Insomnia Alphabet

I have huge trouble switching off and getting to sleep. It was suggested to me that I play a game in my head. The objective is, that you do something with your mind that is just taxing enough to keep it occupied (ie not thinking things along the lines of…must write blog post, make an appointment at the dentist, pay the electricity bill etc…etc…etc) but not so taxing that it keeps you awake.

The first suggestion was to count backwards from 100…though I always needed to start at 200!

Then, I read about a very similar theory, but an alphabet version, you go through the alphabet in your head and try to name a country for each letter. I started doing this, then branched out into all sorts of categories each night, as I had done the countries so much they became automatic…and thus no longer engaged my brain enough!

Categories included film titles, female solo singers, authors, children’s books etc etc. But my favourite one became 8 letter plus words, sometimes any words, sometimes on a theme. And it works really well for me…Do you have trouble sleeping? Try out a game in your head and see if it helps you out!

And just for fun…a word alphabet!!

A – Antagonistic

B – Beatification 

C – Clandestine

D – Degradation

E – Exuberant

F – Fortuitous 

G – Gluttonous

H – Homogenous

I – Idiosyncrasy

J – Juxtaposition

K – Kleptomaniac 

L – Lugubrious 

M – Monomaniac

N – Neurological 

O – Obsequious 

P – Phrenology

Q – Quintessential 

R – Ruminations

S – Simulacrum

T – Transmogrified

U – Ubiquitous 

V – Vehemently 

W – Witheringly 

X – Xenolithic

Y – Yammering

Z – Zygodactyl

Finding direction… 

Re-Reads

This blog started out as  a way to get me writing, writing anything at all, and as it turns out I’ve really enjoyed it. I never really had a plan on what I’d write about or anything like that and I’d just post whatever came to mind as it came to mind. As time has gone on my posts seem to have diversified into a variety of categories, so this week (after much fiddling) I have added categories for different types of posts, so that if there is a particular type of post you enjoy, you’ll always know where to find it.

I’m never really sure what people enjoy most, so have a read of the categories, and what they are, and let me know what types of posts you enjoy and if you have any you’d like to see more or less of, even any specific ideas if you’d like a post on it! Thanks!


In Depth/Literary Criticism

As you might expect, this is where you will find the lengthier, in depth explorations of books and writing. Whether on character, genre, or an examination of a specific theme, this is where you’ll find it. This is probably my favourite thing to post, but they take a lot longer to plan and write, so I end up putting them off until I have time often!

Suggested Reads: 

  1. It is a truth universally acknowledged that certain novels are classics
  2. The importance of studying literature
  3. My favourite characters, and how they might help me to be a better writer…

Fun (& Fiction)

Here you’ll find listicles, quotes, and some slightly less in depth stuff…along with very occasional forays into fiction – maybe I’ll be brave enough to do more of this one day!.

Suggested Reads: 

  1. A Literary Love Listicle
  2. Never Judge A Book By Its Cover…
  3. Literary Transformations: From the page to the screen

Reviews

No explanation required! Up until now reviews have mostly been within a longer article, but I’m trying out doing them in a lengthier, standalone format.


General

Just blog updates, hiatuses, nothing too thrilling here!


So, feel free to let me know any thoughts you might have, what sort of posts you enjoy, and what you don’t, I’d love any feedback!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that certain novels are classics

Enter any book store, physical or digital, and you will inevitably find the classics section. A section in which you always know exactly what you will find. The Bronte’s, Austen, Lawrence, Dostoyevsky, Dickens, Eliot, Hardy and so on. There is little variation, and little change or forward momentum, there may be a modern classics section also, but you are unlikely to see these books integrated with each other. (In light of this, no list, if you want to find the classics I’ve told you where they are, off you go!)

Classics3

Some Classics

So why then do these classics remain ‘classic’? What is it about them which renders them classic reading, go to teaching tools, go to inspiration?

