Romance Reads

There is one genre that I don´t really touch, and that is romance. When I was little, my mother had several grocery bags full of these books, Harlequin and others, in her closet. I was curious, of course, and puzzled that they were not on the regular shelves, and when I was thirteen or so she allowed me to read them. I picked two, and when I was done I remember saying to her that if I would swap the last chapters of these books, and change the names, no one would notice. I hope I wasn´t too stuck-up about it...  Not my cup of tea, anyway. At the time I was really into sci-fi, but was also exploring some more grownup stuff, like Henry Miller, Erica Jong, and Susanne Brögger.

In the 80´s everyone I knew read Margit Sandemo´s series about the Ice People. I had read the first book as a serial in one of my mother´s ladies´ magazines, sometime around 1981, and it had made an impression on me. I wasn´t interested in continuing to read it, though, until 2003, during my first course in Creative Writing. A friend had the whole series, and I decided that I could probably learn something from it. And anyway, I thought, they are quick reads. Turned out, there are 47 parts. It took some dedication to get throught them all, I have to say, although the first ten were quite entertaining.

A few months ago I read an article in "Skriva" (= to write), the Swedish writing magazine, about romance fiction, and how the genre is becoming more respected. I decided to find out if things had changed and bought a few books at the newsagent (which is where you find them). They were worse than I remembered, such total, utter crap. Badly written, laughingly bad characters, ridiculous plot. And I thought, was Sandemo this bad? So I asked to borrow them again.

I re-read the first two volumes. No, Sandemo isn´t all that bad. She is no writing genius, but I have to say, she is a very inspired storyteller. She creates a world of her own around a family that is cursed, where love constantly is up against death. There is a storyline concerning an evil ancestor that runs through all the books, and in the end there is a great battle of good against evil, where representatives of the Ice People can be found on either side (the Devil is on the good side, surprisingly, having married into the clan...). There is plenty of sex, plenty of witchcraft, true love conquers all. Men are often beastlike and dangerous, women are often clever, independent, and, of course, beautiful.

She really draws her reader in, emotionally. As cynical as I try to be, I become really attached to these characters, and when they hurt I cry. The handicraft is simple, but effective. And even if I see the flaws, the anacronisms, the clichés, it really doesn´t matter. The stories are powerful, it can not be denied, particularly in the first third of the series. 

Sandemo herself is quite a character. In an interview a few years ago she claimed to have killed a man during the war and hidden him in the forrest, someone who had tried to rape her. She has also been committed to psychiatric care at one point, claiming to be a psychic.

According to Wikipedia Sandemo has sold 39 million copies of "The Legend of the Ice People" (translated to English and several other languages). It´s still available in Swedish, as far as I can tell, as some kind of subscription deal. Would I recommend them? Well, if you like romance, you could do a lot worse. Perhaps the fantasy element isn´t to everyone´s taste, but I have known all kinds of people who loved these books: men, women, manual workers, mechanics, academics, young, old. I have never seen them on anyone´s bookshelf, at least not in the reception room. I suppose it´s something people keep in their more private corners, if not actually in the closet.


Aborted reading

I started reading this really attractive, interesting book about the age of the vikings, "Vikingatidens härskare" (= the rulers of the viking age) by Anna Lihammer, fresh from the presses. I ignored the new-book smell, and after a week I had a really bad, tearing cough. Also, as a treat I bought myself a couple of fashion magazines, which I could only leaf into a few pages before I felt my chest burning.

It sucks. And I´m quite a bit miffed at myself for doing this, over and over again. I tend to forget when I haven´t had a reaction for some time. But now I have put myself on a strict diet of e-books, and have cleaned away all unnecessary paper products.

I suppose I am lucky to live in the digital world. I have plenty of good stuff on Mr Kindle and the Iriver Story. And the e-library is also well stocked. No problem, really.



Amazing series of portraits of some of the kids that survived the Utöya massacre.


