A Modern Cinderella Story

It’s my first day off in a week, so I thought I’d have a nice lazy breakfast. I made scrambled eggs on a bagel, and had a little greek yoghurt, blackberries and honey. I was sat at my laptop, reading a variety of articles on the news, when I stumbled across a story about a seventeen year old boy who was talent spotted by a fashion scout, plucked from obscurity, and made the face of the infamous fashion house, Prada. I was astonished, frankly. You can read the story here

Alexander Beck (1)

A cinderella story that really, seems to have happened. I mean, the boy worked in his local fish and chip shop. And then found himself modelling haute couture. That’s really not something that happens everyday. In fact, it happens hardly anywhere. The whimsy of the whole situation is kind of amusing; he was found whilst out shopping one day, in Waterstones. That’s not just something that will happen to anyone; that’s the kind of things that makes you into kind of, a somebody. It must be an unbelievable shock; to go from dressing for school in ten minutes, to the make up and glitter, fittings and so on. The world he had known must have quite literally, exploded around him. But it must have been completely, and utterly, incredible.

I like hearing these stories, because they remind you that there is some hope; if it can happen to a guy who works in a chip shop, it could happen to the shy little girl in glasses, and it could happen to you, because well, why the hell not? I like the idea of looking like somebody, and just suddenly, being a major player in the model world. It would be any little girl’s dream. And there are thousands of models who spend years of their lives applying to agencies like FM, and are constantly told that they don’t have ‘the right look’. There’s no such thing as a ‘right look’, only a momentarily ‘right look’; but these girls and boys all live and die on what these agencies have to say about them. I suspect to have come so far, so fast, must be a dream come true, or just plain, blind, luck.

His shoots with Vogue Homme are supposed to be published in the spring, and I definitely cannot wait to see how he looks; Kate Moss was seventeen when she first broke out, too. Perhaps we’ve met our next Kate Moss. Fashion fans will know it’s kind of like a symbolic second coming of the Messiah; a sign of new blood, and a new way of looking at things.

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(1) http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSrfeGHAb7yDrl6Ze2wU-8MJM0FP9uRqqXosmmMvOPfyp3gVO5Jdb9oyLpI

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I’m Late, Again, But I’m Not Sure What For…

So today I’ve been in a completely excellent, and wonderful mood. I’ve been a shiny happy person, bouncing about, making milkshakes for people, taking puppies for walks, going above and beyond for guests at work… All is well with the world. I like that; especially when you feel so good about yourself that you want to be nice to people. I like making people happy, if I can.

I’ve even managed to not eat rubbish, and I’ve been to the gym. I feel like a little superhero. I bought myself a preposterously extravagant new mid-year diary too. I love it, because it is just completely beautiful. The cover feels precious, and I’m one of those people who adores pretty stationary, and filling in the information in the front is quite possibly the most exciting thing, well, ever.

Everyone knows what I mean. The excitement of fresh paper can’t ever be rivaled by digital takeovers, and sometimes you must have a piece of equipment that doesn’t rely on a battery pack, or need an extra charger. Holding onto a physical object is quite comforting, and scribbling things down is satisfying. Ticking things off on a Blackberry simply isn’t as extravagant as scribbling it off with a pretty pen, in a pretty book. There’s a sense of romance surrounding the concept of the diary, and the ability to write in it. It is personal in a way that software is not.

This is of course, the trouble with all this eco-friendly work. There’s no romance in electricity, and there’s no personality in a Microsoft software package. Paper gave us a sense of age, and of character, because we used handwriting, and tucked our favourite photos inside them, and made them ours. OneNote is a fantastic academic program, and there’s no doubt that it has made my filing system much, much more efficient. But a pretty diary is special; it might be materialistic, and I’m sure that the environment objects to my using of a diary. But I cannot ignore such a prominent sense of nostalgia that I associate with beautiful paper, and colourful patterns. It’s a permanent record of a period of your life, and the fact we haven’t got time to write down our trivialities anymore is quite shocking.

Everything is to-go. I am always running about, thinking where I have to be next. We don’t really sit down, and just, well, be there. At least not without thinking about something else. There are a million to do lists tucked away inside my head. And I’m always planning a new project and most of the time I haven’t quite finished the first, which is why I have half a room dedicated to ‘graveyard of projects past’. There’s so much to do, and it seems like there’s so little time.

And I realise it’s terribly trivial, and that diaries do not create time. But seeing those pages spread out before you provides you with a sense of perspective; there is a physicality to when things will be done, and when you will be able to do things. I think that perspective is worth all the money in the world.

