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Quais du Polar 2017: Day #3

April 2, 2017 26 comments

Today was the last day of Quais du Polar 2017. This morning, we walked around the ground floor of the great book store. It is set in the great hall of the Chamber of Commerce, I suppose the stock exchange was here, the space suits this activity. As you can see, it was crowded and very busy. I wonder how many books were sold over the weekend.

This is only a fourth of a big bookstore.

This gives you an idea of the height of the building. This patio has a second floor with rooms.

I had the chance to talk to Dominique Sylvain and got her book Passage du désir. It called to me with its quote by Emile Ajar (Romain Gary) and its writer comes from the same region as me. It’s the first instalment of a series, so we’ll see. Marina Sofia introduced me to the Romanian publisher Bogdan Hrib and I came home with the book Spada by Bogdan Teodorescu. It’s a political crime fiction novel and I usually enjoy those. It’s going to be an opportunity to read something about Romania.

I attended a great conference by Michel Pastoureau at the Chapelle de la Trinité.

He’s an historian specialized in the history of colors. Since Quais du Polar’s color code is red and black, the interview was about the history and symbolism of the color red. I won’t relate everything he talked about but will concentrate on two ideas, the switch from red to blue as a preferred color and the origin of the French flag.

In Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece, red was an important color and blue wasn’t used a lot. It changed at the beginning of the Middle Ages and blue became an important color. It came from a need to picture heavenly light as opposed to earthly light. Artists started to use the color blue for heaven while normal light was white or yellow. Then the Virgin Mary started to wear blue dresses on paintings and kings of France (Philippe Auguste, Saint Louis) wore blue clothes. It became fashionable. And red, a color much fancied until then lost its first place as a great color.

About the French flag. As you probably all know, the French flag comes from the Revolution and is blue/white/red. In school, we all learnt that it looks like this because white is the color of the monarchy and it’s squeezed between the colors of the city of Paris. Actually, this is inaccurate. The French flag comes from the American flag. After the 1776 American revolution, in Europe, the people who supported the ideas conveyed by this revolution started to wear blue/white/red ribbons. So, when the French Revolution decided upon a new flag in 1794, it went for the same colors as the American flag. And since the Dutch had already horizontal strips, they used vertical ones. And since the American flag comes from the Union Jack, I guess France has a flag based upon UK colors. Weird story, right?

It was a fascinating conference, Michel Pastoureau is a wonderful speaker. He knows how to tell anecdotes and the public was drinking his speech.

After that, I went to listen to David Vann discuss with a journalist about his books. It was set in the room that was the former Tribunal de Commerce. (Trade Court)

He explained how he wrote his books. Sukkwan Island was written in two phases. The first part was written in 17 days when he was in a sort of writing trance on a boat trip from Los Angeles to Hawaï. The second half was written after. I haven’t read the book but it’s a significant piece of information to understand the book.

He gave us a lot of background information about his childhood in Alaska, his family and his personal history because all of this gives us a better understanding of his novels. Again, I won’t retell everything, you can replay this lecture on the Quais du Polar website. It was a fascinating hour with him. He’s an agreeable fellow, he’s been a teacher, so he’s articulate and used to speaking in public too. Plus, he has a great sense of humor. He said he never thinks too much about what he writes and then he comes to France and discusses his books with journalists who ask pointed questions and he has a new view of his work. 🙂 Here, the journalist knew his work very well and was able to fuel the discussion with intelligent questions.

It was a delightful hour where he explained his work, talked about American literary tradition and described how his books are influenced by Greek tragedies. I’m really looking forward to reading Caribou Island.

And that was the end of the festival for me. I had a lot of fun, bought great books, had the chance to chat a bit with some writers and attended great conferences. The literary concert was truly marvelous.

Although they probably won’t read this, I would like to thank the team who organized this festival and all the volunteers who were everywhere to ensure that things run smoothly. I found the writers happy to be in Lyon, smiling and glad to meet their readers and to be part of this giant celebration of crime fiction. Several of them were serial attendees, like Ron Rash (fourth time), Caryl Férey or David Vann. They all seem to enjoy it as much as the public does.

Quais du Polar 2017 : Day #1

March 31, 2017 14 comments

First day at Quais du Polar was a success! After a lovely lunch where Marina Sofia discovered what a café gourmand is, we headed to the Palais de la Bourse where the big bookshop is settled. Todau, the Palais de la Bourse is actually the headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce of Lyon. The name Palais de la Bourse means literally The House of Stock Exchange. I can’t tell you how pleased I am that a place that used to be a stock exchange is now hosting a huge book fair and a celebration of culture.

