Sunday 28 December 2014

Christmas Loot!

It's just occurred to me that it's Sunday (even though, as I think we all know, the days between Christmas and New Year don't even count really) so this is kiiiind of a Sunday Sundries post except not because I'm basically going to show you the books I got for Christmas and not even show you what people from the internet got me because that stuff is back at my actual residence and I am at my parents' still and also I suuuuuck.
I know, Skarsgard. I know.
But that's ok! It's all good! I can show you all my other books! Now, the deal with this Christmas was this. I am a very poor person, so I had to do things like make my parents buy me a TV as my Christmas present way back in September so I could watch TV with my housemates, you know, ever, which was actually a dumb thing to do because I now never watch it because Shakespeare has enveloped my whole life. Nonetheless, that was my Christmas present from them (mainly...) and then things happened like I wore a hole in the bottom of my favourite converse (dark blue low tops) and saw a unicorn jumper online that was very expensive but which I neeeeeded (and which I am now wearing. Because life is good.) 

There is totally a point to all this aside from my desperate need for STUFF, SO MUCH STUFF; and that is this: I didn't really ask for that many books for Christmas. To be even more specific, I actually did ask for quite a few books for Christmas, but ten of them were fully Shakespeare plays that I actually need for the new term and so weren't massively fun presents at all. What do 10 Shakespeare plays look like all stacked on top of each other (asked no one ever)? Sort of like this:
Try to contain your excitement, people.

Anyway. So like I say, I didn't ask for all that many other books, but fortunately for me, my mum got a mini-ipad this year and discovered Amazon wishlists, so she got me a couple of books that I didn't even ask for, and my sister got me about three that she chose herself, so it ended up being pretty decent for books. Take a peek: 
So here's what was on my list and I very luckily got: The Clothbound Madame Bovary (sooooo pretty), Yes Please by Amy Poehler (aka one of the greatest people in the world), Life, Art, Words, which is a biography of Tove Jansson (aka the lady who drew the Moomins aka those guys I go on about all the time), and Homemade Decadence, Joy the Baker's second recipe book. ALL VERY EXCITING!

Here are the books I wasn't expecting: I got a Nutella recipe book SHAPED LIKE A JAR OF NUTELLA from my sister who I don't think knows how many times I looked at that book and wanted to buy it but didn't because I'm poor... But she did a good job anyway!
Side Nutella story- I told my mum that Selfridges were selling personalised Nutella jars (you queue up and tell them what to put on the jar and they print you a label and whatnot) and that I wanted one so she got me a jar of Nutella for my Christmas stocking and stuck my name on it with little letter stickers. Not in a straight line. Not exactly what I wanted, but cheers, mum!
Back to the books.... My sister also got me two Breaking Bad book because the girl knows what I want from life- one is called Breaking Down Breaking Bad, which looks like a kind of exploration of different themey things from the show, and the other (SO EXCITED) is Breaking Bad and Philosophy, which is SO my thing, was in fact on my Amazon wishlist but she didn't know it, and OH MY GOD. How would I not want to morally philosophise about basically the greatest TV show ever? Exactly. 

My Auntie got me a sewing book which is totally Relevant To My Interests, even if I don't have a whole load of time to sew at the moment *looks longingly at the end of March* and will totally be useful for things like making a baby bib from a bandanna (Yessssssss!) My mum's wishlist wanderings hit total paydirt- She got me a Murakami (A Wild Sheep Chase) AND a Tove Jansson book for grown up people, A Winter Book, which feels seasonally appropriate. Aaaaand basically yes, I am pretty spoilt. Is that a problem? (Not yet).


Tuesday 23 December 2014

RIP IX BOOK 4: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

I'm not sure how ridiculous it is to post an RIP review two months after the event ended, nor am I sure how wise it is to try and remember what actually happened in the book three months after I read it, but nonetheless, let's have a go. Almost immediately after reading Gone Girl, I ordered a three book bundle thing of Gillian Flynn's for basically a fiver, which included Gone Girl but £2.50 is still a pretty good price for a book so I got it anyway. I say immediately after because, the more I think about Gone Girl, the less I think I actually liked it so much as I thought it was immensely readable (which isn't a bad thing, at all) but still, I was left with these Gillian Flynn books.

So, I read Sharp Objects. And it is better than Gone Girl. See: finishing it 3 months ago and still thinking it was pretty great. The story is based around Camille Preaker, a journalist who is asked to return to her hometown to cover the murders of a couple of girls, and really it's about her fucked up family, and her fucked up self. I think Flynn is really good at writing characters who aren't really likeable- there are points where you do feel for Camille, but there's just enough cutthroat ambition and general nastiness about her that it's impossible to really like her.

But she's just the start of it. There's also her weirdly smothering and then pushing away mother, her half-sister who is out of control but also extremely childlike in front of their mother, and a motley assortment of townspeople who don't really like or trust Camille. Everyone is kind of exceptionally nasty, and it's difficult to know who the murderer is because everyone seems like they could probably be capable of it.

So, yeah. This is a crime thriller as well as a fucked up family saga, and whilst I am of course not going to tell you who the murderer is (duh), I am going to moan about Flynn's writing style. So, I feel like there is a point at which the plot is pushed a certain way, and there isn't really any wiggle room within that interpretation for believing anyone else is the killer. This is fine, and it generally makes you feel really smart that you've figured it out, but then Flynn will put in a twist that means everything you've been told before is invalidated, and it's just like 'SURPRISE! This happened!' without any real basis for it. To me, this just feels like sloppy writing practice. Of course it's going to be surprising, because there is nothing else anywhere to have really made it likely, so instead of being shocking, it just kind of makes me roll my eyes and sigh a little bit because what was the point of all that, then?

This is kind of how I felt about Gone Girl too, in the end, but the reason it doesn't make me hate Sharp Objects beyond all else is because I think there is enough else here to make it an actually decent book. The creepy family ties, the fucked up protagonist, and I haven't even mentioned the attractive cop and the drugs and the reason the book is even called Sharp Objects... There's quite a lot going on here, is what I'm saying. It hasn't made me jump up and down and want to marry Flynn or anything, but there is some very good stuff here, plus it has made me want to read Dark Places, so good work, Gillian. Good work.

Sunday 21 December 2014

Sunday Sundries: Merry Christmas/I'm Not Dead!

Guyssssssssssssssss! Hello.

I know, I know, I've been gone for like a month. I SAID I KNOW. The thing is, December. It's an arsehole of a month when you already have the tiniest amount of free time in the world, because that free time needs to be spent doing things like finishing up Christmas shopping and writing cards that make you sound totally sane really late at night (tiredness is worse than drunkness for me, is what I'm saying) and wrapping presents and getting shitfaced on free wine at your work Christmas party and attending birthday parties for five year olds selfishly born in December...

I haven't stopped all month, is what I'm saying. Except to sleep, which is, as I'm sure we're all aware, amazing.

So, news. Um. Uni is finished for Christmas which is amazing except that I have to try and remember that I do have to write 10,000 words (minimum! Excluding Bibliography!) so actually I should be working harder than I did for the whole term... But having weekdays off (actually off! Nowhere I have to be!) is making me slightly giddy so I need to really knuckle down to that... After Christmas. Mwahahaha.

Hmmm, I can really tell I haven't written anything bloggish for ages, because I am struggling to remember how to do this when words used to fly out of my fingers. I probably should have restarted with a survey or something, those are always good! And yet, here I am. So I was watching Donnie Darko last night whilst making essay notes (Yes! Notes! Progress!) and I heard the best thing I've ever heard and assumed there must be a gif AND THERE IS:
I just want to use it all the time because I want to be reading all the time and arghhh, why can't I just do that? Shakespeare is why. The motherfucker. I've asked my mum to get me one of the books on my Christmas list (cause I get parental presents on Christmas morning) just so I can essentially spend all of Christmas reading a non-school book and luxuriating in it. Of course, I'm much more likely to be talking to my family, watching the children be adorable, and crying quite a bit (first Christmas without my nan is going to be ROUGH) but still some reading will be done and it will be glorious.

