Friday, 31 May 2013

Umberto's Friday

I used to do the Follow Friday and the Book Blogger Hop together before I lost track of the latter, but I've decided that today I'll focus just on the Book Blogger Hop which is hosted by Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer.
What is your favourite series that you've finished all the books (more than 3 books) to?

I am guessing this'll be a very popular answer this week, but of course I have to say Harry Potter. I've read all the books, or had them read to me, and I am absolutely in love with it. I don't think I realised it until the 6th book, but I really grew up with the series. I don't know whether they helped me cope with things as such, but they were always there as this kind of guide or inspiration. The same thing happened with the movies.

A series I am not quite sure counts are Carlos Ruiz Zafon's books from The Shadow of the Wind to The Angel's Game and The Prisoner of Heaven. I haven't read the last one yet and I think another one is coming up. I loved the first two and anything else Zafon writes, and since all the novels are interrelated, reading the others really helps understanding them.

This might be the moment to drop in another quick request. If anyone is interested in being part of the 'Chronicles of a Harry Potter Fan' blogtour, drop me an email at

I started reading Umberto Eco's 'The Island of the Day Before'. I am reading it in Dutch because it's Italian originally and that is a language I definitely cannot read. So the quotes below are my own translations. My dad loves his books and always told me to read this, so I started it on the train back to University yesterday. It's a whopper at almost 500 pages, but I am loving it so far.

Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader and Friday 56 by Freda's Voice.

'And still I rejoice in my humility and gain,since I am condemned to such a privilege,perchance pleasure in my horrid rescue:I am the only creature of our species that,I believe since the dawn of history,has been wrecked on an abandoned ship.'
It starts of with a part of a dramatic letter that the main protagonist writes to his unrequited love interest while being stuck on an abandoned ship. It is pretty good at showing Umberto Eco's writing style, where sentences are constantly interrupted and sometimes the main sentence is hardly found. It's like a puzzle and I love it! Translating this was a lot of fun!

'He wanted to forget the incident. For years he had pondered over an invisible brother, that night he thought he had seen him, but if he had seen someone (he told himself, in an attempt to contradict his heart with his head), that someone obviously was not imaginary, and since Ferrante was imaginary, that someone could not have been Ferrante.'
Ferrante is the main character's imaginary brother, or so he thinks because he seems to keep on popping up and making his life more complicated. His sentence structure is really complicated, so I doubt I have been able to portray the magnificence that Eco's writing style is, but I hope you enjoy it!

So, what have you picked for this week? Let me know in the comments or leave a link to your post :)

Friday, 17 May 2013

'The Sun Rising' by John Donne

JohnDonne.jpgThis is quite possibly my favourite Donne poem but it only became that quite recently because some of its aspects kept escaping me. In the hope to make it your favourite much quicker, here's my analysis of it.

This was always our least favourite part in English lessons, but it has to be mentioned: the phallic imagery that runs through the title. Clearly the Sun isn't the only thing rising. But the poem doesn't advertise physical love alone, it tells of a much deeper, profounder love, that trumps the power of the Sun in more ways than one. It is quite clear from the start that this poem is a monologue addressed to the rising Sun, but it is much more than that. It is also a praise poem to love, like many of Donne's works. Important here is to pick up on the personification of the Sun. It is a 'busy old fool', 'unruly' and a 'saucy pedantic wretch'. Whereas at first glance it might seem these words are written in an angry tone, they are actually quite teasing. If you were mad at someone you wouldn't call them 'saucy'. Rather, Donne greets the Sun as a friend who keeps butting in at the wrong moments but never truly disturbs him. The narrator could be seen as a cocky youth, raising himself above the ancient Sun and mocking its powerlessness.

