1995: Sataniske vers

My sister used to work for a book publisher, so she got tons of free books.  The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie was probably one of them, which explains why I’ve got it.

It’s better than I expected.  It’s written in a very late-80s coke-fuelled wide-eye manic way, with one tableaux after another.  Quite entertaining, but some of it drags.

The book hasn’t aged well.  For instance, the magic realism.  When all the people in the hospital turned into creatures from fables, it just made me start rolling my eyes.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to read while you’re rolling your eyes?

But it’s not bad.  Bits of it are very inventive and exciting, even if the post-modern excoticism wears you down a bit.  It’s funny, though.

Rating: Pomolicios

1995: Till Damaskus/Ett drömspel

I couldn’t remember buying this, and it turns out that I didn’t.  It was forgotten by somebody at my apt, and he’s since gone onto become a theater instructor.  How appropriate, since this is a collection of two plays by August Strindberg.

I probably get a more abstract impression of the plays than originally intended.  I mean, they’re full of madness and symbolism (it’s Strindberg!), but the Oldee Timey Swedish Grammar (from 1898) combined with the general christianey drift of the plot makes my  brain not quite grasp what’s going on all the time.

But the plays are definitely powerful.  And quite amusing in places.

Det är synd om människorna!

Rating: Symbolicious.

1995: The Woman in the Dunes

Continuing the stooory of 1995, for some reason or other I had bought this book by Kobo (The Meat) Abé.  Probably because it was on sale.  Which also explains why I didn’t read it.

It turns out to be a fantastically written punch in the stomach.  It’s a sandy, moist and claustrophobic horror show.  And I kinda loathed it.

Well, that’s putting it too strongly.  I liked bits of it, but…

There you go: It’s great, but I didn’t enjoy it.

I do enjoy the way some bookstores put the date they bought the book onto the price tags, though:

So the bookstore got the book in June 1988.

And I apparently bought it in 1995, on sale.  And then I read it 18 years later.

Rating: Loathalicious.

1995: Forsøk i kjærlighet

I hadn’t kept up with the 1995 project in a while, so I pounced on Essays in Love: A Novel by Alain de Botton yesterday.

It’s a somewhat unusual novel.  As it says on the cover, it’s sort of an essay collection, and it’s sort of a novel.  So very avantey.  But not really.

It’s a love story, but the protagonist tends to overthink things.  It’s quite amusing.

But I just couldn’t get past this bit in the opening section.

Our hero is calculating the chance that he and The Love Of His Life were to sit in neighbouring seats on the plain from Paris, given that a) only this woman is TLOHS and b) they both were to take planes from Paris to London that day.  Fine.

But the numbers are somewhat odd.  And it doesn’t help that the Norwegian translator is mixing up decimal commas and decimal points, either. 

The chance of sitting next to each other, given that they take the same plane, is said to be either one in “162,245” or “162,(245)” (whatever that’s supposed to mean), which doesn’t seem all that unlikely to be correct.  (There are 192 seats on the plane.)

But then we get to the bit where there are six planes, so we should multiply the chance by 36?  And we should end up with a change of one in “5 840.81”? 


And what’s up with all the decimals, anyway?  Grr!  Pretend precision is Pet Peeve Number 241.456!

So while reading half the book, half my brain was kinda going through the maths while the other half was reading the book.  And I really don’t have half my brain to spare.  I can’t spare even a tenth.

Finally I went to An Online Retailer and looked at the English version of the book:

There all the numbers are totally different!  AAARGH!

But they look more sensible there, at least.

Did the Norwegian translator just throw down some random numbers on the page, or did de Botton fix this in later printings?  Could someone check an early (1993) copy of this book in English?
With that out of the way, I could finally pay more attention to the rest of the book, which made me notice stuff like the thing above.  It’s supposed to be an illusion, but the longer arrow is 3mm longer than the short one.

I’m totally open to the idea that de Botton would do something like that on purpose just to annoy us nerds, and if so, I applaud him.

Rating: Baitalicious.

1995: Dagbøker i stein

Or “The Stone Diaries” as it was called in English.

The reason this one never got read is probably that I suspected it to be respectable and stuff.

And it is.  It’s very respectable.

Initially I thought it was a fictional (auto-)biography of sorts.  Then when I reached the middle, I found all these pictures of the people portrayed in the book, so I kinda for a second thought that it might be a real (auto-)biography of sorts.  And then I noticed that none of the people pictured looked anything like the people described in the book, so I went back to “fictional (auto-)biography with unreliable narrator.  Of sorts.”

I never ever ever read anything about a book before I read it.  I don’t read the stuff on the back, or on the flaps, or reviews.  It much more amusing to read stuff when you don’t know how it’s supposed to be read.

I do, however, love reading reviews of stuff after I’ve read it.  If I loathe a book, I love going to Amazon.com and read the other 1- and 2-star reviews and getting my views validated.  Then reading the 5-star reviews, and see how moronic their reasons for liking the dreck is.

And the opposite thing works, too.  If I love a book, I read the 5-star reviews and congratulate myself on having such good taste, and then I read the 1-star reviews written by obviously sup-par twits who didn’t get the point at all.

I thought this book was kinda “eh”.  Not bad, not particularly good, but definitely respectable.  So I binged it after I finished reading it, and it turns out that Carol Shields won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for this book, which I feel is such a confirmation.  Mainstream mediocrity seems to be the essence of that prize.

So there you are.

Rating: Respectablicious.