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Title: A Farewell to Arms
Author: Ernest Hemingway
Year: 1929

I have great difficulties understanding Ernest Hemingway. After reading The Old Man and the Sea, I, I had no trouble whatsoever understanding why he is so highly regarded. I enjoyed both the brilliant use of language and the simplicity of the story. I have read several of his short stories too, and they have also been very good. However, I have also read two novels which I found boring and uninspiring. The Sun Also Rises is one of them and, the subject of this review, A Farewell to Arms, is the other.

This story takes place in Italy during the Great War, and narrates a brief episode in the life of an American ambulance driver called Frederic Henry, how he is wounded and falls in love with a nurse. The novel’s focus is divided between the front and the harsh realities of war, as well as the more peaceful environment of a military hospital and his newly found love.

Some parts of this novel are interesting and well worth reading, especially the first few parts. What bothers me is that the story totally loses momentum somewhere around halfway, and just does not manage to finish gracefully. In fact, the last two parts of the novel feel like an over-extended epilogue. These parts being totally devoid of interesting content, I cannot possibly like this book. If the entire book would have resembled the last few chapters, I would probably give a grade of one snail or less.

However, that is not the case, and, admitting that he is good at writing, especially dialogue, I grant Hemingway two snails. I still do not understand him or A Farewell to Arms, though. How can I like some of his works so much, and then just not get the point of others?

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Titel: The Old Man and the Sea
Författare: Ernest Hemingway
Utgivningsår: 1952
Recenserad: 2007-05-03
Status: N/A

Ibland stöter jag på böcker som är bra nästan enbart på grund av att de är skickligt skrivna. Det bästa är förstås när innehållet också är fantastiskt, men ibland kan det räcka med att författaren är på gränsen till oändligt skicklig för att det ska bli bra i alla fall. The Old Man and the Sea är en sådan bok där innehållet skulle varit intetsägande eller rentav banalt om det inte hade berättats av en mästare.

Berättelsen handlar om en gammal kubansk fiskare som ger sig ut långt till havs och fångar en enorm märling. Fokus ligger på fiskaren och hans kamp med fisken och med havet, där fiskarens tankar kring sig själv, havet och fisken dominerar. Precis som jag påpekat är det knappast vad som händer som gör texten läsvärd, vilket är anledningen till att det nästan känns fånigt att redogöra för vad den handlar om.

Jag här läst en del av Hemingway innan, framförallt noveller, men nu senast också The Sun Also Rises (som jag verkligen inte gillade). Det här är utan minsta tvekan det bästa jag läst av honom och jag för er som inte är bekant med författaren är detta vad ni ska börja med. Eftersom den är relativt kort behöver man inte investera så mycket möda i den. Förhoppningsvis kommer ni att upptäcka att det är värt det många gånger om.

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Titel: The Sun Also Rises
Författare: Ernest Hemingway
Utgivningsår: 1926
Recenserad: 2007-02-13
Status:
N/A

The Sun Also Rises är den första romanen jag läser av Ernest Hemingway, även om jag stött på flera olika noveller av honom tidigare. Dessa fick mig att ha ganska höga förväntningar på den här romanen, vilket den tyvärr inte lyckades motsvara. Boken handlar om en grupp amerikaner (och en britt) i Paris. De är del av den generationen som blev förstörd av första världskriget och nu håller på att uppleva depressionens intåg. Egentligen lever de ett utsvävat liv som egentligen har ganska lite bekymmer utöver vad de skapar åt sig själva.

I ärlighetens namn har jag svårt att förstå varför den här boken anses bra. Visst är personskildringarna väldigt bra och Hemingway har också lyckats fånga stämningen i miljön på ett bra sätt, men utöver det finns det verkligen ingenting som fångar mitt intresse eller får mig att höja på ögonbrynen. Språket passar mig inte alls och jag skulle till och med kalla det för dåligt i vissa sammanhang. Allt detta hade kanske varit okej om de bra delarna hade varit superba, men det är de inte. De är bra eller mycket bra, men den lyftkraften boken får av dessa egenskaper är långt ifrån tillräckligt för att få hela ekipaget att lyfta.

