2015-01-18

The Ehrenmark Christmas Tradition

This charming cover is drawn by
 Gunnar Brusewitz.
"Gatan steg som en Afrodite ur Svartåns skum, förde en tynande tillvaro utan trottoarer men desto mera trästaket och höga kardborrstånd och gick självutplåningen till mötes på ett solstekt gärde där den snart bara var en söndersprucken gångstig. Men gångstigen tog inte slut. Det var det väsentliga. Den gick till Vladivostok. Man kunde se det på den enklaste skolatlas, för gångstigen ledde så småningom via många andra stigar och skumma prång ut på Adolfsbergsvägen som visserligen gick åt söder men tog man sen lite andra vägar åt väster och norr så kom man över Haparanda ända bort till Sibiriens östkust."
"The street rose like an Afrodite from the foam of the Black River, lead a languishing life without sidewalks but wooden fences and high burdock plants, going self-effacing towards a sunbaked field where it soon turned into a cracked footpath.
But the footpath did not end. That was the essential insight. It went to Vladivostok. This could be seen on the simplest school atlas, that the footpath led, by way of many other paths and obscure passages, to the Adolfsberg road - which went south, that is true, but - if you then took some other roads west and north, you came over Haparanda all the way to the Sibirian east coast."

One of the books I brought home from the library for the Christmas holidays and had no time to read was Torsten Ehrenmark´s "Resor till ingenstans" (= travels to nowhere) from 1967. When I was a kid it was a Christmas tradition to read the annual Ehrenmark causerie collection, which was sold along with so called "Christmas magazines" by children going from house to house, thus earning some pocket money. Everyone had their favourite reads, for example, my grandfather bought Swedish comics like "Kronblom" about a lazy but innovative old farmer and I had a period when I read an annual collection of horror short stories. I pretty soon started reading my mother´s causerie collections, like Ehrenmark´s (there were others, like Gits Olsson), because they would make her giggle and even laugh out loud.

Ehrenmark is still good. I´m not the only one to think so, this particular collection was recommended by Dagens Nyheter´s journalist Jonas Thente, who recently wrote about how he would queue up to get his yearly copy signed (he lived in Stockholm where authors would do that kind of thing, I did not) and he would demand that Ehrenmark write "to my friend Thente", which he did. Actually, I wrote for Ehrenmark´s autograph myself, which he sent me from London - it is one of my finest treasures.

I love what he writes about the Slavonic languages, because I have experienced exactly the same thing:

