1995: Bingo!

Ketil Bjørnstad is a musician and an author, and this book is about a musician who’s also an author.  And then there’s a Hardy Boys plot about terrorism and the Steiner School.

The bits about being a musician are better than the terrorism bit.  There’s a sort of vigorous charm in the writing, and there are funny bits.  But it all feels so unnecessary. 

It’s written in 1980, and I apparently bought this in 1995 at a sale, dirt cheap.  Which explains why I hadn’t read it until now.

But it’s difficult to imagine anybody wanting to read this now, at all.  It was probably a much more entertaining read in 1980, but now it’s mostly just annoying.  Not actually bad or anything, but “eh”.

Rating: Superfluoicious

1995: Longer Views

I had read most of Susan Sontag’s non-fiction, and then I didn’t read her novel, so it makes sense that I would read all of Samuel Delany’s fiction, but then not read his essay collection “Longer Views”.  Don’t you think?

It demonstrates the mirror image stage in specifying the signifiers signified by m/othering the other.

I’m sorry.  I love Delany’s writing to bits, but the post-structuralism (or whatever) on display here may have been amusing at the time, but now it’s kinda boring.  Making fun of people who quote Lacan and Kristeva is also way boring, so I’m not going to.

What!

I’ll just leave you with this quote (which is kinda emblematic, in both a good and bad way, of this book):

“Rhetoric is the ash of discourse.”

So there:

Rating: Rhetoriffic.

1995: The Volcano Lover

I read virtually everything of Susan Sontag’s while in my 20s, and felt very clever indeed.  I seem to recall buying this book on one of my first trips to London, in 1995.  What was the name of the bookstore…  Blue Moon?  No.  Silver Moon.  I bought a bunch of Angela Carter books there, too.

So why didn’t I read this book?  Perhaps a general Sontag burn-out, or perhaps I just thought the cover looked boring.  And the title: “The Volcano Lover”.  With the subtitle: “A Romance”.  I could just envision some dreary heartfelt tragedy.

Which it turns out to be.  And not at all, at the same time.  It’s a book mostly about collecting, and why we collect stuff.  And volcanoes.  Oh, and some stuff about Emma Hamilton, her lover Lord Nelson, and her husband.  It’s rather fabulous.

It’s written in a semi-oblique amusing fashion, where Sontag never actually names Lord Nelson, but calls him only “the hero”.  But I’ve read enough Patrick O’Brian to guess who it is.  Haha!  Can’t fool me! 

And I’ve just noticed that it says so on the back of the book.  *sigh*

Anyway, parts of the book is kinda essay-ish.  Sontag does name a large number of people, but others are only names as “Sir ***” or “Viscount ***”.  I guess I could google to find out if anybody figured out why, but, on the other hand, I could go read Gasoline Alley.

Rating: Magnifilicious

1995: Den store sledereisen

Or “The Big Sled Ride”, by Knud Rasmussen.

My mother gave me this book in 1995.  It had been one of her father’s favourite books.

My grandfather lived even more way to the north of Norway than I did.  He was a fisherman, going out on the northern seas in his boat.  Fishing…  some kind of fish.  I guess.  He died when I was ten-ish, so I don’t really recall all that much about him.

I remember going fishing with him in the stream that ran along the valley a few farms inwards from his house.  I don’t think I caught anything.

And I remember him regaling us with stories about going hunting seals on the ice around Spitsbergen.  Especially the story about the adult male, er, hooded seal?, that wasn’t quite dead and …  did…  something.  Ok, I may remember him telling these stories, but I don’t quite remember the stories themselves.  I think the seal mangled or killed somebody.  Possibly him.

I suck.

Anyway, this book is a Danish book written in the early 20s, detailing a dog sled ride across northern Canada, all the way from Greenland to Siberia.  But it’s really more about the eskimo (as he calls them) peoples he encounters along the way.

He’s an ethographer, and gets the people he meets to tell him oldee-timey stories and legends, as well as stories about themselves.  He’s very enthusiastic about everything!  And uses lots!  Of exclamation marks!  But he’s a very sympathetic character, who always tries to see things from the eskimo’s side, which might have been more of a stretch in the 20s than now.

Many of the stories they tell are of joy and contentment, but there’s also the occasional cannibal story, lots of murders, and a ton of girl infanticide.  It’s not all rosey, but Knud remains firmly on the side of the eskimos.

Rating: Inuitiffic

1995: En glad gutt

I haven’t read many of the Norwegian classics.  I’m pretty sure I’ve never read anything by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (his name translates to Bear Star Bear Son — like wow) before.

This book, called perhaps “A Jolly Lad”, is a slender volume on young love across the class barriers, as well as a society getting progressively more modern.  It’s quite funny and touching.

And since it’s from 1860, it has some interesting swear words,like “hvalpung”,  which can only mean “whale’s scrotum”. 

I think.

The illustrations are kinda eh, though:

Rating: Peasantific!

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.