Conversational Philosophy

I have just finished a book I started some time ago. It was the first book I bought in Kindle format, long before I got the device. The computer is good for a lot of things, but reading books on it just doesn´t work. I get distracted. The name of the book is "The Chairs are Where the People go - How to Live, Work, and Play in the City" by Misha Glouberman and Sheila Heti. I´m not entirely sure how I heard of it, but I´m sure it was on some excursion on the internet.

Heti writes in the foreword that Glouberman is her friend, and that she has always liked the way he speaks and thinks. She then had the idea to write a novel about him, but ended up collaborating with him instead. What they did was meet up, he talked, and she typed. The book contains 72 chapters, some short, some longer, on topics like:
How to make friends in a new city
How to be good at playing charades
Miscommunication is nice
Is monogamy a trick?
Seeing my friends drunk for the first time
A decision is a thing you make
Feeling like a fraud
Why computers only lasts three years
Who are your friends?
and many more. They don´t sound so profound, but the content often is. There is much talk of games, as Glouberman spends a lot of his time doing theatrical workshops for non-actors, or something like that. I don´t think that anything he does is very clear cut, actually. He seems to be a boundry-crossing cultural worker, and some of his ideas for getting people to talk to each other, like a concept he calls "un-conference", is really clever. I had to bookmark some bits for the husband to read, as he plans conferences now and then, and may even find these ideas useful in his teaching profession.

Three short, clever quotes that I picked:
"It´s both reassuring and frustrating to understand that, whatever you do, some people are going to like it and some people won´t."
"It´s useful to remember that friendship needs an activity associated with it."
"It seems to me that the most pleasing thing you can find yourself saying in a conversation is something you haven´t said before."

I have seen reviewers call this "conversational philosophy" or "pop philosophy". If it seems like a good idea to listen to (ok, read, but it feels like listening) a very clever person with a very interesting job, whom you are not likely to ever meet in real life, this is a read I can highly recommend.


A Trip to Spring

Last weekend, we made a quick trip to Stockholm, to celebrate the brother-in-law´s 70th birthday.

We also had some time to walk in quaint Sigtuna, one of the oldest towns in Sweden. We had fika at legendary café Tant Brun (= Aunt Brown), named after a literary figure in a Swedish children´s book.

Lovely day!


No More Time Team

Oh no! The news just reached me now, that "Time Team" has been cancelled! I just started watching the first episode of the latest season, and apparently, it´s the last!

Before TT, would I have taken pictures of tessera?
I only discovered this series sometime in 2006 or 2007, and have been an entusiastic fan ever since. For me, lead digger Phil Harding embodies the spirit of Time Team: a complete lack of fashion (though plenty of style), not even remotely ego-centered, massive experience and knowledge, and complete devotion to the job at hand, whatever it is. And Time Team has been turning up a lot of divers things, from every age, concerning every aspect of human history and human endeavour. I have learned so much, while being so entertained.

I do realize they must quit sometime. It´s been twenty years, after all. And some of them are getting on a bit. Luckily, I have recorded every episode that´s been on since I discovered it, and that is my comfort.


Book-related Crafting

A friend directed me to a wonderful crafting website, and I just think this bookmark is so attractive! And a classic hiding place for your bookshelf. I´m not sure about this camera sweater, though...


April - Worst Month of the Year

Spring is a word I used to associate with pretty flowers. Where I grew up, in the south, there is a major spring flower cult of such pretties as coltsfoot (tussilago), snowdrop, and blue anemone. When I moved here, I asked a friend when the coltsfoot starts to bloom, and she said, "I have heard of them, but they don´t grow around here. What do they look like?" This was startling to me, as was finding out that there are no fruit orchards, and if you want to put flowers on your balcony, and be sure the frost does them no harm, put them out no sooner than a week before Midsumer´s Eve!

Usually, we associate autumn with the death and decay of nature, but as the snow melts in spring, it´s like the opening of a Pandora´s box of trash, mud (from the gritting of icy roads), and dog poop. My husband always says that you know it´s spring when you smell excrement as you walk out the door. A few days ago, preschoolers marched to protest against the dog poop, and every year there are letters to the press complaining about it. Everyone says it´s getting worse, and I think it probably is, because keeping dogs in town is becoming more popular. When I first came here, more than twenty years ago, most of the dogs you saw on the streets were sturdy, useful ones that could take the cold: huskies, elkhounds, and sheepdogs. Now there is much more variety, and last week I even met one of those hairless creatures - properly kitted out against the cold, of course. I blame Cesar Millan, and all those other dogwhisperers on television.