The narrator commands the sun 'chide' others but leave 'lovers' to run their own 'seasons'. The progression of those others is quite impressive. He rises from 'late school-boys and sour prentices', to 'court-huntsmen', to 'the king' and back to 'country ants'. What Donne is trying to express is that despite the Sun's power to control the smallest insect to the highest power in the country, it is powerless against those that are in love. Not only is its 'call' not enough to wake the lovers, but its other use, to tell time, is useless as well. Love 'knows..nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time'. The Sun isn't alone in its helplessness. Time itself has no affect on Love and cannot damage it or those in love.

In the second stanza the narrator begins to praise his love and continues to assert his own strength over the Sun's. He could 'wink' and eclipse' the sun's 'strong' beams, but if he did he would 'lose her sight' and that isn't something he is willing to do. Seeing her lying with him his to precious a thing to lose over proving his own power to the Sun and again the Sun is shown as being less strong than Love. The narrator challenges the Sun to look upon his love and not be 'blinded' by her. Blinded is often a word used in context with the Sun and here Donne is raising his lady up to the same striking beauty. Donne wrote during the so called Age of Discovery in which Europe explored most of the other continents such as Africa and the Americas. For Britain, India held a special attraction and it is often referenced. Here, the narrator challenges the Sun to see whether the riches of India are still there 'to-morrow' or whether they do not lie in bed with him. He praises his lady as equal to the exotic treasures found there and argues that the 'kings', which would be most interested in India's treasures, would agree that they 'lay' in the narrator's bed. Donne here describes love as the greatest treasure a human can own, since it eclipses all materialistic possessions.

In the final and third stanza, Donne and his lady come together, both linguistically and quite possibly also physically. She is 'all states', which is a reference to the previously mentioned India's, but combined with him being 'all princes', it also becomes quite sexual. He searches her for treasure, invades her even and while they're at it 'Nothing else is'. The Sun is not only powerless but also completely disregarded by them. Here is the first time Donne uses 'us', suggesting lovers are united and should be regarded as one whole. Royals 'play' at what they do, suggesting that warfare and conquest is rather like Love. But it falls into nothing, as do 'honour' and 'wealth', who are nothing but 'mimic' and 'alchemy'. They are false forms of one true passion.

When he addresses the Sun again, he does not mock but almost seems to show pity. The Sun is 'half as happy as we', its true purpose being to warm the world but not me warmed. Rather than cut short the lover's time as he suggests in the first stanza, the Sun can only achieve its purpose by warming the two lovers in bed with its beams, because they own the world. Love is everywhere and by shining light on them, so is the Sun. In the final line, the lovers take the place of the Sun, suggesting their 'bed thy centre is, these walls thy sphere'. They are the personification of Love and through them, the Earth is warmed.

Donne was a rather religious man, becoming a cleric in his later life, and as such religious context can quite often be found in his poetry. What is interesting with this particular poem is the Sun itself. In 1616, the Church of Rome declared the fact that the sun was the centre of the galaxy as 'false'. Donne's poems were published in 1633, but probably written years before and it is quite possible that Donne took it upon himself to dispute Copernicus' theory of a heliocentric universe. Rather than the Sun being the centre, his lover and him are, i.e. humans and the world are still central to the Universe. He was a clever man, this Donne.

Donne was also a metaphysical poet, a term coined by the critic Samuel Johnson. These poets were characterized by looking at what was behind (meta) the physical. They would ask 'what is love?' and then use conceits (extended metaphors) to search for an answer. In this case, the Sun's personification is the conceit that allows Donne to search for the true nature and power of Love. Donne doesn't just use the metaphysical conventions, he also plays with the idea of the aube. This was a song traditionally sung by French troubadours in the 11th-12th century, which lamented the parting of lovers at dawn. But rather than this being regretful, the lovers rejoice in the light shining upon them and do not fear the Sun.

I hope you now understand why I love this poem as much as I do. Donne's view of Love is one of all-conquering power. Nothing can stand in the way of one who is in love and I think that is a beautiful message. He wrote another poem called 'The Good-Morrow' and sometimes I see it as a companion piece for this poem, but then the inward thoughts of the lovers, rather than their boast. What do you think?

