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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…

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


*Weekly Geeks was an inspirational event for the (book) blogging community, hosted by Dewey, originator of the 24 Hour Readathon, on Thursdays.

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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 ;)

This is very exciting: on Wednesday the Monopoly 2.0 release game got started! My teammate myranya and I are called De boekenleggers, which can be translated into bookmarks — but it is a better name in Dutch because it is literally ‘the book layers’ (people laying books). Our first assignment is to leave a book at an IKEA shop… This is my 2nd time playing Bookcrossing monopoly and it was great fun last year!

Cover The CorrectionsSpeaking of Bookcrossing: I received no less than two RABCK’s this week! (Weekly Geeks made us improve our weblogs, so I’m referring you to my new glossary for the explanation of RABCK ;) First came Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections from Marsala. It is #1 on the list of Best Fiction of the Millenium (so far)! Marsala read the book during the September readathon. And yesterday my surprise gift for joining in that same monthly readathon arrived! I had joined in preparation of the 24 hour Read-a-Thon of October 24th. I am really excited that I already got my pile of books done! Here’s what I will be reading during those 24 hours (although I probably won’t manage all of the books/hours):

  • short stories: Nocturnes, by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • De pianoman (‘The Piano Man‘), by Bernlef
  • audiobook: Modelvliegen (‘Model Gliding‘), by Marcel Möring
  • [my current book of that moment]
  • Dromen van China (The China Lover), by Ian Buruma
  • graphic novel: Coraline, by Neil Gaiman
  • graphic novel: Persepolis & Persopolis 2, by Marjane Satrapi
  • comic: The Best of Mutts, by Patrick McDonnell

There’s just one title I would like to add: Zijde (Silk), by Alessandro Baricco. So if anyone has got a copy available, in Dutch or English..?

Buying graphic novels for the upcoming read-a-thon was a first for me! I figured it would be great for variety. But the funny thing is I can hardly wait to start reading them now! I should keep myself from picking them up first thing on THE Day ;)

My mailbox really had to work overtime this week: I also received my three online Japanese book group reads yesterday!

    Japanese book group books

  • I Am a Cat (Wagahai wa Neko dearu 1905), by Natsume Sōseki — readalong, part 1 TBR before November 15th
  • The Old Capital (Koto 1962), by Yasunari Kawabata — TBR before November 30th
  • The Housekeeper and the Professor (Hakase no aishi ta sūshiki 2003), by Yoko Ogawa — TBR before January 30th 2010

Next week I hope to have finished John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath… I’ll see you then!

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?

Would you read a cursed book, if you had one? [p. 54]

Well, Ariel Manto, a lonely PhD student on the outlandish Victorian scientist Thomas Lumas and heroine of The End of Mr. Y (by Scarlett Thomas), does. Guess what the title of the cursed book is?

Cover The End of Mr. YIn 2008 the novel was nominated for the Orange Prize for Fiction — one of the reasons why I wanted to read it. But which book addict would NOT put a page turner about a mysterious publication on his or her reading list? I read The End of Mr. Y while recovering from the flu and quite loved it. At times it has a really feverish plot! I’m just not sure about the ending… Intellectually I would have liked it to end differently, but sick & sentimental me sort of felt good about it.

The End of Mr. Y is a thought experiment wrapped in a contemporary adventure story that asks questions about thought, language, destiny, and the very limits of being and time. I didn’t think of that myself, I just copied Wikipedia ;) What does the book itself say on the topic?

[though experiments] are experiments that, for whatever reason, cannot be physically carried out, but must instead be conducted internally, via logic and reasoning, in the mind. There have been ethical and philosophical thought experiments for hundreds, if not thousands, of years but it was when people began using the experiments in a scientific context that they were first given the title ‘thought experiment’, a literal translation of gedankenexperiment, although Lumas had always referred to them as ‘experiments of the mind’. [..] Edgar Allan Poe used the principles of the thought experiment to solve the Olbers Paradox, and, some people believe, to more or less invent the Big Bang theory a good hundred years before anyone else [..] somthing close to the way he described infinity, as the “thought of a thought”.[p.95]

So not only is The End of Mr. Y a book-in-a-book, but also a thought experiment about thought experiments… Well, although I did write down the quote, I didn’t think about these things while reading. I was way too much carried away by the story!

Another quote, about quantum physics, brought two other books to mind: One, by Richard Bach (today I wouldn’t be caught dead reading it LOL), and Child in Time, by the well-respected author Ian McEwan.

There’s the many-worlds interpretation. In a nutshell, while the Copenhagen interpretation suggests that all probabilities collapse into one definite reality on observation, the many-worlds interpretation suggests that all the possibilities exist at once, but that each one has its own universe to go with it.

I hope I am not putting anyone off by these ‘scientific’ quotes. Just look at some of the excerpts on the book’s homepage to get a real taste of it!

