Finding Myself in the Story – Fandom and Feminism

I’ve never been good at keeping a diary. When I was 9 I was obsessed with the concept of having a notebook with a lock – but I’ve never had a tendency to regularly write in one. ‘My life isn’t interesting’ I used to complain, and get bored writing about things that happened in my day to day existence. I think it was that feeling that drew me to fiction, both writing and reading.

The girl who could move objects with her mind and read more books than anyone else was one of my first

The girl who could move objects with her mind and read more books than anyone else was one of my first

From Enid Blyton (I know) to Roald Dahl, to JK Rowling, my childhood was filled with the fantastic and the unbelievable. Fairy tales and magic were the things that filled my nights, and early mornings and every scrap of thought I could spare during the day.

I surrounded myself with these stories, not just on paper but on television and in film also. An over exposure to ’90s superhero cartoons gave me an appetite for all things Marvel and DC although I never got much further than watching the cartoons and eventual movies – I never had access to affordable comics. They captured my imagination just as much as fairy tales and fantasy did though. If you had asked me I would have said that superheroes were fantasy stories told with modern explanations (an over-simplification, I know but still). This carried on to science fiction with Star Wars and, when I was a little older, Lord of the Rings.

All of these worlds that I felt were more interesting, more compelling, more filled with possibility than my own captivated me. I used to come up with my own stories and adventures within them, manipulating the characters into scenarios that I thought were best. I didn’t know the term ‘fanfiction’ but it was something that I was engaging in before I knew what it was. Although my experience of fandom was more isolated than most people’s (we had dial up landline internet until I was 17), I would still have counted myself as a member of all of these fandoms.

I lived in desperate hope that I would one day receive my Hogwarts letter - no matter how late it was

I lived in desperate hope that I would one day receive my Hogwarts letter – no matter how late it was

One of the reasons I used to like to make up my own versions of the story was that, as far as I could tell, there wasn’t anyone like me in those stories (I know this breaks the first rule of fanfiction – don’t insert yourself into the story- I was young). There were girls, yes, but they were incredible action girls, or they were beautiful sorcerers, or they were geniuses – and despite all of these incredible qualities they were rarely the main character – the main character was almost always a ‘normal’ boy. Now he almost always discovered something incredible about himself by the end of the story, but as a child I couldn’t understand why it was always this character I identified with the most, and yet this character was almost never a normal girl like me. there was never a girl who was awkward and shy, or nervous and bookish but still desperate to be taken on an adventure. I couldn’t see myself in the confident super powered women that were on screen or in the story, but I could imagine being taken on an incredible adventure by a wizard.

These women are among my favourite characters, but they were never anything less than incredible to me

These women are among my favourite characters, but they were never anything less than incredible to me

 

There were exceptions to this and I know that there have been countless arguments about the lack of women in fantasy and science fiction blockbusters – all of which are far more eloquent than I – so I’m not writing to complain about the lack of female characters in these stories. What I’m writing about is the fact that I still loved those stories, they still took my breath away and allowed me to imagine new exciting worlds, and imagine that although I was a girl with no skills that I could see would be of use in a fire fight, I could still find a place within them. The question of female representation is an important one that people need to keep asking but I often find myself even now often questioning whether it’s still acceptable that I love Lord of the Rings and I raced to watch the new Star Wars trailer like everyone else? I’d like to say it is. That doesn’t change the fact that I was asking those questions at 9 years old – I can’t believe that other girls weren’t.

I know that the landscape is changing with more and more stories with female protagonists from all walks of life are being released every day, and I love that that’s something I’m getting to experience. I feel like those stories are filling me up and I can’t get enough of them.

Just some of the stories that I've lost myself in lately

Just some of the stories that I’ve lost myself in lately

I’d love to be able to tell the girl who imagined going on adventures in Middle Earth that those stories are coming. I think that she would still want Middle Earth and Hogwarts and galaxies far far away, but she’d want new worlds as well, where awkward, shy girls get to tell the story too.

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Pop-Up Gallery Sprouts in Athenry

Art is a ubiquitous part of our lives, whether through education, advertising or even fashion. Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is one of the most recognisable images on the planet and there are few people who can’t bring Van Gogh’s eponymous Sunflowers to mind when asked.  But despite our daily contact with art and familiarity with ‘high’ art – there can be a certain apprehension associated with getting involved in art on both a personal and local level. The people of Athenry, Co. Galway have taken the steps in breaking down that barrier. The East Galway Artist’s Network officially opened the doors of its Art Exhibition and Artist’s Trail with various exhibits around the town on Friday August 8th.

