Imagination needs inspiration to bloom.


Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Being one of the most famous plays through all time, Romeo and Juliet still captivates readers and audiences around the world. This is a fine example of the fact that time doesn't really have to change us. We can still understand and identify with great stories from a long time ago. Romeo and Juliet is a play that centers around forbiddem love between two young, rebellious people. But the play is much more than that.

There are some parts that would need some explaining. The reason for the long lasting war between the families is never explained. Perhaps it's not important, but it would be interesting to know what caused this hate. Another detail is the age of the star-crossed lovers. They are so young. Is it possible to know and understand love at that age? Especially when just having met the person? Romeo seems to have been as romantically absorbed just some days earlier, and he got over Rosaline fast. Could it, in fact, be more about sexual attraction than real love? Or is that to destroy on of the most romantuc plays of all time? Just some thoughts.

Never the less, it is a strong play with so much emotion and a wonderfully written. It alternates between different forms, some of it rhyme. Those parts are really beautiful. Although, I think some of the beauty gets lost in the translation of such a work. This is a new Swedish translation, and some words just seem misplaced. Even though the prose evolves and changes through time, it still has to fit into a 16th century enivronment.

Everything happens so fast, which is rather common for plays. Deciding to kill, die or love takes a fraction of a second. Why not think everything through for a while? It would have been nice with more of the inner dialogues to follow the characters thoughts leading to their decision. I have not seen the play on stage, perhaps it's different.

This play is about so much more than unconditional love. It is about a difficult world with tough love. It is about parents that choose their daughter's future, and it is about refusing to live one's life on others' terms. Most of all, it is, although tragically and at a very high price, about choosing independence. This play comes alive and really moves and affecte its readers. Perhaps because it is easy to understand the young couple's difficulty that drives them out of this world. It tells us much about women as properties and merchandise, and the consequences when ignoring their opinions and needs. In one way, it is still relevant. Many parents still have their children's future decided even before they really know them. Perhaps it is to take over the family business, going to college or marry someone from the same country or religion. Romeo and Juliet defy their destinies, and take power over them.

A commentary chapter contains a discussion by the translator about underlying themes and structures of the book, including the balance between the families, this rivalty about power. The peace of Verona rests upon this symmetry - almost like a stalement - where none of the families can win. A marriage between Juliet, a Capulet, and Paris, a relative of the emperor, would brake the power balance between the Capulets and the Montagues. Romeo's and Juliet's love, born from hate between their families, is what finally restore peace in Verona. That is what is tragic and beautiful. Two young people are sacrificed on the altar of peace.


Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

This is Gillian Flynn's second novel. Just as Gone Girl, this contains everything that a thriller should have. Libby Day's family was murdered twenty-five years ago. Her whole life changed over a night, and she was the only one that survived her brother's massaker. Ben is still in prison, but a mysterious union turns up and makes her question his guilt.

The union, with the not so imaginative name the Kill Club, contacts her and it couldn't have been at a better moment. The members are totally obsessed with the murder case and Libby needs money. She is not having a envious life. She is constantly poor, angry, alone and she is even a cleptomaniac, something that she has developed because of her poor childhood. She is living on a fund from the time after the murders occurred. She decides to sell some of her family's belongings and letters to the Kill Club, to be able to pay rent, and she also begins to dig into the murder mystery and very dark places in her mind.

Gillian Flynn has a fantastic ability to reach the core of people, through their thoughts and behavior, associated with class. It could be small details such as Libby's observations that rich ladies always correct you when you get their name wrong, or don't even look at the one serving them coffee. Gillian Flynn's greatest achievement is the ability to portray nuanced characters, which makes them so alive. She portrays their layers extremely well. She digs into the mechanisms of psychology. The book contains many unlikable and manipulative people that are both fascinating and repellent.

The book illuminates flaws in the society. One theme is the peak of moral preach about satanic hard rock music, and the prejudices that followed. Another is the legal system. Flynn have the police officers and psychologists make Libby point out her brother as a murderer, not accepting any other answer, even though Libby didn't se anything, just to proove their theory. That is not a completely unrealistic event, just look at the scandal where Thomas Quick, in Sweden, was treated by such people and confessed thirty-nine murders and was sentenced for eight murders, despite later being proved innocent.

What diminishes some of the big picture is the ending. It's not a total surprise, even though Gillian Flynn has several traces confusing us. She twists the plot once more, but somehow it doesn't feel totally succesful. There are too many forced coincidences. Except that, this is an excellent, well-written book that really takes you to dark, twisted places.


