Laura Ringo: Cremasterrefleksen

CREMASTERREFLEKSEN // The cremasteric reflex (my title translation) by laura ringo
published by gyldendal in 2017 // Review copy from the publisher

Hvilken kliché ville det ikke være at kalde Laura Ringos debutroman for historien om en ung kvinde der prøver at finde sig selv? Well, det er det. Men hun finder aldrig rigtig hverken sig selv eller nogen større eller mindre sandhed om tilværelsen. Og det er lige som det skal være.

Karla er 20 år og flytter fra mor og far og Lollands marker til Odense for at læse journalistik. Men i stedet for at åbne teoribøgerne, hænger hun ud med Viktor, som ikke helt er til at gennemskue men heller aldrig er dårligt selskab.

Fortællingen flyder med en utrolig lethed i en gennemført, jordbunden stemning. Ringo leger med det trivielle, det hverdagslige, som alligevel kan virker overvældende i en alder domineret af præ-kvartlivskrise. Med en knastør humor i fyldepennen, er det som om, hun har gjort det til sin mission at afdramatisere alt, der er i fare for at blive højtflyvende:

Min navle er bare et hul. Da jeg var lille, gik der tit betændelse i. Den var fyldt med gulligt snask. Da jeg blev teenager, tænkte jeg, at det måske var, fordi jeg havde en betændt slags moderbinding. I dag tror jeg bare, det handlede om, at jeg ikke så tit gik i bad.

Ofte er teksten samtidig morsom og enerverende på den helt rigtige måde. Enkelte gange virker karakterernes samspil for konstrueret; som et gimmick med et formål. Eksempelvis tror jeg enten, man bruger ordet “fernisering” korrekt eller slet ikke bruger det. Man kommer ikke til at sig “finansiering”, bare for at Karla kan rette en.

Romanen er spækket med genialiteter og klinger velbekendt for mit indre øre. Og mens jeg personligt finder den yderst anbefalelsesværdig, tvivler jeg på, hvor stor en målgruppe den taler til på samme måde. Om ikke andet siger jeg: Læs den lige!

What a cliché it would be to define Laura Ringo’s debut novel as the story of a young woman trying to find herself. Well, that’s exactly what is is. But she never really does finds herself or any greater or lesser truth about life. And that is just as it should be.

Karla is 20 years old and moves away from mom and dad and Lolland to Odense to study journalism. But instead of picking up her theory books, she hangs out with Viktor, who’s not entirely easy to figure out, but is never boring.

The story flows with incredible ease in a always grounded mood. Ringo plays with the trivial, the ordinary, which can still seem overwhelming in an age dominated by pre-quarter life crisis. With a bone dry humor flowing in her pen, it’s as though she has made it her mission to defuse anything at risk of becoming dramatic:

My navel is just a hole. When I was little, it often got infected. It got filled with tawny goop. When I became a teenager, I thought it might be because I had an inflamed kind of motherbinding. Today, I think it was just that I didn’t shower a lot. (My translation)

Often the text is humorous and aggravating in just the right way. But sometimes the interaction of the characters seems too constructed; Like a gimmick with a certain purpose.

The novel is loaded with brilliance and rings well-known to my inner ear. And while I personally find it highly recommendable, I doubt to how big an audience it works the same way. In any case, I say: Read it now!

Astrid Lindgren: The Brothers Lionheart

Brødrene løvehjerte // the brothers lionheart by astrid lindgren
Published by gyldendal in 2003 // originally in 1973

At min eneste viden om Nangijala stammer fra et Rasmus Seebach-nummer har længe været min litterære skam. Jeg havde hverken læst Astrid Lindgrens børnefortælling eller set filmatiseringen, da Løvebrødrene landede i min postkasse. De har nemlig været på en længere rejse rundt i bogblogland, og alle har sat deres præg på siderne (hvilket vi ved, jeg er all for) med tegninger, kommentarer og farvelægninger. 

Jeg havde dårligt nogen anelse om, hvad jeg gik ind til. Lidet vidste jeg, at tårekanalerne skulle vådtes allerede under de første sider. Hun er snedig, hende Lindgren, i sin komposition. Hun knuser dit hjerte (de to første kapitler var, uden pis, de hårdeste jeg endnu har læst af nogen bog), stykker det trofast sammen igen, for blot at rive det ud og pille det fra hinanden en gang mere. For Brødrene Løvehjerte emmer af uskyld, godhed, mod, håb og broderkærlighed (som rammer psykohårdt lige ind i mit søstre-elskende hjerte). Men ligeså bedrøvelig, sorgfuld, fuldstændig hjerteskærende er den også. 