 

The Artists Trail Gallery, with a sign constructed by Donnacha Cahill

The Artists Trail Gallery, with a sign constructed by Donnacha Cahill



The endeavor has created an exhibition that highlights the talent available even at a local level and also the importance of fostering that talent, offering opportunities for artists to share their work. Spear-headed by Arts Officer Máire Daly and with artists such as Donnacha Cahill taking part, the exhibition opened to a packed house, with a huge number of people arriving to support the new artist’s venture . The room radiated with fun and life and passion, where camera shutters clicked and patrons admired the intense and varied works around them.

Red Riding Hood and Snow Queen by Kathy Ross

Red Riding Hood and Snow Queen by Kathy Ross

From abstract pieces that baffled and inspired conversation about their secret meanings to varied landscapes and fairytale characters, the exhibition, in the words of one impressed attendant, “Had something for everyone.” Peppered around the room were Donnacha Cahill‘s beautiful and imaginative sculptures.  Children and adults alike were entranced by the surreal figures that looked as though they were ripped straight out of dreams. Although the elephant wasn’t the only one on stilts that evening. Attended by two beautiful and ethereal stilt walkers, there was a real sense of carnival and occasion in the former Ladbrokes building. Children milled around in the company of parents and patrons who themselves wore a fabulous assortment of colour that was only outshone by the vibrancy of the characters that wore them. The invention and creativity that permeated the exhibition was full of inspiration and made me leave the exhibition wishing for a brush or a pencil to create something new myself.

Stilt walking through the  crowds

Stilt walking through the crowds

The organizers called to mind the vision of the building owners who were hosting both the exhibition and the various works in the Artists Trail. Their support has made this exhibition possible, and, equally as important has paved the way for similar endeavors in the future. East Galway Artists Network aims to connect and support individuals from visual arts, theatre, music, film, and literature in the east Galway area.

Nurturing t of the arts on a local level is only ever to be encouraged. The importance of demystifying art to the wider public is just one of the the beliefs held by the East Galway Artists NetworkGiven the amount of people who attended the opening, they are well on the way to realizing that vision.

Dancing at Dusk

Dancing at Dusk

The exhibition continues in The Art Trail Gallery (beside The Square Inn, Cross Street). Exhibition open from 11am-5pm Mon-Sat. Late opening 5pm-8pm Friday 15th Aug- Sun 17th Aug & runs until Friday 22nd August. It’s well worth the drive.

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Good Things Become Great Art

It’s not every day that we get to see the film stars of the future at the humble beginnings of their careers. Every once in a while we get an opportunity to peek into a crystal ball at what and who are going to be big in the movies – but I’m not talking about your traditional headlining acts, instead I’m referring to one of the jewels in the crown of Irish Film – the animation industry.

Last night I had the pleasure of attending “All Good Things”  IADT’s  2014 Animation Graduate exhibition and Screening – and although I’m just a passerby with a lifelong fondness for “cartoons” – it was a thoroughly enjoyable showcase that proved that Irish animation is in safe hands for the future.

All Good Things - IADT Animation's Graduate Exhibition

All Good Things – IADT Animation’s Graduate Exhibition

The Irish animation industry is presently enjoying a Golden Age, with multiple studios producing both original productions and animation work for the likes of Disney and Cartoon Network. Some of the most notable names include, Boulder Media (who have won BAFTAs for their work on The Amazing World of Gumball), Brown Bag Studios (Octonauts, Hugglewugs) , JAM media (Roy) and Cartoon Saloon who created the gorgeous Secret of Kells.

These are just a fraction of the companies the graduates will be planning their futures. As Ireland steps into a future that is uncertain, one thing is sure, its visual effects and animation is on a pathway to new growth and looking at these graduates is full of potential.

The Lighthouse Cinema was full to the brim, bursting with anticipation for a screening of short films and showcases that represented – not just one year of work but four years of preparation. With viewers from the very young to the young at heart, parents, creators, friends and mentors gathered to watch what might not be the beginning of their artistic careers but certainly a significant chapter. And what an entertaining, poignant, mind-blowing, exhilarating, imaginative, funny chapter it was. The animators displayed distinctive talents with from artistic skill and inventiveness to creativity and a command of story and timing that seasoned filmmakers I’m sure would envy.