"Det är något mystiskt med slaviska språk. Och turkiska också för den delen. Både i Jugoslavien, Bulgarien och Turkiet har jag blivit offer för hörselhallucinationer som är mycket besvärande. Jag tycker plötsligt att folk talar svenska. Jag stod och hängde i korridoren utanför kupén mellan Belgrad och Dimitrovgrad. Plötsligt hörde jag någon säga alldeles tydligt:- Jag tycker att hon ser slafsig ut.Jag vände mig om och tittade förvånad in i kupén. Där satt samma människor som förut och talade jugoslaviska. En herre betraktade mig begrundande och vände sig sedan till en dam och sa och jag hörde det alldeles tydligt:- Nej förresten, då tycker jag inte att det blir bra. Det var rätt skrämmande. Satsaccenten stämde precis. Han yttrade sig med ett naturligt svenskt tonfall och jag kunde ha svurit på att det var dessa ord han sa. I fortsättningen blev jag allt oftare offer för dessa inbillade yttranden. Ibland lät det som svenska ord som inte finns, om ni förstår hur jag menar. - Jag ben inte förstärad över och så, sa en jugoslav allvarligt. Jag hade på tungan att säga: Förlåt, men vad menar ni?Ett par gånger trodde jag mig tilltalad och vände mig om. - Bylån knackar väl inte huvet, sa nån bakom mig. Det var på vippen att jag svarade: Nej visst inte. I Turkiet var det nästan ännu mer påtagligt. - Göd dig gubbe, nu spinglar det, sa portieren på Pera Palace till en av springpojkarna. Han försvann omedelbart. Och på tåget ner stod jag bredvid några studenter och tittade ut geom fönstret. I tågkorridoren kom då en annan ung man med en tjugodollarsedel i handen och sa nånting på turkiska till den ene studenten, som då vände sig till sin kamrat och sa på klar och tydlig svenska: - Jag sålde en klocka till honom för tretti bagis.  - Det var billigt, sa jag automatiskt. De båda turkarna stirrade på mig och sa: I beg your pardon. - Å förlåt, sa jag på engelska, jag står visst och pratar för mig själv. Och då förstod jag att det var dags att åka hemåt. Om man är obildad så kan man inte gå för länge bland slaviska språk och turkiskan. Då blir man lite underlig."
"There is something mysterious about Slavonic languages. And Turkish too. In Jugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Turkey, I have been the victim of embarrasing hearing hallucinations. I suddenly think people are talking Swedish.
I was hanging about outside the compartment on a train going from Belgrad to Dimitrograd. Suddenly I heard someone say, perfectly clearly:
- I think she looks sloppy.
Surprised, I turned around and looked into the compartment. There sat the same people as before, speaking Jugoslav. A gentleman looked at me pondering and then turned to a lady and said - and I heard this perfectly clearly:
- Oh no, I don´t think that will be good.
It was rather frightening. The sentence stress was exactly the same. He uttered his words with a natural Swedish intonation and I could have sworn he said those words.
This happened again and I heard these imagined remarks more often. Sometimes it sounded like Swedish words that don´t exist, if you know what I mean.
- I wid note bothren and such, said a Jugoslav seriously.
I almost said: Sorry, but what do you mean?
A couple of times I thought someone was adressing me and turned around.
- Byloans don´t knock one´s head, said someone behind me.
I almost said: Of course not.
In Turkey it became worse.
- Fatten you man, it´s tinklageing, said the hotel clerk at the Pera Palace to one of the bellboys.
He immediately disappeared.
On the train south I stood beside a couple of students and looked out the window. In the train corridor came another young man with a twenty dollar bill in his hand and said something in Turkish to one of the students, who then turned to his friend and said in crystal clear Swedish:
- I sold him a watch for thirty bucks.
- That was cheap, I said automatically.
Both Turks stared at me and said: I beg your pardon.
- Oh, I´m sorry, I said in English, I seem to be talking to myself. That´s when I realized that it was time to go home. If one is uneducated it is not good to spend too much time among the Slavonic and Turkish languages. It makes one a bit odd."
(All my own translations.)

2015-01-11

The Thin Man

I have had Dashiell Hammett in mind for a long time. He is a fictional character in one of Laurie R King´s novels, "Locked Rooms", which I recently re-read. When blogger Divers and Sundry blogged about suitable reading for Christmas, I decided to try and find "The Thin Man" by Hammett and this rather well-read copy was waiting for me at the library in Kalix.

I enjoyed this read; Hammett has a fast-paced writing style, he doesn´t linger at anything that doesn´t drive the story forward. I confess some of the slang was a bit hard to get, and sometimes I just didn´t get the banter. Likely, I missed the best jokes, but what can you do? I enjoyed it well enough, but not so much that I will be looking for the rest of them; I understand Hammett also wrote some short stories about the main characters, Nick and Nora Charles.

However, I checked out some of the films that was made in the 30´s and 40´s with William Powell and Myrna Loy, and became so infatuated with them that I ordered a four-film-box. A good detective story with a bit of humour is never wrong on a Friday night.

2014-12-12

Kallocain

Have I whined yet about the new order of the e-book library? Because of the expense of it - the libraries and the publishers seem unable to reach a sensible decision about this - the libraries have had to severely limit the number of e-books one is allowed to borrow, and the new limit is, unbelievably, two books per month! It used to be five or seven a week, more than one could read, really, but this is ridiculous! My reading friend and I lamented this but decided that perhaps it was time to turn towards the classics. The Swedish Academy has a good, open library with literature they consider part of the Swedish cultural heritage, Litteraturbanken (= the literature bank). I had been considering Karin Boye´s "Kallocain" for years, and my friend was up for it.

From Wikipedia.
Karin Boye was born in 1900, and is mostly known for her poetry, but also wrote novels and worked as a journalist. She also painted, and you can see some of her watercolours here, at the website of the Karin Boye Society. Several of them have been exhibited at Waldemarsudde, the art museum founded by Prince Eugen, who was not just a royal, but one of Sweden´s most prominent painters. After her death, by suicide in 1941, her friends published a book in remembrance of her, and for it Hjalmar Gullberg (who wrote the poem "God in Disguise") wrote a poem called "Död amazon" (= dead amazon), which is still quite well known: "for the Thermopyle of our hearts, some must still give their lives" (my translation).

