Tag Archives: Sweden

Friday finds

I hope this doesn’t spoil your day, but the opening of the long-planned museum devoted to the Swedish pop group ABBA has been delayed for at least two years. ABBA fans will just have to console themselves by looking forward to a worldwide touring exhibit of ABBA-related paraphernalia, stocking up on ABBA hair-care products or ordering some ABBA stage costumes. Or they can rent out Muriel’s Wedding (above), the tale of how a young woman living in the Australian town of Porpoise Spit sets out to make her life “as great as an ABBA song.”    

Literary blogger starts her own Brooklyn bookstore. Go thou and buy books.

In memoriam, Steve Gilliard.

The new issue of The Biographer’s Craft is ready for your perusal. So, for that matter, is Ansible.

“. . . if he is your friend, you could call him to help you bury a body. He’d bitch about his aching back the whole time, but he’d still grab a shovel.”

It’s been a bad week for film actors associated with the martial arts. First David Carradine was found dead in a Bangkok hotel room, and now Shek Kin has passed on as well.

Biblical microfiction from Joe Z. Elisheva: “This angel sits here, silent, forever by my side. His head is bowed, but his eyes look up toward me, here as I lie on this soft stone bed of comfort. His wings, his feathers whisper without words in the gentle breeze that flows through this sealed room.”

Only a few hours left top hear Ian McMillan talk with poet Seamus Heaney.

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Approved authors 4

Between now and New Years Day I’m offering passages from some of the books I’ve read and enjoyed this year. Most of the books were published this year. Most of the books are by people I’ve had some contact with, whether e-mail or in person, but there are also authors who wouldn’t know me if they tripped over me in a doorway.  In short, they’re here because I enjoyed their books and I think you will, too.

LET ME IN/LET THE RIGHT ONE IN by John Ajvide Lindqvist, Thomas Dunne Books, 2007.

If Patricia Highsmith had set out to write a straight-up, balls-to-the-wall horror novel, the result probably would have been a lot like Let Me In, Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist’s 2004 debut:

letmeinHakan had found a good place to stand watch, a place with a clear view of the path in both directions. Further in among the trees he had found a protected hollow with a tree in the middle and there he had left the bag of equipment. He had slipped the little halothane gas canister into a holster under his coat.

Now all he had to do was wait.

Once I also wanted to grow up

To know as much as Father and Mother . . .

He hadn’t heard anyone sing that song since he was in school. Was it Alice Tegner? Think of all the wonderful songs that had disappeared, that no one sang anymore. Think of all the wonderful things that had disappeared, for that matter.

No respect for beauty — that was characteristic of today’s society. The work of the great masters were at most employed as ironic references, or in advertising. Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam,” where you see a pair of jeans in place of the spark.

The whole point of the picture, at least as he saw it, was that these two monumental bodies each came to an end in two index fingers that almost, but not quite touched. There was a space between them a millimeter or so wide. And in this space: life. The sculptural enormity and richness of detail of this picture was simply a frame, a backdrop, to emphasize the crucial void in its center. The point of emptiness that contained everything.

And in its place, someone had superimposed a pair of jeans.

Someone was coming up the path. He crouched down with the sound of his heart beating in his ears.No. An older man with a dog. Two wrongs from the outset. First a dog he would have to silence, then poor quality.

A lot of screams for so little wool, said the man who sheared the pig.

He looked at his watch. In less than two hours it would be dark. If no one suitable came aling in the next hour he would have to settle for whatever was available. Had to be back home before it got dark.

The man said something. Had he seen him? No, he was talking to the dog.

“Does that feel better, sweetpea? You really had to go, didn’t you. When we get home daddy will give you some liverwurst. A nice thick slice of liverwurst for daddy’s good little girl.”

The halothane container pressed against Hakan’s chest as he leaned his head into his hands and sighed. Poor bastard. All these pathetic lonely people in a world without beauty.

He shovered. The wind had grown cold over the course of the afternoon, and he wondered if he should take out the rain jacket he had stowed away in his bag as protection against the wind. It would restorct his movement and make him clumsy where he needed to be quick. And it could heighten peoples’ suspicions.

Two young women in their twenties walked by. No, he couldn’t handle two. He caught fragments of their conversation.

