Bookish Art: Galerija Umjetnina, Croatia

As I mentioned in a post the other day, I went to Croatia recently on holiday, travelling from Dubrovnik to Sipan to Brac to Split for twelve days of food, sun and culture. It was bliss. Whilst in Split, I went to the Galerija Umjetnina which sits just outside the Old Town walls, and some of the stuff was so lovely, I thought I'd share.*

Galerija Umjetnina Ticket, Split

'The Divan' by Vlaho Bukovac
Girl Reading I;
'The Divan' by Vlaho Bukovac, 1905 

Tolstoy, looking his usual cheery self; 
'Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy' by Ivan Meštrović, 1904

'Man with a Monkey' by Frano Simunovic
This is a man with a monkey;
Man with a Monkey, Frano Šimunović, 1935

'Nude in the Interior' by Sava Sumunovic
 Girl Reading II;
Nude in the Interior, Sava Šumunović, ca 1926

'Women in my Garden' by Boris Bucan
 I just liked this;
Women in my Garden, Boris Bućan, 2009

There was also some great graffiti in the same area:

Graffiti, Split - 'Dalmacijavino Socijalizm'

Graffiti, Split - 'Isus'

Graffiti, Split - 'Hajduk Split'

 *These are photos taken of artwork there, so obviously I claim no copyright etc. apart from to the photos themselves.


'One Day' by David Nicholls

'One Day' by David Nicholls was another of my  holiday reads in May, and seeing as this is such a popular book, I presume everyone who's going to read it has read it, so

*spoiler alert.*

Right then.  As everyone will know already, this book is the story of Dexter and Emma, friends who meet on graduation day at Edinburgh University in 1988. We then revisit them on the same day, the 15th July, every year for the next twenty years, and see how their careers, love lives and feelings for each other change and alter with each passing year.

She plucked the cigarette from his mouth. 'I can imagine you at forty,' she said, a hint of malice in her voice. 'I can picture it right now.'
He smiled without opening his eyes. 'Go on then.'
'Alright -' She shuffled up the bed, the duvet tucked beneath her armpits. 'You're in this sports car with the roof down in Kensington or Chelsea or one of those places and the amazing thing about this car is it's silent, 'cause all cars'll be silent in, I don't know, what - 2006?'
He scrunched his eyes to do the sum. '2004 -'
'And this car is hovering six inches off the ground down the King's Road and you've got this little paunch tucked under the leather steering wheel like a little pillow and those backless gloves on, thinning hair and no chin. You're a big man in a small car with a tan like a basted turkey -'
'So shall we change the subject then?'

Unfortunately, my darling husband gave away the fact that *spoiler alert* Emma dies before I got to read it, so bereft was he by her sudden death 17(?) years into the 20, so I imagine I read this book quite differently to everyone else as I was just waiting for the rug to be whipped away. I was wary of attachment, shall we say? He had the reaction that you read of in the reviews: big, weepy eyes, clutching book to chest like a loved one, sob. I kinda went, good book, but they're not real!

So anyway, there was a lot that I liked about this book. I thought the one-day structure was inspired, and I'm surprised I haven't come across it before, and I found it very easy reading, although occasionally I felt Nicholls lacked precision and that some bits of dialogue were quite baggy. His characterisation of Dex and Emma was great. Really, really great, actually, and I found myself often identifying with Emma, and it was nice to see some pretty strong aspects of myself on the page. I was definitely a fan of hers rather than his - I felt that he was a pretty unsympathetic character, and I was just waiting for the moment when he took hold of himself and manned up a bit, which didn't really happen at all, which I felt was a shame. Like, yes, he finally gets together with Emma and opens that deli, but he just seemed like one of those superficial guys who just jumps from thing to thing because they have no imagination to imagine their own path in achievable stages, and no backbone to carry any of those stages out. When he got together with Emma, things were better, yes, but the deli was her idea, she seemed to mother him an awful lot, and then after she died he returned to drinking and just reached for the nearest woman to start something new. I was really disappointed with the lack of growth that he showed, and pleased with Emma and how she progressed. But the fact that I'm ranting slightly shows that he affected me, which I guess signals a win for Nicholls :)

The death upset me, but largely because I felt that it changed the book into something that it wasn't, and it undermined all the good feeling that had gone before, especially because she seemed to have little lasting impact on either him or the story. She just dies, it gets a bit messy, and then we all move on. I felt this was Emma's story rather than Dexter's, so I felt Nicholls betrayed her by killing her for emotional effect. And I felt pretty manipulated - I know you can't foreshadow an accident without giving it away, but it made me wonder if he'd looking back on what he'd written in the 16 years prior and felt that it wasn't gritty enough, or whether he felt that he needed to balance the light with a bit more shade. I never felt that this was a tragic romance, as some are, and so to me the death felt forced and a bit false.

