Samstag, 31. Dezember 2011

This is NOT a year review!

Today was a bright and sunny day, a beautiful Saturday, although my hopes for snow were not fulfilled.
Now the sun is setting and it will be the last sunset of 2011. There are only a few hours of this year left.
To me, New Year's Eve is not just a special day, to me it's magical: The old year has not quite passed and the  new one has not arrived yet. I love this time, I love the feeling of floating between yesterday and tomorrow and I love the feeling that everything can happen, because after all, tomorrow is not only a new morning, it is a new year, and if that's not the time to change something, what is it?

Since today is the 31st December it would be about time to write a 2011 review like the ones I have seen on loads of other blogs (o's here is an especially beautiful example), but I can't do that. Strangely the end of this year doesn't feel like an ending at all for me; it feels as if it was only the beginning. At the moment I am experiencing an indescribably happy period of my live, I have finally found a balance between interacting with other people and keeping to myself which may not sound like a big thing, but it is, it really is. Not being able to control my feelings is something that has nearly destroyed me in the past.
Perhaps that is the reason New Year's Eve doesn't seem like an ending to me, 2012 is the first year in ages I am actually looking forward to again.

And I owe a big part of my confidence for the future to you. One of the reasons I cannot await midnight is that my first real year as a book blogger is about to start, I am looking forward to beginning with my challenges, discovering new books and meeting new fantastic people.

Having a blog has turned my life into an adventure, and I am not exaggerating. I feel like I have finally found my people and updating Literary Stars as well as reading posts on other blogs has become one of my favourite parts of the day.

Also, I am really proud of myself, if I may say so. I wrote my first post ever on November 20 and I had no idea what I was doing. Computers never used to interest me much and I have to admit that I was really helpless in the beginning, I remember having a huge freak out when I tried for hours and hours to change my layout and it just didn't seem to lead anywhere. But I did not want any help, which was probably stupid because my older sister is a genius with computers and could have saved me many tears.
Anyway, all that you see on this blog has been created and collected by me, its flaws are my fault and its merits too. So if I have achieved nothing else in 2011, I have discovered book blogging and I am glad for that.

This would be the place to write down my New Years Resolutions now, but for the first time in such a long time I don't have any. I mean, of course I want to attract some more readers next year, I want to read all the books I have listed for my challenges, do my Spanish homeworks more regularly and losing a few pounds would not be bad either, but at the moment there is nothing in my life which really has to be changed.
And if I think about last year, when my resolution was not to jump in front of a train, or the year before when it was not to hurt myself anymore, I am content. (I hope I am not scaring anyone here, no more getting emotional when this is over, I  promise!)

So in my opinion 2012 shall come! For the first time in such a long time I know I'll be okay.
Happy New Year!

A long way down

A long way down by Nick Hornby was one of these novels I just couldn't resist reading, and it fits the season very well because it starts on a New Year's Eve.
Martin Sharp, a TV presenter who has lost his wife, his children, his job, his reputation, eighteen-year-old, desperate and misunderstood Jess, Maureen who has given up her whole life to look after her severly disabled son and unseccsessful, hopeless musician JJ meet by chance.
What do they have in common? All of them want to jump off the same roof.
And since it is not so easy to kill yourself with three other people queuing behind you they decide to try and help each other and agree on a suicide-ban until Valentine's Day when they want to meet up on the roof again.

A warning to begin with: this is not the typical "Now that I have found these great friends my life makes sense again!"-story. The four main characters have nothing in common apart from being suicidal: they argue all the time and sometimes they don't even like each other very much, but everyone needs the other's company.
I absolutely loved this book and I can see now why Hornby is considered a master of modern literature, not only has he written a wonderful yet realistic story, he also draws a perfect picture of the time we are living in.

What I did not expect from a book dealing with such dark themes as suicide and depression was that it would be so hilariously funny. The whole novel is filled with a dark sense of humour, but it is never disrespectful and hidden behind the humour is a deep wisdom.
Hornby's characters are very close to life: they are no saints, Martin for example is not amiable at all but I was     still drawn to him because he was at least honest and did not approve of his behaviour himself.

Something I liked very much was that the main characters did not all have traumatic experiences which drove them to almost jumping, JJ for example is just an unhappy person with a totally normal history.