While each of the exhibits and films were commendable in their own way, there were a number of stand outs that hovered in my mind as I made the journey home. First among these was Clare Carroll’s stop-motion comedy – ‘A Girl’s Best Friend’ which kept the audience laughing throughout its run time and managed to tell one of the most convincing stories of ‘unlikely friendship’ I’ve ever seen. The stop motion puppetry was wonderful, the lighting and individual shots were beautiful and the comedic timing was unparalleled.

Melissa Malone delighted with achingly beautiful backgrounds  in ‘Lena and Gray’ which made me want to bathe in the same rich hues her characters found themselves in.

This was contrasted by Eva Kavanagh’s ‘Useless’. It told a powerful story about decommissioned robots, that had not unflattering reminders of George Orwell throughout.

Another showcase that sizzled was Katie O’ Meara’s ‘Sunlight’,  which danced through an up-beat soundtrack and melted from shot to shot, taking the audience through a medley of  beautifully animated light effects that managed to leave us with not just the image of sunlight, but what it feels like to be dancing in it too.

There is little I can say about Anita Gaughan’s ‘Vertical Horizon’s’ other than I can’t wait for the day that it becomes a feature length film – not only was it incredible to look at, it immediately brought the entire audience on a fantastic journey through the clouds on the wings of the world’s coolest eagle. My descriptions don’t do it justice.

Dee McDonnell’s ‘Tiger & Wolf’ closed the show with a sparkling tale about how even the best of friends can have disagreements that separate them. Her characters were imbued with a personality that told a story that lived in their eyes –  and was a fitting finish to what was a screening of stories that were so entertaining and professional, they could fool the audience into thinking that these creations were easily born.

But we know better, we know the work, the blood, the sweat and the proverbial tears that went into creating each of the exhibits and films. The creativity that made these stories was born of years of hard work, education and immersive art. Writing scripts, sketching storyboards, designing characters and backgrounds – not to mention creating the animation proper.

It seems like a lot to go through for a few minutes of animation. But the graduates of IADT 2014 seem to know that it’s worth it, worth the work to dream the dream, to tell the stories and to make the delighted child who sat in front of me  laugh for the whole evening long. Afterall, they are the future stars of Animation.

The IADT Animation BA (Hons) Exhibition can be viewed in IADT Dun Laoghaire, from Friday June 6th to June 10th. You won’t be sorry you had a look.

 

 

 

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How I Met Your Mother – A Modern Day Dickens

There have been few TV finale’s as widely anticipated as that of How I Met Your Mother. This says more for the notoriety of the show and its infamous title than its popularity. People wanted to know exactly how enternally love-struck Ted met ‘The Mother’ of the title – understandably.

But in the hours since the finale aired last night, the internet has been a very hostile place – mostly due to the show’s eventual ending which – gigantic spoilers ahead – was not to every viewer’s taste.

Or... How I Met Your Plot Device

Or… How I Met Your Plot Device

This was more due to the – some have been saying shoe-horned – epilogue following Ted’s utterance of the words: ‘And that’s how I met your mother’, than it was due to the finale as a whole. For the safety of people who are reading this but haven’t watched the episode and don’t want to find out what happens: let’s just say that the ending of the show has – in this humble viewer’s opinion – rendered the last three season’s of the programme’s storyline pointless as they were undone about 15 minutes into the finale and then continued to be undone following the ‘big twist’ we were promised in the last five minutes.

This ‘big twist’ has been promised by creators for the last few weeks and anticipated by fans for even longer.

They ranged from the far-fetched: Ted is telling the story to his children because he has Alzheimer’s and is participating in a kind of reverse Notebook situation.

To the really far-fetched: Ted finally finishes telling his kids the 9 year story of how he met their mother only for the audience to see two skeletons sitting on the couch. Ted needs to learn to summarize his stories.

To my personal favourite – as told by my boyfriend- :   Ted is standing at the train station, about to meet ‘The Mother’ when Bob Saget (the narrator) jumps out of the bushes, shoots Ted in the head and gets the girl, finally finishing the story in his dulcet tones.

