Friday, 21 December 2012

Review:'The Hobbit: 'An Unexpected Journey'

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey PosterIn all honesty, it was never an option that I wouldn't like this film. It was the first Lord of the Rings-related movie I had ever seen in the cinema because I was considered too young to see the others (damn you, parents). So what choice does an English-student with a liking for Old English have except fall head over heels in love with the film 'An Unexpected Journey'?

A younger and more reluctant Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, sets out on a "unexpected journey" to the Lonely Mountain with a spirited group of Dwarves to reclaim a their stolen mountain home from a dragon named Smaug.
I read the book ages ago and have it stored in the back of my mind as a pleasant memory of an amazing book. I hadn't read the Lord of the Rings yet but knew about it and this book was a great introduction. I remember reading The Silmarillion not long afterwards, being slightly confused. But I was therefore really looking forward to seeing it on screen. Unlike many others I was not at all fazed by the prospect of three movies. I tend to have unflinching trust in my favourite directors and I loved what Peter Jackson did with The Lord of the Rings. And I always want to see more extra Tolkien material, I mean, who doesn't?

First of all, the story itself is brilliant and Peter Jackson does very well at representing not only the key themes but also the details that make it so special. The Prologue here is weaker than the one at the beginning of  'Fellowship of the Ring' but almost nothing can match the ethereal beauty and command that Cate Blanchett possesses. Ian Holm's performance was a bit disappointing, especially because his voice and performance was so good in the previous trilogy and he faded compared to Martin Freeman's Bilbo. Freeman works in a huge number of minute movements and facial expressions that make the character very real. He has perfect comedic timing but also knows when to be serious and how. His response is very similar to the audience in the sense that our first response is also 'no, no, no, no' when the Dwarves start throwing cutlery.

Talking about the Dwarves: I love them. Although it did take me two visits to the cinema to be able to distinguish most of them, they were a real joy to watch. Fili and Kili immediately established themselves as the "hot dwarves", Ori was adorable and Thorin is...majestic. I recommend it strongly to check out the 'Majestic Thorin' tag on Tumblr, it had me giggling and laughing like a fool. The bond between the Dwarves, the different characters and loyalties are very interesting and I can't wait to find out even more about it in the next two movies. Here is an article that explains it all so much more eloquently than me. A bit more on Thorin, as played by Richard Armitage. Not only is Armitage majestic and perfect for the role, but Thorin is a very interesting character. He is a leader, yes, and very noble, but he is also mistaken and harsh at times. I am quite looking forward to seeing more of him. James Nesbitt is great as Bofur and Ian McKellen is, as always, perfect as Gandalf. 

And a little bit more on Andy Serkis' Gollum. I just wish Gollum was a bigger part of 'The Hobbit' because Serkis' performance is brilliant. Gollum is different, more innocent perhaps. His split personality really comes forward and is both funny and tragic. Serkis also worked as Second Unit Director on this movie, sharing some responsibility with Peter Jackson. Perhaps this will garner him some more recognition because I really think he deserves more than he is getting. Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh did a great job on the script, again, and another one of my favourite directors, Guillermo del Toro, also took part in the screenplay.

Overall, this movie is probably the best way to spend 2 hours and 50 minutes of your life. From the moment the Dwarves start singing, Bilbo goes on an adventure, Thorin behaves majestically and Gollum guesses his own riddles you will be hooked and damn Jackson for making us wait another year for the next movie, 'The Desolation of Smaug'. And you know why that one will be good? Because it has 'Desolation' in its title and that is amazing!

Joyce's Friday

Gain New Blog FollowersIt's another Friday and the last Friday of this year I'll be spending in the UK. I'm quite looking forward to spending Christmas in Germany, it just has this promise to it. But let's put an end to my pondering and move onto the memes. Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee. This week's question is:

Q: What have you learned from book blogging that you didn't know before about the publishing industry?

I think I've learned quite a lot, especially that it is really hard to get books published the old-school way, through a publisher rather than online. I have read some amazing books, many of which I haven't ever seen in bookstores and think definitely deserve to be there. That is still something I want to figure out, how some books get published and others don't.

I have also grown a new appreciation of online publishing. Some people are quite negligent about it or condescending but they underestimate how much work goes into self-publishing, spreading the word, setting up blog-tours, etc. 

I'm trying to do my coursework and sometimes you get so terribly stuck in a sentence you want to throw the laptop across the room, go back to primary school and relearn how to write and read. But I stopped my inner Hulk and decided to blog. But because I'd feel guilty to not do anything related to work I have decided to use 'Dubliners' for some of these memes. Book Beginners is hosted by Rose City Reader and Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice.

'There was no hope for him this time: it was the third stroke. Night after night I had passed the house (it was vacation time) and studied the lighted square of window: and night after night I had found it lighted in the same way, faintly and evenly.'
I really liked this beginning. It is so final but also opens up an entire story for the reader to explore and be immersed in.

'Ignatius Gallaher puffed thoughtfully at his cigar and then, in a calm historian's tone, he proceeded to sketch for his friend some pictures of the corruption which was rife abroad. He summarized the vices of many capitals and seemed inclined to award the palm to Berlin.'
Just the name, Ignatius Gallaher, sounds annoying and throughout this story, 'A Little Cloud', I got soo sick of him, but in a good, literary way, if you know what  mean.

Well, those are my memes for today. Somewhere tomorrow or today I'll have a review for the 'The Hobbit' movie up, but I can already tell you I absolutely loved it and have already seen it twice...which is only about a third of how many times I want to see it....who knew dwarves could be sexy.... I will stop now.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Review: D.H. Lawrence's Three Short Stories

It is sort of difficult to review three separate short stories rather a collection of short stories, but I hope I have figured out a system. I'll review the stories and then I'll rate Lawrence on his ability to write short stories, in my honest opinion. The three stories I will review are England, My England’, ‘Monkey Nuts’ and ‘The Horse-Dealer’s Daughter'.

England, My England
'England, My England' is set at the outbreak of war and deals with a family that is slowly breaking apart. The husband comes across as insensitive when in fact he seems to be completely separate of his human nature. He doesn't get back into touch with that until he finds himself a soldier and faced with death. 

This was a bit of a strange story and at the same time it was very familiarly Lawrence. Most of his symbolism is drawn from nature and he is very good at it but in this story it was particularly interesting because he opposed this symbolism with the harsh reality of war and human nature. At times some scenes are quite shocking because they are so very harsh but I did enjoy reading them because they bring up a lot of interesting themes to think about.

Monkey Nuts
Both of these stories have to do with the First World War and whereas 'England' dealt with actual combat, 'Monkey Nuts' deals with the consequences of the War, especially for the relationship between men and women and how the roles of the latter have changed. On the one hand I did like the story because the female protagonist was so interesting and strong but on the other hand it was almost mean towards women. They had a much bigger role in society since all the men were of to fight the War and I feel that here we don't get the positive side effects of that at all. It is presented as emasculating rather than as supportive. 