Yesterday, I met this unsupervised schnauzer, who was very busy digging up and eating whatever he was finding under those shrubs. I don´t know anything about dogs - perhaps it´s natural for them to eat dog poop? Perhaps it´s even good for their digestive system? Maybe this is why dog owners are so lax about cleaning up after their dogs. I don´t know.

Normally, I wouldn´t even think of going for a walk with my camera this time of year,
but as I have bought me a new one (we are going to Isle of Wight after all!) and need to familiarize myself with it (being a DSLR, quite different to the little Samsung I´m used to), I went out to capture the ugliness of it all.

For the record, I just want to add that this dog owner picked up her dog´s poop.


Hockey Fever

These last couple of weeks I was beginning to think the neighbours were coming up with some new kinky games. Much satisfied groaning and happy moaning. Even the occasional holler. At times it seemed like the noise was coming both from next door and under us, which seemed odd, but sound travels strangely through this house. When I mentioned it, however, I got the you-are-an-alien look, and was told that Luleå was in the finals - had I missed that? What finals? said I, but immediately realized that we could only be talking about Luleå Hockey (clue: time of year). Of course. And who are in there with us? Skellefteå?

As you can see from this map, we are talking about a local derby. My husband, who works in Piteå, could report that over there they talk about it as a game of Piteå North vs Piteå South. I am not surprised, the folks in Piteå are not known for being humble. It is universally known that all roads lead to Piteå, and that wherever you go in the world, you will find a pitebo. Even on the moon, as Aldrin is a Piteå-name. (Wikipedia says he has roots in Värmland, and this is not surprising, considering people from Piteå are to be found everywhere.)

I have only watched one hockey game in its entirety in my whole life. Before then, I used to think I didn´t understand the game. It was Sweden vs Belarus, and I was in the company of mom-in-law and her (now sadly passed away) partner Ove. It was a very odd experience. Even I could see that the Swedes were having their arse kicked, and the commentators were chatting along as if it was just a matter of form that Sweden would win. I remember turning to Ove, and asking him what I wasn´t getting. He just shook his head in disbelief. On paper, apparently, Belarus couldn´t beat us. Well, they did. And I thought: it´s not the game I don´t understand, it´s the culture. 

Anyway, three games have been played and Skellefteå has won every one of them. Much frustrated moaning and disappointed groaning lately. Tomorrow, flags may be at half-mast.

Postscript 2013-04-19: Indeed, there was nothing but whimpers and a moanful silence from the neighbours during the game. Luleå lost, properly and fairly. Congratulations to Skellefteå!



Meta Music

The other night I saw this wonderful documentary,  "John Cage: Journeys in Sound", by Allan Miller and Paul Smaczny. I was so impressed by it that I watched it twice, and filled a couple of pages with notes. I find his story and his work so wonderfully inspiring.

If you have ever been at a performance of a piece of music by Cage, you are not likely to ever forget it. He is perhaps most know for "4´33´´", a piece for piano - or rather not playing the piano for 4 minutes and 33 seconds.

A lot of people would argue, as does Chaim Tannenbaum (philosopher and musician) in the film, that if music is defined as organized sound, that is not what Cage is doing at all. Tannenbaum says that Cage is making it hard - impossible even - to respond to his work as one would respond to music, and therefore, it can not actually be music, but rather a sound performance. He says that Cage inspires interesting thoughts about the nature of music. Still, as unorganized as his sounds may be, he is apparently the bestseller among American composers!