Scarlett Thomas obviously likes to play with words. The name of the book’s protagonist, Ariel Manto, is an anagram of I am not real. And the Victorian writer Thomas Lumas has part of his name in common with the author herself. It made me contemplate about the name of Mr. Y, but I couldn’t come up with any nice theories. I’ll be glad to hear yours! I’ve thought about:

  • Mr. Why
  • Mr. Y being the opposite of, or familiair to the more well-known Mr. X
  • (maybe my best guess) x and y being opposites in a coordinate system, creating dimensions; this book being about other dimensions, you could think of the x-axis (horizontal) being our ‘ordinary’ world and ‘y’ going away from that. I hope I am not sounding too foolish? :\

I considered releasing The End of Mr. Y as part of the Utopian/Dystopian Sunday Sunset Release of February 1st (yes, that long ago), since the novel is definitely dystopian (about a society in which conditions of life are miserable). But because this book was a Random Act of Bookcrossing Kindness by rapturina, I figured I couldn’t just leave it somewhere out there in the cold, cold world. Now I am happy to have found it a new destiny: sterestherster, and Gondaaa after her; tweeps that have joined some other twitter people in a real life book group — and their next read is The End of Mr. Y. I hope they’ll write a (short) journal entry when they have finished it, because it is always nice to know what other readers think. The social web provides a great new dimension to our lives!

I am not afraid of bringing more people in danger because even though my health was weak, I still survived The End of Mr. Y (phew!). I guess the curse has diminished! Or has it?

* * *

My remark about the social web just reminded me… several weekly geeks asked about this book when I posted ‘Help me catch up on book reviews‘. I have already implicitly answered Dreamybee‘s, Maree’s and (most of) Jackie’s questions above, but there are two left that I want to touch on briefly.

Bart asked what I thought of the story-in-the-story. Can I just say: hey, I like reading about books?! :) I’m not sure what you want to know exactly. It’s a bit much to really go into details of the story itself — and I must admit: a bit too long ago as well!

Also Trisha wanted to know what the book says about the unconscious mind… I feel really DUMB now, but I have no idea. It is a mishmash of philosophical and scientific theories put into a quick and believable read. You wonder how Thomas managed to make such a coherent story of it. I feel I’ve done a worse job with this blogpost… :( Can’t blame the flu anymore, can I?! ;)

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.

Het Schaap

“Ik voelde me eenzaam, zonder haar, maar werd enigszins geholpen door het feit dat ik me eenzaam kon voelen. Eenzaamheid is zo slecht nog niet. Nu wist ik wat een kastanjeboom voelt in de stilte nadat de vogels zijn weggevlogen.”

Op verzoek van Elsje (die het boek ook las), is hier dan eindelijk de post over De jacht op het verloren schaap van Haruki Murakami (met de mooie Japanse titel Hitsuji o meguru bōken). Ze vroeg me of ik verschillen zie tussen deze vroege roman van Murakami en zijn latere werk (en zo ja, welke).

Ik had al bijna “ja natúúrlijk!” geroepen, maar toen ik erover ging nadenken kwamen juist alle overeenkomsten naar boven en raakte ik hopeloos in de knoop… Het verschil is misschien moeilijk te beredeneren en meer gevoelsmatig.

Allereerst kort het verhaal voor diegenen die het boek nog niet kennen (tsk!). Uit de blurb:

Een (naamloze) jongeman van tegen de 30, een ‘held van deze tijd’, gaat samen met zijn vriendin (een meisje met sensationeel mooie oren), op zoek naar een heel bijzonder schaap met een ster op zijn rug. Ze doen dit onder dwang, voor een kopstuk van een extreem-rechtse beweging. Deze leider leeft al zo’n 40 jaar op mysterieuze wijze met een gezwel zo groot als een golfbal in zijn hoofd. In de hallucinaties die dit abces veroorzaakt, komt het vreemde dier voor. De enige aanwijzing die de hoofdpersoon heeft, is een foto waarop het schaap staat. Deze werd hem toegestuurd door een vriend die enkele jaren tevoren spoorloos verdween, met het verzoek ervoor te zorgen dat zoveel mogelijk mensen de foto onder ogen krijgen.

Er zijn in mijn ogen twee soorten Murakamiboeken: het ene type lijkt op een zwoele zomerwind die je gestaag meevoert door een nostalgische wereld. Hiertoe horen bijvoorbeeld Norwegian Wood, Dans dans dans, Spoetnikliefde, After Dark en.. De jacht op het verloren schaap. Deze romans zijn subtiel mysterieus, ingetogen en vaak weemoedig. Eigenlijk heel ‘Japans’.

De andere Murakami’s zijn meer een wervelwind: ze sleuren je mee in hun overdaad, hun absurditeit die soms over the top is. De vreemde personages die in alle boeken voorkomen, worden hier bijna karikaturen. Ik denk dan aan De Opwindvogelkronieken en Kafka op het strand. Niet voor niks zijn deze boeken dikker dan de andere ;) Ik zou deze verhalen willen vergelijken met een film als The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover van Peter Greenaway.

Het gaat dus om een verschil in stijl dat niet zozeer tussen vroeg en laat werk van de schrijver bestaat, maar meer uit verschillende ‘stromingen’ binnen zijn oeuvre. En dan laat ik de korte verhalen maar even buiten beschouwing. Mijn oorspronkelijke idee dat het een tijdsverschil zou zijn, komt eigenlijk vooral doordat ik de volgorde niet goed in mijn hoofd had. Dat krijg je als de vertalingen niet chronologisch verschijnen ;) Geef een ander maar de schuld! LOL Nou ja, zo is dit blogje tenslotte ook tot stand gekomen… ;)

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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