The Horse-Dealer's Daughter
This was my favourite story out of the 3 and I had some differences in opinion about it with my seminar people. The story centers on the daughter of the now dead horse-dealer. The household is packing up and she now feels she doesn't have a purpose and, in my opinion, is too independent to want to burden anyone else. I don't want to spoil the story but where everyone else seemed to think that she was either manipulative or weak I saw an independent woman who wanted to make her own decisions. I also saw much more of a love story than anyone else so that might have coloured my opinion as well! In this one story I thought Lawrence was an amazing narrator. Especially towards the end I just thought the story got better and better and I'm considering doing an analysis on it soon because it simply was very good writing. 

Overall, I give D.H. Lawrence's skill in short story writing...


I liked reading this stories but only the last one truly gripped me. I am not saying all characters have to be likable and it probably takes more skill to write a despicable character rather than a nice one, but the first two stories simply weren't to my taste. But Lawrence is a master at description and his use of language is beautiful, so even if you weren't convinced by my review of these stories I would still recommend picking up any of his novels because they are, truly, beautiful!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Help me, Jane!

I just wrote this and decided to post it rather than have it sitting around. I would love to know whether you think it is utterly terrible or whether there is something there. And I want to know who figures out who her friends are! So yes, comments are appreciated and (sadly) begged for. So here you go, this is 'Help Me, Jane'.

Terrified I ran out of the house. Anywhere, anything, except inside those walls. There had to be a place where I could go, a place where there would be warmth, solace. There had to be, right? I ran and ran until I had to make a decision on where to go. I couldn't just keep running aimlessly or could I? There had to be somewhere.
Where to turn to, where to go?
Maybe I could run to Marianne's house, knock on the door, be admitted in. Perhaps there was a place for me there, some clean clothes, some food. But wait, wasn't Brandon there? I couldn't face a man, not now, not one I knew, like I had known him. No, I couldn't. What time is it? Perhaps he is at work, perhaps he is not even there. He probably isn't there, it is a Wednesday. But no, he goes golfing with him on Wednesday and he was not away so perhaps Brandon is at home. And I can not face him, I simply can't
Where to turn to, where to go?
Perhaps Anne then, soothing and kind Anne, who always knew what to say. I feel safe with Anne, comforted. She always knew what to say and what to do. Everyone always said Anne knew, no matter what it was that needed knowing. And William himself was such a great soul. But no, William knew him, even owed him. I couldn't go there, could I? Could I ever go back there or did I have to ban myself from that fireplace for all eternity?
Where to turn to, where to go?
What about Emma? She was fun, she was even gentle in her own way. And she had looked after her own father long enough to know what it means to care, didn't she? Or had she cared enough and did she not want to be burdened? But George would be there. George was a good man and didn't like him that much either. It had been Emma who had insisted upon him being there. Why had Emma wanted him there? Why? It would have been better had Emma never cared for him, then we wouldn't have spend that much time together. I couldn't go to see Emma now, could I? Emma wouldn't approve of me.
Where to turn to, where to go?
How about Mary? Mary was so serious, so unlike Emma! Surely Mary would understand the gravity of the situation. And she had never seen him. Mary never saw any men and he had always avoided meeting her. Yes, Mary's would be perfect. Would it? Mary didn't like a fuss or drama and that was just what I would bring. I would be a burden to her and I couldn't be a burden, could I
Where to turn to, where to go?
Possibly Lydia could take me in? She knows what it is like to be troubled, to be fallen. She had lost grace now so have I. She would understand. And her George hadn't been there for a long time, had he? But then Fred might be, or Rupert or Bill or whichever one was there. Do you fall when you willingly jump? I hadn't jumped, had I? Perhaps I had. But I couldn't go to see Lydia, she would be bored by me. I cannot dance now or laugh or sing and she would kick me out.
Where to turn to, where to go?
I couldn't face Eleanor, she is to sophisticated. She wouldn't understand or would she? She who was always so calm and composed, so...knowing. She would nod and sigh, but she would secretly wonder at me. She would think me foolish. I am foolish perhaps for running like this. Perhaps it is better to sometimes just sit and nod rather than run. But no, it cannot be better, can it?
Where to turn to, where to go?
Catherine would think me the fallen heroine of one of those tales. She would sit me down, make me tell her every detail and then dream of. She would, I know she would. And Henry would just sit there and smile, content to let her fantasise. That is what they would do. What will I do then? What will I do now? Am I the heroine or am I just a side character, who fall shows the heroine what not to do? I couldn't be the heroine if I fell or could I? Would that make him the hero or the devil? He couldn't be the hero or could he?
Where to turn to, where to go?
Fanny might understand. She has been slighted, she has been put aside. But now she has Edmund. She has been content ever since, willing to forget. Am I willing to forget? Will he let me? I wish I could happily forget. It would be easier. Is easy not sometimes good? Fanny would think so, wouldn't she? But she wouldn't know. She couldn't know.
Where to turn to, where to go?
There is nowhere to go but back, isn't there? It would be easily done. I am already standing in front of the door. I could just knock, couldn't I. Tell him I'm sorry, that I didn't want to run. That I want to be heroine to his hero. That neither of us had quite fallen yet. And it would be good, would it? I have already knocked on the door and he is already coming. Why wouldn't it be good?
Where could I have turned to, where could I have gone to?
I could have gone to Lizzie. I now know I could have. But knowing now is knowing too late. It wasn't good, it never would have been. I was no heroine, I had not fallen, I had jumped. I was only running to return. Lizzie knows about realizing towards the end, but I guess she was luckier than I was. He never realised, I think. I don't think he realises now. Fitz would have known what to do. He never owed him or liked him. Fitz was his own person, or as far his own as he wasn't Lizzie's.
I could have gone there, but I can't now.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Teaser Tuesday: 'The Man in the Iron Mask' by Dumas

I have some time left before lunch and my last Viking World Lecture so I thought, perfect time for some teasing! Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB over at Should Be Reading. This week I finally got myself back into reading shape, sort of, and started reading some of my classics. I simply love the title of this one, 'The Man in the Iron Mask' by Alexandre Dumas. Stupid me had to Google his first name because I wondered about accents and who knew that on the Wiki page for this book they summarize the book's plot into the same line as his name. But I still want to read it, it sounds pretty good! This is the third book in the Three Musketeers' Saga.

"Chevalier! Chevalier!" said Fouquet, giddy with amazement, "whitherare you hurrying me?""Across the gulf into which you were about to fall," replied theBishop of Vannes. "Take hold of my cloak and throw fear aside!""Why did you not tell me that sooner, Aramis? There was a day whenwith one million you could have saved me."
p. 58

I would love to be 'giddy with amazement', it sounds like a lot of fun! It's not quite one sentence but therefore only one teaser! So, how about your teasers? Leave a link in your comment and I'll stop by!