Cage was very influenced by buddhism, and in 1952, he recieved a copy of the "I Ching" from a friend. He learned about its method of throwing coins to procure hexagrams. He says in the film:
Instead of sitting cross legged, I decided to continue sitting at my desk, but changing my work from the making of choices to the asking of questions, which would be answered by the means of chance operation."
He didn´t like improvisation, because he believed that improvisation takes you back to what you know, and he wanted to take his art beyond that, into territories you didn´t know. Composing by chance operations prevented his subconscious to interfere with the composition, and that´s what he was after. He was not into self-expression at all (as most artists are), he wanted to create as nature creates (or as he imagined that nature creates). He also said that he had "given up that whole idea of value judgement."

One of his teachers was Arnold Schönberg, and he advised the young Cage to seek his fortune elsewhere. He said Cage had no feeling for harmony, which I suppose is another way of saying he wasn´t particularly muscial. "You´ll come to a wall," he said, and Cage responded that "I´ll beat my head against that wall." I find the idea quite comforting, that it´s possible to devote your entire life to doing something you really don´t have any natural talents for, and because of it push the boundries of that field and create something of real importance.

The most interesting project right now is perhaps the performance of "Organ²/ASLSP (As SLow aS Possible)" in Halberstadt, Germany. It started in 2001 and is supposed to go on for 639 years (!) in the church of St Burchardi. I just put it on my list of things to experience before I die.

And, among his scores there are beautiful pieces of visual art. You can download some of them for free, and this is a page from his "1958 aria (voice) BW - useless without colors".

What I love about Cage is that he gives me lessons in music, in perception, in being even, expressed in tones. He really pushes me and makes me pay attention. He is simply exceptional.


From My Photo Album: Bleak Berlin

I came across a strip of Swedish comic "Rocky", where he goes with his friend to Berlin. The whole strip is about them queuing to get up the Fernsehturm (= television tower), and when they finally get there, it´s dark and all they see is their own reflection. Then, the friend notice the queue to the elevator down...

This made me laugh, because it was exactly our experience when we visited Berlin in October 2008. My husband even insisted that we queue to get into the revolving restaurant, and I had eisbein while we slowly rotated, which made me eventually feel rather sickly. I only have balance in one ear, and this makes me a bit sensitive to those small movements that hardly register. I got sick on top of the Empire State Building as well.

Posh bathroom. All marble.
Anyway, I was looking through my photo album from the Berlin trip and found every photo rather bleak looking. And no wonder, Berlin was a rather bleak city, I thought. I suppose it must look a bit different today, as there were a lot of building projects going on. And I suppose the weather was bleak, too.

Also, I really disliked our hotel. It was on the old east side, ridiculously posh (the husband had some very advantageous offer through, I don´t know, Radisson, Amex or something) without being comfortable. In their tea- and champagne lounge (!) they charged 12 euros (!!!) for a cup of luke warm tea with not even a tiny shortbread accompanying it. This didn´t make me love Berlin more. But we still had a nice few days there.

Me, at Olof Palme Platz.

Schinkelmuseum, a sculpture museum inside the Friedrichswerdersche Kirche. Amazing place.
The bleak view from the Fernsehturm. After hours and hours of queuing.

Fernsehturm from down below.


The Journal as Art

I have boasted about my local librarians being so very obliging whenever I have an idea for a book I think they should buy. A book I want to read, but is too frugal to buy, that is. However, once they actually said no. I thought about it for a few days, and then I bought it. It´s Jennifer New´s "Drawing from Life: The Journal as Art". It´s an amazing book about creativity, focused on the visual.

Thirty-one journalkeepers have shared their pages, and I look in wonder at the talent, genious even, that some of them display on pages that are made for no one but themselves. Because, as New writes in her introduction:

Observations, by Jenny Keller, science illustrator.
Visual journals are created in a secret language of symbols. Intentional or not, they are private maps only their makers can follow. No one else can look at a page and understand the specific meaning of a punching bag or a set of arrows. And no one else can remember the moment of its making. Joni Mitchell blaring on the stereo. Sage wafting in a hidden garden. The discomforting echo of last night´s argument.

The journals are presented in four chapters: Observation, Reflection, Exploration, and Creation. Of course, most journal keepers use their pages for all these things, but some are more into one or two of these categories. Every time I leaf through these pages, I become inspired to do more with my own journals, to start drawing again. There is so much wonderful stuff going on here, I´d have liked to show you every page.

