Life, the universe and ... oh, whatever ...

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Enthusiasm and rage

For Christmas I got a lot of books, I finished the first one last night: Ari Behn – ”Entusiasme og raseri” (which translated would mean something like Enthusiasm and rage). I thought I’d write about it in my blog, sort of like a review, and I started thinking about this in bed last night – and then I realized that if I was going to write about this it would probably be more about Ari Behn and the royal family than it would the book, but anyway…. I’ll just start writing shall I, and then we’ll see where it ends….

For those non-Norwegians among you, Ari Behn is a Norwegian writer somewhere around his mid-thirties, he’s been published twice before: a collection of short stories called “Trist som faen” (Sad like hell) and a novel “Bakgård” (Backyard). I’ve read his previous novel I’ve never read his collection of short stories. He is also married to Princess Märtha Louise, the daughter of King Harald of Norway, and with Märtha he’s got two daughters.

I remember wondering (as did probably most of the reading public of Norway) when he married the princess how this would effect his career as a writer, would he still dare to be as daring in his writing, and the way he is as he had been before. I guess he can be called a kind of a rebel in the small Norwegian crowd of authors when he was first published in 1999 and was actually given a 6 for his collection of short stories in the critiques. And once again, for my foreign readers: there is a tradition in all Norwegian newspapers, and also on TV now I think, when there is a new book, new movie or new CD, to give it points from one to six – usually visualized by a dice. On the front page of one of the largest tabloid newspapers, VG, Ari Behn was given a six-dice for “Trist som faen” – and after that he went out and tattooed the dice on his body (I think it was on his shoulder, but I might remember it wrong). He also did quite a lot of media stunts and was a bit bizarre. Then he and the princess fell in love and became a couple which quite shocked a lot of people in Norway, since they love their princess but didn’t care that much for this Behn-character.

What did I think of Ari Behn back then? Well, I thought he was a bit too dandy and I was pretty sure that he had to be gay, so I was a bit surprised when he got together with the princess, and even more surprised when he ended up marrying her and having two children. But I’ve also been one of those who say that the members of the royal family should also be allowed to marry whoever they fall in love with who are also in love with them, so I said if this is the guy she wants, well, then, no problem, then there’s got to be something about him worth loving because she seems like a pretty bright and nice girl and probably wouldn’t go THAT wrong in her choice of husband. I’ve still through the years thought him a bit dandy, but I have (as have the rest of Norway I think) seen how much our princess has blossomed after she got together with this guy, so yeah, I know there’s got to be lots of good things about this guy that we don’t see in the media image that is built around him.

Back to the book; “Entusiasme og raseri”. I quite enjoyed it, I think what I enjoyed the most is that the main character Kryx Zisswoll is to quite a large extent based on Ari Behn himself. Kryx publishes a collection of short stories and then finds himself being the best received and most sold debut writer in Norwegian history. He tattoos a six-dice on his body and he does a lot of media stunts and becomes kind of like a clown in Norwegian media. He has an on and off relationship with a woman called Vera Sara, a relationship that is very weird. She is a star on TV where she’s called the comedy/hostess queen of TV for something like that. (Ari Behn used to date a woman called Anne-Kath Hærland before the met the princess, and she does comedy and is the co-hostess of a program called “News on News” on TV). There are so many details in this books that have parallels in the life of Ari Behn as it has been presented to the public through the media. It is interesting to speculate when reading the book where Ari Behn’s life ends and the life of Kryx Zisswoll begins. He has of course done this deliberately, knowing that the media in Norway would immediately start investigating and speculating about this – I’m sure he’s got himself a really good laugh from that one. He does write quite a lot in the book about how Kryx sometimes intends to be a clown in the media and is fine when he’s presented that way, but when he tries to be real and serious the media refuses to treat him like that and still finds angles and focuses on other things than what is his true message. I’m pretty sure that this also must be a way for Ari Behn to try to say to his readers please don’t even believe half of what is written and said about me, it’s a media created image that’s got nothing to do with who he truly is.

And I think that’s true. How I see him has changed through the years, especially in the last year. He has given some interviews where we’ve been given the chance to see the family man and father Ari Behn, and not the clown that the media wants him to be. He as also, quite bravely I think, publicly announced that he supports the Labour party. Traditionally in Norway the members of the royal family and those married to them don’t speak in public about what political party they support, the Royal family is supposed to be non-political. They do have the right to vote, they just never use that right. It’s been quite a debate about Ari Behn now announcing his political views. He’s simply said that I’m not really part of the royal family, I’m only married to the princess, I never represent Norway in any official function at all. This is true, and I think it’s ok for him to actually step forward and talk about this. I don’t really know how far I would allow for him to go though. One think is for him to support a political party, what if that party suddenly wanted him to be there candidate for Prime Minister? He should be allowed to, it’s one of his civil rights, I’m not sure if it could be accepted though, and then again, why not? As I said, I’m not sure how far he could take it if he wanted to.