A quick note on that crying thing: really the only two things I want for Christmas are 1) to have my nan back for it, and 2) to have more time. BOTH OF THESE THINGS ARE IMPOSSIBLE, I realise, so it's sort of difficult to get excited about the most magical time of the year when you actually want things that are magic. It sort of takes away from it when you don't get those things so you know the magic actually isn't there. I'm doing ok though, and I just hope we can all keep it together on Christmas Day. I know we'll be trying, anyway.

SO. Sorry to be a downer in my first post of December (!!!) and, if I don't see you again before (totally likely) then have the best Christmas and a Happy New Year (I want to do an end of year survey thing so I want to be back before then, but who knows? This is me we're talking about). I love you all dearly and you are the greatest people. Hugs and kisses all round!

Sunday 23 November 2014

Sunday Sundries: Procrastinaaaaaation (Part Three)

Hi kids! Me again.
I am of course in the middle of writing an essay because that is what I do with my weekends now and also because I am a bad planner of things. Here's the deal: Each term (of which there are two) for each unit (of which there are also two) we have to do a seminar paper on whatever the topic is for that week. We chose these at the start of term, and the two I picked were in consecutive weeks. That'll be fine! I thought like the madwoman I am. I'll get ahead of myself and get them done really early and it won't be a problem that they're in consecutive weeks!
There are a few things I didn't realise. Like, Masters are actually really hard work and I don't even remember how to study anyway so basically all my spare time has been keeping on top of the next week's reading. Like, I have never gotten ahead of myself in my life. Like, I'm super lazy and wasted my whole reading week going shopping and eating and going to work, you know, shit like that. The point, anyway, is that I've learnt my lesson and next term will have these seminar papers spread very very far apart, because two weekends in a row where I don't have at least a little bit of a weekend? That is not working out so well for me. In that I now look like this:
Only with worse hair, and less happy. 
Anyway. I would say I'm on the home stretch now, which is kind of true only it's also worrying because I don't actually have an essay. That I have to read out loud. On Wednesday. I think the important thing to note is that I will have one, and it might not be very good, but still I will not be left mute in a room of very smart people. Which is totally a good thing.

So anyway. This is my life at the moment. I'm going round my Grandad's in a bit to celebrate my cousin's birthday, which was on Wednesday, and for a few hours I'm going to try and not think ESSAY ESSAY ESSAY. Because that's not healthy thinking, it has to be said. The weather here has been atrocious, so that's great for my mood, and also this Thursday coming would have been my nan's birthday- it's so weird that I don't have to think about getting her a card or anything, and I don't want to think about the fact that I don't have to think about it. I know for a fact that from now till Christmas I'm pretty much going to want to cry all the time, but I'm going to try not to do that because boo. But still. 

I've been pretty miserable in this post, huh? Rest assured that when I've had some rest and a not-essay writing weekend (Or, ok, Saturday, since I have to work next Sunday because I had a sick day this month which I couldn't really afford) I'll be a lot cheerier- or that is the hope. I hope you've all had fabulous weeks and months and everything, I'm just looking forward to a break!

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Shakespeare: Three Histories

Look, I told you I'd talk about Shakespeare again! Look at us being all smart! (I'm still procrastinating from that essay I told you about on Sunday. It's pretty bad. Still, I used to write essays on the weekend before they were due in on the Monday, and this one is for Thursday so it'll be fine! Right..?)

Anyway... Before this whole Shakespeare Masters thing, I hadn't read a Shakespeare History. This is a lie, because I had in fact read Richard III, but I consider that more of a Tragedy than a History, possibly because I studied Richard III in actual history, and... Shakespeare is full of shit. I mean, I remember my History teacher basically saying that in not so many words, so I consider Richard III preeeetty much fiction.

However! (Watch out, there's some learning coming!) It seems that basically all of the histories are like this- they're essentially a specific version of history that was popular in Elizabethan times, with some added details that serve the narrative well, and some theatrical flourishes that are just for the lucky viewers. Shakespeare essentially wrote two sets (or tetralogies, if you want to be all smart about it) of history plays, where he already mixed up history: Henry VI Parts One, Two and Three and Richard III were written first although historically later, and Richard II, Henry IV Parts One and Two, and Henry V were written later. We studied the second tetralogy, mainly, I think, because why would we study the one I had actually read a play from? That would just be crazy! (Seriously, for the first 6 weeks, we studied 7 plays and I'd read 1. DIFFICULT TIMES)

But anyway, here's some stuff I think about those plays. I still don't exactly love the Histories, but I'm more intrigued by them and think some of the issues surrounding them are interesting. But the plays themselves? Well...

Richard II
I actually really liked Richard II, and if you like reading Shakespeare just for the pretty pretty sounds his words make in your head (Um... that's not me? I totally have more reasons for studying him?) then you'll pretty much love this because it's written entirely in verse. I feel like that sounds like it sucks, but actually it's just like... *sigh* so pretty. I might just be making shit up here, but I feel like this has an important function, in that Richard II is the last 'rightful' king in this tetralogy, so it's almost like he gets all the kingly language before everything turns to shit. That's a technical term, btdubs. The verseyness also makes it all very DRAMATIC (Richard II is a pretty dramatic king. And by dramatic, I mean he seems kind of gay. He probably was at least bi because kings. They can do what they want) which is appropriate because it's all about rebellion and deposing and Bolingbroke (later Henry IV) being kind of an asshole after Richard II was kind of an asshole to him. 

Basically, I really liked it, and I now idealise it in my brain because the Henrys... Well, you'll see.

Henry IV, Part One
There's this soliloquy at the end of Act 1 Scene 2 given by the future Henry V that reminded me why I love Shakespeare, why I was spending my Saturday trying to read both parts of Henry IV (I know, right?) and why I continue living. It's pretty awesome and I kind of cheered at it whilst reading so there's that. As for the rest of Henry IV, Part One... Well. It's weird because if I consider it alongside second part, I love this one and haaaate that one, but even just this one... well, it's sort of all downhill after 1.2.

Ok, that's mean. It's not that bad! There's another rebellion trying to go down, Henry V (who is really the star of all three of the last plays in the tetralogy) is being all scoundrelly and, at least when he's Tom Hiddleston, very attractive, and there's a whole battle at the end and blah blah blah drama. Here's the thing though. I hate Falstaff. I fucking hate him so much. I don't find him even the tiniest bit funny, I'm weirdly annoyed with him for being a bad influence on little Henry V, even though Henry V reaaaally has the upper hand in that relationship and oh my GOD I just want him to shut up. I just... he's not a nice guy, and it kind of upsets me that people would think 'oh he's so funny LOL!' when actually he's just this massive asshole who should never have nice things happen to him. I just cannot with him. 

But still. Henry IV, Part One, is fine.

Henry IV, Part Two
I hate Henry IV, Part Two. There, I said it. It doesn't help that I really did read it straight after part one (well, part of it... I finished it on the Sunday) when I'd pretty much had my fill of Shakespeare for that one weekend and oh wow, the cruelty of having to read two plays in one week. Just, no. However. Henry IV, Part Two really does have its own issues that I can't deal with at all. There is SO MUCH Falstaff, SO MANY PUNS (of course Falstaff relies on puns for his comedy. Of course he does. Asshole) and there's less Henry IV to hang out with Falstaff and actually make his scenes relevant? This is all just me and my petty hatred, and I'm sure there are people who think Falstaff is the tits, but for me... Just no. 

It's also just... generally crapper than part one? Like, there's kind of a rebellion but it doesn't really happen, it's not as funny, it's just... It's kind of like the Grease 2 of Shakespeare, if you know what I mean. It sucks, is what I'm saying. It does get better towards the end, so there's that, and I want to like it more, but I just... don't. So there.

Henry V
I read Henry V (obviously). I half watched The Hollow Crown version whilst making notes for my essay. I still can't really tell you much about Henry V. I... There are speeches? And a fight? I mean, I could probably tell you more if I had actually made it to the seminar about it, but unfortunately, traffic, traffic, blah blah blah what can I say, I missed it. I thought I was going to like Henry V because of how much I liked the character in Henry IV, but it turns out that things change when you're king and you start talking about how you're going to rape all the women and put the babies' heads on pikes. And then there's fighting and killing and blah blah blah. I mean, it was still better than Henry IV, Part Two, but that's not really saying, well, anything. Aaaand so the histories might not be for me.