But ultimately the story anticipated by fans weeks ago – due to the most obvious foreshadowing in the world – turned out to be the one that was true, and it was this story that led me to realise that Craig Thomas and Carter Bays have been ripping off Charles Dicken’s all along.

 

****MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD***** (Doff’s cap to Major Spoilers).

 

It turns out that ‘The Mother’ (who will here-to-fore be known as Tracy Moseby) has been dead for six years since the story began (perhaps Ted told it to her first… We never did find out what killed her…) and the story that viewers have been patiently listening to over 9 years (I feel I need to repeat this fact as many times as possible) was in fact the story of how he loved Robin – and how he met their mother was merely a very good framing device.

I’ve had some very strong- frustrated Kermit the Frog-esque – feelings about this over the last few hours but I believe, after some healthy retrospection (and some screaming into a pillow) I’ve reached a plane of acceptance. (The things I cannot change and all that…)

 

Close your eyes and think of happier times...

Close your eyes and think of happier times…

Stories and anecdotes have always been a central aspect of How I Met Your Mother and they led me to an interesting conclusion: Thus brings me to the title of my post: How I Met Your Mother is not only a story made up of many stories – it is in fact a story that has been told before. 150 years before to be… somewhat accurate.

The original cover

The original cover

In the midst of my angst over a finale that killed it’s title character and re-established a relationship long thought dead – something occurred to me: How I Met Your Mother is a modern retelling of Charles Dickens semi-autobiographical work, David Copperfield. (without the childhood trauma and death of quite so many characters.) Especially when I began to think about just how many parallels exist between the two works.

Remember it now?

Remember it now?

For those of you who don’t believe me (and have forgotten the Daniel Radcliffe BBC miniseries) I have provided a summary to prove my point:

We have a hero who’s entire purpose is to tell his story: Ted and David Copperfield himself.

Who lives his life picking up friends and life lessons. Some of these are from friends such as his slightly off kilter lawyer: Marshall and Wilkins Micawber/ Mr Wickfield.

and his odd but child-orientated wife: Lily and Mrs Micawber

The parallels exist right down to Marshall/Micawber becoming a judge/mayor.

He also learns lessons in debauchery and gentlemanliness from his somewhat pervy best friend: Barney and Steerforth – although at least Barney got a happier ending.

Ted/David have had many opportunities at love, either through childhood sweethearts who are wild and adventurous, Victoria(okay that’s a bit of a stretch)/Emily.

or the steadfast best friend whom he has loved for years and years, his one true and trusted confidant: Robin and Agnes

(She even almost ends up with the pervy friend at one point!)

Ted/David has always been a believer in love but it has taken him a great deal of time to find it with the woman of his dreams. Suddenly he meets her: Tracy and Dora.

how-i-met-your-mother-cristin-milioti

It’s out of the blue, but she is everything he has been looking for, gorgeous, witty, musical, and that little bit quirky. Ted/David has finally found his heart’s desire. But the story doesn’t end here. Because, life rarely ends where you think its going to, and sometimes the story keeps on going. (That and Dickens – much like the show runners of How I Met Your Mother – wrote in a serialised format, and it was in his interest to keep the story going for as long as possible.)

In this case the story continues and Ted/David have a few very happy years with the woman of his dreams. But suddenly, the worst happens and Tracy/Dora contracts a mysterious illness. Devastating Ted/David her life comes to an end – but not before she can give her blessing to Robin/Agnes (for Robin its with her invitation to the wedding, for Agnes on her deathbed).

Ted/David spends many years alone in solitude, doing nothing but writing/telling his life story. While he is away he keeps in touch with Robin/Agnes until one day a family member: Betsey Trotwood/The Kids encourages him to declare his love for Robin/Agnes.

The rest, as they say, is history. Although the ending reminded me more of Great Expectations than it did of David Copperfield.

I’ve yet to meet anyone, including myself, who was ecstatic about the ending of How I Met Your Mother. Not many seem to have felt it was worth the wait. Perhaps because, what Dickens got right, How I Met Your Mother got wrong, for the sake of a finale with ‘impact’ they left the story underwritten, and underdeveloped until the last possible moment.

If Ted was telling a story of how he loved Robin – even unconsciously – he could have given us a few more hints, rather than turning away from it at every moment. Especially after all the trouble the writers went to to make sure we adored Tracy.

