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Alice Babs was one of Sweden's most popular jazz singers in the 40's and 50's. Povel Ramel was one of the best lyrics writers and a comedic genius. Perhaps not noticeable here; he usually wrote in Swedish. But in the 40's it was difficult to get access to English and American music- while songs in English was the age, so he wrote a couple of songs in English then.

And here he is, performing one of his best songs, in the funniest Swedish comedies ever from 1956. The title means "wonderful is quick", and it's about catching all the happiness you can because it never lasts long.

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I’m still on a George Sanders trip. A lot of his movies can be found on Youtube, which is nice, even if the quality isn’t always very good.

The Moon and Sixpence is a 1942 movie based on a 1919 book by Somerset Maugham, which in turn is loosely based on Paul Gauguin's life. I’m going to spoil you now because I really don’t think you should see this movie unprepared. I have a lot of feels about it, and most of them are not good.

It takes place in the late 19th century and George Sanders plays a middle-aged stockbroker, Charles Strickland. He’s considered a bore, but one day he abandons his wife and children and moves to Paris. The assumption is that he was run away with a woman, but it turns out he has done it so he can become an artist. He struggles for a few years- his poverty is partly because he refuses to sell any of his paintings, despite being a brilliant artist. When he becomes dangerously ill he is taken in by a fellow painter who is a mediocre artist, but a good human being, and his very reluctant wife Blanche. When Strickland regains his health, the Blanche leaves her husband for him. Sometime later he throws her out, and she kills herself. Eventually, Strickland moves to Tahiti, where he marries a native 14-year old girl, Ata. The marriage is actually happy, but then he gets leprosy and dies.

Cut for length )

A very mixed bag, in other words. It was an interesting movie, if repulsive and I think it can be worth watching as a starting point n a discussion on misogyny and the still perpetuated myth that women can only love a man who treats her badly.

The Foreign Correspondent is a Hitchcock movie from 1940 about an American journalist who goes to Europe to report, just before WWII breaks out. Watching it nearly 80 years later you have seen it before; using a doppelganger to hide a kidnapping, the car race, villains trying to get to the hero disguised as police officers, the kind philanthropist who is really a villain, fleeing from a room by climbing out of the window and int another room, fleeing a room by jumping out of a window and landing safely on a awning. All so familiar, but it was probably where it happened first. All in all a good product of its time, with a very strong message for the USA to enter the war. George Sanders is unusually not a villain, but second hero, ie the one who doesn’t get the girl.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir I have been recommended this movie so many times, but as I don’t much care about Rex Harrison I have avoided it. Of course, I liked it very much. A young and pretty widow moves into a house haunted by its late owner, a sea captain. Instead of being afraid of the ghost Mrs. Muis strikes up a friendship with him, and they fall in love. But then she meets a living man, a charming, if a somewhat sleazy man, played with flair by George Sanders. Gene Tierney was adorable as Mrs. Muir and for the first time ever I could see the sexiness of Rex Harrison as Captain Daniel. Definitely worth a watch.

I also had a sense of double-vision when I watched it- I knew the story sooo well, despite knowing I hadn’t seen it before. But apparently there were a TV-series from the early 1970’s, so I suspect I must have seen it as a child.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, season 2. Spoilers )

I liked season 2 of The OA better than season 1 as well. Spoilers )
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18. Bought on a recommendation.

Most of what I read come recommended to me one way or another. But the last time I read a book explicitly recommended to me in person was The Wonder by Emma Donoghue, which My Mum had read and wanted to discuss.

It was very interesting, so I’m glad I read it. It’s a historical novel, set in the 19th century where an English nurse goes to Ireland to take care of a little girl who has stopped eating- and should already be dead from lack of food. The village considers her a saint, the nurse suspects foul play. It builds on real historical events- girls who starved themselves in religion’s name have happened over the centuries. So I can recommend the book with the caveat that it does contain sexual abuse of a minor, albeit non-descriptive.
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Because I always seem to gravitate to small fandoms.

