Thursday, 27 February 2014

Devouring Books: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Joan Didion is one of those writers who I'd heard a lot about (although I don't know where from), but who I had never actually read (see also: Alice Munro, Charles Bukowski, Zadie Smith, I could go on but you don't want me to...) I have had a couple of her books for a while now, so obviously I thought it would be a good idea to read her memoir of grief over her husband's death while I'm in a fairly fragile state about death and, you know, all sad things.

It wasn't really a good idea. But read it I did, and I actually got a lot out of it. There are no inspiring words about meaningful lives lived, or 'oh wells' of surviving, but instead, a lot of the absolute what-the-fuckery of grieving. The crazy thinking, the running through events over and over and over again in your brain, trying to see how they could have been different, how you could have made them different, and the wilful forgetting that, actually, they won't need their stuff anymore because they're not coming back. It's honest, and raw, and beautiful and devastating, and so different from a typical grief memoir that I can't even deal with it.

So. I took this as my train read one day because it's a pretty light book and I wanted to read some Didion. That first time, I cried a little bit on the train. The next time I read it, also on the train, I cried a little bit more. And repeat for the next couple of times I read it. It got easier as it went on, but it still kind of hurt to read, and it's the weirdest thing, because The Year of Magical Thinking manages to be both an intensely personal memoir about exactly how Didion felt after her husband died, and to say something more universal about death and how it affects us. I still don't know exactly how that happens, but somehow it does, unless, of course, my experience of grief has been similar to Didion's, and no one else has had such an experience, which, you know, I doubt.

I don't really have much more to say about this book, because, I mean, memoir about grief, you get the gist. I don't know if I'd recommend reading it soon after the death of someone you loved, but you know if it's the kind of thing you're going to find useful, and I for one find the majority of my camaraderie in books. Reading is kind of how I work things out, so this was sort of a perfect timing read for me, crying on the train aside. Most of all, it's made me want to read all of the Didion, because I'd really like to read things about her that won't have me crying on public transport, and because she's really a kind of awesome writer.

And, because this wasn't really a review, some quotes for you:
"In both England and the United States, he observed, the contemporary trend was 'to treat mourning as morbid self-indulgence, and to give social admiration to the bereaved who hide their grief so fully that no one would guess anything had ever happened.'"

"In each of those long illnesses the possibility of death had been in the picture... Yet having seen the picture in no way deflected, when it came, the swift empty loss of the actual event. It was still black and white. Each of them had been in the last instant alive, and then dead."

"We have no way of knowing that the funeral itself will be anodyne, a kind of narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of others and the gravity and meaning of the occasion. Nor can we know ahead of the fact (and here lies the heart of grief as we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaninglessness itself."

"We imagined we knew everything the other thought, even when we did not necessarily want to know it, but in fact, I have come to see, we knew not the smallest fraction of what there was to know."

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

"I felt as if I knew it would have been better and happier for many people, if indeed I had never breathed."

I feel like we didn't get masses of action in this part of Bleak House, but we got some extra connectiony stuff that was worth knowing- Mrs Smallweed was Krook's sister! Esther knows who her mum is now! Spontaneous combustion is apparently real!
Because it's Monday evening (Monday evening! I'm writing this on Monday evening!!) thought isn't really a thing that's happening, so YOU'RE GETTING THE BULLET POINTS. You're totally welcome.

  • The Smallweeds annoy me by their general presence, but it did make me laugh when Mr Smallweed couldn't find anything to throw at the Mrs, so he threw Judy. I mean, poor Judy and all, but still. LOL AMIRIGHT?
  • I think I kind of skimmed over the Bagnets last week when I was reading, but you all seemed to love them, so when they came back I was like 'ok, pay attention, me' and then I found them totally charming. I love how Mr Bagnet lets Mrs Bagnet do his scolding, and also this, which is weirdly romantic: "I'll tell you what. The old girl's weight- is twelve stone six. Would I take that weight-in any metal- for the old girl? No. Why not? Because the old girl's metal is far more precious- than the preciousest metal. And she's all metal!"
  • Dickens does an amazing job of describing what it's like being ill. I mean, thankfully I've never been as ill, or for as long as Esther (touch wood) but even if you're ill for, say, a week, it's perfect and accurate and just yes: "the usual tenor of my life became like an old remembrance."
  • "I could read the letters that my dear wrote to me every morning and evening, and could put them to my lips and lay my cheek upon them with no fear of hurting her." HOW INCREDIBLY STRAIGHT OF YOU, ESTHER. Can Esther and Ada just get it together, please?
  • It makes me so sad when Esther's like 'its a good job Woodcourt and I never got it together, cause I'd have to break up with him because of my gross face now." I just... You are more than your fucking face, Esther! Have some self-esteem, fucks sake.
  • "O how happy I was, down upon the floor, with my sweet beautiful girl down upon the floor too, holding my scarred face to her lovely cheek, bathing it with tears and kisses, rocking me to and fro like a child, calling me by every tender name that she could think of and pressing me to her faithful heart."
  • Fucking Richard needs to sort himself out. Now. I have accidentally discovered what happens to Richard when I was trying to find something else out (I may or may not have googled "Are Esther and Ada in Bleak House totally gay?") and I can't say it surprises me, BUT it makes every time he's around SO FRUSTRATING. Just ARGH, focus on something else!
  • I honestly didn't understand a word of Esther and Guppy's conversation... Something something she has to forget he proposed or something? Yeah, that sort of went over my head, which I think was the point?
To summarise: More lesbian shenanigans, women aren't any more progressive about body image now than they were in the Victorian times, and I am heartbroken that Lady Dedlock doesn't want to see Esther anymore. I hope this will be remedied by the end of the book, for I want Esther to have her mummy. Which is totally reasonable.