Friday, 7 December 2012

Eowyn's Friday

Gain New Blog FollowersTime for me to take part in some Friday memes, me thinks! I have been sort of absent and I apologize, but time flies at University. There is so much to do, so much to read that everything else sort of falls away.  But now I am completely ready for these questions. Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee

Q: Activity! Who do you want to be? If you could choose any character from a book. What do you think that character looks like and what do you have in common?
Oh Lord, there are soo many characters that I love, but when it comes to it, I don't know whether I would actually want to be them. But the more I thought about it the more this one character came to mind: Eowyn from 'The Lord of the Rings'. She is an amazing character and while reading the books and watching the movies I felt a real affinity towards her. Especially when she is asked what she fears and answers as follows:
't]o stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire'
One of my worst fears is to live a life in a cage, to not be able to achieve anything or live life. And I feel she is really empowered and modern, wanting to fight her battles and be a good ruler. And I also have a thing for Faramir, so I would have no problem marrying him.

I decided today that I was not going to read anything related to University and found myself reading 'Who's Afraid of Jane Austen?' It's really funny and the tagline is 'How to really talk about books you haven't read'. Sometimes you haven't finished a book but know you will be expected to have an opinion on it and then it is good to know how to express yourself without giving away you haven't read it. To be honest, most of the books that Hitchings talks about I have already read, but it is fun nonetheless. But I decided to use this book for Book Beginnings (Rose City Reader) and Friday 56 (Freda's Voice).

'You are at a wedding or a dinner party, and the conversation is flowing - a roiling, competitive brabble. Or perhaps it is edgy, hesitant (though still competitive). But then the subject moved books. The change in direction is an opportunity for you to look either brilliant or ridiculous, and you sense this keenly. Which will it be?'
I have a gift for saying stupid things that are then followed by a silence, so this opening immediately had my attention. I'd like to think I always say intelligent things, but I don't.

'Additionally, the Odyssey, unlike the Iliad, contains memorable female characters, shifts back and forward in time and setting, is overtly moral, and emphasizes the idea of justice.'
Looks like a pretty good summary of themes in the Odyssey. That is really what these kinds of books are good for. Sometimes, even after having finished a book, you can be so overwhelmed you cannot gather your thoughts. Then it is good to have someone write down some of the key themes so you can talk about it without fangirling or stuttering.

So, that was me for today. Leave a link in your comment and I'll return the visit!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Review: 'Dubliners' by James Joyce

DublinersI have decided to use James Joyce's 'Dubliners' for my coursework for this term's Studying Literature module. I always thought Joyce could only be as difficult as 'Ulysses'. I read 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man' a couple of years ago and quite liked it, even if I can't really remember it. I was quite hesitant about picking up 'Dubliners' but I am so happy I did.
This work of art reflects life in Ireland at the turn of the last century, and by rejecting euphemism, reveals to the Irish their unromantic reality. Each of the 15 stories offers glimpses into the lives of ordinary Dubliners, and collectively they paint a portrait of a nation.
 There are 15 stories in this collection, all of which are set in Dublin. Joyce himself said that in these stories he wanted to explore the 'paralysis' that was Dublin. This is what my coursework will focus on as well, so if you have any thoughts on that subject don't hesitate to comment.

My favourite story was probably 'Eveline' in which the heroine, of the same name, awaits her elopement with her lover only to, in the end, be unable to. The 'paralysis' is probably the most obvious in this story, but it is also a beautiful story. It is very detailed and emotional and at the same time so short you can do nothing but admire Joyce for being able to create such a complex narrative in just a few pages. There are so many emotions out in the open and brimming below the surface that even in rereads I have discovered new things about it. The same thing, to an extent, counts for all other stories but it really stuck with me in this story.

What is quite interesting is the structure of the collection. They are divided into childhood, young adults, middle age and death. Although these themes, death and development, come up in all the stories, it is very clear that they are different categories. This means that as you read the stories you almost grow up and accept the paralysis that has spread throughout Dublin. You almost feel Joyce's claustrophobia as you read the street names and walk past the pubs and find nothing that is not Irish, not from Dublin. Even the characters that have seemed to escape have to return and seem caught in something else.

Overall I give the collection....


This collection of short stories is masterful. Joyce truly knows how to create with language. As you read, you feel like you are in Dublin, like you can feel the paralysis, and all of this is done through language and Joyce's intimate knowledge of Dublin. I recommend it to everyone, especially those who are scared of by the name James Joyce.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Review: 'The Dragondain' by Richard Due

After reading the first of the Moonrealm books, 'The Moon Coin', I knew I wanted to read the rest of them as well. Thankfully, I was allowed to and here I bring you the review of the second book. 
The Dragondain (Moon Realm, #2)It's the middle of the night, you need to send your brother to the Moon Realm, and he won’t wake up. So you improvise. . . . 
When a confused Jasper awakes, he's convinced he's dreaming. But by the time he meets Greydor, Jasper understands that this is no dream. In fact, persuading the King of the Rinn to work with the men of Dain to defeat their common enemy is a nightmare. Then there’s the other side of the coin: convincing Tavin and Dubb that saddling a Rinn isn’t certain death. (“It’ll be fun!”) And perhaps even a greater worry: can he make friends with Dubb’s daughter Darce before she punches his lights out?
Lily has problems, too. There’s a little mousie scratching in her closet. Or at least, it sounds like a little mousie. Oh, and her second confrontation with Curse, and trying to form her first peerin. (Don’t you have to be from Dain to do that?) And where’s Ebb?
One thing’s for sure: now that Lily and Jasper have entered the Moon Realm, nothing can ever be the same again.
I loved this book even more than the last. I realize that as a 19-year old I should perhaps not enjoy reading novels for the younger this much, but I feel that Richard Due really stepped up his game in this novel making it so much easier to just love it. The worlds seem much richer than before, now that we have passed the introductions in the first book. We get to see more of the different cultures of the different moons and more about their history. Especially for younger readers it is a great introduction into fantasy world building. Carolyn Arcabascio's illustrations really bring forward the intense colours of the different worlds.

It was great to get a bit more time with Jasper, as the reader. The last novel was mainly about Lily and her experiences and here we get to see how he deals with the Moon Realm. Richard Due truly created two different characters that are both their own character and yet recognizable for every child and adult who have ever imagined themselves on a fantasy journey. The fact that they're children isn't overlooked, as happens in many teenage novels, but highlighted and used to its best advantage. As children, they have restrictions but also certain liberties adults do not possess. 

As a second novel in a trilogy, a novel often has to achieve multiple things. Not only does it have to keep the readers interested and maintain their relationship with the characters, it also has to find the right balance between answering questions and creating new ones, introducing new characters while maintaining the old characters etc. It is always a shame to see an author struggle, but it is a true joy to see it work. Thankfully, Richard Due is able to find the right balance and keeps the right pace of plot without leaving too many loose ends. It is clear a lot still has to happen and be explained but that is why I am looking forward to the next novel.

I give this novel...