First of all, and I suppose somewhat obviously, if they were rubbish, we just wouldn’t still be reading them. No book remains clearly in the public consciousness for 100, 200, 300, or many more years, if it isn’t worth reading. If you meet a fan of literature, even if their tastes lie in a more modern genre or style of writing, it is highly unlikely they will not have read/know in depth at least a good few classics. Myself for example, science fiction, fantasy, dystopia nut, will be found, multiple times a year holding a Dickens or Austen novel in my hand.

Next up, it is a cultural thing. If you miss out on the classics, you miss out on a lot of things, they are referenced in so many places and in so many ways. I was recently watching the TV show White Collar in which a main character Mozzie, makes constant little reference to moments, characters etc from literature that you could, of course, survive not knowing, but that add just a little something extra when you’re aware of them. And this is just one recent example I can think of, I often find myself using a quote or reference to a classic novel in everyday conversation. So to miss them would mean missing out.

Next, and on a similar note, to learn where some ideas and concepts we know grew up, or even in some cases began. There are only so many narratives out there, (there are millions of things which can be done with them, but really ideas are finite) anyone who has studied literature will have had the joy of studying something like, the Monomyth, or the hero’s journey, the quest narrative structure.

Monomyth.png

The Monomyth

 

Though something like this is only a guide and not every narrative with a quest or adventure fits it exactly it is still a useful tool. And what it shows us is that by reading the classics we can see the origin of certain narratives and ideas, and see how they have been adapted and co-opted into newer literature. And whilst it is not necessary to know these things in order to enjoy a modern novel, it adds an extra layer. It is always fun to spot where an idea has come from, and reading modern rewrites and seeing what they retain and what they lose is always an interesting activity. An example would be Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, described by the author as an homage to E.M.Forster’s Howards End. Personally I much prefer the original, but that’s preference and everyone is different, but reading both and attempting to match up characters and themes, and see where they join or divulge is a useful exercise not just in literature but in understanding our changing times, attitudes, concerns, and cultures.

On beauty

On a personal level, for comfort, you know what you’re going to get. With regard to my above statement that I will often be found with a novel by Dickens or Austen in my hand, I am almost always re-reading. Though I do not claim to have read all the classics, in fact there are many on my list that I really need to get to, (Anna Karenina how have I not read you?!) but there is something quite comforting about returning to a classic novel you know and love. A lot of this is to do with many of the reasons above, the way literature permeates and underlies much of our culture, its unchanging nature means you always know what you’re going to get. It does what it says on the tin!

Linked to these last two ideas, to make us better writers, understanding what has gone before, what has been done, what can be done, makes us a better writer. They fuel ideas in our minds, and further being able to make similar allusions and references to these things in our own works, makes them better. It adds depth and resonance and an extra layer. And whilst we’re on the subject of making us better writers, they are well written. This is not to say that modern novels aren’t, but in a world of self-publishing and vanity publishing, there is a lot of rubbish out there. I am absolutely all for the publishing revolution, allowing wonderful undiscovered talents who would never get a chance to share their voice, to shine. But in a world with so so many books reaching the market, it can be hard to find something truly good, well written and worth the read. In times passed it was much harder to get to the point of publication, and often times women had to use a nom de plume in order to ever reach that stage. The Bronte’s as Currer, Acton, and Ellis Bell, and George Eliot being Mary Ann Evans by birth. If it made it far enough to reach publication, it had to be good!

They’re easily accessible, this one is quite simple. I have a lot of classics, I have multiple copies of multiple classics, and so many of them cost me very little. I buy them second hand at charity shops, and specialised charity shops selling only books, I get a book, and some money goes to charity, what’s not to love!

Classics2

Just a few of my charity shop finds…

And finally, to return to the first point, because we love them! They are classics, because we love them, and we love them because they are classic. And though we may not love each and every one of them (looking at you Villette), there is a reason they remain so collectively in our consciousness, they are worth the read!

