Some kind of End

I have decided to close the Bookshelf. It may seem sudden, but it has been brewing in me for a while. I suppose what happens is that life changes all the time, bit by bit, and all of a sudden the weight shifts and you have a whole new balance. It can feel like that one last piece that makes it slide is the very special catalyst, but I´m not so sure. I think it can be anything, as much as it is everything.

Alice Seely: "Bad Hairday", brooch.
Actually, Bookshelf-Viktoria has lately begun to feel a bit like a character in a novel. I know the subtitle of the blog is "Life is just another story", so that would be apt, but it´s uncomfortable and limiting more than anything else. And I´m not sure I believe it anymore. Perhaps I have reached a stage where I have developed what Keats called "negative capability". The blog started as an on-line version of my reading diary, which was an expression of my need to record, analyse, process, and order. I guess I don´t really feel the need for all that any more. Perhaps it´s to do with having to face illness and death in the family. Perhaps I am just ready to fokus whole-heartedly on creating, rather than watch others create. I never did see myself as a critic anyway. I feel a strong new energy bubbling up inside, almost anarchic in nature; I will run with that and see where it takes me.

I will continue to post on the Photoalbum while I ponder what to do; I will probably use more words than I have so far. Maybe I will develop that blog into something that fits me better, or create something completely different. I don´t know yet. Whatever I do, I will post information about it here and on the Photoalbum, so if you are a subscriber, you will be informed.

It has been 3½ great years with the Bookshelf, and I have had a lot of fun with it. I´m sure I will miss it, and I´m glad I´m quitting while it´s still something I feel good about. I am very greatful to everyone who has read, commented, emailed, and pushed me forward with their encouragement.

Thank you all.


Lover´s Ritual

On some of our travels we came across this tradition: to attach a padlock with the lover´s names inscribed to a bridge, as a prayer for eternal love. I hope it works!

Lucerne, November 2013.


Norwegian Wood, part VI - the movie

My Norwegian Wood project should be over - I had given it three weeks, after all. But it took a heck of a long time to get my hands on the film. First I turned to the local rental place. They had it, according to their database, but as they were remodeling the shop, it was going to take them a week to get it from the storage it was in while the carpenters were at work. Fine. I returned a week and a half later, and they couldn´t find the film, though they insisted they had it. "Call me when you find it," I said, leaving my number, and they said sure. No call. A week later I called on them again, and no, they hadn´t yet unpacked all the films. "Call me when you find it," I said to this other person, who promised dearly to, and left my number again. No call. I gather they don´t really care if I ever come back, and guess what? I will not.

So, lucky me, I found an old rental copy on Ebay. I think it was less than thirty crowns, postage and all. When I tried to watch it, the disc was empty. By now it seemed the universe was against me, but I decided to persist and ordered it from amazon. By the time I got it, Christmas was almost upon us and I put off watching it some more.

Today I found it in a pile of things to do, and watched it - finally. It is written and directed by Tran Anh Hung (who is Vietnamese, not Japanese), based on the novel by Haruki Murakami, which is one of the best novels I ever read, probably, in hindsight. I haven´t heard of any of the actors, but then I watch precious little film these days, and even less Japanese film, so I wouldn´t have expected to. They all did a very good job, though.

Of course, one can not expect a film based on a book to be anything like it, that would be silly. Still, one can not help comparing. The film has that same still mood, but it´s also very silent, where the characters in the book are all very talkative. Except perhaps Watanabe himself, but someone has to listen. The film focuses very much on the love story, and the characters I enjoyed the most are nearly completely written out, or so much changed that it´s hard to get a grip on them. I was particularly miffed to see salt-of-the-Earth, funny Reiko turned into a fragile, shy, and boring failed housewife.

The film also, naturally, felt very much more Japanese than the book, which I thought could have been set in Stockholm, if you had just changed the names of the characters. And one thing you can do so much better in film is communicate emotion. The book didn´t make me cry, as I recall, but I cried floods when I saw the film; it´s visually very powerful when Watanabe sits with his broken heart in front of the raging sea.

