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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 ;)

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After the crime
I’m not Truman Capote so I’m not going to take as long as he did to write his book In Cold Blood and ponder 7 years over a review. Let’s just get it over with.

In Cold Blood is a faction novel: fiction based on facts. It tells the story of a horrible murder that happened in Holcomb, Kansas, on the night of Friday 13th 1959. Is that where our superstition about Friday 13th originates from? (No, it’s not.) That night, the much loved Clutter family was slaughtered in cold blood by two young man that had met in jail: Dick Hickock and Perry Smith. The book concentrates on the events leading up to the killing, the quest to find the murderers, their trial(s) and eventually their execution.

Cover In Cold BloodI’ve had the book on my shelf ever since I saw the biopic Capote in which Philip Seymour Hoffman plays an awesome leading role as the author. But I never picked it up for fear of being bored… Because of the movie I already knew what had happened, see. But I’m glad I no longer procrastinated! I buddy read it with the Boekgrrls in November 2009; exactly 50 years after the crime. And it was quite a powerful experience.

Knowing about the case was no problem at all: the events are revealed at the beginning of the story. That’s partly what’s good about the book: although the outcome is public knowledge, it is still interesting to read. Most times… it is a bit slow in some parts as well.

The Clutter FamilyI admire how Capote skips around the actual murder for quite some time; getting us to know Herb Clutter, his wife Bonny, daughter Nancy and son Kenyon. Meeting Dick and Perry ‘warming up’ with some petty crimes. The author guides us through the days preceding and following the massacre, showing us the town and its people, following the detectives that are hunting down the killers. And then finally, the moment of horror.

In Cold Blood is supposed to be the first in a genre that is now well-known: ‘true crime fiction’. Capote was looking for inspiration as a writer when he read a small newspaper article about the case in Holcomb. It took him 5 years of ‘investigating’ and another 2 to finish the book. Its suggests to be factual (presenting letters, reports etc.), so many of the people involved criticized him for not being completely true to the case. Capote himself replied that it was obviously a novel = fiction.

Capote in Clutter Home

An interesting question is why Capote was so immensely fascinated by this case that he worked on it for so many years. I recall from the movie that the author seemed extremely ‘attracted’ by the perpetrators, especially Perry. And the weird thing is that even I felt sorry for him at times — or even sympathy, no matter that he was such a ruthless killer. On of the strongest scenes in the book is Perry’s confession to KBI (Kansas Bureau of Investigation) officer Albert Dewey. The murders, Dick Hickock and Perry Smith

*** spoiler alert *** The suggestion that Perry Smith would have suffered from schizophrenia is pretty convincing. Unfortunately for him at that time in Kansas state the Durham rule was not yet in practice. This act decrees that “an accused is not criminally responsible if his unlawful act is the product of mental disease or mental defect“. I must say that I’m against the taking of any life, which means I do not approve of the death penalty in any case – not even in a horrible crime like this.

Bookish connections
Capote’s childhood friend Harper Lee accompanied him to the Midwest as his research assistent. I recently read her most acclaimed novel To Kill a Mockingbird which she wrote a few years after the Holcomb tragedy. It has nothing to do with this case, but it does deal with legislation and justice, telling the story of a murder courtcase in Alabama. Capote is depicted in the book as the boy Dill. But Lee is never mentioned in Capote’s In Cold Blood.

BTW from the movie Capote I had gotten the impression that the author himself would play a role in his book as well, which he does not…

Perry’s childhood during the Great Depression, his family travelling the country in search of work, also brings to mind John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, which I had read just before In Cold Blood:

‘Tex John Smith Family picking berries in Oregon. 1933’ Was the caption under a snapshot of four barefooted children wearing overalls and cranky, uniformly fatigued expressions. Berries or stale bread soaked in sweet condensed milk was often all they had to eat. [His sister] Barbara Johnson remembered that once the family had lived for days on rotten bananas, and that, as a result, Perry had got colic; he had screamed all night, while Bobo, as Barbara was called, wept for fear he was dying. [p.177]

Women Unbound buttonBecause of some quotes about the role of women, the story also made me think of the October Boekgrrls’ buddy read: Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, which is set in fifties as well. Since I’m participating in the Women Unbound challenge, I’ll give this topic its own heading.