And finally, a note on women (of course). There are incredibly few women in these plays, and the ones that are there don't always speak English. As a result, women don't really have a voice in these plays, which seems about right because women don't really have a voice in history, I guess. It's interesting that, under a female monarch, Shakespeare decided not to include even a few more women (Henry V's mother, for example, is never seen... Although have I looked up if she would still have been alive? I have not.) It can be kind of frustrating to read, at least for me, because I always want to know 'what are the women doing?' and the answer in these plays is basically nothing, OR we don't even know... But they're not a part of the action! Goddammit.

Anyway. I'm glad I've now read some histories and I'm glad that part of the course is over. Bring on those tragedies and comedies, oh yeahhhhhh.

Sunday 16 November 2014

Sunday Sundries: Procrastinaaaaaaation (Part Two)

Hey kids! I'm doing really well at this talking about myself, and not so well at that talking about books thing, huh? Such is my life right now... And I'm in the middle of writing an essay, so that ain't good!
This week has been weird. I've been all over the place emotionally- winter does weird weird things to me, so when I haven't been feeling numb I've pretty much been crying, and if not crying then getting really angry and holy shit please just get me some damn sunshine. Today is the first day I've felt pretty ok, which is probably because I'm actually doing some of the work I've been putting off and getting progressively more scared of, and guess what? It's not that bad! Because of course it isn't.

Also, it's probably all the caffeine. Caffeine is magic.

This week has also been weird because oh my GOD the travel issues. I'm not kidding when I say that practically every day there's been something- Monday I got on the wrong train because it arrived at the same time as my train and I didn't check the board and I'm a dumbass. Thursday I was on a bus for two hours, one and a half hours of which was on the same roundabout and I missed uni (but I had wine instead, so that was fine) then Friday I had the double fun of getting absolutely soaked on my way into work, and then ridiculously delayed trains that meant I actually had to call in reinforcements (my mum) to get home. It's been kiiiiind of bullshit, and yet- things can only get better, right? RIGHT?!
My sad winter brain says no, but my deep down optimism says I really hope so. If not, I suppose there'll always be more wine so whatever, it's all good.

So how is reading stuff going, guys? I super miss just, you know, picking up a book and then reading it and going 'huh, cool!' maybe writing a bit of a gushing review about it and then moving on. I say this like I don't like Shakespeare anymore, and that is OBViously not true, but there's something to be said for recreational reading that I don't really have time for at the moment. I'm not despairing though- after the next couple of weeks, I've got two weeks of talking about films and The Sonnets (the sonnets are bullshit. Sorry) and then four weeks off (essay writing, Laura. But to all intents and purposes, yes, off) so it's kind of my refrain at the moment that I just get through the next two weeks and then I can ease off juuuust a little bit. I can at least aim not to spend my entire weekends reading articles and stuff, soooooo... Exciting!
So, to sum up: I'm mostly ok. I'm pretty tired. I need to finish this damn essay and stop looking at the damn internet, and try to remember how my brain works. Oh, and running and yoga are my ultimate saviours. Never underestimate those damn amazing endorphins, you guys. Also tell me about your liiiiiives because I read all your blogs on Friday night and probably didn't comment and don't remember who was who, but... Tell me all!

Sunday 9 November 2014

Sunday Sundries: Girls and Boys and Whatnot

Look at this guys! Another post that isn't reaaaally about books, but is still totally a life update that proves I haven't died! Winning..?

Either way, here are some sentences about my life. Last Sunday I was sick for no apparent reason, and having not eaten all day I thought it prudent to have a day off work on Monday which was both restful AND stressful because I totally don't get paid for sick days which is not at all cool. The rest of the week continued as normal, except it was also reading week which meant no seminars to go to at Uni. This was great on Wednesday, when I went shopping with a friend from work, and then had dinner with my sister at my house, for literally the first time ever; but less great on Thursday when I had to be at uni for 10am to sit and be told how to do a bibliography and shit like that. I KNOW HOW TO DO A FUCKING BIBLIOGRAPHY, OK?!

Sorry. That wasn't for you. That's just me.

So that was my week. It was ok, some parts were great, I just could have done without the illness at the start of it that felt like it lingered for the rest of it, maybe because I'm kiiiiind of rundown from working and learning and working and learning and not doing much else for, well, all of October. I was going to say I was burnt out, but I think that burnout is a long way away- or I hope so, at least!
But now for the matter at hand- boys and girls and whatnot. I've been living only with boys since August now, and I've been thinking about how much I really don't even think about it. This surprises me because, for essentially all my life, I've only been around girls. Obviously boys are basically unavoidable, but consider this: My childhood was spent with my sister, my two girl cousins, my mum, my auntie, my nan. All my best friends ever have been girls, basically all my friends have been girls, I've only ever lived with girls before, except for the first year of uni when there were 5 girls and 3 boys BUT we never saw the boys. All in all, it's been a pretty female-centric life.

Even now, if I'm being honest, I still see girls a lot more than I see boys. I work in an office that is majority female (there are literally two dudes we ever see), and, doing a Masters in English means that there are not a lot of penises in the room (three, out of about 16 people). My family is still majority women, and yet. The babies are boys. The people I see daily are boys. The person at work who gives me a lift to the station is a boy. I've probably had more conversations with boys this last year than I have in my life, and you know what? They're pretty ok!

That's right, apparently the conclusion I have for this post is that boys are ok. GROUNDBREAKING, I know. I think really what I'm trying to say is this: Boys are a lot easier to deal with than girls. Boys, or at least the boys I know, carry around a lot less drama and bitchiness and unsaid frustration than girls, and this is honestly the most relaxing thing in the world. I noticed this when I was hanging out with some girls from work outside of work, and was just kind of like... There isn't really anything for me here. Why don't I know how to talk to these people? What's going on here?
This isn't really to do with boys, of course, but to do with the kind of girls I was hanging out with. I had this major revelation earlier this year, when my housemate at the time and still my very excellent friend Becci said that there were two kinds of girl*. There's the kind of girl who does thrive on drama, who doesn't have that much to talk about apart from how they look and who they hate and all that kind of awful stuff, and then there's the kind of girl who's more like a fully rounded person, who has interests and ideas and doesn't really thrive on drama because she's too busy being awesome. And I just... That was IT! That was why I have a lot of trouble getting on with certain kinds of girls, or finding anything to say to them that they're likely to give a shit about. We're just basically different species.

So, I think this is why I can talk easier to boys than I can to certain kinds of girls. We meet on a different kind of footing, and we don't have to bitch about people we both know just to make conversation. I also think, though, that I'm really lucky to have found girls who are on my wavelength- we understand each other and can relate to each other completely because, you know, we're that awesome kind of girl previously discussed. And, of course, even though I was trying to talk about boys, I ended up talking about girls anyway. Eh, we're pretty great.

I don't know if any of that was at all interesting, or if it was just something I should have written in my diary and then shut up about. Either way, you've read it now. So TELL ME: Boys and girls. Who do you get on with better? You've probably all got brothers so maybe this is a non-issue and you've already known this shit. TELL ME THINGS.

*I know, this is totally simplistic, and there are as many 'kinds' of girl as there are girls. Grouping people into categories like this reallllly isn't helpful, but I'm going to do it anyway.

Sunday 2 November 2014

Sunday Sundries: Procrastination Will Be The Death Of Me

Hey kids! It's Sunday again, and I actually have things to say to you! Just like I did last week! Killing this weekend blogging thing, even if I'm not doing anything in between... What can I say, it is what it is. Since this week is Reading Week (i.e. a week off) from University, I have a teeny bit of time for updating you on what is, obviously, my extremely exciting and eventful life that isn't killing me really slowly.