There's a lot of life in this book though, and parts of it are very, very funny indeed. I can see why it was so popular and gut-wrenching for many, and I am a little disappointed that I can't be another devotee, salivating in anticipation of his next work. I enjoyed it, though.

Title: One Day
Author: David Nicholls
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Date: 2009
Format: Paperback, 435 pages, and it was a gift.


Lana Del Rey Loves Whitman, Ginsberg and Nabokov...

I heard Lana Del Rey say yesterday whilst she was in Radio One's Live Lounge that her favourite writers are Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg and Vladimir Nabokov: these were the first writers for her whose
'words came alive on the page'.
What a girl. (And thanks to whoever phoned in with that question).

Y'all know I love Nabokov (he's featured, in some way, in five of my blog posts to date), but I've not read any Whitman or Ginsberg, and I suspect that maybe they're more a feature of the American canon, than elsewhere? I'm aware of them, sure, but I don't hear them referenced much or talked about. Whitman's 'Leaves of Grass' poetry collection sounds fascinating though, as described on Wikipedia and by Miss Del Rey, so that's something to search out I think.

I found this reading of Ginsberg 'Howl' on Youtube and have only listened to the first few minutes so far, but I'm surprised by how much of it I recognise, so maybe I'm more aware of it than I realise.

Have you read any Whitman or Ginsberg (or Nabokov, for that matter), and what did you think?


The Dickens Statue on Chasing Bawa

Remember how back in the depths of Autumn last year, I mentioned that plans were afoot to place a statue of Charles Dickens in Portsmouth, UK, in this year i.e. his bicentenary?

Well, the lovely Sakura over at Chasing Bawa has written a piece describing her visit to a reception at the Mansion House to launch and publicise the statue design, with the Lord Mayor of London and various celebs and Dickens family members, so I suggest you pop on over and check it out. Coincidentally, the Mansion House has been all over the news this morning, thanks to a politico dinner last night, so you can see what a beautiful venue it is.

Also included in the article is a little donation pathway, should you want to put a few pennies towards this worthy literary cause.


'Deadlocked' by Charlaine Harris

I read 'Deadlocked' by Charlaine Harris, the penultimate book in the Sookie Stackhouse series, on which the crazy-and-great TV show 'True Blood' is based, on holiday last month, around the time when it was announced that the 13th and final installment, 'Dead Ever After', will be published next May.

I've read all of these books now, having devoured the first few after the first series of the show aired in the UK (I blogged about the book series for the first time last May) and caught up with the rest since. I've generally loved the sexy, witty satire on which these books are based, and I think Sookie, the protagonist and narrator, is a stand-out voice amongst all of the books I've read over the last few years. 

The premise of this particular one is that Sookie goes to Eric's, her vampire boyfriend, house,  and finds him feeding on a girl who is then found dead on his front lawn. However bad this looks to her, the circumstances are all a bit fishy, so she tries to get to the bottom of it whilst also dealing with her fae family and various other things. She still has the cluviel dor in her possession, which is a rare and desirable faery protection object, so inevitably this puts her in the firing line too, although the body count is much lower for this book than for others in the series.

"Mr Northman?" she said, her hand dropping to her side like a stone. "I'm Detective Cara Ambroselli."
"Detective Ambroselli, you seem to know who I am already. This is my dearest one, Sookie Stackhouse."
"Is there really a dead person on the lawn?" I asked. "Who is she?" I didn't have to make up the curiosity and anxiety in my voice. I really, really wanted to know.
"We were hoping you could help us with that," the detective said. "We're pretty sure the dead woman was leaving your house Mr. Northman."
"Why do you think so? You're sure it was this house?" Eric said.
"Vampire bites on her neck, party clothes, your front yard. Yeah, we're pretty sure," Ambroselli said drily. "If you could just step over here, keeping your feet on the stepping-stones..."

However....this book is not Charlaine Harris' best. It must be so tricky writing the 12th book of a 13th book series, with some many loose-ends to tie and characters to reconcile, whilst giving this book and individual plotline that hypes up the 13th book sufficiently to be a fitting climax to the series. It must be a bit of a nightmare for her. The trouble is, it's starting to show.

It's not so much that this book is bad: it's very easy to read and I raced through it, always wanting to read one more chapter, and I still like Sookie's voice and personality. The problem is that it feels like Harris has run out of steam, and this book feels kind of flat and lifeless compared to others in the series. We hear a lot of the day-to-day admin of Sookie's life, which obviously isn't as exciting as when she's battling deranged werewolves, and a lot of the main characters don't actually feature; if they do, they're usually in peripheral roles that don't make the most of them or adequately express their relationships with Sookie or each other. Eric is oft mentioned but rarely seen after the actual incident, Bill has become nothingy and the fae are featured but awkwardly, I felt, and in a way that forces them centre stage when I'm not sure that's the place for them. Also, there's a big fat occurrence at the climax of the book which clearly pinpoints the way things are going to end, and it all feels a bit forced. 

