I found my library card a couple days ago.

I hadn’t really missed it.

In fact, I think I’ve been to the library a grand total of three times since I moved here. (Disclaimer: I’ve been to other libraries, that statement covers only the building closest to my current home.)

This morning I kind of woke up to the thought.

When I was growing up, all the way up to moving out, I was a staple visitor to our local library. I got my library number probably before I went to school and always wanted to borrow more books than my teacher would have allowed when we visited from school.

We had a library bus visit our school when we were on first grade, and years later the driver (who also worked the desk at the branch) told my aunt I must have read half of the books there. That’s not true, but I did read a lot. I read everywhere and I wasn’t too discriminant on what I read.

So why did I stop going when I moved out?

It’s easy to pose that question, but much harder to give a concise answer.

Library system in Finland is free to use for everyone. Some services like copying and such may cost, but to borrow books you just need to get a card. Most cards work at more than one library (the one I found for example covers the whole Helsinki metropolitan area) and have all sorts of internet services attached (renewing loans, ordering distant loans and so on).

The system is great and many people use it actively. Over time, libraries have started to offer all sorts of other things than books and magazines and research.

And that’s a bit of what bothers me with my local library here. There’s no library atmosphere. It’s nice youth likes to hang out in the library, but it kinda ruined the place for me. I may sound like an old fart, but I really do like my libraries silent. I remember what it was like to be young and noisy, and that’s all cool.

But not in the library.

The other big no-no for me was the self-service. The machine was cumbersome and when returning the books I felt I was manhandling them pushing them through the slot when I could hear them falling every which way on the other side. At my old library one checks out at the desk with the clerk and returns the books to the desk to the clerk. Only dropping happens if you return after-hours, and I never did that for the above-mentioned reason. Try returning to the desk here and the lady looks at you like you’ve grown an extra head.

The third issue is the selection. At home, I could be sure to always find something to strike my fancy or an old favorite, or even the research for some school project. Over here, I had trouble finding anything interesting – despite professing to be omnivorous with books I rarely venture to war/espionage fiction of which there were aplenty. There were even none of the books I liked back home (some older books that have the number cards still show my number 5-6 times back home, and yes I’ve checked).

I guess I would need to make a distant loan from some other library or make my way to a different branch to find something more to my tastes. And that removes the joy of finding a book just by wandering between the shelves. That would also add to the hassle, as I’d need to make the reservation, keep an eye on when the books come around and go pick them up. With my old job, that would have been nightmarish.

Back when I had just moved here and was pretty lost, I had hoped to find something familiar. I guess the experience was so far from what I knew and loved I pushed it away. The building itself is very pretty, light and airy. But somehow the staff didn’t seem that helpful to me the few times I went there and it is just rather noisy (and not all is from the teenagers – that place must have lousy acoustics).

Even if my old branch had a magazine room and art exhibitions and always a plethora of school kids it was never so noisy as this one. Not even during the children’s reading hours they used to have (and may still do for all I know).

Somehow I doubt I’ll be going again.

It’s funny though, when I moved here and before that, I thought the area would have so many awesome libraries and so much interesting things to read in them. I would never have then believed how wrong I’d find myself.

Or rather, I’m sure the interesting libraries are somewhere there, but I have no idea where to start looking. And to be honest if the self-checkout/return system is in use everywhere I really don’t even want to go.

It is also rather true that at present I don’t particularly need to go to the library. I have too many books to read at home at present. Or not too many, but… you know, a lot.

But it’s still a shame I so disliked the place. I would have so wanted to love it.


Cleaning Frenzy

I’ve had so much stuff I’ve needed to do around the apartment I’ve had very little time to give to writing. It’s not just physical cleaning I’ve being doing though, I’ve been airing my head as well.

On the positive side though, I’m pretty much done with the most urgent of my chores.

There’s just so much more to do (and even the ‘non-urgent’ list is stuff I should have really done years ago. Shame on me.) that sometimes I don’t know where to start.

I hadn’t even realized how much energy I was spending on working until I stopped doing that. No wonder this place was (and in places still is) a mess. Honestly, though, I’ve learned that no more than 50% of the mess can be my fault and therefore I should expect the creator of the other 50% to take some responsibility. He’s getting there, but sometimes I just have to wonder.

On the stuff more related to this blog, I also frenzied through my bookshelf.

Now you must be wondering what my priorities are, if my bookshelf is on my urgent list. I’ll get there.

I took out all the books I’d read (but had remained under the notion “I just might have time to read this again here”, which is unlikely) and those I plan to take with me to North Karelia. They’re packed up and are waiting for me to take them over to the basement. The box to North Karelia will be staying upstairs. I’m not sure about those yet and I might add stuff – but then I’ll need another box (I’m awful and I have zero impulse control on books).