Classics1

Ah those halcyon days, a walk down memory lane

Looking back to my childhood reading, there are certain books which I remember reading so vividly. Whilst I may not remember the text, or narrative in the greatest detail, I remember the reading experience, or some detail profoundly. The feeling that these books created in me, and how they shaped me as a reader. So I am going on a nostalgia kick to look at the books that made me the reader I am today.

I definitely believe my positive experiences of reading at a young age shaped, and continue to shape, me as a reader.

Carrie’s War – Nina Bawden

In all honesty I think perhaps one of the main reasons I loved reading this, and remember it so warmly is because it was set in my homeland of Wales. At that age being able to identify with the narrative and where it was set was definitely a plus point. Though it was set around WWII, and Carrie and her brother (Nick??) were evacuees, I don’t think I really understood the darker themes of the book. I saw it as far more of an adventure narrative and imagined finding some dark, ‘cursed’ place like Druid’s Bottom to explore.

Either way, I definitively remember reading it, the class I was in, the age etc, I had just moved house and school so perhaps, being a time of such upheaval, is why the memory remains so clear.


George’s Marvellous Medicine – Roald Dahl

Marvellous

This one is very simple. I wanted to make a medicine!! My Nan collected the tokens on Weetabix boxes (anyone else remember these promotions?) and sent off for the free books/toys etc, one series was Roald Dahl’s books. I remember reading this one and thinking how much I’d love make my own, multicoloured, magical potion/medicine. There was no one I had a desire to use it on, but I certainly wanted to go through the process.

You really cannot go wrong with Dahl.

I’d imagine all the things around the house I could use, forbidden things, off limits things, fantastic things, smelly things. How the potion would look, the colour changes, the plumes of smoke, and what powers it might possess, what child didn’t want to do this?!


Children of the Dust – Louise Lawrence

I distinctly remember the narrative structure, I don’t think I had previously read something with such a complex format. Multiple narratives, following different members of a family across the generations. Set amidst nuclear war, its immediate and long term aftermath, again we see some deep themes at work, death, destruction and despair, nothing is off limits.

This would have been the first dystopian novel I ever read, a novel dealing with the what if questions, and I think this should probably be credited with my continuing love of dystopian literature. 

It was complex and deep but overall there was a feeling of hope. And still almost always, no matter how dark a dystopia is, I cannot help but find that faint glimmer of hope.


Scribbleboy – Philip Ridley

I got this one from the local library and honestly I chose it for the cover;

scribbleboy.jpg

SO MANY COLOURS!!

I loved this novel, and the ‘big reveal’ as a young girl was perfect. Nothing deep or profound but fun and fantastic, I borrowed it multiple times. I absolutely loved going to the library, borrowing the maximum allowance of books and the excitement of heading home to read them, it seems a shame so many kids miss out on this experience now.


The Babysitter – R.L.Stine

Another library book. This was in the point horror series (who else remembers all the different point books? point romance was another!), and wasn’t in the children’s section, but the ‘teen’ section. I remember being so excited to be able to borrow these books, though I think I was probably pre-teen perhaps 11/12.

A babysitter receiving threatening letters, who begins to fear the father of the family for whom she works…

Here are some other classics:

I think with these it was mostly how grown up I felt to be taking ‘teen’ books from the library, horror, murder and thrills. I have great memories of so many of these books!


There are various reasons specific books stick out so vividly in my memory, the narrative, the period of time, the way I felt reading them. For me one of the most important things in books for children, was that I wasn’t patronised. I loved to read and had done so from a young age, it was nice to be confronted with complex, often dark, themes and narratives. But sometimes it was fun just to escape into a total fantasy world!

This was a fun exercise in nostalgia! What do you remember reading most vividly from your childhood or teenage years?

Literary Transformations: From the page to the screen

What are your thoughts when a book you love is being adapted for film or TV?

Trepidation? Excitement? Terror? Exhilaration?

