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Manny Rayner's book reviews

I love reviewing books - have been doing it at Goodreads, but considering moving here.

Currently reading

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution
Richard Dawkins
R in Action
Robert Kabacoff
Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
Douglas R. Hofstadter
McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture
Harold McGee
Epistemic Dimensions of Personhood
Simon Evnine
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (Information Science and Statistics)
Christopher M. Bishop
Relativity, Thermodynamics and Cosmology
Richard C. Tolman
The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition
Julia Herschensohn, Martha Young-Scholten

Populärmusik från Vittula

Populärmusik från Vittula - Mikael Niemi Matti is a regular teen in 60s Pajala up in the extreme north of Sweden, where they think of themselves as Finns and speak Finnish by preference. These are guys who know how to hold their liquor, laugh at temperatures that go down to forty below zero, handle a gun, an axe or a snowmobile, build a house, butcher a reindeer and treat women the way they really want to be treated. Though it's true, Matti has also discovered rock 'n' roll. Maybe that makes him knapsu (gay), but he doesn't care. A real Finn can take care of himself if anyone's dumb enough to call him knapsu.

He also turns out to be a natural writer: his voice is sort of like Huck Finn crossed with a Viking saga. Out of consideration to the guys further south, he's been kind enough to write his book in Swedish, which at least is a half-respectable language. I understand that there's an English translation too, though I'm not sure I can recommend it. Here's what Matti thinks of English:
Engelska, detta språk med alldeles för svagt tuggmotstånd för hårda finska käftar, så sladdrigt att bara flickor kunde få femmor i det, denna snigelaktiga rotvälska, dallrande och fuktig, uppfunnen av gyttjetrampande kustlänningar som aldrig behövt kämpa, som aldrig svultit eller frusit, ett språk för lättingar, gräsätare, soffpruttare, så helt utan spänst att tungan sladdrade som en avskuren förhud i munnen.

[English, a language which doesn't offer enough resistance to hard Finnish jaws, so slippery that only girls can get As in it, this damp, wobbly, snail-like gobbledegook, invented by muddy southerners who've never needed to fight, never been frozen or hungry, a language for lazy vegetarians who fart on their sofas, so completely lacking in texture that you feel your tongue sliding around in your mouth like a cut-off foreskin.]
Unfortunately, we can't all be Finns. Girls, the quickest way to Pajala is fly to Kiruna via Stockholm, then take the bus north. But don't get your hopes up.

Consulting the Swedish wikipedia page about this book, I'm pleased to see that it's been translated into both the dialect of Finnish spoken here and standard Finnish, "together with some other languages". It also correctly describes the book as a skröna (roughly, bragging or lying as an art-form) masquerading as an autobiography. I'm afraid to say that some other reviewers have called it "magical realist". They are so knapsu that they probably enjoy the taste of wine.