SO. I realised on Wednesday that it was still October. I say this because I started my MA on the first of October, and my last seminar before Reading Week was the 30th October. This isn't a complaint so much as a complete disbelief on my part that I've only been doing this a month and I'm already so tired and have read so very much. Honestly, I don't really know how I've done it, except that this last week quite a bit of vodka has gone missing from my bottle and so it's been pretty great.

Anyway. Let's talk about procrastination! (Not vodka. Even though it's the best.) I am the absolute worst for procrastination. When I have to do something, I automatically don't want to do it- you could probably ask me to go to a moomin festival or something, and because I was required to go, I just wouldn't want to. It's the most ridiculous, self-defeating way to live ones life, and I know that, but seriously you guys, I CAN'T HELP IT.
I basically need this, daily.

So anyway. Here's what I'm procrastinating from at the moment: I have to write two seminar papers, which are basically thousand word essays (that I have to READ OUT. IN FRONT OF PEOPLE. I'm trying to ignore that part completely) on obviously Shakespearey things, and I basically have less than three weeks to write one, and less than four weeks to write the other (I'm the genius who picked these weeks, too. Bad times.) It's not like I can't write a thousand words in super fast time- I'm pretty sure I've written reviews here that were longer than that, sorry guys- and it's not like I'm incapable of picking topics, reading about them, and then writing about them. 

I'm actually being quite incredibly hard on myself right now, because pretty much the reason I haven't done them is because I've been trying to get all the reading done for each week of learning, whilst simultaneously doing the exact same amount of paid work as I was doing before I started reading a Shakespeare play a week, plus countless articles about him. Really I'm just telling myself off because it's Saturday (as in, my first day off of actually everything for a month) and I haven't started working on these essays yet. CUT ME SOME SLACK, ME!

So, I'm glad we worked out these issues together. Good talk, everyone. More things that are going on: My dad is home from hospital at last! It kind of hasn't sunk in for me because I haven't really had time to see him more than I was before, but it is comforting to know that he's home, and it was really nice on Thursday because my mum came round to drop some stuff off and actually stayed for a coffee, which she really wouldn't have been able to do if he was still in hospital because she's been running around like a headless chicken for basically four months. 

What else... Well, I've been watching The Hollow Crown, which is this BBC series of films of Richard II, Henry IV Parts One and Two, and Henry V; which is totally the best of both worlds because I feel like I'm doing useful work when really (really) I'm kind of just watching the TV. Yesterday afternoon I watched Richard II, and I did watch the first part of Henry IV on Wednesday but kind of... fell asleep. So I'm probably going to watch that again, is what I'm saying. BUT it has given me a crush on Tom Hiddleston so there's that. I've also become disturbingly obsessed with Samuel Beckett because I read Endgame and it was kind of everything to me, so yesterday I spent a ridiculous amount on his complete works in Waterstones (BUT... £10 off with my loyalty card so YESSSS. The fact that I've spent £100 in Waterstones... Less yes). I can't even process how I like Beckett, but I feel like if you've read The Outsider by Camus and liked it, then you'll kind of be into Beckett? They're connected in my brain at the moment, anyway. 

So. This has been my life, yes. I'm going to try and stop being hard on myself whilst simultaneously actually doing the work that I've been moaning about not doing. I just need to talk myself out of basically reading this blog post as one of the presentations... YOU HAVE SAID FUCK TOO MANY TIMES, LAURA, JUST NO. 

And how are you all?

Saturday 25 October 2014

(Accidentally) Saturday Sundries

HI! I'm not even going to explain where I've been cause I think we all know this already. I'm not even going to give you a lowdown of my week, because mostly I've been crippled with tiredness and a cold on top (I'm basically fine now. Because it's Saturday and OH WEEKENDS THANK YOU GOD) INSTEAD of that junk, I'm giving you a bookish survey that everyone did ten thousand years ago and that I've only just seen because I've been reading blogs this evening instead of Shakespeare. OH WELL. Anyway, here's that thing:

1. Favourite Childhood Book?
I want to say something really smart here, but realistically, it was The Babysitters Club books. I freaking loved those guys, and, FUN FACT the very first book blogs I came across were Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High ones. Gateway drugs in both cases, I guess.

2. What Are You Reading Right Now?
Well... Henry IV Part Two (so weird), Americanah which I GENUINELY read some of this morning, and Kindred which was my bag book but I had to take it out because my bag got too heavy... So I'm kind of not so much reading that right now.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
Don't be silly! I can't go to the library any more! (Except at uni and that doesn't counnt. But I have no books on request there either)

4. Bad book habit:
Not... Reading them? I guess watching tv instead of reading at the moment, but... Momma's brain needs a rest.

5. What do you currently have checked out at from the library?
Do you really want to know? Ok, King Lear: Contemporary Critical Essays, Plays Five by Howard Barker, and Shakespearean Negotiations. It is literally like a thrill a minute.

6. Do you have an e-reader?
I do! I have a Kindle Paperwhite and an iPad mini, and I really only use the iPad... Hey, does anyone want to buy a Kindle off me?

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time or several at once?
I can't remember the last time I was reading one book and that's it... I like to have at least a fiction, a non-fiction, a Stephen King and a kindle book on the go. Which is a LOT, I realise!

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
They've definitely changed since starting a Masters... But yeah, no, they definitely did- I read a lot more widely now, and that reading a lot of books at once is probably a blog thing too.

9. Least Favourite book you've read this year?
Ummmm... Probably either The Keep by Jennifer Egan or We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson- but even they weren't that bad, really.

10. Favourite book you've read this year?
Oh right, saw that coming. Annnnnd I can't do it. But I really loved Landline by Rainbow Rowell, obviously. But also, Running Like A Girl. And alllll the Japanese stuff I read this summer. So, yeah.

11. How often do you read outside your comfort zone?
Is Shakespeare a comfort zone?

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
Is Shakespeare a comfort zone?

13. Can you read on the bus?
I can! I don't always because I'm usually really tired if I'm on a bus (or, you know, doing anything) but I can do it without trouble.

14. Favourite Place to read:
Outside. Or in bed. Either is fab.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
I am my friend Becci's personal library. I am always enthusiastically lending my housemate books that he takes but possibly has no intention to read. I am still waiting for someone I don't see anymore to give Metamaus back to me. I have no policy.

16. Do you dog ear your books?
So much. Soon much.

17. Do you write notes on the margins of your books?
Nooooooo! Although I have just started to on the plays just because it's quicker than writing out whole quotes and then commenting on them. But I still don't liiiike it!

18. Do you break/crack the spines?
I usually buy used books, so the spines are broken for me. But with my own, I try not to... Usually unsuccessfully, but I'm not precious about it.

19. What is your favourite language to read?
Ummmm... Swedi- no, it's English. English is the answer to this one.

20. What makes you love a book?
Oh my God, I don't know! Just that special something of awesomeness that makes me want to be doing nothing but reading that book for all eternity.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
Me loving it? It being Ready Player One is a big one... Thinking that the person I'm recommending it to will actually like it.

22. Favourite genre:
Is Shakespeare a genre? (LOLJK it's definitely not that) I don't know, is literary fiction the answer of a douchebag? (yes)

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did)?
Graphic novels (love but hardly ever read), Classics (love but so loong and harrrrd [that's what she said]), Non-fiction just generally.

24. Favourite biography?
Biography or AUTO-biography? I don't know, I like memoirs more than formal biography things, and Lena Dunham's book of essays is the most recent one I've read so let's say that. OH WAIT and Murakami's running memoir was awesome.

25. Have you read a self-help book (and was it helpful)?
I don't... think so. Unless you count Running Like A Girl (you shouldn't), which was super helpful.

26. Favourite Cookbook?
Allllll the Hummingbird Bakery books, and Joy the Baker's first book (I want her newest one so badly, but NO LAURA. Christmas.) and Isa Does it, which is vegan cooking and it's awesome and the book in itself is just fab too.

27. The most inspirational book you've read this year?
Holy shit, I'm not going to have to do the end of year book survey this year, am I? I'm going to have to say Running Like A Girl again, I'm sorry.