This is a great introduction to the fantasy genre for any child and a great opportunity for (young) adults to remember their first fantasy. The characters remain interesting and as you read the impression never leaves you that there is so much more to discover. I believe that in fantasy that is the most important thing, knowing that there is always more to imagine, to explore. And I would say that Richard Due achieved this very well.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Review: 'Dracula' by Bram Stoker

Well, this is one of those classics that have to be read at some stage and what stage is better than university? So, I had to read 'Dracula' for my module 'Studying Literature' and I was actually quite looking forward to it. A lot of bloggers and friends have told me that it is a very good read and since the university decided we had to read it, I assumed it would be very good. So, here I go. 
A dreary castle, blood-thirsty vampires, open graves at midnight, and other Gothic touches fill this chilling tale about a young Englishman's confrontation with the evil Count Dracula. A horror romance as deathless as any vampire, the blood-curdling tale still continues to hold readers spellbound a century later.
First of all, the genre of current vampire fiction doesn't really do it for me. I feel like vampirism is simply added to an already existing storyline to give it something extra. So it was quite interesting to go back to the original material, material being the proper word. Being an epistolary novel, the entirety of the plot is presented through letters, telegrams and mainly diary entries by the different characters. So not only do we have letters, we also have different points of view from all the different characters. 

I did enjoy the story a lot. The beginning, centred around Jonathan Harker, is great because the introduction to Count Dracula is both sudden and spooky. Of course a contemporary reader knows exactly who he is, but the way Jonathan slowly finds out his host is supernatural is quite gripping. Dracula is scary and there is even some slight homo-erotic tension there for a bit. Then we seem to lose Jonathan and move on to his fiancee Mina and her friend Lucy. From here on up until near the end there are some definite highlights that keep the story going but in between there were many bits that just made me want to give up on the novel. The diary entries are interesting, yes, but all of them simply go on and on about the same point. As soon as the chase after Dracula starts the story picks up again and then ends rather suddenly. 

The characters were all entertaining, but a bit strange at times. For example, was I the only one who found the relationship between Lucy's three lovers slightly strange? It seems contrived and very unlikely. I did like Mina Harker. She seemed to be very intelligent and independent which was why I was very disappointed when she suddenly became all submissive. I here felt Stoker was trying to stay within the social expectations of his time although he could have created an amazing female character. Dracula himself didn't get as much attention as I had expected but it was good to see that the vampire is a monster, not a sparkly 18-year old. As a Dutch person, I was looking forward to reading about Van Helsing. The German side in be then got annoyed that he constantly said 'Mein Gott', which is clearly not Dutch but German. Make up your mind Stoker!

So, overall I quite enjoyed the book but it didn't blow me away as such. At times it was quite hard to get through, especially compared to the book I read afterwards (James Joyce's 'Dubliners' which I will review tomorrow). I give it...


'Dracula' is a very interesting novel to read, especially because as a reader you already know about Dracula. There is no suspense as such and no shock at finding he is a vampire. And the fact that it is epistolary makes it hard to read at times as it becomes slightly repetitive and drags along quite a bit. 

Have you read it? What did you think of it?

Friday, 16 November 2012

Dracula's Friday

Gain New Blog FollowersYay, finally I can find it in me to make a Friday post! And I'm loving this week's question!! FF is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee.

Q: Books are turned into movies all the time! Turn it around. What movie would make a great book?

This is an easy one. 'Pan's Labyrinth', the 2006 movie by Guillermo del Torro, would make the most beautiful book ever. Since the movie itself plays with the fine line between reality and fantasy, I would love to see it be worked into a book and see how that medium would play with that. Also, since del Torro himself was inspired by fairy tales, the book could be enriched by so much more background detail. And I would love to know more about Captain Vidal. He looks like such a tragic yet interesting character.

I will just have a mini 'rant of love' here for a moment. This movie is truly amazing. It is a very well accomplished mix between a thriller and fantasy. There are some truly scary moments, not because of anything supernatural perse, but because of what humans can do to each other and themselves. And then there are beautiful moments of fantasy and freedom. And of course the cinematography and music is absolutely touching. I still haven't seen 'The Devil's Backbone' but he is also directing a new version of 'Frankenstein', which has me absolutely intrigued!

This week I am reading Bram Stoker's 'Dracula', both for my course and for my Classics 100 list! I should've finished it by today but I am being plagued by a terrible cold that makes me want to crawl in bed and sleep rather than crawl in bed and read. But I will battle through, don't worry.

Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader and Friday 56 by Freda's Voice.

'3 May. Bistritz. - Left Munich at 8.35 p.m. on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning; should have arrived at 6.46, but train was an hour late. Buda-Pesth seems a wonderful place, from the glimpse which I got of it from the train and the little I could walk through the streets.'
Perhaps not the most riveting of all beginnings but it does set the tone for the novel. There is a lot of travelling and it being an epistolary novel you will have to accept there will be some slightly boring bits.

'"Who brought him home, I wonder, to hap him here? Murdered off the coast of Andres! an' you consated his body lay under! Why, I could name ye a dozen whose bones lie in the Greenland seas above' -he pointed northwards - 'or where the currents may have drifted them."'
I quite like it when a novelist decides to write in dialect. It offers a break from an otherwise similar narrative and you get to work a bit for what you're reading!

So, what movie would you like to see as a book? And

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

'Dracula' and the Culture of Vampires

The next book we have to read for Studying Literature is 'Dracula' by Bram Stoker. The review will follow as soon as I've finished the novel. But before them I had a very interesting lecture today about vampires and their role in our culture. First we were shown a clip from 'Nosferatu', the German 1922 movie. It was rather funny to see how vampires were represented back then. He looks like a misshapen creature from Michael Jackon's 'Thriller' video, even though the filmography is quite good. We then saw the "sparkle scene" from 'Twilight'. I don't think I need to say which I preferred.

What is really interesting is that vampire literature explores victim hood closely, especially og sexual assault. The vampire works with mind-control and seduction, convincing the women to open their windows and let him in. They feel partly responsible for the crime committed against them because, for a time, they wanted it. This is the idea of the 'other' penetrating the 'self', someone else's wish becoming your own. The idea of penetration is of course very relevant here since the vampire's teeth penetrate the women as another part of a man would during a sexual assault. This reflects the gender anxiety and gender politics of the time.

There are many "rules" concerning how vampires are supposed to behave. Can they walk in sunlight, do they explode, do they sleep, etc. What this shows is that these rules are very flexible. The history of vampires comes from folklore and tales which were very different at times, depending on where they came from. But what seems to be something crucial to vampires is their monstrosity, something that would exclude Edward from the category of vampires. He is no threat to society,  he just wants to love Bella. Throughout the 'Twilight' sage he does not from a threat to society or to Bella's sense of identity (I personally believe she doesn't have one). Dracula has a desire to assimilate into English society and this forms a threat to London. He represents the 'enemy within' that cannot be found.

