Being social + review of A Little Life

I was all social on Friday and went for drinks with other immigrants. Also realized that facebook had decided that I didn’t want to see the updates of one of them (my fave!) for well over a year, so when she said “I’m omw, just have to feed the baby”, I went “….what?”. Thanks FB…

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Anyway, I also finished a book this weekend. I think it was a “briefly noted” in the New Yorker that made pick it up. Plus it is written by a woman, which (as you might know) is a criterion for me this year.

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The first few chapters I thought it’d be a book about male friendship, but I was wrong. The story does cover friendship, but also love, abuse, sexual violence etc.

The New Yorker says that “the most moving parts of “A Little Life” are not its most brutal but its tenderest ones, moments when Jude receives kindness and support from his friends.” (here is the full review), and obviously I agree.

The section I’m carrying with me from it though, is this one:

As you got older, you realized that the qualities you valued in the people you slept with or dated weren’t necessarily the ones you wanted to live with, or be with, or plod through your days with. If you were smart, and if you were lucky, you learned this and accepted this. You figured out what was most important to you and you looked for it, and you learned to be realistic. They all chose differently: Roman had chosen beauty, sweetness, pliability; Malcolm, he thought, had chosen reliability, and competence (Sophie was intimidatingly efficient), and aesthetic compatibility. And he? He had chosen friendship. Conversation. Kindness. Intelligence. /…/ Now, though, as an almost-forty-eight-year-old, he saw people’s relationships as reflections of their keenest yet most inarticulable desires, their hopes and insecurities taking shape physically, in the form of another person. Now he looked at couples–in restaurants, on the street, at parties–and wondered: Why are you together? What did you identify as essential to you? What’s missing in you that you want someone else to provide? He now viewed a successful relationship as one in which both people had recognized the best of what the other person had to offer, and had chosen to value it as well. (p. 567-568)

Not sure I agree (it’s a bit cynical even for me?), but the thought stuck with me. And I guess I don’t think she’s WRONG either.

A Little Life – so sad, and kinda gross, but also well written and depicting beautiful friendships. If you like that kind of things and big books (I really need to get myself one of these bags), you might want to give it a go.

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Another Rant

I had another post planned, but this pisses me off every 5 years, so here it goes. Within the next year, I’ll have to renew two official documents; my passport and my driver’s license. The driver’s license is pretty straightforward for being in the EU – since I’m from an EU country, and live in (another) EU country, I have to exchange my expiring one for one from the country I live in. This bureaucratic little exercise can even be completed in evenings, as long as I make an appointment in good enough time, and will cost me something like € 40.

Then there’s the passport. I sigh just typing this.
If you live in Sweden and have to renew yours, all you need is a valid ID and a “birth certificate” (not really, but our equivalent), and you’re all set. It’ll cost € 35 and be ready in around a week.

When I have to do this, however, there are 2 alternatives: going to the embassy or applying while in Sweden on vacation. Obviously, the embassy REALLY REALLY REALLY don’t want you to do it there:

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Just to recap this – the passport that costs € 35 in Sweden, is € 141 here. That’s a € 100 markup. They even put on their website that “you can apply while in Sweden, and then have it sent here to be picked up once it’s ready for € 15”.

I honestly don’t know anything that encapsulates the Swedish passive aggression more than this. Don’t take the discussion/conflict, just make sure people won’t bother you by charging them ridiculous amounts. Thanks, Swedish Embassy. Really.

Project 2017 – Update #5

I have three goals for this year, and will be making monthly updates on them. They are:

  • thinking of my health and start moving more. no numbers, explicit goals or deadlines, but simply that – move more, be kind to my body.
  • favorize women! more female authors and artists
  • continue learning stuff.

So, how has month five gone?

Health: Better! Still irregularly going to the gym, but at least I’m going.

The Ladies: Yessir! 80% of the books I’ve read were written by women, and Spotify continues to deliver.

Learning: I’ve picked up the uke again, and I’m going to do a summer course at Stockholm University. Let’s see if I actually finish it!

Feminist Friday

There’s a cover of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” done by Imagine Dragons on Spotify. It’s from a live session, and it starts off with someone in the band chatting a bit, telling the audience that they’re about to perform a song by Swift and, he adds, “I really love the melodies in this song, I think that they’re absolutely brilliant”. At this, the audience laughs and the guy insists that he is serious.

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Icelandic wonder Ásgeir was asked to perform a cover of a hit-list song when he visited a Dutch radio show around 3 years ago. He claims to have randomly picked a song based on the title (presumably he, like I, “don’t listen to radio”?), and ended up with Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” which he then performed with his band. When introducing them, the hosts of the shows were audibly giggling at the song choice, as does the artist and his band.

When Justin Bieber is made fun of, it’s rarely about his music, but either about his fangirls or weird behavior. When it’s Taylor Swift however, it’s almost always about who she’s dating, how many people she’s dated, and how it “never” seems to last.

It’s time to realize that this is not “guy talk”. These are not funny jokes that you’ll understand if you just have some sense of humor. This is how everyday sexism and diminishing of a whole gender looks like. I’ve seen some advice for dealing with this, which I plan to try out – instead of laughing or starting a discussion, pretend you don’t get it, and let them explain why their sexist shit is funny.

Dragons and shit

My best friend growing up loved fantasy, which she then also tried to get me to read. Halfway into my first David Eddings’ book, I was already certain that it was not for me. I was like 11 and I don’t even remember which book it was, but that I went like “…dragons? seriously?” and stopped. Then, a few years later (2-3?), one of my uncles suggested I should read The Fellowship of the Ring. Now, I don’t enjoy scary things, and it was even worse back then… so let’s just say I didn’t finish that one either.

So, with these two incidents in mind, I went the next 15 (ish) years firmly saying that “I read everything but fantasy”. My old librarian crush had suggested Game of Thrones in 2005, but I was like “meh”. Until my brother in law looked at me seriously (in 2012! I’m slow, ok) and said I really should give it a try. I did, and realized that fantasy doesn’t have to be bad. It’s still not the genre I read most from, but at least it’s there. Despite the dragons and shit.

Then earlier this year, I saw a woman in the train who read a good-looking book. And since this is how I roll, I googled the book, and found this:

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Obviously the next step was to order and read the little brick (1200 pages). And MAN. I mean I enjoyed GoT, for sure, but this stuff’s just my jam (I’m sorry, I swear I’ll never say that again, it’s from here). There aren’t any dragons in it (plus points), but weird magicky stuff, lots of complicated story lines that weave together, fighting (meh) and intrigues. Sadly only the first 2 parts (part 2 – 1400 pages) are out, so now it’s back to playing the waiting game. Let’s hope Brandon Sanderson is worse at that game than George RR Martin.

So. Any more fantasy recommendations?