Book Buying 2013 – part 1

One might think that I haven’t bought any books this year since I haven’t posted about it. One might think so, yes – but one would be very wrong. I just haven’t gotten my blogging act enough together so far this year to get such a post done. So here it is – the 8 books I’ve bought so far this year …!

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  1. SJ Watson: Before I Go to Sleep
  2. J.K. Rowling: The Casual Vacancy
  3. Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451
  4. David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas
  5. Toni Morrison: Beloved
  6. Salman Rushdie: Joseph Anton. A Memoir
  7. Erlend Loe: Doppler
  8. Félix J. Palma: The Map of Time

5 of these have been bought from Strand Bookstore in New York (online). The SJ Watson one I bought at a local bookstore after hearing about it on the Guardian Books podcast. Dopper and The Map of Time was bought at my favorite bookstore in Odense – I had never heard of Doppler before but got it highly recommended by young girl working as a trainee in the store – she spoke so positively about it and it’s about an elk so how could I possibly not buy it?

As you can see, I’ve already read the Salman Rushdie one – and really enjoyed it – and I’m currently reading Toni Morrison’s Beloved and really liking it. Enjoying is the wrong word to use for how I feel about that book but it’s an important book and I do get a lot from reading it even though I sometimes have to read the same paragraph over and over to really get what is happening. But that’s okay. I don’t mind that as long as the book has so much to offer as this one truly has.

Anyway, most of these books – or at least about half of them – are well-known and I’m really looking forward to reading all of them. I think they all sounds very interesting and fascinating – duh, otherwise I wouldn’t have bought them – and I hope to get to them all soon (-ish).

So as you can see, no book buying ban here… I just keep on buying even though the shelves (and the boyfriend) are groaning …!

Salman Rushdie: Joseph Anton – a memoir (review)

13532186As you are fighting a battle that may cost you your life, is the thing for which you are fighting worth loosing your life for? p. 285

So why is it that I feel I have to defend liking this book? Almost all reviews I’ve read – from New York Times to Goodreads – have been rather negative, attacking and blaming Rushdie. So I will just come right out and say that I really liked this book. Yes, he namedrops on every page. Yes, he of course paints a (mostly) positive picture of himself (but who wouldn’t?). Yes he knows his own worth and uses this opportunity to settle a few scores. But still, I enjoyed every page of this and read and read and read.

This of course is the story of the famous fatwa. On February 14th, 1989, Rushdie receives a phone call, informing him that Ayatollah Khomeini has sentenced him to death because of his novel, The Satanic Verses. This book details then his life for the next 12 years, trying to live as normal as possible while being under constant police protection, moving from house to house, relying on the kindness of his friends, driving bulletproof cars and trying to survive, both mentally and physically.

He writes about his private life, his childhood, his years in school, his marriages, his children, his attempt to be a father in these most extraordinary circumstances. He constantly struggles against people – both official people and the public – believing he doesn’t deserve to be protected because he has brought this on himself. He doesn’t agree with this – and neither do I. A leader of a state does not have to right to condemn the citizen of another state to death. So Rushdie struggles with Government officials, ministers and the leaders of his protection service to get them to continue to protect him and to allow him to live as free a life as possible so he can be a father, be a man and a writer, and do the publicity necessary to promote his books.

A strange thing with this book is that even though it is a memoir, it is written in the third person. Rushdie never writes I but writes he, even when writing about his own thoughts. I actually really liked this because for me, it felt like Rushdie was standing outside his life, looking in, trying to make sense of what happened to him. For me, it worked! He is also juggling with various identities through this – there’s Salman, the private man his friends knows; there’s Rushdie, the hated man, the demonstrators are renouncing on the streets; and there’s Joseph Anton, his alias, created out of the names of his two favorite writers, Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov. So in some ways, it must be hard to see these years living like this, split into three, as his life instead of someone else’s life, a fictional life.

The book really shows what kind of man he is. Intelligent, well-read, knowledgeable about both the classics and modern (pop) culture (JK Rowling, Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings, Super Mario, various sci-fi etc). He writes about his process when writing books, about getting ideas and using things from his real life experience in his books. And he writes about all his books in a way which makes me want to read them. And I love that while he shares all the famous writers, actors, politicians etc he meets, he also writes about how proud he is to complete his Super Mario game and how he thinks Birkenstocks is the uncoolest footwear, except for Crocs (p. 342). I really enjoyed how he shows his humor throughout the book even though he battles depression throughout these years, living with a constant death sentence over his head.