Bogen er hurtigt læst. Men med den virkning den satte i maven på voksen-mig, ærgres jeg over aldrig at have oplevet den fra børneperspektiv. Det ville have været tilpas magisk og traumatiserende på samme, eventyrlige tid!

The fact that my only knowledge about Nangijala comes from a Rasmus Seebach track has long been my own literary shame. I had neither read Astrid Lindgren’s story nor seen the film adaptation when the Lionhearts landed in my mailbox. They have been on a long journey visiting different book bloggers, and everyone has put their personal marks on the pages (which we know I’m all for) with drawings, comments and coloring.

Little did I know that my eyes would be swelling up, drowning in tears by just the first few pages. She is clever, Lindgren, in her composition. She breaks your heart (the first two chapters were, I shit you not, the toughest I have read of any book yet), faithfully pieces it back together, just to rip it out and tear it apart one more time. Because just as innocent, good, courageous, hopeful and brotherly as The Brothers Lionheart is – just as sad, sorrowful, completely heartpiercing it is too.

The book is a quick read. But with the effect it had to my grownup stomach, I do regret never having read it from a child’s perspective. It would have been magical and traumatic at the same adventurous time!

Raymond Chandler: The big sleep

Den lange søvn // The big sleep by Raymond Chandler
Published by People’s Press in 2013 // Originally in 1939

Nonchalante butlers, hysteriske pigebørn, hårdkogte gangstertyper – die ganze Schweinerei.

Den lange søvn var Raymond Chandlers debut og første roman i krimiserien om den hardboiled, insisterende privatdetektiv, Philip Marlowe. Jeg ved, at Jacob Hinchely er inkarneret Marlowe-fan, og det var faktisk hans (næsten barnlige) entusiasme, som æggede mig til endelig at gribe bøgerne. Dét og det faktum, at jeg fandt dem til 30 bobs hos min lokale bogpusher.

Som sagt: Klassisk detektivroman. Og selvom jeg nød fløjlsbløde formuleringer som disse, forstyrrede mange elementer min oplevelse: 1) Akavet oversættelse 2) horribel korrektur 3) seriøs homofobi 4) skide forvirrende plot.

Om punkt et og to siger jeg blot: Get your shit together, People’s Press. Og mens homofobien først gik mig voldsomt på, indså jeg efterhånden, at man må læse romanen som et udtryk for sin tid og fejre, hvor langt vi er kommet siden.

Plottet er forbandet udfordrende at følge. Men selve opklaringsarbejdet fremstår faktisk sekundært i forhold til Marlowe-karakteren og hans metoder. Han er romanens egentlige stjerne. Som læsende menneske i en procedure-fokuseret, plot twist-forherligende, gådeløsnings-higende krimiverden, kan dén fordeling potentielt vække ambivalente følelser. Jeg var fan. Særligt efter Murakami-efterordet, som legitimerede min vildrede.

Andre der har meninger om Chandler, Marlowe eller krimigenren generelt?

Nonchalant butlers, hysterical girls, hardboiled gangsters – die ganze Schweinerei.

The big sleep was Raymond Chandler’s debut and the first novel in the crime series of the hardboiled, insisting private detective, Philip Marlowe. I know for a fact Jacob Hinchely is a confirmed Marlowe fan, and it was actually his (almost childlike) enthusiasm that urged me to finally seize the books. That and the fact that I got them for 30 bucks at my local book pusher.

As I said: Classic detective novel. And although I enjoyed Chandler’s often velvety wordings, many elements interrupted my experience: 1) Awkward translation 2) horrible proofing 3) serious homophobia 4) damn confusing plot.

On point one and two, I’ll simply say: Get your shit together, People’s Press. And while the homophobia bothered me tremendously at first, I eventually realized that you must read the novel as an expression of its time and celebrate how far we have come since.

The plot is freaking impossible to follow. But, actually, the investigative work seems secondary compared to the Marlowe character and his methods. He is the true star of the novel. As a reader in a procedure-focused, plot twist-glorifying, puzzle-craving crime world, this sort of focus could potentially arouse ambivalent feelings. I was a fan. Especially after the Murakami postscript had legitimized my bewilderment by revealing that not even Chandler himself knew who killed the chauffeur – and he didn’t really seem to care either.

Anyone else with opinions on Chandler, Marlowe or the crime genre in general?

Christensen & Laub: Gennemblødt

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Gennemblødt // Soaked through (my translation) by Maja Nyvang Christensen & Sine Cecilie Laub
Published by People’s Press in 2016

Med lovning på en indføring i menstruationens historiske og kulturelle bagage, havde jeg edderlåsme set frem til denne bog! Men jeg skriver, som bekendt, i mine bøger, og Gennemblødts marginer er smurt ind i bitter brok.

