Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Books I read in 2016

In 2016 I read/re-read forty books, mostly novels, but also short story collections, plays, children’s books, manga, graphic novels, biographies and other kinds of non-fiction. Like last year I read books in Danish, English and Japanese – no German, French, Norwegian or Swedish this year either, I’m sorry to say.

Some of the non-fiction that I have read has been truly remarkable, especially Jens Andersen’s biography about the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, who wrote mostly for children and is one of my all-time favourite authors. You really get to see the person behind the stories and Astrid Lindgren was truly a brave, strong woman who dared be herself. Not unlike her character Pippi Longstocking!
Of non-fiction, I was furthermore impressed by Kevin Marx’ “Speak Japanese in 90 Days: A Self Study Guide to Becoming Fluent: Volume One”, which so far is the best textbook in Japanese that I have read.

As for fiction, Ransom Riggs, trilogy about the peculiar children, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”, “Hollow City” and “Library of Souls”, was quite a revelation to me. These books are truly magic and not only for young adults. I could hardly wait to see the first one made into a film, but what a disappointment it was, even though it was directed by Tim Burton and had Asa Butterfield in the leading role as Jake. As long as Burton followed the narrative of the book, everything was fine, but changing Jake’s love interest and especially the ending of the story was awful. Worst of all, Burton’s ending didn’t leave room for sequels and I for one am very sad that I shall never see an emu-raffe, get to know the talking dog Addison MacHenry or visit the scary library of souls. Shame on you, Burton, but well done, Riggs. I hope more books will be added to the series.
Other works worth mentioning are the novels of the Japanese author Hiromi Kawakami – I hope to read more of her in the future – and then of course everything by Shakespeare, Tove Jansson and Ursula K. Le Guin.

As for the worst read in 2016, it has to be J. K. Rowling’s “The Cursed Child”. I know we are supposed to “keep the secrets” of this manuscript/play, so I won’t reveal anything, but it’s damn boring reading with a ridiculous premise and even more plot-holes and loose ends than the Harry Potter books. Besides, if we are to keep the secrets, why make the story so obvious and see-through that you can guess everything in advance?
Other disappointing works this year were Kim Newman’s “An English Ghost Story” and the short stories of both Haruki Murakami and J. K. Rowling, but for different reasons, as the ghost story wasn’t scary, Rowling’s stories had already been published on Pottermore and Murakami’s were so boring that I forgot about them immediately after reading them!

To end this on a happier note, I’m glad to say that I had a short story collection called “Metanoia” published last year. It is available on Amazon of course, as e-book. This is my first book since the official biography “Look Wot I Dun”, which I wrote about the British drummer Don Powell from the band Slade, published in 2013 by Omnibus Press. The reason for this long wait was that I have been very ill the past three years and have had surgery three times – once a year, actually. To finally have “Metanoia” published was great and the reviews were great too. Thank you. “Metanoia” was my published book number eighteen, thanks to my readers. I really appreciate it.
If you want to know, which other books I read in 2016, here’s the full list of books:

Andersen, Jens: “Denne dag, et liv. En Astrid Lindgren-biografi”
Beskow, Elsa: “Elsa Beskows eventyr – et udvalg”
Bradbury, Ray: “October Country”
Bradbury, Ray: “The Day It Rained Forever”
Capote, Truman: “The Early Stories of Truman Capote”
Falkenberg, Lise Lyng: “Metanoia”
Hua, Yu: “Boy in the Twilight: Stories of the Hidden China”
Höglund, Anna: “om det her taler man kun med kaniner”
Jansson, Tove: “Moominvalley in November”
Jansson, Tove: “The Moomins and the Great Flood”
Johnson, Adam: “Fortune Smiles”
Kawakami, Hiromi: “Kvinden ved havet” (“Manazuru”)
Kawakami, Hiromi: “Senseis mappe” (“Sensei no kaban”)
Kyugo: “Undeniable”
Le Guin, Ursula K.: “Always Coming Home”
Le Guin, Ursula K.: “City of Illusions”
Le Guin, Ursula K.: “Four Ways to Forgiveness”
Le Guin, Ursula K.: “Ni liv” (“Nine Lives” / “Vaster than Empires and More Slow”)
Le Guin, Ursula: “The Dispossessed”
Le Guin, Ursula K.: “The Lathe of Heaven”
Le Guin, Ursula: “The Word for World is Forest”
Marx, Kevin: “Speak Japanese in 90 Days: A Self Study Guide to Becoming Fluent: Volume One”
Mazzucchelli, David: “Asterios Polyp”
Murakami, Haruki: “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman”
Murakami, Haruki: “Maend uden kvinder” (”Onna no inai otokatachi”)
Murakami, Haruki: “The Elephant Vanishes”
Murakami, Haruki: “The Strange Library”
Newman, Kim: “An English Ghost Story”
Reuter, Bjarne: “Zappa”
Riggs, Ransom: “Hollow City”
Riggs, Ransom: “Library of Souls”
Riggs, Ransom: “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”
Rowling. J. K.: “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”
Rowling. J. K.: “Hogwarts – An Incomplete & Unreliable Guide”
Rowling, J. K.: “Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies”
Rowling, J. K.: “Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists”
Seth: “It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken”
Shakespeare, William: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Shibahara, Tomoyo: “Marugoto: Rikai Japanese language and culture Elementary1 a2”
Valente, Catherynne M.: “The girl who circumnavigated Fairyland in a ship by her own making”