We wandered around the different bookstores, chatting about the books on the display tables, seeing where the different writers would be for their signing. Nothing’s better than browsing through books with another book lover.

I had the opportunity to talk to Marcus Malte and gush about how much I loved Le garçon. I purchased Les harmoniques, one of his earlier crime fiction books. Blues music plays an important role in the book and tomorrow he gives a lecture/concert about this book. I hope I can get in.

We decided to attend a conference entitled “Women as victims, women as executioners: what do these female protagonists tell us?” The participants to the conversation were Harold Cobert (French), Dominique Sylvain (France), Jenny Rogneby (Sweden), Andrée A Michaud (Québec) and Clare Mackintosh (UK). Cobert is the author of La mésange et l’ogresse, a book that attempts to describe the Affaire Fourniret from his wife’s side. Fourniret was a serial killer of young virgins and she was his supplier, luring the girls into his trap. I don’t want to read a book about this monster, but it doesn’t mean it’s a bad one, of course. Jenny Rogneby and Clare Mackinstosh have both worked in the police before writing novels. I guess they know how to add plausible details into their novels. I’m not going to relate the whole conversation about women, their place in crime fiction as victims or how they are received by the public when they are the criminals.

Both Rogneby and Mackintosh said that they want to give a voice to female victims, to give them some substance to avoid objectification. They want to show them as the humainbeing they were before becoming a victim. And how to we deal with female characters who are vicious criminals? There was an interesting discussion about whether women are as violent as men. I agree with Cobert’s assertion that imagining that women cannot be as violent or mean as men is another sexist way of seeing women. From this point of view, women would be soft and nice by essence, so not built as men and not their equals. I think that this vision comes from a distorted vision ingrained in people from childhood. Clare Mackintosh surprised the audience by explaining that, in her experience in the police force who intervene during Friday night brawls, women get as physical as men. She witnessed a lot of spontaneous aggressions from women too. They just fight differently scratching with their nails, pulling hair or kicking around. Personally, I’ve never seen two women or two girls fight physically. Have you?

Then the journalist asked about their self-censorship when they write. All agreed that they didn’t like to describe violence too closely, that they’d rather suggest it and that they want to avoid useless gore details and voyeurism. That’s better for the readers, in my opinion.

It was a good table discussion. It was located in the Grand Salon of the Hôtel de Ville (the city hall), a magnificent place where you can imagine the high society of the Second Empire having balls.

After that, Marina Sofia and I went our separate ways. I went to an interview of Megan Abbott. I’ve never read her books but since she’s inspired by Raymond Chandler, James M Cain, Patricia Highsmith and James Ellroy, she can’t be bad. (Unless she can’t write, which I doubt). She’s a lovely lady, she answered the questions gracefully and explained a bit about her source of inspiration, her love for Noir films and novels. She told us a bit about her writing process, where the ideas come from, what she starts with…I’m interested in one of her earlier books, Queenpin and in her last one available in French, You Will Know Me. It’s about a young adolescent who’s a gymnastic prodigy. She said she wanted to explore what having a gifted athlete could do to a family, to a couple. She explained that she could relate a bit since her brother was a baseball player. It’s an intriguing idea, I wonder what she made of it.

After this session, I had the chance to talk to David Vann and Todd Robinson who were sitting next to each other. Both are friendly and I appreciated that they made the effort to say a few words in French. As always, writers seem happy to participate to Quais du Polar. They take time to chat with readers, they are relaxed and I think warmly welcome by their bookstore host. Todd Robinson explained that these kind of book fairs don’t exist in the US and that he enjoys them. (There are a lot of “salon du livre” in France. Lots of cities host one) If writers are happy, visitors will be happy too. There were already a lot of people at the Palais de la Bourse today, it will be really packed tomorrow.

Today I came back home with four books.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings!

What, where, why French people read. A survey for the Salon du Livre of Paris.

March 25, 2017 32 comments

This weekend, it’s the Salon du Livre in Paris. I’m not going and I have mixed up feelings about it. On the one hand, I’m dying to go because, wow, lots of books and writers and all. Isn’t that a book blogger’s paradise? On the other hand, the idea of this salon at the Parc des Expositions, a huge venue where they also organize the Salon de l’Automobile and the Salon de l’Agriculture doesn’t suit me. Too much noise, not cozy enough, lots of people. It doesn’t go well with my idea of books and reading. Literature is not suited for a trade fair atmosphere. Yet, it’s a great opportunity to hear about books, literature and reading at the same time, so it’s worth it. Mixed feelings, as I said.