Monday, 24 February 2014

A Really Quick Monday Mundries

Guys! Sunday and Monday morning seem to have gotten away from me just a little bit, and now I have twelve minutes before I have to leave for work. Seems like the perfect time for tiny weeny updates about stuff:

Right Now, I Am:

Listening to: A loooot of Simon and Garfunkel, which makes a change from the usual loooot of Joni Mitchell I've been listening to. But not that much of a change. Damn I miss the sixties.

Reading: I've been working my way through Bleak House (I'm actually going to write my post tonight! Ready for tomorrow! This has not yet happened for this readalong) and also through The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, which is taking a lot of emotional strength to read. Which I don't really have. So I've been crying at it, is what I'm saying.

Eating: (this isn't right right now, right?) I always eat much hummus so lunch is a vaguely healthy hummus and salad sandwich, and a quinoa salad which I actually thought ahead and made last night. Might be getting used to this taking care of myself thing...

Watching: BREAKING BAD. So much Breaking Bad. It's probably a good thing I have a job and things to do, otherwise I'd probably be watching it exclusively. On Friday night, I watched 5 episodes, which meant staying up til past two, which, combined with waking up at 8am the next day (I don't know why...) was not a good idea. Also worth noting: My housemate isn't allowed to watch Breaking Bad with me again because he called Skyler a bitch and I can't deal.
Also watching: My Mad Fat Diary (so amazing), The Great British Sewing Bee, and Girls. I'm pretty happy with TV at the moment, even though it means I'm reading hardly anything.

Making: A mess? Aw, no, well I made some brownies last week (gluten free! So rich. Get the recipe off Bex) and just this morning I made a lasagne for my dinner. I haven't sewed or knitted anything for so long, though, need to get on that.

Planning: To sort my life out. Looking for a new job, re-starting hobbies, all that good stuff. Also planning around times where I could possibly be watching Breaking Bad instead of doing other stuff.

Feeling: Up and down, really. Fairly down yesterday, because Sundays are still hard (I cried at James Bond, so that was a new low), but today, not so bad. Still just taking each day as it emotionally comes.

Loving: TiVo, being back in my old-new room, and the promising emergence of spring. Come on spring, you can do it!

Wanting: A few impossible things, and an iPad-mini. Not long until my birthday!

Thinking: About how to fit more reading into my days. Main thoughts: the day being longer. Which is happening all the time!

Looking forward to: Spring (clearly), tonight's lasagne, and having a new baby in the family (not mine. My cousin's. But yay!)

What have you been doing, lovely ones? Would you like to come over and share my lasagne? <-- Totally not a euphemism. Tell me all.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Devouring Stephen King: Dreamcatcher

"And oh man, why was the world so hard? Why were there so many spokes hungry for your fingers, so many gears eager to grab for your guts?"
The first time I read Dreamcatcher many many moons ago*, I haaaaated it. I don't know if I hated it to the extent that I ended up hating it in the following years, when the memory of the plot and characters and everything had faded so that all I could remember was a feeling of hatred towards the book, which intensified and got nice and hatey, but you know. I definitely hated it.

You could say, then, that I was dreading reading it again. Or, not so much dreading as, wanting to either avoid it forever or read it as quickly as possible so it was DONE. And I didn't have to read it, you know, ever again. However. It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, if only because I had a thing where, in my state of misery, I really wanted some comforting reading, and apparently, having read 40-odd of his books makes Stephen King comforting rather than terrifying. Just the way he intended it, I'm sure.


And yet. Just because I didn't hate this book as much as I thought, doesn't mean I'm going to be really nice about it. Because I just can't. Admittedly, there are things I appreciate now more than I did when I first read it (where I appreciated nothing), and there are some really King-ian elements that I want to talk about, but on the whole... No. This is a novel based around an invading alien species who spread through shit-weasels. What this boils down to, really, is SO MUCH description of farts and shitting and burping and oh god, the bodily functions, I just cannot.