I am not a snob, in fact I absolutely love film and probably watch too much TV. And I probably also watch things which are literary adaptations without even being aware of it/really caring.

However, for me when a beloved book is announced as being adapted, I normally feel pretty worried.

So with that in mind, which have I loved/hated? And which am I anticipating with nothing but a vague feeling of nausea.


Loved

Pride and Prejudice (BBC)

Oh where to begin!?

Colin Firth, obviously, oh you beautiful man, but of course looks are not everything. He just perfectly embodies Darcy to me, no one else will ever come close to his portrayal. In fact overall casting was perfect, it was pretty damn faithful to the source, and let’s face it the source remains as great today as the day it was published!

2016-02-22

Mrs. Bennett, Mr. Collins, Wickham, I really cannot think of someone who was not entirely perfectly cast, of course this is my opinion, but to me they were exactly what I has always imagined them to be.

And, Elizabeth, the linchpin which holds it all together, perfectly portraying the prejudice’s she feels, and the emotions she experiences as she learns the errors of these judgments…on her way to her very own happy ending.


Hated

The Golden Compass 

This was an absolute, complete, and utter travesty of a film. I have made no secret of the fact that I utterly adore Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, and I was genuinely excited it was getting a cinematic outing.

I think that this film is single-handedly the reason that I am now terrified whenever I hear of a book adaptation in the pipe-line. I am a lover of words, but I cannot put into words how strong the hatred I feel for this abomination is.

Lyra, beloved wonderful Lyra, now I do not hold the young actress to blame, child actor’s are rarely great (looking at you Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint in HP 1-3, dire!!). But, she wasn’t Lyra.

But for me I think it was all about casting. I admit I was already definitely not a fan but Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Coulter, ARE YOU KIDDING ME! No. Just. No. And whilst I had no preconceived notions of his acting Daniel Craig most definitely was not right as Lord Asriel either.

Maybe, I was just too excited, or maybe it really was as awful as I remember? I’ve avoided it ever since. Perhaps I am being too harsh.

But the biggest problem, and I do understand that they need to change things, but it entirely lost the feel of the books for me. Content and feel were just not there. There was no magic. It was all lost.

Positives? Can I say none?! I guess it was pretty!

Fifty Shades of Grey

So, I mean, it isn’t as though the source material was so strong that it was ever going to be an oscar winner, but I mean, dear lord it is poor!

Firstly, I DID read it, I read all three, (what a confession). Sadly, I most definitely suffer FOMO (that’s the fear of missing out) with regard to books. And, eventually gave in and had to read them. They were awful. So awful. The dialogue and inner monologue of the lead character are absolutely shockingly bad.

But I felt there was hope, Bret Easton Ellis expressed interest in producing the screenplay, wow this could be OK after all! But it was not to be. E.L.James held tight on the reigns of her material (which is of course her prerogative) but that meant she insisted the abysmal dialogue be lifted, verbatim, into the the screenplay. With a strong writer, I think the story might have had potential but alas we will never know what could have been!

In 3 sessions, attempted watching, I got a full 3rd of the way through. If reading the dialogue was horrid, watching some poor (not normally particularly bad) actors saying it, was excruciating!

Fifty.gif

Positives? Again…struggling…maybe the positives come later in the film.


Somewhere in between

Harry Potter film series

As previously mentioned, the lead trio in the first 3 films were not what you would call great actors, but they were young so this was forgivable. I enjoy these films, and have seen all 8 multiple times, but there are things I both love and hate.

There is a lot missing from the books, which I understand in film is to keep the story moving, but there are characters and plot-lines I’d have loved to have seen. Rik Mayall filmed scenes as Peeves, and I personally think his character, whether played by the glorious Mayall (I basically imagine Drop Dead Fred as a ghost) or someone else, would have been a welcome addition to the films.

Also, again I know it wasn’t key, but Hermione and the S.P.E.W storyline is definitely something I would have loved to see.