28. Favourite Reading Snack?
I don't really eat and read, but I'm not anti a nice hot chocolate and a book at this time of year.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience:
I think I'm really lucky in that the books that have a lot of hype that I ALSO get excited about (JK Rowling and... Probably some other stuff) usually turn out to be excellent. However, Gone Girl was sort of ruined for me by knowing too much about it, I guess.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
I dunno... I basically only read the book reviews in Bust, and that's just so I can add loooooads of books to my wishlist every couple of months. Which is obviously what I need.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
They're literally my favourite reviews to write, but I usually don't read books that piss me off to the end, I just give up on them these days. But I love a good rant.

32. If you could read in a foreign language which would it be?
Either Russian (original Anna Karenina OMG) or Japanese (original Murakami *salivates*) Yeah, probably Japanese, actually...

33. Most intimidating book I've ever read:
Ok, so... Les Miserables. Crime and Punishment. And I was super intimidated by Richard II as my first proper History play. All were pretty great (as long as you skip parts of Les Miserables. Like, lots of parts.)

34. Most intimidating book I'm too nervous to begin:
Infinite Jest. War and Peace. And I own Ulysses for some ungodly reason.

35. Favourite Poet:
Emily Dickinson. Walt Whitman. That one Bukowski poem I really like. And I guess Shakespeare's ok.

36. How many books do you generally have checked out of the library at any given time?
Really not that many. Like, probably a maximum of about 5?

37. How often do you return books to the library unread?
Um, of those five, I'd probably read about 1. I'm terrible for it.

38. Favourite Fictional Character?
Your mum. I mean... I don't know, Atticus Finch is obviously amazing, Melly from Gone With The Wind is like a goddess, you know the people I like.

39. Favourite Fictional Villian?
Your... Ok, no. I don't know, I'm getting really tired now.

40. Books I'm most likely to take on vacation holiday:
So, I don't go on beach holidays basically ever, so I don't ever really read on holiday. However, I obviously still take books with me, and they are usually fiction-y and not too heavy. Says the girl who took Atonement to Berlin with her and cried over it for a while one evening... Fun!

41. The longest I've gone without reading?
I think I've probably gone some fairly long periods without reading an actual book, but life is reading, right? Probably no longer than a month, on the book side of things.

42. What distracts you easily when you're reading?
Being at my train stop. Having the TV RIGHT THERE. Life.

43. Name a book you could not finish:
The Finkler Question. Cloud Atlas. All Jeanette Winterson books I've read that aren't memoirs (OOH! Her autobiography/ies are good!)

44. Favourite film adaptation of a novel?
Ok, so Matilda is pretty great and A Little Princess? Also, Les Miserables. OBVIOUSLY.

45. The most disappointing film adaptation?
Harry Potter. In a general way. The films have their moments, but... No.

46. Most money I've ever spent in a bookstore at one time?
I literally don't really shop in proper bookshops that often! But I think I spent about £40 in Waterstones in Leeds, so let's say that.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
Basically never. I don't even like reading the blurb, really!

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book halfway through it?
Unrelenting shittiness?

49. Do you like to keep your books organised?
I want to organise them by colour but really they're just in locations based on whether I've read them already or not. Only Stephen King is organised. That wasn't really an answer, was it?

50. Do you prefer to keep your books when you're done, or give them away?
Depends entirely on the book. I definitely keep more than I should/will ever re-read, but... I like them! What if I NEED that book one day and I don't have it?! Exactly.

51. Are there any books you've been avoiding?
(Oh, we're still going? We didn't stop at 50? Ok then..)
Not really. Only now that there are books that I HAVE to read, of course I don't want to. I have total brain issues.

52. Name a book that made you angry:
Um. I got pretty angry at King Lear because I was extremely extremely tired when I finished reading it. But we've made up now.

53. A book I didn't expect to like but I did
I don't know. It's late. I can't even remember any book titles. OH WAIT- yes, Bleak House. It was the balls.

54. A book I expected to like but didn't.
Ummm... All Jennifer Egan books that aren't Goon Squad. Definitely. Still got my fingers crossed for Look At Me.

55. Favourite guilt-free guilty pleasure reading:
Fuck you and your guilty pleasures. My pleasures are just.. Pleasurable.


Thursday 16 October 2014

Shakespeare: Three Comedies

Oh heyyyy, remember when I started this whole Masters thing and said I'd write some stuff about Shakespeare and then promptly didn't do that (or much of anything else on here, really)? Well... Here is some of that stuff.

Basically my course is in two parts- one unit (or, my Wednesdays) looks at two plays (King Lear this semester, and The Tempest the next) in depth, encompassing the critical debate about them (academic essays! Yay! *SARCASM FONT*) and looking at creative responses to them- for instance, for King Lear we're reading two other plays inspired by it, a novel based in the American midwest with its framework, and four movie adaptations of it. In a lot of ways, this is the course I prefer, because who DOESN'T want to look that in-depth into King Lear and The Tempest? No one, that's who.

The other unit though, which is still awesome (aka my Thursdays) simply looks at The Works, taking one play a week (except for December, where we have two weeks of The Sonnets, or pleasekillmenowthanks) looking at that as in depth as you can in a two hour seminar (plus independent study, of course) and reading some academic essays (again, YAY) about those too. This means that, yeah, I have to read one Shakespeare play a week, and yeah, I bloody love it.

However, all this reading along with working three days a week doesn't leave a lot of time for things like fun reading (although I did just finish Lena Dunham's book and LOVE IT), or watching tv without falling asleep, or writing about things on the internet, or anything that doesn't involve Shakespeare and work. Which, at least for now, I'm finding ok, because Shakespeare is kind of fun to me I KNOW WHAT A NERD.

Anyway. As of right now, I've read three plays for The Works unit (I'm already so deeply into King Lear that I might not be able to write anything about it ever that isn't a spewing of big stupid words and stuff. But I'm also not done with it yet, so maybe I'll write about it in December. We'll see.), so let's talk about those right now. I'm not going to be annoying and scholarly because, let's face it, I'm going to have to do that for real soon enough, this is really just for fun AND for the purposes of recording all the things I read here. Please don't take my irreverence for anything less than love because, come on. Shakespeare's like, totally hot. And some other stuff too.

The Comedy of Errors
The Comedy of Errors is, I believe, one of Shakespeare's less performed, and less read plays. There are good reasons for this: it kind of sucks. I want to say that it kind of sucks in a Shakespeare-y way, so you still learn some valuable life lessons and come out of it enriched but not in love (or some shit like that) but actually... It just kind of sucks. 

Let's talk about it. The deal with The Comedy of Errors is that there are these twins and they were separated when very young because of a shipwreck (this happens more in Shakespeare than it's ever happened in life, I think) except I'm lying because each of the twins ALSO has a slave and their slaves are twins too. I mean, what are the odds?! The twins eventually end up in the same place (of course) everyone is mistaking everyone for everyone else (of course) and insanity ensues. It's all very very silly, and a lot of the comedy is, I think, supposed to rely on the masters beating their slaves, which... is not so cool.

I shan't tell you the end just in case you want to read it (WHY?) but if you'll consider that the tragedies end in death and the comedies end in marriage (or, just generally, happiness) then you've pretty much got it. I don't really have much to say about it, other than, thank god it's short, and, you know, they can't all be winners. To be fair, it's probably one of the easier plays I've read to date, so it also has that going for it. Unfortunately, the lack of difficulty kind of translates to the story too, and... Meh. Meh is what I'm going to conclude with.

A Midsummer Night's Dream
And from 'meh' to ZOMG AMAZING, we have A Midsummer Night's Dream. I heart A Midsummer Night's Dream, and until I re-read it again this time round, I kind of just assumed that I loved it because I was in a school production of it when I was about 9 and therefore it was 'my' play. (I was Hermia. I wanted to be Helena. Don't talk to me about it. [HELENA IS FUNNIER]). It totally is my play, but I actually love it, as it turns out, for some fairly solid scholarly reasons, and also reasons that are all about its awesomeness.