The book, is it any good? It’s not bad, I quite enjoyed it. I guess, this isn’t really the literature I normally read and then I find it a bit hard to write a true critique of it. I think it’s quite an interesting story, but at the same time, I’m not sure how much it would have sold if Ari Behn wasn’t married to the princess and this novel of his has so many parallels to his real life. Then again, that is a harsh accusation to make because Ari Behn can obviously write, he was published before he married “well”. As I said the story is quite good, it gets a bit too detailed and boring at times, I found myself skipping certain paragraphs because I simply got bored, and some of his sentences are just too long, I had to go back and read them both 2 and 3 times before I could extract the true meaning of them – both he and the publisher should’ve seen that and known to edit those parts. They might not have bothered because they knew that a book by Ari Behn would be a big-seller anyway. And that’s the danger for Ari Behn in the situation he is now: he got published the first time because he was a good writer, but now I don’t really think he has to improve himself or even prove that he is a really good writer to get a new book published because everyone knows that it will get sold anyway. “Entusiasme and raseri” is an interesting and entertaining story, but it’s not told in the optimal way. I think he might have done well to re-draft it a couple of more times, sharpen it a bit more and it would have been better. Instead it seems like both he and the publisher have felt the pressure for him to publish a new book now and they’ve said that well, this is good enough, this will sell, when they should have waited and taken still some more time to work on it. It’s still worth reading though, as I said, interesting and entertaining. If I was to role the dice I’d give it either a 3 or a 4, I can’t really decide.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

The Christmas tree is decorated, there are plenty of presents beneath it and in a little while we’re sitting down for Christmas dinner. There’s no snow but it still feels like Christmas has finally arrived.

Merry Christmas everybody, I hope it will be a peaceful and good one for all of you!

Friday, December 22, 2006

About writing

Quite recently this Norwegian singer Björn Eidsvåg has released a new single called “Floden” (“The River”) a bit further down I’ll give you a rough translation of the lyrics (which not in ANYWAY does these lyrics justice because they are some of the greatest lyrics I’ve heard in a very very long time). The more I’ve been listening to this song, the more it’s grown on me and now I absolutely love it.

I gather that to most people this is a song about love and how hard it can actually be to love someone, and I guess I haven’t really given it that much thought because the whole song, melody lyrics and all have just been so beautiful to me that I’ve just sort of allowed myself to be lost in the song and the feeling it’s giving me. Then yesterday on the bus back from Oslo it came up on my iPod and suddenly it hit me, to me this is not a song about love, well, not love in the traditional sense anyway, between people – to me, this is a song that describes how I feel about my writing.

It describes so perfectly how hard it is quite often to sit down and write, and at the same time that feeling of joy and accomplishment, fulfilment when I look at something I’ve just written and think “wow, this is actually quite good”. When I listen to this song it makes me think of all those times I’ve dreaded sitting down to write because the idea in my head is so great, so good, so amazing – that I can’t even begin to imagine how on earth I’m going to be able to do it justice on paper. And this dread, this fear of not being able to get it right, it can keep me from writing for days even weeks at a time, it can make me sick and drive me into a state of apathy where life just passes me by and I’m unable to do anything useful just because this idea is haunting me and I don’t dare to work with it on paper. And then, one day, I wake up, and I just tell myself this is the day, this is where it all starts, and I sit down with a pen and paper, or by the computer (this depends on what kind of story it is, sometimes one thing feels right, sometimes the other) and I start writing, and the words come to me. Often they’re bad words and bad sentences to start with, and I agonise, sometimes I’m almost in tears because I can’t do it and I get up and walk away, but I come back and try again. And after lots of hard work, and tears and curses and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness- times when I’ve thought I’m never ever going to be able to write a word worth reading again, then suddenly, there’s a sentence, a whole paragraph that makes sense. When I read it through it feels so right, it gives me that special feeling that says that this, this is worth something, and I just know that there will be people who will get something from reading this – and then everything is perfect. It is the greatest highs of all, no drugs can ever bring you to that level, that joy, that sense of perfection… and then I move on to the next paragraph, the next chapter, the next story and I’m in the deepest valley again where all the words are of the wrong kind.