"Kallocain", from 1940, is probably her best known work internationally, and can be viewed as a precursor to Orwell´s "1984", which was published about a decade later. The narrator of the novel is Leo Kall, inventor of the truth-drug Kallocain. He is a citizen of the World-state, lives in Chemistry City Number 4, which is more or less an underground factory, with his wife Linda and their two youngest children. Their oldest, at eight years old, has already been moved into a reformatory of sorts, where all children go to be shaped into good "fellow-soldiers". The World-state is a severely supervised society, where every home has an "eye" and an "ear" on the wall, behind which supervisors may at any time look in on family life (such as it is: most of their spare time, family members are assigned some kind of policing/supervising duty), and informing on anyone, even family members, not seemingly devoted to the state, is a proud duty, not a dirty secret.

Leo Kall is a fanatic, but about to crack. His supervisor is Edo Rissen, an introverted, thoughtful man and Kall projects all his insecurities on him; he even imagines that Rissen has an affair with Linda. As they start to test the Kallocain drug, Rissen sceptically says that every man over 40 has a guilty conscience, which Kall takes as admission of crimes against the state. The confessions they get from their volunteers are not about crimes as such, but rather "emotional infidelity" to the state, a disturbing longing for human affection and trust, a natural faith in one´s fellow. The police authorities order Kall and Rissen to start training Kallocain interrogators, but it turns out that now, anyone can be convicted. As is Rissen, when Kall finally turns him in. He also steals some of the drug and uses it on his wife, with surprising results.

I found it a captivating read, and fast, at only 130 or so pages. I got quite spooked for a while, as I think anyone with some degree of maturity - as Rissen says, with reasons for a guilty conscience - will recognize that state of awakening from truths earlier taken for granted. I think most teenagers feel what Kall does, as they realize that all families and societies are not alikel, but that there are several ways of doing things and looking at the world, not necessarily on a scale from good to bad, just different. I suspect being a lesbian at the beginning of the century, coming from a middle-class family, would have given Boye a profound insight into being at odds with ideas of what is normal and natural.

You can read "Kallocain" for free on-line, at the University of Wisconsin digital collections, but it is also available through amazon, as is her "Complete Poems". Her most famous poem goes "Javisst gör det ont när knoppar brister, varför skulle annars våren tveka?" (= of course it hurts when buds burst, otherwise, why would spring hesitate? the entire poem can be read in English here) and I think most Swedes with an interest in literature recognize it, even if they are not poetry readers; references abound. The Karin Boye Society even have short recordings of her voice, reading her own poems. (Although, for them to work I had to download them first, could be my browser acting funnily.) She has that very clear enounciation they had in those days.

All in all, a good read. I am quite keen on reading more of her in the future.

2014-12-08

A Retro Crime Series

A few weeks ago, I saw the first episode of a new detective series on television (available on amazon as "Crimes of Passion"), based on a book series (three novels available in English on Kindle) by Maria Lang (pen name for Dagmar Lange) that was first published in 1949 and that she kept writing until 1990, which featured her rural Swedish version of Lord Peter Wimsey (or so the Wikipedia article on her claims - I find the comparison preposterous), Christer Wijk. I didn´t really know what to expect, I hadn´t read the books, but I was surprised how well made it was (though not perfect, for sure). It has a funny kind of noir vibe to it, as well as a 50´s retro milieu, with a slightly anachronistic adaptation to suit modern (feminist) sensibilities (which I know now, since having read three of the novels). And, of course, excellent actors, some of whom can say some pretty corny dialogue without making the audience too embarassed, particularly Tuva Novotny, who is perhaps the best Swedish actress of her generation.

Borrowed from tv4. Wahlgren, Novotny, and Rapace.
Actually, my first thought, about five minutes into the first episode, was how much the male body has changed over the last decades. One hears all the time how fashions have changed for the female body, from the 20´s gamine to the 50´s bosomy glamour girl, the 70´s fresh-faced "Charlie" girl to the heroin chic Kate Moss of the 90´s. But think how the male body has changed since body building started to become mainstream in the late 80´s, early 90´s. You know, when I started going to the gym in 1992 or thereabouts, I still had friends who refused to lift a single dumbbell, as they thought it would make them instantly look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, even though they were girls. The pumped up bodies of Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone were controversial in those days, I remember a lot of heated discussions for or against that kind of training.

