Sunday, January 21, 2018

Christmas holiday reading 1

We were surrounded with books during the Christmas holiday. These are some of the books we read and keep reading after Epiphany.

1. Staffan Bruun: Så formades Finland. 50 avsnitt om Finlands ödesstunder. [How Finland Was Formed. 50 Passages from Finland's Fatal Hours]. Finland 100. 210 p. Helsingfors: KSF Media, 2017. – My favourite Centenary of Finnish Independence reading was Staffan Bruun's Sunday series in the newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet, published as a book after the Finnish Independence Day on 6 December. 50 familiar themes seen from unusual and thought-provoking viewpoints.

2. David Bordwell: Reinventing Hollywood. How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling. 572 p. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2017. – David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson are the authors of the globally most highly regarded textbooks on film art, storytelling and history. In this new magisterial book Bordwell is at his best and offers a rich and thorough account of a particularly exciting period, Hollywood in the 1940s, its golden age of innovative storytelling. A labour of love. – I am thinking about a dear colleague and friend, Mr. Matti Salo (1933–2017) who shared the special passion for 1940s American cinema and discussed it in all his books (on film noir, blacklisted screenwriters, Joseph Losey, Abraham Polonsky, and political thrillers).

3. Georg Büchmann (original editor): Geflügelte Worte [Winged Words]. Der klassische Zitatenschatz. Gesammelt und erläutert von Georg Büchmann. Fortgesetzt von Walter Robert-tornow, Konrad Weidling, Eduard Ippel, Bogdan Krieger, Günther Haupt, Werner Rust, Alfred Grunow. Unveränderte Taschenbuchausgabe der 43. neu bearbeiteten und aktualisierten Ausgabe von Winfried Hofmann. Einzige von der Erstausgabe 1864 unmittelbar fortgeführte Originalausgabe. 650 p. München: Ullstein, 2007. – I have a weakness for collections of "winged words" (a winged expression in itself, dating back to Homer). The Büchmann, originally published in 1864, is the father of these collections. In Finland there are also several, and a favourite of mine is Oiva Talvitie's Lentäviä lauseita (1957). The best of these books have commentaries putting famous sayings in context. Büchmann is excellent in philology, Talvitie in wit. One can read these books as appetizers inspiring us to find the original works.

4. Sinikka Vuola (ed.): Olet täyttänyt ruumiini tulella. Eroottisen runouden antologia [You Have Filled My Body with Fire. An Anthology of Erotic Poetry]. 365 p. Helsinki: WSOY, 2017. – It would not be sensational to bring out a collection of 240 erotic poems, but this book consists only of Finnish poems published in 2000–2017! A surprise bestseller of the year 2017 was the beautiful Centenary of Finnish Independence poetry collection Katso pohjoista taivasta [Look at the Northern Sky] edited by Jenni Haukio. My favourite of the all-encompassing ones on Finnish poetry is the 2014 edition of Tämän runon haluaisin kuulla [This Poem I'd Love to Hear] edited by Satu Koskimies. An excellent and surprising collection was Vastakaanon [Anti-Canon: Finnish Experimental Poetry 2000-2010] edited by Juri Joensuu, Marko Niemi, and Harry Salmenniemi in 2011. It revealed the contemporary golden age of Finnish poetry. Sinikka Vuola's anthology is the most surprising of all, bringing together all currently active generations and orientations, old favourites and new revelations. On a never-ending theme.

5. Sekstetti: Finland 100. 78 p. Mediapinta, 2017. – Annele Aarni-Wiklund, Anne Laine-Joensuu, Mervi Karoniemi, Tuula Pöllänen, and Francesca Vallin are the five poets who form "the sextet", more than a sum of their parts. A delightful anthology "from beyond nirvana".

6. Juha Hurme: Niemi [The Peninsula]. Finland 100. 448 p. Helsinki: Teos, 2017. – Juha Hurmi is a shaman, seer, pantheist, man of letters and man of the theatre, a reincarnation of ancient Finnish poets. This award-winning magnum opus is a flight of fancy, a crazy history of the universe, an anti-nationalistic treatise of cultural heritage, always seeing the big context in the evolution of our little land. A book of inspiration with fascinating quotes of poetry. A journey of discovery. I wish Mr. Hurme could slightly tone down a populistic urge.

7. Esko Valtaoja: Kohti ikuisuutta [Towards Eternity]. 303 p. Helsinki: Tähtitieteellinen yhdistys Ursa, 2017.
8. Esko Valtaoja: Kaiken käsikirja [A Manual of Everything]. 222 p. Helsinki: Tähtitieteellinen yhdistys Ursa, 2012. – Esko Valtaoja is a professor of astronomy and a popular columnist and speaker, with a talent of illuminating discoveries of science to a wide audience. Towards Eternity is a futuristic essay with a vision of a hopeful and benevolent future. The perspective here is not in the next decade or even century but in millennia, dozens of millennia and more. Valtaoja is thinking about completely different forms of existence. Like Juha Hurme, Valtaoja is a charismatic speaker, and also in his book there is a temptation for populism which may date his compelling work.

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