Tag Archives: Jostein Gaarder

2013- Electric Puppet’s first 5 months in review

2014

Well- it’s New Year’s Eve, and time to reflect on what has gone on over the past year. For my family, this has been a big year, as we left the comfort and splendour of Oxford to return to our home city of Stoke-on-Trent; I graduated from university; I got my first job; we decided where we want to go with our life in the near and more distant future, thanks to an American man and his family on YouTube; I completed my first book of poetry, which had been languishing prior to this summer; I took the plunge and begun this blog, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a while; and have got back in contact with several family members that I haven’t seen for the best part of a decade thanks to Facebook. It has been eventful, and had also been emotional and tiring for all of us. Also, with any luck, next year should be just as eventful- beginning work; trying to get my book published; endeavouring to write the novel and short story collection that I’ve been planning for a month or so; and getting married. Yes: my partner and I are getting married next year!

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In terms of this blog, I will be getting up several ‘Thoughts on…’ posts for the books I have read recently- the first two Adrian Mole books, Penelope Lively’s ‘Heat Wave’, Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’, and Tove Jansson’s ‘Finn Family Moomintroll’- in the new year, and hopefully will get the first few up on New Year’s Day. For now, though, I thought that I would highlight a selection of posts from this blog that have proved popular, may have been overlooked, or are of relative interest for me.

I think that’s enough links to my other posts to be getting on with for now. Anyway- check some of these out if you haven’t already, or have a browse of the blog and see what you come across. Also, you can follow Electric Puppet on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/electricpuppetblog

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Lastly, here are a few fellow bloggers that I’ve come across in the past few months that you may find of interest:

Don’t Bend, Ascend

These Bones of Mine

Bones Don’t Lie

A Corner Of Tenth-Century Europe (written by one of my Anglo-Saxon lecturers from Oxford; he has since moved on to work at Birmingham University)

Museum Postcard

Prehistories

Interesting Literature

I hope you have a very happy New Year, and that 2014 will be good for you.

Image: The Telegraph

Image: The Telegraph

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Christmas Books

It’s taken me a few days to get around to writing this post, but here I finally am. These first few are ones that I picked and therefore knew my partner was saving for me for Christmas:

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  • Jostein Gaarder –  The Ringmaster’s Daughter
  • Jerome K. Jerome –  Three Men in a Boat
  • J.G.Ballard – Crash

I also knew about this next one. You may remember a month or so ago that I was unable to pick up my old edition of ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’, and that I had decided to purchase one of the pleasantly-designed boxsets (see the discussion with myself in this previous post). Well, a while back I had a rather lucky find at the local library booksale:

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This was also saved until Christmas, and was a ridiculously good find- £20 worth of book for 10p! ‘The Hobbit’ isn’t included, but I should be able to pick that up at some point.

I also had:

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  • E.M. Forster – Maurice
  • F.Scott Fitzgerald –  The Last Tycoon
  • Truman Capote –  Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • William S. Burroughs –  Junky
  • Rudyard Kipling –  Puck of Pook’s Hill (off my parents)

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  • Private Eye: A Cartoon History
  • Nicholas J. Higham & Martin J. Ryan –  The Anglo-Saxon World (off my parents)
  • The Private Eye Annual 2013
  • Private Eye: Eyeballs

Quite a nice amount of reading to be getting on with!

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Thoughts on Jostein Gaarder’s ‘Through a Glass, Darkly’

Through a Glass, Darkly

 

To begin this post, I’ll just say that I’m not sure whether this is a children’s book, a teenage novel, or a work aimed at adults. I’m guessing that it is perhaps all of these, as the larger-than-average font and use of child protagonist suggests the former (and perhaps the second option too), but at times the subject matter hits for the older reader. Anyway- I read this a few weeks back, and have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by it. I read Gaarder’s sublime ‘The Christmas Mystery’ every Advent for a good 4 or 5 years when I was growing up, but haven’t yet read his most famous work ‘Sophie’s World’, and so was unaware just how good a philosopher and thinker this writer is. If this book is aimed at children, then I think that he deserves even more credit, as the way he manages to get the subject of death and the afterlife across to younger readers is incredibly sensitively and well done.

