As I am writing this article, I can´t quite believe tomorrow is the first of August. June and July seem to have flown by and I genuinely don´t know how. I´m behind on my reading, behind on my book club, all the while I am skeptically glancing at the book stack I plan on taking on holidays with me next week. July in particularly has been a month of little reading. The books I´ve managed to read, were all started (and two even finished) on planes and my biggest regret is that I still haven´t finished Killing Commendatore, the book for the book club that was scheduled for beginning of July, and for which I am still keeping people waiting. But while I fight with my guilty consciousness, let me tell how about the books that I did manage to read this month.
Zbigniew Herbert´s Still Life with a Bridle
There´s a library I love in Lisbon – Palavra de Viajante – a wonderful place exclusive for books about travel. I go there every so often and always end up with the most magical books I had never heard about before entering it. This time I went there to choose a book for my trip to Amsterdam. I wanted it to be either related to the city/country or by a national author. I ended up with Still Life with a Bridle, one of the three books Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert wrote about travel. And man, how I loved it. I would love to compare it to something else for you, but it truly feels like an utterly unique book. Herbert´s poetic sensibility and critical thinking seem such odd and yet such perfect tools to describe the Netherland´s tulip mania phenomenon, their magnificent painters and serene landscapes. I wouldn´t really call this an ideal book for a plane ride, its poetic style is perhaps more adequate to read in a quiet garden, while sipping an ice tea. But wherever you´ll be reading this book, I´m pretty sure you´ll find it wonderful and end it with the feeling of having understood quite a bit more about the Dutch essence.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia´s Mexican Gothic
I´ve been seeing Mexican Gothic everywhere lately and while the title seemed intriguing, I wasn´t particulalry drawn by the genre or the cover of the book. I ended up buying it in Waterstones Amsterdam, after desperately looking for a book to get from what is probably one of my favourite English book libraries abroad. And I read it entirely on the plan ride from Amsterdam to Lisbon. Now this one is indeed a plane type of book. Or a day at the beach. Just make sure it´s sunny and nice outside, cause the book is pretty dark. It isn´t however as dark as you´d expect, and that´s partially why I gave it three stars out of five. While the plot of the book and the storyline are quite entertaining – young Mexican socialite is called upon by her newly wed cousin who seems to be haunted in her husband´s mansion in the mountains – the execution is less impressive. I failed to be frightened by the writing and even though it was somewhat gripping (I did give it three stars) it is not the kind of book that you can´t go to sleep without knowing how it ends and who wins. As such, as opposed to other thrillers/horrors I read, I finished Mexican Gothic so fast not because I couldn´t wait to find out what happens, but because I was on a plane and didn´t have much else to do.
Radu Paraschivescu´s Vitrina cu Sarlatani
You´ll deduct from the high rating I gave this book that I am really sad it´s in Romanian and probably won´t be translated into English anytime soon, because I feel it´s such an essential reading for everyone living in this day and age. Simply put. Vitrina cu sarlatani explores human gullibility. Why are we so quick to believe in magic weight-loss pills, pyramid schemes, life coaches, conspiracy theories, miracle cures for deadly diseases and essentially any “quick way out”. The book refers to a bunch of Romanian charlatans – be they founders of beauty or weight loss acadamias, smugglers, politicians, pseudo-psychologists and so on, so I really doubt the book will ever be translated into English, it just wouldn´t make as much sense for someone not familiar with the characters. But the essence is nonetheless a subject we should debate and question more – how are we humans so gullible and quick to give our money to Nigerian princes or money investing gurus who´ll leave us hanging faster than Speedy Gonzales leaves a baffled Sylvester. Radu Paraschivescu might not have the answers, but the satirical way he puts his questions is so entertaining, I barely put this book down since I got it in yet another favourite book store of mine – Carturesti Carusel, Bucharest´s prettiest book store.