So, here we have a short history of  vampire literature. In 1801, we had Robert Southey's 'Thalaba, the Destroyer'. In early vampire fiction there was nothing noble about the vampires and they almost resembled zombies. They wake at night, ravage their own kin and have no real control over themselves. We have Lord Byron to thank, indirectly, for the more noble vampire. His 1813 story 'The Giaour' also showed the traditional EU vampire that is a savage, but he himself inspired John Polidori and his 1819 story 'The Vampyre'. Little bit of literature trivia: the idea of this story came about on the same night Mary Shelley thought up 'Frankenstein': in Byron's Geneva home during a creativity match. The vampire here is an image of Byron, suave, seductive and wrong in all the right ways. Then in 1845 we had a text that directly influenced Stoker: James Ryner's 'Varney the Vampire or The Feast of Blood'. Another novel mentioned was 'Carmilla' by J. LeFanu which deals with a female vampire. And then there was 'Dracula'. And afterwards...'Twilight'.

Our lecturer thought that movie adaptations lead to the domestication of vampires. They are supposed to represent something alien and while reading a novel, the "voice" of the vampire might invade your mind, whereas we are further removed when watching movies. He also talked about the sexual inversion that happens in vampire novels, especially concerning female vampires. Women act like men, seducing men and acting free-spirited, whereas men are submissive and powerless. But even despite this, there has to be a happy ending during which social harmony is restored by the vampire dying. It, sadly, has to be that way.

I really enjoyed this lecture and  hope you enjoyed my notes on it!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Teaser Tuesday: The Beckoning Bells

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB over at Should Be Reading. This week I will give you two teasers of my own short story, 'The Beckoning Bells'...I know, shameless self plugging here. Am I ashamed? Not really, I stayed up really late on multiple nights for this! Want to know what has me really excited? My amazing friend in Camberwell Art School, London, has agreed to make a cover for it! It might only be 6 pages, but it will be awesome! Anyways, let's get on with the teasers!

'In short the villagers enjoy each others company. But then the church appears and a silence falls across the crowd. The light of their candles slowly creeps up the big square brick building. The stones seemed black and weather beaten. At the edges of the building, vines crept up the wall with blue and purple flowers that reflected the candle light. The children gaze in amazement as the lights slowly creep up the massive tower.'
'He became gaunt and neglected his appearance. A young girl once saw him on his balcony where he stood staring at the village. She ran home and told her friends he had turned into an old gnarly tree in winter.'  

What do you think? I don't have a cover to share yet, but I will share as soon as I do. So, what are you teasing with?

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Review: 'Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey' edited by Lori Perkins

I decided to request this book from Netgalley because I felt I owed it to all the people who loved 'Fifty Shades of Grey' to inform myself about it more before ripping it to shreds. After letting some time pass, I find I am quite ambivalent about it. On the one hand, I quite liked it in the way you like anything that has something of the forbidden or taboo about it. On the other hand, it was a terrible let down in that it wasn't very well-written and, to be honest, wasn't as forbidden or taboo as I had expected it to be. So I thought it would be great to hear 50 other opinions on it, to see whether their comments would help me figure out this book and its, surprising, popularity. This might be the first time I have reviewed a collection of "essays" and this review would be too long if I went through all of them, so I decided to pick up on some of the things that stuck with me while reading.

For one, I think it is a bit early to say that 50 Shades was the last blow to actual printing. Just because it was an online phenomena doesn't mean that now everyone will only publish e-books. As a current English student I can tell you that although many of u have Kindles, we all love the feeling of a real book in our hands and my generation is, after all, the future and I don't see us allowing printed books to die out. Especially not over this book.

Also, I belief that, being a woman, I was always pretty aware of the fact women love to read smutty romances with sex in them. As was the publishing world. Why else would we have all those other smutty romances with strong males and sensuous women in them? Yes, the addition of BDSM might be new (to the public, not the audience), but I don't think it is as much of a game changer as the publishers would like to have us believe. I do agree 'Fifty Shades of Grey' has opened up society to accepting to more erotic literature in public but then again, if you really wanted to find and read it you always could. Perhaps it has now become more mainstream, but is that what you'd want as a genre? To become equal to 'Twilight' and the centre of media attention? Suzan Colon also refers to this when she mentions that the main attractions to Fifty Shades are the naughtiness and secrecy behind reading it. It is almost too in the open for that now.

The great thing about reading a book like this is that you can agree or disagree with authors, much like you can like or dislike characters. Next to Suzan Colon, there was D.L. King that I quite liked. She questioned whether the book was actually erotica or rather erotic romance. She argues that erotica is about the sex, rather than the love story, which would make 'Fifty Shades of Grey', in my eyes, erotic romance rather than erotica. The story is about Ana and Christian falling in love, not about them having sex. If you took out their sex scenes you'd still have the same (admittedly boring) plot and the novel'd work.

Another interesting point was brought up by Jennifer Sanzo, who talked about whether Christian Grey is a modern Byronic man. I'm not quite sure. On the outside, of course he is. Roguish, broody, dark, strangely sensual and attractive. But would I compare him to the likes of Mr. Darcy, Heathcliff or Rochester? No. And that lies in the way it is written. Below are the three quotes Sanzo used:
'If he loved you with all the power of his soul for a whole lifetime, he couldn't love you as much as I do in a single day.' Heathcliff
'You have bewitched me, body and soul.' Darcy
'You are exquisite, honest, warm, strong, witty, beguilingly innocent; the list is endless. I am in awe of you. I want you, and the thought of anyone else having you is like a knife twisting in my dark soul.' Christian Grey
Of course, all three have their romantic qualities, but for me, only the first one is really Byronic, taking into consideration Heathcliff as a character, the second one romantic and the third a slightly melodramatic version of the other two. Heathcliff is the only one out of those three characters that has any kind of real darkness and danger about him. Christian Grey is the perfect romantic hero, willing to overcome his troubles rather than dragging Ana down with him.

I tweeted about Jennifer Armintrout while reading because I really enjoyed her chapter. She wrote about how the line between what we fantasize about and what we actually want was blurred by 'Fifty Shades of Grey'. The controlling behaviour that is seen as romantic by many is actually, when analysed, creepy and not desirable at all. Unlike with other books, the discussions have become personal, rather than about the book. I think Heathcliff is an amazing protagonist who says some beautiful things but I wouldn't ever actually wish to be in a relationship with him. Imagine how scary that would be. The public perception is that women have massively identified themselves with Ana to such an extent that nothing negative can be uttered. Criticizing her or the book would be criticizing women and therefor being disregarding towards women. However, I don't really think women have. Readers aren't stupid, they know that the novel is only fiction and they read it out of escapism, like most books. It has made sex an easier topic of discussion perhaps, but it's not like E.L. James invented sex.

What I also want to say is, thank you Dr. Hilda Hutcherson, finally someone discusses the sex in the book. It is, to be kind, highly unrealistic, to be rude, bullshit. I think it really gives young women, including me, a wrong image of how sex works and how bodies respond. I mean, if this is how sex is for most people I wonder why they ever do anything else! What I found really interesting here were the thoughts of practicing Dominants and subs. One couple explained how they would set up a scene, a Master analysed Christian as a dominant, a submissive explained the release she found in submitting. It gave so much more insight into the world of BDSM and really made me see that what E.L. James created is nothing more than a fancy framework for characters, instead of making it a part of the story.