Borrowed from Finnish television.
Now, there are very few actors who doesn´t look like that, to some extent. (And even a fair amount of regular people, at least here, where winter outdoors training for the desk bound male is grim, and the gym a cozy option. I just have to look over at the husband and remember that he comes from a stock of wiry lumber jacks!) But they didn´t look like that in the 50´s (and they ate differently) which is why this first episode felt a bit off to me. Yes, the male actors Ola Rapace (ex-husband of more internationally known Noomi) and Linus Wahlgren do look very dishy in their suits, hats, topcoats, bowties and slipovers. And sleeve garters! Remember those? My dad used to wear them all the time, and I had a pair myself (I nicked some of his old 60´s suits and wore all through the 80´s). Now they accent the fact that both Rapace (particularly Rapace) and Wahlgren have very sexy upper arms. Novotny is made out more like a tomboy, but the other women in the series are gorgeously made out in colourful gowns, pinched waists and high hair.

(a short peak from tv4 on youtube)

Maria Lang wasn´t anything we read, in my generation. My mother didn´t read her either (at least I think not). The characters have been much changed. The narrator and our hero, Puck, is not a perky little 50´s academic young wife who stumble over corpses left and right, but rather a serious, introverted career-woman with a taste for analysis and writing crime fiction. Her husband Eje has been changed from what Puck has now become (in the books he is the crime writer), into a bumbling, slightly naiv teacher who goes back and forth between being proud of his wife and jealous of her attachment to his oldest friend and the real hero: police investigator Christer Wijk, who in the books is a skinny, tall, jovial, pipe-smoking man with a taste for checked tweed (even in summer), a father-figure for Puck. In the films, he is a sexy womanizer, a real contender to Eje, at the end of most episodes making due with a widow or other woman left-over from their latest investigation when Puck has turned away from his advances (yeah, his best friend´s wife, but he can´t help himself because of the passion, you see...).

Maria Lang would not have approved, I´m sure, though she was no stranger, even in the 40´s, to writing quite candidly about sex. Still, the films are entertaining, and so are the books, as long as you take them for what they are. I like. Oddly, I like quite a lot, both the books and the films.

2014-11-27

Obsessive Passions

I thought for sure I had blogged about Lena Andersson´s novel "Egenmäktigt förfarande - en roman om kärlek" (being translated to English as we speak: "Wilful Disregard: a novel about love" will be released next summer, according to British amazon) but I can´t find the post, so probably I read it while I was on blogging hiatus, in the spring. Well, now I have read her second book about Ester Nilsson, her passionate and not just slightly disturbed heroine, a novel called "Utan personligt ansvar" (= without personal responsibility). I read both in tandem with my reading friend, but I probably wouldn´t have considered it - a novel about love sounded a bit tiresome - if the husband, of all people, hadn´t heard it being read on the radio on his way home from work (he has a 40 minute commute, one-way, most days) and became so engrossed with it that he was quoting from it for weeks! He is not normally a reader of fiction, so of course I had to see what the fuss was about, and my friend jumped aboard.

It makes sense to write about both novels in one single post, as they have a similar topic. Ester Nilsson is a middle-aged academic, poet, student of the world through language, forever searching for the exact words, which to her equals the truth; she is uncompromising in her rock-hard integrity, but also blinded by her passions and able to decieve herself in considerable measures. Her command of language and logic and her ability to convince herself as well as others leads her so far astray that she crosses the line into severe self-delusion and madness not just once, but over and over again. She falls in love.

The first object of her affection is artist Hugo Rask. He is much older than she, he is flattered, both by her youth and the applauding articles she writes about his art. He is single, sort of (there is a woman in another town that he seems to have some kind of long-standing relationship to, but sexually he seems free to stray), he surrounds himself with a team of young artists in his studio, and Ester´s life very soon focuses entirely on how far she can push herself into his circle. She dumps her old boyfriend without a second thought or any feeling of regret, and becomes what can only be described as Hugo Rask´s stalker. He does go to bed with her once or twice, but they are never in a "relationship" (though Ester tries to convince herself that they are); most of the time, he seems unaware of her. She is like an ant in his elephant´s life.

The whole story focuses on what goes on inside Ester, her feelings, her thoughts, her efforts to come closer, to break it off (after having epiphanies of clarity that are muddle every time Rask is kind or just polite to her). It is cringe-making, to say the least. However, it´s not a long novel, and the pain is over fairly soon. I think Andersson has measured out the size of dose of Ester Nilsson one can take fairly accurately.

