Gissa refuseringen

Dorothy Parker’s Ashes har man sammanställt Literary Rejections: The Ultimate Quiz. Sammanlagt 16 formuleringar ur refuseringar ska paras samman med ett av fyra svarsalternativ. Det här är två exempel:

2. “I rack my brains as to why a chap should need thirty pages to describe how he turns over in bed before going to sleep.” 

  1. Karl Ove Knausgaard
  2. Marcel Proust
  3. David Foster Wallace
  4. Robert Musil

15. “I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.”

  1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  2. Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce
  3. American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis
  4. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Det är svårt, själv prickade jag rätt fyra gånger, med lite tur.

Ola Wihlke

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Under Notiser

Sheila Heti: Pure Colour (audio)

Sheila Heti
Pure Colour
Narrator: Sheila Heti
Macmillan Audio

”Most fiction writers are driven to find their own ‘voice,’ but I am more interested in the voices of others.”
– Sheila Heti

God is finishing his first draft of the world. He takes one step back and evaluates his creation. It’s magnificent, at least aesthetically, but not entirely perfect. He creates birds, fish, and bears:

”People born from the bird egg are interested in beauty, order, harmony and meaning. They look at nature from on high, in an abstract way, and consider the world as if from a distance. These people are like birds soaring—flighty, fragile and strong.”

”People born from a fish egg appear in a flotation of jelly, and this jelly contains hundreds of thousands of eggs, where the most important thing is not any individual egg, but the condition of the many. […] For fish, it’s the collective conditions that count.”

”A person born from a bear egg is like a child holding on to their very best doll. Bears do not have a pragmatic way of thinking, in which their favorites can be sacrificed for some higher end. They are deeply consumed with their own.”

Fast forward to modern, but not postmodern times (there are no smart-phones or social media), and a lamp shop where young Mira works. It only sells Tiffany lamps and Mira’s task is to turn them off when the shop close. Thus begins Sheila Heti’s original and mesmerizing and existential tale Pure Colour, read by the author herself.

Mira, a bird person, maybe a little fish and bear too, applies to and gets admission to a prestigious school for critics, American School of American Critics, and there she falls head over heels for Annie, whom Mira believes to be a fish person, beautiful and self-confident. Mira gets the sensation that a large vagina opens in her chest when she meets Annie.

The main characters are Mira, Annie and Mira’s father, a typical bear person, who passes away but is encapsulated in a leaf of a tree. Mira chooses to keep her father company in the leaf, leaving Annie behind, at least for a while. Pure Colour is not particularly long, but it covers a vast amount of subjects: religion, the meaning of life, the meaninglessness of life, criticism, love, friendship and family, just to mention a few.

Heti’s reading is very sensitive and rhythmically pleasing. Heti’s narration is serious, but the weirdness of the story is often hilarious. The book is read as if the text was a fairy tale, for philosophically minded listeners. The tone is somewhat similar to the tone of stories by Italian author Italo Calvino (1923-1985) Both he and Heti can make you believe almost anything, they can make you want to believe anything.

Ola Wihlke

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Under Recensioner

Orden som medicin och gift


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Under Recensioner

Interview: Marcus Baynes-Rock on hyena-human interactions in Harar

The sun has set and outside the walls of the ancient city Harar, Ethiopia, a man is sitting on the ground behind a woven basket. It contains scraps of meat and the man, also known as a Hyena Man, puts a piece on a stick. Suddenly, a large hyena mounts the back of the man, reaches beside his head, and snatches the meat from the stick. Tourists watching the event light up the darkness when they try to capture the unusual moment with their iPhones and cameras.

Feeding wild hyenas is a tourist attraction in Harar but interactions between humans and hyenas have taken place for centuries, and the hyenas also enter the city of Harar in search of food provided by the citizens. They leave bones in the streets for the hyenas.

Hyenas have massive jaws and a group of hyenas can devour a prey, a zebra or a wildebeest, in 20 minutes. They only leave hoofs and hair behind. In Harar hyenas are also known as bone eaters.

And Among the Bone Eaters is the title of a spectacular and adventurous book by Australian anthropologist Marcus Baynes-Rock. Subtitle: Encounters with Hyenas in Harar. Baynes-Rock studied interactions between hyenas and humans in Harar for several years, expanding the boundaries of anthropology and our knowledge about the spotted hyena.