My brief history by Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking, one of the most famous physicists and researchers in cosmology in the world, tells the story of his life in this book. Did you know that he is self learned when it comes to maths? Or that he wasn't happy when his little sister was born? This book includes information that shows the man behind the success.

What made him interested in science and so successful? As a young boy, he was fascinated by systems and wanted to control them. He used to take apart items to see how they worked, but couldn't set them back. Theory has always been his field, not the practical part. But solving the greatest mystery of all, the system of the universe, was a way of controlling it, he thought. That became his subject.

His family was not rich with a lot of possibilities. They had to think about money. He spended several summer holidays in a wagon previously owned by roamers. His father built bunks with stretchers from the second world war. His father came from a poor family and was very economical, refusing to turn on the central heat, and instead putting on several layers of clothes. He also seems to have been a very determined person. He was a doctor and his research was focused on tropical illness and meant a lot of traveling. During his time in India he refused to eat Indian food and hired a former chef in the brittich army that cooked english food.

Stephen Hawking is a fascinating person. He is self learned when it comes to mathematics. He is a math professor, but has no formal education in mathematics after his time at St. Albans where he read some maths as a seventeen year old. How could anyone be able to learn such complicated math by himself? He later tutored students at Cambridge and made sure to be one week ahead of the syllabus. 

He got scholarship and began at Oxford after St. Albans, as a seventeen year old, and the others in his class had done military service and was much older. The mentality at Oxford is interesting - either you were so talented and intelligent that you didn't have to study, or you should accept your incompetence and get bad grades. If you worked hard to achieve good grades, you were a so called grey man. During his three years at Oxford, Stephen Hawking took a test before staring there, and the final exams before getting his degree. He started as a research student at Cambridge 1962.

When 21 years old, he got the diagnosis ALS and learned that he had two year left to live. Having met Jane Wilde around the same time, he started to work hard for the first time in his life, to get a job and be able to marry her.

The first half of the book is very interesting. Then, something happens in the book. Stephen Hawking leaves the story of his life and delve into the world of time like curves, singularities and black holes, which doesn't fit in a biography, but perhaps another book. Then he wrote A briefer history of time, and at first, the publisher made him simplify some of the content so a regular reader would understand it, before it was published. That book is understandable and interesting. What's not understandable is this book, this transition from biography to facts about time travel. But probably, physics is a part of him and he is a part of physics.

Except that, the book is written straight forward, without much digressions. Stephen Hawking uses a matter of fact-tone. He is not much for shape and dramaturgy, but tells the story straight out, and that makes the book somewhat uneven. It contains much about his achievements and conferences around the world, which is fine, but it would have been interesting to learn more about him, his family and his struggle with life. He got two more years, but is still alive today, and continues to captivate a whole world.


Oscar Levertins vänner by Martina Montelius

Boel Märgåker has founded the Oscar Levertins friends association, where said author is discussed. The members are going on a literature cruise and Boel decides to loosen up. She is tired of controlling her emotions, comfort other people, and her husband Greger. The cruise becomes a surrealistic adventure. But an older woman interested in culture, who is expected to smile and be nice all the time, can't have intimate encounters and take drogs, can she?

Marina Montelius, dramatist and director, made her novel debut 2013 with Främlingsleguanen. This book is also short, but dense, written in a way that characterizes the author. The tone is comical and entertaining, but shifts abruptly to a deep darkness with secrets such as sexual assault and violence. The blackness is even more emphasized as the novel alters between light and dark.

Boel needs literature to live, or perhaps to survive. She finds comfort in it. The novel portrays people struggling with themselves, and how literature helps them with that. But, first and foremost, Martina Montelius honor the mature woman. People has constantly commented on Boel's body and person, as recent as this cruise, when a man being intimate with her stated that she can't be pregnant. Boel is tired of being treated badly and being betrayed, something she has experienced since she was a child, and she decides that she has had enough. The novel is plunging into the depths of the mechanisms of psychology. A mature woman that refuses to accept the expectations of society is relieving. The mature woman is seldom portrayed in neither fiction or reality. How often do we wonder about what they feel? This book makes you wonder about that.


Upplysning i det 21:a århundradet by Christer Sturmark

Christer Sturmark's book about enlightenment comes in a time when many people leave their faith, at the same time as religious forces are getting stronger. Other attitudes to life also seem to grow. The book includes everything from religions such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam, to supernatural elements. Sturmark's main message is the importance of reflection and reason. While science is able to explain more and more phenomenon, people yet seem unable to reflect and think logical. Instead, they believe in stuff that are unexplained and lack scientific support, such as ghosts and telepathy. 

