected dinosaur postcards as a child? He told us at the Amsterdam presentation of Cloud Atlas, in 2005.

I’m really looking forward to his new book, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, to be published in June this year. The Dutch translation De onverhoorde gebeden van Jacob de Zoet (which definitely is a less poetic title) is awaited in May/June.

Cover The 1000 Autumns of Jacob de ZoetJacob de Zoet is a young Dutch clerk arriving in Japan in the summer of 1799, in the hope of making a fortune before returning to Holland to wed his fiancée. But then he meets the daughter of a Samurai…

A chilling excerpt (in which Jacob doesn’t appear btw) can be read on the book’s website.

Ooops, I’m too late for this weeks Weekly Geeks about Author Fun Facts! Well, never mind ;)

Subtitle: What on earth would we do without podcasts??? :)

iPodcast Simon Mayo
What a coincidence: the day after I had recommended some podcasts to my online book group, Weekly Geeks 2009-42 asked about our favourite book podcasts as well! It must be in the air ;)

Podcasts anyone? Share with us a podcast you love, preferably book related, but not necessarily so.

The top 3 bookcasts on Hopi (my purple iPod nano) are:

  1. Book Reviews with Simon Mayo
    Simon Mayo A weekly show on BBC radio 5 Live in which three book reviewers talk about 2 books in the company of the authors. A fun feature is that the book analysis usually starts with a description of the book cover: it really gives an extra dimension to the review, especially on ‘radio’, read: podcast ;) It sometimes happens that the author believes the evaluation ends here… and (s)he is not amused. Most times it is pretty nerve wrecking for them to be present as it is ;)
    It is nice that the authors often have read each other’s books as well. And we’re not talking only debutantes here, but established writers like Margaret Atwood, Nick Hornby, Patricia Cornwell, Will Self and Fay Weldon as well. I actually get some great tips from this program, like The Crossroads by the Italian writer Niccolò Ammaniti or The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. I would have picked up The Wasted Vigil by Nadeem Aslam anyway (because I loved his book Maps for Lost Lovers), Cover Transitionbut it was great to hear him reviewed by the Mayo Book Panel as well :)
  2. Number 2 will only be a favourite for a while, since it is going to end at some point: the latest book by Iain Banks, Transition, is available as a free podcast in the UK iTunes store. No link, since you’ll have to go find it via your iTunes application. And you know what? I heard of this podcast in an extra edition of Simon’s book show :)
  3. At the moment I am also enjoying the — to my ears very American — Books on the Nightstandpodcast of the Books on the Nightstand blog. Two Random House employees talking about books (on their own accord), usually themed around a topic like graphic novels, YA (Young Adult), cookbooks or challenges. This podcast is like a little snack ;) I especially like the presenters’ personal book ecommendations at the end.

A podcast that doesn’t please me is the Guardian Books Podcast; somehow I have a hard time keeping up with that — I’m not sure what the problem is. Also I am sorry that the BBC Radio 4 Book Club archive is not available as podcast, since I would love to listen to the episodes about David Mitchell, Barbara Kingsolver and Jonathan Franzen, but I don’t seem to get to that when I’m sitting behind my computer… I have other things to do then, like blog ;)

Other favourite podcasts

Film ~ Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s Film Reviews
Entertainment (including literature) ~ R4 Frontrow Highlights, Kunststof (Dutch), R3 Arts & Ideas
History ~ OVT (Dutch)

Go check them out!

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, where they blog about bookish things of the past week, visit each others weblogs, oh — and read ;)

Take a look at your blog as if you were someone who has never seen a blog before. Imagine they are looking for something specific. Could they find it? Could they find YOU again? Be able to contact you? Would they understand your jargon?

This weeks Weekly Geeks made me aware of two easy improvements of Graasland, so:

I also know my categories may be a bit vague, but that’s how I like them (for now). And at least most of them are in English — since a few weeks ;)

Of course it would have been better if Graasland had been on graasland.wordpress.com. But I only decided on the name after a while… Then I immediately claimed the url above and made a link to this actual blog. Not perfect, but it serves its purpose.

On my contact page I have explained my weblog name to English readers. Should I add it to the glossary as well?

For a while now I have been thinking of making a sticky post on top of Graasland, about my alternating between English and the Dutch language. A justification of that can already be found on my ‘About‘-page, and I also have a (quite obvious ;) category English posts. I don’t want to make regular visitors read the same text over and over again — so I’ve decided against the sticky post. What do you think?