I loved this book because it was simply so true, and I am judging this as someone who considered suicide very seriously not so long ago. Here is one of my favourite parts, it is from JJ's point of view (which explains all the swearing) and taken from the last 20 pages:

And suddenly, just for a moment, I felt good. (...) And maybe for the first time in the last few months, I acknowledged something properly, something I knew had been hiding right down in my guts, or at the back of my head - somewhere I could ignore it, anyway. And what I owned up to was this: I had wanted to kill myself not because I hated living, but because I loved it. And the truth of the matter is, I think, that a lot of people who think about killing themselves feel the same way - I think that's how Maureen and Jess and Martin feel. They love life, but it's all fucked up for them, and that's why I met them, and that's why we're all still around. We were up on the roof because we couldn't find a way back into life, and being shut out of it like that... It just fucking destroys you, man. So it's like an act of despair, not an act of nihilism. It's a mercy killing, not a murder. I don't know why it suddenly got to me.(...) Sometimes it's moments like that, real complicated moments, absorbing moments, that make you realize that even the hard times have things in them that make you feel alive.
What I liked perhaps most about the whole book is the ending: there is no fairy-tale-ending, the problems don't just disappear miraculously and neither do the characters embrace life passionately and vow to never let it go until it lets go of them. Not many things in the characters's lives do actually change and yet everything changes because they do.

Freitag, 30. Dezember 2011

This will be craic - Ireland Reading Challange

To take my mind off less enjoyable things (Les Misérables...) I have decided to sign up for another, really fantastic challange: The Ireland Reading Challange at Books and Movies.
Since those amazing two weeks last August I am a devoted lover of the Emerald Isle, so this challenge is heaven sent for me.
It is about reding books written by Irish authors and/or set in Ireland and/or involving Irish history or Irish characters (what a surprise).

I am participating at the Luck o' the Irish level which means I'll have to read 6 different books, and one of them is going to be by James Joyce, I promise!
I hope I can learn more about this fascinating country and have fun, of course.

Always read the small print or How to really annoy your potential readers

I love book buying, I love it almost as much as reading itself.
There is a pretty big book store in my town and whenever I enter it I feel as if I was on a long, relaxing holiday and surrounded only by the best of people: interesting, sophisticated  persons who all share my love for literature (because no one ever is in a bookshop just so they can buy a present for someone they don't know very well or some comics or maybe even a copy of the Playboy...).

Anyway, yesterday I went on a shopping spree again and since I am joining Kate's Chunkster Les Misérables Readalong I thought it was about time to get a copy of Hugo's long epic book.
Since they only had one edition the choice was easy and I bought a thick paperback with the beautiful title "Die Elenden" which is the exact German translation of "Les Misérables".
I decided on reading it in German because my French is far away from sufficient to understand such a book (I'm battling through Le Petit Prince at the moment) and it would be rather absurd for me to read the English translation of a French book which I would have to translate into German again in my head.
To be honest the book seemed a little too thin to me to be treated as the Chunkster of Chunksters but I thought that they had probably used really thin paper and also I didn't know the exact page number Les Misérables is supposed to have, so I bought it despite my little doubts.

When I had a closer look at home I grew more and more suspicious, the French original has about 1900 pages and although German is not quite as drawn-out a language as French, my edition was decidedly too short considering that it had not even 700 pages. Finally on the 4th page I found a note in about this font size saying that I had just bought a copy which had been "improved and abridged for better readability".


"Improved and abridged": Are they serious?!? How can anyone dare say that they have improved a book which is considered one of the greatest novels of French literature and the whole 19th century? And abridged: What kind of abbreviation is it to simply leave out two thirds of a novel? I mean, thousand pages are not quite a trifle, are they? 
I know that a lot of people think that Hugo's writing is too longsome and I am sure there are some boring scenes in Les Misérables, but I have got the feeling that if I read this abridged version I don't read Hugo's book at all, I read a renarration.
How can anyone assume they are able to decide 150 years later which parts of a book are relevant and which not? They have not felt what Hugo felt, they have not seen what he saw and they certainly don't know his thoughts. How can they arrogate to say "Oh, this part is boring, let's omit it!"?
And, more than anything: Why can't they write abridged version somewhere on the cover so people can choose if they want to read the thoughts of some arrogant German translator or of the real Victor Hugo?