The role of women
Bonny Clutter was a very troubled housewife (according to this book = according to Capote? The people in the village? Her family?). Bonny herself believed that a pinched nerve was the cause of her problems. But to the contemporary reader it is obvious that she was depressed; which might be postnatal depression as is suggested in the book, but I rather believe her unfulfilling everyday life must have amplified it. In the past she had been living in Wichita for 2 weeks, having her own apartment and a job. Doctor’s orders. And it seemed to help…

[..] but she had liked it too well, so much that it seemed to her unchristian, and the sense of guilt she in consequence developed ultimately outweighed the experiment’s therapeutic value. [p.26]

So she turned into a woman that:

[..] had reduced her voice to a single tone, that of apology, and her personality to a series of gestures blurred by the fear that she might give offence, in some way displease. [p.23]

Then there’s Nancy’s attitude to her father Herb Clutter.

‘[..] Can’t you make your father understand that?’ No, she could not. ‘Because,’ as she explained it to Susan, ‘whenever I start to say something, he looks at me as though I must not love him. Or as though I love him less. And suddenly I’m tongue-tied; I just want to be his daughter and do as he wishes.‘ [p.19]

I don’t have any intelligent thoughts about this but I do think it says a lot about the way women wore culturally imposed and emotional straitjackets at the time. It seems to have been engraved in our x-chromosomes — and the leftovers sometimes pop-up… Because although it’s 50 years later and I’ve been raised by a feminist mom, I’m embarrassed to say that the feelings described are not completely unfamiliar to me. (Can I get another Honest Scrap Award now, please? ;)

Other thoughts on the book…
I did think the Clutters were a bit too good to be true — except for poor Bonny of course, who was such a troubled, incompetent mother & wife :\

If I had not known the book was based on facts and written relatively short after the real events, I would have sworn to have come upon an anachronism:

[..] Nancy had cleaned up, put all the dishes in the dish-washer, [..] [p.49]

OMG my well-to-do grandparents (or should I say my grandma?) first got a washing machine about a whole decade later! Let alone I would know anyone who had a dish-washer at that time… But hey, I wasn’t born yet either ;)

Movie connections…
In Cold Blood has made such an impression that I was reminded of it during several movies I saw shortly after. That happened because of the schizophrenia in the horror movie Bug and the bloody massacre in Jennifer Lynch’s Surveillance.

But it doesn’t end here; the bookgroup read will result in a film follow-up real soon! Some Boekgrrls are coming over to watch the 1967 film In Cold Blood with me. It got 8 stars in the Internet Movie Databse so I’m having no worries about being bored because I already know the story ;)

Clutter home in recent times

Book Bloggers Holiday Swap buttonHow exciting, I’m going to be a secret Santa! I’ve dropped my name in Santa’s bag for the Book Bloggers Holiday Swap. Want to join as well? Be quick: subscription ends November 12th!

Good thing the holiday swap perked me up because my attempt at the Bookcrossing Spooky Booky 24 hour readathon was an absolute #FAIL. I knew I was on a tight schedule last week, but I had hoped to at least beat last month’s result of 15 hours and 8 minutes. Well… I didn’t even come close! [starts whispering] I scrambled together a meagre total of 7 hours, 10 minutes :-o

So the ‘spooky’ book I’m reading is still the same as last Sunday: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. It’s pretty grim! It shows the real thing to fear are our fellow humans; not those Halloween ghosts, vampires or zombies. Capote absolutely has me by the throat!

A more relaxing bookish event that took place at my home yesterday was that some Boekgrrls came over to watch Revolutionary Road, the movie adaptation of Richard Yates’ novel. The overall opinion? Director Sam Mendes did a great job (even though the book is still way better). I’m just not sure whether I would have liked the film as much had I not read the book beforehand.

April & Frank Wheeler

Another minor detail: I kept seeing Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet instead of Frank and April Wheeler… But still, I’m glad to have seen it: I enjoyed it much, much more than, in example, the adaptations of Atonement and Enduring Love (other books I really like). Although ‘enjoy’ might not be the right word for a story like Revolutionary Road…

Well, I’ve only got another 100 pages left of In Cold Blood, so coming week I hope to start in The Old Capital, by Yasunari Kawabata for my Japanese Literature Book Group. I’m embarrassed to say I had never heard of this Nobel Prize winner before, but since I know we’re going to read his book I have heard other novelists mention him as an example for their own writings. So, I’ll talk to you next week in The Sunday Salon!

