Books long overdue

Posted on July 23, 2014



You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.
What mood is that? Last-minute panic.― Bill Watterson


I’m starting this blog not with a quotation from the countries I’ve read since my last blog, but with a quotation about procrastination since that is what I’ve been doing for the last couple of months. And the longer apart, the harder the return. In truth, I did spend a good part of May and the very beginning of June in Argentina and Uruguay where I read plenty, but had no space to write. Too much time was spent (happily) eating, drinking, hanging out and chasing the ‘Buena Onda’. While there, we were told by a number of people that they could see we were the kind of folk that carry the ‘buena onda adentro’ and so I guess it was inevitable that the feeling of slothful wellbeing would continue once home, especially with the jet lag.   Well anyway, it continued up to the point I needed to start earning money to pay for the trip, which is why I’ve been working longer hours – another contributing factor in the lack of writing energy.

So, this is by way of icebreaker, a small flexing of the muscles before getting back into writing more regularly.     What I can say is that both the book from Estonia, Jan Kaplinski’s The Same River, and the book from Finland (neatly side by side)[1] Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book, were excellent. Excellent in totally different ways but oddly complementary.  While Kaplinski’s book is smart, Jansson’s is soothing. Kaplinski’s is a coming of age novel set against the background of the dark looming presence of the Soviet Union. Jansson’s is the story of a young girl spending the summer on an island with her aging Grandmother and learning about life, talking about everything except the death of the young girl’s mother. Kaplinski’s novel is erudite. Jansson’s is folksy in the best possible way. Both though deal with what it means to be human, and how nature is fundamental to the sorting out of one’s existential crises. In Kaplinski’s novel the protagonist returns eternally to the Emajogi, the Mother River that runs through city. This is where he goes to think, to feel, to remember, and where he might end it all.   In Jansson’s novel, nature is the ever-present protagonist guiding the daily lives of the characters and determining their thoughts, actions and feelings.  To wander through Jansson’s book is to go on a forage, picking small juicy berries, lifting one’s face to the sun, and breathing out.   Kaplinski’s novel is more a mountain climb, gripping on only by the fingertips, and wondering why you started, until reaching the top.

So now, that’s out of the way, I’m feeling more back on track. The next book will be from Gabon which probably means going back to reading in French. Blithesome sloth is definitely over.

[1] They are only side-by-side alphabetically here because I have yet to find a book from Fiji. When I do, they will be separated once more.