I´m not sure I would have read the book if I had seen the film first. Good thing I didn´t. And I´m not sure I can recommend the film whole-heartedly. I´m glad I saw it, though. Thing is, I don´t really know what I would have made of it if I hadn´t read the book first. The husband thinks he saw a film about hormonal, troubled teenagers, and says he enjoyed Tran´s understated way of telling the story, which he finds "un-American". (I suppose that the Hollywood way of making movies has provided us with the template by which we judge others.) I guess that´s what I would have thought, too.


Hedgehog in the Park

Every year, an ice sculpture/slide is erected in Stadsparken (the town park) opposite Stadshotellet (the town hotel), always in the shape of some animal. This year, they decided on a hedgehog and of course I had to have a look at it.

When I came, three guys were still working on the slide, it looked like they were shaping the ice with a power saw. During the few minutes I stopped and took my photos, four others did the same. It really is a popular feature and I hope many kids will enjoy it!


One Munro a Week

Last week I got started with my one New Year´s Resolution: to read one of Alice Munro´s short stories every week. Yep, that´s how great I think she is. I started with the collection "The Moons of Jupiter" from 1982 and the first story, "Chaddeleys and Flemings". It´s actually in two parts: "The Connection" and "The Stone in the Field", the first focused on the storyteller´s distaff side and the other on the male line of the family.

The Chaddeleys are represented by the mother´s cousins, four unmarried women, who all come visiting when the storyteller is still a little girl. This visit then becomes part of the family mythology, beginning with a grandfather from England who, everyone admits, was a bit of a posh and haughty jerk, but still someone whom everyone is rather proud of, speculating in what fancy origins he might have had before he fell upon hard times (he seems to have been a bit of a slacker, taking early retirement as soon as his children could support him).

When the storyteller is grownup and has a family of her own, one of the cousins come visiting, and we get a slightly different perspective on the childhood visit.
I was married to Richard then. 
She doesn´t have to write more than that to say that the marriage is bad. The theme of this story is, to me anyway, how strong the desire to magnify one´s own importance can be, and how tempting it is to set aside normal decency and step on others to elevate oneself.

The other story is about the father´s family, the Flemings, which also consists of a group of unmarried women, the aunts, who live in an old farmhouse in the country, completely cut out from the modern world and impossible to communicate with. Their silence provokes the idea that they have secrets, and there is speculation that an Austrian immigrant who died on their property had been one of the sister´s lover. But as the storyteller grows older she starts doubting:
Now I no longer believe that people´s secrets are defined and communicable, or their feelings full-blown and easy to recognize. 
A few days after I finish the story, I also realize that these two families, united by the marriage of the storyteller´s parents, represent the mentality of two kinds of immigrants to Canada: the adventurers, or those who wanted possibilities they weren´t allowed in the old country because of their place in a more rigid society; and those who left their homeland because the only option was to starve to death.

Munro was in 1982 already so skilled at those dense sentences that express so much.
...my mother drove. That made the whole expedition feel uncertain, the weight wrongly distributed. 
Yes, there is enough on these few pages for another author to write two novels. And those of my friends who didn´t much enjoy her latest collection, "Dear Life", I think would enjoy this better, as it is more of a traditional story.


Winter Chill

Real winter is finally upon us and it´s minus 28 degrees Celsius outside today. I read in the papers that it´s the polar vortex that shifted and the coldspell that was over North America is now over us. Isn´t it usually over us? Feels like it... It´s Sunday, so we are staying indoors. The sky has that frosty pink tint.


Inspiring Music!

Still watching the concert in Royal Albert Hall. Flags are waving in the audience while everyone sings "Land of Hope and Glory". We see the German and the Swedish flags in there. It seems, in the Royal Albert Hall, every country on earth is part of the British Commonwealth!

I´d be waving too if I were there. In fact, the husband is waving next to me...

Oh, and the conductor and solist are Americans. Marin Alsop! First woman to conduct the Proms!