How did you get the idea to study hyena-human interactions in eastern Ethiopia? 

– I was always interested in evolutionary relationships between our human and large carnivore ancestors and this led me to study contemporary hyenas. I was reading Hans Kruuk’s seminal work on spotted hyena predation and social behavior and I found a brief passage about Harar. Kruuk describes the hyenas in Harar entering into the town at night and being ‘encouraged’ by the locals.

– I was looking for a Ph.D. project at the time and my honors coordinator, Marcus Barber, suggested that I do an ethnography on hyenas and humans in Harar. I wrote up a proposal and was granted a scholarship from Macquarie University. So without really meaning to I slid pretty seamlessly from Palaeoanthropology into Social Anthropology and multispecies ethnography and before long found myself on a plane to Ethiopia.  

What are some of the most surprising and significant results of your research? 

– Probably the most significant results pertain to the way that people in the Harar Region conceive of hyenas. They consider hyenas a parallel society with a lot of the characteristics that we would ascribe to human societies. In this way, there is an ethical dimension to their dealings with hyenas and in the ways that hyenas respond to humans. A clear example of this was the way that the community in Kombolcha responded to a series of hyena attacks on children.

– They sought a reason for why the hyenas might have acted that way and determined that it was due to a poisoning incident in which several hyenas were killed. The attacks were seen as acts of retribution for the poisoning. The municipality sought to find an elder who could communicate with the hyenas in order to arrive at a truce. This is markedly different to the ways that animal attacks on humans are conceived of in my own country. 

– Also significant was the permeable nature of the hyena clan boundaries in Harar. Where hyenas live in high concentrations in reserves and national parks, they tend to be very particular about their boundaries and defend them very aggressively, to the point where hyenas transgressing might be killed. In Harar’s Old Town it’s not possible to maintain boundaries by use of scent or visual markers because of the layout of the town and the lack of vegetation. As a result of this, I found hyenas from different clans interacting peacefully within the Old Town. Yet, these same hyenas would engage in aggressive interclan conflicts outside of the Old Town at a place that was an agreed boundary. 

You befriended hyenas from the Sofi clan, especially three of them. Please tell us a little bit about them, what you did while hanging out and what you learned from them. 

– The three hyenas were Willi, Baby, and Kamareeya. They were each unique although the one thing that they had in common was that they were from the same age group. Mostly I followed these hyenas around Harar’s Old Town but there were times when we just hung out together on the hill outside the town and even played together. They showed me the subtleties of hyena communication and I eventually learned to grasp some of the things they were trying to communicate to me, such as ‘Follow me!’ or ‘Get off, that’s my bone!’ They also enlisted me at times, using my presence to fend off aggressive dogs and other hyenas. 

The hyenas get food from the citizens of Harar. What do they get from the hyenas? How do they perceive them? How do the hyena inform their belief systems? 

– The citizens of Harar consider themselves to have a deal with hyenas. They provide food and leave the hyenas in peace and in return the hyenas refrain from attacking any citizens and protect the townspeople from dangerous, outsider hyenas and unseen spirits known as jinn. I guess you could say that they see the hyenas as benevolent but with conditions, and so they understand the ethical dimension of their relationship. Hyenas fit pretty seamlessly into the Muslim belief system in Harar, in that they are believed to control jinn, and they serve as messengers for the deceased Sufi ‘saints’ who look after the town.  

Were more orthodox anthropologists and zoologists skeptical towards your research at first? Or maybe envious? 

– I haven’t experienced any skepticism toward my research other than from behaviorists who suggest that the hyenas who I engaged with might have just been conditioned rather than engaging as persons. That’s a pitiably impoverished view that isn’t worth my time addressing. I have had interest from hyena researchers but in no way do they see my research as invalid and in fact, they have taken some of their experiments to Harar to see how urban hyenas might differ from ‘wild’ hyenas. 

Deborah Bird Rose was your doctoral supervisor. Has she he influenced your research in any significant way? 

