Coraline (Neil Gaiman)

I’ve heard a lot that children books by Neil Gaiman are scarier than his books for adults. I’ve already read most of his books for adults and I finished Coraline today. And it is much scarier than anything else I read by him. It’s also very gripping and I would definitely read it to my children (if I had any).

It’s beautifully told and I love Coraline, she’s such a sweet girl. It also pulls you right into the world and doesn’t let you go. Exactly what you would expect from a novel by Neil Gaiman. I know why I love that guy.

Only two problems with it:

  1. It made me miss my station in the subway.
  2. It’s short.

—–

Btw. They’re making a Coraline movie, in case you didn’t know.

The Zahir (Paulo Coelho)

When I was 16, 17 years old, Paulo Coelho became one of my favourite writers because of The Alchemist. I was in Brazil on a school exchange programme and trying to find my way through and my place in life and spirituality. It was the perfect book for this. I still like it a lot. I also very much like Veronika Decides To Die which I read about the same time.

Now, it’s been a while since I read one of his books, so when I started The Zahir last week, I didn’t really remember how he writes but the feeling I got from the books I read before. Which was always a rather reassuring, the-world-is-good and everything’s-gonna-be-fine feeling.

As you might guess after this introduction, The Zahir didn’t leave me with this feeling. Instead I felt surprised, angry and absolutely flabbergasted because of his pretentious statements and the general “I am so humble although I know so much” [which isn’t true, in case you didn’t guess] crap. Seriously, about every third sentence provoked a heartfelt “BULLSHIT!” on my part. [For a woman, sex is not the most lustful part in a relationship, it’s feeding the man and children. Fanaticism comes from the doubts that live in men’s souls. etc. etc.]

But I can live with statements I don’t agree with [otherwise I would live in pretty lonely world], especially in books and movies. Under two conditions: It fits the character and the story and it’s not praised as universal truth (unless again it fits the character to proclaim it so). [Those rules also apply to statements I agree with.]
Both were not the case here, I’m afraid.

This book changed two things in my life:

  1. Paulo Coelho will go off my favourite writer’s list.
  2. I will never be able to read The Alchemist or Veronika Decides To Die again because I’m afraid that they were written in the same style and I haven’t noticed because of my age and general position in life when I read them.

—–

By the way, there’s a movie coming up, based on Veronika Decides To Die with Sarah Michelle Gellar. Could be good. I don’t know. Maybe if they cut away the spirituality and concentrate on the story.

Click at your own risk… but if you don’t, you’ll may go to hell (Thanks to K. for this.)…

On a sidenote:

Sure, being an actor isn’t an inherently wussified profession. Clint Eastwood, Christian Bale and God’s monument to manly body hair, Sean Connery, are all actors of sorts. But they would never be described, or we’d suspect, describe themselves, as thespians. Thespian is the word you use if you’re looking for three quick syllables that will communicate a lifetime of prancing around on a stage in a frilly white shirt mispronouncing Shakespearean English.

(from cracked.com)

Colours and Possibilities

The weekend, except for easter, a whole lot of food, and presents, brought us AFRIKA! AFRIKA!
That’s a circus in the style of Cirque du Soleil but with only African acrobats. It’s a project of Austrian artist André Heller whose work I really like (he also made the Swarovski Crystal Worlds which are just plain beautiful).

The show was amazing. I’d seen it one and a half years ago already, this time they had a new program (I’d say about 50% was actually new, but the parts I had seen before I had no problem with watching again).
It’s a two hour festival of the human body (how the hell can you move your body to fit through a tennis racket?), joy of living and of colours. The light show and the costumes, everything is utterly beautiful.

There’s a lot of dancing, traditional African dancing and break dancing, mostly. There’s some singing, a lot of contortion (I think some of these people are at least physically able to jump over their own shadows.) and juggling with different things (when was the point in time when somebody said “Oh, I could juggle a desk with my legs!” and who was this person?).

If you are anywhere near Vienna, go and see it! [Afterwards they will be in Graz, Barcelona, Milano and Paris. And in 2009 they’ll come to Asia.]

How You Know That You’re Getting Older

  1. The candles on your cake are not related to your age anymore.
  2. If they were, the candles would be more expensive than the cake.
  3. You have to read about new youth subcultures in the newspaper.
  4. You don’t understand new youth subcultures.
  5. You don’t understand your teenage sister’s obsession with High School Musical.
  6. You catch yourself rolling your eyes at teens in the subway, streets or any other public space.
  7. You don’t go out to party. 
  8. You don’t have to take off a day of work because you don’t go out to party.
  9. There is somebody younger who works at your company.
  10. You start summing up your life to see if you have achieved anything.

25th Hour (David Benioff)

David Benioff is probably best known for his work as a screenplay writer (25th Hour, Stay, Troy [yes, that one’s not to his honour], The Kite Runner and the upcoming Wolverine). But 25th Hour is actually based upon a novel written by him and that’s what I read. [He’s not at all known for his looks but he should be… see.]

The novel is rather short and a quick read. The film is rather literal in it’s making (I think, it’s been a while since I’ve seen it), I like that. I read it in German and the translation is very good. There wasn’t even one time that I thought “god dammit, where’s the editor?”.

To get a glimpse of the style you can have a look at K.’s.

I like his characters and the book made me cry. (I didn’t expect that, as I knew the ending. Obviously, that didn’t matter.)

I would like Benioff to write another novel. I would definitely read it.

House of Leaves (Mark Z. Danielewski)

House of Leaves is an amazing book, and far less confusing to read than I thought. Mark Z. Danielewski really eases you into the whole thing.

If you’ve never heard of it, you should read the next paragraph [no spoilers]. If you know what it’s about and how it looks, you can skip it.