From 2012:

A Symphony for the Eye

Stunning photographs from New York´s Central Park. Niels Oesingmann is the photograper and it´s a good demonstration of the art of composition.

This goes very well with what we are watching (or rather, listening to) on television right now, which is "Last night of the Proms" from the Royal Albert Hall in London. Joyce DiDonato is just now performing something of Rossini´s, a real treat! We have just brought mum-in-law home from a week in hospital and I´m enjoying a well-deserved G&T.

Hope you are all having a great weekend!

Laugh of the Day

I don´t know if there is such a thing as a national sense of humour. Probably there is, since what you find funny is tightly bound to your frame of reference and your values. This is why the young laugh at other things than their elders, and why the working classes laugh at other things than academics or the affluent.

Comic strip creators, and married couple, Jan and Maria Berglin must represent some of the best middle age, middle class humour in Sweden. They are expertly pointing their fingers at absurdities in the way we live and think. This week, I love this:

Translation: There is an abundance of coaches urging us to great achievements, but who is teaching us the fine art of giving up?
She says: Blabla... work... blabla...marriage hell...blabla...blood pressure...blabla...the trailer...blabla...nights sleep...blabla...aquarium fish...bla...roof tiles...bla...I´m trying and trying...
He says: But let go of the oars, silly! And have a chocolate. You didn´t ask for this... you were tricked into life just like the rest of us. Coffee?
And the hanging on the wall says: Teach me, you forest, to wither happily!

It´s that last bit that cracked me up. Perhaps this is particularly Swedish, having grown up with grandmother´s embroidered mottos.

Oh, and have a look at this! Hilarious! And creepy...


Great Mentor

 ...one of the most important keys to the successful art life is to understand the nature of disappointment, and to recognize it as something that can provide either disincentive or encouragement. Disappointment is a disincentive if it leads to frustration and sense of failure. It’s possible, however, to recognize disappointment as a form of success: as has often been said, “Even the person who falls flat on their face is at least moving forward.”

I have spent a month, or more, slowly getting through Brooks Jensen´s "The Creative Life in Photography". This time, I haven´t had that high feeling of enlightenment while reading, but then, after devouring his "Letting Go of The Camera", I am fairly familiar with his basic ideas; perhaps the reading has been slow because I have been really thinking more about my own photography projects, implementing Jensen´s teaching. I see also that friends with a keen interest in photography, with Expensive Gear, are loosing interest because they are not thinking enough about what kinds of photos they want to make. It just doesn´t seem to be enough, in the long run, to want to "go out on a fine day and shoot some great pictures". It gets boring and disappointing if you come home with the same thing, over and over.

As Jensen says:
A project does not need to take a long time. There is nothing wrong with a project that develops slowly, and there may even be some virtues. But, more “spontaneous” projects, conceived and completed quickly, have their place in creative photography, too. 
...and I have taken this to heart. Whenever I bring the camera, I try to formulate an idea about what I want to do differently this time. Sometimes I do it, sometimes I don´t. I had this idea about doing some proper, old-fashioned group photos for Christmas, but for some reason I didn´t think the mood was right. Or perhaps my mood wasn´t right. I am planning to give it another go, though. I suppose what I´m after is involving my friends and family in my creative process, and perhaps I need to think some more about how to make that a fun thing to do - for all of us. You know, how to make use of their creativity and make it a real collaboration. It´s very much trying to go beyond my comfort zone.

Another quote that caught my attention was this:
Figuratively and scientifically, a photograph is a slice of time, frozen for us to look at and see more intently than is possible at the speed of life. It is a “now” that is removed from the flow of time. Such language brings to mind what the Buddhist meditators call the “eternal now” — but in photography we have the ability to capture that eternal now and freeze its image — at least for a while, at least as long as the medium remains coherent. Indeed, no other media does this as well as photography.
I have observed for some time that for me, the process of photography seem to anchor me to the present and give me more energy rather than tire me. I often hear the complaint about amateur photographers that they "hide" behind the lens, or that they are somehow not "there" in the moment, but just recording it or collecting it. It is true that some people can be said to photograph like scalp-hunters; I had an uncle once who would put my aunt in front of the Thing of Interest, take a snap and then go back to sit in the car and wait for the rest of us. But sometimes, this complaint means something else; it means: I want you to talk to me, be with me, instead of taking your photographs. This can be a valid complaint if you are often inaccessible to your loved ones, but more often than not, the conversation offered is more about other moments than the one we´re in right now, so conversation can be just another form of escaping the present moment.