Gnoe on pile of books

Gnoe (?) on pile of books

Oh no! NOW look what you made me do, Weekly Geeks! By asking me about reading challenges, I just joined TWO MORE! As if I don’t have enough problems handling just one…

When I failed last year’s personal challenge I decided to cut myself some slack and stretch it to 2009. I had gotten halfway my list of 12 books by December, so that seemed fair. But now… I have only crossed off one more title since January! That means that, of the books on the Best Foreign Books longlist that were already on my wishlist before the election, I still have another 5 books to go:

  • To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
  • The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
  • The Chosen (Chaim Potok)
  • a choice of 2 from The Sea, The Sea (Iris Murdoch), The Corrections (Jonathan Franzen) or The Pillow Book (Sei Shonagon) — whichever of these I can get my hands on.

Five might not seem a lot to you, but it’s 20-25% of all the books I can manage in one year!

And now I’ve put some more pressure on by joining the ‘What’s in a Name‘ and ‘Classics‘ challenges! Yes, you may call me stupid if you want to ;)

So why do I take on reading challenges?

I find having a challenge stimulates me in picking up books that I wouldn’t normally read, or that I wish to have read but never feel like starting, or that are almost totally random. And yes, sometimes I get stressed a bit when a deadline is nearing ;) But I think I might never have read the classics Slaughterhouse-Five, Don Quixote or Max Havelaar without these challenges! And I must say that I only enter challenges that (I believe) really stand a chance!

Each year at least one personal challenge just ‘appears’ to me. For example I notice a resemblance in some book titles, or a certain award long- or shortlist matches part of my wishlist, like last year. I’m curious to know if this happens to other people as well! So what reading tasks have I set myself in the past?

  • 2005:
    1) read a book from each decade from 1900 until 2005
    2) read a total of 15,000 pages (I failed that by 333 pages…)
    3) finish all Bookcrossing books on Mount TBR
  • 2006: read 10 books with numbers 0-9 in their title
  • 2007: read all books on the Best Dutch Book (ever) shortlist that I haven’t read yet

More about these challenges can be found in my post about my 2008-2009 challenge, except for 2007 which has its own blogpost.

Speaking about collective challenges, up until yesterday (LOL) I’ve only joined the SIY (Set It Yourself) challenge at Bookcrossing several times. I’ll let the title speak for itself ;)

Having said all this… (thanks for hanging on ;) it might just be that I grew up in the Eighties so that I’m addicted to making lists, like Rob Fleming in Nick Hornby’s book High Fidelity ;)

resemblance

This week all book geeks should catch up on their book reviews. If they’re following Weekly Geeks, that is ;) This specific recurring question is how I came to know of Weekly Geeks so I can’t refuse, can I?

Now before I go on, MY QUESTION TO YOU is: which one would you like me to write about? And what question(s) about the book should I answer in my post?

So, here are some of the books that I still need to review…

ammaniti 9789048800452

Crossroads (Zo God het wil / Come Dio Comanda) by Niccolò Ammaniti (2006)

I bought this book because of a very positive review in Simon Mayo’s Book Panel. Great podcast to listen to btw! Crossroads was compared to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (but said to have more humor), and to movies by the Coen Brothers… I finished it recently during my holiday on Madeira. I’m waiting for Mr Gnoe to read it because I would really like to discuss whether this is a good book or if it will be thought another The Shadow of the Wind in a while…

akkerman 9789046805428

The Native (De inboorling) by Stevo Akkerman (2009)

In 1883 a Colonial Exhibition was held in Amsterdam, and real people from the Dutch colonies were part of it. De inboorling is a novel about a black Dutchman who, at a time when the Rijksmuseum is planning an exhibition in remembrance of the centennial of this event, discovers his great grandfather was one of the people exhibited. An interesting ethical subject for a museum employee like me! I bought this book at Teylers Museum, where an exhibition about exploitation of humans in exhibitions and art fairs just closed (De exotische mens).
scarlett thomas

The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas (2006)

I am really embarrassed that I haven’t reviewed The End of Mr. Y yet, because it was given to my as a RABCK by Rapturina: a Random Act of Bookcrossing Kindness. And I have a personal rule that I always review bookcrossing books that are sent to me, either as book ring, ray or rabck. Also I can’t send this book on the road again until I’ve made a journal entry about it! This novel about books and time traveling was an appropriate read when I had the flu ;)

tenzuidenvdgrens_w

South of the Border, West of the Sun (Ten zuiden van de grens, ten westen van de zon / Kokkyo no minami, Taiyo no nishi) by Haruki Murakami (1998)

