Sunday, 29 March 2015

Sunday Sundries: Why I haven't been running and why I'm running now

Happy Sunday, you beautiful people!
I don't really know why Sunday gets a dancey-gif, when really it just means that WORK IS TOMORROW, but I guess I'm just in one of those moods, possibly because I have two days at work and then SIX DAYS OFF so what could possibly be wrong?! Not much, kids. Not much.

So. Today I'm going to talk about running because I've obviously never done that before and I know it's just a thrill for everyone to read about. In the last week (or, ok, 8 days I guess) I've been on four runs. Before this week, I had been on a grand total on one run this whole year. One reason for this is pretty obvious- doing a MA and working is SO TIRING you guys, I can't even- and one is slightly less obvious which is that grief does weird things to me. Everyone experiences it differently, I know, and for me it's like... I get a bit distanced from what my body actually needs, so I don't really get hungry (it's not that I CAN'T eat, it's just like I don't really care if I do or not?) and so at no point was I like 'I feel gross, I should run' because I wasn't listening to what my body was saying.

As an aside, I also know that running makes me feel really good, and in a sense, I kind of didn't want to feel good? This is dumb, I realise, and it's not like running actually prevents bad emotions, but at the same time, the thought of being chemically (i.e. kind of falsely) happy was not a good one to me. That's just how it was.

But now! I am running, and it feels excellent/terrible. But what has led you to this wonderful action, Laura? I hear you cry. Well. Firstly, I've finished all the seminars for my MA now (so scary. So excellent. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it, let's be real) which just leaves a LOT (a LOTTTT) of words to write that are actually going to be assessed, i.e. the real work starts now. When I spent an entire 8 days writing essays back in January, my method was: eat all the food. Have a lot of naps. Mess up my sleeping schedule and feel like crap the whole time. This was not a good method (and I didn't even mention the caffeine!) so this time my strategy is: run every day you're not working, get in and write some goddamn essays. Ir's a solid plan, I've really just got to work on my follow through on this one.

Other reasons? I don't know, I guess I could say it's something to do with my birthday coming up and my fear of being ollllld (I'm going to be 26, don't you just want to punch me?) or I could say some crap about bikini season, but essentially it's just the good working habits thing, PLUS I don't sleep so well at the moment so getting up early isn't a problem/hopefully I'll sleep better because I'll be knackered? Something like that, anyway.

Aaaaaand that's probably all you need to know about running. Except LOOK AT MY RUNNING LEGGINGS THEY ARE THE BEST:
They are also not strictly running leggings and will probably have thigh holes in a couple of weeks. But anything that gets me to exercise is good so shush.

And there you go, that's about all you need to know about my life. Until next time, kids.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Devouring Books: Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons


Reading Shakespeare does not, as you may have noticed, leave a lot of time for reading books that aren't Shakespeare. My general schedule of life while I've been Mastering has been work three days a week, uni two days a week, with secondary reading in the mornings of those days, and reading the play of the week on a Saturday. Sundays are when I get fed a lunch, see my family, and otherwise, generally, don't want to use my brain at all. If you can find time for non-Shakespeare reading in the midst of this, then you're a better man than me! (Although, let's face it, I would be a terrible man). 

It was when I was reading Shakespeare Manga (yes, it exists, yes it's awesome) and finishing it in an hour that it struck me- not that I should read the comics instead of the plays, but just that graphic novels! They could be some good gentle reading to complement the Shakespeare! So, when Bex and Katie and I hit up Forbidden Planet, I checked with them that Watchmen was excellent and then, you know, bought it. What could possibly go wrong?!

The answer, obviously, is nothing. If you've read Watchmen, you'll know that already, but I hadn't read it and I didn't know what to expect and OH MY GOD. Firstly, it's probably important to say that this is not a graphic novel you can read in an hour. I mean, I wouldn't have wanted it to be over that quickly anyway, but there's so much packed in here that it's impossible not to linger over the pages and want to take everything in. I'm pretty sure I still haven't taken everything in, but that's what re-readings are for, amiright?

