General Germany Pictures

betsI know that many of the people who read my posts are American, and it seems that not many have had the opportunity to travel to Frankfurt, Germany. I enjoy looking at the photos from other people’s travels to the places I’ve never visited, so I decided to share a few of the images I came home with as well.

The picture posted as the “feature image” for this post is actually a ‘photo betting pool’ from my office – everyone guessed specific images I would have on my camera when I came home. I won’t post the results (and not nearly all of my pictures), but I will say that my colleagues did a great job…they seem to know me fairly well.

As a general comment – I find Germany to be a beautiful country. From the big city feel of FFM to the much smaller village feel of Mainz. The architecture, the streets, the stores, even the people – a wonderful place for an extended vacation if you ever have the chance to go!


book review – ‘F’

FEven before I left for the October 2014 Book Fair in Frankfurt, Germany, I had decide that while there I would pick up the latest novel from the popular author Daniel Kehlmann. I honestly didn’t know much about Kehlmann or his writing, but the blurbs for F caught my eye. And where better to buy the book of a German author than on a trip to Germany? (I did buy the English translation.)

F is a thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying novel, though not quite what many readers might expect. As often happens (unfortunately), the blurbs for the book don’t quite give the potential reader much idea of what the novel is actually about. There is an overarching story about a father, 3 brothers, and what happens in the lives of all 4 characters. There is an odd encounter, an absent father, and total disfunction all the way around.

But this storyline is not really what drives the novel. What we read in F is less the story of a family, and more a general thought on time, circumstance, and the toll life exacts from even the most average among us. We witness the flow of time, the impact of circumstance, and the burden of living as we follow a few excerpted scenes in the lives of the 3 brothers, with father interjected a few times.

F is not a book of deep or brilliant moments. No quotes from the text stuck out to me (I frequently post quotes from the books I read). It is quite easy to read – there is nothing remarkable about the quality or style of the writing in the novel. But, even amidst all of the ‘average-ness’ of the novel, F is striking in both scope and effect, and the questions it manages to leave in the mind of the reader come as a surprise, especially after further analysis of the merits of the text.

The issues aren’t wrapped up neatly and ‘solved’ at the story’s end – rather, we are left to consider all aspects of what we’ve just read. The beginnings are unclear, the middle is muddled (though quite interesting at times), and the end leaves us with opportunity for thought.

Even with its issues, this is just the type of novel I can easily enjoy (and did).

Buy F: A Novel now!

Thoughts on the Frankfurt Buchmesse 2014

IMG_4589The excitement built for nearly a year…the knowledge that I would get to attend the largest book fair in the world made me giddy. Finally, the days arrived. The fair would last Wednesday-Sunday; I would attend Wednesday-Friday (with the weekend as possible overflow time, if needed).

My excitement and anticipation were rewarded beyond my wildest expectations. The Frankfurter Buchmesse was fabulous.

A few statistics…

  • over 7,200 total exhibitors present from 105 countries
  • 584 publishers just from the US
  • about 188,000 square meters of display area in the messe areas used by the 2014 fair (this is about 34 football fields worth of area)
  • 269,534 total attendees in 2014
  • 2,780 authors and speakers
  • over 4,000 individual events over the course of the fair
  • 2014 Guest of Honor – Finland
  • (2015 Guest will be Indonesia)

    As you can see, this event is huge. And I was in a sort of book-lover’s heaven…3 days surrounded by books and publishers and authors and readers. The setup of the fair, once I figured it out, was actually quite simple. Basically, there were 5 halls (some multiple levels) filled with publishers displaying their newest/upcoming/most popular books, both in hardcover and paperback – 2 German language halls and 3 international halls (1 English and 2 covering the rest of the reading world). There was one hall dedicated solely to the guest of honor – Finland. This particular hall had several different displays, some interactive, to give the visitor a bit of a taste of Finland. Finally, there were also many food vendors and various other display booths in the areas outside the halls.

    Wednesday I spent largely in the German-language halls, getting a feel for how a giant book fair actually worked, and browsing the books coming out in German in the near future…and being surprised to come upon a reading and talk by Sofi Oksanen at one of the booths (more on her in a later post). Thursday was spent walking around with my girlfriend, revisiting a few of the places I’d seen on Wednesday, and seeing some new things as well. The majority of Friday was spent in the English-language international hall (after I sat and listened to a talk given by Herta Müller – recipient of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature!), consisting mostly of publishers from the USA, Canada, UK, and Australia.

    Friday was spectacular. It goes without saying that my English is better than my German, and I slowly went booth to booth and picked up any book I thought might look interesting. There were over 500 publishers just in this one hall! It took me nearly 3 hours to make it through looking at those exhibits that drew my attention. Then, to top off an amazing day of books, several of the publishers let me take the books I was interested in – for free! I came home with a huge list of books to buy, but at least a few of them came home with me.

    How does one even reflect on something like this? I wasn’t there professionally (technically), and I wasn’t particularly interested in the main business of the fair (sales of rights)…I was basically there as a tourist. And what a vacation it was! I read constantly, and I was able to spend 3 days browsing all sorts of books, many of which I might have never heard of had I not been at the fair for these few days in October. I discovered new authors, new titles, and even new presses – all quite exciting for a simple bookworm from MS.

    I will definitely be returning!

