Saturday 22 August 2009

A trip to the National Gallery: Harry Clarke's Illustrations

I went to the National Gallery the other day, with a new friend of mine. It's not something you do normally, when you're living in a place. It's what tourists do. Besides, I had been to the gallery two times already. But it turned out a completely new experience this time. I watched the paintings more carefully. We admired them, laughed at them, we were moved by them.
But what sticked with me most of all was a little temporary exhibition of an artist called Harry Clarke. In 1916 he illustrated Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales, and now 10 of these illustrations are exhibited in our Nation Gallery until 20 September.
If you are anywhere near Dublin, I urge you to go see them, cause they are amazing!

These are in colour:

These in black and white:

They were so rich and detailed, so imaginative and wild. I wished I could have bought the reproduced booklet, but it was too late and the shop was closed. I'll definitely go back and buy it so I can look at them whenever I want and be amazed by them again and again.

Friday 14 August 2009

Catching Up Part I

I think it's time I face my fears and start blogging again!:P
I have stayed away, kinda overwhelmed by the amount of reviews I have to write. So what I'm gonna do is skip the detailed ramblings and cut to the essential. I want to say something about everything I read lately, but it's gonna be short! Hopefully.
During holidays I was on fire! I read non-stop, it was brilliant.
But before getting to the holiday read I have to catch up on some even older reads:

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
It was good, but not great. Didn't like the writing much, maybe it has to do with the Italian translation. It felt a bit redundant, melodramatic, and old fashion. I liked the story, just not the way it was told. Also the fact the twists were told instead of shown took away from the wow factor. I foresaw one of the main ones, it wasn't too hard. It was entertaining, though, and I get why many people loved it. The premises were good, the pages were easy to turn. It just probably didn't feel very close to the narrator. It also rambled about secondary plots that weren't useful for the main one and were a bit confusing. There was definitely a lack of good female characters, which is usually a big factor for me for liking or not liking a book.
For the good bits: Fermin. I loved him! I liked the ending. I liked how the two lives of Daniel and Julian paralleled. I liked the role of books. And the faith of Hugo's pen...
But, what's with the angels? So many of them. Obviously he likes angels very much.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery was a pleasant, amusing mix of domestic storytelling and philosophy. I'm not a big fan of philosophy, but I am of good writing.
I loved Renee, the concierge of an exclusive Paris apartment building and Palome, the 12 year-old girl who lives in it. They were very similar as they both hid from the world, pretending to be someone they're not. They're both exceptional in their own way.
The essence of the book could be about the importance of little things, of the little miracles, the "small always in the never". Like the blossom that falls off its plant; the feeling of the rain on your shoulders; the music that stops everything in a bubble of eternity.
Some of the philosophical stuff was useless talk to me (is a table really a table or the idea of a table?). It bored the hell of out me, but if you don't linger too much on those parts, it's definitely worth a read.

Missing Angel Juan by Francesca Lia Block.
My honeymoon with FLB's writing is still on. More of Witch Baby, all by herself in the huge New York. Who could ask for more? Still magical, still ethereal, still urban fairytale. I want to write like her!

Tapping the Dream Tree by Charles de Lint.
I finished it!!! Wow!
I shouldn't even be talking about it cause I've raved enough about it, but the thing is that the last story was actually a short novel and it was BRILLIANT!
It's called Seven Wild Sisters and if you can find it anywhere on its own BUY IT! Here's the cover for it.
Reading it put a happy feeling in me. It really made me feel good about being alive and being able to read stories like this one. It wasn't extraordinary. It was simple, in a comforting way. Like eating fresh bread with butter and honey, or any of your favourite food, on a summer day, lying on the grass. There are fairies, there is danger too. But you know there will be a happy ending.
So so so recommended.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.
OK, how do I do this? It's Neil Gaiman, so it's hard, but I have to be honest. I didn't fall in love with this one. I enjoyed the characters (Door!). I loved the idea, the humour, the wild imagination. But I didn't connect with the story that much. I was a bit like Richard, never knowing what the hell was going on and why people were doing what they were doing. It all came together in the end, and I wish there were more books set in London Below, but for the most part I was like "so...why are they doing this now?" It's still Neil Gaiman so it was pretty good, just not super good.

And that's the end of my efforts to catch up! More to come, soon (maybe).