The Sunday Post // The Sunday Poet #7

The Sunday Post // The Sunday Poet #7

Hello everyone! Have you all had a good Halloween weekend? I’ve been well and truly getting into the spirit of things, with lots of fancy dress all week. Therefore I thought it would be pretty apt to include one of my favourite Edgar Allen Poe poems – The Raven. I’m sure you all know this one, however if you haven’t come across it before I’ve included a couple of my favourite verses with a link to the full text online (purely because it is quite long!). This poem is  haunting  with the raven as the omen of death provoking fears and whispers of ghosts however because of the poem’s metre it is really enjoyable and easy to read. That’s an aspect I love about it, its great to read out loud. Do any of you do this? I just sit in my flat (often in bed when reading poetry) and recite poetry to myself because I like the sound of it! Call me crazy but it’s very good fun.

The Sunday Poet  #7

Edgar Allen Poe –The Raven

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
”Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, ‘tapping at my chamber door-
Only this, and nothing more.’

***

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering,
fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, ‘Lenore!’
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, ‘Lenore!’-
Merely this, and nothing more.

***

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore.
‘Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,’ I said, ‘art sure no
craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore-
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!’
Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore.’

The Sunday Post #7

What I’ve been reading…

  • Transfixion by J.Giambrone: I have to confess, I was contacted asking if I would like to receive a free copy of this one in exchange for an honest review. I jumped at the chance, mainly because I was so excited that someone would like little old me to review their book. However I am not enjoying it as much as I hoped and am feeling a little anxious about writing the review.  Anyway, I guess I’ll have to finish it first!!

And the rest…

So as I mentioned previously this week was all about getting in the Halloween spirit! At work we dressed up every day and I had a little bit too much fun with the face paint.  Then on the Saturday night I went to a family party with my boyfriend’s family – Danny and I dressed up as Garth and Wayne from Wayne’s world! Something else that has made this week feel really autumnal is a Yankee candle that I’ve been coveting for a long time – it’s called ‘Fireside Treats’ and has the whole flat smelling like toasted marshmallows. I love buying scented candles to match the seasons, especially in autumn/winter – I think it’s because the scents I choose evoke so many memories! Have any of you been dressing up this week? I would love to see your costumes!

Becqui

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I started the week off quite tamely as a kitty-cat! As seen on my Instagram 🙂

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But by the end of the week I was getting a bit more adventurous!

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Favourite picture with family Allen.

Book Review – The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R Carey

Book Review – The Girl With all The Gifts by M.R Carey

If you are a regular reader (and thankyou ever so much for stopping by!) you’ll know that I recently  joined a post-apocalyptic book club. Well I went to the second meet-up this week and we discussed The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R Carey. The overall consensus was that we really enjoyed the book, thinking that it started off extremely strong and whilst some of the plot developments might employ a few too many zombie-story tropes the characters, for us, redeemed it.

The novel starts by introducing us to Melanie, who just like any other little girl loves stories, enjoys going to school and dreams of growing up and becoming a beautiful princess. However Melanie is not like other children. Along with her classmates she is infected with  Ophiocordyceps unilateralis a parasitic fungus which turns its host into a zombie-like creature with a craving for human flesh. The rest of Britain has been virtually wiped out by the spread of this virus; however some infected by the fungus – all of them children – maintain their mental functions, existing in a state somewhere between the ‘hungries’ and the humans. The classroom Melanie is in is on an Army base where an array of teachers aim to see how much cognitive function the children retain.

Miss Justineau is the children’s favourite teacher. With them secured into wheelchairs and Miss Justineau covered up with an e-blocker that prevents her scent from reaching the children, she teaches them about Greek Mythology as well as countries and cities of a civilisation that once was. When the bases resident scientist, Caroline Candwell decides that the only way to discover the root of the fungal infection is to kill and dissect all of the children – Miss Justineau steps in to save Melanie. As she confront Caldwell the base is attacked by junkers (other survivors, who are not part of the Army) . They have driven vast herds of hungries into the base – destroying their defences as well as wiping out the majority of surviving humans. Melanie, Miss Justineau and Caldwell are unexpectedly thrown together and as they escape are joined by two military men. Because of what Melanie is – the two men want to kill/abandon her; however (albeit due to different motives) Miss justineau and Caldwell convince them to keep her with them. They reach a compromise and muzzle her – setting off on an attempt to reach a place where they believe there to be survivors – the Beacon.

