Sunday, 27 November 2011

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them" ~ Mark Twain

I feel that this post has been staring at me crossly for a long time like the cats of the people I babysit for when I don’t let them sit on my lap. Time to get it out in the open. The Book Recommendations. Some are new reads, some are old favourites, some are pretentious classics and some are derisively mocked. But they’re all brilliant. These are just the top ten, but beware that I shall be sending y’all a great long list of everything I love sooner or later.

1. The Outsiders by SE Hinton You will laugh, you will weep, you will want to keep reading after you have finished reading the last page that has brought you and the characters right back to where you started. Don’t be put off by the odd names such as ‘Ponyboy’ and ‘Sodapop’. The story is compelling and emotional, and the voices of the characters are just so likable, even when they do the most terrible things and break your heart.
2. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf I read this just last month and it is simply beautiful. The language she uses is so decadent and generous, yet she still manages to convey every motion and concept in the most concise, sensible manner. The narrative covers just one day of Clarissa Dalloway’s life, full of tangents and delicious details, and by the time you reach the end, and read that last line, you’ll just want to cry with relief and misery and pity and joy all at once.
3. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman I should hope you’ve all read this already, because it’s just one of the best stories you’ll ever come across. It’s poetic and lyrical, full of rich, vibrant description with some quantum physic science fiction fantasy thrown in. Plus the characters, plot, challenging philosophical questions and armoured bears do rather help.
4. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith Oh this book. When they ask me on Desert Island Discs in fifty years which book I’ll take with me, it’ll have to be this. I really did cry through the last three pages. The story is told by Cassandra, honest and naive, who writes in her journals the account of her sister Rose’s engagement, and the misadventures that befall them. Poor Cassandra. She doesn’t deserve what she’s left with at the end; she’s good and kind, and you will just want to bundle her up and cry with her.
5. Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson So sue me. This book is hilarious and charming, even if it is aimed at eight year olds. Ah it’s just so funny and cute and well-written and adventurous and quiet and imaginative and full of lovely characters and loaded with wit. The ultimate banter-fest. Seriously. Give it a try.
6. Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome Don’t be put off by their weird old-fashioned names. Arthur Ransome wrote books about the holiday adventures of children in the Lake District, most of which involved boats and tents, and Swallows and Amazons was the highlight of his career, in my personal opinion. Remember when we used to play war, and we had bases and battles and tactics and things? That’s what these kids do. Now read the book.
7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen Being the educated bourgeois dog that you are, you’ll have read this already, possibly for your GCSE English Lit coursework. Lots of people find Jane Austen tricky to get into, but Pride and Prejudice is the easiest way in. It’s witty and beautifully told, and Lizzy-and-Darcy is just so perfect a couple you can’t help but feel delighted and desperate all the way through.
8. Howards End by EM Forster I just finished reading this last week, and it is totally brilliant, right up until the last word. What makes it so sublime and worthwhile is how it is full of seemingly unrelated events, each important in their own right, but each mundane in the course of the novel itself; however, by the time you hit the last chapter, you truly see how everything fits together perfectly, and the sense of relief that everything has ended as it should is just overwhelming.
9. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières A tragic and beautiful love story set during the War. Antonio is an occupying Italian soldier, Pelagia is a local Greek girl on the island of Cephalonia. The book begins with a sweet anecdote telling how Dr Iannis managed to extract a dried pea from a patient’s ear. Nuff said.
10. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien There are no words. I actually chose this one for the list over Harry Potter, and that tells you something. This is the ultimate adventure story, and, being the fantasy junkie that I am, this is probably my favourite of all. It’s not just the books that make themselves worth reading, although the story is exciting and wonderfully crafted; it’s the fact that the whole world and it’s many languages and cultures have been intricately constructed by one man. A truly magnificent feat of fiction.

Harry Potter is not on there. I apologise, but if you haven’t read it already, I don’t think that even I would be able to persuade you. My next post will be an extra long list of my must reads. Then we shall go back to happiness and the meaning of life. See ya later.

