An Evening with Aleksandar Hemon

On wednesday I was lucky enough to attend a reading with Aleksandar Hemon. Literally, the only reason I went was because one of my professors at uni fangirled all over the place the other day, and naturally I had to see this phenomenon of a writer!

fangirlAleksandar Hemon is a Bosnian-born American fiction writer (as Wikipedia puts it). His stories are largely influenced by Slavic literature and treat the issue of Bosnian immigrants in the United States. He pretty much got stuck in ‘Murrica when he was there holidaying and suddenly a war burst out in his home country. But he‘s still there now, some twenty years later, publishing what sound like incredible stories.

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Despite his native language being Bosnian he writes in English, and he writes a lot! When a member of the audience asked him how he deals with writer‘s block, he replied, «I don‘t get writer‘s block. I have a condition that I call writer‘s diarrhea!» He is currently working on three books simultaneously, while it‘s been taking me six months so far to hand in a 10-page thesis paper! I mean, WHAT?! He‘s so cool that he didn‘t even tell his agent he was writing a book called The Making Of Zombie Wars. Have you ever seen that book in a store? Well, it‘s pretty friggin‘ huge! And he kept it secret until it was finished and he could ask his agent, «So, when would you like something new?» And apparently she went, «Umm… how ‘bout June?» And he said, «Well, how ‘bout right now?» And he presented to her a brandnew manuscript. Look, all I‘m saying is that if an agent asked me to write a book until bloody June, no matter where we stand in the year, I‘d probably go, «Yeah, but you do mean June 2047, right?!» Right. And this is why I‘m not a bestselling author.

e8e6a3b40fa04ee32c1bc0d100bc1995As you can probably guess from all this, and if you don‘t already know Aleksandar Hemon, he has published quite a number of books and short stories and essays, and what have you. On wednesday he read a bit from his latest book, the cheekily written The Making Of Zombie Wars which sounded okayish, and then went on to read from his memoire, The Book of my Lives. And boy, was that a hit. It was beautiful, it was funny, it was smart – and then my fangirling professor went on to say this really nice thing about opening up a new book from Aleksandar Hemon: «It‘s like doing the Ice Bucket Challenge!» And, you know, I believed him. This man can make you feel so much, simply by rearranging 26 letters over and over again. Plus, the other thing my professor said made the books even more intriguing: «You must not read Aleksandar‘s stories to feel better, that‘s not what they are for. But his stories, they do not accept the world we live in as the most acceptable one. They offer us an alternative. Not an escape, but an alternative. And in my opinion, in this world we‘re living in, this is the best literature has to offer us.»

I can‘t wait to get my hands on one of his books. As always I‘m going to let you in on my oh-so sophisticated thoughts on the matter, but for now I just want to leave you a quote from The Book of my Lives which I thought was absolutely beautiful and deserved a mention here:

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Sexy Books: Fools Rush In by Bill Carter

Just read: Fools Rush In by Bill Carter

I have been so excited to finally talk about this book! It has become one of my absolute favourites and I think everyone should read it, because there is so much to gain from it!

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Fools Rush In tells the story of Bill Carter who visits Bosnia in the 1990ies during the Siege of Sarajevo. He helps distribute food and other goods, he goes to rock concerts and parties and he finds friends.

Basically, the blurb already says it all:

«Some trips are chosen, some choose you. When tragedy strikes Bill Carter‘s life he finds himself drawn to a war zone. In the modern heart of darkness, the besieged city of Sarajevo, we meet a man rebuilding the ruins of his former self in the most unlikely of places. Carter joins a maverick aid organization, „The Serious Road Trip“, and dodges snipers to deliver food and supplies to those the UN can‘t reach. He makes friends with the artistic community of Sarajevo and fights alongside them for survival in a place where food and water are scarce, where you meet death every day, but crucially where life, love and laughter ring out all the same.
Carter takes his journey one surreal step further and enlists the help of major rock band U2. The ensuing events go no small way to influencing the course of the war and Western awareness of it.»