‘Who shall have control over the story? Who has, who should have, the power not only to tell the stories within which, we all lived, but also to say in what manner those stories may be told? For everyone lived by and inside stories, the so-called grand narratives. The nation was a story, and the family was another, and religion was a third. As a creative artist he knew that the only answer to the question was: Everyone and anyone has, or should have that power.’ (p. 360)

Of particular interest to me, was of course the times he mentioned Denmark and the Danish reaction to the fatwa. Overall, it seems his Danish publisher wasn’t afraid and not only published the paperback – which was a big deal – but also compared the risk of publishing it to crossing the street. It is sobering to read about how hard it was for him to get the paperback published in UK and US because if that paperback hadn’t come out, his attackers would have won.

When I began reading this novel, I had to come to terms with something. I was 12 years old when the fatwa was issued and I don’t remember anything about it from back then. But I’ve always believed that he was in the right to publish that book and that no one had the right to attack him for that. But at the same time, I was against the so called ‘Danish Cartoons’, the caricatures of Muhammad posted by Jyllands-Posten back in 2005. Of course I didn’t want anyone attacking Kurt Westergaard, one of the drawers, but I didn’t like the idea of these drawings. Now, how could I reconcile supporting Rushdie and believing him to be in the right while not supporting these drawings? I thought about that for a while and for me, the answer is, that Jyllands-Posten did it intentionally to cause a disturbance while Rushdie didn’t set out to do anything but write a novel. Whether you agree or disagree with someone, they should always be allowed to talk, to say their mind. You have to use words to defeat words, not guns or bombs or knives.

In Denmark, we have just had another case of a journalist known for criticizing Islam being attacked and attempted assassinated. Now I disagree with this man but you can’t go around shooting at people you disagree with. But what this shows is that Rushdie’s case is still current. We still have to fight for freedom of speech. Rushdie survived the fatwa and lived to see it being put to rest. He views his case as a prologue to all that happened after 9-11 and even though we all should have become wiser, we haven’t really. Unfortunately.

The value of art lies in the love it engenders, not the hatred. It is love that makes books last. (p. 316)

  • Title: Joseph Anton – a memoir
  • Author: Salman Rushdie
  • Publisher: Random House
  • Year: 2012
  • Pages: 636 pages
  • Source: Own Collection
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5

Top Ten Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Bringing Me

I think this week’s Top Ten topic is the easiest one ever! At least it is to me since I have put a lot of books on my Christmas wish list. The only difficult thing this week is to limit myself to only 10 books. But I will try my best! As always, the Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and here is my list for this week.

  1. Ken Follett: World Without End. I read and loved The Pillars of the Earth earlier this year so of course I’m hoping to get this book so I can see what happens next.
  2. David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas. Some years ago, I stood in a bookstore and debated whether to buy Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas or Ghostwritten. I ended up getting Ghostwritten and I’ve kind of regretted it ever since since Cloud Atlas seems to be the big thing. However, I chose Ghostwritten because I thought it sounded better so I definitely want to read that too. But after watching the trailer for Cloud Atlas, I’m just sold. I so badly want to read that book.
  3. Diana Gabaldon: Voyager (Outlander #3), Drums of Autumn (Outlander #4). I’ve read the first two of the series but with some years in between and I tend to forget how much I like these books. So after reading Dragonfly in Amber, I decided I wanted to read more books in the series – and soon. So I’m wishing for the next two.
  4. Alexander Dumas: The Count of Monte Christo. I loved The Three Musketeers as a child. Loved, loved, loved. I really want to reread that book at some point – as well as the other books in the series. But even more, I want to read The Count of Monte Christo. I keep hearing so much good about it so that’s my Classic wish for this Christmas.
  5. Joyce Carol Oates: Zombie. I’ve always been fascinated by serial killers. And this is written by one of my favorite authors. I really, really want this one!
  6. Toni Morrison: Beloved. I’ve never read Toni Morrison. It’s about time, right? I got intrigued by reading a review talking about how a woman in the book kills her baby girl because some fates are worse than slavery.
  7. Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury recently died and that sparked a lot of people talking about him and his books. And I’ve never read anything by him. This one is about book burning and it sounds like something I will just love. Crossing my fingers I get this one!
  8. J.K. Rowling: The Casual Vacancy. It’s J.K. Rowling’s new book. Of course I want it!
  9. Salman Rushdie: Joseph Anton. I could write almost the same thing as just above but it’s not entirely true. I have not read a lot by Rushdie but I’m loving his Twitter personality, I really want to read more by him because he’s a very impressive author – and I find it very interesting to learn how he coped with the fatwa.
  10. Olivia Butler: Kindred. This sounds a bit similar to the Outlander series in plot. It’s about time travelling too but in this book, a woman travels back to the time of slavery in the US. I’ve heard so much good about it so on the list, it went.
  11. Andrea J. Buchanan (ed.): It’s a Girl: Women Writers on Raising Daughters. I have two girls, two daughters. I like getting inspiration on raising them, learning more about how to make sure we all survive when they become teenagers and just how I can be the best mom I can be. This book sounds very interesting.
  12. Peggy Orenstein: Cinderella ate my daughter. My oldest daughter is 4, she loves princesses, she talks like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty – and I am not sure that’s necessarily a good thing. So I want to read this book to maybe get a bit of perspective on this whole princess thing and to see if it will become a problem when she grows older.
  13. Rachel Joyce: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. This sounds like an intriguing book. A man writes a letter to a woman dying of cancer –  but instead of mailing it, he decided to walk across England to deliver it himself. It was longlisted for the Man Booker and yeah, I want it.
  14. George R.R. Martin: A Game of Thrones (Song of Ice and Fire #1). I want to know what all the fuss is about. And I want to read about the dragons. And the big wall. And what happens when winter comes.
  15. Freda Warrington: Midsummer Night (Aetherial Tales #2). I read the first one, Elfland, and liked it. I’ve been meaning to get this one for a while but just haven’t seen it anywhere.