Sorry that I am moaning so much today, but this really made me angry, I can hardly imagine what Monsieur Hugo would say if he was still alive! Oh, and I have kept the best to myself until now: After my disappointing discovery I looked for an unabridged German edition on Amazon and guess what? There is none. During the 1970s one which cost about 80 existed, but it is no longer available. Apparently no German person was interested in reading Les Misérables in the last 30 years.

I am so angry with my parents for not being English.

Mittwoch, 28. Dezember 2011

Love, Blood, French Revolution - What more do you want?

So I have finally made my mind up and decided to take part in Kate's library Chunkster Readalong Les Misérables 2012, a long name for a collective attempt to read a long book!

I have always wanted to read Hugo's masterpiece, mostly because I love the musical, but let's be honest: its size is pretty intimidating, so I am thankful that this readalong puts me under a little pressure.
Thanks to Kate for hosting and good luck to all other participants!

Dienstag, 27. Dezember 2011

Another Classics Challenge

Since the old year is passing away so quickly I'll have to hurry up a bit to sign up for all the challenges I want to and I am making a huge step forward by joining November's Autumn's Classic Challenge.

The goal is to read seven classics in 2012, three of which can be re-reads and to answer a prompt at Katherine's lovely blog on the 4th of every month. I am very excited and very curious! The list of my seven books follows.

  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • The unbearable lightness of being by Milan Kundera 
and my three re-reads, all by J.R.R. Tolkien of course:

  • The Fellowship of the Ring
  • The Two Towers
  • The Return of the King
So, what do you think? Quite a heavy list, isn't it? I hope to God that I will really be able to stick to it, I have wanted to read these books for a long time now, after all.

Sonntag, 25. Dezember 2011

One little Christmas wish for you

Christmas dinner has been eaten, all the presents have been opened, the family has been visited and A Christmas Carol has been watched (the Disney version of course): Here in Austria the most important part of Christmas is over.
The climax has been reached and passed, all the anticipation, all the preparations don't count anymore, they have become nothing but a memory: another year, another Christmas.

If everything is already over, then why is it that I am writing this post now?
The reason is, while I have wished everyone a Merry Christmas, I have found that there is something far more important I am wishing you with all my heart.
I am fully aware that this will sound really kitschy now, but I mean it more seriously than you can imagine, and if Christmas is not the time to be sentimental, what is it?

My small but dear, so very dear, community of readers, I wish you happiness. Not just happiness over your Christmas presents or the holidays, not even just happiness over your beloved ones.
I wish you a blitheness only for yourself, a joy and delight inside your heart that no one can take away from you.

How often do we beam with joy, just so that someone spoils it the next moment? How often do we give someone a carefully selected and affectionately wrapped present, a sign of our love, and they toss it away, barely looking at it? How often are the ones we love more than anything stubborn and proud and hurt us without even noticing?

These are some of the things which ache so much more than bodily wounds and there is only one way to avoid all this senseless hurt: cultivating an inner elation, a private gratification which cannot be spoiled by anyone or anything.
This is what being at peace with oneself means I think. It doesn't mean that one is always happy, but that the way to happiness is not hidden behind impermeable clouds when one is upset.

Doubtlessly this revelation is my most valuable present this year and since I have shared it with you now, there is only one thing left to say, and for that I will stick with Frank Sinatra:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas!

Freitag, 23. Dezember 2011

Back to the Classics Challenge

I am signing up for another challenge! Amazement! Excitement! Rejoicing!
(In fact I want to sign up for so many, many more but I. Have. No. Time.)
Anyway, it's a challenge probably all of you have already joined: The Back To The Classics Challenge 2012 by Sarah at Sarah Reads Too Much.

Should you be one of the five people in this universe who have not heard about it yet, here are the rules:

To participate you have to read one book out of each of the following categories.