Jag känner mig förvirrade efter The Sun Also Rises. Efter att ha kikat på vad andra säger om den, förstår jag fortfarande inte vari storheten ligger. Det märkliga är ju att jag har blivit riktigt imponerad av Hemingways språk i hans noveller, emedan jag här inte alls tycker om det. Nåja, min plan är att ändå läsa i alla fall en bok till av honom innan jag ger upp helt. Jag har The Old Man and the Sea i närheten, och det känns som en bok som är roligt att ha läst, om inte för allmänbildningens skull.

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Title: The Steep Approach to Garbadale
Author: Iain Banks
Year: 2007

There are two kinds of authors I admire: those who can write about something fairly mundane and making it interesting anyway (e.g. Graham Greene, Ernest Hemingway), and those whose strength mainly comes from brilliant ideas (e.g. Neil Gaiman, Neal Stephenson). Up until reading The Wasp Factory, Ian Banks was firmly in the latter category, but that novel together with The Steep approach to Garbadale put the author in the unique position of straddling both categories. He is, on the one hand, able to write epic science-fiction novels teeming with ingenious ideas and beautifully laid out plots, but on the other hand, he’s also fully capable of writing about quite normal people and their lives.

The events depicted in The Steep Approach to Garbadale have nothing to do with the far-flung weirdness of Look to Windward or any other of Bank’s science fiction. It’s simply a story about the Wupold family, the world-famous originators of the board game “Empire!”, which has evolved over the years and made the family extremely rich. As the story begins, an American corporation wants to buy the company, and Alban McGill, even though he has previously sold most of his shares, sets out on a quest to stop the take over.

This novel is about much more than that, though. Primarily, it’s about Alban himself, his adolescent romantic relationship to his cousin Sophie, his adult search for meaning and his desire to know more about his mysterious background. The story is told mostly through the eyes of Alban, but there are lots of exceptions. Flashbacks are very common and the chronology is far from straightforward. In all, the picture that emerges is complex, deep and credible.

By way of introduction, I said that Banks straddles the two categories of being able to write about the normal as well as the speculative or extraordinary. The Steep Approach to Garbadale is a really good novel, but perhaps it’s a little bit too mundane. The characters are interesting and Banks’ way of writing about them (especially dialogue) is stunning as usual, but that cannot entirely make up for the fact that the basic story isn’t that original and not that exciting. However, I still think this novel is good enough to merit four snails; it definitely proves that Banks is an author of singular talent. What I would like to see now is the perfect mixture of Banks’s realistic side and his speculative side, because even though such a combination is perhaps paradoxical, if he succeeds, such a novel certainly has the potential of being among the best I’ve ever read.

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Reading Nobel Prize winners is always nice, because they combine education and pleasure. Or rather, they provide at least one of them, if not both. In other words, if a particular book is not interesting, it is at least educational to have read it. Generally speaking, Nobel Prize winners are of course skilled writers, so even if I do not enjoy a book as such, it might be interesting for other reasons. Disregarding the few exceptions, I have liked what I have read. The average for the following ten books is 3,5 out of 5, but please note that four books have received an outstanding 4,5 out of 5. Of these authors, I plan to read more books written by Gao Xingjian, Orhan Pamuk and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who have all made a deep impression on me. Of course, I also plan to read more Nobel Prize winners in general.

1. Harry Martinson – Aniara (4/5)
2. George Bernard Shaw – Pygmalion (3/5)
3. Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Hundra år av ensamhet (4,5/5)
4. Albert Camus – L’étranger (3/5)
5. Ernest Hemingway – The Sun Also Rises (2/5)
6. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (4,5/5)
7. Gao Xingjian – One Man’s Bible (4,5/5)
8. Eyvind Johnson – Drömmar om rosor och eld (3/5)
9. Orhan Pamuk – Snow (4,5/5)
10. Doris Lessing – The Grass is Singing (2/5)

Entering this task on my 101-in-1001 list was an excellent move. It made me read a lot of fiction I would otherwise have missed. I have found a couple of new authors I like and I have educated myself at the same time. I am satisfied.