– She influenced me insofar as she gave me way too much room in which to explore ideas. So I was kind of lost in terms of theory and what it was I was seeking to understand. I’ve since understood Debbie’s philosophy in greater depth and this has had an impact on my work on domestication in Australia.

Many thanks to Baynes-Rock for taking my questions.

Check out his critical study of domestication in Australia, Crocodile Undone, also published by Penn State University Press.

Among the Bone Eaters and Crocodile Undone are part of PSUP:s very fine book series Animalibus: Of Animals and Cultures

Visit Marcus Baynes-Rock’s website Hyenas in Harar.

Ola Wihlke

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Under Intervjuer

Jessica Allen, still lifes of books

A while ago I was going to read an article about the book business, but my gaze was immediately drawn to the illustration, an image of a still life of a stack of books, by British painter Jessica Allen. I googled her and found her home page, a treasure trove of images of still lifes of mundane objects: boxes, paper bags and books.

The paintings have an almost dreamlike and contemplative quality, somewhat akin to the still lifes of Giorgio Morandi (1890–1964), whose paintings are noted for their tonal refinement in depicting everyday objects: bottles, bowls and vases. But Jessica Allens still lifes of books speaks more directly to me. They are, in a sense, adventurous, despite the mundane subject matter and muted colors.

Allen granted me permission to display a few images. Thank you.

Click on the images to enlarge them.

All images © Jessica Allen

Ola Wihlke

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Under Bokomslag bilder och foto

Quit Lit, kvinnor som slutat dricka

”Sometimes (especially when working on a deadline) I holed up in my apartment for days on end, drinking from morning until I passed out.”
– Holly Whitaker, Quit Like a Woman

Lesley Alderman, psykoterapeut från Brooklyn, har identifierat en ny genre berättelser. Han har introducerats till den av sina patienter. Det är självbiografisk böcker, skrivna av kvinnor för kvinnor, som handlar om att bli kvitt sitt missbruk eller beroende av alkohol. Han kallar skildringarna för Quit Lit.

I en faktatät artikel i Washington Post, ”‘Drinking until I passed out’: Quit Lit targets women’s sobriety”, tecknar Alderman en ganska dyster bild av alkoholvanorna bland amerikanska kvinnor. Deras alkoholvanor liknar allt mer männens alkoholvanor, samtidigt som kvinnor tål alkohol sämre än män. Det kanske är en förklaring till de här böckernas attraktionskraft. Alderman nämner ett 10-tal titlar.

Ett boktips, men inte Quit Lit, är Olivia Laings hyllade The Trip to Echo Spring om stordrinkarna Tennessee Williams, F Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Cheever, Carver, Berryman och deras minst sagt trassliga förhållande till alkoholen. Läs ett utdrag ur boken här.

Ola Wihlke

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Under Notiser

Om den älskade tygkassen (the literary tote)

En tote bag (amerikanska) är en tygkasse, vanligtvis i grovt tyg, med platt botten och handtag. Den är oansenlig i sig, men inom bokvärlden – förlag, tidskrifter och bokhandlar – har den länge varit ett fenomen, ett åtråvärt föremål som många bokälskare samlar på. Och inget tyder på att den är på väg att bli omodern.

Förlag, tidskrifter och bokhandlar, låter trycka sina loggor eller namn på tote bags, säljer dem eller, som tidskriften New Yorker, ger bort dem till nya prenumeranter. Det påstås att New Yorker delat ut eller sålt 500.000 tote bags. Man har därmed även skapat en armé av personer som gör reklam för ens varumärke, personer som identifierar sig med ens varumärke och bär det som en statusmarkör eller ett statement. Vill du att andra ska veta att du läser The Paris Review? Då kan du köpa någon av deras hysteriskt snygga totes (om de finns i lager).

I en artikel i kanadensiska The Walrus”Our Tote Bags, Ourselves” – berättar Maija Kappler om tygkassens ursprung och utveckling:

”In the 1880s, a newspaper owner named Jasper Meek was looking out the window of his print shop in Coshocton, Ohio, when he saw a young girl drop her school books. As the story now goes, the sight inspired him to fashion a burlap bag in which people could carry books. But Meek also had an entrepreneurial mind, and he figured out a way to maximize his profit: he’d charge local businesses to print their names on the bags, which then served as tiny billboards as they were carried across town.”