Agnes and David were never by any means a sure thing – but their eventual love was something that is woven into the story without seeming intrusive and still packing its own element of surprise. In the end, the real flaw of How I Met Your Mother – something pointed out by a friend of mine long ago – is in the name. Because looking back over the 9 seasons, its not The Mother’s story, and nor – despite the Kid’s protests – is it Robin’s.In the end it was Ted’s, he much like Mr Copperfield, was the hero of his own tale, and maybe it should have been called that in the end.

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.” – David Copperfield, Charles Dickens

 

 

The Story of Ted Moseby's Neverending Quest for Happiness

The Story of Ted Moseby’s Neverending Quest for Happiness

 

 

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Will Rainbow Rowell please be my Best Friend?

After an inexcusably long hiatus, I’ve returned to the land of blogging and books. It’s been months since my last post and I’ve read thousands of pages between now and then. As can be expected, some of those pages have been good, some have been bad and some have been life-altering.

I haven’t wanted an author to be my new best friend since I read Harry Potter and discovered JK Rowling, so the discovery of Rainbow Rowell has been something of a revelation. I discovered her last September – with the purchase of Eleanor & Park – and moved swiftly on to Fangirl and Attachments.

Eleanor & Park US cover

Eleanor & Park US cover

Eleanor & Park tells the story of two teenager’s first love- Eleanor, the new girl at school who couldn’t be more different than her peers (with her disasterous home life and unique tastes) and Park, the boy who has never been outside of the crowd – but never quite fit in either. It sounds like a conventional premise, however it’s anything but a conventional love story. Continue reading

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Her Story of Before: A Conversation with Susan Stairs

 

With comparisons to The Lovely Bones and a voice so affecting that it stays with you long after the page, it’s no surprise that Susan Stairs, The Story of Before is sweeping readers off their feet.

I sat down with the first time novelist to talk about fame,  fiction and the writing life.

Susan Stairs has had a busy month. Following the launch of her first novel, The Story of Before in June, Susan has been everywhere, talking about writing, tragedy and character’s motivation. When we meet, she’s just in from a BBC NI interview. For a writer who is used to solitude, to be thrust headfirst into the limelight isn’t exactly easy,“It is difficult to deal with the whole circus, interviews, and everything,” she says.

It’s a complete change of pace from the year and a half the Dublin native spent writing the actual novel.  “I started writing it during my MA. I submitted the first 15,000 words as my dissertation – so that was about five chapters”.  Susan completed her MA in creative writing in UCD in 2009 and from then worked towards finishing her book.

The Story of Before is told by eleven year old Ruth, who has just moved from the City Centre to the suburbs of Dublin with her family. Ruth’s estate in the novel is so immersive it borders on claustrophobic, which is exactly what Susan was going for, “I didn’t want to have a lot of scenes happening anywhere else”.

On New Years Eve Ruth predicts that a ‘bad thing’ will happen that year. She cannot know how this will affect her family and truly change her life forever. With comparisons to the direct and moving story of Susie Salmon in The Lovely Bones, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Susan has been plugging away in the novel game for years, rather than a relative first-timer. The story that befalls Ruth and her family was always one that she wanted to tell, “The ‘tragic event’ of the novel had been on my mind for a long time and I knew that was what I wanted to write about. It was inspired by an event that really did happen. I always knew that was going to be the reveal,” Susan says.

Susan Stairs author, The Story of Before

“I was writing pretty much full time, while I was doing it. I sometimes look back and wonder, how did I do that when I had now idea what was going to happen to it. I never had a doubt in my mind that I was going to finish it. I mean I was writing a novel and I was finishing it,” she smiles. It wasn’t speed that got Susan through the process but determination, “I consider myself quite slow at writing, some days I would have only written 300 or 400 words, but I’m thinking all the time.”

And Susan’s mind didn’t let her rest,  “I’m kind of my own worst enemy in that way – I’m terribly critical of what I’m doing. If something doesn’t sound right, even if it’s just one word I have to change it.” At the same time, when it came to editorial judgement Susan had to face ‘killing her darlings’ like every other writer too, “There were some parts that I had really laboured over and it was difficult to get rid of them but at the same time I could see why they needed to go”.

 

And even though a year and a half doesn’t seem that long  to write a novel, Susan told me,“It seemed like forever to me, there are times when I think back on the hours that I put into it.” But what came out at the end is something truly special.

