All posts tagged: 2012

How to Read Literature Like a Professor – Thomas C. Foster

A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines. Is there a right or a wrong way to read literature? I doubt it. Whether you read for the story on the surface or include the layers underneath, the goal is a reading experience that touches you in some way or other. But many of us miss out on the depth of stories, simply because we do not know what to look for. This is where “How to Read Literature Like a Professor” come in. Thomas C. Foster is a knowledgable reader and teacher, who humbly and humorously shares a dollop of his insight regarding reading in “How to Read Literature Like a Professor”. This reading guide works partly due to Foster’s approach and partly due to his infectious love of reading. “How to Read Literature Like a Professor” is not the ultimate teacher’s guide to reading; it is a sample of how one gifted reader enjoys literature through the stories and the underlying layers of symbolism, themes, narrative tricks of the trade, and models …

Reading and Life

It is a presumptuous title, I know, but the interrelationship between reading and life is evident. Teenage girls go through a phase, reading “Wuthering Heights”, “The Twilight Saga”, and all things romantic. Pregnant women read “What to expect, when you’re expecting” and the like. Our motivations for reading may be many and diverse, but the result is always sitting down in our favorite chair/couch/sunbed to read a book or a whole truck load of books. Right now, I am in the opposite situation. The book on my night stand is gathering dust – figuratively speaking. I have not read in it for days. But I know why. I am restless. In a matter of days, I am packing up my family and home, moving 4000 kilometers back to my home town and/or into complete uncertainty – I have not decided yet. I’ll have a lovely, but temporary, roof over my head, no job, no income, and no day care for my son. Change with a capital C. Big time. With worst case scenarios, fantasies, speculations, …

All that I have – Castle Freeman Jr.

Small town, Vermont is the setting of Castle Freeman Jr.’s “All that I have” and it and its inhabitants become a character in this quaint little novel.  “All that I have” is a story of ordinariness and everyday life, but that does not mean that “All that I have” is anything less than spectacular.  Castle Freeman Jr. sees the nuances in everyday life and especially the main character, Sheriff Wing, who lives and sheriffs according a code he learned from his predecessor. Humor is what I loved most about “All that I have”. It is dry, witty, and served without canned applause – and it left me laughing out loud. The humor counterbalances the theme of ordinariness and the reserved nature of Sheriff Wing. What is the opposite of action-packed? That’s what “All that I have” is and the feat here is how beautifully, Castle Freeman Jr. executes it. Do not misunderstand: “All that I have” does contain action. There are silent and violent Russians, guns, a deputy who knows how to sheriff, a lawyer …

The Yard – Alex Grecian

In the aftermath of Scotland Yard’s failure to check Jack the Ripper, new murders and heinous crimes are piling up on the desks of the twelve detectives in the Murder Squad. New-comer Day is given the case regarding the murder of one of their own, stabbed to death and stuffed in a suitcase, and from that point a kaleidoscope of fascinating stories spring. “The Yard” is an action-packed Victorian crime novel that at the same time excels with its magnificent characters. Every character in “The Yard” is complete with a believable backstory. Alex Grecian shows his forte in the many changes in point of view and back flashes. Normally, alarm signals flare at the continuous back and forth, but Alex Grecian does not just make it work, he has created a fast-paced story around it. I especially like the scenes at the workhouse, where the same sequence of events is related from two different points of view in subsequent chapters. In many novels that take place in the Victorian era, the characters and story seems …

World’s Toughest Cops – Vinnie Jones

You may ask, why I have ”World’s Toughest Cops” in my home library. It was on one of these 2-for-something-sales at the airport, which I came across around 7 A.M. and it sounded action-packed. “World’s Toughest Cops” is a spin-off from the TV series, where Vinnie Jones, actor and former soccer player, tags along with police officers in various dangerous places around the world. Reading the book, I seriously doubt that Vinnie Jones wrote it, although it is narrated in the first person, despite the numerous comparisons between front-line police work and soccer. I refrain from further comment on that comparison. The interesting aspect of “World’s Toughest Cops” is the quick glimpse into national police forces of countries that I – at least – seldom hear or read about, for example South Africa, Papua New Guinea, Jamaica, and Kosovo. It is evident, that Vinnie Jones is searching for big action and extreme situations, although “World’s Toughest Cops” also gives emphasis to individual, inspirational police officers. Characterizing “World’s Toughest Cops” I would say, that is a …