  • Any 19th Century Classic
  • Any 20th Century Classic
  • Reread a classic of your choice
  • A Classic Play
  • Classic Mystery/Horror/Crime Fiction
  • Classic Romance
  • Read a Classic that has been translated from its original language to your language   - To clarify, if your native language is NOT English, you may read any classic originally written in English that has been translated into your native language.  
  • Classic Award Winner  - To clarify, the book should be a classic which has won any established literary award.  
  • Read a Classic set in a Country that you (realistically speaking) will not visit during your lifetime  - To Clarify, this does not have to be a country that you hope to visit either.  Countries that no longer exist or have never existed count.
So, here are the ones I choose, determined to read them all:

  • A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
  • The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka
  • Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
  • Hamlet, Shakespeare (Although I am going to read a lot of plays, due to my Greek Tragedies Challenge and Allie's Shakespeare Reading Month)
  • The Fall of the House of Usher, Edgar Allan Poe
  • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
  • The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Marquez
  • The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
Most of the books on my list are ones which I have wanted to read for a long time and now voilà, here's my opportunity to finally do. I can hardly wait until 2012, my fingers are already itching with the desire to pick up these books!

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King

Christmas Eve 1815: Little Marie Stahlbaum receives a special present, a Nutcracker whom she happens to love deeply from the first moment on. Later the celebration is over and everyone else already asleep, but the  girl still tends to her new toy. Suddenly there are hundreds of mouses gathering terrinfyingly around her, lead by their horrible seven-headed king, when all the dolls in the house come alive and the Nutcracker leads them into battle against the intruders. After a period of success, the toy army is overwhelmed and the Nutcracker is about to be captured, but Marie throws her shoe at the evil Mouse King, allowing the doll to flee, and then faints.

This is just the beginning of E.T.A Hoffmann's fantastic story, a lot of other enchanting things happen, after the Nutcracker has defeated the Mouse King Marie is taken to the doll kingdom where she sees things like  the Christmas Forest or the Candytown for example. The tale is quite long, almost ninety pages which is enormous considering that it is a fairy tale. Although it was written for children, the story is surprisingly demanding, a lot of things are only hinted and at times a fine touch of irony is noticeable. It was the first Hoffmann I've ever read, and I enjoyed his style of writing very much. It is clear that the story is supposed to appeal to older readers too.
The Nutcracker and the Mouse King is actually the first fairy tale since my childhood days that didn't bore me to death.

My ugly yellow copy
Reality shades into dream all the time and Hoffmann creates a wonderful, charming (Christmas-) world.
What surprised me the most was perhaps his characters's depth: of course there are good and evil ones, but the villains aren't born evil, they have their own stories and reasons for the things they do.
This is unusual in fairy tales.

Nussknacker und Mausekönig, as the German title is, is a light and fun read and a very inventive story. Trust me, it is enjoyable even if you aren't a child anymore, and that means a lot if it comes from me, a hater of children's books!

Donnerstag, 22. Dezember 2011

So this is Christmas...

 The whole house is smelling like gingerbread, my last test has been written and (almost) all Christmas presents are already bought and wrapped. I've spent the past few weeks dawdling through the city, searching perfect gifts (I love buying presents) and diving in the busy vibrancy of streets full of people.
And now?
The day after tomorrow is Christmas Eve, the holidays are all but here and I- I am just watching everything unbelievingly.
I have been looking forward to Christmas for such along time that I can hardly believe it, now that it's here.
Although realistically all preparations are finished I feel as if time was running out, I still want to do so much before it's Christmas! I want to watch so many Christmas movies and bake hundreds of cookies, I want to meet old friends and drink tea with them and I want to listen to songs like Deck the Halls or Let it snow all day long.
I am not ready for Christmas because I do not only want a merry Christmas, I want a perfect Christmas. Celebrating a perfect Christmas means to feel Christmas, to breathe it and to dance with joy every minute of  it. And all of that has to be done before Christmas Eve because I have got the stupid idea that it is too late afterwards. Yesterday a strange feeling came over me all of a sudden: I felt as if it was already January and I were looking back at Christmas 2011, full of regret that I didn't celebrate it properly.

In other words, I want Christmas to never come because I want it to never be over again.

Does this make any sense to you? Probably not, and I am not blaming you.

Anyway, since I am worrying so much about the right way to spend the yuletide another problem had to occur: I don't want to spoil Christmas by reading (and yes, I do realise that this sounds absolutely ridiculous).
The explanation follows.

