Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happy St Andrew's Day

St Andrew's Day! Hurray! Time to celebrate all that is so great about Scotland.


fun fluffy snow
smugness at free university education

Just a few things that made me happy about Scotland today. I was good, and stayed away from the Irn Bru. For some reason, come Burns' night in January, the Scottish celebrations will be ten fold. St Andrew doesn't really get a look in, but our poem of the month is a lovely piece of Scottish language. Enjoy!

from Unrelated Incidents by Tom Leonard

    this is thi
    six a clock
    news thi
    man said n
5    thi reason
    a talk wia
    BBC accent
    iz coz yi
    widny wahnt
10    mi ti talk
    aboot thi
    trooth wia
    voice lik
    wanna yoo
15    scruff. if
    a toktaboot
    thi trooth
    lik wanna yoo
    scruff yi
20    widny thingk
    it wuz troo.
    jist wonna yoo
    scruff tokn.
    thirza right
25    way ti spell
    ana right way
    ti tok it. this
    is me tokn yir
    right way a
30    spellin. this
    is ma trooth
    yooz doant no
    thi trooth
    yirsellz cawz
35    yi canny talk
    right. this is
    the six a clock
    nyooz. belt up.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Jane Austen - Who Are You Anyway?

It's super exciting to see so many people signing up for my Victorian literature challenge. I cannot wait to start, and I'm really looking forward to going to buy all the lovely books on my list. Yee ha!

I've noticed one little author pop up in discussion over the challenge, and she's caused a little bit of doubt for those readers creating their lists. In fact, when I named the first level Sense and Sensibility, I was already aware that I was playing against the rules a little.

Jane Austen was born 1775 and died 1817. Her novels were published between 1811 and 1818. All of Austen's works, therefore, came before the Victorian period. However, say 'Victorian literature' and one of the first figures to pop into peoples' minds is Jane Austen. How so?

Austen was a pre-Victorian, writing books on social satire. Her acute awareness of the social ins and outs of the 19th century is what she is famed for. What is Victorian literature if it does not feature an exploration of its society? Jane Austen's novels became popular and acted as a catalyst for the huge literary boost that was the Victorian age. Basically, it's all her fault. So that's why Jane Austen is considered a Victorian writer. Really, she's a 19th century writer, but she kicked it all off with a style and substance that hadn't been found before. Thanks to Austen and the Victorians, we are lucky to have the literature we have today. Can you imagine being stuck with the Romantics?!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

For My Lovely Followers and Readers

Whoa! I've hit the 200 follower mark! Everytime I hit a little benchmark, I'm always very excited and very pleased. When I started this blog, really it was an excuse to get my wonderings and rantings about the world of books out there. I figured maybe two or three people would stumble across it, but never imagined it would have so many hits, so many readers and followers to check up time and time again and comment. It's lovely <3 so thank you.

To celebrate, I'm hosting a giveaway! Whoo hoo! There are two books up for grabs, one each for two winners.

Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy's The World's Wife


Margaret Atwood's Negotiating with the Dead

Want to win? Just comment with your name and email address :)
(and do add which book you'd prefer if you like)

The winners will be announced Saturday 4th December - so get busy!

Unfortunately, this competition is only open to readers in Europe/UK. It cost a bit of a fortune to send a book to the US last time, and sadly I don't have any fortune to send another one. Sorry!

Friday, November 26, 2010

I'd Be The Madwoman in his Attic

Are you ready for this? Are you really?

I'm not one to get hugely excited about film makings of classics. But this coupling of Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester just seems so naturally perfect. Oh my! Really, I can't wait.

Is Yesterday Tomorrow Today?

What makes a contemporary novel a classic? 
Discuss a book which you think fits the category of ‘modern classics’ and explain why.

Oh, the tautologies!
First off - 'contemporary classic' is an oxymoron. Contemporary is now. No novel can be an immediate classic. Classic needs time.
Second - this question is asking two different things. 'Modern' and 'Contemporary' are also two different things. Subtle, but there's a difference. I see modern as being anything beyond 19th century. Contemporary, the last decade. Not the same.


....There is such a thing as a modern classic, because it's had the time to grow into something well-known and well-loved. Hence:

The Grapes of Wrath

John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wraths is an incredible read. A real classic will do two things at once - get down to the nitty gritty of its time (America's Depression) while also being full of those qualities that last a lifetime - fantastic writing, human characters, life as everyone knows it. Timeful and timeless.