All the best for 2017 and keep on reading!

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Disney’s Art of Storytelling

Just before Christmas I managed to see the exhibition “Disney’s Art of Storytelling” at Brandts Art Museum here in Odense, Denmark, where I live. “Disney’s Art of Storytelling” is a collaboration between Brandts and the Walt Disney Animation Research Library in Los Angeles. and the exhibition tells - for the first time - the story behind the creation of some of the most well-known Disney characters such as Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and the Little Mermaid
Many of Walt Disney’s animated films have been inspired by myths, legends and fables, not to mention the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen. “The Little Mermaid” and “Frozen” are inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales “The Little Mermaid” and “The Snow Queen” and two of Disney’s animated short films - “The Ugly Duckling” and “The Little Matchgirl” - as well as “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” (Piano Concerto No. 2) from “Fantasia 2000” are inspired by Andersen’s fairy tales as well. The Danish fairy tale writer was born in Odense, so the collaboration between the Odense-based Brandts Museum and the Walt Disney Animation Research Library is no co-incidence.

The exhibition takes up the entire first floor of Brandts, but unfortunately photographing is not allowed, so you have to make do with some photos from Brandts’ website. Too bad, as it is an amazing exhibition that spans the history of Walt Disney Animation Studios from the animated shorts of the 1930s to the films of today and it includes some rarely seen art­work from the development of the films and their leading characters.
There is so much to explore as you can follow the development of the characters from “Fantasia”, “Hercules”, “Robin Hood”, “Sleeping Beauty”, “Snow White”, “The Little Mermaid” and others as well as the ideas behind many of the shorts like “Brave Little Tailor”, “John Henry”, “The Goddess of Spring”, “The Golden Touch”, “The Grasshopper and the Ants”, “The Tortoise and the Hare” and “Three Little Pigs”.

You can also see what inspired Disney to his films and how, and here a letter from Eleanor Roosevelt caught my eye. In this letter to Walt Disney, Eleanor Roosevelt asks him to make an animated film inspired by Heinrich Hoffmann’s classic, German children’s book "Struwwelpeter" (or “Shockheaded Peter”) from 1845. The book consists of stories with clear morals demonstrating the disastrous consequences of misbehaviour in an exaggerated way and Disney obeyed the President’s wife by making “Donald’s Better Self” in 1938.
Not only the exhibited works are amazing. The exhibition rooms themselves are all painted to look magically like backgrounds in Disney films and on your way through the exhibition, you can sit down and learn more with the help of iPads. You can also see some of Disney’s “Silly Symphonies” as well as short documentaries about their making in a screening area with two rows of cinema seats or you can visit the exhibition cinema, “Spektaklets Bio” that also screens “Silly Symphonies” along with a number of the most popular Disney animated full-length films such as “Fantasia”, “Frozen”, “Robin Hood”, “Snow White”, “The Little Mermaid” and “The Sword in the Stone”. Within the “Spektaklet” area, children and the young at heart can even try creating simple animations.

“Disney’s Art of Storytelling” continues until March 12., 2017 and the entrance fee is DKK 90 (expensive!) except for Thursday evenings, where you can visit the entire museum free of charge. Yay!


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