Month: January 2013

Finding your own North Star – Martha Beck

Fret not, Louise’s Home Library will not turn into a rosy self-help-puffy cloud, but I have read “Finding your own North Star” with the tagline “how to claim the life you were meant to live” twice now and I love it. Strong words, I know. “Finding your own North Star” is about looking inward, acknowledging the path that complements your essential self, taking the first step and reaching your North Star. It sounds perfectly new-agey, but Martha Beck is wonderfully down to Earth with the rest of us and gives practical guidelines. The first aspect I would like to comment is the humour of “Finding your own North Star”. Beck’s narrative is downright hysterical most of the time, which really sets this book apart from many other coaching and self-help books. For example: “If the love of your life turned out – wonder of wonders! – to lov you, too, you could always reject the relationship and head off to live a life of solitary contemplation in a Tibetan cave, but you’d be a damn …

Edinburgh: Literary Lives & Landscapes – David Carroll

“Edinburgh: Literary Lives & Landscapes” founds its way into my hands last October, when my son and I visited Edinburgh. There was not too much time for bookstore browsing (a favorite past time of mine) as I was travelling alone with a 15 month old baby, but this book combines several of my interests: “Edinburgh: Literary Lives & Landscapes” is a great souvenir and it leads the reader back through the bygone times of Auld Reekie in the pleasurable company of well-known authors. Souvenir, history, and literature all in one! “Edinburgh: Literary Lives & Landscapes” does not encompass the lives of the authors in their entirety, but focuses on the authors’ relationship to Edinburgh – whether they were born there, lived there, or were influenced by visits to the city. The book also includes the authors’ written opinions about Edinburgh, which are not all enthusiastic. The result is a literary delicacy centered in Edinburgh. An interesting aspect in my opinion, is the literary milieu that was and even still is in Edinburgh – although I …

“Books are, let’s face it, better than everything else. If we played Cultural Fantasy Boxing League, and made books go fifteen rounds in the ring against the best that any other art form had to offer, then books would win pretty much every time.” ― Nick Hornby, The Polysyllabic Spree: A Hilarious and True Account of One Man’s Struggle With the Monthly Tide of the Books He’s Bought and the Books He’s Been Meaning to Read  

Antigone – Sophocles

I read the Greek tragedy in high school as part of the curriculum for ancient civilizations and remember feeling enriched by it. I have often thought of rereading the play, and alas 15 years later I finally have. “Antigone” still strikes the right note with me and I assume that I am now able to understand the nuances better. Antigone is a woman caught between a rock and a hard place – no pun intended. She has to decide between following the King’s law and risking the wrath of the Gods or following the Gods’ law and being condemned to death by the King. It is a question of ethics and jurisprudence. Which law is higher? The conclusion to the tragedy is no surprise. Antigone follows the law of the Gods and dies. There are people who get positively cross-eyed at the word Greek classic, but I find many aspects downright funny. Almost every character is a part of a disfunctional family and as if that was not enough, the characters also have the Gods …

Viking Circular Strongholds

I recently read a wonderful little book about the period in which Denmark was founded (c. 600-1200) and while my review of the book is featured in a seperate blog entry (in Danish), I want to share just a little Danish history with you. Denmark is old kingdom with more history than I can fathom and despite its size, it plays and has historically played a dominate role in European and global politics. Back before Denmark was one united kingdom, the rulers were local chieftains, the belief system was Old Norse, and international commerce consisted of Viking raids and plunder in Great Britian and mainland Europe. During the time, when power was consolidated and Denmark become one or a few kingdoms, approximately five circular strongholds were built. The inner diametres were c. 135 metres and the houses were c. 30 metres long – massive constructions. What I find intriguing about these strongholds is that not much is known about them. Written sources from the period are pretty much non-existent and excavations have so far only …

Da Danmark blev til – Olaf Olsen

“Da Danmark blev til” gengivet 6 radioforedrag, som Olaf Olsen holdte i slutningen af sidste århundrede efter at have fået en formidlingspris. Olaf Olsen er historiker og arkæolog; han har været professor i middelalderarkæolog og rigsantikvar på Nationalmuseet. Radioforedragene har følgende overskrifter: 1. Arkæologi og historie 2. Hvornår blev Danmark ét rige? – og hvorfor? 3. De ældste danske byer 4. Da kristendommen kom til Danmark 5. “… og gjorde danerne kristne” 6. De gådefulde vikingeborge Bogen blev udgivet i 1999, og den nye forskning, som Olaf Olsen refererer til, er næppe længere ny. Der kan vel sagtens være kommet nyere forskning til endnu, men Olaf Olsen har en interessant betragtning. Historisk forskning i middelalderens skriftlige kilder er gjort på kryds og tværs, og det er uhyggeligt svært for nutidens historikere at byde ind udover nye synsvinkler på gamle kilder. Derimod er der hele tiden nyt indenfor arkæologien, eftersom videnskabelige dateringsmetoder udvikles. På trods af bogens udgivelsestidspunkt, er “Da Danmark blev til” en interessant lille sag. Det er tydeligt, at Olaf Olsen er en blændende …