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Note: This is my old 101-in-1001 list that was started in 2005. I launched another one in 2010, so the old list has been moved to this post to make room for the new one. I finished about three fourths of this list and some of the things I accomplished I’m still proud of today. A handful of unfinished tasks on this list also made their way to the new list.

Click here to go to the new 101-in-1001 list launched in September 2010!

The 101-in-1001 list

This project was started by Triplux and I came to know about it via Kendoka.se and Yasylum. At first I thought it was rather silly, but I soonI started compiling my own list. For various reasons, this project was put on ice at the end of 2008 and its fate is as yet undetermined, even though it seems likely I will eventually complete, if not all, then most tasks on the list.

The mission

Complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days. My mission will end on New Year’s Eve 2008. The tasks should me as unambiguous as possible, although I have diverted from this in some cases where it is utterly impossible to assess a clear goal. 1001 days is long enough to accomplish some of the more demanding tasks on the list and 101 tasks seems to be about as many good ideas as I can come up with. My intention is to give each task a solid try and I my goal is to complete all of them, make no mistake about that.

I also intend update the list and write about the projects (a list of published articles can be found here). By doing this, I put pressure on my self but I also hope that I can inspire other people to do things they want to.

– A task that I have not started

– A task that I have started but not completed

– A task that I have completed

– A task that I have failed with

Personal development

001 – Attend a first-aid course
002 – Spend 25 hours studying anatomy (16/25)
003 – Find out what is wrong with my back
004 – Learn to drive a car (I’m not allowed a license due to poor eye-sight)
005 – Create a character sheet describing myself in detail
006 – Send a photo of myself to random people and ask them to describe what kind of person I am
007 – Meditate 25 times (2/25)
008 – Write 25 private diary entries (12/25))
009 – Spend 50 hours learning to draw (12/50)
010 – Identify 100 things that make me happy
011 – Spend 25 hours researching sleeping and dreaming (15/25)
012 – Write an article about sleeping
013 – Have unscathed fingers for a month (started 08/08/10)

Professional development

014 – Record an audio book in English (Stardust chosen)
015 – Learn and write about the five top origins of migration to sweden
016 – Get the three remaining points from my psychology education
017 – Write five serious articles in English

1. Listening to audio books
2. Why I dislike long novels
3. The illusory choice of postponement
4. Relieving a burdened mind
5. Quo vadis, Taiwan?

018 – Make a list of 1001 words in English and learn them (list compiled)
019 – Make a list of 1001 Chinese characters and learn them
020 – Finish “SprÃ¥ket i mittens rike” by Jonas Björklund
021 – Learn Zhuyin fuhao
022 – Get 2.0 on the Swedish Scholastic Aptitude Test (need not to be formal due to the cost)

Physical development and activities

023 – Swim 10 000 metres in 4 hours
024 – Do one-and-a-half forward somersaults with one twist
025 – Run 42 kilometres
026 – Submit myself to a health examination
027 – Complete one serious exercise program (at least one month)
028 – Manage a free handstand for one minute
029 – Do 25 chin-ups
030 – Hike 50 kilometres with a 10-kilo rucksack in one day
031 – Walk 100 metres on my hands (63 record)
032 – Learn to orient
033 – Stretch after all physical activity for a month
034 – Buy a high-quality rucksack for hiking
035 – Try 5 different new sporting activities

1. Trampoline
2. Diving
3. Scuba diving
4. Unicycling
5. Volleyball

Reading

036 – Have read a total of 10 books by Philip K. Dick

1. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
2. The Man in the High Castle
3. A Scanner Darkly
4. Ubik
5. Galactic Pot-healer
6. Martian Time-Slip
7. Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said
8. A Maze of Death
9. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
10. The Father-thing

037 – Have read a total of 5 books by Ray Bradbury

1. Fahrenheit 451
2. The Day it Rained Forever
3. S is for Space
4. Something Wicked This Way Comes
5. From the Dust Returned