What I really liked about this book was the character of Melanie; she develops so much throughout the story. Initially we meet an exceptionally bright young girl who has no memory of the world outside of the space she occupies – instead she gains her information from old textbooks and pieces together mythology to make sense of her world. When she realises what she is – a hungry – she soon begins to notice what separates them and her, and even manages to control her hunger. By the end of the novel we realise how important these hybrid children are to man’s continuation, and more specifically how important Melanie is – as she has learnt about the past and is thus able to inform the future.

As a book club we also enjoyed how well thought out the fungal parasite was – having all seen the articles about how a similar parasite exists within ants. The parasite explained why the hungries would congregate together – something which always I have always queried in zombie movies. Drawing ideas from nature, animals often congregate to reproduce and that is what this parasite motivates within the hungries, when mature they congregate in order that the fungi might grow together and thus release the spores needed to infect more victims.

Have any of you read this novel? Who was your favourite character? I have to admit that I had a soft spot for Caldwell – even though she was totally inhumane she was so so dedicated and determined to do what she believed was right that I couldn’t help but grudgingly like her.

Becqui

The Sunday Post // The Sunday Poet #6

The Sunday Post // The Sunday Poet #6

Hello everyone! How has your week been? This week has been a week of though-provoking classes. In my Representing Contemporary Cultures module we have moved onto looking at 9/11 – how the way it was represented through the media and literature affects how people discuss and even perceive what happened. It got me thinking – how long a gap is necessary before literature can truly deal with such a world-changing event? This week’s poem is Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath which was published posthumously in 1965 in the collection Ariel. In it she connects holocaust imagery with the oppression she feels because she is not allowed to die – despite her multiple attempts. The gap between the events she draws upon and the poems publication is twenty years – yet we still feel the enormity of her meaning today. All the literature and even the films about 9/11 are still in their nascent stages compared to this, will it take a longer passage of time before language can truly express people’s feelings surrounding  9/11 and the events that happened as a result?

The Sunday Poet #6

Lady Lazarus – Sylvia Plath

I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it——

A sort of walking miracle, my skin
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
My right foot

A paperweight,
My face a featureless, fine
Jew linen.

Peel off the napkin
O my enemy.
Do I terrify?——

The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day.

Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be
At home on me

And I a smiling woman.
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.

This is Number Three.
What a trash
To annihilate each decade.

What a million filaments.
The peanut-crunching crowd
Shoves in to see

Them unwrap me hand and foot——
The big strip tease.
Gentlemen, ladies

These are my hands
My knees.
I may be skin and bone,

Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
The first time it happened I was ten.
It was an accident.

The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.
I rocked shut

As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.

Dying
Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call.

It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.
It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.
It’s the theatrical

Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute
Amused shout:

‘A miracle!’
That knocks me out.
There is a charge

For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
For the hearing of my heart——
It really goes.

And there is a charge, a very large charge
For a word or a touch
Or a bit of blood

Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.
So, so, Herr Doktor.
So, Herr Enemy.

I am your opus,
I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby

That melts to a shriek.
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.

Ash, ash—
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there——

A cake of soap,
A wedding ring,
A gold filling.

Herr God, Herr Lucifer
Beware
Beware.

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.

The Sunday Post #6

What I’ve read…

  • Ariel by Sylvia Plath: I’ve loved this collection of poetry ever since I first encountered it. The poem I included above is really haunting, not just because of its references to the Holocaust but because I read it as a woman eating/removing the doctors that treat her as if she were something precious so that the next time she tries, she might finally die.
  • Black Dogs by Ian McEwan: this was recommended by a fellow student on my MA course when we were discussing books that defined an era. It follows the story of a once-married couple, how their different world views caused them to separate and how the terrifying vision that the wife had on their honeymoon caused this irreparable divide.
  • Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess: I’m sure hundreds of other people have bought this book for the very same reason that I have –the best first sentence ever. ‘It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me.’ I’ve only just begun this very long novel but I can’t wait to see where it takes me.

And the rest…

Another fairly quiet week on the news front for me! I’ve been researching a lot, beginning to think of the essays that I will be handing in just after Christmas and what work needs doing before I crack on with the writing. However last night me and the boyfriend did end up going to an incredibly good night at one of our local bars – despite being billed to me by the boyfriend as ‘80’s goth’ when I got there I was pleasantly surprised to hear a lot of 80’s punk and alternative being played. It reminded me of being a teenager and listening to my dad’s CDs all over again. So yeah, if you are in Manchester and think that might be your jam – have a look at their webpage and head on over! You’ll see me there dancing like a loon in the corner 🙂

Becqui

Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is one of my favourite writers, there is something about the dystopian worlds she creates that draw me in and her description is so uncannily precise yet strange enough to create a slightly off-kilter image. I have read The Handmaid’s Tale several time, and decided that as I enjoy it so much I should give it a re-read and review it. It’s a sign of a good book when you can re-read it and enjoy it just as much as the first time – and The Handmaid’s Tale did just that for me! I think this time small details stood out to me, such as Atwood’s descriptions, and I took pleasure in these more than the story.

