The book feels a little repetitive and jumps between many people, but otherwise it's interesting. The reader follows Sundelin on a journey through time - to a lot of different journalists and authors and their writing style, thoughts about writing and the reason for writing. Among them Truman Capote, Harper Lee, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Günter Wallraff, Hanna Krall, Nuruddin Farah, V. S. Naipaul, Kevin Kerrane, Ben Yagoda, Dieter Strand, Amira Hass, John Mcphee, Leon Dash, Michael Herr, Jane Kramer, Vasilij Grossman, Carl von Linné, Sebastian Junger, Alexander von Humboldt, Wilfred Thesiger, Ryszard Kapuscinski, Gitta Sereny and more.
It's interesting to learn about famous authors thoughts and mottos. Little do people know that George Orwell hated metaphores and parables that are used commonly in print. Or that Svetlana Aleksijevitj sometimes makes things up to increase the suspense. Or that Ernest Hemingway thought that you should only read dead authors:
”De flesta levande författare existerar inte. Deras ryktbarhet skapas av kritiker som alltid behöver ett säsongsgeni, någon som de förstår helt och hållet och kan bedöma utan risk, men när de här fabricerade genierna är döda så kommer de inte att existera” - Eernest Hemingway, p. 232.
My own translation: ”Most of the living authors don't exist. Their eminence are created by critics that always need a season genius, someone they understand completely and can criticize without risk, but when these fabricated geniuses are dead they won’t exist.”
Sundelin also discusses the writingprocess. Hemingway used to finish for the day when he had the most fun, to make his subconscious work during the night. Richard Ben Cramer wrote 1000 words a day before he let himself leave his chair. Jonathan Harr thinks that ”writing is always torture”. Isaak Babel claims that he got cardiac convulsions when he didn’t manage to complete a sentence, and describes the feeling as being forced to dig up Mount Everest by himself, with a pick and spade. Claes Hylinger views time as the only way to distance himself from his text, and be able to see the flaws. If a tight deadline, he even tries to trick himself into believing that he finds a text in his desk drawer, to manage to view the text as new and discover the faults. Svetlana Aleksijevitj uses a tape recorder during interviews to keep the person’s tone, and calls the polishing of the text ”the refining process”. What is inspiring about writing commentaries, then? Svetlana talks about her book "Voices from Chernobyl":
”Denna kvinnas känslor kan mäta sig med de känslor som finns hos Shakespeare. En helt vanlig kvinna, som livnär sig på att baka kakor, bär på samma sorts känslor som vi hittar i världslitteraturen. Det fascinerar mig.” - Svetlana Aleksijevitj, p. 178.
My own translation: "This woman’s feelings is equal to the feelings by Shakespeare. A completely ordinary woman, who earns her money by baking cookies, is carrying the same kind of emotions that we find in the world literature. That fascinates me.”
Another topic is the journalism of today. Sundelin claims that eighty percent of the online news 2007 in Sweden originated from paper magazines. The reports and commentaries are shorter nowadays and future online news will, according to Sundelin, be short as today, but paper magazines will be more customized and luxurious to keep readers.
Journalism is really important for understanding, questioning and democracy. But it looks like the traditional journalism is beyond rescue.
”Litteratur är språk, laddat med mening” - Ezra Pound, p. 236.
My own translation: ”Literature is language, charged with meaning”.