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Literary Giveaway Blog Hop ButtonA big THANK YOU to all participants that joined in the Literary Giveaway Blog Hop for a brandnew copy of David Mitchell’s semi-autobiographic novel Black Swan Green. I’ve had a great trip down memory lane, enjoying your nineteen eighties recollections while listening to the hits that got mentioned — some of which I’d totally forgotten about… Shame on me!

Read this:

“OMG what a blast from the past! I was born in 1971 so I’m not far behind you and this Human League song was actually one of my favourites from the 80′s (in fact it was at #1 in the UK on my 10th birthday!).”

“I liked everything about the 80′s except the big hair. it was a bad hair decade.”

“I’m a total 80′s girl who still enjoys wearing pink and green (in a contemporary way) :)”

“Later on I was very serious about The Cure, The Cult and The Smiths.I’d raise my eyebrows at my brother listening to Bon Jovi, Europe and Heart, while I put on another Echo and the Bunnymen record.”

“Okay….as soon as the question was posed, I had an answer (Tainted Love), but by the time I scrolled down to actually answer it, two other songs popped into my head (Come On Eileen and Take On Me) and as I started typing my response….well…let’s just say if I continue this comment, I’ll NEVER stop with my list of favorite 80′s tunes!!!”

These comments are killing me! But you probably didn’t come here to hear even more raves about that 80s decade. ;) So let’s get on with announcing the winner Mr kindly selected for us! And since the Oscar Night is coming up, we’ll do it in style.

The winner of the 83rd Academy Award for BLACK SWAN GREEN is… result for Black Swan Green giveaway

ELLIE from Musings of a Bookshop Girl!

Let’s hear her enthusiastic comment (#2539).

Screenshot of Ellie's comment (#2539) on the Black Swan Green giveaway

Like many of you Ellie couldn’t decide on just one song. Among the 6 (!) she listed was one of my favourite bands: Depeche Mode! If you’ve visited my home you know their Black Celebration tour poster decorates my restroom wall even today. :) Cover Black Swan Green (David Mitchell)How cool to send a book of my fav author to someone with a similar love! Of course I’ve heard Just Can’t Get Enough just one time too many — I guess a grrl can get enough sometimes — and would rather listen to one of their other songs. Like this awesome soundcheck of Somebody by Martin Gore and Alan Wilder, reunited for the Teenage Cancer Trust in the Royal Albert Hall (February last year).

Now there was one comment that sent me right into eighties heaven. Leslie from Under My Apple Tree had a hard time choosing but she managed to narrow it down to the song and video combination she loved the most and still listens to today: Take On Me by A-Ha! My, did I have a huge crush on Morten Harket when I was 16 years old. :) Even a concussion -don’t ask- couldn’t keep me from going to their concert! Of course I also wore the leather paraphernalia around my neck and wrists — almost up to my elbows ;) Yes me, the wannabe vegan! ;) I gotta have a picture of that somewhere so I’ll prove it to you later if I can find it.

There was one other ‘eighties girl’ who singled out Take On Me: Birgit from The Book Garden. Now although you’ll never hear me say Take On Me is the best song of the eighties (heck, I could never choose one favourite) I’d like to offer Leslie & Birgit a small consolation prize: a CD with their very own Black Swan Green soundtrack to swing to!

Congratulations to Ellie, Leslie & Birgit! And I hope some of you may pick up Black Swan Green someday because of the fun we had in this giveaway!


This is the first, of hopefully many, guest posts by Mr Gnoe. As a listology addict he compiled a Black Swan Green Soundtrack for us!

In a book about a teenager situated after 1960, music has to play an important role. Music is a big part of youth culture and David Mitchell does a superb job of sketching the life of a young teenager in the eary 80s (I know, I’ve been there ;))

There is a lot of ‘boyish’ music, like Madness, Elvis Costello, Adam Ant and the Specials. Music a boy wouldn’t have to be embarrassed about to like in front of his friends. But secretly Jason likes some ‘softer’ songs as well, like ‘Heaven’ by Talking Heads and John Lennon’s #9 Dream (not coincidentally Mitchell’s second book is called number9dream).