It was also really interesting to read a history of BDSM (romance) fiction, which, to me, came across as a very open and friendly genre. It explored both male-female and male-male relationships early on. The essays on this also helped me understand why readers of BDSM fiction and people of the lifestyle don't like the novel as much. James wrote it for the average (uninformed) reader, using elements that wouldn't work for the former category. Their backlash is therefore perhaps understandable, especially since the book does link BDSM to childhood trauma and abuse, and I agree with the authors in saying that had 'Fifty Shades' been more to their liking it would maybe not have been such a big success.

One of my favourite chapters in this book was the one by Laura Antoniou, who gave her own, hilarious, view on 'Fifty Shades of Grey' by writing what I will call a parody. And thankfully she made a Youtube video of her reading it (below), which I strongly suggest you watch right now. Please don't drink while watching this, I wouldn't want to be responsible for you ruining your laptop.
Laura Antoniou is amazing, I have decided!

Also very interesting were the couple of essays on the novel's origins as fanfiction. I didn't pay too much attention to that before, but now I actually think it is very interesting. Definitely something I'd like to look into more. I found it very hard to give any kind of rating to this book because of what it is. Can I rate it the same way as a novel? I decided to just do that and gave it...


In the end, I don't really like 'Fifty Shades of Grey' any better now than I did before, but I'd definitely recommend this book, 'Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey', to everyone wanting to know more. It analyses everything from the success, to the history of romantic fiction, the characters, the reality behind it and so much more. The essays are short, well written, funny and informative. If you liked talking about 'Fifty Shades', this will provide you with a lot more interesting talking points and in my case, it did.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Star Wars Episode 7? Yes Please!

This is the news that made my day yesterday and left me to excited to post about it until now:

Disney to buy Star Wars producer for $4.05 billion!

Have you regained consciousness? Have you been able to read the article? No? Let me summarize. Disney has bought Lucasfilm Ltd, which includes the Star Wars and the Indiana Jones franchise. But this is not the best news: there will be a new Star Wars movie in 2015. Here I will give you another breather!

Walt Disney Company Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger (L) and filmmaker and Chairman of the Board of Lucasfilm Ltd. REUTERS/Rick Rowell/Disney/© 2012 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
So, let's think about this. We have here a massively influential and popular franchise that has made millions, if not billions, and continues making money. It all started with my father's generation that stood nect to Luke on Tatooine, watching the twin moons rise. It continued with my generation that together with Anakin discovered an entire galaxy. And now we don't only have an amazing Clone Wars series in its fifth season, we also have the promise of more movies. And here I want to make an argument for why these movies won't be terrible.

Yes, there are many people, older people, previous generation people, who say the prequel trilogy is...bad. My first response is usually: Excuse me heathen? But I do understand where this comes from. The original trilogy was their childhood escape, it was what they grew up with and united them with people all across the world. And it is hard to accept when someone, even when it is George Lucas, makes changes or additions to this. My favourite Star Wars movie is 'The Empire Strikes Back' and I love the original trilogy, but I will never say that the prequel trilogy isn't good because I think it is brilliant. Star Wars has never been about the good acting and George Lucas never listened to anyone else about the direction of HIS story. He has a right to do with his movies as he pleases. Why is it suddenly crucial whether Han Solo shot Greedo first or not? He is still a scoundrel and we still love him. It doesn't matter as much whether it is Darth Vader's ghost or Anakin's ghost that appears at the end because what matters is that Ani is forgiven. And JarJar is not an abomination, he fits perfectly into the Star Wars galaxy. Was Lando's onion-headed friend in 'Return of the Jedi' any more normal?

So, after this small rant against people who feel like they own the movies rather than spend time on cherishing and sharing their memories and accept they would have been disappointed with whatever Lucas would've come up with (I will stop now, promise) I think we can appreciate the joining of Disney and Lucasfilm Ltd. Disney has been producing amazing movies since the mid-nineties. When they realized they were running out of good ideas (they still need to figure this out relating to their terrible series) they started to acquire Pixar, Marvel and now Lucasfilm. I loved the old Disney movies, especially visually, and remember them with the same fondness with which I remember watching Star Wars as a 6-yr old! I truly belief that in putting these two companies together, we could have some amazing movies coming our way.

Because let's be honest, the Extended Universe has more than enough to offer for more movies. When Bob Iger (Disney's Executive Producer) says he found that there was a '"substantial pent-up demand" for new "Star Wars" movies' he is more than right. Star Wars fans will always want more! Look at all the books that come out, the amazing games that have some of the best effects you will ever  find in a game, the TV series that is massively popular for the simple reason that it is amazing. There are so many stories out there that are begging to be turned into a movie script by capable hands. And who says Disney isn't more capable than any other company out there to handle these stories? George Lucas will remain a creative consultant and we simply have to keep our faith in him. For all those haters out there who say he ruined it, please think about how you never would have had it without him! Also, this article by the Guardian on how this deal was almost 'destined' to happen is pretty good! Except for the bit about the universal agreement the prequels are terrible and that it all seems so commercial now. It would have been commercial back in the day had the business been the same as it is now.

And we'll end on a positive note:
Don't hate, that's the path to the Dark Side! May the Force be with you! ;)

Review: 'Hard Times' by Charles Dickens

I think that by now my dislike for Dickens has been well noted so this review might be a surprise to some. But I had to read it for one of my modules, Studying Literature, and to be honest, I am happy they made me read it. I still don't really like Dickens, but at least now I know why he appeals to so many. 'Hard Times' has been described as being very different from any of other of Dickens' novels so maybe I got the wrong impression here, but then again, I could never get myself to get through 'Great Expectations'. On a side note, this is the first book of my 100 Classics list that I've read for the Classics Club and reviewed. Let's hope I can make this a habbit! Excuse the terrible synopsis below, but the one on Goodreads was even worse.

'Hard Times' is set in the industrial Coketown, overseen by Mr. Bounderby and Thomas Gradgrind, who runs a school bent on teaching only Facts and eliminating any kind of sentimentality or fancy. Gradgrinds children, Tom and Louisa, are his prime examples of how his education works. Mr. Sleary's circus offers a different view of life and from there Sissy Jupe enters Coketown. As we track their lives and see the workers in town gather into trade unions, the consequences of industrialism and swearing by Facts are explored.
Yes, I admit that was a terrible summary but to be honest, what I knew of the story before I started wasn't much more promising. I don't think I was ever more prejudiced against reading a novelthan I was against this. I knew I would have to read it and therefore I would power through but I was almost convinced I would dislike it all the way. Imagine my surprise when I actually liked parts of the story. But the one thing that remained was that I didn't like Dickens' writing style. I feel like he treats the beautiful moments in this novel harshly, cluttering it with to much description that is unnecessary and mistreating some of his characters.