Things I loved, Alan Rickman and Gary Oldman. These are two of my favourite actors ever, and I will watch anything at all should they be starring in it. They were exactly as I’d imagined they would be, and made the characters come to life. Others were close (David Thewlis, Robbie Coltrane) and definitely in this category, but these two will forever be my favourites.

I could go on forever with both positives and negatives throughout the series, so this is definitely an in between, for me!

Oh, wait! One more for the things I loved. Dame Maggie Smith. Perfection. No more can be said on that.


PANIC STRICKEN!

The Rivers of London

If you have read any of my previous posts it is likely you might have seen mention of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London urban fantasy series. I cannot quite say why, but I adore this series of books.

Rivers_of_London

Whether it will happen or not I am not sure, but there have most definitely rumors about a television adaptation. And I am horrified. They may do it well, they may do it wonderfully. But I have such vivid images of these characters in my head, and am so attached to them, that no matter how good they are, they won’t be good enough for me. They will not match the visions in my head.

Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, would be of particular worry for me, old, very old, wise, but looking young. Some of the names I have seen touted (admittedly by hopeful fans not casting directors!) have in no way come up to scratch on what I have pictured!

And PC Lesley May – How would they deal with that after say…the first book!? It would need careful handling…


There are of course, many more I could put into all categories, where do you land? Would you prefer it to stay on the page? Are you happy to hear your favourite is making its way to the screen…? Which have you loved/hated?

Entering a Brave New World…sharing my fiction, for the first time ever. Eek.

So this is is…time to be brave. For the first time ever. Sharing my writing. Sharing some fiction.

This is the roughest of rough drafts, and a very small excerpt from the beginning of what I intend to be a much longer piece.

I’d love feedback, any and all, it has been a long time since I have written and this is very scary, so I am very happy to be criticised, as long as it is constructive, and it possible at all nice.


 

The In Between Forest

“Oh God. No. Not now.” Of course, I hadn’t planned for this shit, not today, well at least not now, but I had clearly fallen asleep on the sofa. If I had known I was going to nod off I would have changed my clothes. I’d had a shower when I got in and settled into some pj’s to watch some TV for the evening. And now I am in the fucking woods, wearing pink shorts, a ratty old t-shirt and fluffy Christmas socks. Wonderful. Normally I get into some outdoor clothes before sleep. Yes that’s right, I sleep in a t-shirt, sweater, camo trousers, wool socks and hiking boots, holding a wax jacket in one hand, with the strap of a backpack wrapped around the other arm. It is quite a feat that I sleep at all really.

Do you ever get that deep falling sensation, dragging your insides to the depths when you’re unconscious with sleep. You wake. A wave of nausea grasping your insides, you’re covered in goosebumps, your heart is racing, you can feel the pressure of your pulse in your throat, close to asphyxiating you, sweat drips down the nape of your neck and you can barely breathe, and you begin to wonder where you are?  You’re momentarily confused as you re-acclimatise to the real world, leaving the dream world’s you have visited far behind, just a shadow on the edge of your consciousness. Have you really been anywhere? Was it real? Are you still in the same place that you were when you fell asleep? You’re unsure what is real, and what is not anymore.

Well not for the first time, I actually had woken up somewhere entirely different to where I had gone to sleep. I am still trying to find out why, why this happened to me, did I cause it? was I always like this? When I fall into a deep sleep, and that falling sensation begins to grip my insides and attempt to tear them from me, I know I am leaving my world. Not my physical world, but my time and place in the world.

This is the third time it has happened, the first, I was positive it was a dream, I curled up under the roots of a tree in the forest in which I had awakened, closed my eyes and returned to sleep, this took me home. I awoke, positive that it had all been a dream, I found some dried brown leaves stuck to my sleep socks, but it was late autumn, they blew in almost constantly when I left or entered my apartment, and could easily become stuck to the wool. I thought nothing of it. Then it happened again, I arrived to the exact spot as before, of course I again believed it to be unreal, I explored a little in the lush dream forest, and again I eventually settled to sleep and awoke, sweating and breathing audibly but in my own bed.