It's a filler book, basically, leading us to the end of the series. Not the best, but still a good holiday read.

Title: Deadlocked: A True Blood Novel
Author: Charlaine Harris
Publisher: Gollancz 
Date: May 2012
Format: Hardback, 327 pages, and I bought it.



The Great Gatsby: The Trailer

Is everyone else as excited about this film as I am?

I'm intrigued by the casting - Tobey Maguire seems just about right as Nick Carraway, but in my head Gatsby was taller, thinner and more angular than Leonardo Dicaprio, with a slightly more haunted air. 

Also, isn't it so funny how Daisy is always blonde in adaptations, when in the book her hair is dark? Maybe it's her personality rather than her follicles to which they are referring. I like Carey Mulligan a lot, so big hopes for her, and the girl with the short dark hair who I presume is Jordan Baker seems suitably clipped and implacable. I also love Baz Luhrmann - his 'Romeo & Juliet' is still SO exhilarating - so fingers crossed that this film is equal to the challenge.

Has anyone seen any of the previous adaptations?


The Millions and Kevin Barry

At the end of last month, The Millions published an article entitled The Mad Music of Kevin Barry, which is a loving soliloquy to the wonder that is Kevin Barry's prose.

I thought I'd post it here as 'City of Bohane' is one of the best books I've read in recent times, and certainly one of the most unique, and was recently nominated for the Kerry Group Novel of the Year, although unfortunately it didn't win. 

Also, at last look, I was one of only two commentees on The Millions piece.

You can read my original review of 'City of Bohane' here.


In My Mailbox: Holiday Edition

Hello all, and apologies for my prolonged absence, aside from my little pop-up appearances on 12 Books 12 Months, which I'd like to thank Ali for again. Things have been a littllleee stressful, shall we say, and unfortunately all interest of sitting at my computer after hours just fell away into the ether, and all I wanted to do with my downtime was watch Mad Men and read books completely unaccountably in the darling little cafe that opened up a month or two ago just down the road from my flat. It was a little scary, after angling all my efforts towards the words on my computer screen an' all, but I think I'm over the worst of it now, which is no bad thing because, at the last count, I have eight books hanging around for review (!) and perhaps need to get them done before I forget the main plot points and the protagonist's name.

Anyway, I thought I'd make a start with an In My Mailbox post, hosted as ever by The Story Siren, detailing the books I devoured on a blissful stress-bursting holiday to Croatia, from whence I returned yesterday. Reviews of all to follow the inevitably epic Union Jack-waving, bunting-laced, Coronation chicken-flavoured Jubilee weekend which starts tomorrow in the UK. Yay for the Queen! And now to the books:

 I picked up 'Eugenie Grandet' by Honore de Balzac at my local library quite impulsively whilst looking for Croatian travel guides in the week before I was off on my hols. This is a book that I've been meaning to read for about a year now, after hearing Rose Tremain endorse it as 'the book she'd most like to pass onto the next generation' at the Vintage Classics Day at Foyle's on Charing Cross Rd back in May last year. Apparently, she's also done the TV adaptation for this book, which is currently in development with Lime Pictures.

I changed tack a bit for the next book I read:'Deadlocked: A True Blood Novel' by Charlaine Harris.  This is the twelfth of thirteen planned Sookie Stackhouse novels (that the thirteenth one is the final one was confirmed the other day) and since becoming a bit obsessed with True Blood the HBO TV show, I've bought them all as soon as they've been released. I suppose it's my happy concession to the vampire craze :)


Then came 'The Sisters Brothers' by Patrick Dewitt, a stunningly-covered book that was sent to me as part of the last round of books from the More4 TV Book Club. What a book. Really looking forward to reviewing this one.  



I then arrived to the party about 3 years after the main players left it by finally reading 'One Day' by David Nicholls, although unfortunately after my husband had been somewhat destroyed by it, so the spoiler for everyone else was not a spoiler for me. Ho hum. FYI, I did not find it hard to relate to Emma.

Then, shock horror, I was out of books! (At least, until Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy became free.) This, 'Frenchman's Creek' by Daphne du Maurier, was hanging around the hotel lobby, waiting to be borrowed, and from amongst the stiff competition posed by German translations of the Scandinavian crime classics and Jackie Collins' 'The Stud', I picked up this as 'Rebecca' is such a fave (it was actually a fairly close run thing).

Thanks to this book, I realise now that what everyone needs in their life is a French philosopher-pirate.

And to the last! I'm still reading John le Carre's 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' as I write this, and I think I know what's going on. I think. (Cough.)

Look for reviews of all of these, plus a few more, in the next few weeks. 
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