Yeah, I know. I lied. I didn’t try my best. I realized I had 14 books on my wish list so I just went with it… These are the 15 books I would love to find beautifully wrapped underneath my Christmas tree on December 24.

Related posts:

News from four big authors

So four of the big authors have some interesting news in the media at the moment.

Salman Rushdie

Rushdie is coming out with his memoirs later this year. We all know about Salman Rushdie because of the fatwa put on him back in 1989. This is his story. This is his version of living with a death sentence over his head for nine years. Even though Rushdie really intimidates me, this is a book I’m really looking forward to.

The book is called Joseph Anton – a memoir and is published on September 18, 2012.

Read more here.

J.K. Rowling

So a while ago J.K. Rowling announced that she was writing a new book. Nothing more was revealed at that point but now, a little more information has come out. This is a novel about the death of a man and how that affects the small town he was living in. It sounds very different from Harry Potter and I’m still very excited to see what else Rowling can do.

The novel is called The Casual Vacancy and is published on September 27, 2012.

Read more here.

And here’s a link to Rowling’s new website which also has a lot of information about the new book.

Stephen King. (and Neil Gaiman).

Neil Gaiman recently talked to Stephen King and out of that came a very interesting interview. Two great authors hanging out together, talking about the trade and about King’s works. There were several interesting points in the interview. First of, King is currently writing a new novel about a serial killer in an amusement park – the novel is called Joyland. Now, he scared me of clowns with It. Now he’s going to take amusement parks from me? I can’t wait!

Also, Dr. Sleep, the sequel to The Shining, is done and just waiting to be published. He also says that his son, Joe Hill, writes almost indistinguishable from King himself – but has better ideas. I think I need to check out a book by Joe Hill!

You can read the entire interview here.

EDIT: Neil Gaiman put his entire interview with Stephen King up on his blog – it’s longer that what was in the paper and very interesting.

Joyce Carol Oates

I have Joyce Carol Oates’ new novel Mudwoman just waiting for me finding time for it. This was the novel who JCO wrote while loosing her husband and writing her memoir A Widow’s Story. JCO’s next novel will be related to Mudwoman – fascinating. Here’s what JCO has to say herself about the forthcoming novel: ”Carthage” is in a way a companion novel to “Mudwoman” – it is set in a nearby small city in upstate New York  & is about the return of a severely wounded Iraqi War veteran & his effect upon his fiancee & her family.  As M.R. is an “intellectual” presence, so in this novel is the father of the young man’s fiancee, a lawyer. The novel is constructed as a mystery – but it is a mystery that is finally “solved.” (In this, it is not a teasing post-Modernist work that eludes meaning.) War is always a tragedy for a society – but especially for those who participate in it, & must return home to their old, now outgrown lives.

Now I’m wondering if I should wait and read all three together…

Carthage will be published on January 8, 2012.

Read the entire interview here.