Sturmark is a missionary for enlightenment. Science and culture have been considered important until the world was thrown into barbary, before, as he puts it when discussing his book on television. Now, the irrational thinking seems to spread again, perhaps because of the possibilities online to discuss opinions with equals, and not having to challenge one's believes.

Philosophy is the foundation of this book. Much of it is a lesson in philosophy of religion, and Sturmark discusses the concept of God, why morality doesn't have religious foundation, and whether God hates women. One of the most interesting parts of the book is those that discusses the birth of religion and it's development (it's interesting that the US was more secular during Benjamin Franklin's time, than today). The history of ideas is a big part of the book and necessary to understand today's attitude to religion. Epistemology is another important part of the book. The main pillars of science research is explained, and why science is more reliable than superstition and belief in religion and the supernatural. According to Sturmark, one should have a good reason to believe in something, whatever it might be. Preferably evidence. This is an argument that somehow collide with religion. Doesn't a big part of being religious mean to not demand evidence? To just believe? - this is a smart way of not having to explain so much. Of course, whether people choose to believe in religion, the supernatural or pseudoscience, it's important to reflect before reaching conclusions. However, it's also important to be humble. Science is a relative term and changing. There are a lot we don't know, and a lot we know but can't explain entirely, just think about quantum physics. Today's science fiction is tomorrow's science. Scientists try their hypothesis after having had an opinion about a matter. If not being open-minded, we will never come up with new theories and expand our understanding of science. If we can't believe in something without evidence, that same evidence is difficult to find to justify our believes.

Sweden is a secular country. The Swedish church is tolerant, accepting marriage between people with the same gender, and having female priests. But it hasn't always been like that, and there are still some flaws, which, according to Sturmark, can be explained by underlying religious believes, such as rules concerning organ donation and euthanasia. Sturmark also discusses the debate about religion in Sweden. Agnosticism is common. Sturmark - who is comparing religions with ghosts, trolls and astrology, which might be considered disrespectful - wonders why many people that not believe in supernatural phenomenon prefer to call themselves agnostic, instead of atheists. Perhaps it's complicated. It is a comfort zone where you don't have to have an opinion. Because it's impossible to prove that God exists and it's as impossible to prove that he, or she, doesn't exist. Perhaps it's also a way to get along with everyone and to respect their believes. Another explanation might be that baptism and weddings are about tradition, and something beautiful worth saving because they make us feel amazed that there is something bigger out there. We celebrate midsummer, despite not having a pagan faith or thinking about the summer solstice. Furthermore, there are surely many people that aren't religious but have a great respect for religion. 

When reading such a book, with critical and matter-of-fact arguments - with statistics and sources that back up the reasoning - it's important to remember that religion has nothing to do with those practising it. Under no circumstances should religious people be mistaken for their religion, no matter if we think religion good or bad. Religion is a conviction, an attitude to life, that does not define an individual person. People's gender, ethnicity and sexuality are not to be questioned, of course, but religion is a standpoint that is changeable, and therefor, it should be allowed to question it, according to the author. Another reason for questioning it is Sturmark's statement that religious groups are funded by the government, while organisations with a secular approach are ignored.

Sturmark is tired of peudoscience that came with postmodernism and truth relativism. There is only one truth, he claims. Religion is only compatible with science if God lit the spark for the universe, and then abandoned it. The constant interference by God into our daily lives is difficult to incorporate with scientific reasoning, according to him. But is it impossible? There is a tone of criticism throughout the book, while at the same time, Christer Sturmark is preaching freedom of faith. Everyone has the right to practise her belief, as long as it doesn't mean breaking the law, or restricting human rights or freedom of speech. However, it's easier with a secular approach, Sturmark argues, since it's difficult to fight oppression of women and other victimization when such ideas are given a religious motivation, sanctioned by God - it's not possible to meet such attitudes with rational arguments. That is the author's opinion. Claiming that God works in mysterious ways is a rather convenient argument. The secular ethic puts human beings in the center. Secular humanism means that religious dogms should never be superior to human rights. Sturmark claims that secular humanism is the only way to a democratic society that protect the human rights. Religion puts God in the center, while secular humanism puts the human being in the center. Sturmark uses statistics to dismiss certain claims about the necessity of religion as a moral guide, and show us that it is rather the opposite.

Not all of the aspects of the discussion are new, but Sturmark delve into some of them and argues in a way that makes you think. Religion is a big mystery. It's fascinating. It is good if it comforts and fills one's life with happiness or endurance, but it is not needed to explain the world and it shouldn't overshadow human rights. It's when a person is put in the center that she becomes a self-thinking individual.