As a quick tip, the Luminarium is a great place to find any poem, if you ever get lost!

Gatsby Follows this Friday!

Alison Can Read Feature & FollowFollow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee. And today's question is:
School is out! What is your favorite Summer Reading book?

I wish school was out, I still have exams I am revising for, which is severely limiting me branching out into my favourite books. I have really loved reading Carlos Ruiz Zafon's books such as 'The Shadow of the Wind' and 'The Angel's Game'. I think I will try to get 'The Prisoner of Heaven' before I leave for France, because France is where I love to read his books, despite him being Spanish.

I also like to try new books in the summer, so I think I might work on getting my Classics list down a bit. 'Watership Down' is waiting for me, as is 'The Book of Laughter and Forgetting' by Milan Kundera.

For Book Beginnings by Rose City Reader and Friday 56 by Freda's Voice, I'm using 'The Great Gatsby' by Fitzgerald. I sort of want to start reading it now because of the movie and because I've always wanted to, but exams are killing me.

'In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.‘Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.’
I think that's quite good advice to remember because, especially if you've grown up in Europe like me, there are certain advantages you've simply had since birth.

'The familiar expression held no more familiarity than the hand which reassuringly brushed my shoulder.'
I like this line even though it is very short. When parents give you a smile saying everything's alright and you can just see them freak out internally.

So, let's close this off with an idea. I have already bothered some of you with this (SORRY)! 

I'm helping out a friend, Thomas Sailer, author of 'Confessions of a Harry Potter Fan', by trying to organise a blog tour for his book from the 22nd of July to the 5th of August. I am still looking for people from the 28th of July to the 4th. If you'd like to help, tell me so in your comments or email me at

So, what were your answers for this week's question? 

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Review: 'The Fountainhead' by Ayn Rand

I recently read 'The Fountainhead' but haven't been able to review it until now, simply because I couldn't phrase my thoughts properly. Now I'll attempt it. 
When The Fountainhead was first published, Ayn Rand's daringly original literary vision and her groundbreaking philosophy, Objectivism, won immediate worldwide interest and acclaim. This instant classic is the story of an intransigent young architect, his violent battle against conventional standards, and his explosive love affair with a beautiful woman who struggles to defeat him. 

I disagree quite strongly with the synopsis above. Whereas I do agree the character of Howard Roark is intransigent, meaning he refuses to change his opinions, I don't think he fights a violent battle. Roark is utterly convinced of his own principles and lives his life through them. Whereas the other characters and society fight violently against him and his ideas, he lets them be. What makes him such a special character, to me and other readers, is how he lives his life completely convinced of these principles, the way Rand expresses them in her other novel Atlas Shrugged
My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.
Roark believes man is heroic and that art, in his case architecture, can lead humans to achieve productivity. Humans were meant to create, in Rand's philosophy, not copy what came before. That is the beautiful message of this book that has not let me go yet: each man and woman has the chance to create and touch sublimity. 

Another point I disagree on with Goodread's synopsis, is the idea that Dominique wants to defeat Roark. Whereas initially there is a desire in her to bring Roark down, this is a part of her respect for him. Dominique wants to test Roark, wants to see how far she can push his principles and how long he will hold out. What the beauty of their relationship is, however, is that in testing each other they are testing themselves. Dominiqie pushes him to his limits because she is being tested and made stronger by suffering with and for him. By seeing him "suffer" under society's rejection, she learns to live for herself and her own happiness rather than according to other people's standards. I truly loved their relationship, the dedication to each other and the place art and understanding of beauty had. The character of Dominique is there for the reader as a guide through Rand's philosophy. Whereas Roark and his ideas might seem foreign at the beginning, his plea during his last trial strikes incredibly true. Below is perhaps one of my favourite description of Dominique:
'She stood at the rail,while the city diminished, and she felt the motion of growing distance as a growing tightness within her, the pull of a living cord that could not be stretched too far.' p. 267