It's not that I'm being a prude! It's just that, the constant description of bodily functions takes what should be a terrifying situation (vaguely antagonistic alien invaders) and makes it ridiculous.** There comes a point in one's life when they're reading Dreamcatcher when you have to say no. No more. I can't read about anymore farts and stuff. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME, STEPHEN?

And it's not just that. The major problem Dreamcatcher has, I think, is that there's very little story for the number of pages you have to read. I mean, there are kind of two narratives that split into three somewhere in the second half of the book, but the first half is pretty much just figuring out how they got to this point, and the second half is pretty much just a big chase scene. It's difficult to explain how many fewer pages there could be unless you've read it, but trust me, there could be a LOT fewer pages.

But. There are some redeeming features of this book. Firstly, I find it interesting that King wrote this not too long after he was hit by a car, after which he had an excruciating recovery, because there are so many descriptions of pain and its effects on the mind and all that other good stuff. That was an interesting little glimpse into the interesting part of the King psyche, the other parts, I assume, being mostly interested in farts and shit and stuff.

And then. The part that really makes it worth reading, the part that, in general, is the best part of a Stephen King book, is the friendship part. Even though it's kind of shoddily done, even though deaths aren't properly grieved at any point and friends seem to be sacrificed willy-nilly, the parts where King describes the main group as children are the parts where Dreamcatcher comes anywhere close to his usual magic. There's something Stephen King does with childhood friendships that I would match against anyone who's done the same thing, probably ever, and that's the saving grace here.

But it's not really enough. For me, there's too much army crap, too much blah blah blah and not enough story, and far, far too many shit weasels.*** It's troubling to me that people could read this without an extensive King background and think 'fuuuck, this dude sucks', and it's troubling to me that THIS is what he came up with after he nearly died. Not something incredibly profound (even though it tries to be at times). Shit and farts and burps. I just can't, really, in the end. 

*Which I say because, you know, I can't remember when I read it.
**I would say hilarious, but it's not even funny toilet humour.
***Note: ONE is too many.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

"The only practical thing for the world was the emancipation of woman from the thraldom of her tyrant, man."

SO MUCH to talk about in this section, so little time.* SO MUCH SCANDAL AND OTHER GENERAL SHOCKING THINGS, cue leftover WILKIE readalong gif:
 Ok, the way I sees it, there are three majorly important things to talk about from this section:

  1. Lady Dedlock and her 'secret': Ok, I'm feeling totally smug about this one because GASP, Lady Dedlock is Esther's mother? WHO KNEW? Oh yeah, that was ME. Vindication feels so good. I hate that Guppy is seemingly going to blackmail her (is he, like, going to say that he'll reveal her as Esther's mother unless she makes Esther marry him? Cause how is that going to work?) and that's how we found out, but I love being right. I actually fist pumped when I read that, so yeah.
  2. This weird disease: So poor, poor Jo caught some kind of strange illness, then Charley (oh! Charley. God bless Mr. Jarndyce and his wonderfulness) caught it and it's apparently going to disfigure her, and then Esther caught it and it made her blind? WHAT IS THIS, THIS IS NOT A REAL ILLNESS.** I'm assuming Esther is going to pull through the blindness because she's writing a book but who knows, maybe she's just dictating it to someone.
  3. Mr. Krook spontaneously combusted: But seriously, what am I even reading?! What is this?! I think this is important, not to the plot in any way, but in knowing that Dickens was a great believer in spontaneous combustion TO THE EXTENT that he included it in his book to make a point. And I can't overstate how gross I found the whole 'the air smells fatty' thing that preceded it, because ewwwww.
And yes, it is true that these are all events from the parts of the novel I have read today, but that doesn't make them any less important. Let us also discuss the fact that, for a moment there, when she was talking about Mr. Woodcourt's mother, I thought Esther might be straight, but then she went and shattered that illusion with sentiments like this:
"I wrote her a long letter, saying that she made me anxious and unhappy, and imploring her, as she loved me, and wished my mind to be at peace, to come no nearer than the garden. After that, she came beneath the window, even oftener than she had come to the door; and, if I had learnt to love her dear sweet voice before when we were hardly ever apart, how did I learn to love it then." 
If anyone marries at the end of this book but Esther and Ada, I'm going to be so annoyed...

Right, what else is there? I think I might be in love with Mrs Snagsby just because she's an incredibly ridiculous person ('my husband is doing something I don't know about. THAT PEASANT BOY MUST BE HIS SON!' and so on), I think Hortense might be a little bit gay for Esther: "I will serve you well. You don't know how well!", and I think Mrs Jellyby needs to be slapped just a tiny bit. Or at least to go back in time and be sterilised before she had any children. WHY DOESN'T SHE CARE HER DAUGHTER IS GETTING MARRIED, YOU CAN CARE ABOUT MORE THAN ONE THING AT ONCE OMG.
Important questions:

  • Will Esther ever regain her sight?
  • Will Lady Dedlock ever not be bored by everything?
  • What exactly is the difference between Mr Tulkinghorn and Mr Turveydrop and why do they confuse me so much?
  • Will Mr Bucket come back, because I liked him and the diamond brooch he apparently wears?
  • Will I even finish the chapters before Tuesday evening?
Only time will tell, dear ones!