It'll be more than interesting to see which contemporary novels make it into classic status over the next however many years.

Join in the chat in the Literary blog hop over at The Blue Bookcase.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Victorian Literature Challenge 2011

So I was looking for some fun challenges for next year, and I decided I wanted to get my teeth into more Victorian literature. Failing to find any challenges and refusing to be disappointed, I decided to come up with my own. Whoo hoo!

So here it is:

The Victorian Literature Challenge 2011.

Okay, so I don't have a button yet. I'm trying to figure it out so bare with me. I'm hopeless at these things but want to get it sorted asap. Anyone offer any tips? Anyone want to do it for me? *bats eyelashes*

Naturally, as it's my little baby and I'm keen on the Victorian lit, I've opted for the toughest level:

Desperate Remedies: 15+ books.

What is my delicious selection?

1. Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen
2. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
3. Two on a Tower - Thomas Hardy
4. A Pair of Blue Eyes - Thomas Hardy
5. Under the Greenwood Tree - Thomas Hardy
6. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
7. The Hound of the Baskervilles - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
8. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson
9. Middlemarch - George Eliot
10. The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne
11. She - H.R Haggard
12. Villette - Charlotte Bronte
13. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - Anne Bronte
14. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
15. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

There's my 15, but no doubt I'll add to the collection along the way. I'm really excited about starting this! Yay!

Do join up, do let me nosey your lists and do recommend some more to me!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Making a Debut

Congratulations - you're ready to publish your first novel. You've struggled with characters and storylines for months, maybe years, and now it's all packaged and ready. But what is it?

Is it an epic of 100,000+ words? Does is scrape into the boundary of 'novel'?
What size is the print?
What pseudonym do you choose?
How does the jacket look? Are you presenting yourself to a colourful people, or dull monochrome?

Every decision you make is crucial.

You've got to pull a crowd, create a buzz, and deliver your book in ways entirely unconnected to the story or the writing itself. At this stage in the game, the words don't matter.

Such is the fear I'm having at the moment.

My novel (which is very, very close to being finished) will be around 60,000 words. From what I gather from sneaking around the internet, that word count translates to about 240 pages. How's that?

Personally, I think it makes for a cute little debut.  Think Less than Zero.

How much time should I spend being worried about these things? When the words are said and done, it's important to consider how I'm going to present my story to the world. Let's not get ahead of ourselves - I'm not that far down the literary road - but it's important to know that I'm giving my story in the right way.

Something that I'm thinking about, now I'm nearly done - but I can worry about these bridges once I reach them.

Friday, November 19, 2010

He Said, She Said

Is there such a thing as literary non-fiction? If so, how do you define it? Examples?

Oh Hello, Question. Did you see this review?

Literary non-fiction:

Prozac Nation (in the link above)


Down and Out in Paris and London

Literary non-fiction is NOT the territory of the philosopher (by and large)

Literary non-fiction, thy name is NOT Kant.

Thanks again to the lovely Blue Bookcase for another interesting prompt! It's always interesting to see others' ideas and examples.

In other news,
My blog has been empty this week: I've been struggling with the end of my novel. (ie, nail chewing, fighting with my word processor, staring blankly at empty screens, playing far too much Frontierville.) Next week I vow to get my act in gear and really press on. We'll see how that turns out.

Tomorrow I'm taking my sisters to see the penultimate part of the Harry Potter film series. Excitement! And in the evening I'll be at Edinburgh's lyceum theatre for The Importance of Being Earnest. Lovely, lovely weekend <3

Friday, November 12, 2010

Gertrude Stein says, 'That's Enough.'

What is the most difficult literary work you've ever read? What made it so difficult?

Good question.

The Turn of the Screw and Daisy Miller were difficult because I found them so incredibly tedious and very overwritten.

I've heard people say that Crime and Punishment is a difficult read, and I know others that have spent a whole year getting through Anna Karenina. These two books were just an absolute joy for me to read, and I was surprised at how easy I found them.

Gertrude Stein's Three Lives, however, was a bit of a slog. Or rather, a lot of a slog. 'Melcantha' was probably the easiest to read but being faced with paragraphs that last pages is not pretty. It would be easier to take if I knew the paragraphs were very exciting, or filled with sentences that I would gain from, but really it was just daunting. To some extent, I do understand and appreciate what was going on but mostly I thought it was quite unnecessary. Paragraph upon paragraph beginning with the word 'Melcantha' tends to grate on the brain after a while. Stein knew what she was doing, but beyond learning and understanding her experimentation, Three Lives is a difficult and tedious read.

