Every Day

I wake up.

I always expect a certain level of the books I had on my To Read list for a while. Why else would I have added them? I read a lot of books, and I read a lot of reviews and recommendations. If you survived that, you need to be worth it. Every Day wasn’t really worth it.

The premise is appealing enough: someone wakes up in a different body every day. A. doesn’t know why, can’t remember a time when it was different, and can’t stop it. A. tries to get its host through the day and leaves again.
Instead of adding layers to this sci-fi idea, Levithan goes for the YA favorite: love. A. all too soon founds a girl they really really really love, and after that they only work to get to Rhiannon. She’s the world.

The story falls back to a game of hide and seek with Rhiannon. When there’s finally a hint of knowledge, of a chance to discover what is going on, it’s too close to the end. A.experienced love, loved love, and that’s maybe what the reader just has to accept as enough. Maybe that’s what made A. an ordinary teenager in the end, doing irrational things for love.

To me, it still feels like a waste of premise.

Every Day, David Levithan, Knopf 2012

What We Do In The Shadows

86 min.

You thought New Zealand movies were only Tolkien inspired movies? Think again. What We Do In The Shadows shows the silly side from the kiwis.

What_We_Do_in_the_Shadows_poster unisonVampires, but a documentary about them. New Zealand ones, but originally European import. Which means silly accents. Anyway, these vampires just want to be left alone and suck someone dry from time to time. They live in Wellington, try to keep a low profile (not even fighting stupid werewolves) and are quite ..dull.

Until a new element is added, of course. More silliness follows, and all thoughts about the fearsome creature that is the vampire disappear.

If you’re done with vampires but okay with mockumentaries and a lot of dry set humor, this might be your PG-rated (“werewolves not swearwolves!”) movie.

What We Do In The Shadows, Unison 2014

Habibi

Wow.

I wanted to read this for a very long time and I’m so pleased that it was completely to my satisfaction. It was beautiful, exciting, educational. And with about 700 pages, really not ‘just a quick comic’.

But what is it about? Where to start. It’s about two people that society has rejected, about the creation of the Quran and the science that came with it, about being on the fray while living in dreams and myths.

From time to time, especially during the darker, more confusing moments, it reminded me of the Sandman Chronicles. In those, there’s beauty in darkness as well, situations that leave you feeling a little bit unhinged.

If you are looking for a beautifully drawn book that will affect you and tickle your mind, this is for you.

Habibi, Craig Thompson, Pantheon 2011

Villa Pacifica

Ute was not just well travelled, she was professionally well travelled.

Isabel Allende like indeed. Or Gabriel Garcia Marques, or any other author that bases magic realism in South America. Villa Pacifica is a sticky, sweaty, uncomfortable small story that builds up like a tropical storm.

Ute writes and edits travel guides. Her husband is with her this time, and they find a hidden away park, a community, a paradise. It’s luxurious and private in surroundings that are empty and poor, and it’s a retreat in every sense of the word. Ute’s husband – Jerry – immediately takes to it, becomes inspired by it and its people, but it takes a heavy toll on Ute. When the storm finally arrives (is it a real storm?), things fall apart messily and violently.

This wasn’t a story I could read in one go. From the start, it starts to itch and build up under your skin, everyone’s discomfort so very potent and present. It’s the feverish feeling of The Heart of Darkness combined with your growing disbelief that will keep you turning pages. It’s a winter read because you’re going to need the cold to cool off and get back to reality again, but don’t read it near dark: the jungle may still get too close then.

Villa Pacifica, Kapka Kassabova, Penguin Books 2010

The Axeman’s Jazz

John Riley stumbled into the offices of the New Orleans Times – Picayune an hour and a half later after he was supposed to have started work.

New Orleans in the early ninety twenties, close to prohibition, close to racial tensions. And in the midst of it is a chain of brutal murders. Yet it is more of a human interest story than a detective or thriller.

There are two main players: cop Michael, ex-cop and ex-convict Luca. On the side there’s Louis Armstrong (that Louis Armstrong) and his friend, aspiring detective Ida. The Axeman at first seems to target only Italians, until he doesn’t. Minorities are pointing fingers at each other, the mob is involved and there’s a lot of layers only amateur sleuth Ida seems to have a clue about. But she’s mixed race, so no-one, and no-one will listen to her.

New Orleans is a character of its own. It might discard rules and morals, but that means it’s dangerous and dog eat dog as well. It’s a mean old lady, as one of the characters puts it, and one with iron teeth as well.

The case gets solved, but the reason for it even existing is more gruesome and interesting. A dark, humid story.

The Axeman’s Jazz, Ray Celestin, Mantie 2014

Eus

Het arbeidersvolk in de Bergpoortstraat lag al te slapen en het schorriemorrie van seksclub Isabelle voerde geheime gesprekken op straat, toen mijn oudste broer, ruim na bedtijd, de longen uit zijn lijf holde, op zoek naar onze vader.

Weer een boek dat ik al zo lang op mijn To Read list heb staan dat ik niet eens meer weet wat de aanleiding was. De stoere mannen blurbs op de achterkant lieten mij een klein beetje twijfelen, want super machoisme gaat mij snel tegen staan, maar mijn nood om meer niet-westerse auteurs te lezen (ook al is Akyol gewoon een geboren Nederlander) was groter.

Eus is een Nederlandse Turk in (vermoedelijk) het oosten van het land die opgroeit in de jaren negentig. That’s it. Nou ja, nee, natuurlijk. Er is een alcoholistische nietsnut van een vader, een voetveeg van een moeder en broers die tegelijkertijd steun en competititie zijn. Hij zit tussen culturen (met een lekkere eerlijkheid over niet moslim-zijn), tussen imago’s en tussen wensen (wel seks met alle meiden die het aanbieden of nu trouw en netjes een toekomst eentje). En Eus laveert daar soms heel makkelijk, en soms stukken minder makkelijk, met creatief taal- en vloekgebruik, tussendoor.

Door al de vrouwonvriendelijkheid werd ik alleen maar nieuwsgieriger naar een vrouwenversie van zo’n verhaal. Waar zijn de stoere, vrouwelijke, struikelend-opgroeien auteurs? Of is coming-of-age nog steeds navelstaarderij nummer één voor mannen?

Hoedanook, Eus geeft een Wild Westen kijkje in het leven van de tweede generatie allochtoon. Bevredigend en frustrerend tegelijkertijd.

Eus: Een Schelmenroman, Özcan Akyol, Prometheus 2012