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The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel, set in a future where due to excessive levels of pollution as well as a virulent sexually transmitted disease fertility levels have dropped, and the women that do fall pregnant often miscarry or deliver ‘unbabies’ – so deformed they won’t live. In addition to this a movement called ‘The Sons of Jacob’ has overthrown the United States Constitution and instituted a patriarchal, compulsory Christian regime – with the pretext of a focus on society multiplying.  Society is segregated by class, and within the classes by gender – with each person’s role being visibly shown by their clothing. Military men  and their wives have the highest standing; they are given concubines /handmaids (women who have been proven fertile) and are also served by Marthas (women too old to bear children) as well as men who are of such low standing that they are not given a women. If a handmaid fails to bear children in a designated time, or commits any other crimes – such as having any kind of relationship or doing a prohibited activity such as reading – then she is shipped off to the ‘Colonies’ where felons undertake dangerous work such as clearing up radioactive waste.

Offred is the protagonist in this tale, a handmaid old enough to remember the time before when she lived with her husband and her daughter. The narrative flits between the present day and he past – so we catch glimpses of the situation and how it builds up to the regime in which she is living. Through her we learn how women’s rights are slowly stripped away, their bank accounts are closed down and they are made redundant – so that when the overthrow happens they are virtually powerless.  In her current position Offred is a handmaid; proven fertile she has intercourse with the Commander at designated times – in a strange ritual which involves her lying in between him and his wife. This is her only role, the rest of the time she exists in a kind of limbo – unable to have friendships, or any entertainment such as reading.

As the book progresses the relationships within the household change. Offred’s Commander begins to invite her into his study on an evening, offering her forbidden luxuries such as hand cream and magazines. At the same time The Commander’s wife – worried that her husband is sterile has Offred sleep with their driver in the hopes of them conceiving a child. Offred’s anxieties about being caught doing something illicit (as any relations outside of the prescribed copulation with the Commander are forbidden) are compounded when her waking partner confides in her that she is part of an underground movement.

I remember my first read of the book and I  galloped through it,  so caught up with the world Atwood had created. One aspect which really interested me was how the society recognises the frustrations the women must feel – being banned from so many things – and thus provides safe outlets for this energy. At births, which are such a rare occasion, all the handmaids and wives in the neighbourhood gather – there is illicit alcohol, and because it is a celebration they have respite from their chores. The second occurs during a public hanging that all the handmaids must attend. In it a man is accused of a brutal rape as a result of which the victim miscarried – and his punishment is a Particicution; which means that the handmaids bludgeon him to death.

On this re-read Atwood’s description stood out to me and kept me thinking about what they impart to the meaning of novel . For example Offred describes a young man’s face as being like the pale skin underneath a scab. Similarly when looking at the colours of tulips, she sees the darker pink as if it was a wound. These images are unsettling, because of the juxtaposition we get the sense that the everyday objects she describes have become disturbing due the context they are in.

If you are interested in dystopian fiction – then this book is a must for you! Have you read any of Atwood’s books? I think I might have to have a re-read of Oryx and Crake!

Becqui

The Sunday Post // The Sunday Poet #5

The Sunday Post // The Sunday Poet #5

This week has passed by in a blur of work and studying; I was determined to knuckle down his week and I feel pretty happy with what I’ve got done. Thursday and Friday were spent watching films (for research obviously!) and reading copious amounts of books on New Queer Cinema for my independent study module. I was in that groove where things click together in your mind, was feeling really energised and excited about my work so when I was trying to think of a poem for this week, wanted to find something that captured that feeling for me. Now, the poem that I’ve chosen is nothing to do with studying – however it reminds me of hours spent researching and reading. The poet, John Berryman, was the subject of one of my undergrad final assignments and after initially finding his poems infuriating – critically analysing them resulted in one of my most highly marked pieces of work.

This poem comes from a collection named The Dream Songs, and each poem within provides a fragmented glimpse of the whole. They combine baby talk, a minstrel show and a whole host of disembodied voices to be amusing and tragic at the same time. It is impossible to read them without being reminded of the events that marked Berryman’s own life: his father’s suicide , Berryman’s alcohol abuse, battle with depression and own eventual suicide.

The Sunday Poet #5

John Berryman – Dreamsong #14

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored
means you have no

Inner Resources.’ I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored,
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as archilles,

who loves peoples and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into mountains or sky or sea, leaving
behind: me, wag.