Almost from the first moment on, I favoured Louisa. She seemed to have a mind of her own, even if she was weighed down by the Facts in her life. But she had spirit enough to make up her own mind and accept her fate. But then Dickens offers her an escape, only to make her fall and disallow any chance for her to rise back up. I still cannot find it in my heart to forgive him for that. He seems to punish his character for making a moral journey, for growing up and exploring. A character that seems to have no development at all, Sissy Jupe, is eventually rewarded for not changing and remaining, in my opinion, slightly ignorant. During one of my lectures, we were told that women in Dickens often represented a safe haven for men and therefore had to be ignorant of money, work and anything relating to the bad outside world. I guess reading it from a modern perspective makes this hard to understand and appreciate, but I also felt it let down the story to praise the idle and punish the troubled.

Another character that really gripped me was Stephen Blackpool. Married to a drunkard, he is in love with Rachael but (hypocritically) not allowed to divorce my Mr. Bounderby. Unwilling to join the Union because he promised Rachael to stay out of trouble, he finds himself ostracized by the other works. Wrongfully blamed for a bank robbery, his life seems filled with misfortunes, yet I felt he was the most prosaic character of the novel. This is the moment he leaves Coketown after being fired:
'With these musings in his mind, and his bundle under his arm, Stephen took his attentive face along the high road. And the trees arched over him, whispering that he left a true and loving heart behind.'
This is a beautiful description and there are many of these connected to Stephen. But just like Louisa, I feel Dickens mistreats him as a character, almost failing to see his potential as a character. In my eyes, he was the tragic hero of the novel and one of the few that made me want to continue reading.
Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens really seems to find pleasure in endless descriptions that add nothing but show us he knows his way around with words, something we knew all along, judging by the length of his novels. It interrupts the natural flow of the story and asks quite a lot from the reader. Constantly you have to stop and adjust your mental image of the setting or of the people. Critics have had a field day with this novel, because it is apparently very different from Dickens' other novels. George Bernard Shaw, who I will always admire for the brilliant 'Pygmalion', agreed with other critics who commented that it seemed as if Dickens was out of his comfort-zone with this novel. Not only wasn't it set in his, and my, precious London, but he also seemed to write his description of the working class for the middle-class. I agree with Shaw when he says that the character Slackbridge, the vile leader of the Union, is "a mere figment of middle-class imagination". Dickens seemed more concerned with comforting the middle-class rather than giving us an honest portrayal. 

So, overall I give this book...


I am terribly torn over this book. There were some (two) characters I liked, there were some descriptions and scenes I liked, but there was a lot I didn't really like. There is no doubt that Dickens is a great author. Even though I don't like him personally, he is a favourite with many others and had a lasting impact on English literature. The ending left me unsatisfied but there were also a certain justness to it. Will I be using it for my assessments? Hopefully not, if I can avoid it. Unless I can bang on about how Louisa and Stephen are unjustly treated.

So, have you read this book? Do you like it?

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Teaser Tuesday: Tolkien and Shakespeare

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB over at Should Be Reading. Today I will (hopefully) tease you with two teasers from Brian Rosebury's 'Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon', a book I have decided to use for one of my lectures and the glorious 'Henry IV Part One' by Shakespeare.

'Gollum, obsessed by the desire to repossess the Ring, talk to it continually, speaks of himself in the third person or in the plural except at moments of intermittent rationality, and is effectively driven insane bu te final crisis on Mount Doom, when he must either seize the Ring from Frodo or see it cast into the Fire and destroyed: he pursues Frodo to the Cracks of Doom 'with a wild light of madness glaring in his eyes', and in the few moments of possession dances 'like a mad thing' on the brink of the chasm.'Page 46 - Brian Rosebury
'Prince Henry: 'The land is burning. Percy stands on high, and ether we or they must lower lie.' EXITFalstaff: 'Rare words, brave world! Hostess, my breakfast come! O, I wish this tavern were my drum!'Page 114 - Shakespeare
So, these are my teasers. What are you teasing with? Don't hesitate to leave your link below in the comments!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Review: 'Life Knocks' by Craig Stone

 I absolutely loved this book. The writing style was such that I was unable to put it down. I was absolutely distraught when my Kindle broke halfway through and I had to wait for my new Kindle to arrive so I could continue reading. This book has laugh-out-loud moments which can lead to slightly embarrassing moments in public, but trust me, they're worth it.
Life Knocks is the story of a guy who falls from grace, but rather than confront that fall, decides to hide in his room and pretend it never happened; but, little by little, Life Knocks...The story will confront, challenge, evoke laughter, tears and, in parts, possibly offence...But then life never claimed to be Disney world. Step outside your bubble, because the only thing to fear in life is living in one.Life Knocks is cheaper than a coffee and the Disney Princess Cinderella Flocked Chair – which according to Argos is the perfect addition to any child’s bedroom or playroom.
This book is both hilarious and touching. Stone's writing style is almost poetic at places and he has a talent for coming up with the most amazing metaphors and descriptions. Look at the quote below:
'He has a boxer's nose that rests violently across his cheek and his old bald head is littered with dents and divots as if his favourite past time is rubbing his own face with a cheese grater then trying to iron out the grazes with a hot iron.'
It starts of quite normally, but then just turns into what would seem absurd wasn't it for the fact you can completely imagine how it looks. I loved reading these kind of descriptions because this is how I think. The awkwardness of some of the moments was very recognizable whereas other moments were simply aspirational.

The book has almost too much to offer. It is funny, emotional, slightly heart-breaking and enraging. It is like life. At the beginning the narrative structure, the switching back and forth between past and present, was a bit confusing, but halfway through I really started to appreciate it. In life, we always look back on our past experiences in the hope to find some kind of sense or reason for why we are where we are now. Perhaps a warning here is in place. If you object to recreational drug use, drinking or general life enjoyment, this might not be your book. In which case you should really question your own sense of reality. Missing out on a book like this would be an utter shame. 

I haven't read 'The Squirrel That Dreamt of Madness', Craig Stone's first book,  but am seriously considering buying it. I don't think I have ever read anything quite like Stone's writing. It is funny, witty and deeply insightful. Stone describes life itself beautifully and despite the depressing moments in the book, life is definitely winning. In a literary scene where a lot of books are written by formula and where authors use stereotypical expressions, it is amazing to find something this refreshing and authentic. 

Overall, I give this book...


If you are looking for an intelligent, hilarious read this is your book. Colossus' story could be yours and Stone's writing style allows the reader to be very close to his life and create a truly enjoyable reading experience. I recommend this to...well, everyone really. I can't imagine who wouldn't want to read this. 

Sunday, 28 October 2012

In My Mailbox: Not Enough Shakespeare

I got so many books this week, it's almost ridiculous if it weren't for the fact that I do English. So I bought 8 books that I will either have to read for modules or, in case of the grammar book, I will need to make sense of my modules. In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren. I am not looking forward to Dickens, but at least I have until Friday to read 'Hard Times'.