*because I want to watch some Breaking Bad and other general non-Dickens things and it's already practically 10pm.
**Ok, apparently it's smallpox? Which sounds pretty nasty, glad I don't have that one. Yeah.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Sunday Sundries: Getting Back Into The Swing Of Things

Sunday greetings, people of the internet!
So, I have now lived a full week back in my home-that-I-pay-money-for. I have learnt:

  • Hey, it's not so scary!- I have basically just had to make one extra meal (per day) for myself than I was already making, I can SHOWER whenever I want (there is no shower at my parents', just a bath) and yeah, it's ok, basically.
  • Rearranging books is a very soothing activity- For some reason, when I moved in, I put the books I hadn't read behind other books (some of which I had read) and it was all just very disorganised and bad bad bad. This week, I have rearranged them so that every single book I own but haven't read is on display. It's a slightly terrifying situation (there are a lot of books I haven't read...) but also a good one because I can go 'ooh! The Awakening! I feel like reading you today!' Also I don't need any more books ever.
  • Always take your keys with you- So, I went out yesterday to the theatre with a couple of my friends, and we were just going to have dinner afterwards, but it was one of those awesome nights where dinner turns into drinks and before you know it you're getting home just after midnight, desperate to pee and without your keys. If you're lucky, you'll be able to wake up your housemate to let you in from the porch and you'll feel mildly guilty for a while. If you're unlucky, I guess you'll sleep in the porch and leave a little puddle in the corner. So yeah, that happened.
  • Rewatching Breaking Bad is always a good idea- It's absolutely my current evening viewing. Still so awesome. Maybe even more awesome when you know where it's headed because HOW COULD IT SPIRAL SO FAR OUT OF CONTROL?!
  • Tivo is King- You know that thing when you come downstairs one morning and can't figure out how the TV works anymore? And then you realise there's a whole new thing in front of it and you play around with the remotes and all of a sudden you have Tivo? Yeah, that happened. I can now officially watch The Hills anytime I want to which, admittedly, is not necessarily a good thing. But shut up because TIVO!
  • Rain will always hamper your plans- I have made such good morning plans this week, only to have them ruined by the rain. The times I did go out in the rain are the reason I had to shove my umbrella in a bin yesterday because I was so disgusted with it, but then again, the rain is the reason my books have order now, so there's that. We'll call it a draw I GUESS. 
Basically, it's sunny today so I'm feeling weirdly... optimistic or something. I'm not going to pretend that I've just been completely happy all week, because I think that's going to take a while, but I've had glimpses of what that might be like and I want to go to there. How have your weeks been?

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Devouring Books: If You Lived Here You'd Be Perfect By Now by Robin Hardwick

A long long time ago*, in an age before I knew what a book blog was, I stumbled across a number of blogs about both The Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High, my ultimate childhood book series. These ranged from the mundane to the sublime, and of them all, the most sublime was The Dairi Burger, one woman's attempt to re-read the Sweet Valley High series of books and not go completely insane. I'm pretty sure I read most of the posts in one go upon discovery, because snark can be pretty awesome when it's done well. And this is done well.

So, If You Lived Here, You'd Be Perfect By Now (which I'm never typing out again because it's TOO long!) is pretty much the collection of posts from The Dairi Burger**, plus some extra book recaps and a few other bits too. I paid literally zero pence for it, which pretty much means it would be churlish of me to complain too much about it, but I do have a few things to say about it that I would have liked to have been better. But I can't be too cross about it like I would be if I'd paid, like, £10 for it. Which, to be fair, I probably wouldn't have done.

But first, the good stuff. If you've ever returned to Sweet Valley High as an adult (if, in fact, you ever read the books at all) you've probably noticed just how terrible they are. The writing is awful, the storylines are ridiculous, and characters who are naturally perfect at everything they try, as well as being so beautiful that they make others cry with jealousy are just, let's face it, annoying. This book appreciates that, and, in a book by book recap, goes through all the things that are wrong with, well, everything in the books. It's pretty awesome, I can't deny it.

So yeah, that's the kind of thing I'm into, and it's done pretty well, so I have no complaints about the book itself. I knew what I was getting, and that's pretty much what I got. NO REGRETS. But, some complaints, actually.

First, the formatting. I'm not sure exactly how Kindle books work, or how difficult it is to format them, but it would have been really cool if there had been a menu or contents thing or whatever where you could skip from one book to another on a whim: like, you could think, "I want to read a snarky interpretation of the book where Regina dies" and BAM you're there, instead of having to go through alllll the books. This is probably a spoilt brat thing because you can do this on the blog, so it's not that big of a deal.