038 – Have read a total of 5 books by Neil Gaiman

1. American Gods
2. Coraline
3. Good Omens
4. Stardust
5. Neverwhere

039 – Read 10 works by Nobel Prize winners

1. Harry Martinson – Aniara
2. George Bernard Shaw – Pygmalion
3. Gabriel Garcia Marquez РHundra ̴r av ensamhet
4. Albert Camus – L’étranger
5. Ernest Hemingway – The Sun Also Rises
6. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
7. Gao Xingjian – One Man’s Bible
8. Eyvind Johnson РDr̦mmar om rosor och eld
9. Orhan Pamuk – Snow
10. Doris Lessing – The Grass is Singing

040 – Read 10 books in Swedish

1. Harry Martinson – Aniara
2. Gabriel Garcia Marquez РHundra ̴r av ensamhet
3. Albert Camus – FrÀmlingen
4. Tove Janson – Pappan och havet
5. Catharina Lillieh̦̦k РMei wenti!
6. Wu Chen’en – FÀrden till VÀstern, del 1, Den gyllene cikadan
7. Hjalmar Șderberg РDoktor Glas
8. Michail Bulgakov – MÀstaren och Margarita
9. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – En dag i Ivan Denisovitjs liv
10. Vilhelm Moberg – Rid i natt!

041 – Read ten different comics

1. The Sandman
2. Hellboy
3. Watchmen
4. The Authority
5. WE3
6. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
7. Sleeper – Out in the Cold
8. The Books of Magic
9. Kid Eternity
10. The Filth

042 – Read a book in French
043 – Read all Hugo Award winning novels (47/55)

2008. Michael Chabon – The Yiddish Policemen’s Union.
2007. Vernor Vinge – Rainbows End
2006. Robert Charles Wilson – Spin
2005. Susanna Clarke – Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel
2004. Lois McMaster Bujold – Paladin of Souls
2003. Robert J. Sawyer – Hominids
2002. Neil Gaiman – American Gods
2001. J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
2000. Vernor Vinge – A Deepness in the Sky
1999. Connie Willis – To Say Nothing of the Dog
1998. Joe Haldeman – Forever Peace
1997. Kim Stanley Robinson – Blue Mars
1996. Neal Stephenson – The Diamond Age
1995. Lois McMaster Bujold – Mirror Dance
1994. Kim Stanley Robinson – Green Mars
1993 a. Vernor Vinge – A Fire Upon the Deep
1993 b. Connie Willis – Doomsday Book
1992. Lois McMaster Bujold – Barrayar
1991. Lois McMaster Bujold – The Vor Game
1990. Dan Simmons – Hyperion
1989. C.J. Cherryh – Cyteen
1988. David Brin – The Uplift War
1987. Orson Scott Card – Speaker for the Dead
1986. Orson Scott Card – Ender’s Game
1985. William Gibson – Neuromancer
1984. David Brin – Startide Rising
1983. Isaac Asimov – Foundation’s Edge
1982. C.J. Cherryh – Downbelow Station
1981. Joan D. Vinge – The Snow Queen
1980. Arthur C. Clarke – The Fountains of Paradise
1979. Vonda McIntyre – Dreamsnake
1978. Fredrik Pohl – Gateway
1977. Kate Wilhelm – Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang
1976. Joe Haldeman – The Forever War
1975. Ursula K. Le Guin – The Dispossessed
1974. Arthur C. Clarke – Rendez-vous With Rama
1973. Isaac Asimov – The Gods Themselves
1972. Philip Jos Farmer – To Your Scattered Bodies Go
1971. Larry Niven – Ringworld
1970. Ursula K. Le Guin – The Left Hand of Darkness
1969. John Brunner – Stand on Zanzibar
1968. Roger Zelazny – Lord of Light
1967 a). Frank Herbert – Dune
1967 b). Robert A. Heinlein – The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
1966. Roger Zelazny – This Imortal
1965. Fritz Leiber – The Wanderer
1964. Clifford D. Simak – Way Station
1963. Philip K. Dick – The Man in the High Castle
1962. Robert A. Heinlein – Stranger in a Strange Land
1961. Walter M. Miller, Jr. – A Canticle for Leibowitz
1960. Robert A. Heinlein – Starship Troopers
1959. James Blish – A Case of Conscience
1958. Fritz Leiber – The Big Time
1957. No Hugo Award
1956. Robert A. Heinlein – Double Star
1955. Mark Clifton, Frank Riley – They’d Rather Be Right
1954. No Hugo Award
1953. Alfred Bester – The Demolished Man

