Thursday, 24 April 2014

Comedy of Errors

Yes, Shakespeare again... my apologies (but not really).

The comedy of Errors is about 60 pages long, and I enjoyed it so much I finished it in a day. (Which is good, because I started reading a sci-fi novel and boy is it difficult)
It also has a very promising start; a father is about to be executed for entering the city, but he gets the chance to explain himself to the duke. He tells him that he had a wife and two sons; twins. When they were born, there was an exceedingly poor wife who gave birth to another set of twins, and the father bought them to give to his twin sons, so they could attend them.

You still with me?

So when he, his wife, their twin sons and the bought twin brothers sail back home, there is a storm. They tie themselves to a wooden beam, mother, a son and a slave on one side and father, a son and a slave on the other side. And of course the beam breaks in half, and of course they are separated until the boys are all grown up.
Oh, and they didn’t bother to give them separate names, too. Since they looked so much alike.

So when one of the twins, the one who lived with his father, decides to search for the other half of his family, this brings them to a city forbidden to their origin, where the father is arrested. And then mayhem and error happens. The slaves mix up their masters, one’s wife doesn’t get why her husband is suddenly in love with her sister, and a smithy demands payment for the commissioned chain he’d just given to his customer. Lots of facepalms assured.

I thought that this was a very clever play, and I’d recommend it to anyone who hasn’t read Shakespeare yet because they think it’d be too difficult.

Until next time,


PS: apparently it was Shakespeare-day yesterday. I hope you celebrated this with writing a sonnet or sighing 'Romeo, oh Romeo' a few times.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

The House of Wittgenstein

This book was recommended to me by my cousin on New Year, and it had been lying on my to-read pile for a while. I knew this book was going to take a while to read, so I only started after I’d had a week of free time. I was about five books ahead of schedule, and even with all that head start I needed to quickly read The Terrible thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket so I remained on my reading schedule: that’s how long this book took me.

If I give you the impression that I thought the novel was boring with this introduction, you’re mistaken. The House of Wittgenstein is a loosely chronological non-fiction biography about the Wittgensteins. You must have heard of the youngest member, Ludwig Wittgenstein, a philosopher. The rest of his family was just as brilliant though. Ludwig’s brother Paul, who was the closest to his age, was a pianist who lost his right arm during the First World War but continued being a brilliant pianist nonetheless, practicing up to nine hours a day. Hans, the oldest son, was brilliant and odd; the first word he ever spoke was ‘Oedipus’. He went missing in America without any trace. Of the nine children, two committed suicide (one to save his honour in World War One, the other poisoned himself in grief at the death of a friend), and one was stillborn. Together with Hans’s disappearance this caused quite some tension at the house (scratch that: palace) of the Wittgensteins. Their mother was constantly on edge, and it is only when she was playing music that she seemed relaxed; this might explain why all her children share such a passion for music. Apart from playing music and entertaining composers and musicians at their house (palace), they also collected manuscripts by the most famous composers like Beethoven, Mozart, Bach and many others. In fact, I got the impression that when during the Second World War, when the Nazis were convinced they were Jewish and on those grounds tried to take as many valuable objects away from the Wittgenstein family as they could, that it were the manuscripts that they tried to save above all else. Some were hastily buried or hidden in garden sheds whilst another servant shoved a vase or an antique piece of furniture under the greedy nose of the inspector.
There are many other anecdotes that are just as fascinating about this family, but it’s hard to choose. Eventually it all ends at the end of the Second World War, with the remaining siblings fighting over money and politics, until they eventually all die of different kinds of cancer.

What is interesting about this book is that it took Paul Wittgenstein as its focal point instead of the much more famous sibling and philosopher Ludwig. Ludwig seems to have been quite a distant character, trying to live a sober life as a teacher after reading Tolstoy’s Gospel in Brief. Descriptions of his friends at Cambridge depict him as an extraordinary philosopher with utterly unintelligible theories. Compared to that, Paul does seem to be a more obvious choice. He stayed in Vienna for a large part of his life, yet travelled all over the world thanks to his reputation as a musician. He wasn’t particularly close to his siblings – but truly, none of them were, for they fought easily unless there were friends present to dull the tension.

This is a book that I would recommend to anyone who likes history, non-fiction or classical music. I would not recommend it if you were solely looking for more information on Ludwig, but truly, the rest of his family is just as interesting.

Until next time,


Friday, 11 April 2014

Book hypes

Let’s talk about book hypes!
The first book hype I ever experienced was when I was about ten years old, and of course it was Harry Potter. All my friends were reading them. Yet for some reason, that was exactly why I was reluctant to read them. The same with Pokémon; while everyone exchanged their flippos for cards I stubbornly kept playing with paper planes and with these:

and suddenly, you're future husband is everyone.

Isn’t it strange, the feeling that you don’t want to be part of the hype? Even worse is hearing people say the following sentence and expecting me to understand them: “I used to like this one thing, but then everyone started to like it and now I don’t like it anymore”.


If you decide not to like something anymore (is there a switch for that that I don’t know about?) because you don’t want to become a member of a large group who like the same thing you do, aren’t you letting society dictate what you want in some twisted way? Why can’t you just stick to your opinion when you’re actually allowed to?

Back to the ten-year-old me: despite my reluctance to liking Harry Potter my family decided to go see the Philosopher’s Stone thinking I’d like to, and of course I loved it. And then I loved being able to talk about it with my friends and to spend many late hours reading the books.
And things seem to only have escalated with the evolution of modern communication. These days there are fanfictions about everything and everyone, girls giggle over terms like “shipping” and “OTP”, and instead of finding nerdy shirts on the “geeks” link on my Pinterest I find a bunch of hot pictures or drawings of Doctor Who, the Avengers and Sherlock. I’m almost afraid to join Tumblr, where most of this fangirling seems to be going on.
Luckily it’s not just that. Sometimes I hear about my sister’s love for Game of Thrones (yes, I know the actual title of the series is A Song of Ice and Fire) and how passionate some people are about the lore and history that is hidden in rumours and legends in the books, and it warms my heart.
I guess that in the end, it doesn’t matter what binds a group of people, as long as they find comfort and likewise minded friends through it, and as long as not being a fan of the same thing, or being a fan of another thing isn’t a reason for hating and trolling.

Which brings me to my next point. I bet you can guess what it’s going to be about. It has sparkles.
I was about sixteen years old when a friend advised me to read Twilight. And I liked it at first. I still own the first two books, although I didn’t bother with the last two (I did download them at the time).
And okay, I was a bit of a teenager desperate for love back then, but I liked them. And you wouldn’t believe how much hate ‘twilighters’ get these days. Does it really matter that the amount of twilight merchandise is ridiculous? At least there exists a stepping stone for kids that’ll make them read more. Or they’ll want to see more movies with their dreamy couple, and so discover a whole world of good movies. Did you know Kirsten Steward played in Panic Room? You know who else did? Jared Leto. And he’s also dreamy and has a knack for playing in awesome movies.
(Same for the fifty shades hype, although I mostly agree with this guy.)

On the other hand there are so many authors out there that are so damn good their books deserve to be a hype but can’t quite get there, like Robin Hobb or Patrick Rothfuss. And if you feel special and hipster because ‘you know them before they are cool’, well, shame on you. These people like their pay check just as much as any other author, and you shouldn’t keep these pearls to yourselves.

So don’t be a hater. Don’t be afraid of your taste in books, and share the love.

Until next time,