A Midsummer Night's Dream, for the uninitiated, intertwines three stories that all meet in an enchanted forest on a midsummer night (duh. Except not really duh because it's also May, and it's also sort of four nights, and also there might be a giant moon, or there might be no moon. It's pretty complex when you get into it, so I advise not doing that)- one involves a complicated love square, one involves a group of tradesmen who are trying, with mixed success, to be actors, and one involves fairies and mischief and shit. All of these intermingle and cause all kinds of mayhem that is, of course, all sorted out by the end so everyone can be happily married and laugh at the players who are making sex jokes because this is Shakespeare.

Of the three stories, my favourite involves the love square, but that might still be a hangover from being involved in exactly that storyline when I was 9- EXCEPT it isn't because I have big ideas about it that might just become my essay for this term SO THERE. Everything I've read about MND, though, seems to focus on class issues and marriage issues of other characters, with nary a mention of those guys, so this is probably an unpopular obsession, but I just want Helena and Hermia to get their men and be happy and probably have a lesbian affair on the side, ok? Actually, that's a thing about Shakespeare that no one really talks about- he actually has female friendships and sometimes they're more convincing than the romantic relationships. Does he pass the Bechdel Test? Usually, yeah. 

Anyway, A Midsummer Night's Dream is amazing, and if you haven't read it yet then I just don't know what you're doing with your lives. Get on that.

The Merchant of Venice
The Merchant of Venice comes under the category of comedy, but it's not so funny if you're Shylock, Jewish, or have a soul. I have issues with The Merchant of Venice and its depiction of Jews in a similar way that I LOATHE The Taming of the Shrew for its rampant misogyny EXCEPT I can't tell if there really is a smidgeon of sympathy from Shakespeare in some of Shylock's speeches, I just know that there isn't any in the way he ends up. (We all know about the pound of flesh thing, right? Cool).

However, I don't hate The Merchant of Venice. I haven't seminared on it yet, so don't hold me to THAT feeling, but there was a lot in it that wasn't flagrant anti-semitism, and that's the stuff I'm holding onto so I don't have to hate Shakespeare. The story is basically that there's this Merchant (amazing, right) Antonio, who's sad for no reason, but still he wants to help his buddy Bassanio marry this rich woman because he's broke but wants to live in the style of a rich dude. Why does Antonio want to help him so AND willingly agrees to give a pound of his flesh in exchange for a loan from Shylock?

He's totally gay for Bassanio. He is. This isn't just me finding gay dudes everywhere, it's a pretty well established thing. I swear.

So there's this whole forbidden love element, there's Shylock's daughter who wants to marry a Christian and I'm not entirely sure if it's because she loves him or because she wants to escape the persecution that she faces as a Jew every day (heartbreaking!) or because she wants to escape her controlling dad. The main thought I have about The Merchant of Venice though: No one is very nice. Antonio has abused Shylock for years, Shylock wants to CUT THE FLESH OFF A LIVING HUMAN, Bassanio wants to marry a rich woman he barely knows, Portia (said rich woman) lies a LOT and is kind of racist... There aren't a lot of good people here, and maybe that is the point. It's not anti-semitism, guys! It's just misandry!

Mind you, Wikipedia (the academic's friend) tells me that the Nazis broadcast a radio play of The Merchant of Venice just after Kristallnacht, and the idea of Shakespeare being used in that way makes me want to throw up, but the fact that it's kind of apt to be used in that way is not cool either. PROBLEMS, guys.

And that's pretty much where I'm up to in Shakespeare right now. Coming soon: Some histories! I'm not at all excited to read them.  

Tuesday 14 October 2014

RIP IX BOOK 3: Laura by Vera Caspary

"I decided that it was lucky that most of my cases had not involved women. Their logic confused me."

One day, for no particular reason, my dad bought me a book. He claims now that he bought it because 'he knew it was good', but I think we all know that he basically looked at the name and thought it would be a cool thing to get me. AND HE WAS RIGHT. 

So, and please bear with me because I finished this abouuuut a month ago AND I haven't written a review in about ten million weeks, this book is about Laura. Surprise, right? To be more specific, it's about Laura, murder victim and formerly an advertising extraordinaire, woman of independent means and kinnnd of badassery. She's not your average murder victim, OR your average 1940s woman and that's really just the start of what makes Laura (the book) so damn good.

There's a limit to what I can say here without giving away so so much information about the murder, and, more importantly, the murderer, so this is going to be fairly brief. It's brevity, however, shouldn't be used as an indicator of how much I liked the book, because I liked it so much I could probably write whole essays on it. The fact that I'm going to HAVE to do that, along with the fact that I really want you guys to read this book without knowing what's going to happen, prevents me from it, but rest assured- it's awesome.

Laura is a noir novel, but it's also a noir novel that's kind of feminist. This isn't to say that the detective is a woman (although that would have been awesome) because actually he's a handsome police officer, but the novel is very clearly focused on Laura and the excellent person she was. The men are all obsessed by her, and not just in a 'oh my gosh she was so beautiful and I loved her so' kind of way (although that does happen) but also in an admiring, impressed-with-her-success kind of way. Laura is outlived, for instance, by a sponging fiancĂ©, and how often do the genders work that way round? Not that often, I'd say.

The perspective in Laura isn't just that of the detective, but that of other people who knew and loved her. The novel opens with the narrative of an older, fatter writer who was in love with Laura but also generally considered her on-his-level, and he annoyed the shit out of me. I actually thought I wasn't going to get on with the book because of this, but then the narration shifted and I realised that, actually, I wasn't supposed to like him, and all was well again. Seriously, it's a really good book, guys.

Laura is basically a really really good noir novel, just in itself, and it has the added benefit of being written by a woman so its focal female point is realistic and interesting and sometimes seems more whole than the characters who are alive. I was excited by its noirness, because it's a genre I'm so interested in yet never seem to read, but I was, of course, even more excited by its feministness. So much excitement that I'm just making up words now, apparently. But you guys will forgive me, I'm sure. Just, freaking read this book already!

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Wednesday, Wednesday

Oh you gorgeous people.
I have about 20 minutes before I have to leave the house and go and talk about King Lear (glory, glory) so what better way to use the time than to update you all on my exceedingly busy, yet weirdly uninteresting to others, life.

Here's how it goes: Work, read, sleep, work, read, sleep, read, uni, sleep, read, uni, sleep, work, read, sleep. Weekends, I die, or, rather, I read some more and try to be at least vaguely sociable? Or something. This last weekend was actually really excellent- it had been my first week as a postgrad, so I was obviously KNACKERED but also stressed (new things aren't good for my sense of well-being! They're just not. No matter how much I love them eventually, everything that's new is a little bit of a struggle for me) and on Saturday morning I just wanted to sleep all day.

Instead, though, I did yoga, I read about half of A Midsummer Night's Dream (it is A Midsummer Night's Dream week. I am happy. Except about the 1935 film version I watched last night, which was so incredibly awful) I went to the library, and then had my friend Justine over for talking and eating and drinking and movies and it was so nice and I was like 'oh yeah! Relaxing! I remember now' and it's not like doing that left me with tons of work to do and now I'm panicking because that's really not the case.

Sunday though- after walking Justine to the station and making my way to my Grandad's house, I got the awesome surprise of my dad being there- he's not home from hospital for good, but he was out on day release, which was just excellent in itself and made me really happy, but was also excellent because it meant I didn't have to sit in a hospital all afternoon and got home at a way more reasonable time than 8pm (which is late for a school night, alright?) I think basically what I have to report is, last week was a little bit rough (which is exactly what I was expecting) but things are already looking up, and I feel like I'm getting into the swing of things- at least I do this week!

Obviously, blogwise, things are slightly less organised and in the swing of things, but I think about you all often, and have some reviews in draft form that may get written at some point, or may get forgotten because, you know, life. I am trying to keep up with all of your writings, but I am usually too tired, or too reading-it-on-my-phone to comment, but rest assured that I am totally still keeping up with your lives/reading/whatever, and if you have any commenting system other than Bloggers', I'm probably still trying to comment, too. Because of my complete devotion to you all (and how easy it is to read blogs when I'm really tired...)
Now, tell me all about your lives and leave nothing out. I'm waiting...

