Monthly Archives: July 2018

The Word for World is Forest

I have at long last read my first Ursula Le Guin. It was the novella The Word for World is Forest, and it was in translation, arriving as it did from a friend’s garage, where it had also been a bit unexpected.

It was all right. The sentiments are ones I obviously identify with. Don’t use violence. Don’t burst in on someone else’s world and start telling them what they must do, enslaving them in the process. First published in the early 1970s, it’s clear where this was coming from.

Ursula Le Guin, Där världen heter skog

But I didn’t enjoy it. Not really. I suspect my garage-owning friend felt much the same, but we both had a curiosity that needed satisfying. Like why had we not read Ursula’s books when we were young? And why had we not even heard of her?

The trouble is, I was under the impression this was a children’s book, due to its size and design. I stopped believing it was for children after about a page. But it still looked like a children’s book. At least this translated version did.

Basically it is about a faraway planet invaded by Earth, and where the hitherto peaceful inhabitants are forced to become cruel and violent like the invaders in order to get rid of them, which mostly involves a lot of killing.

I think I would have liked to see ideas like these executed with a bit more thought through science fiction elements.

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Some blue books with that?

The poetry collection I mentioned getting rid of was blue. I half thought of asking around to see if anyone was needing more blue on their shelves. The books would have added a bit of nice colour, had they been adopted.

Below are some colour-shelved books, including two blue sections.

Glommen books

The authors who took part in the Glommen literature festival two weeks ago met up the night before, in order to hang out and have fun and get to know each other. So they had to stay overnight, and this bookcase ‘lives’ at one of the hotels used.

Your Weetabix* goes down so much better with colour coordinated books. And don’t get me started on the trend of putting the ‘wrong’ side of books out, to avoid any offensive colour ruining your room.

*More likely to have been filmjölk.

Collecting coupons

I mentioned David Copperfield the other day. There are two of him on my foreign shelves. One in the original, and one an adapted version translated into Swedish.

Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

In my childhood there was a series of classic children’s books called Sagas Berömda Böcker. They were a little out of my price range, so I believe most of mine were gifts from the Retired Children’s Librarian.

I liked them a lot, and they helped give me a slightly wrong idea of what’s a classic and what’s a children’s book. Because when they are translated, and adapted (=abridged), it usually makes books child friendly. They caused me to consider Ivanhoe a children’s book, which surprised the Resident IT Consultant quite a bit to begin with.

How could I know it wasn’t?

This series gave me Jules Verne and Alexandre Dumas, as well as David Copperfield and Ivanhoe. I was desperate to collect enough of them. If you got five (I think) of the coupons attached to the books, you could send off for 50 personalised Ex Libris stickers, and I wanted those really badly.

The Ex Libris

As you can’t see, I must have scraped enough together for my stickers. The one above is the blank one that came with the book.

I have a dreadful feeling I never did put all of them into books. I think I tired of them before I got to the end. But it’s a clever way of making young readers want more.

As I grew older and possibly more sensible, I felt a certain amount of shame for having read abridged books. By now I feel it was OK. It got me started, and the books were not short by any means; just ‘adapted.’

Joy

Corrinne Averiss and Isabelle Follath, Joy

This sweet picture book story by Corrinne Averiss is about Fern, who sets out to find the joy that seems to have left her beloved Nanna’s life. Where she would usually have been smiley and happy, she was sad.

But while Fern found plenty of whooosh and joy and bounce, tickles and chuckles and sparkles, she didn’t seem to be able to collect them into her catching bag.

So she went to see her Nanna to tell her. And her Nanna did what you would expect from someone who loves her granddaughter; she smiled. Because grandmothers can be made happy just by being with their grandchildren.

Joyous illustrations by Isabelle Follath, who’s really caught the feelings behind all this. I especially love the street scene when Fern goes home after her unsuccessful hunt.

Another prune

Who’s going to take the books away? That’s what I’d like to know.

We’re on holiday, but as the Resident IT Consultant tackled the wilderness ‘garden’ I tackled the books. I am a Bookwitch, after all. I’d been going soft and allowing all kinds of books to remain. But being realistic, how many potential readers of a dozen or so volumes of Swedish poetry am I likely to find around here?

Books

But I looked at all the books, and found some of the old dears looking quite promising in one way or another. So they stayed. As did both versions of David Copperfield. But more of him later.

Yes, that is a copy of Don Quijote, below. I asked the Resident IT Consultant, whom I consulted, if that was right. Apparently it’s not a very good translation. And we clearly don’t want that.

Books

Then I liberated the children’s books from near the bed and by doing so freed an awful lot of dust. You wouldn’t believe how much dust there was. Even if you are good at collecting the grey fluffy stuff, it will be nothing compared to what I’d inadvertently done.

Perhaps I’ll breathe more easily now.

The amalgamated books allowed to remain look reasonably neat now. There is room for more to join them, or for – small – knick-knacks. Except I don’t do that kind of ‘styling.’ There are two pairs of binoculars, however.

I’ve put the going-away books in five large paper carrier bags. I trust if I think positive thoughts that they will depart under their own steam. Somehow.

Where the World Ends

Geraldine McCaughrean isn’t kind to her characters. The ones in her Carnegie-winning Where the World Ends are not purely fictional. Something like her story did happen for real. And if you want to know what, I suppose you can look it up. Or you could pay close attention as you read the book, and that might give you useful hints.

That’s what I admire about really good authors; the fact that if it’s in there, however small, it’s probably there for a reason. Or you could be like me and simply plod blindly on and wonder and hope for the best. Will she kill all those boys she has marooned on a faraway sea stac off St Kilda, or will they survive? How many of the nine will still live at the end of the book?

It’s less Lord of the Flies than I’d been afraid, because there are three grown men with the boys. Although being men does not necessarily make them more sensible in times of hardship and struggle.

Geraldine McCaughrean, Where the World Ends

Set nearly three hundred years ago, these boys were already used to a hard life, but as their three weeks on Warrior Stac turns into nine months, life becomes almost impossible at times, even for those used to being cold and wet and hungry.

You learn a lot about sea birds, and not just in the first sentence where Quilliam’s mother gives him a new pair of socks and ‘a puffin to eat on the voyage…’

Quill is a lovely and resourceful and unusually mature older boy, and so special that I found it hard to imagine he would be allowed to live. The other boys are the way boys often are, a little mix of everything, including the one who’s a bully. But they have such strength and so many skills, climbing and hunting for anything in this bird world that might make their survival possible.

It’s a beautiful but harsh place, and I have absolutely no wish to go there. I’ll take Geraldine’s story and that will be quite enough. I know why it won her the Carnegie medal, and so will you when you’ve read it, puffin in hand.

Run Wild

Gill Lewis weaves her magic every time. There’s no other word for it. She pulls you in and you live with her characters and you want the best for them but can’t work out how that’s going to be possible.

In a book like Run Wild, which is dyslexia friendly and therefore short, you feel that it will be even harder to arrange for that happy ending. There is one, of course, but as always it’s not impossibly sugary; just rather nice.

For instance, in Run Wild Gill’s characters meet a wolf on a derelict gasworks site in London, and how can you save, let alone keep, a wolf?

Gill Lewis, Run Wild

The children stumble across the wolf and various other wildlife in their search for some place to skateboard. They are children, and they need somewhere to play, somewhere to just be, to walk barefoot.

This is so good. I’m almost jealous of anyone who hasn’t yet read Run Wild. But I can always reread.