In the second novel, Ester Nilsson is at it again. This time, she falls for Olof Sten, another older, this time married, man, actor in a play she has written (and later director of other plays she writes). I feel more sorry for her this time, as she is clearly falling into the claws of someone a lot more vicious than Hugo Rask. She buys a car so that she can drive her lover from playhouse to playhouse, from town to town, all the while battling him for the truth of what is going on. It sounds something like this:
Ester: I want to live with you. I will not be your lover. (But of course, she jumps into bed with him every time.)
Olof: We are not in a relationship. I will not leave my wife or be unfaithful to her. (See brackets above.)

It´s very, very tiring. Ester´s girlfriends thinks so too, and after a few years of obsessively discussing Olof Sten with everyone, some of them begin to withdraw from her. If the book had been any longer (220 pages, slightly longer than the first), the reader might have given up as well, but as before, Andersson knows when to quit.

The first of the novels was awarded the prestigious Swedish August Prize last year, and Ester Nilsson has been discussed by everyone. Really, when people like the husband, who normally don´t have time to pick up a novel, throw themselves over the next chapter in the saga of Ester Nilsson, you know that this is something special. It is probably Andersson´s tone of voice: the exact, dissecting manner in which she slices Ester and her lovers open for us to see; this is the opposite of "show-don´t-tell"-writing. And, as tiresome as we find her, we have all been there, to some extent: hopefully self-delusional. Not that everyone interprets the novel the same way. Many seem to find Hugo Rask a predatory a***ole, but I don´t agree. Probably Roy Andersson doesn´t either, as he declared himself to be the real Hugo Rask some weeks ago, only to be ridiculed on the cultural pages of the papers (not that I think he cares in the least). Andersson insists that what she writes is fiction, but the debates have kept up the interest, and perhaps Andersson has written herself into the Swedish literary canon. Time will tell.

There is a very nice interview with Lena Andersson, in Swedish, but I guess Google translate can do something with it. I find I like her. I have always liked what she writes in the paper (she is a regular in Dagens Nyheter, on the editorial page), she is always analyzing those phenomenons that we seem to take for granted, turning the perspective around. She is a true intellectual and reading her will expand your horizon; authors like that are thin on the ground.

2014-11-23

Bertila

Some weeks ago, I got an email from Marta, a lover of Barna Hedenhös, of which I blogged - oh my! - exactly one year ago! Must be some kind of benign sign... Anyway, this led to my discovery of a recent publication on the collected works of Barna Hedenhös´ creator, "Boken om Bertila", or Bertil Almqvist as was his full name, by Nisse Larsson. I immediately walked over to the library and got it, and what a revelation!

I was completely unaware that Bertila was the man behind one of the most iconic images in Swedish history: En Svensk Tiger. These words mean two things: A Swedish Tiger, and A Swede Keeps Silent. It was a variation on those many posters the Brits had, like this one. But because of the word play, it was also an affirmation of the strength of both the nation and its individuals during a time when they needed reassurance. A brilliant image, really, and the words that was part of it made it go beyond the visual. It is so ingrained in the nation´s conscience that it has been re-used for other purposes, like selling Swedish milk and Swedish magazines.

 A high ranking military man didn´t like the tiger, he thought it should have been a lion instead,
completely missing the point - a story Bertila enjoyed telling. 


Bertila´s column, with tall Prime Minister
Erlander as the father of the Swedish "folkhem"
(the Swedish Welfare State) with the leader of
the Farmer´s Party, Gunnar Hedlund, as his
supportive wife.
 You can see more columns here.
Bertil Almqvist was born in 1902, to a middle-class family in Stockholm. He got into drawing and writing funny verse already in school, and pretty much continued to do that for the rest of his life. He was perhaps not the most gifted visual artist of his time, but in combination with his word play, his output was unique. For many, many years, he published a weekly drawn and written column that commented on anything that was happening, from politics to sports and culture. It was called "På tapeten", which means literally "on the wallpaper" and means "the topic of the day". He made a sport of drawing the headline differently each week and in accordance with the topic.

He made all kinds of illustrations: theatre posters, children´s books, campaigns. And, of course, he wrote and drew "Barna Hedenhös": the books, the comics, the films. He died in 1972, while working hard on a film for Swedish Television about the Hedenhös children (he wasn´t just overworked, he was fond of his drink and his cigarettes, too, there is hardly a photo of him without a fag between his lips). He had by then been retired - quite forcibly - from his newspaper column, something that had made him so upset he even complained to the Prime Minister of Sweden! Perhaps he had lost touch with the times. When you look at his works they have very much that 50´s positivity, a stout belief in progress.