The fic on AO3

Title: Blackmail Is Such An Ugly Word
Fandom: All About Eve
Rating: Explicit
Word Count: 1645
Characters: Addison DeWitt, Karen Richards
Pairings Addison DeWitt/ Karen Richards,
Warnings: Blackmail, non-consensual kissing
Summary: Addison DeWitt pays Karen a visit a hot summer day.
AN: I recently rewatched All About Eve and it struck me of how practiced Addison’s blackmail of Eve is. He knows exactly what he is doing, so the logical conclusion is that he has done it before. And I felt sure he would do it again if he had the opportunity. Then I thought of how he now knows how Karen went behind Margo’s back to help Eve. And then I thought that Karen is the only person in the movie Addison seems to like a little. I know he and Eve are often described a homosexual in various analysis, but with Addison I (obviously) I don’t agree. I think his sexuality is completely tied to power, not gender- the more power and dominance he can wield over someone, the more attractive that persons become.

So the next I knew my perverted mind had provided me with this. Or rather, it provided me with a lot more, and it turned a lot more disturbing than I first intended. Now, Addison DeWitt is a very disturbing character; he is a horrible man, and I’m glad he is imaginary. So as of now, I’m not sure if I will post more, or not. I probably will post more, as it continues to poke at me.

And a few words on perfume. Being rather scent oriented and interested in perfume history, I often spend way too much time imagining what scent a character would wear; here Addison DeWitt. Caron’s Pour un Homme launched in 1934 and was then unusually daring and complex for being a man’s scent. It opens with lavender, with other herbs as a supporting role, with more herbs and with woody tones as middle notes. And in the base, there is tonka bean and vanilla and a little musk, with a hint of moss. It’s an ambiguous scent- to my modern nose it can be worn equally well by a woman as a man, and I felt it suited Addison’s rather dubious nature.

Read more... )
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17. Future classic.

No idea! I don’t think I have a particularly highbrow taste when it comes to books.
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16. Can't believe more people haven't read.

The Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf. I love her writing and think she should be read more widely. Her language is so poetical and magic, and her stories often very original, often with strong spiritual and/or supernatural themes. Almost all take place in the province of Värmland which is a very beautiful part of Sweden. She was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1909, the first woman to enter the prestigious Swedish Academy in 1914 and in 1991 she was the first Swedish woman to be depicted on a banknote. She is also queer, something which didn’t come to light until the 1990’s when her correspondence with her partner Sophie Elkan was published. (And I’m distantly related to her, with emphasis on distant- we share an early 18th century forefather.)

If you want to try her I recommend her debut novel, The Story of Gösta Berling. It’s a rather complex story taking place in the early 19th century. Gösta Berling is a handsome young priest, but his drinking causes him to be desposed. He finds a place as one of the Mistress of Ekeby’s twelve cavaliers, and the book is basically his numerous love affairs, and the adventures of the cavaliers. But the book is also his redemption arc, as well as the Mistress of Ekeby’s. Lagerlöf rarely says it straight, but there are a lot of shrewd observations of how even a wealthy and powerful woman was ultimately rightless, and how women’s reputations depend on the men around them.

You can also try one of her novellas. Herr Arne’s Hoard or The Treasure takes place in the 16th century. A rich priest and his whole family are robbed and murdered (with the implication that the beautiful daughter is also raped), and the only survivor is the adopted daughter, Elsalill, who manages to stay hidden. Sometime later she meets a Scotsman who she falls in love with, and he with her. It seems to be going to a happy ending when Elsalil is visited by her dead sister’s ghost, who tells her who it was who murdered her…

I also enjoy The Löwenskiöld Ring which is a ghost story, featuring a courageous and practical housekeeper as the heroine. The General Löwenskiöld is buried with his valuable gold ring, a ring which is later taken from the grave. Over several decades people who have the ring meets their sticky end, followed by the general’s curse, until the housekeeper Malvina, who is in love with the latest victim, manages to break it.

This novella can be read on its own but is also part of a trilogy, and I believe the English translation often publish all three works as one volume.

Another favourite is the short story collection The Changeling. The most famous of the story is the title novella. A farmer and his wife get their baby swapped by a troll changeling. Swedish mythology advice in treating the changeling horribly to make the trolls swap back, something the father wants to do. But the mother not only treats the troll baby kindly, despite its nastiness, she also stops her husband’s abuse, which causes her to be ostracized. Guess whose behaviour it is which gets the real baby back?

So read some Selma Lagerlöf!
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15. Favorite fictional father.