It still took a while for Susan to develop the story into Ruth’s distinctive voice, “Ruth was always a character, but I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to let this girl tell the story when she was older or as a child, but when I got my first line, “The others used to say I was psychic”, I knew this was a child talking and from then on it was very natural.”

Susan still had to navigate the pitfalls of  writing as a child telling a very adult story, something that even the most experienced of writers struggle with, “When I was writing, I had to be her, I had to be an eleven year old Dublin girl in the seventies. It becomes very natural when you’re writing, your mind just switches into that mode, you become somebody else” And that brings its own restrictions too, “There were a lot of words I couldn’t use, which was restrictive because I would think ‘No, that won’t work’ – Ruth wouldn’t say that.’”

Whenever an author becomes so involved with a single character it becomes a part of their life, they eat, breathe and drink the world through their eyes, so it becomes very difficult to bring them the sort of hardship that in Ruth’s case, Susan knew was coming all along. “Absolutely, it was very difficult, to write the ‘bad thing’ I cried a lot when I was writing that part, definitely.

‘And when I decided on it, it was like watching your children do something bad – but you can’t do anything about it – and feeling responsible. So that was probably the hardest thing to do because I was so involved with these characters, I had created them and yet I was allowing this person to do this awful thing, so that was really hard.”

The care and love that Susan has put into the novel shows, Ruth is the kind of girl who lives right up your street and that makes her story feel so much more powerful for readers,  who are already clamouring for a sequel. “I’ve always said no” Susan smiles, “But sometimes I think that you could resurrect characters from it, and take them down their own paths”.

Even her second novel, which she is currently working on, gained it’s inspiration from an event in The Story of Before.“What I’m writing now, was in some was inspired by one small thing in The Story of Before, there’s a letter that David sends to Ruth that she’s convinced isn’t true. That whole scenario opened up something for me and that has inspired number two”

And if it’s received anything like The Story of Before, Susan has nothing to worry about. “All the comments I’ve been getting have been great. The one phrase that people keep saying to me is ‘I couldn’t put it down’ and I’m absolutely chuffed to have people saying that to me, telling me that they can really identify with the setting and the time period”.

Susan’s success isn’t something that she takes lightly, the whole process was a long and required her to absolutely persevere, “I got so much advice when I was doing the MA. I wouldn’t have been able to do the novel if I hadn’t done the MA. I got great advice from Eilish Ni Dhuibhne, who was my tutor.  And from the classes with James Ryan.” As she thinks about what it took to get her where she is today, Susan gives me some wise words of advice, “I always say to myself, you never see books in shops from authors who gave up, you see the books from authors who persevere.”

And Susan is a living example of that happy fact.

 

As published on writing.ie

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Beautiful, beautiful boys!

Why is it that every time I open up a novel recently that the boys aren’t just described as ‘handsome’ or ‘has a nice smile’ but as “cross my heart, hope to die, beautiful creatures” (Not a reference to the novel of the same name but now that I mention it, I’m fairly sure it offends in this way too)?

Don’t they all look pretty?

It’s not that I have a problem with the word ‘beautiful’ or men being described using a word that up until relatively recently was solely associated with women. I’m all about gender subversion. Give me a million superhero girls and damsel gentlemen and I won’t complain an inch. It’s more the frequency which “beautiful” has been cropping up as a descriptor that is starting to grate on my nerves.

Ultimately my issue with it is twofold: the first is that it seems to me to be lazy writing. If a female character is ever simply described as “beautiful” I tend to (metaphorically) close the book on her. It may be the word used to describe all that is good and wonderful and aesthetically pleasing about the skin around another person’s skull but it’s boring. (Side note- I have no problem WHAT-SO-EVER with the word ‘beautiful’ being used in real life. In real life people are allowed to be clichéed and say soppy things to the people they would like to hug and kiss and do the dishes with forever, etc. But I expect a little bit of variation from fiction.) How many books have you read, or indeed films have you watched where the title character (be they male or female) descends the staircase/sobs at the ball/shrugs off a compliment and is answered by the love interest with an incredulous “But you’re… (Big Moment here folks) BEAUTIFUL”. Followed by a groan from the entire audience and tears of joy in the protagonist’s eyes (I will forgive Howl’s Moving Castle for this as it handles it well and one of the primary themes is appearance). This was an incredibly annoying theme for ages in reference to women which most literature at least attempted to kill.

