It Took A Little Time To Get Free

Once again, I am obsessed with a song. Believe me, it is such a good song. Once again, I struggle to find the words to describe what is so special. Maybe this is because this song doesn’t really make me think, it makes me feel. It makes me feel old and wise but at the same time also young and alive. God, that sounds cheesy.

Not many musicians have the ability to make one feel extremely melancholy yet at the same time inexplicably optimistic. Angus and Julia Stone manage to do it sometimes, but not always. This paradox is the sensation that makes Neil Young’s ‘Harvest Moon’ so timeless and beautiful. These gems are dotted across the musical landscape, across nations and cultures. In Germany we have the Scorpions’ ‘Wind of Change’, the Danish can offer John Mogensen’s ‘Så Længe Jeg Lever’.

Now the Irish have championed their anthem. The fact that the band Villagers around Conor O’Brien is awesome is old news, really. They’ve had two spectacular albums and their third one, Darling Arithmetic (already available on Spotify; release date Europe is the 13th of this month, US the 14th), will not break the streak.

Personally, I have already added ‘Courage’ to my list of songs for a lifetime.

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Mandatory Reading: A Family History

My grandpa, who turned 90 this year, used to have a habit of reading all of the books on the “Spiegel Bestsellerliste”, which is the German equivalent of the New York Times Best Seller List. “Spiegel” is a weekly current affairs magazine, which means the lists (one for fiction, one for nonfiction) got updated weekly.

Sometimes, this led to some interesting pairings between my conservative, elderly grandpa and the book he was reading: I still remember how appalled he was about Charlotte Roche’s ‘Wetlands’ (which was on top of the list for weeks on end) and how amused I was when I saw it on his shelf.

On the other hand, however, I am still impressed by his ability to be so open as to give everything a chance, even ‘Wetlands’. I admire this and I have been thinking for a while about a way in which I, too,could widen my scope in terms of reading material and I think I have found it. Not so long ago I found out that Amitav Ghosh was nominated for the Man Booker International Prize 2015. I simply adore that man. The original Man Booker is not new to me either and many of my favourite authors were short or longlisted for it at some point.

So, here we go: From now on I shall read a work from every author

  • on the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize (6 books a year)
  • on the list of finalists for the Man Booker International Prize (10 authors every 2 years)

This way, I will stay on top of what’s hot in the literary world in a manageable way (6 to 16 books a year can’t be that hard, especially considering that I might also have read some of the authors before).

Of course, as I have only just vowed not to read any books that aren’t to my liking, I don’t have to read books I really don’t want to read (after all, my grandpa never finished ‘Wetlands’), which generally includes any kind of crime fiction.

Wish me luck (please, don’t let this become yet another empty promise to myself)!

B x

Paperworld

It must be my German blood coming through, but not only do I take great pleasure in the acquiring and possession of stationary, I also find something deeply satisfying in filling out forms. Just now I am organising the paperwork for moving within Germany and boy, there is a lot of administration to such a small task. I mean, I am literally just moving my shit back into my parents’ house before going to university in Scotland in autumn. It’s not even that much stuff. Yet, so many forms.

Even I am perplexed when people ask me about what I like so much about filling out forms. But it’s just SO GOOD. Everything has its place and it’s all neat and orderly. Real perfection, if you ask me.

It has gone so far that I ended up applying for a new passport, an EHIC and insurance for a friend (after having done most of her UCAS form). But, although it may be odd, it is certainly not an unpleasant quirk. I mean, forms drive most people mad. They cause a considerable amount of frustration and panic, and here I am thinking “Oh I need a visa? YAY!!”.

So yeah, at the moment making good use of this pleasure by helping asylum seekers with all the forms necessary to grant them permanent residence. I still love it.

B x

Annoying Books I

Until a while ago I felt the compulsion to finish every book I started reading. And so I did. But somehow, these days, I think that is a waste of time. Surely, some books need a while to pick up the pace, but there are so many books that I can read and I won’t ever be able to read all the books I want to read. Why waste my time with a book that I don’t enjoy?