Mother Svea (Sweden) gives Bertila his uniform.
Word play was part of his game and the Swedish language started to change in the 70´s, as a new political and social awareness developed, as Swedes became more internationally aware, and society was being reshaped by immigration and the developement of modern media. Some of the Hedenhös books are no longer reproduced, considered racist and misogynist - which would have offended Bertila, who was a pacifist and a very outspoken advocate of equality and progress, both social, cultural, and technological. For example, he was a keen driver and fiercely lobbied for right-hand traffic for more than 30 years before it became a reality, in 1967. He also had strong convictions about spelling reforms. He did go into the army during the war, but reluctantly so, as he explained in comic form. He thought he could do more for the nation with his pen, and he did that as well, as you already know.

He also composed, which was a surprise to me. He wrote one of the most loved children´s songs in Swedish history, "Droppen Dripp och Droppen Drapp" (performed below by Alice Babs and her daughter Titti), and even recorded songs and put up a revue in 1934, where he sang his own songs in front of fifteen large drawings.

I only knew him for Barna Hedenhös, but I think now that his most lasting work will be "En svensk tiger" - even though perhaps that work has outgrown the memory of the man who created it.

(on Youtube by Tosukep)

Lyrics:

Droppen Dripp och Droppen Drapp    (the drop Drip and the drop Drap)
satt på varsin isetapp                         (sat each on his own icicle)
ovanför vår förstutrapp                      (above our landing)
Droppen Dripp och Droppen Drapp!   (the drop Drip and the drop Drap)

- Hej, sa Dripp till Droppen Drapp       (- Hi, said Drip to the drop Drap)
trivs du bra uppå din tapp?                 (are you happy on your icicle?)
- Åjavars, sa Droppen Drapp              (- Oh, allright I guess, said the drop Drap)
fast min sittplats är rätt knapp!            (although my seat is rather small.)

- Hördudu, sa Dripp till Drapp,            (- Hey listen, said Drip to Drap)
ska vi hoppa ner ikapp,                       (shall we race each other down,)
ner på våran förstutrapp?                    (on to our landing?)
Så sa Dripp till Droppen Drapp.           (That´s what Drip said to Drap the drop.)

- Hu, så högt! sa Droppen Drapp,         (- My, that´s high! said Drap the drop,)
såge helst jag hoppa slapp.                   (I wish I didn´t have to jump.)
- men det gör väl hipp som happ,          (but I guess it´s neither here nor there,)
låt oss hoppa ner i kapp!                      (let us race each other down.)

Och så hoppa Dripp och Drapp            (And then Drip and Drap jumped)
från sin isetapp ikapp,                          (from their icicles together)
ner på våran förstutrapp                      (down onto our landing)
- och blev platta som en knapp!            (and became flat like a button!)

(my own translation - quick and dirty)

Bertila with his daughter Monne Kristina, to whom he wrote the first Hedenhös book. 


2014-10-23

Drawing Your Life

I have already told you about Danny Gregory´s fabulous book about creativity, "The Artistic Licence". He is also one of the people behind Sketchbook Skool, which looks like a pretty interesting project. I was curious for something more personal by him, and got this, "Everyday Matters", which is a memoir of sorts, a compilation I would assume, of pages from his own personal illustrated diary, with a no doubt heavily edited text to make a coherent story.

It starts when he and his wife Patti are a young, successful couple in New York, he is an advertiser, she a stylist, they have a dog and a new baby, and the terrible thing happens: she falls onto the railway track and is run over by a train. Her spine is crushed and she ends up wheel chair bound.

This book has none of that cheerful entusiasm that "The Artistic Licence" had, as you can imagine. This is personal, this is an account of what it´s like to have life - as you expected it to be - taken away from you. Gregory starts to draw in an attempt to deal with things - the word he keeps using is "slow"; this new life is slower than it used to be, and that is frustrating. Some things he took for granted are suddenly out of reach. Some things he took for granted now seems incredibly valuable. Other things he took for granted means nothing any more.

These aren´t cute drawings of beautiful still lifes. There is no sentimental glow to any of Gregory´s drawings. His surroundings - as he sees it - is what I recognize when I look around my own home, just the stuff of every day. Gregory draws himself into his new life. What Gregory is communicating to me is a lack of self-awareness - a mindfulness - that I find admirable and difficult to obtain. Perhaps only really difficult times can get you there. Or drawing, I hope.