Monday 29 September 2014

Devouring TV: What I've Been Watching Lately

Oh my god! How am I even writing a post about TV, I haven't done that for about 10,000 years! This is very true, and I don't really have an excuse for it, other than that the main thing I was working through was a rewatch of Breaking Bad, and I've already written about that, and everything else I would write about in a serious way (Pushing Daisies, My Mad Fat Diary) I watched too long ago to do them justice*. Instead you get this: a little snippet of things I've been watching, MOSTLY on Netflix because TV at the moment sucks so much. Here it is:

The Great British Bake Off
I feel like this has come up in one of these kind of recaps before, but GBBO is literally the only thing I'm watching on actual TV at the moment. It's so sedate and nice and soothing that I can't help but feel massive affection for it, and the fact that one of the contestants had a beautiful and magnificent beard doesn't hurt things either.
It's exactly my kind of show, and it has allowed for some pretty good housemate bonding times so it's good for that, too. Yay, cakes? Yay cakes.

That Mitchell and Webb Look
So, That Mitchell and Webb Look is totally old and I watched it the first time round, but it's just been added to Netflix so of course I'm having to watch all three series again. If you've never seen it, you're missing a treat- sketch comedy that takes the piss out of advertising, films, pretty much everything you can think of in the media, um... numbers? Sport, definitely sport, and basically it's hilarious. It also has my favourite sketch possibly ever (sorry, Monty Python) which is a take off of Rebecca and really has to be seen to retain any comedic value because I definitely can't explain it. Oh wait, here it is:


And, continuing the nostalgia drive... It was brought to my attention that Pokemon (original, not shitty. If there are more than 150 151 Pokemon, then it's bullshit) was on Netflix, so obviously I was STRAIGHT THERE with great eagerness and fond childhood memories. I mostly watch it when I'm doing other stuff, but so much of it is internalised that I pretty much know what's going on anyway. I actually haven't watched it for a little while, because busy, but I've already gotten to the point where Charmander turns into an asshole so... Maybe I'm done. (I'm definitely not done).

Of COURSE I haven't only just seen Futurama, are you MAD? I remember when it started on English TV because I was watching it, obviously. However- Sky has been showing the newer episodes (i.e. the Comedy Central ones) and it FREAKS ME OUT when I haven't seen an episode of Futurama, so I've resolved to watch them all on American Netflix. There are multiple problems with this, mainly that I've seen the first four seasons SO MANY TIMES that they're practically internalised and I can't seem to take in new information; which leads to the second problem of not knowing exactly what I've seen of the new stuff because I start off an episode going 'hmm, don't think I've seen this one!' and then halfway through going 'oh wait, no, actually I have.'

I mean, it's not the WORST problem in the world, I realise. It's just annoying. But I will persevere because I NEED more Zapp Brannigan in my LIFE, man.

Bob's Burgers
I feel really really late to the Bob's Burgers party, but I'm here now, it can finally begin. I mean, I've only watched Season 1 so far, but seriously, HOW GOOD IS THIS SHOW? So much genuine loling, so much awesomeness. Too much? Not quite, but nearly. What am I even saying anymore? I'm not sure, but basically I think Bob's Burgers is the shiz, and we should all watch it right now, neglecting our entire lives to do so. Agreed? Agreed.

Six Feet Under
I like to always have a drama on the go (breaks up all the cartoon watching...) and Six Feet Under's time has finally come. I've been wanting to watch it for YEARS, and I've had the boxset since Christmas, but kind of decided that I'd wait to watch it because subject matter... Yeah. Regardless, I think I've cried at every episode I've seen so far (so... Three) just because death is horrible and difficult and I FEEL for everyone, all the time. Having said that, I think I've also laughed at every episode, so... This programme is so weird, and I mean that as a compliment. But it is SO WEIRD. The characters are weirdos, their lives are strange, their occupation is one that, unless you actually do it, you don't really get, I think, and just yeah. So odd, but pretty good so far. Alan Ball, I think you might have done it again.

Or, you know, you did it again. At the time. Before some of the other stuff you've done... I don't know, shut up!

And that's what I've been watching, and that's why nothing gets done around here! It's an ok life, you know, I can't complain.

*Oh SHIT, I've just realised that I watched all of House of Cards and have said nary a word about it to you all. The reason is, I think, twofold: Firstly, it's MUCH too spoilery to say anything about, ever; and secondly: I watched (almost) all of it with my now-ex housemate so I totally had someone to discuss it with as it happened, which was awesome. Don't feel too rejected now, internet.

Friday 26 September 2014

RIP IX BOOK 2: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

"When Jim Donell thought of something to say he said it as often and in as many ways as possible, perhaps because he had very few ideas and had to wring each one dry... I made a rule for myself: Never think anything more than once."

I wasn't overwhelmed with love for We Have Always Lived in the Castle. This surprised me, because I loved The Haunting of Hill House an unspeakable amount, but I guess this goes to show that you can't necessarily read by the author all the time and expect it to work. It's not a terrible book, I should probably start off by saying, and actually I think the main problem I had with it was one that I was supposed to have, but at the same time... It kind of bugged me!

SO. The deal with We Have Always Lived in the Castle is that Merricat lives with her sister Constance and her sick Uncle Julian in, well, not so much a castle as a really big house. The family used to be bigger but all but the three of them were killed when the sugar for their strawberries was replaced with arsenic, for which Constance was tried (and then acquitted) because she was the one who prepared the food. Because of this, the townspeople who live just down from the big house are both afraid of and ostracise the family, and so Merricat is the only one who leaves, twice a week to get the groceries. As things do, as the book goes on things get progressively worse, the townspeople get downright nasty, and everything feels horribly unsettled and uneasy.

There were things I liked about this book, and I don't want you to think I hated it because I didn't. I was totally intrigued by the way the townspeople didn't seem to like or care about the family to begin with, but as soon as the other family members were murdered, they took it almost personally and took it upon themselves to punish the surviving ones. It felt almost like they were just taking the chance to outwardly do what they had been talking about in their own houses for years and years, and it's this kind of bubbling over nastiness that makes me really like Shirley Jackson. (Is it time to read The Lottery again. It might be time. Go on, read it!)

BUT. I really hated Merricat. This was unfortunate, since Merricat is our narrator and the way we see this world, but I couldn't help it, I just hated her. I don't think that I was supposed to like her, exactly, but I don't think I was supposed to hate her with the passionate fury that I did. She's supposed to be 18 (I think) but acts like a child- ok, understandable because the majority of her family died when she was 12, so maybe she has arrested development issues (God, I love that show). But she's childish in a way that means she won't accept reality, and she's childish in a way that holds Constance back which is incredibly unfair to her (please keep in mind that Constance was acquitted. She's probably not a murderer, so we don't have to hate her. We can want good things for her.) 

So, the fact that Merricat seems to be completely mentally disturbed meant that I just couldn't get on board with wanting good things for her. I wanted good things for Constance, and sweet Uncle Julian, but that seemed like it would have to involve Merricat so I didn't really even want that either. Now that I'm thinking about this, I guess I'm realising that I kind of cast Merricat as the villain of the piece, and I'm also realising that maybe that's what Jackson meant to do all along. Which is making me think that We Have Always Lived in the Castle is even cleverer than I realised, but not that I must automatically be in love with it, because at times I really had to grit my teeth and power through reading it because I HATE MERRICAT. It is not a long book, and it took longer than it should to read. 

Basically, you will probably like this book better than I did, which is some but not ten billions. I don't even feel let down by Jackson, because I think she actually did exactly what she intended to do with it, but it just really wasn't for me, in the end. Not bad as an example of Shirley Jackson's themes and stuff, but definitely not my favourite of her books.

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Devouring Films: Movie Mini-Reviews

In lieu of reading, and because I suspect I'm not going to have much time to watch ANYTHING EVER over the next year*, I've been watching quite a few films of late. These are the ones that were both 1) new to me, and 2) I didn't fall asleep watching (a rare feat, these days). Why the mini-reviews? You know, lazy...

Don Jon
Ok, first of all I lied, because I actually did fall asleep watching Don Jon and had to watch the end half the morning after. This is neither here nor there, but that's what happened. SO. I've wanted to see this pretty much since I first heard about it, because there can't be a film written and directed by JGL that I haven't seen. That just isn't a thing that can happen. FORTUNATELY for us all, this turned out to be amazing, and I shall try to describe why.