The Sunday Post #5

What I’ve read…

  • The Girl With all The Gifts by M.R.Carey: ok, so I might have been a bit keen with reading this one as it is for book-club which isn’t for over a week away! In TGWATG humanity has been almost wiped out by a parasitic fungal infection; those who are infected (‘hungries’) prey on the flesh of the remaining humans and are little more than walking mouths. However there seems to be a mid-way camp, infected children who retain all of their brain function and can talk and learn, yet still have the appetite for human flesh. It is up to a research team led by Caldwell to discover if these children are they key to a cure.

What I’ve watched…

  • My Own Private Idaho (1992) directed by Gus Van Sant: This film explores a friendship between Mike (River Pheonix) and Scott (Keanu Reeves) two young men who are living rough, and working as rent boys on the streets of Portland.
  • The Living End (1992) directed by Gregg Araki: I’m going to tentatively say that as part of my MA I am going to write about this one! It’s a brilliant pastiche of different styles of cinema, all delivered with a tongue in cheek attitude – that scarcely conceals the depths of meaning. Two HIV positive men go on a roadtrip, with a fuck the world attitude and a need to explore death.
  • Doomsday (2008) directed by Neil Marshall: Me and the boyfriend had a cosy Saturday night with a bottle of wine and this film – and it was bloody brilliant. Doomsday is like an apocalyptic sci-fi with a dose of grindhouse styling. Scotland gets hit with the ‘Reaper’ virus, aptly named because it cuts swathes through the population. In order to prevent the spread, the UK decides to wall off Scotland, and mine the coasts – effectively abandoning the people to the virus. Fast forward thirty years and the virus resurfaces in London. Meanwhile the government, who have been keeping an eye on Scotland, have seen evidence of survivors in Glasgow. They make the decision to send a team in, to try and find survivors and a cure.

And the rest…

To be perfectly honest, this has been a quiet week – apart from the reads and the films that I have seen listed above! One thing I have been enjoying is that autumn seems to have finally arrived here in Manchester and the leaves are turning to beautiful colours, meaning that it is soon to be Halloween and Bonfire Night – oh how I love autumn!

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All these autumnal photos I have unashamedly re-posted from my Instagram! 

Becqui

Book Review: Hater by David Moody

Book Review: Hater by David Moody

As those of you who follow me on Twitter will already know this week I went to my first ever book club. I was browsing this site – just really to see what was going on in Manchester really – but as soon as I saw “Post-apocalyptic book club” I was hooked. I absolutely loved the evening, discussing and debating literature with like-minded people is something I really enjoy – and of course, I came away from it with loads of book (and film) recommendations! The first book we discussed was Hater by David Moody, so today I am going to share my review of it; which has definitely been aided by the discussion in the book club. I will warn you that this review is full of spoilers, so if you don’t want to know what happens then stop reading now!!

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When I read the description of Hater posted on the book-club’s page it immediately stood out to me – the premise being that seemingly unmotivated individuals begin violently attacking other people, and this escalates throughout the entire population. These people are dubbed ‘Haters’ and the fear of them deepens as anyone could be the next to turn – your child, your husband, your best friend. As society breaks down one man and his family struggle to survive. To me it seemed like a twist on your typical zombie story, the spread of attacks isn’t described as a ‘virus’ and I always love a good survivor driven plot. However I felt let down with this novel as a whole, there were aspects that I enjoyed but at the same time there were elements which really spoilt it for me.

The novel begins with a random, aggressive attack orchestrated by ‘Simmons, regional manager for a chain of high street discount stores’ who – in the middle of a busy shopping street – suddenly feels an overwhelming sense of terror, and this threat makes him turn on his supposed aggressor an old lady ‘eighty if she was a day’. He bludgeons her to death with his own umbrella and then begins to attack the crowd around him. The narrative then switches to an observers point of view – Danny McCoyne – who becomes our protagonist. He proclaims to be sickened by the outburst but then switches to moaning about how the crowd have made him late for work.  This is a feature of Danny that we come to recognise. He represents the “every-man”, he hates his job with the council, hates his supervisor, struggles with money and when he gets home from work argues with his wife and is annoyed by his children.

The first three-quarters of this text follow roughly the same structure: vignettes of random violent attacks by these “Haters” break up the day to day life of Danny. At first these attacks seem like entirely unrelated incidents, Danny reports that the newscasters announce unusual amounts of violence in city-centres over one weekend. However as the text progresses it becomes clear that the attacks are escalating and he witnesses them happening himself, as well as being widely reported on the television.  An atmosphere of fear begins to pervade the general public; there was a scene I really thought worked at this point which highlighted the fear and tension that would arise in such a situation. Danny is at work on the reception desk when a man comes in to complain about his car being clamped. The man is in a high temper – but Danny and the other receptionist, instead of proceeding as normal, proceed to put as much space between themselves and the man as possible because they think he is a “Hater”. The moment of realisation when the man (who is not a “Hater”, just a man pissed off with the council) comprehends the fear in the pair’s eyes, and understands what they take him for was executed well. It made me think about the fear that would spread through the general population – and how it would break down normal interactions far quicker than the actual Haters.

