Voices from the ether

I find my job very interesting, not only because I get to do interesting things, but also because I get to spend a lot of time filling spreadsheets. You might be thinking that I am a lunatic, but I do find spreadsheet interesting (don’t you get that feeling of triumph when the formula you have concocted works perfectly?) and I love having long hours to listen to things. At first I used to listen to music, but I have to say I lack the talent (and patience) for playlists); I then tried to get into audiobooks, but I already expected it to be a failure: I struggle to keep my attention at the same level for so long, especially because I am working, and I need to be able to switch off and on without loosing a pivotal turn of events in the plot.

So, that’s why I have turned to podcasts. I made some research and started listening here and there…and now I am listening to so many I have decided I should share the list. Here you go, dear 25 readers, enjoy!

Narrative podcasts – stand-alone episodes:

  • The Truth: their slogan is “movies for your ears”. Every episode is different in plot and genre.
  • The Snap Judgement: part stand -up, part narration, part interviews. Again, the genre varies a lot. Each episode lasts about 1 hour and contains about 4 different stories.
  • The Heart Radio: real-life stories and fiction about “intimacy and humanity”. Sexuality, relationships are among the frequent themes of the podcast.

Mistery, Horror and Sci-Fi:

  • The Black Tapes: serialised docu-drama about the unsolved paranormal cases recorded on Dr Strand’s black tapes. Intensely gripping.
  • Tanis: twin podcast of The Black Tapes, this takes more a Sci-Fi angle. It takes slighly longer to get into it, but when it happens, well, you are lost.
  • Limetown: the research facility of Limetown, together with all the people living there, suddenly disappeared. Lia Haddock starts investigating about it out of interest, but soon discovers that she is much more involved in this mystery than she thought.
  • Archive 81: Daniel disappeared and has left some tapes to his friend Mark. Each episode Mark plays one tape, each tape is weirder than the previous one.
  • Ars Paradoxica: Doctor Sally Grissom accidentally invents time travel and finds herself in 1943. A lot of scientific jargon, but hey, what’s not to love.
  • The Bright Sessions: Dr Bright is a psychologist, but not the usual kind. She only treats “special” patients, patients with superpowers. Simply great.
  • The Bridge: in an alternate 2016, a transcontinental bridge connects Europe with America; it has been built, but also abandoned. The Watchtowers though are still manned, and Etta broadcasts folklore stories from the bridge…together with the traffic reports, because that is supposed to be her job.
  • Alice isn’t Dead: a road trip through America in search for a wife which might or might not be dead.

General Culture Podcasts:

  • The Moth: top quality stand-up narration by stellar speakers.
  • Lore: how has folklore from the Old Continent adapted to America? Listen to this podcast to find out.

Here you go. I am sure I have forgotten some, but these are the one I listen to on a regular basis.

 

Happy 2017 🙂

 

Edit:

I realised I had forgotten 2 podcasts!! Shame on me.

  • Life After: what if there was a social media which reproduces the voice of the loved ones you have lost?
  • The Message: 70 years ago we received a message from outer space, someone is trying to decipher it, but this is not without consequences.

 

Di Neve tardiva e foreste impenetrabili – le copertine disagio

Negli ultimi mesi ho identificato un tipo di copertina che per me significa automaticamente disagio: solitamente comprende uno scenario invernale, alberi e neve, forse una figura solitaria. La palette di colori compresa in questo tipo di copertine è solitamente blu, bianco e argento.

I libri che mi hanno fatto identificare la mia sinestesia sono stati The Snow ChildOur Endless Numbered DaysNeve.

Tutti questi libri mi hanno fatta sentire in qualche modo a disagio, sia perché magari non conoscevo abbastanza l’argomento al momento della lettura, sia perché alcuni era fuori dalla mia solita comfort zone.

The Snow Child è la storia di una coppia che si trasferisce in Alaska nei tempi della corsa all’oro tra il 1890 e il 1910 e viene visitata durante l’inverno da una misteriosa bambina che sembra essere portata dalla neve. Il ritmo della storia è scandito da queste apparizioni e l’intreccio ne risulta talvolta ripetitivo; questa caratteristica riflette in modo interessante lo stile di vita di questi tempi duri, ma, allo stesso tempo, può rendere la lettura noiosa a tratti. Ho trovato la parte finale prevedibile e poco interessante. Consigliato (con riserve) agli amanti dei romanzi “invernali”.

Our Endless Numbered Days è la storia di un padre che negli anni ’70 decide di rapire prendere la propria figlia e trasferirsi in una capanna in una foresta tedesca, raccontando alla figlia che sono gli unici sopravvissuti dopo che una tempesta ha distrutto il resto del mondo circostante. La narrazione alterna racconti della ragazza del suo tempo nella foresta e momenti nella Londra contemporanea (1985), dopo il suo ritorno. La narrazione, in prima persona, è molto vivida e fisica; l’autrice non è spaventata dal racconto dei particolari più sordidi della sopravvivenza nella foresta. Allo stesso tempo, però, la vicenda è raccontata con particolare delicatezza, esplorando temi non proprio semplici in modo accessibile e non scontato. Caldamente consigliato.