What I have learnt from this is that very rarely the right words will come to me when I first have a go at writing a story, often they’re not even there for the second or third draft either, but by the time I get to the fourth draft there will usually be something, parts of it that give me that great feeling – and then it’s just so completely worth it. Not writing because I fear that I won’t be able to doesn’t get me anywhere. Taking weeks off from writing just because I’m afraid doesn’t make the actual writing any easier, and the sooner I sit down to write – the sooner I’ll probably get to that good place, that great place where things seem to be just perfect. So why don’t I force myself to sit down and write more often, why don’t I just do it when I know that eventually this will bring me to that great place? I guess for all the same reasons that people are afraid to really give in and love somebody, they know that when it’s good it will be very good, but before and even after you get to that it will also be a lot of pain, it always is.

I’ve taken down the lyrics in Norwegian by listening to the song, so they might not be perfectly correct but I think they’re pretty close, and then I’ve given a very rough translation to give you English speaking people an idea of what the song says.

Det renner ei elv, ei duvande flod gjennom livet mitt
eg fylles av mildhet og fred når eg vasse i sivet ditt
og kvar gong eg våge å bade i deg blir eg heil og rein
og eg kjenner eit lindrande gys gå gjennom marg og bein

Eg lure no på koffor bade eg ikkje meir i deg
Koffor koffor når eg kjenner deg goda du gjer med meg
Det kan nestan virka som om eg prøver å unngå deg
og er fælen og redd for nåden og gleda du skjenke meg
Forunderleg Forunderleg

Det finnast ei brønn, ei kjella til liv innom meg ein plass
kjærleik er navnet og blikket blir klart ved det minste glass
og kvar gong eg våge å drikka av deg blir eg heil og rein
og eg kjenner eit lindrande gys gå gjennom marg og bein

Eg lure no på koffor drikk eg ikkje meir av deg
Koffor koffor når eg kjenner det goda du gjer med meg
Det kan nesten virka som om eg prøver å unngå deg
og er fælen og redd for nåden og gleda du skjenke meg
Forunderleg Forunderleg

Eg vil trossa den motstånd eg har mot å ta i mot det som er godt
Det er ikkje lurt å gå rundt å sjå etter det som ein alt har fått

Eg lure no på koffor bade eg ikkje meir i deg
koffor koffor når eg kjenner det goda du gjer med meg
Det kan nesten virka som om eg prøver å unngå deg
Og er fælen og redd for nåden og gleda du skjenke meg
Forunderleg Forunderleg

And here’s my translation which is a really rough and a directly line by line translation of the lyrics, and I will repeat this translation doesn’t do these lyrics justice at all, because to do that I would have to be a poet, and I’m not, but I still want to give all of you who don’t speak Norwegian an idea of what the song is about. And of course the Norwegian lyrics rhyme, and my translation doesn’t so you wouldn’t be able to sing it along with the melody, but if you at some point get the chance to listen to this song, in Norwegian, at least you’ll know what it is about.

Through my life runs a stream, a great flowing river
I’m filled with calmness and peace every time I wade through your rush
and every time I dare to bathe in you I end up complete and clean
and I feel a healing shiver that runs through my marrow and bones

I wonder why I don’t more often bathe in you
Why Why when I feel the good that you do to me
It might almost seem as if I’m trying to avoid you
and I’m worried and afraid of the mercy and joy that you give to me
Strange so strange

There is a well, a source to life within me somewhere
love is its name and my sight goes clear by the smallest glass
and every time I dare to drink from you I end up complete and clean
and I feel a healing shiver that runs through my marrow and bones

I wonder why I don’t more often drink from you
Why Why when I feel the good that you do to me
It might almost seem as if I’m trying to avoid you
and I’m worried and afraid of the mercy and joy that you give to me
Strange so strange

I will defy the resistance I feel towards receiving everything good
It’s not smart to walk around just seeing everything you’ve already got

I wonder why I don’t more often bathe in you
Why Why when I feel the good that you do to me
It might almost seem as if I’m trying to avoid you
and I’m worried and afraid of the mercy and joy that you give to me
Strange so strange

And that’s what “Floden” means to me.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Or I guess rather ”Mirakel” which is the Norwegian title of the movie I saw yesterday. It is actually a bit daunting being in the cinema on the first viewing of a movie where one of your best friends has been the director. I was dreading before the movie started that I would not like it. Being in a “profession” where I’m so dependent on honest feedback from other people, I could never allow myself to be anything but honest with my friends as well. When the movie started I knew that if I ended up hating the film, I would have no other choice but to say so afterwards.

Today I’ve been reading the critiques of the movie in the Norwegian newspapers. VG was the best one with a 4 (out of 6 which is a top score), Dagbladet gave the movie a 3 and Aftenposten gave it a 2.