Think about it- when was the last time you read a description of a female character that described her as simply “Beautiful”? (Twilight doesn’t count for this half of the argument as it sins on almost everything) It isn’t allowed anymore. Female characters are acknowledged as being more nuanced, more interesting and more than their looks. I mean, there are books that have gone so far as to disregard certain love interests purely because they fail to describe the girl as anything but ‘beautiful’. And this is good – not just because of feminism and empowerment but also because it makes for more interesting reading. We get to see inside a character’s head, see how they really feel and not have a label stuck onto their significant other that basically says “I like you because your parents DNA combined to make face shapes that I like and would subconsciously like for my future progeny”. (How romantic).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=975OStgcPyM Continue reading

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The Great Gatsby – On Words and their Importance

It’s been a super busy month, which is why I needed to take a small siesta from blogging. But, last week I went to see The Great Gatsby and it filled me with the kind of confusion/rage/annoyance/I-really-don’t-know-how-I-felt-about-that I can only interpret through venting my views upon the rest of the world.

This is a book blog, so regular readers will have to forgive the following journey into movie territory but this movie was  adapted from a book (although what movie hasn’t been recently?) and I feel like that makes it fair game. Plus, in order to make sure my interpretation of the movie was correct, I re-read the book (I’ve been a little remiss in ‘what I’ve been reading’ posts lately, expect a blanket post to cover the last few books in the next few days).

The most famous cover image of the novel.

Now before I launch into this – some words of warning- If you have not read/seen The Great Gatsby, and would prefer the ending to remain a mystery, I would advise you to cease reading this post. Secondly, this will not be a review (yes, I know I tagged it as one, but there isn’t really a quick way of saying in depth analysis that focuses on the very nature of interpretation, is there?) as all my review-like feelings about the movie have already been said  here at Letters from a Patchwork Wizard (awesome blog run by equally awesome friend).

Continue reading

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What I’m Reading: Just One Day

This came as a recommendation from the wonderful blog of Theodora Goss (which you should absolutely check out) and she wasn’t selling it short. The premise is a familiar one for romance novels. Girl meets strange and exotic boy, strange and exotic boy invites girl to magical city on spur of the moment romantic trip, previously sheltered girl’s eyes are opened to the beauty of the world and men… And so forth.

But Just One Day has a massive saving grace: it’s narrator Allyson (Lulu). The writing throughout the book is so authentic, and so genuine that even though the story feels like something I’ve read before, for the first time it feels like it’s happening to a real person. So far I am in complete agreement with every snigle word Gayle Forman has said about love and life. It’s beautiful and even though I kind of hate the love interest at the moment (I’m only half way through), it’s in the best possible way.

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Just One Day is completely worth it, for much much longer than it’s title presumes.

 

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You may have missed: Very far away from anywhere else

And now we’ve reached the end of this little series with, for me, the book that started it all. A tiny little piece that was written in a single summer by Ursula le Guin who, at the time didn’t have the following she has now. This is one of her works that should get far more recognition in my experience. Fans of John Green ought to take note- this book takes on a lot of similar themes to his (The Fault in our Stars, An Abundance of Katherines, Looking for Alaska). It breaks my heart that it’s out of print. (Don’t worry it’s still available on Amazon and the like).

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Very Far Away From Anywhere Else by Ursula Le Guin

And now we’ve gotten to the last and smallest on my list. And probably, almost definitely, the most obscure. Le Guin is by no means a forgotten author, having gained international fame by writing her signature style of epic fantasy in The Wizard of Earthsea and The Left Hand of Darkness. But this tiny little book, a nobody from 1976 that no one ever paid attention to is quite simply beautiful, a love letter to those who read fantasy rather than live it. It’s an easy story, a familiar story about a boy and a girl, two outcasts who take their time to fall in love, the boy, a scientist, thinks too much, the girl, a musician, can’t plug into reality and they both struggle through each day, trying to do the ‘Gorilla Act’ as best they can. The  book is as normal as they come and there in lies its beauty, it tells a simple tale of two normally abnormal teenagers trying their hardest to fit – not with the world- with eachother. With references to the Bronte’s and MIT and Tanglewood, there is nothing typical about this little gem. It was the first book I found to coin the term and I’ve used it ever since. Its tiny, small enough to read in two hours. But they’re two hours that you won’t forget, and you won’t ever want them back.

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