This development was a slow one. Especially when I was younger I felt an immense pressure to read ALL THE BOOKS. At that age I went to the library twice a week – Monday and Friday – and always left with a massive pile of books. Reading ALL THE BOOKS seemed like an achievable goal at the time and I was making good progress. Soon after I had read all the books in the children’s section that interested me and I started visiting other libraries in the area in order to widen the selection of reading material.

Then something happened. It wasn’t conscious but suddenly I felt the pressure to read books that other people liked. Still I did not even start reading them, but it felt more like I was putting off doing it until some day than like making a decision to just not read them. A massive amount of reader’s guilt has piled up ever since. Who cares if I will never read the Lord of the Rings or the final Harry Potters or God knows what. I just don’t care much for fantasy, however good it might be. Deal with it (this is mainly a command to myself).

After having set this straight, I can finally get to my actual point. Some books are just annoying. I like the idea and/or concept of them and I want to read them but they are just so annoying. I’ve encountered a fair few of them and here I will introduce you to the first two of them:

As part of my “Around The World Challenge” I vowed to read Paulo Coelho’s ‘The Pilgrimage’ to cover Europe. My vague interest in the camino got me excited about a work of fiction featuring it. When I started reading it, however, this enthusiasm soon died away. I can’t name exactly what it was – the overtly spiritual theme or the narrative style itself – but I knew that reading this book would be a long cruel journey. So I abandoned it. I deleted it from my ebook reader and moved on. Look at me, so grown up. Oh, and I found an even better book to replace its spot in my challenge: The Diary of Anne Frank!

Now all good. The second book is a little more complicated. It is Dan Kieran’s “The Art of Slow Travel”. There is no challenge to reading this book and I don’t dread it half as much as “The Pilgrimage”, but it does annoy me massively. It is the style. It is a style that is quite peculiar and somehow it is common among those around and including Tom Hodginson. I love the idea of idleness and celebrating it and slow travel and I would love to read about it, but not this way. Somehow it makes me picture them as the most self-centered, ignorant, arrogant people alive. I’m sure that these are false accusations, but their writing cannot convey it to me. Also, I love books centered exclusively around the author, so… But I want to read this damn book so I will. I’ll let you know once I’ve made it.

So anyway, enough complaining for now. Gotta leave some for the rest of the week, innit?

B x

Tying Loose Ends

I don’t know if it’s just me or if everybody gets them, but I have days where I feel like cleaning the bathroom or doing laundry or filing the piles of paper on my desk. I should clarify though, that these are single, very rare occasions among endless days where I find myself too lazy to take a shower or eat breakfast (it’s more the preparing of the breakfast… it involves going to the kitchen).

Today, you guessed it, is one of those days. As I am still staying with my parents, I have not had an outlet for my cleaning energy (my Dad, I’m pretty sure, suffers from an undiagnosed case of OCD and would go batshit crazy if he came home to find that I “messed up everything” – I am not even allowed to hoover) and it has accumulated over the course of the day. Around midday I found a source of relief in my laptop: when was the last time I tidied up my files? How long has it been that I de-fragmented my c-drive?

I went a bit too far, I guess. I accidentally deleted a file that apparently my email program depended on (causing a moment of terror) and my I had to re-install some programs that I had enthusiastically de-installed moments before. Everything is now up to speed, I have run a complete check for viruses and as we speak I am performing my first ever back-up. Hooray!

Somehow having accomplished something (ANYTHING) makes this day a success. And as we all know, success is highly addictive. So I shall give in and dedicate some more attention to this lovely little blog that has been so horribly neglected in the last few weeks. I’ll start now by tying some loose ends: I’ll update my record of books I’ve read, write reviews of the books I’ve been reading as part of my “Around The World Reading Challenge“, maybe a happiness update and finish some drafts that I’ve left unfinished. Well, let’s wait till I’ve done it. Promises are just promises, aren’t they…

B x