Music plays a big part throughout the book, but Mitchell really goes wild in one of the last, hilarious chapters ‘Disco’ (or should I say one of the last stories, since every chapter reads like a story on its own). This reads completely natural because events occur while the music is playing and you can imagine the characters remembering exactly who did what during which song, years after. And if you know and love these songs, like Gnoe and me, it’s a feast to read :)

All the songs in the book together form a nice soundtrack. In the 80s I would’ve made a Black Swan Green compilation cassette but now it’s a playlist for my iPod. Here’s what’s on it!

January man

Don’t You Want Me – Human League (1982)

The first chapter ‘January Man’ starts with the phone ringing in the office of Jason’s father. From his sister julia’s room ‘Don’t You Want Me’ is thumping out dead loud and kicks off the book.


The Man with the Child in His Eyes – Kate Bush (1978)
Songbird – Fleetwood Mac (1977)

Julia is playing these two melancholic songs in her room, telling us (the readers) she’s not as tough as she pretends to be and not as lucky as Jason thinks she is.


Virginia Plain – Roxy Music (1972)

Jason secretly plays Julia’s Roxy Music LP in her room (“Julia’d go ape!“). At first I thought I had spotted a goof, because Virginia Plain was Roxy Music’s debut single but was not included on their debut LP. Wikipedia tells me it was rereleased in 1977 to promote their Greatest Hits album, so this must be the LP in Julia’s collection.


Heaven – Talking Heads (1979)

Jason is seriously impressed by Julia’s boyfriend Ewan’s new car and his taste in music.

An incredible song filled the car from four hidden speakers. ‘”Heaven”,’ Ewan told me, breezy but proud. ‘Talking Heads. David Byrne’s a genius.’ I just nodded, still taking it all in.


Mr Blue Sky – Electric Light Orchestra (1977)

Feeling good, Jason lays down on his bed and listens to ‘Mr Blue Sky’ five or six times in a row.

Souvenirs1st Walkman, 1979

Hungry Like The Wolf – Duran Duran (1982)
One Step Beyond – Madness (1979)
One In Ten – UB40 (1981)

Jason is away with his dad on a business trip. Going around town he hears music: Madness in a cafetaria, UB40 in the hotel at night.

Some girls share the earphones of a Sony Walkman and sing ‘Hungry Like A Wolf’. The Walkman was first produced in 1979 in Japan.


The Lion Sleeps Tonight – Tight fit (1982)

Some girls are singing ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ in the back of the bus. This is originally a South African song, first recorded in 1939 but probably much older. The version you couldn’t not have heard in 1982 in England or in the Netherlands was the version of Tight Fit. It reached no.1 in both countries even though it was recorded with session singers and not the models playbacking the song Boney M-style.

Knife Grinder

Words (Between The Lines Of Age) – Neil Young 1972)

Jason watches Top Of The Pops and listens to a cassette tape Julia has made for him from Ewan’s LP’s. The first song is Words (Between The Lines Of Age). “Neil Young sings like a barn but his music’s brill.”

Goose Fair

Oliver’s Army – Elvis Costello & The Attractions (1979)
Ghost Town – Specials (1981)
Waterloo – Abba (1974)
Get Off Of My Cloud – Flying Pickets (1982)

The Goose Fair is in town, and walking around the fairground Jason picks up music from different directions. He especially likes that ace song ‘Olive’s Salami’ by Elvis Costello. Another song he notices goes ‘Hey! (HEY!) You! (YOU!) Get Off Of My Cloud!’, coming from the Flying Teacups. It doesn’t say in the book wich version of the song is being played (the original is of course Rolling Stones, 1967) but I like to think it’s the a-capella version by Flying Pickets from 1982.