Rand's writing has often been criticized of being too political for a novel. I haven't read any of her other novels yet, but I believe that that's not true for 'The Fountainhead'. Yes, there is politics in this novel. Politics, after all, provides our life with directions. Our decisions of how to treat others, how to approach decision making, all of these are influenced by our politics. The characters in Rand's novel act and their actions are based on their personal politics, whether they belief in Capitalism, Objectivism or, perhaps, only in themselves. Rand said of this novel that the primary theme was 'individualism versus collectivism, not in politics but within a man's soul.'Although this could be read as Rand not wanting any politics in her novel, I understand it as Rand arguing that what we call "politics" is simply our understanding of our own motives, wrapped up in fancy terms with a capital letter.

If you enjoyed 'Pillars of the Earth' I think you might enjoy this novel as well. Both use architecture as a way of building their narrative. Whereas Follett uses cathedrals, Rand uses an equally religious symbol: skycrapers.

I give this novel...

5 Universes!!!

I truly loved this novel. According to some critics, this novel is better read when young because with age, apparently, the flaws in Rand's philosophy become more obvious. I can't say whether that's true or not, but for now I can just say that I have not been so in love with a book in a very long time. Its 600 pages flew by and I was truly sad when it finished it. I definitely recommend it to anyone who isn't scared of many pages and an imposing legacy.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Follow Friday and 'Chronicles of a Harry Potter Fan'

Alison Can Read Feature & Follow

On a note, before I start up all the memes, I'd love for you guys to hop on over and check out the release of the English version for 'Chronicles of a Harry Potter Fan'. I know the author, Thomas Sailer, and I've read parts of the book! Every fan will love it!

Now, onto business! Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee. And this week's question is:

Happy Mother's Day! Who is your favorite mom from fiction?

It's Mother's Day? Who knew! It's actually really difficult to think of a mother figure from any of the books I've read, since they're often not the central figure. Although she's not, perhaps, really a central character, I always loved the idea of Aragorn's mother in The Lord of the Rings. Her name was Gilraen and she fled to Rivendell with baby Aragorn when her husband was slain after only four years of marriage. As he set about proving himself worthy for Arwen, even before The Lord of the Rings takes place, she returned to the Rangers of the North, where she eventually died. When Aragorn last saw her she told him:
"I gave hope to the Dúnedain; I kept none for myself."
She seems impossible tragic, but those are often the most beautiful characters. I think it's great that Peter Jackson gave her some screentime in The Fellowship of the Rings, even if it was only on the extended DVD. Here is a really good post about her. 

Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader and Friday 56 by Freda's Voice. I've decided to use 'Brave New World' by Huxley for today because I really can't wait to start reading it!

'A SQUAT grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and, in a shield, the World State’s motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.'
It's quite a cold, factual beginning. I guess that it's quite foreshadowing of the rest of the novel!
'He laughed, “Yes, ’Everybody’s happy nowadays.’ We begin giving the children that at five. But wouldn’t you like to be free to be happy in some other way, Lenina? In your own way, for example; not in everybody else’s way.”'
I guess everybody should be free in their own way. I am still not quite sure what 'Brave New World' is about, although I of course know what its title has come to mean, but I am avoiding the blurbs and synopses on purpose! 

So, what are you reading today? And who's your favourite mom?

'Chronicles of a Harry Potter Fan' finally available in English!