That’s part of why they were on the urgent list, really. If I get them out from underfoot I’ll have more room to pack some more. We’ve a lot of stuff and this is not a big apartment. (And my furniture is not good for this particular flat, but that’s another story entirely.)

I also vow I’ll buy no more books until the bookshelf is done. I really have to keep this one because I have to carry those things out of here. I love them, but really I need a house to keep them in as is.

There are many interesting books still waiting, so shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Just have to stay home and away from any store in Finland (every grocery store has some pocket books – might not be good, but they’re everywhere).

Regarding my Malleus reading journal though, I realized I’d at some point packed away the Bible I was supposed to cross-reference from. D’oh. Hope it’s not in the basement. I’m NOT opening those boxes again until I’m at my next apartment. (If it’s there the Malleus reading journal is officially on hiatus until next autumn.)

Trying to sort through my inflated worldly possessions has taught me to be better at letting go as well. I have some hoarding tendencies and sometimes get a bit too attached to inanimate objects, but there’s just got to be a line somewhere. I’ve thrown away a lot of stuff I’d kept for ‘that one day when I’ll fix this shit’. Should throw away a lot more, but hey, it’s really a process. Should I capitalize that? Maybe.

Having a clear-set deadline has always been a help for me, and knowing that we won’t be having a place of our own for a couple months really puts pressure into throwing away the unnecessary. I just dread the look on our parents’ faces when they realize what they’ve agreed to…

Anyway, just to let you know I didn’t die over the New Year’s. I’ve been so inspired lately, who knows what’ll happen regarding the actually interesting stuff instead of my housework.

Hopefully. My muses are fickle and cruel.

(And yeah, I’m just posting about doing my chores. I’m so sorry.)

Helsinki Book Fair pt. 2

I spent way too much. I won’t tell you how much, but let’s just say that price/weight ratio was good enough to make my aching hands worth it.

I managed to avoid any sight or sound of the might-be-murderess, a success already lauded by my mother. She is apparently as fed up with the whole thing as I am.

I also spent half an hour listening to a panel about Finnish magical poetry. I was somewhat disappointed that most of the time was taken up by the other guy talking about his own spiritual experiences while the editor just sat there watching. He had the more interesting points and I would have enjoyed just spending 30 minutes of listening to him alone. (I have an awful memory for names, so unfortunately I cannot remember who they were.)

Apparently the more vocal guy was a teacher by profession and I could really hear it. Not only was he a bit too much in love with his own voice, but he was just as monotonous as some of the teachers of my youth. Don’t get me wrong, the best of teachers can inspire their students to learn even outside their field, and I guess that guy can be an inspiring teacher. Just that I’m not in class any more, and I didn’t come by to get inspirational speeches but facts.

I guess I ought to list out what I got.

Usually the Fair’s got an antiquary side and new books and then all the rest (comics, magazines, postcards…) somewhere about. I make most of my finds from the antiquary side, to the exception of this year.

I bought from one antiquary the loveliest edition of Kalevala from 1930s, with graphic art by Gallen-Kallela. I don’t like the new editions with modern Finnish, I think the poems lose something intrinsic to them if you try to take them away from the ancient words put in place by the original singers.

Also, as a present to my father who is turning 70 later this year I bought a magazine from December 1946. I was also hoping to find a newspaper for the exact date, but the only ones available were the 25th and 29th of December and none from between. I hope he doesn’t take offense from the topic of the magazine, the title of which translates to Health – I am after all known to poke him towards a doctor’s appointment (But hey, if a daughter is not allowed to be worried about her father who is obviously not totally 100% healthy, then who is?).

In relation to Kalevala I also bought a book about Ingrian dirges. They are of a similar root as us Finns from the ancient Karelian woodlands and Ingrian women kept up the song and poem tradition all the way to Soviet times. The Ingrian songs in the book are all lamentations, not necessarily for the dead only but also to those otherwise lost: daughters to their husband’s homes and people leaving for far off places. I’m thinking this’ll be a total tear-jerker for me.

I bought the Finnish grammar. One of those books I’ll probably never read from cover to cover, but if I ever want to know that one thing… (It was over 60% off from retail price too.) Also, in differentiation to all the other Finnish grammars, this one is the BIG grammar. Ought to have everything.

One book is about genre analysis in literature. From what I gather it’s some sort of comprehensive guide to anything you might want to know about that. In short, everything I might wish for. I took a fancy for the field while trying to apply for the university, and this is a nice addition to that collection.

Also a find, I got a book about medieval cooking, both ingredients and implements -wise. It’s looking out to be an interesting read and I might even try out the recipes. Mother suspected I couldn’t get any ingredients, but from a quick rifling through it seems the recipes have been chosen to be accessible to the modern cook. (No brains or pig’s feet. I don’t know about you guys and where you live, but that kind of stuff isn’t readily available anywhere around here unless you happen to butcher your own livestock. I don’t have the means nor the stomach for that and I’ll admit it.)