Louise’s Home Library – A Warm Oasis in the Arctic North

Although I chose the title and the subtitle at the spur of the moment when I created this blog, I feel they encompass the contents and the atmosphere I wish to convey. However, the subtitle is no longer true. My beloved home library and sanctuary is no longer in the Arcitc north. It has been moved south to a temperate climate. A warm oasis in a temperate climate just does not have the right zing as a subtitle. So now I have to get creative. My home library is my sanctuary of books, a place of escape, learning, entertainment, and contemplation. It is also my cave, a truly safe refuge, where the daily humdrum is stilled for a series of sweet moments. Whether an entire room has been devoted to my books or just a couple of bookcases and shelves here and there and a good reading chair in a nook, that place is home. Even if I am not reading, my home library is a place where I can be quiet or just be. …

The Alchemy of Murder – Carol McCleary

1889 – The World exhibition held in Paris with Eiffel’s tower as a beacon. Louis Pasteur has revolutionizes science with his study of “animals so small that they cannot be seen with the human eye”. Thoughts of equality and anarchism in the air, especially in Montmartre, the melting pot of café politics, fanaticism, culture, and crime. Enter: Nellie Bly – reporter, amateur detective, strong-headed and independent woman searching for a murderer, she encountered while on assignment at a women’s madhouse. Add several historical celebrities such as Louis Pasteur, Jules Verne, and Oscar Wilde. And you have the background for “The Alchemy of Murder“. Certainly Nellie Bly is another in the long list of strong-headed and independent woman in the Victorian era, but she is believable, neither a modern woman dropped into the Victorian era nor a femme fatale simply waiting to be swept off her feet, but a well-rounded character set in a fascinating and again believable storyline. Believable is an applicable term regarding “The Alchemy of Murder” and I count that as high praise …

The New York Trilogy – Paul Auster

Writing any kind of review or opinion about a novel by Auster, is daunting. Where should I even begin? Auster is genius and I am but an amateur reader. Having just read “How to read literature like a professor“, I read purposefully and slowly, which only helped my experience of “The New York Trilogy“. “The New York Trilogy” consists of the stories “City of Glass”, “Ghosts”, and “Locked Room“, which are all in some way centered around New York City in a way where the city becomes a character in itself. The city is a maze that has its own order, a small neighbourhood, or a place to disappear – all aspects of the city that I can recognize. Using New York gives the novel a geographical familiarity that Toledo, San Diego, or Memphis would not have supplied. One of the central themes in “The New York Trilogy” is identity. One character denounces his real name, writes under a pen name, feels more in sync with his fictional character, and finally pretends to be someone …

Ondskab – Sophia Evensen

Et vist element af familiær dysfunktionalitet kender mange, men Sophia Evensens selvbiografi med underoverskriften “Ruth stjal mit liv” når et højere eller rettere lavere plan end de fleste. Ruth, Sophias mor, er Ruth Evensen, stifter og primus motor for den kristne frikirke Faderhuset. Sophia skriver i bogens begyndelse, at hun er objektiv og retfærdig i sin genfortælling af begivenhederne i sit liv og i særdeleshed i sit portræt af moderen Ruth, og slutter af med at skrive, at hun for længst har tilgivet Ruth, men bogen fremstår som ensidig, stærkt subjektivt og det, der undrer mig mest, som et uredigeret første udkast. Jeg måtte lige ind og se, hvad forlaget Bogkompagniet var for en størrelse. Men det er et professionelt forlag, ikke et forfatteren selv har etableret med henblik på at få udgivet sin bog. Derfor undrer det mig, at denne biografi er blevet udgivet i den nuværende form. Der er dårligt sprog, utallige stave- og forståelsesfejl og gentagelser i det uendelige; dertil kommer, at “Ondskab” nok er det klareste eksempel på baggrunden for grundsætningen …