Whenever I read a book a part of my mind is totally dedicated to it, I am always pondering it more or less subconsciously, no matter what I'm doing, and that distracts me. It is almost as if a part of my soul was stuck between the pages and could not get out until I finish the book, and in some cases not even then.

So the big question is: does this mean that I won't read anything these holidays?
Of course not. I can't stay away from books.
And what about the whole being distracted stuff?
I am just going to try and read only read good books so that when I am distracted, I am at least distracted by something beautiful.

(Image on the left from

Sonntag, 18. Dezember 2011

A strange weekend and a quick reading update

As you might have guessed from the title I am feeling very peculiar this weekend, and what bothers me the most is that there actually is no reason for it. Nothing has happened and yet I am not in the right mood to do anything, least of all study Latin (which is bad because I have an important test tomorrow... My emergency plan is to just quote Horaz at every question, Pulvis et umbra sumus, you know). I have finally finished Cassandra Clare's Clockwork Prince which I won't review because it is the second book of a trilogy and I would have to explain too much in order to make you understand how awesome it is.

Anyway, let me just say that I feel the burning need to defend the whole genre of paranormal/fantasy YA because of Cassandra Clare, she's a master of her art and proves to me again and again that although a lot of novels which fall into this category are simply crap (there's no way to say it differently)it doesn't have to be that way.
So anyone who possesses only the slightest interest in either YA literature in general or in steampunk or in urban fantasy should definitely try either her The Mortal Instruments or The Infernal Devices series, I can't recommend one of them since they are equally good, the only difference is the setting (Manhattan vs. Victorian London).

Okay, that was my December fun read, now back to more serious business.
I am currently reading E.T.A Hoffmann's The Nutcracker and the Mouse King which is rather enjoyable because it is obviously a Christmas story and fits the season very well.
Also, it is one of those stories everyone knows thanks to Tchaikovsky's famous ballet although only very few have actually read it. In my opinion such books are always fun to read because one already has an ideé fixe of what they are about before even beginning and is in most cases surprised that they are not quite like in one's imagination after all.

By the way I still haven't decided if I should read A Christmas Carol this year, it is not very long but it is Dickens, so it would probably take me some time...
What do you think? Should I invest in it or move on to some Greek plays?
Argh, I hate being so indecisive!

Mittwoch, 14. Dezember 2011

The Quietest Time

I don't know if this saying is common in English too, but in German Christmas is often called the quietest, most peaceful time of the year. It's a time when you forget all your troubles and spend all your time with family and friends.

I have no idea who came up with that downright nonsense.

Even as a passionate Christmas lover I'm so stressed at the moment that I hardly have time to read, let alone blog about books anymore. Lately the hours seem to pass like minutes and almost every evening I find at least one or two things left on my undone on my to-do-list.
I have still barely read half of Clockwork Prince which I had expected to finish before Monday, and the Christmas concerts my choir is organising  take up more time than expected.

However, I did have time to sign up for a new reading event:
Fig and Thistle's Charles Dickens Month in January.
February 7 would be Dickens's twohundredth birthday and so all who have joined this fantastic event will focus on him a little in January.
Basically it is just about posting something concerning the great writer every Tuesday, there are no strict rules (one of the reasons I could not resist taking part).

The first month of 2012 is probably going to be a little bit busy now, considering that I have already signed up for A Literary Odyssey's Shakespeare Reading month, but I have 11 other months to recover from that afterwards.
By the way, be prepared for the Challenges's list to grow further, I still have several projects in mind!

Samstag, 10. Dezember 2011

Time for Shakespeare

Allie is hosting a fantastic event in January 2012: The Shakespeare Reading Month! The rules are very simple, it is basically just about reading anything concerning our beloved poet in January 2012.
Out of two reasons I could not resist taking part: Firstly, Shakespeare is in my opinion the most eloquent English poet of all times. His language is so very special that I can't stand reading or hearing a translated version of it.
The feeling I get whenever I read something by him is strangely very similar to what I felt when I watched Love Story for the first time... it just makes me sigh. (So guys, if you want to get a girl, go and learn Shakespeare by heart!)

Anyway, the second and more serious (though not more imprtant) reason is my obsession with being well-educated. I believe every literate person in the world should aim to read all of Shakespeare's plays, and since I have only read Romeo&Juliet and A Midsummernight's Dream I am woefully behind.