Having Jensen as a kind of mentor is doing me good, I feel, both in my photography and in my writing. In my living, probably, as well. I am so happy about him that I have subscribed to Lenswork this year. I hope that will give me even more insight and inspiration!


Autenticity & Strength

Completely unrelated illustration - longing for spring.

I have been a follower of the Minimalists´ blog for a few years, and today they posted what is almost a short story. I like the conclusions: that when we are ourselves, however outrageous that person may seem, we are likely to connect with people and fit in anywhere.

A friend of mine once said that "we are never stronger than when we are ourselves". I don´t know if she got it from somewhere or if it came from the heart. It is true, though.


Amazing Notebook Pages

Just came across this at Pinterest. Such amazing pages! I have been wanting to rejuvenate my diary for a long time, almost giving it up; this is really inspirational. I feel the urge to explore new expressions!

More Quilts

Quiltbag by Marianne Öqvist.
This week, full of new year´s resolution energy, I pulled myself together and went to the regional museum, Norrbottens Museum. They close at 16 every day, which is making it very hard to find a comfortable hour to go, but I made it happen. In the nick of time, too, as the exhibition I wanted to see closed Sunday. Again, it´s about quilts. I have never made quilts myself, but I am fascinated by the effort and the result.

This is an exhibition celebrating the 25th anniversary of the national quilt association Rikstäcket (= the State Quilt, or perhaps the Quilt of the Kingdom; and it is quilt as in bed covering or duvet, not the technique), with local quiltgroup Lapprutorna (= the square patches, also a pun on Laplander, I imagine) showing off their work. I can´t say exactly who did each one of these quilts (my notes turned out very sloppy and nearly unreadable), but they are all wonderful and I think the group should think of starting a blog of their own! 

The work is plentiful and the exhibition starts at the entrance hall, you follow it all the way up the stairs two floors up, and three very large and heavy quilts hang at the centre of the stairwell. This probably was the only place they had room for these impressive pieces.

It is a diverse collection of things: bags, vest, hat, necklaces, purses, pot holders, bed coverings, wall-hangings, and even baskets. There is something infinitely cheerful and - am looking for the proper word here, but I think a mix of solicitous and safeguarding is what I´m after - about it. The mummy-factor is very high, and - no surprise - there are only women contributing to this exhibition. I find it hard to object, really. Quilting is something that is done for the joy and the creativity of it these days, we don´t have to out of scarcity and survival (as we had to not very long ago). It was a woman´s work, and keeping the traditionally female arts and crafts alive naturally concerns women more than men. With a few exceptions, no doubt.

In spite of the awkward opening hours, I found the museum bustling with people. The café was filled with 15 (I counted) women of the kulturtant species (= culturally inclined elderly lady, which I am becoming, fast), and working teams from the companies nearby popped in to have coffee and conduct their meetings in this culturally charged atmosphere. Nice!

By Inger Johansson.

By Gudrun Larsson.

Vest by Inger Johansson; hat flower by Birgith Bergqvist.

The necklace is by Karin M Döri.

One of the bags made in the children´s group.

Christmas pot holders (or is it wall hangings?), promising that you can "Relax, it will still be Christmas".


Landscape photography

I grew up in the woods, often taking long walks by myself, hunting for mushrooms or skiing in winter. I just happened to find Kilian Schönberger´s photographs of woods, and they evoke so many memories and feelings. Enjoy!


