Archives » 2010 » May

Miss Smilla’€™s Feeling For Snow by Peter Høeg

Flamingo, 1994. 403p
Translated from the Danish Frøken Smillas Fornammelse For Sne by F David.

Smilla Jasperson is half Danish, half Greenlander. Brought up in Greenland till her mother died, she now lives in Copenhagen and has a distant relationship with her Danish father. Isaiah, a boy she has befriended and also a fellow Greenlander, is found dead in the snow with no tracks near him, apparently having jumped off a roof. But Smilla has a feeling for snow, and she knows Isaiah had a fear of heights. The police mark his death down as a suicide despite her complaints. The novel explores her efforts to find out the truth about Isaiah’s death, a search which encompasses the Cryolite Corporation Danmark and several ill-fated expeditions to Greenland over the years since 1939.

The book is strong on the injustices suffered by the native peoples of Greenland yet acknowledges the improvements in Greenlandic existence brought about by Western influences.

Høeg presents Danish life as overly bureaucratic in comparison to the freer ways of Greenland -€“ it seems there are forms to be filled for everything – but it certainly appears so even in relation to the UK. He has a marked tendency to introduce scenes part way through before flashing back to their entry point and also a prodigious habit of describing settings minutely. Smilla’s back story is interweaved with the scenes in such a way as to be almost integral, as if the story could not have been written in any other style and these digressions rarely, if ever, interrupt the flow. That this seemingly artless artfulness works and never becomes annoying is a tribute to Høeg’€™s skill as a writer.

While towards the end the book loses its focus slightly, even veering a little unconvincingly towards SF territory before drawing back, the novel is always engrossing.

Miss Smilla’s Feeling For Snow is not unputdownable (no book ever truly is) but it does get very close.

Dunfermline’€™s Art Deco Heritage 5. East Port

I’ve been out and about in Dunfermline with the camera again.

This is an Art Deco building in commercial use fronting onto the street known as the East Port.

East Port front
A lawyer’€™s at the moment. Lots of horizontals and verticals.

East Port side
The side of the building is almost as characterful. You can just see the metal balustrade on the roof towards the rear.

East Port back
From the side. The extractor fans and fire escape spoil the appearance a bit. The metal balustrade on the roof is more obvious from here. I like the overlaps of the roof edges.

East Port rear
The sticky-out bit at the back. Pity about the fire escape gubbins. Typical rectangular chimney.

The picture below is of the building directly across the East Port. It is the former cinema known in its heyday as the Orient Express. It’s a stitch of two photos. I couldn’t get far enough back to get the whole thing in one shot.

The cinema was built in 1913, before the Deco era, but has some styling to the frontage so I thought I’d post it here. It was converted to a night club in 2004 but that has since closed.

Orient Express (former cinema,) East Port, Dunfermline.

CIS Cup Blues

Queen Of The South.

Away.

Another first round exit.

Friday On My Mind 8: The Boxer

Sometimes when I hear this song it reminds me of lying in bed in a Nissen hut in Killin recovering from a cartilage operation. It came over the hospital radio one day.

Ah! The potency of music to unlock memories.

Most usually, though, I just think how good it is.

Unless it was played that week I was in hospital, this is unusual in that it reached the top ten without ever being featured on Top of the Pops.

The reason for that was probably its length. The Boxer is one of those long fade-out songs like Hey Jude. Except this doesn’t fade out. It ends.

Sublimely.

Simon And Garfunkel: The Boxer

.

Challenge Cup Blues

Morton.

Again!

(First round exit.

Again.)

I wonder what the CIS Cup draw will throw up for us tomorrow.

St Mirren or Dunfermline perchance?

Tales of Love and Mystery by James Hogg; edited by David Groves

Canongate, 1985. 216 p.

Hogg

Hogg is the author what is perhaps the prototypical novel of Scottish identity, or lack thereof, The Private Memoirs And Confessions Of A Justified Sinner. Its themes of Calvinism, doppelgangers and identity have rung down the decades in Scottish fiction.

Astonishingly given that book’s importance and considering Hogg was writing in the 19th century, the collection of stories and poems in Tales of Love and Mystery was not brought together until 1985. Some of the stories and poems within it had not been in an accessible form since their first airing nearly 200 years ago. Partly this is due to the disparagement and Bowdlerisation Hogg underwent in the majority of the intervening years.

Hogg wrote in Scots and English with equal facility. For those who require it a helpful glossary of Scots words is appended, though there are some omissions within it.

There is an introduction by David Groves which is better left until the book itself is read as it contains spoilers.

As is to be expected with Hogg, religion and the supernatural are to the fore – as are relationships between the sexes. There is a wonderful use of “burke” as a verb (Hogg was writing in the 1820s and 30s.)

None of the stories speaks to the modern reader quite as strongly as Justified Sinner does but the two poems are as relevant as ever. As reminders of a time and a culture long gone, though, Tales Of Love And Mystery is worth a look – but perhaps only for those with an interest in Scottish fiction.

The Secret of Scottish Football/Nil by Mouth

Just a reminder that the launch of Writers’ Bloc’s two latest chap books, The Secret of Scottish Football by Andrew Ferguson and Nil by Mouth by Morag Edward, is this Thursday (27th May) in the function suite at Easter Road Stadium, Easter Road, Edinburgh.

In my previous post about this the start time was given as 7.30 pm. Please note that this should be amended to 8 pm.

Forth Views

A few weeks ago myself and the good lady took a stroll along the waterside at Dalgety Bay on the Forth.

Unusually there was activity on the river. Ships do appear and disappear from the estuary but they seem to do it overnight.

Tugs

This was a pleasing shot of two tugs.

There was a yacht out on the river. You can almost see it to the left against the Forth Bridge.

Yacht and bridge

The houses at St David’s Harbour remind me a bit of Portmeirion, though they aren’t as Italianate. (As a point of reference the foreground lamp-post in both pictures is the same.)


St David's Harbour 1

St David's Harbour 2

They are what Portmeirion might have looked like if it had been designed by a committee.

Bayern Munich 0-2 Internazionale

Champions League Final, Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, Madrid, 22/5/10

Finals are rarely exciting games. This one lived up to that billing.

Bayern were never able to get at Inter. Whether it was the absence of Franck Ribéry or not, they threaded too many attacks through Arjen Robben. This was despite the fact that Hamit Altıntop was having more joy down the left than Robben was on the right. I thought it was a strange substitution by Louis Van Gaal to replace him. Inter were well set up to counter Robben’s efforts and looked more vulnerable via Altintop.

Diego Milito and Wesley Sneijder linked well for Inter and the goals were beautifully taken.

So the special one succeeds again.

He does seem to get the best out of players.

Edited to add:- For a major final the first goal was very route 1.

Friday On My Mind 7: Man Of The World

Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac was one of the great bands of the 1960s.

After a couple of LPs of blues tracks -and a few minor hits – the instrumental Albatross brought them to wide attention. (I think it’s the only tune to become number one on three separate releases.)

Man Of The World developed this less bluesy style but you only have to listen to the words to appreciate Peter Green’s existential angst (which later resulted in him suddenly quitting the band.)

Curiously Man Of The World‘s B-side, Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonite, was a raucous, Elvis impersonating romp and was labelled as being performed by “Earl Vince and the Valiants” – such a contrast to the delicate, understated, poignant emotion of the A-side.

Fleetwood Mac: Man Of The World

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