Monday, July 19, 2010

Radio plays and poetry--yes, this is 2010.

25. and 26. Melua mekossa and Sen pituinen se by Leila and Annukka.

Now a defunct radio station, Radiomafia was quite the anarchist in the Finnish world of broadcasting: they would assign a program devoted to heavy metal at prime time, or start your Sundays with a dose of progressive rock. The weirdest parts were the radio plays and sketch shows. You would not find any Prairie Home Companion here, that's for sure. One of my favorites back then was a show created by Johanna Reenkola and Tiina Siikasaari (who also gave voices to the characters) about two absolutely clueless women in their early 40s, Leila ja Annukka. Now, reading the books that are basically transcripts of the show revealed to me how much they actually played around with language, and how often they veered into Monty Python-esque absurdism.

Millionaire-heiress Leila Makkonen is a stick-figure of an egotist, for whom nothing is more important than looks and men, and status. She's also a horrifying lush. Annukka Ahlqvist is her well-meaning, but unfashionable friend whose parents still own a dairy farm and whose appetite in both food and men disgust Leila. So far, the premise sounds pretty predictable, doesn't it? Yet, the stories managed to be absolutely hilarious, and often the dialogues were peppered with poignant bits about homophobia, how advertising preys on the ones with low self-esteem, and even bigger political issues such as the European Union and Finland's role in it. Then they'd immediately get back to silly dialogue that would just escalate into worst possible scenarios. The characters are kind of like two female versions of David Brent. Unfortunately I can't translate the bits I like the best, because Leila uses very, very bad language in them... But here are a couple of tamer excerpts:

Leila and Annukka are at a neighborhood pizza place:
Leila: Well there you finally are! I already managed to down one drink, I was so thirsty. What would you have, the usual?
Annukka: Yeah, thanks.
Leila: Gianni! Una cerveza and eine kleine cocacola! Bitte hurry, chop chop!
Annukka: Wow, people can really tell you've traveled the world.
Leila: I like to keep up my language skills.
Annukka: And it's so nice for the Italians to hear their native language here in cold Finland.

Annukka is getting ready for her graduation ceremony from the aromatherapist course...

Leila: Move it! What are you going to wear?
Annukka: I'm already wearing it.
Leila: Oh my god. I thought that flower-patterned salsa dress was your home outfit.
Annukka: No, it's not. Just this Saturday I bought it from the second hand store for exactly this event. Imagine, it was only 20 marks! They asked for 25, but I haggled off a fiver, because there's a stain on the chest. But ta-daa, I put this butterfly brooch over it and you can't see the stain anymore.

It's one of those things that are probably funnier when you hear them or you hear the voices acting the play out in your head...

27. Kutsuvat sitä rakkaudeksi by Arno Kotro ("They call it love")
Arno Kotro. I vaguely remember a column he wrote for the major teachers' union paper (he is a teacher himself) that smacked of anti-feminism: it was one of those writings exploring the reasons why boys are not doing as well in schools as girls are, and instead of really looking at the reasons, he basically blamed it on feminism and women teachers emasculating and favoring girls (My school years were peppered with statements like "Women can't chew gum and walk at the same time" and even at college level, I had a teacher tell in front of a class full of women how she wished we'd stayed at home and made babies, and had given "boys a chance" to get into the university. So I wasn't exactly agreeing with Kotro's statements.) His odd arguments made me vow that I'd never read his stuff. I had totally forgotten my sentiments when I got this three-poem book from a friend of mine, and surprisingly ended up reading it in one sitting. Save for the strawmen arguments against feminism at the center of the book, I really enjoyed the poems.

The book is in three parts, each a poem of its own: first is about him falling in love, the second leads into the breakup, and the third is about post-breakup meetups, friendships and moving on (or the inability thereof). I often don't read poetry because majority of poetry just has not done much for me, but then sometimes there are poets who have these amazing sentences that make me think, "Huh, I never thought it that way--but that's the best way to describe it." Pablo Neruda is someone I could read endlessly, because his poems are so raw and delicious. I would read more of Kotro because of his word plays that instead of making me laugh and think how smart he is, they make me feel terrifyingly sad. Quite the opposite of the way puns and plays on words usually are used. Also, I felt like this was a brave book to write as it obviously is very autobiographical (or is it?), and it sounds very honest in its examination of feelings of love, betrayal and obsession.

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