House of Leaves is multilayered. Starting from the center you have a family, the Navidsons who move to Virginia. Will, the father, is a photojournalist who promised Karen, the mother, to give up his job because it is too dangerous. They have two kids. As a kind of compensation for the loss of his job, Will starts documenting how they settle into their new house by installing cameras everywhere. Things start to get eerie when Will sees that a small storage room appeared between his bedroom and the kids’ room where there has been only a blank wall before. Will starts measuring things and notices that the house is bigger from the inside than from the outside.
These and the following events are all captured on tape by the cameras and lateron the documentary “The Navidson Record” is made from it.
Zampano, a blind old man, writes an academic book about this documentary, referring to many other academic books in footnotes.
Johnny Truant is a young man who finds the (unfinished) book by Zampano and edits it, inserting new footnotes where he tells you about how the book affected his life.
So, you have Notes from the publisher/editor -> Johnny -> Zampano -> The Navidson Record (-> The Navidsons themselves). For every person you have another font, there are stylistic representations of the things happening in the books (labyrinthic footnotes, words placed in a corner or in the middle of the page, only one word per page etc), the word house is always printed in blue, struck passages appear in red and much more.

I really liked it. It’s one of the most uncanny books I’ve ever read, it’s gripping, fascinating and when you look around the web (see for example), you find about one hundred things you’ve missed and you want to read it again to discover them. Apart from that it’s well written and intelligent and very cool. ;)

I guess you need to be interested in the act of reading and in texts themselves to really enjoy it, but if you are, I definitely recommend it.

Now on my favourite books/authors list.

Bucharest – Brasov

I made it back. Before I tell you about my trip, let me give you a piece of advice: NEVER travel with somebody from my family, except me. NEVER, EVER!
Good, if that’s clear, I can start.

Bucharest is one ugly city. It would be really pretty if they had money to renovate, to get rid of the old socialist buildings [ok, there were less than I expected] and to say no to advertising.
The big piaţas all looked like this [that’s Piaţa Unirii]:

dscn0345.jpg

As Moscow, it’s impressive in its size, especially the boulevard leading up to Ceauşescu’s house [Palace of the Parliament is the official name, but I called it that] and the house itself. Must be some kind of Eastern Europe Power Display Thing.

Citing wikipedia: It measures 270 m by 240 m, 86 m high, and 92 m under ground. It has 1,100 rooms and is 12 stories tall, with four additional underground levels currently available and in use, with another four in different stages of completion.

dscn0338.jpg

Unfortunately, it is closed to visitors until the 6th of April, so we couldn’t take a look around.

Also amazing is the mass of people walking around there. Bucharest – again according to Wiki – has about the same population as Vienna. But where Vienna feels smaller than it is, Bucharest feels way bigger. If somebody would have told me that there are 10 million people living there, I would have had no problem believing it.

Braşov, on the other hand is really cute. They obviously spend a lot of time, money and effort on renovating the city center, they have Braşov in Hollywood-style letters on top of Mount Tâmpa and it’s full of smaller and bigger churches.

bild-025.jpg

Well, that’s about what I saw of Romania, except from the train ride from and to Braşov, which revealed a really beautiful landscape (something like this, taken from the top of Mount Tâmpa).

dscn0305.jpg

Now, you might ask, “why are there no pictures of Bran, as announced in the previous entry?” [And if you don’t ask yourself: Shame on you and go read my blog more thoroughly…]

Ah, well, that’s one of the reason you should never travel with someone from my family. Chaos ensues. Things never go according to plan. Stuff happens.

Like the thirty minute trip to the train station takes 1 hour [because the subway system in Bucharest is weird. We get into the yellow line in the right direction which should have taken us directly to the Gara de Nord, except midway through the train changes colour and becomes the red line and we only notice 5 stations later because the outside of the train (including every window) has graffiti on it and you can’t see through] and you miss your train and have to wait 3 hours which means that you can’t see Bran, although you weren’t too excited about it anyways because – as it turns out – Dracula aka Vlad Tepes never lived there anyways, it’s just a tourist trap.
Like your sister, who will return with you to Austria after half a year of work in Bucharest, lent her bags to a friend who hasn’t returned them so sis can’t pack and is nervous and doesn’t want to return to Austria anyways but does it for her boyfriend who isn’t speaking with her because she’s still there, and when the friend finally arrives with the bags your sis drives you crazy because she just throws her things into the suitcase, doesn’t have space for everthing, puts the suitcase on the scale every thirty seconds but isn’t willing to even leave her deo although she has more than twenty kilos of luggage (not including the ten kilos you packed for her).
Like although you insist on leaving to the airport half an hour earlier than your sis suggests (because you know her), you end up having to get out of the bus and into a taxi so you will be able to catch your flight, with your sister laughing maniacly beside you because when her boyfriend visited her, the same thing happened except he actually missed his flight.

So, unless you enjoy general mayhem – never travel with anybody from my family, except me. [Oh, I could tell you stories… like the one time my (other) sister forgot her luggage at home, going on a trip for a year… or the one time my mom took somebody else’s suitcase… and so on.]

But you should visit Romania, just don’t spend all your time in Bucharest (not even half of it).

Read you in 4 days

I’m off to bed and tomorrow morning (have to get up at 4.30 *shudder*) I’m off to Bucharest. I’ll be back on wednesday evening, probably get to blogging on thursday, with some fotos.

Current plan is to spend two days in Bucharest and two in Brasov and Bran (where the Dracula castle is *evilgrin*). Fortunately, I’ll have my sis as a guide. Unfortunately, it’s too short a stay to go to Sibiu. Well, probably next time.  :)

Gonna miss you!