March – Geraldine Brooks

”March” begins with the premise of what happens to Mr. March, when he leaves his little women and goes off to do his part in the Civil War? Mr. March is of course the absent father in Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” but “March” is a very different story than its point of inspiration. “March” is about a man of war, fighting not only the enemy, but his own past and principles. Mr. March serves as a chaplain and later he is appointed to a plantation where he serves as a teacher for the newly freed slaves. Equality. Pacifism. Vegetarianism. The right to education. These are some of the principles that Mr. March tries to bring forth. It is however, the more private Mr. March, I find interesting. He is the self-made man, who loses his fortune. He feels guilty about not being able to provide for his wife and girls the way he wants to. He struggles with his past and an encounter with a slave woman, and he berates himself for not being …

The Third Angel – Alice Hoffman

Alice Hoffman is a magical author, who understands serendipity and the art of magical living and storytelling. I always find myself immersed in her stories and find to extract a little of her fairy dust to my ordinary everyday life. Reading “The Third Angel” is no different. “The Third Angel” consists of three interconnected stories with commonalities in characters, themes, and a run down Knightsbridge hotel called the Lion Park Hotel. I will not spoil the plot for you, but instead only relate that the stories are set in 1999, 1966, and 1952 respectively, and are beautiful, atmospheric time pieces as well. Stories and storytelling is an integral part of “The Third Angel” and Alice Hoffman’s novels in general. In “The Third Angel” there is the story of a heron with a heron wife and a human wife. (And this is just one of the many, many love triangles in the novel.) One character thinks of the story; her daughter publishes the story. There is the story of the third angel, which a village doctor …

Drabschefen – Stine Bolther

Stine Bolther, der er journalist ved Ekstra Bladet, har lavet et bredt portræt af drabschef Ove Dahl, Københavns Politi. Ove Dahl er kendt fra fjernsynsskærmen og “Drabschefen” giver mulighed for at gå bag om det to dimensionelle billede. Det sagt, vil jeg ikke kalde “Drabschefen” en biografi. Bogens fokus er delt mellem Ove Dahls person og 9 tragiske forbrydelser, som han har stiftet bekendtskab under hans karriere. De 9 forbrydelser er gengivet i en dramatisk, men formiddagsbladsagtig form, hvilket er med til at sikre læserens interesse, og bogen er hurtigt læst. Jeg fandt de forbrydelser, som jeg selv husker fra nyhederne, eksempelvis mordet på den italienske turist, mest tankevækkende. Mit overvejende indtryk af “Drabschefen” er, at den er et fint billede af Ove Dahl. Jeg vil dog næppe kalde den indgående eller dybdeborende. Ove Dahl fremstår som et spændende menneske med et spændende job – og jeg læste gerne en biografi om ham. Jeg vil anbefale “Drabschefen” til læsere, der ønsker en appetitvækker om kriminelle efterforskninger og politiarbejde.

Little Black Book of Stories – A. S. Byatt

“Little Black Book of Stories” contains five short stories with dark, Gothic tentacles that coil around the reader’s mind. I love the mixture of fairy tale and realism in the stories that lead rationalism astray. The tales in “Little Black Book of Stories” are written for different occasions, but have enough commonalities to flatter each other in the collection. My favorites were Body Art and A Stone Woman, followed by The Pink Ribbon. The Thing in the Forest did not hit home in my opinion. I will not give you a resume of the individual stories, but leave you to experience them on your own. Bodies play an important role in most of the stories. In Body Art there is Daisy, the emaciated art student and maker of a grotesque piece of art using body parts in formaldehyde and prosthetics. In A Stone Woman, the protagonist turns to stone, a process she and a stone mason follow closely. In Raw Material a creative writing student ends up naked and terribly bruised on the floor. In …