So in January I will be reading as much Shakespeare as possible, I will focus on his plays but I should manage to read some sonnets as well and I've also got a biography somewhere on my shelves.

However, these are the plays I am definitely going to read - Hold me accountable for them!

  • The Winter's Tale
  • Henry VIII or Macbeth, depending on my mood
  • Hamlet

Seems like there will be a lot of books under my Christmas tree.

Freitag, 9. Dezember 2011

Great Expectations

Great Expectations was not a book easily read; at parts I had to close it and put reading the next chapter off until the next day because I had so much to think about. Some parts of it were excruciating, firstly because I forsaw that Pip would be disappointed in his great expectations, secondly because sometimes I felt as if Mr Dickens were not writing about the orpha´n Philip Pirrip, but about me.

Of course this doesn't mean that I didn't absolutely love it. Whereas, I think this novel is one which you can not 'absolutely' love. It is too much like life itself, impressive but bittersweet.

I bought Great Expectations, which is by the way my first Dickens if one does not count A Christmas Carol, at a time when I was very unhappy.
Dicken's model for Satis house
I didn't understand people, I felt as if I was totally different from everyone around me, I tried to be like the others and failed miserably, in short: I did not know who I was and neither what I was living for.
I had read somewhere that Great Expectations was a book that could help you accept life, however, more than half a year passed between my buying and reading it.

The beginning of the book made me want to read it all in one night: I loved little Pip and Joe, of course, and it was easy for me to sympathise with the boy's want for education and culture and his desire to be uncommon, something special, a gentleman.

The rest of the book was not so lightly readable anymore, Pip's gentleman life torn between feeling guilty towards Joe and Biddy and always wanting to please (involuntarily) cold-hearted Estella brought the bitter realisation that being uncommon and wealthy is no one-way ticket to happiness.
I think the following quote gives a good insight into this period of Pip's life.

We spent as much money as we could, and got as little for it as people could make up their minds to give us. We were always more or less miserable, and most of our acquaintance were in the same condition. There was a gay fiction among us that we were con- stantly enjoying ourselves, and a skeleton truth that we never did. To the best of my belief, our case was in the last aspect a rather common one.
This was the part of the book I liked least, perhaps because I am too young to accept that great expectations of wealth and social rise are not so great after all. I was also really upset to see the bad influence Pip's wealth had on his character, I even started to question myself why I had liked him so much as a child.

Anyway, since Charles Dickens is a great writer everything was turned upside down again with Magwitch's arrival and the final clash with Estella.
I was really impressed by the way all the loose threads were woven together in the last part of the book, in fact the only thing I didn't like about it was the ending. It is too clear that the original ending was changed into a happier one in order to please the readers, and although I generally prefer happy endings I do not like this one. I just can't imagine a future where Pip and Estella are a happy couple, I think too much has happened between them.

To conclude, let's jump back to the reason I originally bought Great Expectations. I am a much happier person today than on the day I bought it: I still have not found who I am, but I am not so desperately searching for it anymore. I can't say to what extent this is due to Pip's story, but Mr Dickens has definitely taught me a very important lesson about life: It never comes as you expect it and once you have changed something it can never be the same again.

Donnerstag, 8. Dezember 2011

Unexpected Interruptions

My lovely fir green plaster
I am right in the middle of my new-blog-enthusiasm and have just finished Great Expectations, so why haven't there been any posts recently? School's to blame, but unfortunately not in the way one would assume: we were playing basketball and I hurt my middle finger when I tried to catch the ball. Since it was turning blue I went to the doctor and now my whole right arm is in plaster, so typing is quite a challenge at the moment.
This doesn't mean that I won't post anything for the next three weeks, indeed I plan on posting a review of Great Expectations tomorrow, but please be patient if it takes me longer than usual to update my beloved blog!
Writing this mini post alone took me almost half an hour...
There is only one good thing about this: I don't have to attend PE lessons for the next three weeks.

Sonntag, 4. Dezember 2011

Finally a challenge!

After looking around on some great book blogs for a while I am proud to announce that I've finally chosen my first official reading challenge for 2012. It may seem a little strange to you how important this is to me, but considering my usual aversion to planning forward for longer than a week this really is a big thing for me!
Every time I try to plan something it's the same: First I am really excited and plan on doing much more things than it is possible for a breathing human being, then I get caught in tiny little details and in the end I am so frustrated that I give it all up.