An American In Lucerne

When I was browsing for a book on the history of Switzerland, I came across this thing: "The Lions of Lucerne" by someone called Brad Thor. Well, I don´t know the thriller genre very well, but it looked like fun. When we were recently in Lucerne, we visited the Löwendenkmal, which is a pretty impressive and poignant monument over the Swiss Guards who were massacred in Paris during the French revolution, defending Louis XVI. It was made by Danish sculptor Berthel Thorvaldsen, whom you might know from his sculpture of Christ, a well known popular image.

Anyway, the back cover of this book promised me a fight on the slopes of mount Pilatus and I imagined a tricky plot with a historical twist involving the Swiss Guards. It started well enough, with a prologue in which the Big Bad Guy invites a couple of Corrupt Senators into his hidden study. Thor makes a point of one of the senators making sure the place is not bugged, while the Big Bad Guy brags about a genuine owned-by-Louis XV-desk he has recently bought from under the nose of the French government and how he has been able to practically mind-read this Swiss mercenary he has hired. Aha! I thought smugly, this is important, I bet that desk is bugged after all and that Big Bad Guy actually sits in the pocket of Top-Lion of Lucerne.

The hero destroys part of 14th Century Kapellbrücke and lands in River Reuss.
But no. This is a standard form 1A thriller - that is, not particularly thrilling at all. It´s like one of those movies you find after midnight at obscure commercial television channels. You have never heard of the actors, who all look like models fitted out by stylists rather than a costume designer. The acting is wooden, the lines awkward, and the plot is simple yet impossible to understand.

Everyone in this novel is beautiful, superstrong, professional, expertly wields any kind of gun, climbs, skiis, does some kind of budo sport, and has the emotional depth of a plastic kiddie pool from Toys´r´us. The hero in particular acts like a 5-year-old´s notion of brave cowboy. And Top-Lion of Lucerne is what a villain must be: stupider than the hero. Which makes him pretty darned stupid indeed.

Spectacular place for a fight.
In spite of this, Thor seems to be an appreciated writer, doing well. Good for him. Perhaps he has written better books since this one, which I believe was his first try. I am not going to find out, though. It´s not really my genre, after all. Or no, I shouldn´t say that. I´ll enjoy any kind of book, well written. Surely it must be possible to write that thriller I was expecting to read. It should be right up Dan Brown´s alley.

I bought the book in paperback, thinking the husband might be interested. When I read this to him:
As the man attacked again, Scot faked left, then spun around hard to his right and plunged the [ski] pole deep into the man´s chest. The knife fell from his hand, and in seconds, blood gurgled out of his mouth, painting his jacket a deep crimson.
"It looks like you got my point," said Scot as he let go of the pole. 
he passed. Oh well.


On-line Gallery To Check Out

Look at these photos from Prague - aren´t they amazing? Michael Kenna is a magician, it seems to me, particularly if you compare all the studies of the Charles Bridge. A very good example of what one can accomplish when returning to the same object again and again.



Snapped, Crackled... and Pooped

We had a quiet New Year´s Eve with mum-in-law and left her in front of the television, to enjoy the traditional reading of Tennyson, twenty minutes before midnight. We, of course, wanted to see the fireworks at the northern harbour, which is the local tradition. Unfortunately, it had been snowing earlier in the day and clouds were dense and low.

After a few initial sparkles on the grey, foggy background (it took some major tweaking to develope an acceptable photo from what I got), the gunpowder smoke mixed with the clouds and the "ooohhh!"s and the "aaahhh!"s turned into sober comments like "well, at least you can hear it" as the fireworks, no doubt spectacular, crackled somewhere in the fog before us. I turned my camera to the side of the cloud and among the thirty or so frames I shot, I got one with a bit of sparkle in it.

Expectant crowds.

First snap.


It was more fun to photograph the crowds as the party-people were trying to find their way back inside. Or find the after-party, perhaps. Some seemed ready for bed... I have been looking a lot at black-and-white photography lately, so that´s what I experimented with.

As we say in Sweden: Good Continuation!