Tag Archives: books

100 Pages a Day: The Hurricane Party Part One

The Hurricane Party Klas Ostergren

Part TwoPart Three

After reading Margaret Atwood’s wonderful retelling of the myth of Penelope and Odysseus, The Penelopiad, I discovered there’s an entire series planned by Canongate, featuring global writers retelling myths.

The Hurricane Party, written by Klas Östergren is part of the Myths series.

In pages 1 through 98, 1984 has reared its ugly head in Sweden.  The cities are bleak, the administrative bureaucracy is being run by a fearsome organization called The Clan.

The book opens with a description of listening to organ music on the radio.  It took a while to understand it’s just the notes.  A note could be broadcast for days or weeks with no change.  An entire cottage industry has grown around gambling on when the note will change and to what.

Hanck Örn used to work for an insurance company run by The Clan.  His job was to investigate claims made to this company, a flimsy cover for The Clan’s protection racket.

In these first pages, the reader learns that Hanck was fired from his job and, returning to the scene of his last investigation, invests his money in typewriters.  Setting up a workshop in his apartment, Hanck teaches himself to repair and customize them, having found a market which sells obsolete technology to collectors.

On one of his visits, Hanck meets a young woman who tracks him down in his city apartment and spends the night.  Here we learn about the many splintered factions of Christian sects, especially The Sneezers who believe that God can be found in the space of the sneeze where the least amount of control and the largest void intersect.

Months after this encounter, men dressed in lavender arrive to take Hanck to an undisclosed location, which turns out to be a hospital.  His son, three-day old Toby, had been dumped with Hanck’s business card pinned to his swaddling clothes.  On the back of the card is the note, “Mother dead.”  Hanck was taken to the hospital to be informed of his son’s existence, and to decide Toby’s fate.

Perhaps needless to say, Hanck instantly falls in love with Toby and prepares his home for this new entry in his life.

This is a bleak book so far and the writing feels stilted.  I’m willing to admit this could be a cultural miscue on my part.  The translator for this book, Tiina Nunnally, has won awards for her work, so it probably isn’t.  Be that as it may, The Hurricane Party doesn’t read as well as George Orwell.

A little research reveals the myth being retold makes itself obvious later in the book and has to do with Loki as related in the Prose Edda of Norse mythology.

 

Bookish Lists

I love lists.  Making them, marking things off, adopting others’ lists.  When it comes to reading, I don’t go by a list, I go by what’s at the top of the stack.  There’s a folder on my desk filled with book lists which I occasionally cross-check with my own reading.  It’s interesting to me what books people think are important and how that intersects with what I read.

Mostly, what I’ve learned is that my reading is eclectic and doesn’t fit anyone’s norm but my own.  I have a tendency to ignore what’s popping up on popular lists, even those which come highly regarded by people whose taste in books I trust and respect.  This does not just apply to books either.  Music, tv, movies; I take a step back and wait for the dust to settle.  I find I’m not missing out on a whole lot anyway.

But back to the lists.  Today I came across a link for Bill Gates’ book blog.  Interesting, mostly because there are people in the public’s gaze whom I don’t think of as readers, if I think of them as other than their public front at all.  Bill Gates is someone I have mixed feelings about, but they’re shallow feelings because I don’t pay that much attention.

Gates’ blog is interesting because there’s not a lot of crossover from his list to mine.  Not that this is surprising, Gates built and ran a very successful software company, so his taste in books runs more toward the technical/business end of life.  Mostly non-fiction on weighty topics like the global economy, biographies/memoirs by people like Timothy Geithner.  It’s an interesting insight to Gates, and there are very few books on his list I’d be interested in reading.

Then there’s David Bowie’s Top 100 Books list, of which I’ve read 8 and have one queued up to read before the end of the year.  It’s probably obvious why I would find more to like on Bowie’s list than on Gates’.

And, if there was any doubt in anyone’s mind that Marilyn Monroe was more than a sexy actress, there’s this list of 430 books in her library, compiled by an online fan club.  From scanning the list, it seems Monroe’s reading was fed by what feeds mine; books I think I should have already read (which includes many classics like Dante and Milton) and books about subjects or people who fascinate me.

Monroe did her best to surround herself with smart people, especially men, so it’s not surprising there’s a number of books written by them (Clifford Odets, Henry Miller).  And it would be a surprise to me if a lot of books on this list weren’t recommended by those men as a foundation to a good library.

All these lists beg the question, “What is the foundation of a good library?”  Is it the Western Canon1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die?  (Full disclosure, I do have this list and use it to mark the intersection of my own reading and what other people think “should” be read.  Again, a concept I’m not big on.)

Since I grew up in a family which loved to read, I was exposed to lots of authors and topics.  Mom loved mysteries (Sherlock Holmes) and science fiction (Isaac Asimov).  Dad’s reading was more eclectic and very often inappropriate for young readers.  I read not only what was assigned in school, but what looked interesting in the library.  When I reached college, there was more of what was required in class.  Aside from that, my reading is probably 85% “oooh shiny” directed by what catches my eye at the moment.

Being unemployed and having little disposable income makes it easier to concentrate on what’s in my personal library.  All 42+ boxes of it.  Which is like opening gifts to myself all the time.  It’s also like an archeological dig, as I sift through the layers of my life remembering when, and why, I picked these books.  I know the deeper I go, the more diverse topics I’m going to find.  The Hollywood/film student period.  The John Grisham period (when I get to that box, they all go outta da house).  The folklore period,  etc. etc.

One thing’s for sure, as long as I have books, I’ll never be bored.

On This Date: Allen Ginsberg

6 Poets at 6 Gallery
6 Poets at 6 Gallery

Jack Kerouac is the gateway drug to The Beats.  It seems like everyone comes to them through On the Road.  I loved it, and I bought works by these men who sought to change a generation with their new style of writing.

James Franco’s portrayal of Allen Ginsberg and his reading of “Howl,” in the movie turned me on to Ginsberg.  And I fell in love.  Now I read Howl and Other Poems (the first collection of Ginsberg poems ever published) at least once a year.  This little book never leaves my desk.  It never gets tossed in with the other books in my collection.

It’s difficult to explain how much Ginsberg means to me.  He’s the first poet whose work I connected with.  After years of struggling with what schools had told me were great poems and poets, here was this free-flow of words which hit me right in the gut.  “This … this is what I’ve been looking for!”  Now I can say I dig poetry.  🙂

The more I read about Allen Ginsberg, the more I wish I had known him.  Yes, he was as screwed up as any of them (well, except for William S. Burroughs who was his very own special kind of screwed up).  But it seems to me that Ginsberg sought to make himself better, to make those around him better, and was always trying new ways to expand his consciousness.

One biography I read stated in the Introduction that no matter what people felt about Ginsberg, they all universally thought of him and kind and gracious.

About a year ago, I had a dream where I was walking through a crowd of people and came across Ginsberg.  He looked at me kindly, and I bowed with my hands together, “Namaste Mr. Ginsberg.  I am proud to have met you.”  He nodded and I moved on.

So today is one worth noting, not only for the introduction of Ginsberg’s poetry to the public, but for the profound changes he wrought on society through his views on civil rights and the obscenity trial in San Francisco over “Howl,” which changed the very definition of obscenity and censorship.

At the Beat Museum
With Ginsberg at The Beat Museum, North Beach, San Francisco