But first, the story: Watchmen is set in a world where, after the birth of superheroes in comics in the US, real (but fairly strong and extraordinary and all that good stuff) people took it upon themselves to be real life superheroes/vigilantes, stamping out crime wherever they may see it and all that other good stuff. Watchmen isn't really about those people, so much as the generation who came after them, and the tension of not being the original guys, but still trying to do the same thing is so apparent in the book, as are SO MANY OTHER themes. Watchmen was released in the 1980s, so the entire thing takes place against a backdrop of the threat of MAD, plus the shitty shitty social conditions of the 80s. And then there's all the other stuff.

There's so much to say about Watchmen that it's ridiculous to pretend I'm going to sum it all up in one blog post, but let's see what I can do. I was crazy impressed with just how well written it was: the art is great (that's about all I can say about that because what do I know about graphic novel art?) but the writing and the story and oh my god. The characters are all, if not completely relatable, then wholly understandable, because their backstories and histories and everything about them is so well explored and so interesting and have I said that I liked it so much? SO much. This doesn't mean that the things they do aren't exciting and interesting in themselves, and there are so many parts with ordinary people that I need to read again because I think they hold the key to something and I don't know what.

So yeah. I was pretty obsessed with this for the entire time I was reading it, which didn't bode well for the Shakespeare I was supposed to be reading that week (I actually... Didn't read it. But for other reasons too! Also shut up.) But I still felt like I was giving my brain a workout, and learning stuff at the same time, so it's all just the same thing, right? Reading Watchmen actually made me feel way smarter than I actually am, because there's this whole section that's grounded in Nietzsche, and I read it going 'this sounds very Nietzsche-esque' and then the endquote (which is a thing at the end of each section/comic) WAS Nietzsche and I felt very smart. I also found some Shakespeare connections, but that's probably more my brain at the moment than things that are explicitly meant to be in there. But who knows?! (Probably, like, Alan Moore and stuff? Obviously... And anyway, the book belongs to the people now and I can infer any damn things I like from it cause I'm an English student, innit).

Anyway. To summarise: Watchmen is not the kind of graphic novel you're going to want to use to rest your brain from more difficult fare, but it is exquisite in its own difficulties. I know I rushed through it because I wanted it all in my brain as quickly as possible, so I'm very extremely excited to read it again as soon as possible. And you should read it too and we can discuss Dr. Manhattan's worldview and feminism and also EVERYTHING ABOUT EVERYTHING. Because that's really what this graphic novel brings.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Sunday Sundries: On Time and Money

Something I think about a lot is the relationship between time and money, mainly because I don't have much of either at the moment. It seems to me that there are three different scenarios you can find yourself in: two of them are fine, and one is kind of terrifying.

You can:

  • Be time rich and money poor- This state of being is fine because having all that times means that if you hear that you can get a good deal on, say, cereal, but you have to walk 40 minutes to get to that place, then you've got the time to do that and you've saved a bit of money. This is the position I've found myself in at most points of my life, and means that I have so so many hobbies that don't involve spending much money: sewing, running, yoga, reading, blogging, Netflix... and it's a pretty nice way to live, in that you don't feel like a disgusting consumer all the time.
  • Be money rich but time poor- This has never happened to me, but I imagine it's a good way to live since the extra money you have means that you can do all sorts of time saving actions like buying takeaways when you need to, and generally pay people to do the things you need done but don't have the time to do. One day, maybe, I'll know what this feels like, even though it seems like the first option is really what I'm destined for.
  • Be time poor and money poor- This is my life at the moment. It's the essential reason why I'm tired all the time, because I have all these THINGS that I need to do, and they eat up my time, and I don't have money to make it better or to be at all useful. For example, I kind of need to work a few extra hours at some point because ALL THE BILLS have come at once, but I don't have the time to do it if I want my essays to be written excellently and ARGH. Mostly I get by on free wine given to me by my family (one excellent way to combat having no money).
I suppose you can also be time rich AND money rich, and if you know how to reach this magical state of affairs then please let me know as soon as possible. Is it by marrying a millionaire? Please don't tell me that. 

