Bremen, Books and Banksy

I was in Bremen today. I had lunch at the Restaurant Übersee and ate their penne with chicken breast and broccoli in plum chili sauce. I don’t really need the chicken, but I love the sauce.

I also bought two books (as well as some underwear and a Moleskine notebook, but I don’t think anybody cares about that): Hunt the Moon, the latest installment in the Cassandra Palmer series by Karen Chance, and Delirium by Lauren Oliver.

Delirium is one of those trendy YA dystopias and sounds pretty dreadful, to be honest. You know, the sort of worlds where adults control everything, love is viewed as an illness (but luckily there is a cure) and only our heroine, the lone teen rebel in dystopia, wants nothing to do with the cure for love, because she’s just met her soulmate. The blurb alone is a masterwork of overwrought teen emotion. My long-suffering friend, whom I asked to hold the book for me, while I went in search of Moleskine notebooks (which have become surprisingly difficult to find of late), actually started to giggle upon reading the blurb, because it was just so overwrought.

So why did I buy the book, if I don’t particularly expect to enjoy it? For starters, I think it is important for a teacher to have at least some idea of what the students are reading – and teen dystopias are hugely popular these days, even if I haven’t seen a whole lot in my classroom yet. What is more, this one might even fit into the parameters of the YA chapter of my PhD thesis with its focus on forbidden (literally forbidden in this case) love.

Though the teen dystopias may show up any moment now, considering Germany always lags about a year or two behind US literary trends. Case in point: The SFF section of my favourite chain bookstore had a huge display advertising that “new exciting genre”, Steampunk. They even had some Steampunk by German authors, which I might have checked out, if my reading time wasn’t severely limited. My friend, meanwhile, just wrinkled her nose. “Don’t even think of giving me that for my birthday.” Too bad, because I think she might enjoy some of the less technical Steampunk. But it also took some time to persuade her to give urban fantasy a try.

Tonight I watched Exit through the Gift Shop (2010), the street art documentary by Banksy that was nominated for the best documentary long form Academy Award this year, but lost out to something painfully earnest about the global banking crisis.

It’s a pity, because Exit Through the Gift Shop is both hilarious and a fascinating look at the street art scene. Though it’s not so much a film about Banksy but about his pal Thierry Guetta a.k.a. Mr Brainwash and his career as a wannabe filmmaker and successful street artist. Nor is it really a documentary in the truest sense of the word, because I suspect that Banksy, Mr Brainwash and their pals were taking the piss much of the time.

Still, I found it surprisingly enjoyable for a film I might not even have watched, if I hadn’t stumbled upon one of Banksy’s works in his hometown of Bristol* that by some strange instance of cosmic serendipity exactly matched the story I was working on at the time. Since then I have been paying more attention to Banksy rather than just viewing him as “that guy in the hoodie who does those funny stencil graffitis”.

*I had planned to go looking for some Banksy works in Bristol, since I knew he hailed from there and had left some of his works behind. But I did not go looking for this one, I literally stumbled upon it.

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