The other thing, though, is that, well, it kind of gets a bit samey after a while. And I don't mean, you're reading snark so it gets samey, it's that it seems like Hardwick is criticising the same things about different books. Which, I get, because firstly, the same things happen in the books, so there's a limit to how much you can say about them, but also, she wrote the posts out of sync (i.e. didn't read book 1 then 2 then 3 and so on) so these criticisms probably happened months apart but just happen to have been valid criticisms of books that came after each other.

But (and here's my really big one) this is a problem that could have easily been solved with some gentle editing, and honestly, at times it felt like no editing had happened at all. There were spelling and grammar mistakes that you kind of let slide in blog posts because eh, people will read them and forget them in about a day, but when you're writing a book (even if it is self-published)? I feel like that's something you sort out. It seemed a bit like she'd just taken the blog posts, not even read through them, and plonked them into a book format. And it annoyed the crap out of me. Not in general! I don't mind that she used her blog posts at all, because that's basically what this book was for, but it did annoy me that she didn't seem to have read through them to weed out even the most basic mistakes. None of them! Not at all!

So, editing-wise, this book just annoyed me, but content-wise, I'm never going to not find criticisms of Sweet Valley High hilarious. It's fun to make fun of the person you used to be, and of the things you used to be impressed by, and kind of important that you don't necessarily continue to revere things that actually seem quite damaging now. Basically, if you ever read Sweet Valley High, you're going to get some laughs out of this, and if you didn't... Then your childhood reading was probably better than mine.***

*Like, 4 years ago, maybe?
**Which, in case you didn't know, was totally the cool hangout for SVH students, where they could chow down on burgers whilst retaining their size six figures.
***It definitely wasn't. Sweet Valley High RULES.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

"'We have never been readers in our family. It don't pay. Stuff. Idleness. Folly. No, no!'"

I wouldn't like to incriminate myself in any way, but it's possible that I've only just finished this week's reading of Bleak House ('only just' being 8.30pm on Tuesday) and haven't really processed anything I've read and might not have even read it very closely because I was trying to get. It. Done. I mean, that probably didn't happen, but I'm just saying. It might have. Possibly.
BUT! The good news is that I didn't wait so long to finish this week's chapters because I hated them or anything, just that this week has been (sort of) busy AND things are just generally that leeeetle bit harder to do at the moment than they might otherwise be. BUT! I did finish, so there's that.
Now. Thoughts and things. Let's see... I feel like Lady Dedlock gained a lot more personality in this section (in that, she actually did more than be shocked by some handwriting) aaaand, I'm pretty sure she might have a big secret that we're all on the same wavelength about, right?
"But why her face should be, in a confused way, like a broken glass to me, in which I saw scraps of old remembrances; and why I should be so fluttered and troubled (for I was still), by having casually met her eyes, I could not think."
Welp, either Esther has another crush, or Lady Dedlock is totally her mother. THERE I SAID IT.
 I mean, right? Either I'm just interpreting all the things wrong, or that's what's going on here. SOMEONE AGREE WITH ME, QUICK! Also, I feel like it's important to add, I kind of love Lady Dedlock's french maid. Such attitude.

Less awesome, and with less attitude, is Mr Guppy, who is clearly both HILARIOUS and DREADFUL. All the time. At every occasion.
"I saw Mr. Guppy, with his hair flattened down upon his head, and woe depicted in his face, looking up at me. I felt, all through the performance, that he never looked at the actors, but constantly looked at me, and always with a carefully prepared expression of the deepest misery and the profoundest dejection."
Ohhhh, Mr Guppy. I love how Esther finds it ridiculous rather than endearing, and it doesn't make her want to do anything stupid like run into his arms and ask him to forgive her for refusing him. Because, you know, he's being ridiculous, and probably definitely needs to move on. 

Especially because, (and I really didn't see this coming) Esther has an actual love interest! I had definitely filed her away in my head with the plain-girls-who-aren't-allowed-love-whilst-their-more-attractive-counterparts-get-some (snappy file name, right?) but no! She actually fancies a dude, and he likes her and left her flowers and it's all very adorable.

But then, of course, "I fancied she was dreaming of him when I kissed her cheek after she had slept an hour, and saw how tranquil and happy she looked." Yes. Very heterosexual, Esther.
Clearly, most of my attention still pretty much goes to the whole Esther part of the narrative, BUT I do have things to say about Jo and his chapter. I mean, mostly it's just the massive heartbreakingness of his situation, AND the way Dickens somehow manages to capture his pathetic situation without overdoing it, but with just the right amount of sads. I mean, I know that's his thing, but it's pretty special.
"To be hustled, and jostled, and moved on; and really to feel that it would appear to be perfectly true that I have no business, here, or there, or anywhere; and yet to be perplexed by the notion that I am here somehow, too, and everybody overlooked me until I became the creature that I am. It must be a strange state, not merely to be told that I am scarcely human (as in the case of offering myself for a witness), but to feel it of my own knowledge all my life!"
The other thing I found really interesting about his chapter was maybe the first instance of misery-tourism in fiction. This is maybe something I only found interesting, and maybe only because my sister recently went on a Jack the Ripper tour and I kind of don't get the whole wanting-to-see-where-horrifying-things-happened thing? But, I do find the psychology behind it fascinating, and I find it especially fascinating when a bored, upper-class Victorian woman wants to see the place where, for once, something actually happened. It's probably not an important plot point at all, but it's still totally interesting. To me.