Anyway, not this time! Without further procrastination I disclose my participation in Howling Frog Book's Greek Classics Challenge 2012!
I am aiming for level Thucydides which means that I will have to read at least 11 classic greek works.
I thought I would use this challenge as kind of an extra motivation to get on with my own Greek Tragedies Challenge, so I will mostly be reading plays from my list. However, I really appreciate the chance to share my thoughts on the greek classics with the other participants. I love discussing and I think this will be an excellent opportunity to do so.

All that's left to do for now is to try and figure out how to post the owl badge (which is gorgeous indeed)on my blog. Wish me luck!

Samstag, 3. Dezember 2011

Becoming famous

I want to participate in as many book challenges as possible next year, mainly because I see this as a way to spread word about my blog.
I've never had a blog before and to be honest I am rather unsure as to how to gain readers for it. At the moment this is more of a journal than of a public blog: I am probably the only one reading it!
I'd love to be part of a community, so in case someone stumbles across Literary stars by any chance, please leave a comment, if only to say what a miserable first attempt of a blog it is!
I could also need some advise should anyone feel the desire to help me, I am still trying to figure out how to install a Currently reading list for example.

I've seen some really interesting challenges on other blogs, I will post about them tomorrow!
That's it mainly for today, alas I'm off to bed. Goodnight!

Freitag, 2. Dezember 2011

Reading Plans for December or Fa la la la la, la la la la

Today is the second day of my absolutely favourite month of the year. I love December because (what a surprise!) I love Christmas.
I am the kind of Sinatra-songs-singing-Christmas-lover who is already annoying everyone weeks before Christmas Eve. My parents are probably to blame because when I was young Christmas was the unchallenged highlight of the year. I am indeed very thankful to say that I had a typical picture-book upbringing.

Anyway, I'm about to finish Great Expectations (a post on that will come soon) and December 6 is the release date of Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare, something I've been counting the days until since April. It is a young adult novel but Cassie Clare is such an extraordinary author that I don't even feel guilty for reading her books instead of something 'valuable'. Also the setting of  Clockwork Prince makes it irresistible for me, the descriptions of Victorian London in it are unbelievably vivid and absolutely mesmerising.
I will probably devour this long awaited novel within some days and then I'll focus on E.T.A. Hoffmann's The Nutcracker and the Mouse King to enjoy my Christmas mood.
I've been wondering whether I should give Dicken's Christmas stories a try, but presumably I won't have enough time for them, considering all the Christmas preparations. On the other hand I have to wait a whole year if don't read them now, so it's tempting, it's very, very tempting!

I have to stop this for now, my sister is trying to cook instant noodles and setting the kitchen on fire. Gonna save what's left to save!

The Glamour of the Days gone by

It took me a long time to write this post, much longer than I intended. The subject is last weekend which I spent in Vienna. Although I'm Austrian I don't live there, I live in Graz, the second biggest (250.000 inhabitants) town, about two hours drive away from the capital.
I know Vienna very well and that is maybe my problem when it comes to describing it. In my opinion no one who has not walked through this city's streets once in their live can possibly understand what they mean, why they are not just roads and buildings.
Vienna is the sound of classical music, the sight of waltzing people under crystal chandeliers in marble halls of palaces that were built for emperors who controlled the fate of Europe for centuries. Vienna is luxury and prestige, it is gold and glamour, it is philosophy and high society.

But more than anything, Vienna is longing.

The word nostalgia is a huge understatement for the feeling that is hidden behind every smiling face there.
This city is a fantasy we have to believe in.
Before the end of monarchy, Vienna was the centre of Europe. Internationally renowned characters were heading for the capital of the Habsburg Empire; they enjoyed the sophisticated ambiance and the well-educated society, and many of them produced their greatest works there. Vienna was fertile ground for ambitious ideas and grand cultural projects (classical music for example was born there!) and the whole city took part in the cultural peak, even those who didn't have any knowledge of philosophy were vividly discussing Freud's books for example. There was no place in the world which could be compared to Vienna.
In fact, there still isn't.