044 – Buy a really good book and pass it on to someone, so that he or she can pass it on when they have read it
045 – Read the Bible
046 – Read the Quran
047 – Read John Milton’s Paradise Lost

Writing

048 – Finish my RPG Magneter och mirakel
049 – Finish my freelancing project “Tornet mot Stjrnorna”
050 – Write a novel (first chapter written)
051 – Write fiction in English
052 – Write an article on the strategy of Carcassonne
053 – Write an article about one-eyed vision
054 – Write an article about audio books
055 – Write five short stories (1)

Computer activity

056 – Reorganise www.snigel.nu
057 – Complete the missing sections on Snigel.nu
058 – Get detailed statistics working for Snigel.nu
059 – Review all books read and all movies watched during the period
060 – Make my contribution to the new Rollspel.nu version
061 – Change and organise passwords and logins
062 – Go through and sort all personal files
063 – 500 characters per minute for two minutes
064 – Make someone change from Qwerty to Dvorak
065 – Buy a scanner
066 – One week without using a computer

Media consumption

067 – Watch the top 100 movies on IMDB (33/100
068 – Watch 5 movies from each continent

Africa
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Asia
1. Cowboy Bebop: The Movie
2. Kiki’s Delivery Service
3. NausicaÀ of the Valley of the Wind
4. Grave of the Fireflies
5. Howl’s Moving Castle
Europe
1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
2. Asterix tolv stordåd
3. Snatch
4. Educating Rita
5. A Clockwork Orange
North America
1. Gattaca
2. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
3. I, Robot
4. The Shawshank Redemption
5. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Oceania
1. Whale Rider
2. Mad Max
3.
4.
5.
South America
1. City of God
2.
3.
4.
5.

069 – Watch 10 movies by Hayao Miyazaki

1. Spirited Away
2. My Neighbor Totoro
3. Princess Mononoke
4. Laputa: Castle in the Sky
5. Kiki’s Delivery Service
6. Nausicaaa of the Valley of the Wind
7. Howl’s Moving Castle
8. The Castle of Cagliostro
9. Porco Rosso
10. Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

070 – Watch 5 movies in Mandarin Chinese

1. The Emperor and the Assassin
2. Warriors of Heaven and Earth
3. Raise the Red Lantern
4. Curse of the Golden Flower
5. Cape No. 7

071 – Buy something from Hans-Werner Sahm
072 – Compile a “best of Snigel” CD and trade it with 10 others for their favourite music
073 – Watch a movie at the cinema

Everyday life

074 – Change one aspect of my appearance
075 – Manage my economy without borrowing any money (looking good)
076 – Cook 50 new dishes (25/50)
077 – Analyse what I eat for a week
078 – Use dental floss every day for a month (2007-09-24)
079 – Throw, give away or store everything I do not need
080 – Assemble a digital address book
081 – Actually get up when the alarm sounds in the morning for one month
082 – Learn to sleep comfortably on my back
083 – Donate blood
084 – Exercise Nei Kung in the morning before breakfast for one month
085 – Collect images, quotes or scraps and put them on display (44/100)
086 – Organise and catalogue all my books
087 – Backup, sort and reorganise all my audio books
088 – Backup, sort and reorganise all my music
089 – Get some fancy business cards
090 – Buy a pair of high-quality boots

Experience and play

091 – Spend a week alone away from civilization
092 – Watch a full sunrise or sunset
093 – Spend one day blindfolded
094 – Solve Rubik’s Cube in one minute
095 – Build and fly a kite
096 – Watch a candle burn down
097 – Play marbles
098 – Participate in a total of 250 sessions of Antioch

Meta

099 – Publish something about each task on the list
100 – Get someone to start a list of their own
101 – Write a concluding essay on the subject of this list

My project will end on New Year’s Eve (December 31st) 2008.
It is left.

I have 27 more things to do.