I have some amazing news! 'Chronicles of a Harry Potter Fan' by Thomas Sailer, a great book about his experiences in running the 'Knight' s Bus' and in bringing together numerous of Harry Potter fans! I've read excerpts of the book and it sounds amazing! Here's the blurb:

For many years, Thomas Sailer was active in the virtual Harry Potter fandom: After he had developed a huge fancy for the story in autumn 2004, he started to help out on the renowned fan portal ‘Emma Watson Empire’ the next spring; and it did not take long until he advanced to the site’s representative.
Two years later, he founded the ‘Knight Bus’, a widescale directory for Harry Potter websites. And finally, he even tried to mobilise fans from all countries by means of an organisation.
During his years as an active member of the fan community, he has accomplished quite a lot and made contacts to fans and website owners from all over the world. However, what he has basically intended with his activity, did not happen to become real.
In this book, he talks about his work in the international fandom, his motives and how the Harry Potter story has influenced his life.

When first released in November 2012, the original German version of the book caused a stir within the fan community: Although it has never been on a bestseller-list, there appeared to be several reports about Thomas Sailer’s story on many fan based websites from all around the world.

Hop on over to Amazon or his website for more details!

In the excerpt below he tells us of how Slovenian Harry Potter fans managed to save Harry Potter from terrible translations! With some help from Mr. Sailer of course!

'Among other things, I might have been inspired by an explosive case of fan-activism in Slovenia: In May 2007, soon after I founded the Knight Bus, I received an e-mail from the admin of a fan based website called ‘Harry Potter Slovenija’. He asked me to help point out a mischief in Slovenia: Epta, the publisher that owned the marketing rights for the Slovenian translation of the Harry Potter books, no longer charged Jakob Kenda, who was liked among the Slovenian readers, with the translation of the sixth book, but Branko Gradišnik instead. He freely admitted that he had never read the five previous books at all; and consequently, his translation was seen as unacceptable according to the Slovenian fan site admin. Now, the Slovenian fans feared that the translation of the seventh and final book would not match their expectations as well.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Feature and Follow Friday

Alison Can Read Feature & FollowI have given up on my hunt for interesting titles for this post. But as soon as inspiration hits me, they'll be back! This week's Follow Friday (hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee) question is:

Q: Give us a sneak! What are you reading? Tell us about a fun or fail scene in your current read.

See, the thing is, I just finished reading 'The Fountainhead' which is a beautiful book, full of amazing scenes, and there is no way I can pick one scene. To be honest, I am still not even in a state to review it because there are so many thoughts swirling around in my head concerning the book that a review would just be a mess of words. It's a seriously good book though! So I will have to go for a book I recently started. The scenes at the beginning are already hilarious so I decided to use those in order not to give too much of the plot away. This is from 'For Whom The Curtain Calls' by Ian O'Regan, which I am enjoying majorly! It's a mix between mystery and hilarity!
'But on that evening, the scale's brutal, unwavering honesty pushed Denton too far. Denton grabbed the offensive contraption off the floor, held it over the tun, and threatened his heartless foe with a very thorough soaking if it didn't shape up. The threat proved disastrous in a number of ways.' p.10
Denton's night started out perfect, continued with a fight with his scale and ended in him losing his newly-bought engagement ring. I laughed out loud during most of those pages, so you know that when the review for this one comes up it'll probably be good!

And I am using the same book for Book Beginnings (Rose City Reader) and Friday 56 (Freda's Voice). 

'Willard Webster briefly entertained the idea of trying to raise his broken body off the ground - just a little. But his body wanted nothing to do with his plan, so he dismissed the thought and returned to his oddly satisfying new routine of lying in a crumpled heap, blinking repeatedly, and wondering why he wasn't in far more severe pain.'
Well, that's quite a beginning, isn't it. I like names that alliterate, so that was a plus. And then the description of poor Willard being satisfied about the lack of pain just made me laugh, despite the fact the man is clearly not in an ok-to-laugh-at state!

'Denton gave Henry a very serious and committed nod of his head. Then he ran into the Ford's Diner restroom and threw up.'
I think it would be good for me to learn how to nod both seriously and committedly, it might make me more trustworthy to some people! Also, never fo to a Ford's Diner, Denton might have been sick there!

So, how about you? What are your choices for this week? Leave your answer or link to it in a comment!