The grand finale of the book. Jason, who was not really a loser, but far from popular has suddenly earned the respect of his class mates (No spoiler – I won’t reveal here why). This happened just in time, because at the end of the year there’s the Black Swan Green Grand Christmas Village Hall Disco!

This already long post continues with the Black Swan Green Disco Party!

If you’re from my generation, this song will probably bring up some memories.

It’ll be my birthday next week so when Leeswammes announced she was hosting a literary giveaway blog hop, I figured that would be a nice opportunity to share a book of my all-time favourite author: David Mitchell. And which novel would be more appropriate for a forty-something birthday than Black Swan Green? You’re only turning 41 once. ;)

Do not set foot in my office. That’s dad’s rule. But the phone’d rung twenty-five times. Normal people give up after ten or eleven, unless it’s a matter of life and death. Don’t they? Dad’s got an answering machine like James Garner’s in The Rockford Files with big reels of tape. But he’s stopped leaving it switched on recently. Thirty rings, the phone got to. Julia couldn’t hear it up in her converted attic ‘cause ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ by Human League was thumping out dead loud. Forty rings. Mum couldn’t hear ‘cause the washing machine was on berserk cycle and she was hoovering the living room. Fifty rings. That’s just not normal. S’pose Dad’d been mangled by a juggernaut on the M5 and the police only had this office number ‘cause all his other ID’d got incinerated? We could lose our final chance to see our charred father in the terminal ward.
[Black Swan Green, p.1]

Cover Black Swan Green (David Mitchell)Black Swan Green is Mitchell’s fourth novel and can be considered a semi-autobiographical ‘coming of age story’. The book’s thirteen chapters each represent one month—from January 1982 through January 1983—in the life of 13-year-old Worcestershire boy Jason Taylor.* The story is written from his perspective and contains teen speech and popular-culture references from early-1980s England.

Although the novel was published in 2006, the first chapter, January Man, appeared as a short story in Granta 2003 Best of Young British Writers. At a reading I attended Mitchell confessed he had not felt ready to write (t)his story, that is so close to home, before.

Needless to say that Black Swan Green is a nostalgic trip. Not everything is familiar to me as a Dutch person (like the Rockford Files from the first paragraph), but it’s a feast of recognition anyway. All the 1982 hits passing by are a party treat in itself! Mr Gnoe has been busying himself with tracking down the songs in this novel (as ‘children’ of the eighties we just love lists ;) Through this he found out that what seems like random stage setting at first actually gives the story depth. Jason assumes for example that his elder sister Julia is having ‘a ball’ now that she’s old enough to leave home. But from the songs Jason says she’s playing — we, who have been there and know the lyrics by heart ;) — understand Julia is having her own troubles.

I definitely need to reread this book! Now how about you? Would you like to get to know Jason Tyler? Don’t you want to discover which characters from Mitchell’s universe reappear in this story?? Here’s your chance! I have a brand new copy of Black Swan Green to give away. Just leave a comment and tell me what is your favourite 80’s song. But you can only participate if you’re 35+.
LOL Just kidding!!! Open to all ages of course — and worldwide. Make sure I know how to contact you! If I have no way of contacting you, you can’t win.

[* For those of you too lazy to do the maths, in 1982 I was just a year younger: 12.]

* Stay tuned for your very own Black Swan Green Disco Party! *

This giveaway ends on February 23rd, 23:59 GMT+1 (=Amsterdam/Berlin time zone). A winner will be randomly selected at the end of the week.

Literary Giveaway Blog Hop Button

Now go and have a look at all the other fabulous books that you can win!
(Note: the Literary Blog Hop has ended.)