Since there’s this huge book fest, the CNL (Centre National du Livre) ordered and published a survey about books and French people. The aim is to know how many books the French read, which books they favor, where they buy their books, where they read them and what’s their attitude towards books and reading in general. You can find the whole survey here.

I just want to share some results with you because I’m always curious about how books are doing. The survey considers that anything that has pages is a book, except if it’s a magazine. So, this survey includes comics, all genres of non-fiction books (travel guides, books about hobbies, self-help books…), children books and dictionaries. The questions were asked to 1000 people, representative of the French population. Knowing that, 84% of the French consider themselves as readers and 24% as heavy readers. But 91% have read or browsed through (for dictionaries) at least one book in the last 12 months.

In average, the genres the most read are novels (and especially crime fiction), non-fiction books and comics or mangas.

96% of these readers read during their free time and not for work. 49% read every day, at home (95%) or outside, especially while traveling (61%), while commuting (26%) or in other public places. (28%) 42% read before going to bed, 36% have no preferred time. I was surprised that only 10% read during the holidays. I often hear people around me say that they only read during the holidays because they have the time to do it.

The number of books read yearly is interesting. 9% read nothing, 22% read from 1 to 4 books, 41% read from 5 to 19 books and 28% read more than 20 books per year. This survey was also done in 2015. Contrary to what I would have assumed, the number of books read goes from an average of 16 books per reader in 2015 to 20 in 2017. People read more! Paper books still have a big place in the readers’ hands. Their average number per reader increased, going from 14 books in 2015 to 17 books in 2017. And heavy readers increased their number of paper books read from 42 to 52. +10 books in two years, well done! Ebooks only progress by 1 unit in average. They’re not likely to replace paper books anytime soon.

People get their books from different sources: 80% have purchased new books, 77% have received at least one as a gift, 34% bought used books and 32% went to a library. Honestly, I expected the library score to be higher than that. Books are mostly purchased in “cultural stores” (79%), general book stores (65%), on the internet (45%), supermarkets (42%), books stores (27%), second hand book shops & charity shops (55%), fairs and salons (20%). Clearly, people buy books through different distribution channels.

30% of readers never buy their books in bookstores. For 52% of them, it’s because they don’t have an independent book store near their home, 32% think books are more expensive in these little shops and 29% because their local bookstore doesn’t have the book they want in stock. Since the law implementing a unique price for books was voted in 1981, I’m surprised there are still so many people who don’t know that a book will not be cheaper at the supermarket. Apparently, independent bookstores have an ad campaign to organize or signs to put in their shop window.

I find it curious that 82% of readers have chosen the book they were going to buy before going to their store. Books are chosen according to the writer (86%), to the recommendation of a friend or relative (86%) or a literary critic (61%).

77% of them sometimes choose the book in the shop. 97% choose a book because of its topic, 89% after reading the blurb and 79% because they know the writer. I’m surprised that book covers don’t play a more significant role in the book buying decision. After all, the cover is what catches the eye on a display table.

45% of French readers borrow books in libraries. 70% of readers never borrow books from libraries because they’d rather own the books they read (70%) or because the library doesn’t have the book they want (34%) or because they can’t borrow it long enough. Personally, I never borrow books in the library mostly because I can’t manage the deadlines and the need to visit the library in my heavy work schedule.

The survey also asked the interviewees why reading matters. It matters because it brings pleasure (91%), it helps learn new things (95%), it contributes to one’s happiness and life fulfilment (68%) and 65% agree that it boosts their professional life. There’s a strong consensus on the benefits of reading to improve one’s mind (99%), be more openminded (97%), have a good time (97%), escape every day’s life (95%), unwind (96%), pass the time (86%), forget your worries (80%), have a better understanding of the world (85%), share ideas with other readers (75%) and understand oneself better (68%). Wow.

This seems very positive for books but it’s not as positive for literature. This survey is about all kind of books and the genre the most read are “how-to” books. (cooking, gardening, travel guides…) General literature is not among the top reads of the readers. Crime fiction comes first and novels only make the Top 5 of reads for people older than 35. Only the 15/24-year-old have classics in their Top Five, most likely because these books were imposed in school.

Books remain a frequent gift, 85% of the French declare that they buy books for gifts. They choose to give books for the pleasure of it (68%), to share a book they loved (37%), to pass on knowledge (30%) or to make a writer or a topic known (24%) and 19% pick a book because it’s a gift at a reasonable price.