Head on over to The Blue Bookcase to take part. You can also send an email with any of your own prompts.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Edinburgh Literary Blogger

Snazzy title, and that would be me.

Both exciting and quite nerve-wracking to see my name up on the Guardian website. The link to my tiny space of the internet can be found by thousands upon thousands of people. Just like that. It's a crazy idea, considering I started this blog just back in March, but I'm loving it all the same.

The blogosphere is far bigger than I had initially imagined it to be. I never thought I was entering such a busy, and often competitive, part of the world. Still, here I am, with readers and comments, writing thoughts and opinions that possibly no one will care about, let alone read.

Now I'm up here, part of a group of Edinburgh writers who blog. Go take a peek, discover something new, and *ahem* note that yours truly is a pick of the week.


Sunday, November 07, 2010

For Review: Prozac Nation ~ Elizabeth Wurtzel

Without sounding like a total debbie downer, I first have to state that it wasn't entirely possible for me to review this book in complete objectivity. What I'll say is only this: the thoughts and feelings described in Prozac Nation were easily identifiable and so close to home for me.

Prozac Nation is the memoir of Elizabeth Wurtzel's struggles with depression. Simple enough: her childhood, family dysfunctionalities, teenager years, starting college, working and living independently. The story of many lives. But Elizabeth has been depressed most of her life, and this is what she focuses on - where it came from, how she supressed it, how it grew, how it interfered with her life. The title was somewhat misleading for me, because I imagined much of the book would be spent discussing her reactions to various medicines, but the writer isn't actually on any medication until much, much later in the book.

The memoir itself is very acute - she's done very well in getting across the way it feels inside a depressed person's head. At times she seemed arrogant, or just plain stupid and bitchy. But, I recognised most of this as irony: Elizabeth knows only too well how warped the mind of a depressive can become. That, and depression in its worse turns can make people say and do things that ordinarily they wouldn't do. While I wasn't in love with her, I did feel for her, and care about her getting better.

Seemingly though, somehow, she has loads of very close friends. This was something that didn't make sense to me at all - she treats many people horrendously, and yet they all seem to have a lot of patience with her in her condition. It just didn't seem realistic. Throughout the book, Elizabeth meets people at friends' weddings, parties, functions - it's not conducive in any way to her personality, or the very secluded individual that she becomes. She's visited by several people while she's in hospital, and they all give her gifts that they know she'll like. Where did she ever get the chance to meet people and make friends?

It was towards the end where the difficulties came. After a certain incident involving her mum, the narrative seemed very fake. Very suddenly it seemed like I was reading a story, rather than a true account of her life. That, and the ending came far too quickly. Like magic, everything seemed very suddenly magically transformed and better. Hmm. Really?

Prozac Nation is startling in its honesty about life, relationships and mental health. Parts didn't seem realistic or fitting to me, more like convenient plot devices. Not that I'm saying she's a liar: if it is all entirely true, then she's one extremely lucky woman. When it got down to the nitty gritty of depression, Elizabeth Wurtzel did a fantastic job of communicating the effects of the illness.

P.S If you've got a problem with inconsistent tense changes, I'd shy away. It's something I'm victim to in my own writing all the time (as I'm sure some readers will have noticed) so it's not a problem that bothered me. Much.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Remember, Remember, The 5th of November

Gunpowder, treason, and plot.

New this week is the Literary Blog Hop hosted by The Blue Bookcase. Yee-ha! This is definitely something I've been waiting for for a while. And now it's here!

Please highlight one of your favorite books and why you would consider it "literary."

It's very tempting here to get overly excited about Thomas Hardy. He is, in my mind, the most literary of the literary. I could argue and discuss his work forever and a day.

But, since it's Friday, I feel like going a little bit crazy (controversial, some might say).

Haunted is my favourite Chuck Palahniuk book. It's a novel, in a way, that contains a series of short stories. A group of writers are selected for a retreat and every day one of the writers tells a story. Stories within a story - seems easy enough, but it actually takes a great deal of skill.