There is no way I can do this book justice by writing this review, so I‘m not even going to try. But let me tell you this: it wrenched my heart, it reduced me to tears, it made me giggle hysterically, it sent shivers down my spine – but most importantly, it gave me back some faith that even the smallest person can change the course of events. It had me believe that there are people who care and who stand above themselves. Not just Bill Carter, who just seemed to be acting without much further thinking, but also U2. Bono offered the band‘s help and meant it. During their 1993 world tour they did satellite link-ups where Sarajevans were broadcast onto stage and told their stories to so many people. Please, just look at this video!

Fools Rush In is such a genuine story, and it‘s really a work of philosophy. Bill Carter writes in large parts about loss and love and family and home – things that essentially have nothing to do with war, but have everything to do with life. And life just appears to be going on during any war.

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I know the Bosnian War has long passed, but there are so many other tragedies taking place in the world, and the least we can do is not turn our backs. Let‘s talk about it. Let‘s not pretend there aren‘t any people suffering. No one is required to go into a war zone and risk their life, of course not. But who has ever stood up to a bully or paired up with the unpopular kid at school? If anything, this book makes us care about each other.
It‘s a life changing read, I promise!

Lots of love from the roots of my heart!
xxx

Sexy Books: Zoella’s “Girl Online” (Thoughts on Ghost Writing)

Hello everybodyyyy! Yes, it‘s me again! I have a cold and I have a twisted ankle, so I‘m not really up for leaving this bed anytime soon. So I decided to tell you about the book I just finished reading, namely Zoella‘s Girl Online.
It was a birthday present from my parents, and just going by the blurb on the back of the book I know exactly what made them choose this:

Under the alias Girl Online, Penny blogs her hidden feelings about friendship, boys, her crazy family and the panic attacks that have begun to take over her life. When things go from bad to worse, her family whisks her away to New York, where she meets Noah: a gorgeous, guitar-strumming American. Suddenly Penny is falling in love – and capturing every moment of it on her blog.
But Noah has a secret too. One that threatens to ruin Penny‘s cover – and her closest friendship – forever.

Blogging and anxiety seem to be two things that describe me pretty well. Add a love story to that, et voilá – perfect birthday gift! It‘s a sweet story, very full of clichés, but heart warming, and I cried at the end. So, if you need anything to read over the holidays, this is something to spend cold and grey afternoons with!

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But there‘s a catch. Apparently Girl Online was written by a ghost writer, partly at the very least. A Penguin spokesperson is quoted in The Guardian, saying,

“To be factually accurate, you would need to say Zoe Sugg did not write the book Girl Online on her own”.

From what I‘ve seen, Zoella appears to be a very lovely and talented lady and I think she has definitely earned her success so far. But I feel very strongly about her publishing a book and not having written it herself. Writing, to me, is one thing that you can‘t fake. If you‘re not good at it, if you don‘t have the time, if you don‘t have a pen – you don‘t do it. There are actors and singers who haven‘t got a clue what they‘re doing, but they have a sixpack or look like Zac Efron, and they get away with it. But you can‘t pretend you‘re a good writer if you‘re not!

Writing is exposing your heart and your soul, telling the world your deepest secrets. It‘s like walking down a street naked. And if a person publishes a book without doing that – then why do I have to do it? And let‘s say, for argument‘s sake, that I didn‘t put everything that I am into what I write – I could still be successful! But I‘d be yet another person handing out empty words, and what becomes of literature then? What happens to us if we just keep on telling stories that we claim as our own but that literally don‘t mean a thing?

And then I‘m just hugely bothered by the unfairness of it all. Of course if Zoella publishes a book, it will become a bestseller! She‘s a popular youtuber, her name will sell well. But that‘s not an excuse for anyone to get praise for something that isn‘t theirs. If her statement, „My dream has been to write a book, and I can‘t believe it‘s come true“, is true, then I don‘t understand why she would have wanted all that help in the first place. My dream is to be a writer one day, and I will work my butt off to get there. My dream isn‘t to hold a book in my hands that has my name all over it, my dream is to write that book and earn my name on the cover.

Nevertheless, Zoe Sugg does of course not deserve all the hate that has been spread over the internet in the past couple of days. Give that to cat molesters and homophobics! (of which I hope Zoella is neither!)

I hope all of you have started well into the new year!
Lots of love!
xxx