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 ;)

Wat een mazzel! Bij het maken van de woensdagse Mexicaanse maaltijd (met natuurlijk knof en ui in de salsa picante en avocadomousse), kwam ik erachter dat ons voorraadje peterselie op was. En wát zat er in de nieuwe groententas..? Phew, dat scheelt weer knoflookwalm ;)

Aardvlo veggiebag week 45En ook met de stoofpeertjes zijn we superblij — misschien maak ik daar wel een toetje van voor het loekavondje van a.s. zaterdag: Revolutionary Road staat op het programma, nadat het boek van Richard Yates vorige maand is gelezen door de boekgrrls. Het boek van november is In Cold Blood van Truman Capote, dus zit er nóg zo’n avondje in het verschiet :) Maar ik dwaal af…

De tas van deze week:

  • stoofpeertjes
  • platte peterselie
  • prei
  • bospeen
  • winterpostelein
  • groene kool

Wie weet een lekker — niet te ingewikkeld — dessert met stoofpeertjes??

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 ;)

Just a short Sunday Salon today. No new books came into the house, so that’s good news ;) And I haven’t started any new reading challenges — although I am contemplating participating in the Women Unbound Challenge :\ But I said I wouldn’t join any new challenges before I had finished one of my current, so… Cover The PillowbookThen again, I’ll be reading The Pillow Book by Sei Shōnagon anyway for my personal and Classics challenge.

A book of observations and musings recorded by Sei Shōnagon during her time as court lady to Empress Teishi during the 990s and early 1000s in Heian Japan.

For the Women Unbound Challenge participants are encouraged to read nonfiction and fiction books related to the rather broad idea of women’s studies (the multidisciplinary study of the social status and societal contributions of women and the relationship between power and gender). As a philogynist I would need to read at least two books of which one non-fiction. The Pillow Book would fit in great!

Cover I Am A Cat

I finished part 1 of I Am a Cat by Natsume Sōseki. I’ll need to review it before November 15th because of the Japanese Read-along. That seems early enough but I’m way behind on my book reviews and it’s getting a bit frustrating. Hopefully November will prove better! Books read in October that I want to review aside from I Am a Cat: Coraline graphic novel (Neil Gaiman), The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck) and Be With You (Takuji Ichikawa).

But I also have a review backlog from before October: Revolutionary Road (Richard Yates), Brideshead Revisted (Evelyn Waugh) — and many more as you can see in the challenge overview below… Sigh. And these are only book blogposts :\ Well, at least I did write a short review of ‘The Piano Man‘ (De pianoman) during the 24 hour Read-a-Thon!

Cover In Cold BloodMy current book is In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. It’s the November read for my online book group. I haven’t gotten really far yet, even though I said I would participate in this week’s Spooky Booky Readathon at Bookcrossing. I hoped to beat the result of my first attempt in the September readathon, but with only 2:30 hrs read from Friday until now, that will become pretty difficult. Oh well. I knew I was going to have a busy week ahead and my priorities lie elsewhere ;)

I guess that’s it for now. I’ll just leave you with the monthly progress update of my reading challenges.

Challenges / Bookgroups etc.

Current Bookgroup reads:

  • Boekgrrls November book: In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote (now reading)
  • Japanese Literature Read-along for November 15th: I Am A Cat (part I), by Natsume Soseki (read, to be reviewed)
  • Japanese Literature Book Group for November 30th: The Old Capital, by Yasunari Kawabata (TBR)

What's in a name 2(009) buttonAfter stumbling upon it in Puss Reboots Weekly Geeks post, I decided to join the ‘What’s in a Name?reading challenge (2nd edition): 6 different ‘themes’ requiring a fitting title.

It’s a bit sneaky of me that I can already cross of five of them but hey, it is supposed to be fun right? I just hope I won’t be castigated for taking the categories too loosely… :\ No need to add extra stress to my reading life!

So, here’s the list!

  1. A book with a ‘profession‘ in its title:
    The Little Emperor (Dutch title: De kleine keizer), by Martin Bril
    read in May
  2. A book with a ‘time of day‘ in its title:
    The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro
    read in January
  3. A book with a ‘relative‘ in its title:
    The Mapmaker’s Wife, by Robert Whitaker
    awaiting bookring
    This title also fits review theme 1: profession!
  4. A book with a ‘body part‘ in its title:
    Grey Souls (Dutch title: Grijze zielen), by Philippe Claudel
    read in January
    In Cold Blood
    , by Truman Capote
    read in November
  5. A book with a ‘building‘ in its title:
    Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh — I could have put this one at 3 (‘bride’) or 4 (‘head’) as well LOL
    read in April
  6. A book with a ‘medical condition‘ in its title:
    What came before he shot her, by Elizabeth George
    reading in June

Gnoe goes ExtraVeganza!

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