People read less than before or less than they’d like to because they lack time (71%). The Top 5 of activities that the French do on their free time are listening to music (87%), watch TV (83%), go out with friends (81%), read magazines or newspapers (79%) and be on social networks (79%)

63% of the interviewees would like to read more but don’t have enough time. So, guys, here’s my secret: just turn off the TV or the computer once or twice per week and you’ll see how much reading time you’ll gain. For 23%, reading reviews on websites and for 18%, discussing books on social media push them to read more. Fellow book bloggers, we seem to have a role to play here even if for 55% of them, the trigger to read more is discussing books with friends or relatives.

Another very interesting question was: “If you had one more day off per week, what would you do?” 31% would go out with friends, 14% would read and 13% would do a cultural outing. This sounds like New Year good resolutions but I’m pretty sure that if everyone had an additional day-off, it would mean more TV, more social media and not so much more reading or visits to the museum.

That’s all, folks. I hope I didn’t bore you with all these numbers but I found this survey fascinating, surprising and I wanted to share it with fellow book lovers.

Next weekend I’ll go to Quais du Polar, our crime fiction fest in Lyon. Even if you can’t be with us at this incredible celebration of crime fiction books, you can visit their website and replay the conferences.

Yay! I’m this week’s Triple Choice Tuesday!

January 10, 2017 2 comments

triple-choice-200Kim at Reading Matters has a weekly rendezvous with another book blogger and guess what? This week, it’s me!

In this billet Kim asks a fellow blogger about three books that are special to them. If you want to discover mine, click here!

Thanks Kim, I’m honoured to be part of the Triple Choice Tuesday bloggers.

 

Literary escapade: Born to be Wilde

December 10, 2016 30 comments

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all. (Oscar Wilde)

It totally agree with that. In Paris, there’s currently an exhibition about Oscar Wilde’s life and work. It is at the Petit Palais, a beautiful building near the Champs Elysées. The Petit Palais was built for the 1900 World Fair and incidentally, 1900 is also the year Wilde died in Paris. The title of this exhibition is Oscar Wilde, l’impertinent absolu. (Oscar Wilde, the ultimate impertinent). It is the first time such an exhibition is organized in Paris and it is well worth visiting.

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It explains very well Wilde’s education and role models, his taste for art, his admiration for Ruskin and his work as an art critic. A room is dedicated to the conferences he did in America. It is on the occasion of this tour that he said his famous phrase:

We have really everything in common in America nowadays, except, of course, language.

He was like a rock star and had his picture taken like a supermodel by the famous photographer Napoleon Sarony. You needed someone named Napoleon Sarony to immortalize the emperor of irony. For the anecdote: these pictures were so famous that they were used without Sarony’s authorization by various publicists. Sarony went to court and his case reached the Supreme Court who judged that photographs should be included in the scope of the copyright law. (1884)

The exhibition describes Wilde as an intellectual well introduced in London’s high society.

frith_a_private_view

This is A Private View at the Royal Academy by William Powell Frith. (1881) The painter is on the painting with Trollope, Gladstone, Browning, Millais and Wilde. Can you see him on the centre-right, near the lady with the pink dress? Wilde was also well introduced into the Parisian beau monde. But the exhibition does not focus to much on his life as a dandy. His affairs with men are mentioned but so is his marriage to Constance Llyod. Wilde as a husband and a father are displayed. Unfortunately, after Constance’s death, her family destroyed all the letters Oscar Wilde had written to her, so we’re missing out information on their relationship.

His personal life takes a good place in the exhibition but his work is celebrated as well, especially The Happy Prince and Other Tales, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Salomé. It was interesting to read about the reception of these works when they were published, see excerpts of their film version or discover the illustrations of the first editions. (*)

Of course, his trial and subsequent conviction to two years’ hard labour took a significant place. I was surprised to read that Wilde was condemned in 1895 for gross indecency and that it was based on a law that was only voted in 1885. I always assumed it was a very old law that had been unearthed for the occasion. I’m shocked to read such a law was passed so late in the 19thC. That’s the Victorian Era for you, I suppose. No wonder that French prostitutes saw so many British customers that some had calling cards in English.

His detention was very hard, at least at the beginning at the Newgate Prison in London. He did hard labour, was not allowed to read anything but the Bible and it was forbidden to talk to fellow prisoners. Eventually, he was transferred to the Reading Gaol, near London. Isn’t that ironic to put a writer in a prison named Reading Gaol? The absolute silence imposed in the Victorian prisons must have been a personal form of torture to the brilliant conversationalist that Wilde was.