The last two Finnish titles were a study on misanthropy edited by mr. Nummelin and a study on medieval slave trade of Finnish and Scandinavian people towards the East. I read bits of Nietzsche in German while on Interrail and the misanthropy book falls right on those tracks. And I don’t need to remind you about how much I love history at this point, do I?

This is threatening to be a very long post, so here are the titles of the translated books. I might give a commentary when I’m finished reading these (as I might with what’s mentioned above), but in the meantime if you’re interested Google is your friend. 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus by Charles C. Mann; A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: With Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects by Mary Wollstonecraft and The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert.

I really enjoyed the Fair as I always do, but as usual the food was priced too high (10€ for a soda and a prepacked sandwich, yeah, NO) and there were too many people. By too many people I mean those individuals who think it’s their god-given right to stand in the middle of the hallway in everyone’s way chatting on or those who think that if they pretend they don’t see you they can just walk right into (through) you.

Now, a tumbler of good Scotch whisky and one of my new books and the divan. Ta-ta!

Helsinki Book Fair

Today it starts, ends this Sunday.

I’ll only be going today. I have some time off (for once, THANK YOU, wrist!) but taking the train there several days in a row… I love books, but not as much as to take that bloody train any more often than I have to – nothing wrong with the train but the people in it.

The center hold also a food and wine exhibit, but after seeing what it was like last year I doubt I’ll take more than a quick peek. Last year I didn’t get one sample that actually tasted like the product; the sample bites were cut so small they hardly held in the sampling forks. That was due to people stopping to actually eat out of the samples while chatting with the workers. No wonder they don’t want to hand stuff out when you take more than your due, people…

The wine part requires you to buy a tasting cup. I’m not there to get drunk but to buy books, so none of that either. All the things for sale are obviously also higher end and rather expensive, so they wouldn’t fit in my budget anyway.

But the books, oh, they fit in no matter what!

And I’m also going to do some Christmas shopping while there. Wouldn’t do of me to be all selfish and only buy things for me… Or it would, but I hate Christmas shopping so this way I’ll at least get it done.

Yes. There are women who hate shopping. You’ve just met one. It’s really just not for Christmas but for anything except books or food in general. I especially hate fitting rooms and clothes stores. I hate the sales associates (not their fault, I just hate being asked stuff) and I hate the music and the commercials. (And I hate the fact that when you would actually need help no one suddenly wants to help you any more.)

I’ve not looked through the events, but I did spot one ad for the book fair… Apparently, a woman who was first not a suspect, then a suspect and now acquitted of her husband’s murder a few years back is there to promote her book. I personally believe she offed him, but she had plenty of time to get rid of the evidence when the police where off chasing bad leads. Oh well, she was found not guilty and now she wants several millions from the state for the time she spent incarcerated. She has also written this book about her time after the death of her husband (or something like that).

I hope I won’t be there when she is there. I really do not want to hear her talk about any of that stuff over the loudspeakers. The media just shut up about it, I’ve had plenty more than enough.

Let’s take a look though, out of pure curiosity… Who’s there today?

Apparently, the themes this year are nature and “Finnish Public School 150 Years”. So there is some nature photography by Sergey Korshkov on display (and in all likelihood his photo books). Also some discussions seem to border the subject.

School, children and learning have a bigger part of Thursday, likely because on weekdays school classes tend to be there. There’s the opening ceremony for the 150th anniversary of the school system; some guy (never heard of him) has written a book about kids and internet and is there to talk about it, a local science center has a pop-up section; a workshop just for kids and some other stuff as well… Apparently, this year it would be great to be under 12 at the book fair. Alas, those days are far gone for me.

Aaand there it is. Memoirs of the Murder Widow, 12:30-13:00. Craptastic. I’ll just go and see the food expo for that half an hour.

Speaking of which, time to get going! There are a few interesting panels I want to check out before that.

I’ll think I’ll write a little follow-up later on, this was cut a bit short…

Goodreads widget

Spur of the moment addition.

I must remind you, that my Goodreads page is for the moment a work in progress.

I have so far added only about a third of the books in my possession and some of the read/reading/unread -shelves are not exactly correct at the moment.

Insofar as are the books that I have read in my possession, the list is right. The question is more of have I truly finished all of them yet. Some of my books are waiting for bigger shelves in the basement, and I have just mercilessly added them to await the time to actually comb through it and put everything in their correct virtual shelves anyway.

So, as I have warned you before, should you visit in order to see my bookshelves… You will be greeted by a construction site gone horribly wrong.