Out of Print

Med början 1944 fick tygkassen ett nytt uppsving, berättar Maija Kappler. Då kallades den ”ice bag”, eftersom man bar is i den. Och vidare:

”The bag was relaunched in the ’60s and hasn’t changed in any meaningful way since: wide, made of structured canvas, with a flat bottom, reinforced handles, a trim available in several colours, and the option of a custom monogram. The company now offers a variety of shapes and sizes, but the classic tote is still one of its bestsellers.”

Kappler tecknar i breda drag hur the tote bag har utvecklats från en tygkasse som mest var en angelägenhet för arbetare till att ha blivit en statusmarkör för literati och litteraturnördar. De stora europeiska modehusen, som Prada och Hermès, har (naturligtvis) approprierat tygkassen, men deras tote bags är inte tillverkade av grovt tyg, förmodligen av skinn eller något i den stilen.

Ola Wihlke

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Under Artiklar

Vad retar sig läsarna mest på – från drömmar till kursiveringar

För några veckor sedan frågade Ron Charles, litteraturkritiker på Washington Post, sina läsare vad de retade sig mest på när de läser böcker. Responsen var en tsunami av galla, skriver Charles som förvånades över att flera hundra personer svarade. Det verkar som om Charles fråga svarade mot ett undertryckt behov att vädra sitt missnöje.

En kort lista med några av läsarnas irritationsmoment: kursiveringar, särskilt om de är långa och många, drömmar, anakronismer, faktafel, bekymrade karaktärer som nyper tag om näsroten med tummen och pekfingret, kvinnliga karaktärer som kommer hem efter en riktigt tuff dag på jobbet och tar en varm dusch, författare som gjort slarvig research om Kanada, svårigheter att skilja mellan dialog och omgivande text på grund av frånvaro av citattecken, och onaturligt intelligenta barn eller djur. Klichéer av alla upptänkliga slag.

Många läsare ger exempel från specifika böcker eller om författare. Det klagas en hel del på Cormac McCarthy, avseende överdrivet många och långa kursiveringar och bristfällig åtskilnad mellan dialog och löpande text. Läs artikeln här.

Skriv gärna om något som du irriterar dig på när du läser böcker.

Ola Wihlke

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Under Notiser

J.M. Coetzee vill motverka engelskans hegemoni

Nobelpristagaren och firade författaren J.M. Coetzee är inte förtjust i engelskans hegemoni, skriver  Colin Marshall i en artikel i New Yorker. Han vill bjuda lite motstånd genom att ge ut sin kommande roman, utkommer i augusti, först på spanska och sedan på engelska. Romanen utspelar sig i Barcelona, så det finns ju en spansk koppling. Är det ett marknadsföringsknep?

Coetzee verkar hursomhelst genuint upprörd över engelska språkets hegemoni och dess negativa konsekvenser. Marshall citerar vad författaren sagt apropå detta under en litteraturfestival:

”I don’t like its universalist pretensions, by which I mean its uninterrogated belief that the world is as it seems to be in the mirror of the English language. I don’t like the arrogance that this situation breeds in its native speakers. Therefore, I do what little I can to resist the hegemony of the English language.”

Något helt annat. Coetzee förknippas kanske inte i första hand med humor, men Marshall anser att det här är det innevarande årtusendets roligaste bok:


Ola Wihlke

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Under Notiser, Nyheter

Nyupptäckt (lång) intervju med Clarice Lispector

Köp dina Lispector-böcker direkt från Bokförlaget Tranan

En nyupptäckt intervju från 70-talet med ukrainsk-brasilianska författarinnan Clarice Lispector (1920-1977) har publicerats i New Yorker. Den presenteras av Benjamin Moser, som har översatt Lispector till engelskan och skrivit en biografi över henne: Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector.

Intervjun presenteras som den mest omfattande Lispector gav, översatt och publicerad på engelska för första gången. Den handlar om allt från namnet Lispector, barnböcker och litterära agenter till skrivprocessen och influenser. Mycket underhållande, men kanske mer som ett förtroligt samtal – Clarice kände paret som ställde frågorna – än en konventionell intervju.

Ola Wihlke

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Under Intervjuer, Nyheter