This section of the exhibition ends with a videoed interview of Robert Badinter. He’s a famous French attorney and he was the minister of Justice in 1981. He fought for the abolition of death penalty in France in 1981 and he remains well-known for that. 1981 is also the year the French Parliament voted that homosexuality was no longer a crime.

In this interview, Badinter explains that he studied closely the Wilde trial for a series of conference about law and Justice. He used this example and the one of all the women burnt for sorcery to demonstrate that Justice is relative. It depends on the time and place. Wilde was condemned to two years’ hard work for something that is no longer a crime. According to Badinter, since Justice is relative, it mustn’t pronounce death sentences. The State doesn’t have the right to take the life of people for crimes that might not be crimes in the future or somewhere else. Thought provoking, isn’t it?

This fantastic exhibition ended with a video of Wilde’s grand-son. He speaks French very well and had kind words to say about his grand-father and his work, even if he never knew him. Oscar Wilde, l’impertinent absolu gave a moving portrait of Wilde. It went beyond the funny aphorisms and the dandy costumes to show an intelligent and multifaceted man. I liked that his family life was shown as well, a part of him often ignored. (The French Wikipedia page about him doesn’t even mention that he was married) I thought that the different angles helped discovering this fascinating artist.

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

You were definitely pointing at the stars, Mr Wilde. Some imbeciles might have stared at your finger pointing the stars instead of stargazing with you.

Night and Sleep by Evelyn de Morgan

Night and Sleep by Evelyn de Morgan

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(*) I read The Picture of Dorian Gray when I when a teenager and read The Happy Prince and Other Tales and The Importance of Being Earnest before attending this exhibition, so more about this in the coming week.

Reading Bingo 2016

November 29, 2016 17 comments

reading-bingo-small
Reading Bingo is back, according to Cleo at Cleopatra Loves Books. The game is easy : for each square you need to find a corresponding book among this year’s reads. I don’t have much time to do that, to be honest, but I find it fun. It’s also a way to remind you of billets you might have missed about books you might enjoy. I don’t read much compared to other book bloggers but apparently my reading tastes are eclectic because I managed to find a book for almost all the squares. Ready? Let’s play.

soseki_chatA Book with more than 500 pages.

To be honest, I don’t read a lot of long books. I don’t have enough reading time and the book stays a long time on my night stand. It took me several weeks to read  I Am a Cat by Natsume Soseki because I was too tired at night and because my paper copy is in really small print, not eye-friendly after a long day in front of a computer. It was worth the effort, though. I haven’t written my billet about it yet but it’s coming soon. In this Japanese book from 1905, Soseki uses a cat as a narrator. It is a first person narrative and the cat describes his master’s life with a lot of candor and a lot of irony. It was full of comical moments and I was fascinated by the description of life in Japan at the time. It is also amazing to see how Soseki imagined what it is to be a cat.

DurasA Forgotten Classic 

For this square I choose The Sea Wall by Marguerite Duras. Set Indochina in the 1920s, it is based upon the author’s family story. Through the fate of a mother and her two grow-up children, Duras describes the life of poor white people in Indochina. She explains the workings of the colonial administration and how it steals from settlers and lies to them. It also show how a young woman can be tempted to get married just to provide for herself and her family. It is a theme that Duras will also explore later in her famous novel The Lover.

Ferey_ZuluA Book That Became a Movie
Zulu by Caryl Férey
is a French crime fiction novel that has been made into a film. I haven’t seen the film and I don’t intend to. It is an excellent crime novel set in South Africa. It was very violent in its descriptions of war between gangs and the use of torture. It was difficult to read and I can’t imagine watching it on screen and that’s why I won’t look for the film. The novel is excellent though, with lots of insight about life and culture in South Africa. The author is French and he researched a lot of information before writing his book.

 

malte_garconA Book Published This Year.

I usually don’t read books that just come out. I don’t have time for review copies and I tend to wait for the paperback edition of books. This year for the Rentrée Littéraire, I asked a libraire which book he’d pick among the ones that went out in September. He picked Le garçon by Marcus Malte. It’s a French book, so it’s not available in English for now. I guess it will be translated because it won the prestigious Prix Femina. It is the odyssey of a boy from 1908 to 1938 through France, life, war and love… And he doesn’t speak. It’s epic, poetic, well-written and totally unusual. Keep it in mind for when it comes out in English. In France it is published by Zulma and their stylish covers.

