Tag Archives: books

on my night with a Norwegian stockbroker

Well, who knew?

Scandi crime writer Jo Nesbo was a top flight footballer before falling victim to a cruciate injury. He then was a lyricist and musician with Norwegian pop/ rock band Di Derre. While his band mates were on the tour bus, he was flying back to Oslo daily to do the day job- stockbroker. Ridiculous levels of over achievement, before he became a novelist.

He got into writing crime fiction because he had five weeks to write something and reckoned crime would be good- it needed a start, a middle and an end, and surely he could do that. While touring Australia with the band.

At this stage the audience were rocking with laughter, or jealous rage.

from @noalibisbooks
from @noalibisbooks

Jo Nesbo faced the biggest audience of his book launch tour at the Ulster Hall over the weekend. He was impressed equally by the fact that Dickens and Led Zeppelin had been on that stage before him. He’d have been ecstatic if they’d been able to find a note of George Best having been there too.

From a distance the shaved head, black t shirt and jeans put me in mind of TV doctor/ detective Gregory House, and of course the other funny guy/ sportsman/ musician/ writer/actor chap, Hugh Laurie. This is never a bad thing.

not like Hugh at all
not like Hugh at all

Nesbo spoke of revealing only 10% of the story in his novels, trusting the reader to do the work. Also, he has to trust to the translator- accepting that some of the nuance will get misplaced in translation. What I hadn’t considered was how important an English translation is, as that forms the basis of other versions- e.g. it is easier to find a translator to work from English to Korean than from Norwegian to Korean.

He spoke mostly of his Harry Hole series of novels, but also stand alone work, film, and children’s books.

We heard of how a childhood experience eating apples off the tree (unpicked- the apples still on the tree, growing) inspired a particularly horrible murder in Phantom. I haven’t yet read that book, but the image of Jo up his granny’s tree with an apple stuck in his mouth will stay with me.

“My stories are about moral dilemmas, about choices.”

“Everybody wants a happy ending, but really, we want to know will he do the right thing. Will he save his eternal soul?”

I’ve read several of the Harry Hole series. The rest may have found their way on to my Kindle within minutes of me arriving home…

“I am the world’s greatest living crime writer. Jo Nesbø is a man who is snapping at my heels like a rabid pitbull poised to take over my mantle when I dramatically pre-decease him”
–James Ellroy


The problem with having too many things- in this case, books- is that I can’t find what I’m looking for. How am I going to impress you all with my knowledge of random bits, if I don’t know where I’ve put it? Hmm, yes, I do suppose that means that I don’t really know the stuff, I just like having access to it. That’s why I love the internet.

After wondering about Seamus Heaney on the bus the other week, I thought I’d hunt out some of the poetry and remind myself of its wonder. I’d thought I’d be curled up on the sofa, nodding knowledgeably, stroking my metaphorical beard, chewing on the end of a pencil. I thought I knew where the books were. Right there beside the bed. Or in the living room. The shelves are double stacked, but nothing is lost. I don’t think. It’s not a big house. I give loads of books to charity shops, but surely I wouldn’t have given away Seamus?

I did have to revert to the internet after all. Forgive me for the obvious choices- familiarity doesn’t reduce their power, and also, they’re easier to find… (the book turned up later, beside the bed, just like you all predicted)

Digging, by Seamus Heaney

Lovers on Aran, By Seamus Heaney

Then, there is another poem which came to mind when I was looking at Not Seamus

A lover of words, by John Hegley

The words are his potatoes.

He spades them out

he lets them lie

he brings them home

he wrings them dry.

Then the honing

and the boning

of the artificial eye.

And then further cleaning:

this is Seamus,



This post was first published in May 2011. Works by Heaney and Hegley are available for reading anytime.

pick me up

You know me- tired, woozy, brain fogged.

Add a little malaise- light head, nausea, ‘not quite right’ ness.

Consider that the latter may have been the result of some unintentional overindulgence or other.

Decide that there’s only one cure for whatever’s ailing you.

Walk down the hill, across the bridge. Head through the park and pass all the happy smiling graduates and families. (Silver shoes are a thing this year.)

Retreat to a place of discovery.

Be ruthless in your selection, but not cruel. Pick 3. Only a philistine would restrict herself to 1.

Brian McGilloway

Nathan Englander

Ian Sansom

Skip home, restored and ready to face the world.

wot, no buks?

Plans are afoot for primary school education.

Dave and his Dastardly Crew have decided to shake up what happens in the classroom. Pomes will be learnt by rote, and there will be a standardised list of spellings (i.e. not a list drawn up by the teacher, targetted to the child and areas of study). Not only will the tinies learn about useful things like apostrophes, they’ll learn how to use the subjunctive before they leave primary school. (I love the phrase ‘the idea of subjunctiveness’…)

Dave’s Big Plan is decoding. As I understand it, teachers currently use phonics/ decoding as a tool to help children work out what words sound like. It’s part of learning how to read. It is not ‘learning how to read’.

That’s a much broader issue, based on story telling, a wide variety of picture, reference and other books, real life, finding meaning and pleasure in words. As part of the Big Plan, children won’t have access to materials they can’t decode.

That sounds suspiciously like they want to teach children to learn to read while removing any material that the children might actually want to read. Reading, without books? Why would anybody want to do that? Where’s the inspiration, the fun, the challenge? Where, even, is the chance to see complex grammar at work?

keep these away from children

People who actually know about these things are up in arms. Michael Rosen and other authors have made their concerns clear. The advisory committee are protesting that their issues are being totally ignored. Katyboo tells it well. (Sorry for all the links- I haven’t the energy to provide reasonable summaries. I need that energy for the rage.)

The government think they are the experts in everything. They listen to nobody. They ride roughshod over everyone else (ask anyone with a disability) and presume to tell practioners how to do the jobs for which they are trained and experienced. They’ll keep on doing it.

If only anyone had voted for this coalition government I could blame them, but, no, it’s all down to Dave’s crew. Nobody voted for this nonsense.

Lucky us, having such a bunch of experts in charge of everything.

The summer holidays are upon us. School is over for the rest of the household. Because of ‘quality’ family time/ people fighting over computer access, I’ll be posting less frequently. Cheer quietly.