However, for the most part – this section of the book was tedious. Danny is a character incapable of action; he constantly complains about his job yet carries on going to work after most of the city has been abandoned. When the family do decide to hole up, and stay in their house their lack of survival initiative irritated me. Danny has the chance to scope out houses and flats that have been abandoned yet he comes back empty handed. We see no evidence of the family working as a team, or of any love or connection between them.

I thought the text was going to redeem itself when Danny became a Hater – it started with him killing his father-in-law and then going after the rest of the family; and I was expecting some pretty gory scenes. The family escape and Danny finds himself in the company of some other Haters, who have wholed-up in a construction site and are trying to come to terms with what has happened. The concept of the Haters is explained a little bit more here, around 30% of the overall population have something in their genetics which has been triggered and makes them fearful of the other 70% who they know will kill them if they discover their identity. So from the Haters point of view its kill or be killed. Also they have some kind of innate connection to other Haters – Danny knows that his daughter is one and longs to have her with him. This explanation was unsatisfactory though, what triggered this change? And how do they recognise each other? The ending of the book was that the military had divided into these two factions, Haters and non-Haters, and the Haters from the military swooped in to rescue all the other Haters who had been rounded up into a death camp. The Haters then decide to band together, form a sort of resistance and the last scene is of them taking over a town.

To conclude, I loved the premise of this novel and there were scenes which were quite clever – particularly those depicting the media’s influence on the general public, and the Hater propaganda which was subtly spread. However, for me personally (and for the rest of the book-club!) there was no emotional investment in this, as the characters were unpleasant and irritating. I think I would still recommend reading it – it is quite an easy read and there are ideas in there that have stuck with me, and that I keep teasing out more in my head.

Have any of you read this book? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Becqui

The Monday Post // The Monday Poet #4

The Monday Post // The Monday Poet #4

Hello hello hello! So the eagle-eyed amongst you might have noticed that somehow my weekly round-up has slipped a day – from Sunday to Monday. It’s totally my own fault, I have had an incredibly hectic past few days consisting of the boyfriend’s birthday (and party with his family) then my own birthday followed by a trip up to Scotland for a friend’s wedding and then back again. By the time I got off the train at Piccadilly on Sunday I was too tired to do anything but curl up on the sofa in my brand new Snuggie (thanks Dan!). And I wasn’t organised enough to schedule a post either – therefore I am typing it up today!

Because it has been a week of celebrations I thought I would turn to a classic anthology I own – Penguin’s Poems for Life – which contains poems for all life’s events, from birth through to starting school, growing up, getting married, having a family of your own, and then eventually death. It is a great little volume; there are many well-known poems in there all of which suit life’s journey perfectly.  So today I turned to it, as I often do, in search of words to fit this week’s events.

The Monday Poet #4

Carmen BuganA house of stone

In the village where I was born, we wish
A house of stone to shelter the heart of the marriage

So here too, I wish you
Obstinate, strong love, unyielding and unending.

May you be in reach of each other when all seems lost,
May your tears and your smiles always happen face to face.

When you imagine that you have shared everything
May you know that you still have the rest of your lives
To do all of it again and again.

But now listen to the hurry of bells and
Look how petals of roses about the vineyard

Bring you the words, ‘husband’ and ‘wife’:
First words in your house of stone.

 The Monday Post #4

What I’ve read this week…

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: expect a review of this, one of my favourite books – soon!

Hater by David Moody: I read this as I am joining a post-apocalyptic books group and this is the first book they will be discussing.  Hater follows the dissolution of society as what starts off as an increased number of violent attacks on individuals begins to increase exponentially until these seemingly unmotivated attacks are happening all over the country. I’m excited to go to the first meet-up tomorrow, and just indulge in my love of post-apocalyptic fiction!

The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald: this was another birthday present from my lovely boyfriend! The blurb informs me that it follows a young, extremely wealthy, couple – Patch and Gloria – as they try to navigate the heady lifestyle of 1920’s New York. I find F.Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda extremely interesting – and I feel like this novel might potentially reflect some of the experiences they had together, so I am looking forward to reading it.