I’m pretty sure that whoever VG sent to see this movie did actually see the same film as I did, what movie the people from Dagbladet and Aftenposten saw I can’t imagine – it can’t have been “Mirakel”, because this actually was a good movie.

I am traditionally very sceptical when it comes to Norwegian movies. They traditionally used to be very very strange and most often horribly bad, this has been changing in the last 5 – 6 years or so and now every so often good movies are made in Norway as well and this is one of them.

It’s a romantic comedy with a small portion of tragedy on the side. There’s something very “Notting Hill” meets “Four weddings and a funeral” about it, and I simply loved those two films and this Norwegian version of a romantic comedy actually works. And I wasn’t the only one to think so. There were lots of laughter, some tears and even one occasion of spontaneous applause (all at the appropriate place in the film) among the audience and there can’t be better proof of quality than that. If I was to give points to this film it would end up at around 4.5 – and that’s not bad. So to all my Norwegian friends: GO SEE!

And the party after the movie wasn’t half bad either…..

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Exciting times

Watching winter sports today turned out to be great. Another really good thing happening today was that one of my friends, who is also a movie director, called and invited me to the pre-premiere (or whatever it’s called in English when a movie is shown for a few selected people before the official premiere, which is 26th of December) of his new movie ”Mirakel” on Wednesday. He has arranged for me to have two tickets both for the movie and to the party afterwards. I’ve never been to such an event before, and it’s safe to say that I’m very very excited!

A long day’s journey

I got up this morning at around 10 and soon after that this started looking like a really bad day. How I knew? Well, the women’s cross country team were really bad in their relay competition. Next team up was the women’s biathlon team, also in a relay competition – and they were just awful. I had great expectations for the men’s cross country team in their relay competition, but for a very long time it looked like this wasn’t their day either – and then, suddenly this day started to change. The men came in as number two, which was amazing considering they’d been down to both 9th and 10th place during the competition.

Sometimes I like to watch ski jumping other times I don’t. Today I was expecting to watch the men’s biathlon team in their relay competition at 2 pm, but those in charge of these things on TV had decided to show the ski jumping competition instead and send the biathlon competition later. This as it turned out was not a bad thing, as the Norwegian Anders Jacobsen won this competition, which is also truly amazing. Before this season started most people had never heard about him, this is his first season on the ski jumping team and his been among the top three in every competition – and today he won!

Finally we got as far as to the biathlon competition, and I didn’t really dare to hope for anything great, but I had to watch because I just love this sport, it’s my favourite – next to handball. It turned out to be a truly exciting competition, and once again, amazingly, Norway actually ended up winning.

I went directly from watching the biathletes to the European Championship Final where Norway met Russia. Guess what! Yes, after a really thrilling match, we won again!

So, this started out looking like a rather bad day in sports for Norwegian competitors, and now all I can say is that it has been a really great day – and totally worth it, all the hours I’ve spent watching TV and not doing other things! (that probably need to be done too, but who cares – I feel great after all our wins today!)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Excuses, excuses...

What can I say, I’m just plain lazy, or there isn’t really that much going on in my life right now – pick the reason you like, either of them will do as an excuse for why this blog has been so dreadfully quiet lately.

Believe it or not I have actually been able to do some work on my assessments, I still haven’t finished either of them but I have worked on them and I do feel I have them under control. What I haven’t done is working on editing my novel “365 days”, I have given some thought to the editing though, I hope that at least will gain me a plus point for…. well…. something.

Tomorrow I’m off to Oslo for a couple of days. I’m going to a Christmas party with lots of friends tomorrow evening, and then on Thursday I’m off to visit some relatives till Friday. After that I suspect I’ll be returning to Solör with probably not much more to write about than I have done for the last week, but that’s life yeah? I’m happy, I have a good life, just not much to write about these days. Sorry!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Home for Christmas

Yes, I’m back in Norway and Solör – have been since Thursday actually. Haven’t really had time to really settle back in yet though as we went on a visit to my aunt and uncle in Son over the weekend. This is really the first day I’ve had to just do little things around the flat, and of course, start bringing out my Christmas decorations. I’m really sorry that we as of yet have no snow in this are of Norway, because that would’ve made everything a lot more Christmas’ier, but putting out the decorations and stuff and listening to Christmas songs also helps. I’m finished with about 2/3 of the Christmas presents, which must be a new record for me; usually I’m quite late with getting it all done.

And other than that I’m afraid there’s not really that much to tell from Solör at the moment. Looking forward to Christmas – and looking forward to the annual Christmas party with some friends, in Oslo, in mid-December.