So why is it 'literary'? Palahniuk is a genius when it comes to words. And what can be more literary than knowing the magic of words and being able to use them to create great things? The stories themselves are fantastic; the retreat is a creepy house in which the characters become isolated. Given that we're dealing with a group of writers, there is a very clever attention to detail of the words used both in the writers' stories and in the way that they speak. The contagious nature of language was particularly genius. One character would pick up the phrases used by another, and then the words would creep into their own vocabulary and pop up from time to time in their stories. There were so many clever little subtleties in the language, and the entire frame of the novel is about writing and words. That is why Haunted is a favourite literary novel of mine.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Poem of the Month - October

Tam o' Shanter always reminds me of autumn and halloween; for a start, that's what the poem's all about, but it also seemed to be automatically pulled out at this time of year at school. Burns is thoroughly implanted in my mind as a winter poet for so many reasons.

I'm not going to put up the whole of Tam O' Shanter here because it would take up an entire internet page and then some. Instead, here's a little teaser which, incidentally, is as much as I can recite off by heart.

Tam O' Shanter

When chapmen billies leave the street,
And drouthy neibors, neibors meet,
As market days are wearing late,
An' folk begin to tak the gate;
While we sit bousing at the nappy,
And getting fou and unco happy,
We think na on the lang Scots miles,
The mosses, waters, slaps, and styles,
That lie between us and our hame,
Where sits our sulky sullen dame.
Gathering her brows like gathering storm,
Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.

This truth fand honest Tam o' Shanter,
As he frae Ayr ae night did canter,
(Auld Ayr, wham ne'er a town surpasses
For honest men and bonie lasses.)

O Tam! had'st thou but been sae wise,
As ta'en thy ain wife Kate's advice!
She tauld thee weel thou was a skellum,
A blethering, blustering, drunken blellum;
That frae November till October,
Ae market-day thou was nae sober;
That ilka melder, wi' the miller,
Thou sat as lang as thou had siller;
That every naig was ca'd a shoe on,
The smith and thee gat roaring fou on;
That at the Lord's house, even on Sunday,
Thou drank wi' Kirkton Jean till Monday.
She prophesied that late or soon,
Thou would be found deep drown'd in Doon;
Or catch'd wi' warlocks in the mirk,
By Alloway's auld haunted kirk.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: 02 Nov

"Every night, I sit in my apartment waiting for the clock to strike twelve, petrified that Jack won't call me, that he won't want to see me, that he'll run off with someone else, certain that if such a thing does happen, I will have no choice but to climb into my little old-fashioned bathtub and burgandy-stain the hot water with blood from my own wrists." (153)
Prozac Nation - Elizabeth Wurtzel

In other new: Happy Belated Birthday Hello Kitty!

Hello Kitty was born in London 1 Nov, 1974. Happy Birthday!


My favourite book lover (:

Monday, November 01, 2010

In Which I Buy A Second Hand Book

The concept of tatty novels repulses me. People watching me read have sometimes commented that I hold my book funny, and I explain that this is to make sure that I don't break the spine. Folks also like to comment on my bookshelves because the vast majority of my books look like they haven't even been read. No, this is not because I have piles of books waiting to be read, it's just because I like my books to always be in pristine condition. Very sadly, The Return of the Native and The Secret History have been soaked in the rain (tote bags really aren't water proof), and Anna Karenina has a few slight creases (because it's mammoth and impossible to read without bending somewhere), but this is the extent of book damage in my flat. I don't write on books, I don't highlight books, I never dog-ear my books or leave them open face down. All of the above drives me crazy and does sometimes make me flinch.

So, naturally, I like to buy my books brand new and keep them that way. Recently, however, I came into a bit of a problem when trying to locate a copy of Prozac Nation. For some reason unknown to me, this book is actually out of print in the UK. Grr. I looked up some American websites and while the book was cheap, I resent paying three times the cost for postage. So off I trotted to Amazon.

Sure enough, there were a few mangled copies there. 'Used' can't really be all that bad, can it? I picked a copy that was apparently in 'very good' condition. Hurray! Finally, it arrived but my goodness gracious, there is no way that this book is 'very good' in any way, shape or form.

My copy is from 2002, which I think was the last run that the book saw in the UK. It had a sticker on the front where it was probably in an offer at HMV or the such like. Then there was a big ugly old sticker that said 'Giftaid' on it. From HMV to charity shop. So far, not so good. The spine is creased in far more places that is surely necessary. The back is bent, the pages are curled, and every page is a yicky yellow colour.

My first experience of buying a second hand book was a disappointing one, but the novel itself is proving very enjoyable so I suppose that's all that counts. After all, for 1p, I can hardly complain.