I went slightly overboard in the library. I only wanted to get one, because I am 'defending' the position in one of my modules that 'The Lord of the Rings' should be taught in our first year. But then I found 'Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon', which mentioned 'The Road to Middle-Earth'. And the other one just seems amazing and all the essays in it are really interesting.

Here are the books I bought:
'Richard II' - Shakespeare
'Henry IV - Part One' - Shakespeare
'Henry IV - Part Two' - Shakespeare
'Henry V' - Shakespeare
'Hard Times' - Charles Dickens
'Zofloya, or the Moor' - Charlotte Dacre
'Jane Eyre' - Charlotte Bronte
'Rediscover Grammar' - David Crystal

From the library:
'Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon' - Brian Rosebury
'The Road to Middle-Earth' - T.A. Shippley
'J.R.R. Tolkien, Scholar and Storyteller' - Mary Salu and Robert T. Farrell

For Review:
'Daughter of the Goddess' - Rita J. Webb

What I posted this week:
The English Canon and Classics
I did Follow Friday
Review for 'The Silent House' by Orhan Pamuk

I will be very busy reading in the near future. But I am looking forward to most of these, especially to Shakespeare. I simply love Shakespeare. Maybe I should start a blog, just for Shakespeare. Ok, I think I need more sleep! So, what books did you get?

Friday, 26 October 2012

The English Canon and Classics

Last week I had an Academic Community seminar and we were talking about the English Literature Canon. Of course this led to me thinking about Classics and their position in the Canon. There are a lot of different opinions about the Canon but I think there are some definite advantages. The canon, for those who don't know, is a "collection" of English literature works that are considered important in shaping literature through the years. For example, there is no canon without Shakespeare. He has had a massive influence on English culture and heritage and is recognizes by most people as a literary genius. 

There simply are texts, classics, that have changed or heavily influenced the development of English literature. And it therefore shouldn't surprise anyone that these have been put together into a so-called collection. A Canon can be really helpful if you want to guide your reading. When I composed my '100 Classics' post for the Classics Club I browsed through many different lists of Classics and articles about the Canon to see what would be considered Canon-worthy. In my eyes, a book becomes part of a Canon if it has a lasting impact on people. If it has made that impact, I think it is worth my reading time.

One of the main criticisms of the English Canon is that it is full of DWEMS (Dead White European Males). Yes, this is an official term. I disagree. I have never met anyone who says that Virginia Woolf, the Bronte Sister, George Elliot or Jane Austen do not deserve to be part of the English Canon. Of course there are more men in the Canon because they have been writing for longer and their writing has often been more influential because they were more likely to write about serious issues. Of course most of them are dead because contemporary authors aren't often "elevated" to being part of the Canon, although I'll get back to that point later. Women have slowly been working their way into the Canon as they have in everything else. Personally, I wouldn't want Ann Radcliffe to be part of the Canon just because she's a woman. I dislike her writing actively. I feel that pressuring women or culturally diverse authors into the Canon means you start looking for texts that fit those categories rather than looking for good texts, not saying that those texts aren't good. But the author shouldn't be the reason why the text is chosen to be part of the Canon.

Also, the Canon is an open 'thing'. It is not controlled by someone or by an institution. If my generation decides they love a book and we tell our children about it then this book will become part of what is the 'canon' when we are adults. In short, I agree with the philosopher John Searle, who said: "In my experience there never was, in fact, a fixed 'canon'; there was rather a certain set of tentative judgments about what had importance and quality. Such judgments are always subject to revision, and in fact they were constantly being revised." There are lists, surely, about what people consider the biggest works in English literature but these change and develop. Modern authors like Ian McEwan are practically part of the canon because his works win a lot of literary prizes but have also been made into popular movies, e.g. 'Atonement'. In the future, 'Harry Potter' might become a part of the Canon because it has come to represent England and British literature for many people.

I personally also believe that the Canon is a good thing for authors themselves. The Canon represents a collection of authors and works that are inspirational. Other authors, including aspirational ones like myself, should use the Canon as a way of gaining inspiration. The Canon shows how literature has developed, which themes have spoken to readers over the years, which literary devices to and don't work, etc. Knowledge of these works also enhances your reading pleasure. There are tons of intertextual links in modern writing, some obvious some less so and finding and understanding these can be amazing.

So, what do you think of the canon after my very short brain storm on it?

Dickens' Friday

Gain New Blog FollowersI really have been missing all these Friday memes, hopping around the blogosphere and seeing what everyone else has written! So I decided that this Friday I would finally find the time to force myself to blog.

Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee. This week's qst is:

Q: What writing device or trick most irritates you when reading a book? For example, if an author employs an omnipotent narrator that is sometimes considered bad form.

Oh God, where do I begin. Actually, what irritates me the most, probably, is interior monologues that go on for pages. Not even a very beloved character can survive this device. This is one of the reasons why I disliked 'Twilight', because Bella's monologues were never ending and incredibly boring. Authors should, to a certain extent, think of their characters as human beings. No one's thoughts are interesting or profound for longer than maybe a paragraph. Then they start thinking about food, going to the toilet, how bright the sun is and how much you miss Disney. (Maybe that's just me, I don't know.) But so far, I don't think I have ever read a book where this worked properly.

Anything else? I disliked the epistolary form back in the day but since 'Frankenstein' I quite like it, if it is done properly. It also worked in 'We Need to Talk About Kevin', even if the book disturbed me. I also used to struggle with dialects in books, but once I reread 'Wuthering Heights' I sort of warmed to Joseph's accent even though it was hard to read.

For Book Beginnings (Rose City Reader) and Friday 56 (Freda's Voice
) I chose 'Hard Times' by Charles Dickens. I'm not a Dickens' fan but I have to read it for one of my modules so I thought what better way to inspire me to get started than to use it for these memes?

'Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root our everything else. You can only form the minds o reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the prnciple on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I will bring up these children. Stick to the Facts, Sir!'
I think that's quite a harsh way to open a book, especially since a book is fiction and therefore not Fact. Although perhaps this is exactly the kind of paradox Dickens wants to create. Damn you, Dickens.

'"I wish," whimpered Mrs. Gradgrind, taking a chair, and discharging her strongest point before succumbing under the mere shadows of facts, "yes, I really do wish that I had never had a family, and then you would have known what it was to do without me!"'
Well, that's quite a turn from the opening. Here we have someone succumbing to Facts rather than glorifying them. But I don't think I like Mrs. Gradgrind, she sounds a bit weak and overly dramatic.

I have decided, out of pure frustration at having to read Dickens I would also do a Friday 56 from Richard II, which I am reading at the moment for a different module.
'Alas, poor Duke, the task he undertakes, Is numbr'ing sands and drinking oceans dry. Where one on his side fights, thousand will fly. Farewell at once - for once, for all and ever.'
That is simply beautiful. Shakespeare has made me all happy again.

So, how about your Friday memes and answers? Leave a link in the comments!