Annnd, that's me. Next week, I shall endeavour to make notes and also be coherent and whatnot. But don't count on it.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Sunday Sundries: Really Short Update

Everyone! Sunday greetings and grand felicitations and whatnot!
I'm pretty much only writing this post so I can keep my February resolution to myself, since it's basically 8.30pm and Sunday is close to being over. BUT I decided you totally needed a life update because how can you even go a week without me rambling about myself and stuff?
SO. This week has kind of gone in an upward curve for me- it started with me feeling reaaaaally bad and sad and everything (about nothing in particular, but the general sads, you know) and ended, obviously, today, with me feeling... Not so bad! I finally came home (i.e. left my parents' house) yesterday, which has so far been better than I was expecting- in that, I haven't spent the whole time I've been here crying because I wanted my mummy, like I feared (I didn't think that would really happen... Or not to that extreme...) and have actually felt kind of ok-ish? Which is good!
Of course, you can take that with a pinch of salt, because, as I was last week, I tend to feel worst on Mondays and then get better throughout the week, but WHATEVER SHUT UP BRAIN YOU MIGHT NOT DO THAT THIS WEEK, HUSH. Anyway... things I have done... walked some places, seen my granddad a lot, made brownies with my cousin, worked some, read some, aaaaand started the epic unpacking adventure that will probably last my whole life. SIGH.

I did get one big piece of news this week (actually two, but... I'll tell you about one!) which is that the company I work for is moving premises in probably early May, which is great for the company, but not so great for me. Because, awesomely, they're moving to a place that's really really difficult to reach by public transport and I can't drive. But hey! There are 14 parking spaces! *mutters under breath* It's the strangest thing though, because as the owner was telling us this, I was having a split in my brain between going 'FUCK.' and going 'This could actually be the best thing for me' in that, it's kind of going to force me to find a new job which I'm not necessarily the most self-motivated person at doing (job hunting suuuuuucks).

So yeah, that's my big thing. And I don't think anyone even noticed the gif-padding!


Thursday, 6 February 2014

Girls: I see what you're doing here (sorta)

Girls is one of those programmes that seems to have been written about almost more than it's been watched. It seems like everyone* has to have an opinion on it, and I've read so many things about whether or not it's racist, or not aware enough of white privilege, or any of those extremely important things that somehow aren't ever talked about with say The Sopranos, or Breaking Bad, or any show that features predominately white men, but there you go. I think that the fact that these conversations are being had is actually a really good thing (20 years ago, when Friends came out, I can guarantee that no one was saying 'but why are they all white? This isn't representative of New York') but it annoys me that they're all targeted at Girls when so many other shows also fail in inclusivity.

But. This isn't even what I want to talk about, so I'm going to move on.

I've been thinking a lot about Girls since I read this recap after the most recent episode. Girls gives us four, mostly unlikeable characters to think about and talk about** but of these, Hannah is the most developed, and probably the most interesting to me. I feel like I should give a little summary of her character, but you're not really going to be reading this unless you watch Girls, are you? But ok, just in case: Hannah is an aspiring writer, sometimes OCD sufferer, who has trouble expressing the things she wants from other people and is usually the most self-centred person anyone has ever come across. Apart from Jessa, probably, but that's another issue.

So, in this most recent episode, Hannah goes to her book editor's funeral, where, you know, people are sad and things, and all she can talk about is the future of her as yet unpublished book. It's possibly fair enough to be concerned about this, but to constantly bring it up at a funeral? DOES SHE HAVE NO SHAME?***This has all really served to further reinforce Hannah's selfishness and her complete inability to act appropriately in any situation, and it was really annoying. The other thing we really learnt about her this week was that her book is literally just things that have happened to her in her life, and she believes that, without more experiences that have probably damaged her a fair amount, she'll be ruined as a writer because apparently she can't make things up? I don't know. But the point is, I think this tallies with a lot of things we already know about Hannah, and so I think we've come to an interesting point in the series.

