No book could be more apt to get me back on my writing horse than Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books. While my reading challenge has continued unabated, my personal writing has come to a grinding halt. But Nafisi, as a professor of literature, was the perfect writer to inspire me to get back to my own work.
The Pianist is Polish musician Władysław Szpilman’s memoir of his brutal survival in Warsaw’s Jewish ghetto during World War II. Sixteen years ago I watched the film adaptation by Polish director Roman Polanski, and its harrowing images and poignant emotion left a profound effect.
One of the things I find painful to watch in movies is stories where everything goes wrong for the main character. Think Ben Stiller in Meet the Parents or Will Friedle in The Trojan War. Kevin Hart’s situation in Night School is not as consistently dire or desperate, but the story is still set off by a series of stupid events that just make you cringe for the poor guy while sighing in exasperation.
Move over James Bond, Johnny English is back! In 2003, Rowan Atkinson portrayed the title character in Johnny English, giving us a slightly more sophisticated, but by no means sophisticated, rendition of Mr. Bean. Fifteen years later he’s back for his third outing as the bumbling spy, in Johnny English Strikes Again.
Quite by chance I recently ate a meal which included kimchi, a Korean dish consisting of fermented vegetables. Kimchi also made an appearance in the South Korean book I bought for my reading challenge, The Vegetarian by Han Kang. However, my dish also had pork in it, which would not have passed muster with the book’s title character, Yeong-hye.
Hopefully, Melissa McCarthy has started a trend of funny female-led spy films. In 2015 she starred in Spy, subverting the genre’s standards and stereotypes. Now The Spy Who Dumped Me has joined it as an action-comedy buddy film that places female characters at its centre.
This reading challenge is not about favourites. After all, the forms and styles of each book range greatly, from fiction to non-fiction, from magic realism to historical adventure, from short stories to novels. But it’s not a question of quality or style when it comes to my favourite, but rather of impact. And the book that’s had the greatest impact on me in this challenge so far, is Aleksandar Hemon’s The Book of My Lives.
Every Christmas Eve’, my family would make pickled herring for what is meant to be the grandest meal of the year. Growing up, I had only a short list of things I wouldn’t eat, and herring was one of them. My argument was that herring is actually part of Norwegian cuisine, not German, and we should really be eating turkey. Clearly I’d watched one too many adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
During varsity English, one of our set works was The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by the Irish authour James Joyce. Unlike so many other students (including those who – unlike me – were majoring in English) I actually read the book, and I’m glad I did.