Sunday Salon logoThe Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

Burn Notice

Ik ben van het zeldzame slag ‘gericht tv-kijker’: ik kijk alleen wat ik écht wil zien en dan meestal ook nog op mijn eigen tijd ;) Daarvoor heb je dan
wel een harddiskrecorder en een VPRO-gids nodig (of vooruit, een online tv-gids mag ook ;)

Zulk kijkgedrag heeft als voordeel dat je series niet met spanning een week hoeft te wachten op het vervolg, maar dat je lekker aflevering na aflevering kunt kijken :) Zo geniet ik sinds vorige week van de serie Burn Notice, die dinsdagavonds om ca. 22 uur wordt uitgezonden op RTL5. Morgen zijn ze daar al bij nummer 11 en ik ben ongeveer halverwege. De eerste 3 episodes moest ik even besluiten of het de moeite van het opnemen waard was — ik laat The Culture Show ervoor schieten (nou ja, ik neem dan vrijdagnacht de uncut-versie op) — maar eenmaal gewend vind ik het errug lollig!

Ik citeer ff uit de Wikipedia-pagina:

De serie draait om Michael Westen, die al jarenlang een succesvolle spion is in dienst van Amerika. Dan krijgt hij op een dag een bericht met de tekst ‘You got Burned’, wat inhoud dat hij en zogenaamde “Burn Notice” heeft ontvangen en dus feitelijk is ontslagen. Voor Westen is dat [..] een ernstige situatie. Als een spion wordt ontslagen, dan heeft hij opeens geen geld, credit, werkhistorie of enig ander middel om te laten zien wie hij is.

Michael Westen wordt gespeeld door Jeffrey Donovan, die ik onlangs in Clint Eastwoods Changeling voor het eerst zag. Ik vind het een beetje een gladjanus, maar de hele serie is ‘slick‘ gefilmd dus dat lijkt een goeie keuze ;)

Burn Notice dus. Het zijn een beetje flutverhaaltjes die soms je intelligentie onderschatten, maar leuk(st)e van de serie vind ik dat-ie inhaakt op allerlei Amerikaanse tv-series uit mijn jeugd. Zoals:

  • Miami Vice: Burn Notice speelt in Miami en je ziet telkens shots van scheurende speedboten of flanerende vrouwen in bikini’s; bovendien lijkt Sam, de enige ‘vriend’ die Michael nog bij de FBI heeft, op collega Switek van Crocket & Tubbs uit Miami Vice
  • Dallas: het liefje van Sam wordt gespeeld door Audrey Landers, oftewel Afton uit Dallas (nauwelijks veranderd overigens, dus daar is een hoop aan gesleuteld…)
  • The A-Team: er wordt flink gefröbeld met mobiele telefoons, duct-tape en andere huis-tuin-en-keuken gadgets; bovendien verricht Michael veel ‘vriendendiensten’, net als Hannibal, Face, B.A. en Murdock
  • Magnum, P.I.: ook Magnum hielp vooral vrienden (van vrienden) als ik het mij goed herinner; daarnaast heeft Michael net als Tom Selleck een karakteristiek lachje dat vaak close-up in beeld wordt gebracht — en had Magnum niet net zo’n voice-over?
  • Cagney & Lacey: Michaels moeder (belangrijke bijrol) wordt gespeeld door Sharon Gless a.k.a. Cagney
  • Charlie’s Angels: Michaels toeverlaat Fiona is een soort schietgrage Angel
  • Knight Rider: snelle (zwarte) auto ;) en dat is natuurlijk ook een link met Miami Vice en Magnum, alleen waren dat resp. witte en rode bolides (vrouwen letten op de kleur, niet op het merk — behalve Elsje natuurlijk ;)
  • Hill Street Blues: Fiona riep Michael laatst na wat leek op iets waarmee ‘the chief’ in Hill Street Blues zijn agenten op pad stuurde: (“and remember, be careful out there” — of zoiets, ik hoor graag de juiste quote!)

Wie ontdekt meer??? Het lijkt me dat dit het topje van de ijsberg moet zijn! Waarvan kennen we bijvoorbeeld het tussendoor stilzetten van beelden, en de introductie van personages met typemachine-letters? Ook dat komt me razend bekend voor…

ETA: vanwege extreme spam op dit bericht is de commentaarmogelijkheid hier uitgeschakeld.

Gnoe goes ExtraVeganza!


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