Thursday, 24 November 2011


Having posted one of my favourite poems on this blog, I realised I didn’t really know very much about its background. I opened up a new window and typed in the address of my good friend Wikipedia. And at the bottom of a lovely little history of the poem, which included some nice stories about how it was found in a church and making the top four, there was a solitary little line that simply read, “Many parodies exist.”

How could I resist.

Within seconds I was googling ‘parodies of Desiderata’ and clicking on the first result. “Deteriorata!” it declared. I read. I wept. I laughed. I recommend.

It’s the chorus that really does it for me. If you haven’t already heeded my recommendation and read the poem, it goes like this:

You are a fluke
Of the universe.
You have no right to be here.
And whether you can hear it or not
The universe is laughing behind your back.

In a way, it’s even better than the original, because it’s just so flawlessly human: sarcastic, dry, and morbid. For all my nattering about seeing the beauty in life, laughing at shit is a lot of fun too.

And the bit that goes, “For a good time call 606-4311; ask for "Ken"” is also really funny.

P.S. In case you were wondering, I’ve decided on minimum twice a week, once during the week and once at the weekend. Plus anytime I am inspired in between. Seem reasonable?

Monday, 21 November 2011


Post every two days? Too often? Not often enough? Remotely possible or unrealistic (I see you all there shaking your heads doubtfully . . .)?

Anyways, I promised I would post y'all a little bit of my poetry. You're lucky I was lying because my poetry is atrocious and I don't think I shall let you see any ever. However, I would be delighted to share other people's with you. This one is a particular favourite of mine. It's by Max Ehrmann, written in the late 1800s, and it's sort of a life lesson in how to keep yourself cheerful. (Enter Noa and her blog on how to be cheerful. Violently grabs poem and posts it all over the internet in an annoying and preachy way).

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
And remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender
Be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
And listen to others,
Even the dull and the ignorant;
They too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
They are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
You may become vain and bitter;
For always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
It is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
For the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
Many persons strive for high ideals;
And everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
For in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
It is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
Gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
Be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
No less than the trees and the stars;
You have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
Whatever you conceive Him to be,
And whatever your labours and aspirations,
In the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
It is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

I could basically stop writing this blog now. That poem literally sums it all up. But I shan't, because I've been enjoying writing again. Until next time, my darlings.

Saturday, 19 November 2011


I'M SORRY, OKAY. I had GCSEs and then two months in Israel and then Year 12 started and suddenly I'm a sixth former (by the way it's INCREDIBLE; for the first time ever I'm actually enjoying school) and my life became a bit chaotic. But the other day I remembered something, which is that I love writing, so I thought I'd start doing a bit more of it. Hence: NEW POST.

I was going to show you all a little of my most recent creative stuff, because that's mostly what I've been doing lately - it's the deadline for my school's creative writing competition AND the short story competition on Monday. Shit I have like two days to get all my pieces finished. But really, I just feel bad that I haven't been telling you why I'm happy at the moment. SO here are a few little things.

1. I'm happy because I'm not sad. This week has been a bit turbulent (not going to tell you why, sorry) and it's starting to look UP.
2. The background of this blog matches the ‘November’ page of my calendar. Sorry. Just thought everyone should know.
3. It's nearly my birthday. Okay, fine, it's still over a month away, but I'm allowed to get excited.
4. The book I'm reading is FANTASTIC. It's Howard’s End by EM Forster, and it’s simply beautiful. It’s just one of those books where the words are chosen flawlessly, the plot is compelling, the philosophy is challenging, and the characters are enigmatic and likeable. Honestly and truly, it is one of the most perfect books I have ever read.
5. Despite it being mid-November, the sky is cheerfully being blue and it’s crisp but not cold. My rabbit is in his hutch and he’s not looking all grumpy and miserable.

I feel that I’ve at least partially redeemed myself, so now I can go and start my History essay without that enormous guilty burden hanging over me, like the sixteen-ton weight in Monty Python (I really did have an inexplicable sense that it would fall on me if I didn’t post something right this minute). Anyway, soon I shall write you a poem. It might be better if you didn’t read it because my poetry is invariably ghastly, but there you go. There’s just no escaping some things.