Wednesday, November 30, 2011

For Review: Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis - Wendy Cope

It's not often that poetry brings positive feelings to mind. There is, and with reasonably good reason, an expected standard of gloom with poetry. But in this little collection, Wendy Cope's poetry couldn't be further from the supposed truth.

Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis is a delight to read. Cope's poetry is witty, and sometimes just completely comedic. She's a woman who's not afraid to say how it it is in relationships with men, and she's quite hapy to disguise complicated poetic forms as being just good fun. My favourites were nursery rhymes as told by Wordsworth and Eliot - very astute, and all the more hilarious having studied these poets at university.

Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis is a refreshing collection of poems, and fantastic to read when the weather outside is far from amusing.

Read by a warm fire, in the peace and quiet of Moniack Mhor.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Get Your Books Out For The Lads

Writing is a solitary pursuit, and writers spend an awful lot of time cooped up in their own headspace. That's fine. That's getting the job done. But I'm not a solitary person, and I love having good company to talk to (other than myself, of course). Probably, the social aspect of my creative writing course was the best bit - meeting like-minded people and being able to share work and ideas. I was blessed with a fantastic bunch of folks on my course.

This weekend just past, we travelled up to the highlands to Moniack Mhor for a writers' retreat. The house itself was just stunning. I spent a weekend in great company on a sofa by the fire, or squirrelled away in my room which had the most perfect view - Egdon Heath, Wuthering Heights, anyone? Writing in a room with someone else can be frustrating if you're with a quick typer, but it also boosts determination. Being able to reconvene at the end of the day with a class of wine and bitch about the writing process was incredibly relaxing. I'd be lying if I said that we all wrote non-stop twenty four seven, but eating, drinking, and blethering is all part of the process too. Moniack Mhor provided a writing enviornment that I've never been in before, and I am so much the better for it; I never imagined it would be quite as beneficial as it actually was. That, and it was damned good fun.

So here's to the writer's retreat, here's to my writing buddies, and here's to Moniack Mhor (you should go, by the way).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

NaNoWriMo - Week 3

This week, all the reasons I had against even trying NaNo have come back again. I severely dislike this. Initially, I was into a bit of discipline, but NaNo is really just stupid. I'm behind, and I've been taken my time. But what about all that stuff of not being able to rush genius?

Nov 16

NaNo is not an excuse not to do the dishes.


NaNo is not an excuse not to do the rest of the housework.


NaNo is not an excuse not to exercise


NaNo is not an excuse to turn into a total slob.


NaNo is not an excuse for anything, and NaNo is not for me. I'm not giving up on my novel idea, I'm just going to continue to take it at my own pace and in my own time. This is definitely okay.

I've achieved 27,000 words in two-three weeks. I'm not going to turn my nose up at that. The initial push and excitement was really all that I was after. I was in a bit of a slump, so I needed a good kick. I got it, and I've figured out a good routine for myself. It's not good enough for NaNo, but when was the last time I read an amazing book and realised it was a NaNo effort? Exactly.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What Must a Woman's Aversion Be...

So, apparently, it's the thing now to hate Thomas Hardy (oh wait, it kind of has been since he was first published).

Yup, you've got your opinions. Give me.

But when I review Hardy, or when I profess to my love of his writing, everyone goes:


Yes, people get genuinely angry when I say that I love Hardy. Why? That's just being plain rude. I don't get angry when you talk about how much you love Hemingway, and I think he's crap. So just calm down, guys, calm down.

I'm not just making this up. People I don't know have tweeted replies of Hardy hate. And I've read negative Hardy reviews with emphatic I Hate This comments. More so than any I Love This comments.

So I got a bit frustrated with this and brought it up with the bf, and I realise the conversation is futile. He doesn't like Hardy either.

This was when I realised that my mum is actually the only person in the world that I actually know who actually loves Hardy.

I can't make people love him (at least, not until I'm an English teacher and I can prompt people to love him), but I wish people would just leave him alone. I am totally biased, and I am totally taking his personally. It's like what Harry Potter hardcores probably feel when people suggest that those books are crap.

Constructive criticism is fine. Have your reasons. But don't get angry at me, please.

Part of this is a defense against Thomas Hardy, but most of this is just asking that people take it as acceptable that I think that he's wonderful. I think he's brilliant, and just that you hate him won't change that. You can't take this away from me. So please, be kind. Thanks.

P.S It's impossible these days to Google Thomas Hardy without getting Tom Hardy. He's great too. Have you ever seen Bronson?