Neve è un romanzo difficile, per molti motivi: in primis, è lungo. In secondo luogo, tratta il tema oltremodo attuale delle differenze tra Islam e cultura occidentale, nel teatro di Kars, cittadina turca al confine con l’Armenia. La prosa è molto elegante e il tema è trattato in modo molto personale, senza giudizi o pregiudizi. Mi sono trovata a non simpatizzare troppo per nessuno dei personaggi, cosa che forse ha guastato un po’ la lettura. Sarei forse riuscita a godere di più della lettura se avessi fatto qualche ricerca preliminare sulla storia di Kars. Consigliato agli amanti della storia Turca e a chi fosse interessato alla prospettiva di un noto scrittore turco sul cultural clash tra Europa e Islam.

Anche voi avete delle copertine che vi ispirano istantaneamente disagio? Raccontatemelo!

See you later, alligators.

 

 

Questioni in Sospeso – il 2015 in libri

Ho passato parte del 2015 a iniziare a scrivere recensioni di libri, senza riuscire a finirle.

Questo format evidentemente per me non funziona, quindi ho deciso di fare una prova col contrario per concludere l’anno almeno con un post finito e pubblicato.

Passiamo quindi senza indugio all’elenco di libri che non ho finito quest’anno:

  1. J. S. Le Fanu, In a Glass Darkly: probabilmente mi aspettavo qualcosa di meno “ottocentesco”, che lo fa entrare dritto nella categoria non sei tu, sono io. La cornice della storia non mi intrigava particolarmente, e rendeva la lettura ancora meno scorrevole. Abbandonato a metà prima di raggiungere Carmilla.
  2. G. Perec, La Scomparsa: questo romanzo è stato scritto originariamente in francese senza mai usare la lettera e, rendendolo probabilmente l’incubo ricorrente dei traduttori. La trama dovrebbe essere una parodia di un romanzo noir; io ero troppo occupata a cercare parole sul dizionario per riuscire a concentrarmi sul filo. La lettura in inglese era complessa, poco piacevole e mi ha scoraggiata molto presto.
  3. V. Nabokov, Lolita: non sono sicura che riuscirei a sintetizzare in poche righe tutto ciò che trovo di sbagliato in questo romanzo. La voce narrante è morbosa, il testo è morboso e disturbante. Non ce l’ho fatta ad andare avanti, la tentazione di prendere a legnate Humbert Humbert prevaricava il piacere della lettura costantemente.
  4. H. Macdonald, H is for Hawk: libro sbagliato nel momento sbagliato. Volevo interrompere la lettura della saga della Torre Nera tra volume 6 e 7. La mia forza di volontà ha ceduto molto presto, e ho rimandato la lettura a tempi migliori
  5. S. King, The Dark Tower VII – The Dark Tower: chiaramente il mio affezionato ebook reader mi ha abbandonata a 200 pagine dall’inizio. Sono ancora ignara della fine della saga perché non ho ancora ceduto a comprare il cartaceo non esattamente tascabile di questo volume. Qualcosa mi dice che dovrò porre rimedio in fretta.
  6. D. De Lillo, Americana: quando passi la maggior parte del tempo a chiederti “ma cosa diamine sto leggendo?”, è un chiaro segno che è tempo di passare oltre. Io però sono caparbia, ho tenuto duro e ho sono passata al livello successivo, “tutto questo non ha senso”. Poi ho chiuso perché la pazienza è la virtù dei forti, e la forza è esattamente la qualità che mi manca al mattino sulla metropolitana prima di andare a lavoro.

E voi? Cosa avete ributtato sullo scaffale quest’anno?

 

Burial Rites – NLBC February 2015

If you were wondering: yes, I skipped one month. January’s book was Georges Berec’s A Void, and unfortunately I haven’t got much to say about it. I tried to read it quickly before the meeting, but although it is not a massive volume, I could not manage to finish it in time.

On the other hand, I finished Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites in less than a week. Here is what it is about and why.

The story is set in Iceland in 1820s and is inspired by the story of the last woman to be executed in the country, Agnes Magnúsdóttir. The author concentrates on the months preceding her death, when she is allocated to a local farm, to spend her last time helping the family. The story is told through different points of view, among which Agnes’ and Toti’s, the priest she has chosen to guide her before her death. At the beginning, silence is the the most conspiuous element: the silence of Icelandic landscape, the stubborn silence of Agnes, who is convinced that everyone would twist her words if she decides to speak; the suspicious silenece of the  District Officer Jón Jónsson and his family; the embarassed silence of reverend Toti, who feels inadequate for the task. However, the story slowly unravels as Agnes and the inhabitants of the house start getting used to her presence in the house. The family will learn that nothing was as it seemed to be, and they will need to learn how to live with their own judgement.

At first, I was a bit skeptical about the book. It was presented to me as an introspective crime novel and I have to confess that it was not entirely enticing. As I read through thouh, I resigned to change my mind.