So, Jon is kind of a dick. All he has in his life is the gym, and work, and church, and having sex with a beautiful woman night after night after... Ok, I know that doesn't sound so bad. Jon is ALSO addicted to porn, to the extent that he enjoys it more than sex with actual women, and this is really just a symbol for the emptiness of his life and his SOUL. He meets and 'falls in love' (spoiler: it's not really love) with Scarlett Johansson, which starts to make him a better man, but there's still something missing, and we're always aware of that as the audience in a way that Jon isn't.

Basically. I love how porn addiction is treated as a symptom of a wider issue of caring about how things look rather than how they feel, I love how this film could have been so gross in the wrong hands but is actually done SO well and sensitively and everything else, and I love the part that Julianne Moore has to play that I will tell you literally no more about because I didn't even know she was in the film but I'm so glad she was. Basically, as I write this, I watched this film a week ago, and I already want to watch it again. Ringing endorsement? Ringing endorsement.

Dead Poets Society
Almost as soon as Robin Williams died, people started talking about Dead Poets Society and how excellent it is, and people I know were really surprised that I hadn't seen it already. I know what they mean now- everything about it is something I enjoy in a film (except that there are bagpipes in the beginning. I HATE BAGPIPES) but I have a legitimate reason for not having seen it until now. SO you know how there's that episode of Friends where that woman steals Monica's credit card, and Monica's all like 'why do you live like this?' and the woman says 'Did you ever see Dead Poets Society? I came out of that movie and thought "well, that's 2 hours of my life I'll never get back." And that thought scared me.' THAT one thing made me think that DPS was going to be really boring. Because I'm a stupid person. Look, I didn't say it was a GOOD reason...

Anyway! I finally did watch it- I had to wait ages for the DVD because it's apparently unavailable to watch online ANYWHERE and the DVD is like golddust, but I have now seen it, and oh how I wept! I just... There are so many things I loved about it that I don't even know where to start, but maybe I should start by saying that I actually don't think it's a perfect film, and there are weird pacing issues and sometimes they don't seem to know which characters to focus on the most BUT BUT BUT there are moments that I think ARE completely perfect and it kind of cancels out any other inconsistencies there might be in the film.

REALLY I just want to talk about the end of this movie (not the standing on desks. Which is AMAZING. But before that) because I have total feelings about everyone involved in that, but I can't because you might not have seen it and I don't want to take that away from you. So instead, here's what I'll say- I love how disobedience at this school is going into the woods and reading poetry, I love how even the baddest of the boys really aren't that bad, I love how it reminded me that poetry isn't so bad**, and I love how Robin Williams lights up every scene he's in, and shakes up the lives of boys that have always just done what they're told and haven't ever been taught to love things that aren't money or success.

Also, this: "We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for." Just, yes. Please.

This probably should have been a full review rather than a mini one, because I still have so much more to say. But watch it, watch it, watch it, and we'll talk further in the comments.

I only vaguely knew of Beginners because Christopher Plummer won an Oscar for it, so when it was on TV (a LONG time ago, now) I figured it was worth recording. This film kind of blew me away- I don't know if it's because I had somehow gotten the wrong idea about it (I thought it was going to be more comedic than it actually was) or because it's genuinely as excellent as I think it is, but either way I was so incredibly impressed, and yes, I'll say it, moved by this film.

Let's see if I can describe it in a way that makes it sound at all appealing... So Ewan McGregor plays this guy whose father has just died, but before he did, he came out as gay and lived voraciously until he died. This is making this all sound a lot more linear than it actually is, because really the film cuts between Ewan McGregor in the present trying to cope with grief along with being more open to other people because of it. This style is something which works really well, in that these flashbacks cut in when McGregor is trying to do other things, which is absolutely how grief works, but it's not just the style. Everything about this film is sort of beautiful, and perfect, and so so sad, so of course- of COURSE I loved it.

I don't think I've done a very good job of summing it up at all, and I feel like that might be because it's not a film that can be summed up very well, or maybe I'm writing this too soon after I've seen it so it's all still too fresh. Wikipedia tells me it's based on the writer/director's actual experience of his father coming out at 75, which explains why it feels so honest and true, and it's a shame that, in a film that does such a good job of describing entire character traits in such a few lines, I can't do it the same justice in this tiny review. Consider this, when Christopher Plummer explains to Ewan McGregor why he's with the man he's with:
"Well, let's say that since you were little, you always dreamed of getting a lion. And you wait, and you wait, and you wait, and you wait, but the lion doesn't come. And along comes a giraffe. You can be alone, or you can be with the giraffe."
"I'd wait for the lion."
"That's why I worry about you."
I mean, right? RIGHT?! So revelatory about Ewan McGregor's character, in so few words. Basically, you have to watch this because I'm doing a terrible job of describing it, but just don't let the fact that I've apparently forgotten the names of all the characters put you off because that's not important, right? Of course not.

*Dramatic? Perhaps. But would you have me any other way?
**I kind of hate poetry, I think really only because it reminds me that I don't really have a beautiful soul because I don't really get it. Like, hardly ever. But this film made me feel like I could, maybe.

Monday 22 September 2014

RIP IX BOOK 1: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (LOL)

"Though they spent so much time trying to make themselves beautiful, you were not supposed to admit to women that beauty mattered."

I finished The Silkworm just before the start of RIP so THIS TOTALLY COUNTS. Also, the fact that I'm writing a review at all is an achievement in itself, so it's all good. Before I say absolutely nothing about The Silkworm (come on, it's a detective novel- CAN I tell you anything about it? Not really...), I think it's important to just say I'm really really glad that the Cormoran Strike novels are going to be a whole series, JUST LIKE I HOPED THEY WOULD BE when I reviewed The Cuckoo's Calling last year. So, what I'm saying is, thanks for listening to me and doing what I wanted, international bestseller and millionaire, JK Rowling.

SO. The Silkworm. I enjoyed this book a lot, to the extent that I managed to read it in a couple of days which really doesn't happen at the moment, and the fact that I only did that because I had to take it back to the library is neither here nor there. It's got a lot of the great stuff from the first book (Cormoran, Robin, mystery solving awesomeness) but it also deepens the things we know about the main characters AND, I think, sets the main crime in an area I'm more interested in than the fashion world, which is the literary world.

What's especially cool about this is that, in my brain, this means that a lot of the characters could easily be caricatures of real editors and authors in the literary world, and since this is kind of a theme of the novel, I'm choosing to believe that's true. There's a murder in this book. I realise that's not incredibly shocking for a detective novel, but at the same time, the only reason I'm telling you about it is that it's almost definitely written in the blurb on the back of your copy, which is annoying. And it's annoying because the murder doesn't happen (or get discovered, I should say) until the middle of the book, which meant that for the first half I was just sitting around WAITING for the murder, which I didn't really appreciate because I knew I was MISSING stuff, but I also knew MURDER was afoot and I couldn't focus.

 But still. This is all really swings and roundabouts, cause when it comes right down to it, I just really enjoyed this book. I think that, as someone who reads a LOT of literary fiction, when I get down to it and read something more genre-y, I really enjoy it because OMG STORY STORY STORY, and then I wonder why I don't read more detective novels. (And then I read more detective novels and remember that most people can't really write, and THAT is why I read Lit Fic). So that's part of the deal with this, but also, you know, characters and plot and some really gross and disturbing stuff and JK can WRITE, man. She really can.

I feel like this was very rambly, and for that I apologise. Really all I want to say is this: I feel like I've seen some people going 'I feel weeeeird about reading anything by JK that isn't Harry Potter', and you know what? I get you. But, the thing is, weird feelings or no, you're really going to be missing out on something awesome if you keep living your life like that. Cormoran Strike not only has an awesome name, but is a really excellent character, his lovely assistant Robin is, you know, lovely, and I kind of love everything about these books. You probably will too, so just stop worrying and learn to love this brave new world of JK's writing. It's pretty great.