Here's what I'm getting at: At the start, Hannah likes this guy (Adam) and he doesn't really seem to be that into her, and she keeps going back to him and it's really really difficult for us to see why. Then, later in the first season, things switch a little, and we see that, actually, Hannah has been at fault in their relationship by never ever asking for anything of him, and that Adam isn't as bad of a guy as we maybe thought. I feel like what we've learnt now is, the reason Hannah kept going back was for the experience. Here's this guy who doesn't treat her well at all, but he's kind of weird and could do strange things at any time, so she might as well keep seeing him. I think I'm probably over-simplifying things slightly (I think she genuinely liked him too, but that's not all that was going on) but that's definitely a thing I think about.

And then there are all the other things she does that seem exciting and interesting, but it's like, she does them to say that she's done them, rather than because she actually wants to. Which, I suppose, is fine for her to do if she thinks it's going to help her as a writer, but wouldn't it actually be more honest for Hannah to sit down and listen to herself and actually think about the things that she wants to do, and things which might make her happy, instead of searching for the next thing that might give her material.  I'm actually only just realising how awesome this is of Lena Dunham because in a way, isn't this what so many people do now? Because Facebook and Twitter and Instagram all exist, there's a certain amount of pressure to at least look like you're living a certain way, so even if you don't necessarily want to do something, you might do it anyway because it 'looks cool.'

A giant rave looks cooler on Instagram than reading a book, is what I'm saying, but only one of them is going to make you smarter. (Why yes, I am 80 years old.)

And then there's the lack of empathy thing. I don't know if I want to say that Hannah has always lacked empathy, and she's definitely not the only character you can charge with it, but there's a definite lack in her relationships with others because she doesn't really seem to care how they feel. I'm not even sure that the problem is a lack of caring, so much as caring SO MUCH about herself that the thoughts and feelings and actions of others that aren't about her are just like white noise that doesn't really get through. Hannah is the centre of the Universe, and that's the way she likes it, and that's that.

There are so many examples of this self-absorption, but this week's phone call with her dad, where he mentions he's had a procedure and she doesn't really seem to hear him kind of beat everything else in the selfishness stakes for me. But then, I guess I'm forgetting the time her editor died and she only thought about herself, and the time her friend had sex with her gay ex-boyfriend and she only thought about herself (rather than her friend's implosion) and the time she thought collecting her friend from rehab would be a good experience to write about.

I just... It's becoming really really difficult to like Hannah, and I think that's kind of the point- you're not supposed to like her, maybe you're just supposed to pity her for being 25 and not having a clue what she's doing, or maybe you're supposed to look at her and go 'daaaamn, am I like that? I MUST CHANGE MY WAYS' because 20-something girls? Sort. It. Out. Something which the above article really got me thinking about though was the idea that actually, by only thinking about herself, Hannah is missing out so so much on the experiences and lives of others. Not only would paying attention to this make Hannah a better person, it would also make her a better writer because only writing from your own perspective? Not necessarily all that interesting. Or at least not after the first book.

Basically, I don't really have a basically to sum all this up with. This is more just a 'look at these things I've observed from Girls, at least Hannah's character is consistent!' kind of thing. I'd love to speculate on where the rest of this season might be going, but I honestly don't know- if Hannah could grow and learn to listen to others then that would be awesome, but I don't know if she might be going the other way and be about to stab someone or something 'for the experience'. (Probably not that, it's not really that kind of show) Either way, I know I'll be there watching it, you know. For the experience.

Have you been watching Girls? TELL ME THE THINGS YOU THINK AND FEEL.

*'Everyone' in internet terms, of course. I think I know maybe one person in real life who's actually watched it.
**And and they all have alliterative names and I only realised that the other day and it's very exciting to me!
***She does not. I think that's most of the point.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

"I wants an end of being drawed like a badger."

I know we skipped the introductory posts this time, but I feel like I need to state this otherwise all that follows will not seem magical and extraordinary: I have, for the majority of my life, hated Dickens. Don't get me wrong- I will allow A Christmas Carol to exist, and I accepted that some people might like Dickens (I guess) but early exposure to his writing scared me away because it was too haaaaaard and apparently I don't like to be challenged in any way. Such is life.

I'm not quite at the stage where I'm ready to say 'Dickens! I loves him!' but I absolutely did not hate reading these first 11 chapters of Bleak House, and that is in itself, quite the achievement. I'll admit that the first couple of chapters I was kind of like 'Chancery whatnow?' and also 'the fuck is going on?' but once we got to Esther and her narrative, I was alllll over it.
Because Esther! What?! I kind of love her, am a tiny bit annoyed by her, but mostly I'm just like Esther! Awwww. Her loveless childhood becomes an adulthood where she is constantly nice to children and everyone treats her like an old woman. The dynamic between Esther-Ada-Richard reminded me of the dynamic between Marion-Laura-Walter in The Woman in White (Esther/Marion apparently being content to sit back while their more attractive/less interesting female companion gets a dude) with one really important difference:

Esther is completely in love with Ada.
I'm sure you've definitely noticed this for yourselves, but COME ON! Is there really any way in which the way Esther talks about Ada can be seen as anything BUT love? There's the point where they first meet, and Esther's all like "I'm not afraid to say 'my darling' now!" and I honestly thought she might be talking about Richard but NOPE. That was for Ada. I can't even write down all the 'darlings' and 'my sweet one's and whatever elses there are in this book (mainly because I didn't highlight them or anything...) but they are there and they are very gay. Which is awesome, and I know we're not going to get any kind of reward from the text for noticing this, but I will always know that Esther is pining for Ada. Forever.