Reflection, by Anderson Kenny, architecht.
Reflection, by John Copeland, illustrator.
Exploration, by Sofie Binder, traveller.
Creation, by Mike Figgis, director.


Pathetic Fallacy

So, I found myself with my second young man in pain in a week. This time, he was a bit older and wearier, though. What I was reading was Joshua Fields Millburn´s "Days After the Crash". It´s a novella, which is, I suppose, a long short story. Or a short novel.

This is very well written, I must say. Millburn really makes an effort. It´s well structured, too. We begin on a roof in Brooklyn, where singer-songwriter Jody Grafton has taken his guitar and a cup of coffee, sits in the rain (I suppose he is sitting under something), composing a song for his dead mother. And as he chisels out his lyrics, we get a flashback of the - well, the Crash, I suppose.

What Millburn is not trying to do, is tell you what it´s like to have a bad relationship with your faulty mother, or what it´s like to nurse that same mother as she is dying of cancer. No, what he is trying to do, and doing fairly well, I think, is to create a depiction of what it feels like. And how you go in and come out of that kind of situation. And he uses the setting, the descriptions of the surroundings in which Grafton moves, to describe what is going on in Grafton´s psyche. He is projecting Grafton´s soul onto his environment.

Let me give you some examples:
"He drove south, confined only by the empty cornfields shivering around him, a landscape depleted of its warmth months earlier, naked and exposed to Mother Nature and her cruel intentions. An unemployed scarecrow stood perched in one of the barren fields, waiting to do what he was meant to do with his life."
"As he entered the apartment, its old wood floors creaked under the weight of shared discontent."
As he waits for his mother to wake up from her drunken sleep, to give him the news he suspects will be bad, he falls asleep and dreams of a car crash:
"The sound of the cataclysm didn´t possess any of the shrieks of metal-on-metal tearing he had expected, just the symphonic sounds of broken glass, the windows shattering around him in beautiful dissonance, disobeying the physical laws of the car crash, shattering before impact, breaking in preparation for the collision, not waiting for the accident but bracing for it."

Shattering before impact. Breaking in preparation. I like that. Still, it doesn´t make me feel much. Perhaps because it´s all there on the page. Millburn presents me with Grafton´s pain, dissected and processed, mounted and displayed. Not explained, though. That would have been bad. This is not bad. But he is very heavy-handed with the pathos and does border on pathetic clichés, and in the end, he falls over quite a bit:
"The days after the crash were the hardest. The troubled man sat by himself on a creaking, off-kilter barstool and ordered another round, lit another cigarette, and searched for meaning amongst the wreckage, hunting for some nameless thing under the smoky gray tavern lights, losing count of his whiskey-and-waters, inspecting the bottom of each glass. He couldn´t find meaning there, so he kept on searching."
This is man-pain at it´s most coquettish. In this last part, Grafton has lost his name and is just the troubled man, as in every-man or any-man. This makes me giggle just a bit.

I think Millburn has potential to become a really great writer when he matures. I´d like to see what he can do with a wider perspective, and some restraint.



This weekend I spent a night reading "Förvillelser" (= aberrations) by Hjalmar Söderberg. It´s his debut novel from 1895 (not translated to English), and it caused a scandal when it was published. It´s what´s called decadent literature, and it was considered a very bad influence on young readers.

The story in short is about twenty-year-old Tomas Weber, who is half-way through his medical studies when he is struck by ennui, and takes to strolling around the city, eating and drinking with his friends, and spending money that he doesn´t have. He spends some of his pocket money on hotel rooms for meetings with a shop girl he seduces. When he tires of her, he moves on to Märta, a girl in his family´s social circle, and to facilitate his meetings with her, he moves away from his parent´s apartment - but he still eats with his family every evening. His mother worries about him, and he only ever meets his father, the Professor, if he crosses paths with him in the street. When he runs out of money, he forges the signatures of some of his father´s friends to get a high interest loan from a shady moneylender. But Tomas has, like his friend Anton Recke, difficulty understanding money. "Where do they come from?" Recke asks Tomas. "I know where they go; but from where do they come?"

