Saturday, December 25, 2010

It wasn't finding that Santa didn't exist that upset her; but finding out her parents had been lying to her for years.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Reading Challenges Update

I've now also signed up for the Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge, which actually shouldn't be too much of a challenge for me as I have recently read at least one book by Murakami every year and I have three of his books as yet unread on my bookshelves, so....

If you want to join in you can find out more here.

Meanwhile, Sandy commented on my post about the Italy in Books Challenge that he would struggle to find enough books set in Italy. So here are some recommendations:

Any book by Alessandro Barrico or Italo Calvino that is set in Italy
The Floating Book by Michelle Lovric
The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco
The Tuscan Master by Peter Adamson
The Igauna by Anna Maria Ortese
Cooking with Fermat Branca by James Hamilton Paterson
Il Vizio dell'Agnello by Andrea Pinketts (though I don't know whether this has been translated into English)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Italy in Books Reading Challenge

This is the second of Brighton Blogger's Reading Challenges on her Book after Book blog. The Italy in Books Challenge asks us to read at least 12 books set in Italy between 1 January 2011 and 31 December 2011. Whether written by Italian authors or not, it doesn’t matter. They don’t have to be set exclusively in Italy but this country needs to play a significant role in the book. The challenge can include non-fiction books about Italy.

If you want to join in, you can find out more here.

LGBT Reading Challenge

Brighton Blogger is co-ordinating a couple of reading challenges at her Book After Book blog. I've signed up for both of them! The first one is the LGBT Reading Challenge. The challenge is to read any number of LGBT books in the calendar year 2011. There are prizes each month!

What qualifies as LGBT reading? Brighton Blogger will accept reviews of books whose author, topic and/or whose characters (even minor ones) is/are lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender. Fiction and non-fiction titles are equally accepted.

If you feel like joining in you can find out more here.

I will read at least two LGBT books next year and will post the reviews on this blog.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Photographing Reality

(For Eve Arnold)

Your untaught hands picked up a camera
and never put it down, finding
instinct for the picture
that carries the burden of history
so lightly it seems no burden at all.

Icons of stage and screen; children and women
whose lives are never seen,
all gently caught; held
in your gaze, your lens capturing
the essence of their lives and times.

Deceptively simple is this art of yours,
framing faces in a view-finder
to create a pleasing image
that seems by accident to encapsulate
history, yet somehow magically transcends it.

Thursday, December 09, 2010


Monsters is a low budget film about aliens for people who value subtlety over big bangs. It is a very impressive achievement, it looks gorgeous (particularly the scens in the Mexican rainforests), is compelling viewing and thought provoking too.

It is set in Mexico, six years after alien lifeforms (giant octopuses that hatch from fungi like structures on trees) have taken hold there and an infected zone between Mexico and the USA has been isolated, separating the two countries. This separation is emphasised by a towering wall built along the border.

Andrew is a photojournalist working on documenting the aliens and charged with bringing his boss's daughter Sam back to the USA. The threat of the aliens is advancing such that, due to a combination of circumstances they find themselves unable to get a ferry back to the USA and opt to make their way through the infected zone. This journey is characterised by huge tension due to the ever present threat of the aliens with the occasional glimpse of the monsters themselves and the damage they can cause.

Finally the pair make it to the USA and have a final encounter with the aliens that leaves them wondering whether they are actually as dangerous as they have been portrayed (they certainly prove to be fascinating and beautiful in this scene).

The film is very thought provoking too. I was constantly struck with how the USA treats Mexican immigrants (I'm currently reading Crossing with the Virgin - Stories from the Migrant Trail, which I will review here in the near future). The journey that Andrew and Sam make through the infected zone brought to mind the perils many immigrants make through the Arizona desert in their attempts to reach family or jobs in the USA. Plus the border wall seems something that could become a reality in the future. I was also particularly struck by the US Army reaction of spraying vast areas of the forest with poisons to kill off the aliens, which brought to mind images of the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam.

Text in green contains hyperlinks to pages where you can find out more!