For Review: Eat Him If You Like ~ Jean Teule

Very rarely (or never ever?) do I just post up a blurb - usually, I prefer to give a bit of synopsis on my own. But this time, it just makes more sense to do it this way. Basically, Eat Him If You Like is this:

A true story. Tuesday 16 August 1870, Alain de Money, makes his way to the village fair. He plans to buy a heifer for a needy neighbour and find a roofer to repair the roof of the barn of a poor acquaintance. He arrives at two o'clock. Two hours later, the crowd has gone crazy; they have lynched, tortured, burned and eaten him. How could such a horror be possible? With frightening precision, Jean Teulé reconstructs each step of one of the most shameful stories in the history of nineteenth-century France.

That. That is what this little novel is about. But whoa, they aren't half being euphemistic with the term 'frightening precision'. Eat Him If You Like is disgusting. It's vile, and it's just so deliciously gory. For me, and my morbid fascinations, the book was just an absolute delight. If you're squeamish and not in for guts and gore, then I should really tell you to avoid it, but I won't. I double dare you. There's something fanastically Marquis de Sade about it all too (not in a sex way, just in the narrative), and it's brilliant.

Read It If You Like.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

NaNoWriMo - Week 2

Urgh, this week was dreadful. I'm going to blame the weather, but I've been finding myself too exhausted to even read or write. I wasted a morning off work with sleep! So here's how week two went.

Nov 09
Stylistically, I hate he said/she said. In my own writing, it's something that I never use. I don't actively make a point of not using it, I just dislike it so much that it doesn't happen. But, when I'm struggling to make 50,000 words, I think I might got back and add them all in. Most people will have about 2,000 words of he said and she said,surely.

Really not in the mood to write today. Sometimes, I just don't want to write. Believe it or not, sometimes I like to read books, or play games, or watch Jeremy Kyle. But while NaNo is going on, none of these things are okay.

It occurred to me that none of my characters ever in the history of ever have had pets. At least, none that I can think of - and that's a lot of short stories worth of characters. I will remedy this by giving one of my characters two dogs and three cats.

Nothing has happened for days. Maybe about 500 words. But I'm supposed to be 1333 each day (or something like it) to get to the big goal. Today is for catching up! But my poor knuckles ache... Apparently I'm going to finish on Dec 7th at this rate, so I must battle through!

Argh. Week two has been tough. Bring on week three?

Friday, November 11, 2011


we will remember them

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

NaNoWriMo - Week One

This year is my first try at National Novel Writing Month. It's the first year in my life (since I was 5, anyway) where I haven't been in education, which means no looming deadlines or exams to panic about. So, finally, I can do this.

So far, so good. It's been an interesting week!

01 Nov:
Managed a whole 3000 words and very, very pleased with myself. Extremely concerned about my reliance on chocolate, though...

Met up with some regional NaNoWriMoers for a write-in a Pulp Fiction books. Was pretty successful, and nice to bitch about the annoyances of NaNo with others. That, and Pulp Fiction is an absolutely adorable little shop. If you're in Edinburgh, go visit it.

My novel takes part largely on the internet - it's about how relationships are formed online etc etc. I've started playing around with fonts, but realising already that it's a bit of a waste of typing time!

Just about managing to squeeze in writing around my working week. This does mean ignoring my boyfriend for a little each evening, and it is a bit mean.

One week in, and I'm still on target. Hurray! Decided that I can celebrate the 12,000 word target by eating pizza tonight while watching Jersey Shore. Treats are good for meeting deadlines!

Taking part in NaNoWriMo this year? How's it going?

Monday, November 07, 2011

National Short Story Week - What To Read

7 - 13th November is National Short Story Week. The celebration? Short stories!

Short stories are fantastic - bitesize bits of literary greatness. The best short stories do everything in just a few thousand words: a whole world, characters in it, a plot, character development. In essence, it comes down to: minimum reading investment/maximum emotional investment.

I'm a huge fan of short stories, and anyone who's into prose should love them too.

Some of my favourites?

Irvine Welsh's Acid House
- very gritty, and very clever.

Annie Proulx
- just gorgeous, truly masterful short stories. Try Close Range - yup, that's the one with Brokeback Mountain.

Flannery O'Connor
I'm not always the biggest fan of women writers. For a long time I didn't read any. Then I read Ms O'Connor. Oh my WOW. If you only read one short story this year, make it one of Flannery's. Her entire collection is perfect.

Tiny Deaths, by Robert Shearman
Yes, and yes. Up for something really unique, unlike anything you've ever read before? Fantastic stuff.

Thomas Hardy
The man can do everything. Novels, plays, poetry, and his short stories are no exception. Really, I had to have him in there. Call it a fetish?

For myself, I'll be reading more of Murakami's Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. Another master of the short story. So very exciting!

What will you be reading?