Vienna means something else too. It is the ideal place for people who want to be alone but need company for that. To be in Vienna is to feel connected with everyone around you, to feel as if everyone understood you and shared your thoughts, even without ever talking to anyone.

Visiting Vienna these days is walking on a fine line between the present of the twentyfiirst century and the imperial past. Most of the time it is crossing this line constantly.

To say that time stood still in the city would be a lie, and not even a very convincing one: there are just too many skyscrapers, H&Ms and Starbucks!
However, the traditional, sophisticated Vienna is anything but gone.
It is almost as if Vienna had a shadow self, where the memory of all great events and persons is still present: it lingers in every corner, even decades and sometimes centuries after these events are over and these people have died.

I am trying all the time to cross the boundary between the real Vienna and the ghostly one, but whenever you look too closely at the splendid glamour of the shadowy city it blurs and disappears. Then you are left alone in the 21. century again and wonder where all the time has gone.

Montag, 21. November 2011

Because he's right in general

I've been worrying for quite a long time how to read accurately. No, I don't want to start a philosophic discussion right now, don't worry, I'm tired and Dicken's Great Expectations are waiting for me.
I've been simply thinking a lot about whether I should read the German translations of English classics or the original versions. I'm learning a lot of languages (English, French, Spanish, Japanese, Italian, hell, I'm even learning Latin) and thankfully I'm pretty gifted in this area. My English is rather good (well, at least I hope so!) and I love it but German is my mother tongue and there are undoubtedly some fine literary nuances that escape my attention when I'm reading in English.
Anyway, after almost falling asleep over a dreadful translation of A Christmas Carol I swore never to read anything by Dickens again, but since my curiosity was stronger I couldn't resist buying a cheap English copy of the book when I saw it in a shop window. You kno what?
It turned out to be one of my favourite (Christmas) stories ever.
With the support of Robert Frost's wisdom I've finally come to a decision. I'm going to read the original versions of all books which were originally published in English but the German versions of all books whose original languages I don't know well enough (Spanish, Italian, Japanese and French if you don't count The Little Prince) or not at all (I couldn't animate myself yet to learn ancient Greek or Russian). I know that a translation, even a good one can never be more than a faint reflexion of the original work, so I'll do my best to concentrate and understand the English versions.There it is, after all:
Poetry is what gets lost in translation.
One does not argue with Robert Frost.

Sonntag, 20. November 2011

The End

What an ironic title considering that this is my first blog post ever! It came to life last night when I finished reading Wizard's First Rule from Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series. While I know that fantasy isn't commonly regarded as "valuable" reading (and believe me, I feel guilty enough every time I read something that isn't part of the canon) it is my weak spot. Anyway, if The Lord of the Rings is considered a classic, then why shouldn't any other fantasy books be? Wizard's First Rule is a great book, it's touching, thoughtful and very philosophic, the fantastic world in it mirrors our society and the heroes have to deal with realistic (and partly absolutely heartbreaking) problems.
However, I didn't so much want to write about the book itself as more about my reading process. With more than 800 pages it isn't exactly a short story and I was rather busy lately so it took me quite a long time to read it;
Despite the fact that Goodkind's novel is a page-turner I had been working through it for almost two months when I finally finished the last chapter yesterday.

Honestly, I don't know what to say.

For two months I accompanied Richard and Kahlan, the main characters, I felt their pain, their fear, their excitement. They became a part of me. It's been a long time since a book touched me so much, had so much influence on my life. For two months I would turn to their story every time I was fed up with my own world, I knew they would be waiting for me. Even when I wasn't reading, in boring classes or on the bus for example, I thought about them, I pondered over their relationship, I agonised over a way how they could possibly defeat their nemesis.
Now that they have done that (and what a finale it was! It proved once again that words are stronger than weapons) I'm alone in my world again.
There are some sequels, but I was told that none of them is in the least as good as the first book and that's generally true in fantasy literature. For me, Kahlan and Richard's story is over, and they have left me. Sure, a part of them will stay with me forever, but nonetheless I'm feeling hollow, empty.

With really good books you don't just read a story, you start to feel the books, you start to live inside of them, and when you finish the last chapter a little bit of yourself dies. Killing a part of their readers' hearts, that's the gift of all great authors.
Thankfully that part comes alive again every time we re-read their works.