A certain kind of immortality

Years ago, I stumbled across a new edition of The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. The edition was celebrating that it was 50 years since the original publication of this modern day classic. I had only a vague concept what the book was like, but the edition was beautiful: small and compact in an unusual size, and an even more unusual colour: a sort of muted gold colour, very understated, very elegant.

I don’t think Jane Jacobs was like that at all, but that’s just me.

I think I thought something along the line of: “Ey, American cities. Might be good research for me” or just “Ey, I like American cities. Let’s buy it”. And then I put it in my bookshelves and went about my days, as happens, quite often, especially with books that “might be good research”. Anyway, I moved recently, so there’s a lot of shifting about of books, and there it was again, still classically beautiful.

This time I read it, and what a find it is! Not only is Jane Jacobs deliciously savage to all the smart men that had gone before her and everything they had ever written or thought or done in city planning, she’s also a great writer, and equally interesting, she seems instinctively likeable as a person. Her book is full of reflection of human life and cities; of a certain realistic but never pessimistic view of human beings and our, err, humanity. She has a acute sense of class and racial justice. I feel like she and I would probably see eye to eye on a number of topics, and I’m fascinating about all the things we might not agree on. I wonder what else she could have on besides city planning, and would have loved to hear her view on politics in general, or literature, or anywhere where there is taken for granted-truths and common sense ignored.

As always, I’m fascinating by how it feels like I am communicating with the author, even when she’s no longer alive, and decades after the wrote down the thoughts I am now reading. Some writers are just begging to be sat down over a cup of coffee or a beer or a drink (gin, definitely, in the case of Helen Hanff of 84, Charing Cross Road). And that, I think, is a great kind of immortality – befriending people long after they’ve gone. Albeit befriending them in a rather one sided-way.

Which writers have spoken to you lately?

Booklist review of Welcome to the Pine Away Motel and Cabins

I’ve always loved libraries, and generously forgiven them for their somewhat unreasonable demand that I return the books to them. And I like them even more now that The Booklist, a magazine published by the American Library Association, has said such kind words about Welcome to the Pine Away Motel and Cabins. Stephanie Turza of The Booklist said:

Embedded in small-town Oregon, Bivald’s (The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, 2016) second novel is full of the sorts of characters that loyal readers of Mary Alice Monroe and Richard Russo will adore. This cozy, never-maudlin exploration of life after death lets Henny see long-lost friends reunite, and feel the heartbreak of new love from a world just out of reach. Much like its heroine, Bivald’s charming, heartwarming, and thought-provoking novel will linger long after the last page is turned.

Full review to be published in the November 1 issue.

Just kidding, part 1: I would have loved them just as much if they didn’t like my book.

Just kidding, part 2: I never return library books.

Just kidding, part 3: Of course I do! I promise!

A New Autumn in Sweden

Dear Readers,

It’s been almost a year since I last updated this webpage, and I don’t know what to tell you, except, well, life. During this year I have moved, with all my books and bookshelves. I’ve bought more books than I can really keep track of. And my new book, Welcome to the Pine Away Motel and Cabins, have been translated into English! It’s going to be published in the US in January, and I can’t wait for you to meet my Henny.

Until then, it is autumn again, and as Sara would have said, no other season goes quite as good with books. Isn’t it splendid?

And, because I’m sure you want to see it, here’s the cover. Isn’t it splendid too?

Autumn in Sweden

I have left the beaches and mountains of Rio de Janeiro for autumn in Sweden, and while I do miss my adventures abroad, it is also nice to be back. We’re having a remarkably fine autumn this year, the kind that I always think of as “Anne-autumns”. It refers of course to Anne of Green Gables (“with an e!”), and her quote: “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers!”

I spent the weekend at my familys cottage in the archipelago of Stockholm, looking out over muted colours (everything is more grey by the sea) and an increadibly calm ocean, and then I lit a fire and wrote for a little while, and then of course I read.

I hadn’t brought any books there, secure in the knowledge that there’s plenty of bookshelves to raid. This lead to a very nostalgic reading experience: I just read a lot of nice, great books I’ve read before. My reading list included:

The Crooked House, by Agatha Christie. As it did not contain Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot it was not one of her best, but it was still good enough. It also included a preface by her where she wrote that this was one of the books that had been most fun to write. This made me reflect on whether or not there is any sort of link between an authors experience of writing a book (if they like the book or ar dissatisfied with it, it the writing was hard or fun and so on) and the reader’s experience of it. On the whole I think not.

Break In, by Dick Francis. I’ve written about Dick Francis before (and he’s mentioned in The Readers of Broken Wheel), but it is worth stating again: Dick Francis is one of my favourite, most reliable writers of all times. He was a former steeplechase jockey turned bestselling author, and he all his book somehow involves horses: jockeys, horse photographers, horse painters, detectives, trainers and so on. All his main characters are invincible but charmingly human and full of doubt about themselves. And all of his books were researched by his wife. Whenever she developed a new interest in life, it made its way into his books (photography or becoming a pilot, that sort of things). Dick Francis often stated that he wanted both their names on the cover (“Dick and Mary Francis”), but she apparently wasn’t interested in it.

Sylvester by Georgette Heyer. Another satisfyingly reliable writer. My absolute favourite is of course The Grand Sophy (The title! The heroine! Her first entrance on the scene, but a dog, a monkey and an amazing horse!).

Since I was there for three whole days, this is by no means a complete list, but I have to get some writing done today and can’t spend my entire morning remembering the happy reading of the weekend. It is sad but true.

A very civlized country

Brazil is a very civilized country. Example number one: if you order several beers, they bring them to you in an ice bucket. Proof number two: if you only order one large beer, they give you one of those individual coolers that European restuarants save for wine. Just saying.

It’s also a very social country. If you order a large beer (60 cl), they ask you how many glasses you wants. The assumption being, of course, that you’ll share it with friends. Never have I felt so Swedish as when I ordered a large beer (it’s just 60 cl!), with one glas. I was at the Carioca de Gema, a great bar/club in the Lapa district, and the band played samba, and I happily refilled my tiny beer glas, and I marveled at the naive thought that the beer would ever get a chance to get warm.

And then my eyes met those of a dark haired beauty across the dance floor. But that, as they say, is another story. Suffice it to say that she taught me all I know about samba and that we’ll always have Rio.