Anyway. It's fine, and one day I will again have time/money, but all of this is really just a roundabout way of telling you about my oven. My oven broke a few days into my Masters (so, end of September, just before my first seminar) and finally, finally, we got a new one yesterday (days before my last seminar). It really just feels like I was destined to not have an oven for the whole of the time I had to go to lessons and be generally busier than I've ever been, and I've made my peace with that, but honestly? I'm so fucking happy to have an oven again.
See? And, if we're Facebook friends (and if not, why not?!) then you probably got a lot of oven cooked spam yesterday. Because OVEN CHIPS I CAN HAVE THOSE AGAIN!
And holy shit, I make a good lasagne. I'm basically the best to myself. Can you marry yourself/an oven?
The point, anyway, is that an oven is like the ultimate time saving gadget. You don't need to stand over it like pans on a hob, you can just put the food in it, go and do something else, and come back 20 minutes later and have your dinner. IT IS THE GREATEST INVENTION, and I don't think anyone properly realises that unless they've been without one for a while. So appreciate your ovens, kids. That's the moral of this story.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Sunday Sundries

You know these kinds of weeks?
Well, I have been having one, and it's been bumming me out hard. I could tell you all about it, but I feel like I've already been using this blog to complain too much rather than for it's actual purpose lately, which I'm not saying anyone minds but, you know, I mind. Let's just say, there's been some work stuff going on, and on Thursday we scattered my nan's ashes, and the two kind of met in the middle and made me a big, weepy mess for most of the week.

It hasn't been pretty.

But, you know, life isn't always pretty, and my life especially isn't, and instead of dwelling on all the shit I'm trying to be like this:
to myself, rather than this:
So let's talk about some of the nicer parts of this week, shall we? On Wednesday, I was very much a weepy mess (the work crap mainly happened on Tuesday, and the ashes was forthcoming on Thursday, so that was literally meeting in the middle) and then I went to my Shakespeare seminar and actually came out feeling so much happier. I don't know whether it was just because I had something to focus my mind on, but I felt like it was the first time I'd really and truly enjoyed Shakespeare since my nan died (which then made me sad that I only have 4 [!!!!!!!!] lessons left). It was quite a nice reminder of why I'm doing this, really.

Saturday was my auntie's 50th birthday party, which was awesome because can we talk about free bars? They're pretty great. So great I had to have over a 2 hour nap this afternoon, and seriously, I'm really bad at napping! Hangovers are nasty. And then today is Mother's Day over here, which is bittersweet because I love to celebrate my mum (she is kind of amazing) but at the same time, there's all this nan stuff around and obviously I'm reminded that last year I still had one nan... The year before I had two... It's pretty raw.

So, I'm pretty sure what I've just established is that even within the good stuff, there's some sad stuff too. Hence all of this weeks crying. To a way lesser degree, I'm really sad that, in spite of my best intentions, I've just completely missed the Villette redialing, and I can't even read anyone's posts because even though I have read it before, I don't remember a thing about it. But I'm sure everyone taking part is having an awesome time (I feel like everyone I know on the internet is either doing that or the War and Peace readalong and I'm just over here doing the Shakespeare challenge by myself! [not that I read Antony and Cleopatra this week... Shhh...])

