Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Books on my coffee table

1. Thomas Elsaesser: Metropolis. BFI Film Classics. London: BFI Publishing, 2000. In anticipation of the first Helsinki screening of the 2010 restoration and the first Finnish live performance of the original score for a cinema orchestra: written before the two most recent reconstructions of Metropolis, the book is still very much worth reading. The most impressive insight is Elsaesser's comment on Fritz Lang's attitude in Metropolis of "a kind of relativising 'knowledge' about itself" which has granted Metropolis immunity to ridicule and made it feel actually more contemporary since the 1980s than it was in the 1920s.

2. Fritz Langs Metropolis. Herausgegeben von der Deutschen Kinemathek - Museum für Film und Fernsehen. München: Belleville / Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek, 2010. In the center of this impressive coffee table book is the account of Martin Koerber, Anke Wilkening and Frank Strobel on the 2010 reconstruction of Metropolis. The magnificent book has 600 illustrations of stills, posters, photographs, sketches, musical notes, etc.

3. John Kerr: A Most Dangerous Method. The Story of Jung, Freud, and Sabina Spielrein (1993). Read in the edition of: New York: Random House: Vintage Books, 2011. Read as a companion to David Cronenberg's movie, this is a critical study about the early years of psychoanalysis. Freud credited Spielrein as the inspiration for his introduction of "the death drive" in the expanded version of psychoanalysis, but Kerr reports that Freud's reading of Spielrein was based on a misunderstanding. In Kerr's opinion Jung and Spielrein had a passionate relationship after Spielrein's cure from hysteria, but it was not a sex relationship in the contemporary sense, although the first impression from their correspondence would imply so. The sex scenes in Cronenberg's film are based on imagination.

4. Seppo Konttinen: Suomalainen ruokalasku [The Finnish Grocery Bill]. Helsinki: Siltala, 2011. An exposé about the Finnish cartel of the grocery retail scene where two big chains, the K chain and the S chain have achieved a situation where Finns pay 20% more for groceries than other Europeans, yet producers get less, often so little that they barely survive. The Finnish system is also based on a tight system of collaboration with politicians on the national and municipal levels. Under scrutiny are also issues of food quality and environmental responsibility.

5. Laura Gustafsson: Huorasatu [A Whore Fairy-Tale]. Helsinki: Into, 2011. One of the six candidates for the acclaimed Finlandia Prize last year, all by women authors. I failed to connect with the outburst of gross carnality and I failed to detect a literary quality in the flow of words.

6. Tommy Hellsten: Virtahepo työpaikalla [A Rhinoceros at the Workplace] (1998). Helsinki: Kirjapaja, 2007. Reread a Finnish classic of workplace psychology: what happens for instance when there is an alcoholic at the workplace. Everybody denies any problem, everybody looks the other way, others take over neglected tasks, bypasses are created to avoid confronting the situtation, temporary arrangements are introduced, and a real structure besides the nominal one is established to do things. Having read the 2007 edition I learned there is an even newer one from 2012.

7. Kirsti Ekonen, Sanna Turoma (ed.): Venäläisen kirjallisuuden historia [A History of Russian Literature]. Helsinki: Gaudeamus Helsinki University Press, 2011. A magnificent overview from the era of the bylina to the present day. No tradition of literature is more profound than the Russian one. For a man of the cinema this book is full of cinema connections, from Ilya Muromets to Solzhenitsyn. There is also a bias of political correctness: women authors of easy reading are highlighted but male authors of similar genres are justly forgotten. The bias is so blatant that there is little harm done.

8. Martti Anhava: Romua rakkauden valtatiellä: Arto Mellerin elämä [Junk on the Highway of Love: The Life of Arto Melleri]. Helsinki: Otava, 2011. Martti Anhava was the editor and a friend of the poet Arto Melleri (1956-2005). Anhava has done the ultimate service to his friend by editing Melleri's collected poems (2005) and prose (2010) and now publishing a third sizeable volume, on Melleri's life. Melleri's notebooks and correspondence play a big part in this book and they are its major raison d'être: Anhava has rescued Melleri's remarks (often poetic, often witty) for us to study. As a biography it's warts and all about a poet who lived and died the rock dream. There is no idealization, no glorification, and no sensation, either, although Melleri's life during his last years was tabloid stuff. We get the facts of life and sense Anhava's unconditional respect for the poetic talent of a tormented friend. This volume belongs to the highest rank of literary biographies. Cinema was always important for Melleri, the book is full of evidence about it, and Anhava has also published a special essay on Melleri and the cinema (Filmihullu 1/2011).

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