Then I had gotten up to go to the bathroom, I always had to go to the bathroom if I awoke in the early hours, I looked in the mirror as I washed my hands and saw a small cut across my cheek, below my eye. It was deep, and still bleeding a little but nothing to worry about, but it had not been there when I had fallen asleep. And I remembered, I’d caught it, on a branch, in my dream?! I had really been there? In a forest? But where, why… oh no, acid began to pool in my throat, and I expelled vast luminous bile across the mirror, not even making it to the toilet basin.

I stood bewildered, staring at the gash across my cheek, the mirror streaking my face a putrid green, trying to understand, I was obviously mistaken, still asleep, or not fully awake yet, or unwell, something, anything. Insane? I must have passed out or collapsed I’m not really sure, but I awoke, in a pool of my own vomit, on the bathroom floor, sometime later. I reached up, the cut was still there, and sore, clearly a little bruised, it was real, it was all real. I looked down at my socks, caked in mud, the forest had been damp this time. My mind began to spin and spiral, the acid was rising again, “breathe!” Deep breath, deep breath, holding my head against the cold porcelain wall tiles. And it passed, the wave of nausea calmed. “Clean up, clean up, and think.”

I thought, for days I thought, thinking, wondering, turning it over, thinking, over thinking.

And what did I come up with, nothing, nothing. This was all a week or two ago and I have been almost entirely afraid to sleep since, permanently sporting the aforementioned outfit in bed in preparation, the backpack filled with essentials I may require. Because next time I went there, I was determined to find out why, or where, or when, anything. But of course, after a rare day out of my home office, researching and in meetings, I had arrived home exhausted and fallen asleep with no preparation. And now I was here, unready. To sleep and return with my prepared belongings, to risk not finding my way back. Or to attempt to find what I could now, in case this was my last chance.

So, this is where you find me, in the woods. The dream forest, the real dream forest, the in between forest, in my pyjamas.

 

Books to help you fall in love…with reading!

Yesterday, I read this blogpost about films:

https://keatonbaynesfilm.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/a-top-10/

The author discusses a list he gave to a friend to help them get into films. And it got me thinking, I know a lot of people who do not read outside of what it necessary for their work or studies, so what would I recommend to them to get them reading?

Much like the original post, this is list may include some of my favourites, but is more intended to cover a scope of different genres, linguistic styles and stylistic choices and narratives in the hope that anyone could find something they’d love which may bring them to reading. In fact, some will be novels that I most definitely did not like, but that are wonderful examples of what can be done and which though they may not be my preferred reading I appreciate artistically and know are loved by many.

  1. If on a Cold Winter’s Night a Traveler – Italo Calvino – 1979
  2. The Accidental – Ali Smith – 2005
  3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte – 1847
  4. Tess of the D’urbervilles  – Thomas Hardy – 1892
  5. Dracula – Bram Stoker – 1897
  6. Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell – 1949
  7. American Gods – Neil Gaiman – 2001
  8. On Beauty – Zadie Smith – 2005
  9. Dawn – Octavia E. Butler – 1987 (Part of Lilith’s Brood or Xenogenesis Trilogy, both names for same trilogy)
  10. His Dark Materials (tilogy) –Philip Pullman – 1995
  11. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams – 1979
  12. Beloved – Toni Morrison – 1987
  13. It – Stephen King – 1986
  14. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding – 1996
  15. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck – 1937
  16. The Catcher in the Rye – J. D. Salinger – 1951

 

Some romance, comedy, realism, fantasy, science fiction, horror…a few of each in the hope that anyone who does not read, can hopefully find something that might convince them to read more. As well as various genres, different writing styles and ways of presenting narratives that will hopefully open people’s minds to what books can be.

I won’t tell you why I have chosen each as I don’t want to influence people who don’t read, but give some a go, learn to love reading!