This was surprisingly hard. Fathers, or mothers, are never really the focus when I read, and I’ve never turned to books because of of a parental figure. I think I will have to settle on Pa in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books. Nowadays when I read it I can’t help noticing how many bad and reckless decisions he makes, but as a child, he only came across as a loving parent. Which he clearly was; being a bad decision-maker doesn't mean you are a bad person.
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Andrew Rose. The Prince, The Princess and the Perfect Murder

I ran across a mention of Marguerite Alibert somewhere, and it led me to this book which was a deal on Kindle. She was a French courtesan who had a relationship with the future Edward VIII during WWI. Several years later she shot her rich Egyptian husband in a hotel in London. Despite shooting him in the back in front of witnesses, she was completely acquitted of murder. In large part because good old racism, but also, in all probability, because she still had letters from the prince, and there was interference from his household to keep his name out of the trial. It was all in all an interesting read about a woman I have never heard of before.

Victor Laval: The Ballad of Black Tom A novella building on Lovecraft’s The Horror of Red Hook, which is easily his most racist work- which is no mean feat, considering his general views on everyone who wasn’t a white man from New England. The main character in this story, though, is a young African American man who affiliates himself with Lovecraft’s Robert Suydam for reasons I don’t want to spoil you with. I liked it and found it very interesting, but I would have liked it a bit more fleshed out; it felt like there was a lot of room for more in-depth characterization.

Elizabeth Kostova: The Historian One of my constant re-reads. I love stories with different time frames and I love historical mysteries. And I’ve been fascinated by Dracula, both the real and the literary one since I was eleven. So this is pretty much the perfect book for me. It also makes me want to travel. Kostova’s descriptions of Venice and Dubrovnik, which I have visited, are spot on, and it makes me curious about the other places she describes. I would love to see this made into a TV-series- I think it could be pretty awesome!

Doreen Tovey: Cats In the Belfry

As I mentioned it in my book meme the other day, I felt the urge to re-read it. Still very funny!
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Before the Automobile, one of the most talented as well as beautiful and just plain nice historical seamstresses I know, have made a Fortuny gown which looks nothing short of incredible. Look at her! To try to recreate one now feels rather daunting now...
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14. An old favorite.

Alan Garner’s Elidor. I first heard it as a radio drama when I was a very small child, so small I didn’t fully grasp the difference between imagination and reality. And hearing those voices on the radio made it much more real to me than a text would. The tale both frightened and enchanted me and long after I carried bits and pieces with me; the derelict houses in the “real” world and the abandon ruins in Elidor. The four treasures. The threatening darkness and men in the garden, and the strange death and son of the unicorn. I didn’t understand it, but I sometimes thought of it, treasuring the memories.

I came across the book much later, probably when I was about ten. It was a very strange experience to read it and suddenly knowing bits and pieces. I have never read a book that has felt more magical than Elidor; I can never read it without that strange feeling of knowing it better than I’m prepared for. I can’t describe it properly, it’s a feeling that is almost physical as if the book could actually change, and tell me more than it does. And I love it for that. It’s a strange, sad book, but I still love it.
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13. Makes me laugh.

Lots of books make me laugh, but I opt for one I remember laughing out loud in the subway when I read it the first time. Doreen Tovey’s Cats in the Belfry. Tovey wrote several books between 1958 and 2001, most of them detailing the adventures of her Siamese cats- always a brown-masked male and a blue-masked female. They are very funny, and I think everyone who has been owned by cats, will enjoy them.

You can read the beginning of the book here.
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12. I pretend to have read it.

I don’t do that. What is the point? I don’t consider reading a competition- I only read for my own pleasure.
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When you take a break from your fic-writing for an hour to research men's perfume in the 1940's to get about three sentences right...
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11. Secondhand bookshop gem

When I was a child and visited my Aunt U I always read The Rainbow Children, a book form her own childhood. It’s about a little black hen who has lost one eye, and therefore she is bullied by the other (white) hens. She decides to go out in the world to find her eye and meets a great variety of people and animal, most of them trying to be helpful, but no one who can help. One day she comes to a castle where she encounters a group of children from all over her world. After talking to them she realises it doesn’t matter if she only has one eye, the important bit is to like herself as she is. She loses the fabric she has worn over her hide to hide her lost eye and eventually becomes a mother hen to a brood of rainbow coloured children.

I loved the wonderful illustrations, by Piet Worm, and I was intrigued by the photo on the first page of a woman with a brood of children, clearly of different nationalities.

And if this rings a bell, the book was written by Josephine Baker and her husband Jo Bouillon. If you haven’t heard of her Rainbow Tribe, you can read some of it here. It was not as much of a fairytale as the book implies, but I didn’t know that when I was a child. And when I ran across the book in a used book store I was very happy to be able to have a copy of my own.

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10. Reminds me of someone I love.