Well, that's pretty much everything I had to say about this section, OR IS IT? (It sort of is, but I'm going to say some more things anyway). Let's do some bullet points just to be on the safe side:

  • I'm not sure how I feel about the third person narrative bits yet. Or, actually, I am sure, and it's mostly 'Get back to the real story and stop being Victor Hugo-ish about this, Dickens' but I'm pretty sure they're kind of important parts so I'll try to pay better attention to them next time.
  • Local interest! (For me, anyway) Esther moves from Windsor to Reading when her Godmother dies, and heyyy, I've been to both of those places! That's not a recommended move, though, I have to warn you, because Windsor is lovely (it has a castle!) and Reading is... Not so much. 
  • Dickens is the best at naming people ever. Mr Guppy, Mrs Jellyby, Mrs Pardiggle, Mr Turveydrop... And we're only 11 chapters in! 
  • Speaking of Mr Guppy... I was incredibly secondhand embarrassed for him during the whole proposal debacle (of course Esther isn't going to marry him, she loves another...) but I really felt for Esther with this: "I was in a flutter for a while and felt as if an old chord had been more coarsely touched than it had ever been." Because, because, it's difficult for her to reject love since she's known so little of it, but she can't just be like 'OK dude, I'll marry you' because that would be dishonest and make her sadder but hmph. Bad.
  • I looooove Mr Jarndyce, and I love the fact that Esther thinks he's going to jump out of the window any time anyone is nice to him. I just... What a lovely man! I want to hug him and kiss him but if I did he'd probably jump through a closed door so yes. I'll just keep that one to myself.
  • I found the brickmaker's speech unintentionally hilarious. He's all like 'yep, we suck, now leave us alone, woman!' I'm especially fond of "I've been drunk for three days, and I'd a been drunk four, if I'd a had the money." Wouldn't we all?
  • I was fairly freaked out by the laying of the dead baby on a shelf. Because what?! That's a thing? But also, you know,
So yeah! Bleak House, we're getting on pretty well. Long may it continue.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Sunday Sundries: February Resolutions

Hey guys, it's FEBRUARY! What? I want to be like 'Omg, January went by soooo fast' but that's the biggest lie (for me) because for the whole month, it was kind of like it had always been January, and nothing had ever been any better and that it was never going to end.

But it did. January ended, and I have to believe that the way I feel right now is going to end too, otherwise there wouldn't be any point in even getting out of bed in the morning, to be honest. Right now I'm kind of trying to just keep swimming *pauses to find gif*
And, you know, see how I go. Basically.

So, it's February, and this week I'm planning on moving back to the actual house I live in and pay rent for. I'm kind of apprehensive about it, because WHERE WILL MY MUMMY BE I NEED TO HUG HER A LOT (I really do, it's kind of pathetic) but at the same time I'm kind of like well. I'll just see how it goes and, if I need to, I can always come back to my parents' house for however long, and it'll all be fine and whatever. The thing is, at this point, I don't know that being here is helping me that much, in that it's like I'm putting off getting back to what my actual daily routine needs to be, so that, even if I feel vaguely happy here, I'm just going to have to relearn a new way to do things and that might throw me out of whack and I'm just now realising that I sound like a crazy person.

Well, so be it.

So anyway. 5 miles away from my parents I go again (I know) and I'll keep you updated on how I get on, if that's something you care about (actually... I will even if it's not). Shall we talk about these February Resolutions now? I shouldn't really call them (it?) resolutions, actually, it's more of a rededication of myself to this blog right here. January was almost my lowest posting month ever, and even though there are obvious reasons for that, and I'm not beating myself up about it, I just want to do more with it and write more stuff and just generally distract myself from feeling terrible by thinking thoughts about stuff. Hey, it's worked for me before, I'm trusting it to work again.

Fortunately for this goal, the Bleak House readalong is happening this month (aaaand the next) so that's four posts right there, and then there are Sunday Sundries posts (I am DEDICATED to them for this next month, at least. I'll think of crap to write, even if I have nothing to say) and I guess I should read some other books or possibly just ramble about other things and annoy everyone in the process. Either way, I want to try to mildly neutralise my urge to do nothing and lay down all day with writing about stuff whilst, let's face it, probably laying down. BUT AT LEAST I'LL BE DOING STUFF, HUSH!

So that's about it, really. Everything is still The Worst, but I'm trying to make it The OKest. We'll see how this goes.