As you may imagine, things go wrong for Tomas. As a medical student, he should have realized that Märta would become pregnant, and she does. She brakes up with him, and goes to Norway with her mother to have the baby. The loan matures, and of course he has no way of paying for it. He buys a gun and tries to shoot himself, but fails even at that. When the loan shark seeks out one of the men Tomas has named as guarantor for the loan, the loan is quietly paid, and Tomas gets a proper telling-off. Whereafter he sobers up to his responsibilities and becomes a reformed man, returning to his studies.

For me, the best thing about this novel is the way Söderberg depicts Stockholm in the late 19th Century. You really get a feel for what the city must have been like, more like a small town than a state capital. At the newsstand, you can very well meet the King of Sweden, taking a morning stroll, buying his daily paper. Instead of telephones, the city is littered with messenger boys, ever ready to deliver a note, for example to Tomas´ mother, when he decides to take an impromtu boat trip to Utö in the archipelago, an adventure heavy with metaphores for how lost poor Tomas is. And there are lengthy, beautifully drawn scenes where Tomas visits and has dinner with the upper middle class families of his parent´s social circle.

Every character has fits of shivering, there are waiting girls with slave-girl gestures, and an immoral woman is one who lets herself be seen in nothing but her corset. And I love the sartorial details, how this twenty-year-old, barely out of adolescence, takes his hat and walking stick and runs down the stairs.

I suppose this book has lost its significance, really. Books about young men (and women) behaving badly is a cliché, and what Tomas is up to wouldn´t be considered the least bit shocking now. I can´t really see why you would want to read it, unless you are very interested in Söderberg, or the spirit of the late 19th Century. I suppose that´s what I will remember about this book: the atmosphere of Stockholm in the 1890´s.


Food for Thought

"Vilken lycka att förföljas av plikter. De små pliktuppfyllelsernas glädje, de små pliktuppfyllelsernas fara. De fungerar som växelmynt i tillvarons parkeringsautomat. Man skaffar sig anstånd."

"What happiness, to be pursued by obligations. The joy of the small fulfilments of one´s duty, the dangers of the small fulfilments of one´s duty. They are the token coins for life´s parking meter, buying oneself respite."

Marianne Höök, journalist (1918-1970)


The British Appetite for Scandinavian Culture

"When Wallander actor Krister Henriksson memorised a downbeat Swedish novel, he didn't expect this efforts to produce a theatre smash hit. He tells Laura Barnett about playing the West End, his Shakespeare ambitions – and Scandi-mania."

Article in the Guardian today. 


The Dark Side of Suburbia

The other day, I was meeting  a friend at the art gallery, and I had some time to spare before she finished work. So I sat down to watch a short film by Mattias Härenstam, part of an art work called "Tillfälligt avbrott" (= temporary interruption).

The camera is placed in the position you see there in the presentation picture, like a surveillance camera, but a bit too high up to be quite believable. Also, you wouldn´t really expect a camera in such a place. It´s a pretty average Swedish residential area. A neighbourhood street for middle class families.

First, it is early in the morning. Or, that´s what if feels like, from the light. What catches my attention is that it´s been raining, but two spots in front of the house on the lower left are dry, where two cars have recently been standing. A car drives down and parks in front of the house, a man steps out, and slowly, unusually slowly, walks to the door, unlocks it and walks in. Fast forward a few hours, the sun has come up a bit, and the street is starting to dry up. A man comes out from the house on the right, to get his newspaper or mail. Another car comes, parks next to the first one, and a forty-ish woman comes out. They greet each other, she says "thanks for the other night" and he says "yes, she makes a great chicken, doesn´t she" or something like that. She walks in, and some twenty seconds later, comes screaming out.