Peace_1974A Book With A Number In The Title

I actually read two books with a number in the title and I pick 1974 by David Peace. This was a disquieting and dark book. Peace’s description of Yorkshire in 1974 is not good for tourism. At all. It is about a journalist who investigates the murder of a little girl and finds himself in the cross-fire of corruption and collusion between politicians, journalists and the police. No one is likeable, no one is totally clean and our poor journalist gets into something too big for him to handle with no real chance to escape from it. Powerful but it makes you queasy.

keats_fannyA Book Written by Someone Under Thirty

Early this year, I read Letters of John Keats to Fanny Brawne by John Keats. It is Keats’ correspondence to his lover Fanny. It was an opportunity for me to discover Keats. I read a bit about him, I saw a bit of the lover through his letter and it led me to read his poetry. I bought an bilingual edition of a collection of his poems: the original on the left page and a French translation on the right page. It helps but even if my English is good enough to read novels, I will never be able to grasp the full beauty of English poems.

A Book With Non Human Characters

I could have chosen I Am a Cat for this square but instead, I want to draw your attention to The Fat Woman Next Door Is Pregnant by Michel Tremblay. He’s a French Canadian writer and in this first volume of the Plateau Montréal chronicles, one of the characters is a cat. In this wonderful little novel Tremblay takes us around a popular neighbourhood in Montreal. We go from one character to the other, seeing them in their everyday activities, hearing their thoughts, watching their interactions with their family, friends and neighbours. It is a fantastic read. I have already bought the second volume.

de_fao_callingA Funny Book

I love funny books, it’s one of the great pleasure of reading. Calling Mr King by Ronald De Fao is the story of a hitman who grows a conscience and finds a new interest in architecture. He’s getting tired of killing on demand and wants to be left alone to pursue his research in Georgian architecture. The more he wants out, the more botched his jobs become until his employers starts to notice. We follow him on the streets of Paris, London, New York and Barcelona and it’s hilarious.

KaffkaA Book By A Female Author

This book might be OOP in English. I bought it in Budapest in a Hungarian edition. I usually don’t read books in Englis translations but I have a soft spot for Hungarian literature and this one was not available in French. And it was by a female writer of the turning of the 20th century. So Colours and Years by Margit Kaffka is my pick for this square. I didn’t like it as much as I expected, mostly because the main character irritated me. It is still a fascinating picture of Hungary before WWI.

penny_fatal_graceA Book With A Mystery

I read a bit of crime fiction and I recently had a great time with A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny. It is an upcoming billet, so I won’t say more about it. I had liked Still Life a lot and this one confirms that it is a series I will follow. I was back in Three Pines, a lovely village of the Eastern Townships in Québec and I was happy to be back despite the terrible murder that happened there. It is still a delight to read Penny’s prose laced with French words to remind you than Anglophones and Francophones coexist in Québec.

boulerice_javotteA Book With A One Word Title

I wasn’t sure to have a book for that square but I did! Javotte by Simon Boulerice is a coming-of-age story of a French Canadian teenager. Javotte lost her father in a car accident and doesn’t get along well with her mother and sister. She’s a quirky teen and she has her own way to deal with the cards she has in hands and to cope. It’s not the novel of the century but it’s entertaining. Simon Boulerice is kind with his character and the reader is on Javotte’s side as well.

c0515_sciasciaMER.indd

 

A Book of Short Stories

I’ve read several this year and my favourite one is The Wine-Dark Sea by Leornardo Sciascia or Sicily from 1957 to 1972. It takes you to this island and its various facettes: its history, its values, its family traditions, its respect for  religion, the influence of the mafia, its tighs to immigrants in the USA.

 

 

Swierczynski_hell_gone

Free Square

My Free Square is for the Charlie Hardie trilogy by Duane Swierczynski. It’s fast-paced, funny, suspenseful and totally crazy. It’s crime fiction and A LOT of fun. Plus the covers are gorgeous. Isn’t it a great idea for Christmas?

 

 

 

Chavarria_french

A Book Set on a Different Continent

With Castro’s death, let’s go to Cuba with Daniel Chavarria and his Tango For a Torturer. This is a dark story of revenge loosely based upon The Count of Monte Cristo. Aldo Bianchi is in Cuba for business and pleasure when he realises that the man who tortured him in Argentina during the dictatorship is hiding on the island. He sets a plan in motion to get his revenge. A fantastic novel by Chavarria who manages to sew a great plot and give educational insight on dictatorships in South America. I love this kind of books.

claudel_la_criseA Book of Non-Fiction

I’m not good with reading non-fiction and this is why I love books like Tango for a Torturer. I learn things but it’s still fiction. I was intrigued by The Great Depression. America 1927-1932 by Paul Claudel. It is a exerpt of Claudel’s correspondance to his minister in France when he was ambassador in Washington from 1927 to 1932. These letters are only about the economic situation of the time. It was fascinating to see how modern the concerns were and how history repeats itself.