Oh YEAH, speaking of Shakespeare, as I am wont to do, it's the Ides of March today, which in the past has genuinely made me go "I need to read some Shakespeare today" like it's anything to do with him rather than, you know, Caesar. Just a little history of this on the blog: I remember the first year I was blogging, I thought it was the Ides of May (I think I was thinking of 'wind shakes the darling buds of May'...) and I missed it, so since then I made a bit of an effort to read some Shakespeare on this day- three years ago it was actually Julius Caesar, two years ago it was Cymbeline, and last year, timehop tells me I was starting to read King Lear, which is hilarious since I remember giving up on it because I wasn't enjoying it, and guess what I had to study for ten weeks at the end of last year? Oh yeah.

Anyway, this year I'm technically reading Pericles, which seems to be about incest and not much else, but also I haven't reaaaally been reading Shakespeare today, because he does not meld well with hangovers (just like last weekend he didn't meld well with tonsillitis). I might watch a film version of The Tempest in a bit, which is a legit thing I have to do this week, so that counts as working. In alternative book news, I've nearly finished reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (again) which makes me feel like I should basically have just been reading Harry Potter alongside Shakespeare all this time to help me through; and this week I also finished Watchmen, which I will review at some point but let me just save you the reading time and tell you to read it now. It's pretty amazing.

Annnnnd I am pretty much done telling you things. I'm going to try really hard to leave this last week in the past where it belongs, and move on to better times that I have to carry on believing are still coming because what else is there to think? I hope you all have wonderful weeks too.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Devouring Stephen King: The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla

Ah, Stephen King. Stephen King has called himself the junk food of reading, and whilst I think he's better than he thinks he is, he's definitely no Shakespeare. To which, in reading week, I said THANK GOD, and finally, FINALLY finished reading Wolves of the Calla.

Do you know how long it's been since I finished a Stephen King book? I reviewed From A Buick 8 towards the end of July last year, but I think I finished it a bit before that, so in a numbers sense, it's been FUCKING AGES since I finished a Stephen King book. Pretty much since that time, I have been in the middle of Wolves of the Calla, except saying I was in the middle of it instead of about 100 pages in for about 6 months would be a bit of an exaggeration. It's not even that I didn't want to read it (except... Well, we'll get to that) but just that I, as you know because I tell you all the time, have had extremely little spare time to read anything but Shakespeare for approximately 1000 years.

So anyway. Wolves of the Calla! My big plan with these last 3 Dark Tower books was to read them over the summer, in the garden, and just luxuriate in the sunshine with them. Clearly, this didn't happen, something which I'm going to attribute to visiting my dad in hospital a lot last summer, because it's definitely not because I was reading too many other books instead*. But anyway. I have finally finished Wolves of the Calla, and in about a year, I will probably have finished The Dark Tower series entirely. Woo!

Notice how I'm avoiding telling you much about the book? There are a couple of reasons for this: I don't really know how to talk about the Dark Tower books because there's so much previous knowledge required to review each book in the series that very little makes sense unless you have a vague idea of what's gone before. In Wolves of the Calla, the heroes we have met in the other books are faced with the challenge of saving a town from the wolves, a gang of bastards on horseback who steal one twin from a pair and return them back broken and wrong. That's the basic thing they have to do, BUT there is so much going on that relates to what has gone before and what is to come that sometimes you forget what they're actually there to do.

Which leads onto my second reason for avoidance... On revisiting this book, I've kind of come to see that it's kindofsortofnotthatgood. Ok, it's not a BAD book, and holy shit did it keep me riveted for about 300 pages one Sunday night, but at the same time... It's long. It's longer than it needs to be, and it does constantly make you forget the main thread of the story. There's an annoying 'secret' kept from the reader until practically the very end, and there are so many offshoots that will one day be relevant but aren't to this story that it can get kind of annoying. BUT I'm being too mean and I totally read the crap out of this book and it's really not that bad, especially if you're into The Dark Tower series which I can almost guarantee you will be by the end of book 2. But objectively speaking? Kindofnotamazing.