And the rest…

As you already know it was a pretty busy week for me! On Thursday it was Danny’s birthday, and he requested I make a traditional kids birthday tea for his family that evening. I had so much fun baking for pretty much the whole day beforehand; I made a birthday cake which was lemon sponge topped with marshmallow frosting and Lucky Charms, Rice Krispie treats, and homemade sausage rolls which I served up with loads of mini sandwiches, pizza, party rings and crisps. I think it went down pretty well. It was definitely a silly but fun night!

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Danny’s cake was a little wonky but I was still pretty happy with my efforts!

The next day (Friday) was my birthday and I got spoilt rotten. Danny got me a new Kindle, and a loose-leaf teapot as well as my first Moleskine notebook! I was so excited over the teapot and the notebook he was really concerned that I didn’t like the Kindle haha! After spending a lovely lazy morning opening presents we packed for our weekend in Scotland then got on the train. It was a long journey but the scenery was so beautiful it went surprisingly quickly.

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Beautiful scenery on the way up, the colours were so vivid!

For the wedding weekend we stayed in the Loch Lomond Arms Hotel, which was also where the wedding reception was held. It was an incredibly perfect place for the celebrations – not only did it look quirky with loads of taxidermy, tartan and antlers, but the staff were helpful and the overall atmosphere was cheerful and friendly. On the Friday night a large group of us had dinner in the hotel restaurant – I had scallops with pancetta and apple to start, followed by ‘Piggy Black’ sausages with crispy kale, creamy mash and red onion jus, and even managed a pecan pie dessert. I always say that in Manchester I miss amazing ‘pub’ food and that is exactly what this hotel delivered, which boded well for the wedding meal!

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Stuffed owls in the hotel restaurant, there was taxidermy everywhere.

This friendly atmosphere carried on into the wedding itself on the Saturday – even the priest at the church was extremely affable, making jokes and relaxing the guests. Erin (the bride) looked absolutely beautiful and the whole ceremony was lovely. Afterwards we went back to the hotel for the reception; and after another amazing meal it was time for some music from a live band. There was ceilidh dancing which despite being totally chaotic at times was the most fun I’ve ever had at a wedding reception. Even Danny loved it!! I know I have thrown a lot of adjectives at this paragraph but the wedding was spectacular, everything from the scenery (near the beautiful Loch Lomond) to the food to the friendly relaxed atmosphere that continued all though the night, was perfect. I’m sending all the best to Chris and Erin in their married life together, two lovely people who deserved such a beautiful day.

On the Sunday Danny and I spent a relaxing morning walking by the loch, before getting the train back. Phew! So after that incredible week I am ready to get my head down to some serious reading and studying. How was your week? Have any of you visited Loch Lomond before? I would love to go back, I would like to visit a lot more of Scotland if truth be told.

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One of my favourite photos from the loch, it was so peaceful and beautiful.

Becqui

The Sunday Post // The Sunday Poet #3

The Sunday Post // The Sunday Poet #3

The Sunday Poet #3

This poem comes from the same anthology as last week; Identity Parade New British & Irish Poets – and I just want to reiterate how much I am enjoying this collection. Every time I dip into it there is a poem that I enjoy, or one that I find interesting for whatever reason. This week’s poem is by Luke Kennard whose work is described as ‘a chimerical orchestra of fabulous characters and their put-upon sidekicks.’ The choir referenced in this poem, seem to me to be a way of describing mental illness – they make it impossible for the main character to work or hold down a relationship as they are persistently there. However the choir constantly serenading a unwilling victim (for some reason I imagine them appearing at the desk of an extremely perplexed businessman…) and following him around everywhere, being entirely over the top is a farcical image, which creates an intriguing contrast between concept and imagery. At the end, after his anger with the choir/mental illness the image of them gently serenading him to sleep and saying he may ‘become fond of them’, I find quite distressing. It is a poem that appeals to both the fantastical side of your imagination but also quite seriously addresses issues of mental health.

Luke Kennard Chorus

The choir hadn’t left him alone since the first day of summer;
He awoke to find them stationed around his bed.

One day the choir arrived without warning or explanation,
Sang the choir in four-part harmony, handing him his toast.

On his first day back at work, the choir stood at his desk,
Singing, The choir are making his professional life impossible.
 
Two weeks later his partner left him for an osteopath.
Hannah cannot stand the choir any longer, they sang.

That night he pummelled the choristers with his fists;
He beats the choir in frustration, but though they are bruised
 
And bleeding at the lip, they sing with redoubled vigour, sang the choir.
Then they sang, He cannot get to sleep, he cannot get to sleep,
 
He cannot get to sleep, in perfect fifths, until he fell asleep.
In time you may even grow fond of us , they sang, quietly.