I’ll let you know when it’s safe to enter without a helmet…

Museum of Innocence

Orhan Pamuk

So, I wrote a bit about this one before. Then I thought it’d be a good book for a bath, and on that count I was right.

As a whole though, I’m not really sure what to think of it. It’s well-written and the story is interesting, but still, towards the end I was getting a bit ‘meh’.

It may be I just require a re-read.

I couldn’t make myself to particularly like Füsun, but then, I’m not entirely sure I was meant to like her. Kemal fell in love with her even when she wasn’t the kind of girl he should have focused on in the first place, and the further the story progressed it came clear that this unsuitability was pervasive of her as a character. I’m not saying Sibel was the right one either, but I know for sure Füsun wasn’t really it.

Perhaps it is indeed this description of the madness that is love that has won the book its acclaim.

The name is also very apt. I took it first in a totally wrong sense, but the further I reflect upon it, the clearer I see the innocence that was truly in question.

Yet, despite seeing the genius within the book I can’t but think it would have benefited from some more editing. I do understand that the despair of love is one of the carrying themes of the book, but at some point you just want to grab Kemal by the lapels and shake him and yell: “Just get over it you moron, eight years mooning over a girl that’s not really that into you is just dumb!”

There are points throughout the story that let you forget the incessant obsession (or even kinda sympathize with his tortured, misunderstood soul!), but then he goes and steals something and there goes the crazy train again.

I really don’t know what else to say of it.

I sort of liked it, because of the meta story and the little gems of wisdom scattered throughout the story. Some of them are so universal and true just about anyone can agree with them.

Then again I sort of didn’t like it, and there were points that were a chore to meander through. And as I said, there’s the point where pining over long lost love just becomes pathetic (and that’s just painful to follow, in writing and in real life).

Let’s just leave it at that.


The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair

by Joël Dicker

I can’t recall whether I put it on my list or not, but I definitely should have. I bought the book on impulse after work one day (the benefits of working in an insanely huge hypermarket or whatever it is), but never got around to actually reading it – you know, with what the list and everything. I actually got a bit of buyer’s remorse at home, wondering whether the book was really as promising as it had seemed at the store.

Oh, it was.

I read it in about 6ish hours while on board the booze cruise between Helsinki and Tallinn, Estonia. “Booze cruise?”, I hear you ask. Well, the Finnish government thinks drinking is a huge national health issue and taxes alcohol rather heavily. Finns, being either irritated by this particular policy or just being cheap, travel en masse by ship to countries such as Estonia, where alcohol is less expensive due to lighter taxes. They drag back as much beer and other beverages as they can carry, pull or fit in a car within the import limits and drink plenty while on way. Of course, as the ships also travel outside Finnish waters, tax free on board saves the trouble of visiting the harbor towns altogether for the lazy or hung over.

I didn’t drink and woke up early, so I had plenty of time to read in relative peace before the still drunk or hung over flooded the ship corridors and decks. And so I read, and I totally love the book. At first I thought I knew what happened, then I was no longer so sure and the end really was worth the trip (as sadly isn’t always quite the case). I had some right ideas and I guessed some of the plot twists, but it didn’t go quite as I had thought, and the murderer (there is one) is really NOT someone you’d first think about, and not even the tenth. Totally unexpected.

Also, mr. Dicker has the outstanding skill of letting you believe one where the truth is exactly the opposite, quite alike the best Agatha Christie mysteries. Also, I half thought that he was American as that’s where the book is situated, but he’s from Switzerland. At least for me the feeling he gave off in describing the setting (a small town in New England) was very believable. I’ve never been to U.S.A. and everything I know is from books, so I might be mistaken. An American reader of the book might think it was all wrong, do tell me if you know better on this.

My copy is a Finnish translation, and I thought I couldn’t finish 809 pages on board, no chance. There are a lot of short interlude chapters on the way, making it a bit faster read compared to a book of similar length with less chapters. One should pay attention to the interludes though, as they tell a story all their own. The story goes on in so many levels one must really use some concentration to keep in mind who said what and when and to whom.

I appreciated how the main character had very believable faults. There was one point that stuck out a bit, but if you haven’t read the book I shan’t go into any more detail. Even that little hitch had a point in the story and added a whole another level. Somehow it just was as smoothly inserted as some other plot moves. All in all, I don’t think it’s that major a fault, just something I didn’t find quite logically sound.

The supporting cast were also sound characters, acting out all the same mistakes everyday people make. And when one gets around to digging, we all have our secrets, just like these imaginary ones. Theirs are just on average weirder than with me or you… or let’s at least just agree that it’s so.

All in all, were I in the habit of dishing out stars, this would get a 4,99/5. Not a full five, but so close it’s almost the same thing. So, if you’re into thrillers or crime books or just a good read in general, do give it a try.

I think in the end we did get to the bottom of the Harry Quebert affair. We must have.