So, yes. Mostly I'm super glad I've finished this at last, and that Song of Susannah is waaaaay shorter. Which is obviously no guarantee I'm going to read it any time soon, but I'm alive with the possibility of maybe doing just that. But probably not. Ok, now I'm just rambling so we're good here, right? Look, just read The Dark Tower series already, do I really have to tell you again?



*Note: A lottttt of shit was going on last summer... Housemates leaving, housemates moving in, babies being born, bbqs to be had... It was a pretty busy time, I can probably let myself off for not reading all that much.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Sunday Sundries: London Shenanigans

I know, right? I just updated you on my life on Wednesday, and here I am talking about myself again like some crazy narcissist. Well, it's Saturday right now and I'm trying to avoid writing an essay that I didn't choose* and that I have no idea what to write about for. It's going to be a really fun weekend, let me tell you! And, besides my mental torture, I also did a thing on Thursday that is relevant to all our lives, so mostly I'm going to write about that and then put some links to stuff that is relevant to all of our interests and that I've been collecting on my phone for 10,000 years. It'll be fun for all, is what I'm saying.
SO. On Thursday, (which I SHAMEFULLY neglected to mention on Wednesday) I went to London to meet up with Bex and Katie to go book shopping and generally frolic and definitely NOT say cunt in the children's section of Waterstones Piccadilly (Yeah, that happened. But I said it REALLY QUIETLY. I also said shit in front of a five year old at work yesterday completely accidentally. I should be stopped). An excellent time was had by all, even when we accidentally walked the wrong way when looking for lunch and got remarkably whiny (me) and hungry (Bex) (Katie managed not to disgrace herself). After an excellent amount of noodles and a REALLY excellent political discussion (I had to tell Bex and Katie off for voting Lib Dem) we went to Forbidden Planet (because, nerds) and died over how much stuff we needed, before I had to leave and go to a stupid Macbeth seminar because, again, nerds.

Books! I bought some but am vaguely reluctant to share them only because they're going to be birthday presents and who likes to do birthday posts about books? That would be me. I was very very good (for once) and only bought one book from Waterstones and two from Forbidden Planet- one of which I've allowed myself to actually pay for because apparently I need to read Watchmen because it's amazing? So that's happening. It's probably a good thing I left when I did because Bex and Katie seem to have bought waaaaay more books after I'd left than we did together, so... excellent job, me.

To sum up (or, to say some more things that are actually different to the things I've said before, gosh this is a terrible sentence, good job I don't have to write an essay or anything today. OH WHOOPS): London has many many more bookshops than can be gotten to in the three hours I was there, Katie is excellent and everyone should be so lucky as to go book shopping with her (Bex, I think we already know, is the greatest) and I'm hoping we can all go back to London soonest so more ground can be covered. Things I learned: shopping in Waterstones Piccadilly should not even be attempted if you're hungry because you will not want to leave but you will also be about to die of hunger before you do. There is nowhere to eat in the opposite direction to Leicester Square unless you want caviar, diamonds, or whiskey (don't think I wasn't tempted by the last of these three options), and Katie can magic up adipose stress toys just by saying that she wants one. I'm planning to harvest her magic and grow myself a real life unicorn.

Anyway. An excellent day (or, three hours) was had by all and we even remembered to take pictures which basically never happens (or at least not with me and Bex. We are terrible.) Here are my couple:
We manage to look normal.
We manage to look ridic, apart from Katie who maintains her dignity (I have no dignity).

So yes. Basically it was exactly the kind of ridiculously nice outing that I need at the moment, and it's the kind of shit that keeps me going in between the random crying (mainly wine, also grief) and the feeling stressed of a Saturday morning (I'm discovering I have a special form of PTSD from when my sister called to tell me my nan had died, which takes the form of feeling sick whenever she calls me, and feeling anxious on a Saturday morning until after about 11am. It's fun! Except really not.)