“. . . she’s going to keep it now . . .”

“. . . is a total ape. He has to realize that he . . .”

“. . . her fault because . . . not taking the pill . . .”

“But he, like, has to . . .”

“. . . you image?. . . him as a dad . . .”

lettherightA girlfriend who was pregnant. A young man who wasn’t going to take responsibility. that’s how it was. Happened all the time. No one thought of anything but themselves. My happiness, my future was the only thing you heard. Real love was to offer your life at the feet of another, and that’s what people today are incapable of.

The cold was eating its way into his limbs; he was going to b clumsy now, raincoat or no raincoat. He out his hand inside his coat and pressed the trigger on the canister. A hissing noise. It was working. He let go of the trigger.

He jumped in place and slapped his arms to get warm. please let someone come. Someone who was alone. He looked at his watch. Half an hour to go. Let someone come. For life’s sake, for love.

That last line is more than just an example of a predatory delusional system at work: Let Me In is, among other things, a book about love and devotion, as well as the bonds forged among outcasts and damaged people. That emotional authority gives weight to the story, as does Lindqvist’s disciplined approach. There is only one supernatural element in Let Me In, and the story’s horrors are all the more effective for the way Lindqvist sets them against the gray walls of a particularly depressing city housing complex outside Stockholm.

The recent film adaptation of Lindqvist’s novel, retitled Let the Right One In, was a sensation on this year’s festival circuit and received a brief theatrical run preparatory to a DVD release early next year. I’ll certainly want to see the film, but you shouldn’t miss reading the book first if you want to discover one of the most original horror novels to come along in years. You should certainly avoid reading any of the publicity, because as the passage above shows, Lindqvist very expertly raises certain expectations, then gleefully yanks the rug out from under those expectations. I haven’t been this impressed by a horror writer since I read Clive Barker back in the Eighties, but Lindqvist’s approach is much less flashy — and, in its subdued way, far more effective.

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Friday finds

Before we get started, how about a little Bach on the Swedish keyed fiddle? The nyckelharpa has 16 strings, but you only play four of them. The rest are there to resonate with the bowed strings, the way a Norwegian hardanger fiddle has a set of sympathetic strings under the bridge that resonate along with the playing. I love both instruments, and I can’t go too long without wanting to listen to them.

agrippa-coverBoingBoing has posted a video that allows you to read and re-read “Agrippa (a book of the dead),” the 1992 self-destructing art-book created by writer William Gibson, artist Dennis Ashbaugh and publisher Kevin Begos Jr. Gibson’s poem, inspired by the death of his father, showcases some of his most evocative writing, and the several editions of the poem play on the themes of memory and loss by causing the text to decay and eventually vanish with use and the passage of time. The idea was to leave the reader with nothing his memories of the poem (and the money he shelled out) but naturally the code was hacked almost as soon as the book became available. And while we’re on the subject of William Gibson, how long before a company called Ono-Sendai materializes and starts selling these? Maybe Errol Morris will use it to replace his Interrotron.

Maybe it’s time to pay a visit to the town Neil Young created. And maybe it’s time for a little more nyckelharpa music:

Scary times for writers, especially free-lancers. This free-lancer’s motto is “no fear.”

The Art of the Title Sequence is film geekery at its finest. The site gives you the chance to appreciate and hear commentary on some of the most effective and artful examples of films that use their title sequences to establish the mood and set the stage for what follows. One of my favorite examples, the travels of a bullet from factory to victim at the start of Lord of War, is here along with John Carpenter’s original Halloween and its obvious precursor, Quatermass and the Pit.

The sound is like a glass of cold, pure water.

I don’t know which fact is more astonishing: that George Lucas actually solicited A-list British playwright David Hare (Plenty, The Blue Room, A Map of the World) to direct The Phantom Menace, or that Triple-A-List playwright Tom Stoppard (Arcadia, Shakespeare in Love, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead)did some script-doctor work on the tedious screenplay for Revenge of the Sith. Most astonishing of all, I guess, is that Lucas went for this kind of help when, as this blogger points out, all he needed was someone with competence and cleverness of the sort Irvin Kershner (and Leigh Brackett) brought to The Empire Strikes Back.

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