Books. Books remind me of people I love.

It’s five-year-old me holding a picture book in my lap watching the coffee maker as it drips because my Mum has promised to read to me as soon as the coffee is ready.

It’s a little older me randomly being given a book by my father because he saw it and thought I would like it.

It’s finding the collected works of Selma Lagerlöf in my maternal grandparent's bookshelf and being enchanted by the magic of her words. Those books are in my shelf now and remind me of my grandparents every time I see them.

It’s lending Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising Sequence to my paternal grandmother and then discussing them with her.

It’s being gifted with my paternal grandfather’s double copies of Wodehouse, introducing to Jeeves and Wooster.

It’s being on vacation on the island of Gotland when I was 17 and my sister 10 and the book I read for her got finished. So I read Jane Eyre for her, and in the end, the whole family sat listening in the evenings.

It’s sitting feet to feet with my best friend on the sofa, both of us rereading The Lord of the Rings and reading the best bits aloud for each other.

It’s my father reading aloud about Uncle Podger in Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat at a Sunday lunch and laughing so hard he has to stop from time to time.

It’s cuddling with my kid and reading for him.

And on and on and on.
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Memoirs of A Professional Cad by George Sanders. Being on a bit of a George Sanders-trip I remembered I bought this on Kindle ages ago. It’s short, so it only took me two evenings to finish it. It’s not exactly great literature- it’s a couple of anecdotes in loosely chronological order. I strongly suspect a lot isn’t true as sanders cheerfully contradict himself, often several times over. But it’s also very funny and I laughed out loud several times. I think he must have been a very funny man if you caught him in the right mood at a party. It also gives me the impression that he was very intelligent and didn’t have the least interest in actually exposing himself in literary form. Some things ring true tough, like his view on therapy (it’s not so much the kind of therapy that counts, but finding what works for you). Or when he contemplates Ruben’s Saturn Devouring His Son and wonders why one chooses to paint something like that. I checked it out, and it’s a deeply disturbing piece of art, so I kind of agree. In short, a fun book if you are a fan of Sanders, but not more than that.

Some time ago a scene from a book came to mind. A man is traveling in an underground labyrinth, and part of it are catacombs, filled with the mummified remains of young and beautiful people. He’s told they were sacrificed to an evil god a very long time ago. While walking the labyrinth he and his companions are followed by some kind of malignant being, and they realise they have to get through the labyrinth quickly. The corpses they pass are first more or less decomposed, but eventually, they come to a part where they look like they are sleeping. A woman wakes up and speaks to him, telling him they are not truly dead, their soul is still within them, but only until the evil god reaches them and take their soul and they will truly die. She gives the man a talisman for protecting before sinking back in her deathlike sleep.

It was a very vivid memory, but it took me a while to remember in which book I read it. Then I remembered it’s from a Swedish fantasy trilogy by Bertil Mårtensson, I read in my early teens. They are not translated but translated they are called The Road Away, The Road Back and The Road Out, collected under the name The Roads of Power. Having not read the books for about 35 years I was a bit apprehensive of re-reading them. What you love when you are thirteen may not be what you love now.

But I enjoyed it. The fantasy world is very clearly inspired by Tolkien, Watership Down and Greek mythology, but also Scandinavian mythology, most notably trolls, described pretty much like John Bauer paint them.

It begins with a young man, Jarel, who shows up in a mountain in without any memories of who he is. He gets entangled into a fight against the evil Aulor, a fight led by Jore who owns an enchanted golden bow, and Andira, a beautiful woman who sometimes is a man; Ander. The two first books are really just two parts of a continuous story, the last is set 10 years later. I was surprised over how diverse and nonjudgemental the books are, considering they were written around 1980. Especially Andira who is never judged by owning her sexuality, and for liking being a man on occasion. Well, she is judged by other characters, but not by the author.

There are several highly effective scenes and interactions. Like “the fright” a kitelike construction with bells attached which can only be used by someone who has been genuinely wronged. The fright follows the victim at a distance, but don’t actually do something. However, as everyone knows a person followed by a fright must have done something terrible, the person quickly gets shunned. And imagine being followed by something wherever you go ringing bells. In the end, the victim either commits suicide or try to destroy the fright. But in destroying it, they always kill themselves. Or the grey sexless humanoids created from earth which just relentlessly walk forward, but kills everything they touch.