But anyway. Links! (There are a lot and I'm sorry if I've posted any before. But just enjoy the awesome.)
Harry Potter links get their own special section, of course:
THERE. I collected all of those for you, so don't say I never give you anything. And happy March, children! It's pretty important for me to have daffodils in my house right about now, so I should probably do something about that. Your Sunday plans?



*Like, fully. We had to pick a week to do our essays in and I was the second last to pick, which left me with Sylvia Plath poetry, which I LOVE but also have no skills to interpret. Like, zero.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Mini-Reviews For Books I Can't Really Remember Anymore, Vol 1

So remember in October when my life exploded and I started a Masters in Shakespeare (of course you do, it's all I ever talk about here anymore) and I threatened to keep posting shit but never really did? And remember in January when my life imploded and I became incapable of doing things that I didn't absolutely HAVE to do? Well, in that time, I actually have (believe it or not) read some books that aren't Shakespeare, and also before that time I read a couple of books that I never fully reviewed. Here are some tiny things I have to say about them, in the spirit of getting shit up to date and actually writing about books again (I KNOW. Crazy.)

A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi

I've been trying to read more graphic novels, because I think they're awesome, they're totally fast to read, and if I get them out of the library, I don't feel guilty about having library books out, because, you know, they won't take long to read! A Drifting Life, however, is a brick. It's the memoir of a graphic novelist, which I thought I would love because remember how good non fiction graphic novels are (See: Persepolis, Fun Home, Maus...)?

However. Tatsumi is a graphic novelist who has basically always been a graphic novelist. What this means, in practical terms, is that this book is over 800 pages of personal history, and of the history of manga in Japan in the mid 20th Century. Whilst I'm sure this would have been awesome for a lot of people, I grew ever so slightly more bored with it until I had to force myself to pick it up again because I wanted to add its pages to my page count for the year (I know, I know).

So. Unless you're crazy interested in the history of manga, this might not be your cup of tea, either. But then again, it does have its moments of almost too true and too relevant reality...


I Murdered My Library by Linda Grant
Fun fact: Linda Grant is totally the name of one of my seminar leaders at uni. This is not the same person. I Murdered My Library is a Kindle Single that I believe I paid 99p for, and it's almost like a long essay where the author talks about her lifelong addiction to owning and acquiring books, and what happened when she downsized and got rid of most of her books and OH THE HUMANITY. I don' t remember much about it (this is going to be a common theme in this post...) but I have general good feelings about it like I do books that talk about books by people who just fucking love books.

Side note: I said to my uni friend the other day that basically all I want in the world is to touch a First Folio in my lifetime, and she didn't really get the book fetish thing. I KNOW, RIGHT?!

Not That Kind Of Girl by Lena Dunham
I had actually half started a post about this book, but, let's face it, I'm never going to finish it so I'll just give you a mini-summary. I am kind of obsessed with Lena Dunham, so even though I had much Shakespeare-ing to do (I believe it was The Merchant of Venice week) I bought this, sat down with it on a Saturday afternoon and read for about 3 hours. It's pretty good! Some of the essays I related to way more than others, and of course this kind of thing is always hit and miss, but for me there were way more hits than misses and also I love that it is dedicated in part to Nora Ephron because now that we don't have her, we might need Lena, and many many other women to write funny and insightful and interesting essays, sometimes all at once. 

Did I just do a really good job of hiding the fact that I can basically remember the topics of about two essays? I think so!

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I'm really struggling with Americanah because I literally don't remember how it ends. I remember how I wanted it to end, and I remember some themes and stuff, but I really don't remember how it ends. Regardless, it's a really good book- it took me about 10,000 years to finish because Shakespeare (this is how I justify all things, these days) but it had some really interesting things to say about racial politics, and women, and Nigeria and America AND all of these things were said in the context of a story that I cared about, and wanted to finish, and wanted to FUCKING REMEMBER HOW IT ENDED. But I'm sure it was good. All I know is that I can wholeheartedly recommend it, two enthusiastic thumbs up.