First of all, I am very passionate about Iceland; having been working for months on a project involving the Sagas of the Icelanders and Norse mythology, I found myself thrilled at the discovery that the story is based on true events. I made some basic research, and stumbled upon a list of the records of the last women subject to capital punishment in Europe; I read it with unexpected interest (did you know that the last woman to be sentenced to death in Licchtenstein was a thief called Barbara Erni in 1785? Criminal punishment was to be abolished two years later). Sadly, I found very little about Agnes’ true story. I suspect that I would benefit from Icelandic classes, but for now I will rely on Kent’s writing.

Second, the characters are multifaceted and relatable: each one of them has its flaws and weaknesses and I could not be completely partial to anyone because different actions made me feel contrasting feelings.

Third, the plot is interesting and gripping. Although you already know how it is going to end (unless you decided not to google Agnes), the story is a journey into the past, into the complex reasons the lead the woman to her actions.

For this reason, the book maybe suffers the lack of dramatic plot twists or turns of events, having those happened before the narration, but I believe it has other good selling points, as I already described.

In addition, the portrait of Icelandic daily life is convincing, detailed and sometimes even cruel: Hannah Kent definitely knows what she is talking about.

Finally, Agnes is a female protagonist with strong dignity and self-consciousness, even when she faces the other characters filthy and soiled after months of detention. I could not always relate with her, but I feel I respect her and I felt her more human than other fictional characters with historical pretension I read in the past.

I would definitely recomend the book to the lovers of Iceland, of introspective fiction and historical fiction. If you are all three, you will certainly be satisfied.

Dieci cose che non sopporto quando si parla di scuola

Amen.

Il nuovo mondo di Galatea

Da docente, ma anche da cittadina e da ex alunna, ogni volta che si parla di scuola confesso che mi prende l’intorcolo di stomaco (non si dice intorcolo? sì, si dice, è quella roba che mi viene quando si parla di scuola). Finisce che baruffo, baruffo con tutti, a Destra e a Sinistra, perché, quando si parla di scuola, ci sono alcune cose che me le fanno girare, e tantissimo, non perché sono cose di destra, o di sinistra, ma perché per conto mio sono semplicemente grandissime scemenze.

1. La scuola privata. Vuoi mandare i tuoi figli alla scuola privata? Mandaceli, sei liberissimo. Però non venire a chiedere i soldi a me. Non ti voglio finanziare e non voglio nemmeno che tu abbia una riduzione delle tasse. Per altro, tutti i dati OCSE e PISA, cioè quelle valutazioni a cui ti appelli per dimostrare che la scuola pubblica fa schifo…

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Christmas Reading: The Path to the Nest of Spiders

I spent the Christmas holidays in Italy, at my parents’ place, which happens to be the house I grew up in.

What a coincidence.

Leaving my sarcasm aside, I have to say that I decided to drop all my readings and go for an Italian classic. I feel I am loosing a bit of my grip on the language, and I would like to read a bit more in Italian. This time, I chose The Path to the Nest of Spiders, Italo Calvino’s first novel.

Written in 1947, the story is about the Italian resistence during WWII. At the time it was a huge deal because there were (and still are) conflicting opinions about the role of the resistence in the conflict, and Calvino aimed to write an objective account, neither apologetic nor defiant. He describes this highly intricate process in the foreword, which has become a masterpiece about the resistance literature in itself.

Pin, a young boy, is the main character of the novel. The story is narrated from his point of view, and interpreted from a childish perspective. Therefore, the tone is not serious and oppressive as it could be given the setting: it sounds like an awkward fairy tale. I found the read quite hard at the beginning, because I found the POV quite unnerving at first. Furthermore, I have little experience in topics such as this, and I was afraid I could not appreciate the book. As I was reading on, however, I enjoyed the book and aknowledged the efficacy of the child’s point of view as a fictional tool aimed at a more authentical approach to the topic.

I would definitely recomend the book to Calvino’s lovers and contemporary history enthusiasts.

And the Mountains Echoed – NLBC November 2014

Kalhed Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed was November choice for the North London Book Club. Unfortunately, I could not discuss it with the others, since I was busy moving house and trying to hold on my life together. While now I am pretty much settled in the new house, I would not really say the same for my life, but here we go.

And the Mountains Echoed is a collection of short stories revolving around the members of a family in Afghanistan (and France, and US), and follows them from the 1950s to the present time. Each member of the family differently experiences the story of their country and brings to the reader a different facet of Afghan daily strives and joys.

The book is beautifully written and I found myself captured by the magnificent sensory descriptions, especially in the first stories. The plot is well constructed and gives a very good insight of life of Afghans before and after the war(s).

However, this book did not really kindle my interest. Personally, I am not often intrigued by collection of short stories, because they hardly grip my attention, or they do not manage to keep me interested to the end of the book. This probably contributed to my judgement of And The Mountains Echoed: although all the stories are interwined, I found that the main point too diluted.

This book has all the potential to be a great reading, but, alas, it was not my cup of tea.