Girls on Fire

See them in their golden hour, a flood of girls high on the ecstasy of the final bell, tumbling onto the city bus, all gawky limbs and Wonderbra cleavage, chewed nails picking at eruptive zits, lips nibbling and eyes scrunching in a doomed attempt not to cry.

I’m both angry at and feeling supportive towards this book. I didn’t like it.

Books like these – underlining how they realistically show what it is like to grow up as a girl, to have female relationships, always set my teeth on edge. Not just because it’s so easy to make it look like this is a world-wide experience versus a personal one, but also because it can easily turn into sexist material: “dumb, jealous, hormonal, pitiful creatures, these girls”.

It’s humanity and society that’s tackling these two main characters. Hannah and Lacey barely need anything or anyone else but each other for (self-)sabotage. A small American town as their stage doesn’t help either.

So there are too many recognisable things, too much hurt and frustration to come out of this story light and happy. Because gosh darn it, why didn’t we know then what we know now, and where did the fire go?

Girls on Fire, Robin Wasserman, Little Brown 2016

We Are Your Friends

100 min.

we are your friends posterOké, ik ga er toch over schrijven. Er zijn verschillende domme films. Sommigen zo flauw dat het melig wordt, anderen hebben net genoeg plot en/of mooie mensen dat je de onzin accepteert. Dit was niet zo’n film. Dit was een vlak, leeg vehikel dat op geen enkele manier vermaakte.

Zonnig Californië met een groepje vrienden (twintigers?) dat het mooie, luxe leven wilt, maar er niet de middelen voor heeft. Gelukkig kan er eentje DJen! Moeten we maar geloven dan, want door een combinatie van luiheid en faalangst, wordt er weinig getoond, en de rest is niet indrukwekkend. Hoe ontdekken we dan dat deze jongemannen personen zijn in plaats van bordkarton? Niet. Er is een romance met een vrouw die er liever ook niet lijkt te zijn, wat gepruttel tussen werkgever en werknemers, maar gelukkig toch een happy ending. Geloof ik.

Een promo-clip voor MTV Ibiza is spannender en klinkt ook beter.

We Are Your Friends, StudioCanal 2015

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

In a single year, my father left us twice.

This was work. I don’t know how I managed to read two similarly build up novels (the other one being Disappearing Moon Cafe), but this one was the tougher of the two. Maybe because the comparison material was so recent. Both left me wondering how I’d like something contemporary written by an Asian actor.

Anyway, time moves every way but chronologically in Do Not Say We Have Nothing. Keep your head with you, because there’s a lot of characters going through a lot of things. The most brutal one, probably Mao’s ‘Cultural Revolution’ and the horrors of Tiananmen Square.

These aren’t light, bright stories. There seems to be no end to what a family can be put through, and the small, mythology-like side steps only make the difference starker. How did anyone come out alive?

It’s a novel to take in in small doses, to learn and see through another set of goggles.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Madeleine Thien, Granta 2016

Het Kremlin

Het Kremlin is een van de beroemdste bouwwerken in de wereld.

Een geschiedenisboek voor de toegewijde geschiedenislezer. Wat een hoeveelheid informatie, en terwijl ik alleen maar een beetje meer wilde weten over die vreemde Russen en hun geschiedenis.

Merridale gaat eeuwen terug, langs elke keer dat een deel van het Kremlin wordt gebouwd, herbouwd en afgebrand. Van stammen naar tsaren naar communisten naar ..wat er nu zit, alles mag in detail er in.

Dat is pittig, en de eindeloze opstapeling van feiten maakt het niet toegankelijker. Het kan best dat de zus van de politicus mooie oorbellen had die zeventig jaar later werd terug gevonden, maar had het redigeren niet iets scherper gekund? Misschien af en toe wat grafieken of stambomen als visuele steun?

Meer naslagwerk dan lettervreterboek dus. Al weet ik nu wel meer van de Russische geschiedenis; ik snap er de Russen alleen nog niet door.

Het Kremlin: Een politieke en culturele geschiedenis, Catherine Merridale, Nieuw Amsterdam 2013

The Name of the Rose

On August 16, 1968, I was handed a book written by a certain Abbé Vallet, Le Manuscrit de Dom Adson de Melk, traduit en français d’après I’édition de Dom J. Mabillon(Aux Presses de l’Abbaye de la Source, Paris, 1842).

I gave Umberto Eco a second chance; now I know that he isn’t my kind of author. This was like my Art History class all over again. Except with a few murderous monks added.

With some authors, you don’t want to know other people’s opinions. With some, you need their support. I heard ‘Give him time’, ‘have patience’ and a lot of variations on that. Also that you need to appreciate an eye for detail, but there’s only so many details I can appreciate. It’s dense, I lost the story before it started, thinking back I can only remember frustrations. Besides a mild sense of interest towards the library of the monastery, some of those books sounded very cool.

I’m sure there’s plenty of other history-themed books out there I can enjoy.

The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco, Vintage Classics Random House 2004


Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley
I read stories by Naomi Novak before, and definitely loved her way of world building and kind of clean (fantasy sometimes can be quite fussy) tone of voice and writing. Uprooted was mentioned a lot in the past year, so I added it to my list and – when noticed that it was a hefty 600 pages – got even more excited. This author offered good fantasy stories, let’s do this!

Uprooted is a clunky, dull, stuffed C-History story that can’t even be brightened up by cool elements. The characters one sympathizes with are the horses.The victim that is around to give the main character a more human, caring side, is a more interesting character, but is only used for a sympathy vote. There is a romance that isn’t really a romance, and is there anything the protagonist enjoys? Is there something more she does than just being?

I don’t know if Novak wanted to make a Serious, Epic fantasy novel, but she ended up with a brick with some fantasy elements. A few, that is.

Uprooted, Naomi Novak, Random House 2015


89 min.

netflix-mascotsOh dear, what is this? A mockumentary, although the people starring are small-mindedly human enough to be straight from reality. And what is it about? Sport mascots, the people that dress up as animals (and other things) at sport games. The featured mascots are preparing for a world championship of mascots and accompanying con. The people attached to that are ..maybe even weirder, and in the worrying way.

Especially when sex and furries are added. It moves the not-documentary from ‘people very passionate about an unfamiliar hobby’ to ‘how many weirdos can we gather’.

In the end this made me more curious about the people in mascots, the real ones. Surely they’re not as annoying and frown-worthy as this lot. And hopefully they perform without a dancing poop.

Mascots, Netflix 2016