The neighbour´s wife takes the woman inside their house and the neighbour goes into the house, comes back out almost immediately, looking terribly shaken. After a few minutes the ambulance comes, followed by a police car. They go in, and after a while a policeman comes out to get a pair of large cutting pliers, like the ones you see used to cut padlocks and such open. I´m thinking, he´s hung himself. The wife is taken into the house, whining like she is in terrible pain (this is the worst bit to watch), and afterwards, the body is taken out into the car, and the ambulance and the police eventually drive off. And they all go into the neighbour´s house.

This film (of which you can see an excerpt here) is dedicated to a man with the same surname as the artist, with the dates of his birth and death. The title of the film is "Reconstruction", and I imagine it´s a recreation of an authentic course of events. But perhaps I´m just supposed to think so. Perhaps it´s an illusion that this is a personal experience, something that has really, actually happened. Does it matter if it has? It certainly has happened to some people. When I was in seventh grade, a classmate´s mother killed herself in the garage, by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Also part of this art work is a series of woodcuts, displayed outside the film room. The first one shows a suburban family home, and underneath, a root system that goes very deep, with mouths and sharp teeth, some of them chewing on other roots. The next woodcut is of a man climbing down from a crawlspace under a roof, one of those you can access through a hatch in the ceiling, and reach by way of a ladder. You can only see his legs. The title of that work is "Man descending a ladder". You can see all the images here if you are curious. I quite liked the one with the magpies. I like magpies in general, but I also associate them in this particular setting with heirs, with burial, and the liquidation of a home.

I´m not really sure that this grabs me particularly. The screaming, shocked woman, yes, that does make me jump, and I feel for her, because that is what we all fear, isn´t it, that catastrophical event that puts an end to life as we know it. It´s that one accident, or act, that can´t be controlled or undone. But I am certainly not unaware of the dark side of life, of the potentially dangerous undercurrents.  I you are, then perhaps this exhibition will be more unpleasant, or even an eye opener.

I remember when I was twenty or so, seeing an artist displaying an oldfashioned pram, filled with rocks and lit candles. That almost made me cry then, but would it have moved me today? I´m likely to find something like that a bit too obvious, a bit too clichéd. A bit kitsch, perhaps. Härenstam´s work is bordering on that, I find. It´s telling me too much. There is very little room here for diversity in interpretation. Very little room for me.


The End of an Era

Today, I made my last visit to one of the oldest stores in Luleå, Jala Färg & Tapet AB. It was opened in 1922 by John Arne Leonard Andersson (that´s his initals in the name, and färg means colour or paint, tapet means wallpaper), and has been on that same spot since 1924. It´s been my go-to place for any art supplies, the wallpaper in our kitchen, the oilcloth on our table, glues and dyes for all kinds of projects and repairs. I have noticed that the assortment has narrowed over the years, as in many other stores. Much of that is, of course, due to the increase in mail order shopping over the internet. No one is more guilty of that than I am, but really, why should I buy what I almost want, when I can get exactly what I want, and for less? Still, I am sad to see them go.

The owner, (or ex-owner, rather), Britt-Inger Karlsson, held up this collage of pictures from the beginning of Jala´s history:

Interestingly, it used to be Jala Färg- och Droghandel, which is literally drugstore, not a word used in Swedish nowadays. Young´n´s would think they could go there for pot! But I remember the days you´d buy makeup and wallpaint in the same place.

"I hate being photographed," she said and held it up as a shield, for me to take a picture. Then she told me that she and her husband were going to have their first vacation in ten years (which is how long they have owned the store), and at 63, they felt it was a bit too soon to quit, but "we got an offer we couldn´t refuse".

"I don´t know what we are going to do now," she said.
"Babysit," said her daugher, who also helps out in the store, from time to time. So someone had that sorted!

My plan was to stock up on my favourite pens, as my writing pens are really drawing pens, filled with liquid ink that run out really fast. But all those pens were gone. I should have come last week, after the newspapers wrote about the store´s closing-down. As I´m sure every sensible regular customer did.

I suppose you could say it´s the end of an era, but I also know that an excellent shopping experience, with a personal touch and good service can, these days, be had even when shopping from a small business in Hong Kong. From the comfort of one´s sofa. We loose some, and we gain some.