Haruki Murakami is one of my few favourite authors. Some fans read all his books in one continuous flow, others (like me) like to take it slow and read a book every once in a while. Savour it, so to say :) South of the Border is my 9th book of this author since I started with The Wind-up Bird Chronicles in 2004 and I read it together with Elsje, who’s a Murakami addict of the other type ;)

BTW Did you know there’s a new Murakami novel coming soon? It’s called 1Q84 and has been for sale in Japan since the end of May. It’s a great succes already. Ha! Another 1000 pages to enjoy soon ;) Erm, soon? It will be published in Holland in 2011…

Anyway, here’s a bonus for all Murakami lovers in suspense of the new novel: 1984 by the Eurythmics on YouTube. Why? Q = kyū= 9 > 1984!

ETA: in the end I reviewed The End of Mr. Y based on your questions!

This week Weekly Geeks asked:

Do you live in a place where a famous author was born? Does your town have any cool literary museums or monuments?

D’oh! Maybe you won’t know the best known author of my hometown Utrecht, Dick Bruna, but most people LOVE his famous character: Miffy! Which is, btw, known as Nijntje by Dutch readers. That’s her real name ;)

Miffy is almost as well known as Hello Kitty :) And I really don’t have any feelings for the Kitty cat, but I can’t help feeling sympathy for little rabbit Nijntje :) Even though I didn’t have any books about Miffy when I was small. My best friend did!

My brother and I had one book by Bruna each. Mine was The fish (published in 1962, that’s 8 years after I was born :)) It’s about a little fish that’s sad because the swans and ducks in the pond eat all the bread that’s been fed to them. Then a little girl falls into the water and… the fish rescues her! After that (s)he can have all the bread it wants :)

As you might have noticed there’s no Miffy in this book, LOL. But it’s one of the author’s first stories!

Miffy chocolates!

Miffy, or okay, Dick Bruna ;) has its own museum in Utrecht: Dick Bruna House. And there’s a chain of Dutch bookstores called Bruna. Is that a coincidence?

Now I’m going to be generous here: anyone who would like a postcard of Miffy: mail me your address ;)

Tell me: did you know Miffy? Or am I imagining things? ;)

This week’s edition of Weekly Geeks is just what I was waiting for…

focus on one of the most useful tools for a bibliophile: Bookmarks

I have been contemplating a post about my adventurous bookmark for a while now. It’s really an amazing story!

We went on holiday to the fabulous Unesco World Heritage Site Cappadocia in Turkey. In Göreme’s bookshop 1001 Books we bought Barbara Nadel’s Dance with Death: a mystery that’s situated in the area.

With it, we got a free bookmark. Mr Gnoe used that a lot! It brought back happy memories of our hiking holiday :) But a few months after we got back home it suddenly disappeared :( We looked everywhere, took apart our whole house, flicked through all the books we had recently read, looked under cupboards, but no: it really was completely lost.

And then… after 2 weeks the weather was great so we decided to have a drink in the park after work. I parked my bicycle at the gate — what the *** was that? I saw some familiar colours in the grass! Yes, it definitely was our own bookmark from Turkey :-o No idea how it got there! Thus ended the trip of our Cappadocian marker. And its life because it was in no state to be used anymore :( So it was recycled to be reincarnated. LOL

After that I made Mr Gnoe a personal bookmark with pictures of our holiday. And what do you know? He lost it.. : Again.

Well, better look at the bright side of things: such a good excuse to go back for another vacation in Cappadocia! To get another bookmarker that’s as fond of travelling as we are :)

The rest of my bookmark collection can be seen (and read about) on flickr.

Ha, de ‘currently reading widget thingy’ is gelukt (kijk maar even links ;) ! Dat doet me denken aan alle boeken die ik nog zou willen reviewen maar waar ik niet aan toekom — hier niet, noch bij Bookcrossing of op de Boekgrrls mailinglist. Boeken in de wachtrij zijn bijvoorbeeld:

  • The Teahouse Fire (Ellis Avery); mijn best read van 2008
  • Dans dans dans (Haruki Murakami)
  • De jacht op het verloren schaap (ook Murakami)
  • Notes from an exhibition (Patrick Gale)
  • Slam (Nick Hornby)

En zo kan ik nog wel even doorgaan. Als jullie nou roepen over welk boek je wat wilt horen, dan ga ik ermee aan de slag! Maar geef me dan wel even een duidelijke vraag om me over de drempel te helpen en niet zoiets vaags als “Wat vond je ervan?”… Alstublieft ;)

Idee gejat van een ouwe WeeklyGeeks.

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