The Sunday Post #3

What I’ve read this week…

  •  The Twelve by Justin Cronin
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. This is another re-read, because I absolutely love Atwood’s books, but I think I will post a review of it next week. It is dystopian novel set in a future where fertile women are kept as servants in richer households – as due to rising pollution levels and disease fertility levels are at an all-time low. Written from the perspective of one of these ‘handmaids’ it explores how the relationships between her and the couple for whom she works for change in an ever more desperate attempt to conceive a child.
  • Identity Parade New British & Irish Poets edited by Roddy Lumsden: Sorry to bring this up AGAIN but it really is great. If you fancy a big whack of top-notch modern poetry then buy it, buy it, buy it!
  • Gender Trouble by Judith Butler: this is a text I am reading as some research, and within it Butler questions that there is a natural or essential notion of the female, thus questioning the supposedly innate notions of gender. Butler conceives of gender as being a performative action, it is reinscribed through its repetition within an accepted and established social matrix. Some of the ideas explored within this text I have read about before, but I am looking forward to tackling the whole book!

And the rest…

 This week has actually been fairly stressful; to start with it was supposed to be the first week of actual teaching on my course however one module ended up being cancelled as not enough people had signed up for it. I was pretty upset by this, as it was the module Contemporary Queer Cultures which is an area I am interested in and was so so excited for it to start and to meet and study with like-minded people. Thankfully the tutor for the course has been incredible, and has arranged for me to do an Independent Study option where I have the freedom to focus on an area of my choice and write an essay on that. So at the moment I am doing a crash course through the material that was supposed to be taught on the CQC module, and hopefully will get some inspiration! Phew! Thankfully there was a gallery opening at the museum this weekend, and despite working it I got to go out with everyone from work afterwards and relax with my good friend Pinot Grigio.

wine

Thankyou internet, I think that sums up my week. But I had a great sleep last night, good day at work today and am feeling ready to tackle everything the coming week can throw at me!

How was your week? Did you fit in a lot of reading?

Becqui

Book Review: The Twelve – Justin Cronin

The Twelve – Justin Cronin

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Why do you read a book twice? Because you enjoyed it so much, because you need to study it in further detail or because it completely threw you the first time around? Well for The Twelve I re-read it for a combination of all these reasons. Not only have I read it twice, but I literally read it back to back, cover to cover. I’ll explain why later, but first here’s a synopsis…

The Twelve (2012) is the second part of a trilogy that Cronin started with The Passage – a book that I found in equal parts compelling and terrifying.  In The Passage, a government research project into prolonging human life unleashes a virus which turns its hosts into immortal vampirical creatures who have a taste for human blood. Skipping forward one hundred years and following the adventures of a surviving human colony we learn that the original twelve research subjects are connected to a family of the virals (beings infected with the virus), and that the way to destroy them is by killing the head of the family. However these original Twelve are also extremely powerful – capable of telepathy which they can use to influence humans. These ‘Twelve’ lend their name to the second book and are central to its plot.

The beginning of this novel briefly revisits two of the characters from The Passage, Alicia and Amy – both of whom are infected with the virus but haven’t turned into virals. Amy has a mental connection with the virals and seemingly immortal is now working in a nunnery – raising the children of those who have survived. Alicia was infected at the end of the last book the effects of which made her keenly tuned to the activities of the virals, as well as gain their strength and speed; she uses these powers to track them down and kill them. The novel then skips backwards to the outbreak of the plague and we discover some other survivors’ stories.  There is Danny, an autistic bus-driver – who unsure of what to do after the milk for his Lucky Charms runs out decides to return to a routine he knows and feels confident with – driving the school bus route. He picks up some other survivors and the narrative follows them as they ultimately end up at a military refugee camp.  We then meet Lawrence Grey –who was a janitor at the original research facility – who is disorientated when he wakes up at a motel looking significantly more youthful and attractive.  Whilst looking for supplies he is accosted by Lila, a pregnant woman who is acting like nothing unusual is happening despite the downfall of society around her. We suspect this is so she doesn’t have to deal with reality. She persuades Grey to help her paint a nursery for the baby and they become friends. However Grey is being tracked by the military – lead by Guilder, who has learnt that he has a degenerative disease and is willing to do anything to stay alive. When Lila and Grey are captured they are taken to the same military camp as the other survivors.

This section of the book was really captivating; it was interesting to have lots of different survivor’s stories happening at once and then all tying together at the military camp. There was a lot of subtle humour, as well as intimate moments in this section which as a reader made me really empathise with some characters. However, just as in the first book Cronin is leading us towards a massive plot twist. The military “refugee” camp is actually being used by the military as human bait for an army of virals who are approaching. Some of the characters escape, whereas others are killed when the military bomb the camp.