The First Book by a Favourite Author

Sorry. Nothing here. But if you want to read Romain Gary’s first book, it’s entitled Education européenne. 🙂

De_LucaA Book You Heard About Online

Lots of my reading year could fit in this category as fellow book bloggers are a great source of reading ideas. I’ll choose Three Horses by Erri De Luca. It’s a novella by an Italian writer about an Italian man who’s back in Italy after spending years in Argentina. He was a victim of the violent dictatorship there. It’s a book full of humanity and very reflective. The style is beautiful as well, a short book that makes you want to go to Italy too. I have another of his books on the shelf now.

Orr_Hands

A Best-selling Book

I don’t read best-selling books. It’s not by principle, it usually happens because the more I hear about a book, the less I want to read it. So instead of sharing a best-selling book, I want to share a book that deserves to be a best-selling book: The Hands: An Australian pastoral by Stephen Orr. It is the story of a family on an isolated ranch in Australia. Orr describes beautfully the hard life of these ranchers but also their culture. Their parents or grand-parents settled there and work hard, their heir feel indebted to their hard work and not losing the farm is the ultimate goal and worth great sacrifices. Orr created complex and plausible characters. I wanted to know what would become of them.

Ervas

A Book Based on a True Story

My billet about Don’t Be Afraid If I Hug You by Fulvio Ervas didn’t get a lot of response from readers. It is the story of an Italian father and his autistic son Andrea who go on a road trip. The first part of their journey is from Florida to Los Angeles. Then they go to South America. It was interesting to read about the places they went but also to read about Andrea. It is the story of the love of a father for his son but without angelism. Life with Andrea is tough sometimes.

kipling_roi

A Book at the Bottom of you To Be Read Pile

My bilingual edition of The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling says “Noël 1989”. It’d been on the TBR since 1989, I think it wins the title of the oldest book of the TBR. I had to read it twice to enjoy it but I found it better than I expected. And Kipling surprised me.

 

 

Neilan_Apathy

A Book Your Friend Loves

Hey Guy, I think Apathy and Other Small Victories by Paul Neilan fits this category. I know you’ve read it several times with delight. I was in stitches when I read this. Shane, the main character in Neilan’s novel is in jail for murder. We go back to the beginning of the story that led him there. The passages where Shane works as a temp in a insurance company are hilarious. Neilan nails the corporate world in a way that only Max Barry surpasses.

 

A Book That Scares You

I don’t read scary books. However, Zulu by Caryl Ferey and 1974 by David Peace scare me for their dark vision of our societies.

O'Brien_Leaving_Las_Vegas

A Book That Is More Than Ten Years Old

I was blown away by Leaving Las Vegas by John O’Brien. I’ve never read anything like this about alcoholism and the description of how addictive alcohol can be. It is the story of two lost sould who find comfort in each other for a while. It is the idea that two sadnesses can help each other even if they can’t save each other. When a prostitute meets an alcoholic in the articial paradise that is Las Vegas, you need a talented writer not to make it sordid. And O’Brien succeeds. Recommended.

Johnson_camp_morts

The Second Book in a Series

Death Without Company by Craig Johnson is the second Walt Longmire book about this sheriff in Durant, Absaroka County, Wyoming. I enjoy Johnson’s style and his set of character. He lives in Wyoming himself and you can feel it in the descriptions of the landscapes and of the climate. This is someone who’s experienced the cold winters he describes. There’s also a lot about the culture of the native Americans of the region. The plot is well done and again, it’s educational.

gracq_beau_ténébreux

A Book With a Blue Cover

A Dark Stranger by Julien Gracq has the bluest cover. I didn’t like the book much but it fits the bill of A Book with a Blue Cover!

 

 

 

That’s all for my Reading Bingo. I had a lot of fun finding a book for almost each square. I hope you enjoyed playing with me. Have you read any of these books? Which one would tempt you?

PS: I hope the layout is OK on your side. It is on mine but I really had trouble for WP this time.