The short book centres on a girl named Cecilia who is ill in bed over Christmas with what seems to be cancer of some kind (this is never explicitly said, although it is mentioned that she has lost her hair). While she is here, she is visited by Ariel, an angel who wishes to know more about what it is to be human and how it feels to have a body of flesh and blood. Thorough is questions, the reader wonders with Cecilia just quite how you can actually explain what taste, smell and touch are like to someone who has never experienced these things, and what it really is to be alive. In exchange, the girl learns from Ariel about God and his creation, and though the discourse we learn that the God of the book’s reality is a flawed character. However, the most important lessons seem to be on the nature of life itself and what it like for both an individual with a terminal illness and for their family as they wait together- and apart- for the inevitable. Through her friendship with Ariel, Cecilia is able to carry out her last wishes of playing in the snow for the last time, using her new skis and toboggan, and seeing her best friend for the last time, but is also able to face death without fear, knowing what is on the other side and being guided there by her guardian figure.

This may make the book sound somewhat morbid and depressing but strangely it is far from it. I did initially have reservations with reading the book, and indeed it took me to read and re-read the blurb on the back of the book several times in the charity shop I had it from on more than one occasion before I finally decided to go back and buy it. However, I’m glad that I did get it, as it is a charming book, told with very little sentimentality and not purposefully trying to depress or upset the reader; uplifting and positive are two words I would use to describe it. Although, I did find myself fighting back the tears when the end arrived, and it is perhaps an emotionally sapping story if it is properly engaged with.

I enjoyed this book for the messages and discussions that take place within it, as well as the way in which it makes you view life and faith slightly differently, but it would perhaps be equally appropriate for helping someone through a bereavement- whether his may be an adult or a child. Recommended, certainly, but prepare to be surprised by both the books depth and your own vulnerability to emotion.

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More newly acquired books (and ‘Reclaimed Books part 1’)

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Please forgive the truly abysmal quality of the above photo (and the below photo, too, to be fair); the iPhone I normally take the pictures on has finally died, having soldiered on for about a year and a half with a slowly disintegrating screen. I’ve had to resort to dangling the laptop upside down and using the camera on this, which made for some interesting contortive poses trying not to get my arm in shot. Anyhoo. These are the four books I’ve acquired recently (I assume that you won’t be able to pick out the titles on the image):

  • Rudyard Kipling-  Kim     50p
  • Jostein Gaarder-  Through a Glass, Darkly     50p
  • George Orwell-  Nineteen Eighty-Four     99p
  • Zelda Fitzgerald-  Save Me the Waltz     99p

Now, I already owned a copy of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ that I bought from the Oxfam in Turl Street, Oxford, but I managed to drop it in a puddle a few minutes after purchasing it, and haven’t been happy with its crinkled state since then. I’ve meant to get a new edition, but had reservations due to technically still already having the book, and because I liked the cover of my edition so much:

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The cover of my rain-soaked edition of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’

The spine had a nice flourescent stripe down it that really helped it to make a statement on the shelf, but I hadn’t got round to reading it due to the awkwardness of trying to turn the crinkled pages. The copy I recently purchased, however, had an introduction and a note on the text that are absent from the edition I did have, so this is actually a far better buy.

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Now, I come onto the part of this post that is titled at the top ‘Reclaimed Books part 1.’ By this, I mean these are a few books that were at my parents from before I moved out and which I have picked up (or ‘Reclaimed’). As such, these aren’t new, but I’m showing them here as I will eventually get posts up on them (or most of them) when I read them- even if this isn’t for a while yet. Eventually, when we manage to purchase some shelving and I sort all of my books out (archaeology, anthropology, poetry, classics, music, space and other random things), I will put pictures on here and then post on any of these as and when I read them or feel like mentioning them, but for now my recent purchases, these and a few others are all that I can read as they are all I can physically put my hands on without burying myself under boxes and paperwork. Anyhoo- as you can only read three of the titles in the image, these are the books I ‘Reclaimed’ (from L to R):

  • William Golding-  The Scorpion God (I have already read this, but may read it again)
  • William Golding-  The Spire
  • T.S.Eliot-  Murder in the Cathedral (I have this in his ‘Collected Poems and Plays’, but like to have stand-alone copies too)
  • John Wyndham-  The Day of the Triffids
  • John Milton-  Paradise Lost
  • Stephen Hawking-  A Brief History of Time
  • James Joyce-  Dubliners

At the moment, I’m still reading ‘Metamorphosis and other stories’, but expect review and thoughts etc. in due course.

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