Time then advances in lurches until the story continues from the first novel (so roughly 100 years later). Alicia discovers a city policed by Guilder and “Red Eyes”. Guilder has discovered that consuming viral’s blood results in immortality, so keeps Grey chained up as a food supply for himself and his army.  He also keeps Lila fed with the blood of Grey; she still exists in a delusional state – spending her days locked up in a luxurious apartment she pretends that nothing has changed, having lost the baby she was carrying Guilder provides her with a constant stream of children to mother until she tires of them. Lila also proves to have an almost motherly control over the virals, who behave like favoured pets towards her – something which Guilder uses to his advantage. A whole city of people are kept underneath Guilder’s power; he views them as mechanisms to keep the city running and as disposable fodder for himself and his virals. After Alicia’s discovery of the city, an insurgent faction who identify themselves with “Sergio” as well as the team from the last novel work together to strike at the heart of Guilder’s structure.

I apologise – that was a frightfully long synopsis! However I feel like it was necessary, it isn’t one of those texts where you can provide a short summary without being extremely vague. And this is why I ended up reading it twice. The first time around, whilst I loved the new characters introduced – I felt really out of sync; I even mentioned it to a couple of people whilst reading it that I felt so confused because I was missing the characters from the first novel. I’m not sure if this tainted the rest of the book for me. However the second read through I approached with a more open mind and whilst it was a good read (Cronin sure does know how to get you emotionally invested with characters) I think that the structure aped the first book too closely. Also I found the second half confusing even after two reads. Break the book up into small sections, or take each chapter as it stands and they are good. Really bloody dark as well – which I love! However as a whole, for me, this book wasn’t as enjoyable as The Passage – but I will still be reading the final part of the trilogy!

Have any of you read Justin Cronin’s books? What do you think of them and do you have a favourite? As always I would love to hear your opinions!

Becqui

The Sunday Post // The Sunday Poet #2

The Sunday Post // The Sunday Poet #2

The Sunday Poet #2

This week’s poem comes from Identity Parade: New British & Irish Poets, which I bought for my course then slightly regretted when I could find all the material I needed on-line. However I haven’t even used it for studying yet and I’ve already fallen in love with it – great range and variety of poets included, and it is also a surprisingly purse-friendly size for an anthology! And that is important for someone who carries a tome of poetry at all times. Anyway this poem is a little bit of whimsy, because when don’t we need that?

PugNick Laird

i.

Bruiser, batface, baby bear,

bounce in your moon suit

of apricot fur with some fluff

in your mouth or a twig or a feather.

Emperors bored you.

You with the prize-winning ears,

who grew from a glove

to a moccasin slipper

and have taken to secrecy

recently, worming in

under the furniture.

To discover you here

Is to keep still and listen.

The settee begins wheezing.

                                                                          ii.

Hogarth loved the fact

that for your first half-year

you hardly differed from a rabbit.

When you’re over-excited

you tend to get hiccups.

You squeak when you yawn

and your tongue is unfurled

in a semi-circle, salmon-pink

on coastal rock, that trilobite

embedded in the slate

roof of your open mouth,

perfect for the mascot

of the House of Orange.

Your weapon of choice is the sneeze.

iii.

Above the winter garden

a hair-thin moon, reflecting.

You are as open as a haiku,

All karumi, hint and sigh.

The Buddha would’ve liked you.

Watch us from your separate dream

then pad across to clamber through

the plastic flap and plant your paws

four-square again on grass, like this.

Your hackles bristle and you ridge

your back and bark and bark and bark,

at shadows and the fence,

at everything behind the fence,

the cuttings and the railway foxes.

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I couldn’t resist including a picture of these cheeky critters! Thanks Google for providing me with hours of entertainment searching “pugs in costumes”!

The Sunday Post #2

What I’ve read…

And the rest…

This week actually involved another trip to Manchester Food and Drink Festival, to see a friend of ours and his band play. Naturally this involved another round of yummy food – this time from Viet Shack. I’ve been meaning to try their food for absolutely ages now, and it was well worth the wait! I plumped for lemongrass chicken, which was deliciously smoky, served over noodles and a lovely fresh carrot salad with chilli, mint and basil. For a naughty evening out I was impressed with how restrained I was food wise! This week also heralded the official start of my MA – with an induction meet and greet over all the English courses. It was really lovely to meet people before actually starting the course, and to also get a glimpse into what other people will be studying over the year. Next week the teaching starts properly and I am so so excited! How was everyone else’s week? What have you been reading?

Becqui