    Pictures from my experience at the 2014 Buchmesse

    Added bonus
    If you need something new and good to read, there’s a new story by Haruki Murakami in the current edition of the New Yorker (it’s great): Scheherazade

    The Museums/Exhibits of FFM

    stadThere are many things I appreciate about my time in Germany, and about the flow of German life (at least in Frankfurt, where I’ve spent the majority of my time). One of the features I appreciate most is the quantity and quality of the museums and exhibits that you can find around town. I can be a bit of a museum nerd…spending afternoons of free time wandering around looking at old paintings, new photographs, sculptures, and installations. On my last trip to FFM (Oct14), I visited a number of museums and exhibits, and wanted to give my readers here a taste of what I was able to experience.

    Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt
    hsThe Schirn is a fascinating art hall, and this stop there was my second. In May, I went to see an exhibit of art from Montmartre. The Schirn does not have a standing collection, rather they host various specific exhibits throughout the year. On this occasion, I was there to see two – Paparazzi! and Helene Schjerfbeck. Paparazzi! was an exhibit looking at the relationship between the paparazzi and the stars they watch and photograph. Parts of the exhibit were installation, but most of it was various photos and videos, with explanations beside each one. It was a thought provoking display, especially some of the art pieces which came near the end, and were inspired by the paparazzi (as opposed to being their actual work). The Helene Schjerfbeck Exhibit was wonderful (and the real reason I was at the Schirn) – she is perhaps the most important Finnish artist of the 20th century, and her art was featured as the Frankfurter Buchmesse opened (as Finland was the guest of honor this year). The largest, and I thought most important, part of the exhibit was dedicated to the self-portrait work of Schjerfbeck…and it was quite a journey to see how her perception and portrayal of herself modified over the years. You can see parts of each exhibit by following the links in the text above.

    Frankfurter Kunstverein
    fkAt the Frankfurter Kunstverein, the exhibit was “Matters of Time: Artists from Finland.” Another show which was, obviously, directly linked to the Frankfurter Buchmesse 2014. This was a unique exhibit (exhibit guide here), made up largely of video, with installation and painting/photography filling in the empty spaces. My favorite piece here was actually a video, “If I Were Buried at a Street Corner,” which is a 5:35 minute from 2011 by Maija Blafield – in the video, a poem displays on the screen as several different settings move by in the background. It’s worth it to take a few minutes and watch!

    The Loveliest Girl in the World
    lgI loved this exhibit. It was put on in a small hall (I don’t remember the name), filled with the photographs of Miina Savolainen. Looking at the photographs, and knowing the story of the project…some moments there were quite emotional. I won’t just type out all of the detail here, but instead leave a few links – one to the story of the project, and another to samples of the photographs – please take a moment to see both.

  • About the community art project ‘The Loveliest Girl in the World’
  • Photos from the project (below the writeup about the book)

  • Museum Für Moderne Kunst – Frankfurt Am Main
    gupEven though I feel like I very rarely understand it, there is something about modern art that often speaks the. The MMK1 exhibit I saw this time was by the artist Subodh Gupta, ‘Everything is Inside.’ As the MMK website says, “the show reflects a contemporary conception of India as a society for which traditional values, spirituality and religious belief are just as important as the consistent pursuit of modernization and the related transformation processes in all areas of life.” As I viewed the different setups, and read about each in the guide, the exhibition grew in power and effect. I would recommend anyone around FFM take the time to slowly absorb this exhibit (or any other) at MMK1.

    Städel Museum
    stI had been to the Städel before, specifically for an Emil Nolde exhibit, and to simply browse the collections (especially the modern art). This time we went to an exhibit called Lichtbilder, which was dedicated to photography at the Städel Museum from the beginnings of photography to 1960. It was a very interesting exhibit, with photographs arranged in several rooms based on time period. There were some famous photographs, but most were largely unknown. I learned that the Städel was the first museum in the world to show photography and to consider it “art,” and their treatment of this exhibit demonstrated why. It was masterful. One funny story…I was looking at one particular image, and remarked that it looked astonishingly like the author Virginia Woolf…and then I walked over and discovered that it was Woolf’s mother! The Städel is truly the premier museum in FFM, and a must stop for anyone visiting the area for any reason.

    You aren’t supposed to publish photos that you take inside the museums (well, you can for some), but here’s a bit of my collateral instead 🙂 [you can see art from the various exhibits by following the links in my post]

    160 years of Wilde

    mainToday marks the 160th anniversary of the birth of one of my (many) favorite authors – Oscar Wilde. I devoured The Picture of Dorian Gray as a young man, and it remains a book to which I return from time to time. When I was in Paris, in May, I visited his grave in the Père Lachaise Cemetery, and found myself quite happy meditating a little on his life and work. I won’t bore you with a biography (link below, if interested) or a look at his works – I decided instead to attach here a few great photographs and a few quotes, to allow the man to speak for himself. Happy Birthday, Oscar Wilde, and thank you.

    It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.

    If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.

    The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.

    Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.

    Never love anyone who treats you like you’re ordinary.

    How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly normal human being.

    Society exists only as a mental concept; in the real world there are only individuals.

    Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.

    If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life.

    I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.

    Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.

    Children begin by loving their parents; after a time they judge them; rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.

    Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.

    To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.

    A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.

    The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.

    You must have a cigarette. A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?

    A decent (short) biography of Wilde on Wikipedia