Bogen er skrevet af to retorik-uddannede damer, som jeg mistænker for at have givet mere opmærksomhed til friske formuleringer end indholdet – måske for at lette stemningen omkring slim, blod og livmodere. Men når sproget sluger fokus på bekostning af indholdet, bliver jeg pissetræt.

Allermest ærgres jeg over måden, forfatterne uspecifikt svæver hen over emner. De første tre kapitler føles som én lang indledning, for der gås aldrig i dybden. Hvor er kilderne? Historierne? Analyserne?

På den ene side virker det som om, forfatterne ikke havde materiale nok og måtte stoppe bogen ud med faktabokse og bullet point-lister. På den anden side tror jeg, at jeg havde siddet med en tre gange længere bog, hvis forfatterne faktisk var dykket ned i deres historier. Dén version ville jeg hellere have læst! Jeg betvivler ikke forfatternes udlægning. Jeg mangler bare udregningen.

På en ganske kort men mere positiv note, står feminismen stærkt i denne bog og taler ind i en vigtig krop- og kønsdebat. Så det er jo altid noget.

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With the promise of an introduction into the historical and cultural baggage of menstruation, gosh darn it had I been looking forward to this book! But, as you know, I write in my books and the margins of Soaked Through are smeared with bitter grumbling.

The book is written by two rhetoric-educated ladies, who I suspect to have given more attention to perky phrasing than to content – perhaps to lighten the mood on all the mucus, blood and uteri. But when the language steals focus at the expense of content, I’m not happy.

What frustrates me the most is the way the authors vaguely hover around the issues. The first three chapters feel like one long preface, since it never goes in depth with anything. Where are the sources? The stories? The analysis?

On the one hand, it seems as if the authors didn’t have enough material and were compelled to fill out the book with fact boxes and bullet point lists. On the other hand, I believe that I’d be sitting with a book three times as long, if the authors has actually delved into their stories. And I’d much prefer to read that version! I don’t question the authors’ claims. I’m just missing the calculations.

On a brief but more positive note, feminism stands strong in this book, which speaks into a major body and gender debate. So it’s got that going for it, which is something.

Suki Kim: Without you, there is no us

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Uden dig er der intet os // Without you, there is no us by Suki Kim
Published by People’s Press in 2015 // originally in 2014

Amerikansk-koreanske Suki Kim betragter muligheden for at undervise Nordkoreanske eliteelever i engelsk som chancen for at åbne deres øjne for den virkelige verden. Men sammen med Kim rystes læseren gang på gang over kombinationen af elevernes nysgerrighed og ubetingede loyalitet over for regimet.

Denne dualitet er kompliceret, og selvom Kim i høj grad lykkes i sin formidling, virker det som om, nuancerne er svære at indfange. Pludselig elsker hun sine drenge, pludselig frygter hun dem. Så er de åbne og ærlige, og kort efter lægger de fælder og kalkulerer.

Fortællingens løse struktur og tendens til gentagelse af de samme pointer, kan virke trættende. Men det giver også en fornemmelse af dagenes klaustrofobiske ensformighed og de konstante påmindelser om elevernes skæbne. For Kim er regimets inhumane kontrol midlertidig; for eleverne er den evig. Hun må indse, at hendes ønske om at gøre dem klogere på verden kan få dem slået ihjel.

Hele tiden glemmer man, at dette ikke en Orwellsk dystopi, men beskrivelsen af et virkeligt totalitært styre, som eliteeleverne, komplet uvidende, er fanget i. Glædesløsheden og monotonien er dominerende. Overvågningen og angsten er allestedsnærværende. Og den kærlighed, Kim udvikler til sine elever forstærker bare rådløsheden.

Den skal læses.

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American Korean, Suki Kim, sees the opportunity to teach North Korean elite students in English as a chance to open their eyes to the real world. But, along with Kim, time and again you shudder at the combination of the boys’ curiosity and unconditional loyalty towards the regime.

This duality is complicated, and although Kim is largely successful in articulating this, it seems as if the nuances are difficult to capture. She loves her boys, then she fears them. Soon they’re open and honest, and soon they’re cunning and lay out traps.

The story is loosely structured and tends to repeat the same points, which does become wearisome. But it also provides a sense of the days’ claustrophobic monotony and the constant reminders of the boys’ fate. For Kim, the regime’s inhumane control is temporary; for her students it’s eternal. She realizes that her desire to have them learn about the world can get them killed.

You constantly forget that this is not an Orwellian dystopia, but the description of a truly totalitarian regime which the students are completely unaware that they are trapped in. Bleakness and monotony is dominant. Surveillance and fear is omnipresent. And the love Kim has for her students only amplifies her helplessness.

Read this book.