A Little Praise for Reading by Pef and other thoughts

November 20, 2016 16 comments

Petit éloge de la lecture by Pef. (2016)

pef_elogeI’ve been overworked for a few weeks and I also had a lot of family activities going on. Consequences: I’m behind with my writing about the books I read and I have a huge pile of unread reviews in my mail box.

This morning I decided to write a global billet about Eddie’s World by Charlie Stella, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson and The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan. Just for the sake of catching up with billets and decrease the TBW pile. Then I started to read the quotes I had captured while reading Eddie’s World and found out I couldn’t settle for a hodge-podge of a billet just to tackle the TBW pile. I owe nothing to the writers of these three books, two of them are dead anyway and I doubt that my billet will bring anything to Charlie Stella’s life or book sales. Still. I owe it to the books and the pleasure I had reading them.

This brings me to another little book I picked: Petit éloge de la lecture by Pef. The title means Little praise for reading and here’s Pef about readers:

Victor Hugo se dit « les pieds sur terre et les yeux ailleurs ». Les lecteurs, qu’ils soient debout, assis, recroquevillés ou allongés sont les purs colocataires de cette phrase. Victor Hugo said of himself that he had « his feet on earth and his eyes elsewhere ». Readers are the real roommates of this sentence whatever their reading position. Standing, sitting, curled up or lying down.

pef_motorduPef is a writer of children books. His most famous collection is the one featuring Le Prince de Motordu. (The Prince of Twistedwords) and his adventures start in La belle lisse poire du Prince de Motordu, which can be translated as The beautiful furry tail of the Prince of Twistedwords. This needs to be read out loud and many thanks to Tony from Tony’s Reading List for understanding French perfectly and finding an English equivalent to Pef’s play-on-words. Pef loves playing with the French language and his prose is bubbly and classic at the same time. The quote above wasn’t easy to translate as it manages to encompass several difficulties between the French and the English language: body positions, the locution qu’ils soient, and the string of adjectives. So for once, the English text is longer that the French. Any alternative translation is welcome in the comments, I really struggled with it.

Back to Pef and his praise of reading. I started this with enthusiasm because I always enjoy reading about someone else’s delight with books. His is a collection of memories about reading moments. He pictures memories brought by books, memories of where you were when you read this particular book but also memories of the books themselves. We are inhabited by the characters we met through our reading. This is why recurring characters from crime fiction series seem like distant relatives to me or why I see Charles Bovary in Carl Joseph von Trotta. Pef’s book is 100 pages long and its 26 short chapters show different reading occasions and materials. Train carriages, holidays, school. Postcards, novels, comics. It is full of joyful descriptions in a gourmet style. He conjures up his favorite writers and reveals the breath of his reading and the depth of his addiction. Like most crazy-in-love-with-books readers, he’d read the phone book if it were the last book on earth, just to keep on reading.

Despite all this enthusiasm, I didn’t enjoy his book that much overall. Or perhaps I was too tired to enjoy it. I found it a bit old-fashioned. Pef was born in 1939 and you can feel his age in his pages because his reading memories relate to realities that don’t exist anymore. I would have preferred a praise by a younger writer, one who still has reading for passion despite video games, films, You Tube time, cell phones and all other distractions offered nowadays. Someone who backs up Pef’s statement:

Nous sommes tous venus au monde pour profiter de cette chance fabuleuse qu’est la lecture, magique, énigmatique dans sa découverte puis dans son apprentissage. We all came to the world to make the most of this amazing opportunity that is reading. It is magic, enigmatic in its discovery and its learning process.

And this is why I want to cheer on a decision the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) recently made. It has considered that libraries should be allowed to lend ebooks the way they lend paper books. It’s not an easy question from a technical point of view but it tends to treat ebooks the same way as paper books. Publishers are not in favor of this decision and the debate is not over.

This is in contradiction with another of the CJEU’s decision on VAT. In almost all EU countries, books benefit from a reduced VAT rate. It is 5.5% in France, compared to a 20% regular rate, so it makes a difference for book buyers. There’s a legal debate over ebooks: can they benefit from the reduced VAT rate or not? France has decided that the substance was more important than the form and applies a reduced VAT rate to ebooks. But according to a statement made in September 2016, the CJEU doesn’t see it that way. Ebooks are said to be “electronic services” and not books and thus shall bear a regular VAT rate. As far as I know, discussions are still going on in Brussels and I hope that France’s point of view wins in the end because, as Musset once said

Qu’importe le flacon pourvu qu’on ait l’ivresse. Never mind the bottle, let’s just drink it.

HAPPY READING

 

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