There is also a lovely little sub-story about a man who has learned to speak rabbit. While imprisoned a female rabbit finds him to give him a message, but when she realises he is caught, she stays with him, and later successfully plans to free him.

But on occasion the prose is clunky, and sometimes a lot happens which is only mentioned. Sometimes I don’t mind, like when Andira is imprisoned by a man who proposes to love her. She just needs to stop becoming a man and be a “real” woman. And to convince her he resorts to beatings and rape. We are, thankfully, only told in passing about that. But then there are scenes like the one where the little rabbit breaks into the prison and frees her human. And we don’t get to see it. Suddenly he is free and she’s sitting on his shoulder, and we are told he has been rescued. And I had really looked forward to seeing them meet for the first time!

All in all, I enjoyed my reread, but the prose is not as good as the characters and the settings. I actually think it would make a great TV-show; the fantasy world Mårtensson created is very good and there are a multitude of interesting characters, settings, and situation which would work great on screen.
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9. Film or TV tie-in.

I rarely read any, but I did read the novelization of Versailles it was infinitely bad with horrible grammar and not with the slightest effort to flesh out the characters. My guess it that they took the script and did the most minimal amount of work to make it into a novel.
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Title: The End of the Story
Fandom: Versailles
Rating: Teens
Chapter: 6/?
Word Count: 1637
Characters Sophie de Clermont, Fabien Marchal
Pairings: Fabien Marchal/Sophie de Clermont
Warnings: References to abuse.
Summary: Sophie de Clermont returns to Paris with a warning to Fabien Marchal, only to find she might be too late.
AN: This fic will spoil all three seasons of Versailles.

The whole fic on AO3

Read more... )
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7. Forgot I owned it & 8. Have more than one copy.

Because they tie together. I clean forgot I had a copy of The Queen's Servants: Gentlewomen's Dress at the Accession of Henry VIII so I bought another one. Not a complete loss as I’m sure I can make a gift of one of them.

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6. The one I always give as a gift.

As long as it was in print I have Anna-Karin Palm’s Faunen (The Faun), to everyone. It was Palm’s debiút novel and was published in 1991. (I know it’s translated to a couple of other languages but not, I’m afraid, to English).

Some books, when you read them, feel like they have been written just for you. Faunen was one of them for me. It’s not a long novel, but it contains three stories, each told in very different styles, but with overlapping themes. One story is set in late Victorian London and concerns Amelia, spinster and reasonable popular author of romance stories. One day she finds a faun in her home, a faun who says he is very cross with her. It turns out Fritz, which the faun is called, has issues with the novel she is writing; a tragic romance about the Medieval maiden Eleanor. Things, Fritz says, didn’t happen the way Amelia tell sit. So the second story is Fritz story about Eleanor and her encounter with a faun and a unicorn. The third story is a contemporary diary, written by a young Swedish woman who, for a time, lives in London. She becomes fascinated with this painting at The National Gallery; A Satyr mourning over a Nymph by Piero di Cosimo, painted around 1495.

Depending on her mood she sees the woman as sleeping, or dead, and the faun as grieving, or perhaps being the cause of the woman’s death. The diary mostly concerns the narrator’s life in Stockholm; memories of her childhood with a slightly younger sister, and her relationship with her best friend. The narrator feels very guilty, returning again and again to how she has betrayed her friend, but not saying what she has done. She also obsesses over a man who turns up in her life at irregular intervals and completely turns it upside down.

An overall theme with the book is women taking control over their own narrative. Having Fritz in her life broadens Amelia's social and sexual horizons, but the faun also controls her, and the story she is writing. In the end, Amelia writes another ending to Eleanor’s tragedy, giving Eleanor a happy ending. In doing so she breaks Fritz influence both over her’s, and Eleanor’s story. And the diary writer comes to term with the fact that her inability to realise her friend was in an abusive relationship isn’t really a betrayal. She also breaks free from the man who may, or may not, turn up when he says he will. The book ends with the diary-writer’s sister accidentally bumping into the best friend, talking about how happy they are she will be coming home from London soon. It’s clear the best friend has ended her abusive relationship and also got rid of the drug addiction the boyfriend had introduced her to.

When I first read this book I had a boyfriend who was extremely jealous and psychologically abusive. He also threatened to kill himself if I broke up with him. I felt very helpless, especially as he was very charming towards everyone else in my life. This book wasn’t the sole reason (a major help was my mother who sat down with me to tell me she saw how bad it was, and helped me get some perspective) I finally managed to end things with him, but it certainly had an impact

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