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.

– Oscar Wilde

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Fifty Shades of Frustration

I’ve come to the conclusion that if I am to hear the end of this Fifty Shades of Grey business, I will have to just read it. Bite the bullet; rip off the plaster. That kind of thing. Some of our fellow bloggers have condemned the latest literary craze, for being critically appalling, overusing colloquialisms, and following a theme that borders on the sexually deranged. So today I went to the supermarket and bought it.

And God help us, there’s two more…(1)

It’s sat upstairs in my bedroom like a ticking time-bomb. It’s staring up at me, on my bed. And I can’t quite bring myself to open the first page. I did randomly open the novel, to read only two words. “Holy crap.” This sentence, I must say, has not filled me with much hope. Neither has the description of ‘Mommy porn’. And neither has the theme of domination and submission. Sex scenes are rarely well written, and I have to hope that the critics have been wildly inaccurate about E.L James’s multi-million dollar novel.

That’s another problem, in itself. The fact that the novel was made for a multi-million dollar industry. Novelists in the nineteenth century never really concerned themselves with making millions through literature; they wrote in magazine supplements and were published in installments. There was no such thing as a one-hit wonder. If the first installment was unsuccessful then they wouldn’t be commissioned again. E.L. James wrote to shock, supposedly. But she didn’t write for love. This was almost certainly a case of love over money.

If anything, that’s what kind of offends me about modern novelists. There are two categories, really. The ‘people-pleasers’, and the people who write because they have something real and important to say. People do not tend to read the classics. They read purely for pleasure as opposed to education, and there is nothing wrong than that. It’s just that they’re missing out. And whilst I’m pleased that Mrs. James need never work again, I have a feeling that I’m going to be rather disappointed in her.

But time will tell; I’ll let you know how the project goes.

(:

(1) http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02251/shades-of-grey_2251523b.jpg

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Falling In Love: The Writer’s Life

Now, writing a novel has always been a dream of mine. In fact, it’s on my bucket list. I have a plan. And a very detailed character list. And a blow-by-blow plan of every twist and every element in the novel. There is nothing in the novel that isn’t in the plan, and I have begun, this summer to write the chapters. Y’know, the fundamental basis of the novel; the text. And I find it something that it is very hard to do part-time.

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I’m working at the moment, however when I’m not working, at three o’clock in the morning for instance, I find myself perusing the ten thousand words I’ve already written, scratching my head, and wondering how I can improve the novel, the characters, and the flow of the novel. It’s a job I’ve always dreamed of having. Writing, is the only job I can really imagine doing; and thus this very blog, which is almost a year old now, was born.

I can imagine myself, in five years or so, in a house which has an office stuffed full of books, a comfortable desk chair, and my laptop. I could contentedly work there, for ten hours or so a day, writing down all the stuff my rather expansive imagination comes up with. I would blog, at the same time, and perhaps write commissioned pieces, editorials, and do some editing work too. I could travel; laptops are rather portable, as are ideas. Travel produces ideas, and creates different perspectives. One of my biggest ambitions is to spend six months or so, travelling around South America, and writing about it. Combining two of my favourite pastimes, it would be one of the best years of my entire life.

But anyway, I’m working on the novel. It’s gonna be interesting, and has a historical aspect that I like, because I am intensely interested in both of the World Wars, and the impact it had on families and their dynamics. I hope it’ll be something I look back on in a few years, and call it my first good thing; my first successful venture into the world of publishing. I hope that comes true, and I can imagine spending all my free time writing, because that’s all I’ve ever really wanted to be, or do.

There are some problems, with the writer’s life though; the first is that you have no externally imposed structure, and so you have to be well-disciplined, and able to commit yourself to work, even when there are a variety of distractions around you. The second is writer’s block. I’ve had a few weeks recently, where there was nothing I could say. I couldn’t write anything worth a dime. But then I caught a cold, and spent a week at home, watching old episodes of Friends, and all of a sudden, I remembered why I wanted to be an author. And when my new laptop came, and I did the thing, you know, where you sort out all the old files on your computer,I found the drafts and plans I made for a novel, about a year ago. And with nothing else to do with my time, I decided to start writing it again.

And frankly, it’s been the best four days of the summer, so far. Despite the raging cold, and an ability to talk like Darth Vader.

(:

(1) http://cjwriter.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/fountain_pen.jpg?w=600

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Lolly Willowes, Sylvia Townsend Warner

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As I have mentioned before, I got my second year reading list a few weeks ago. And so, with due resignation, I signed on to Amazon, and ordered nearly forty novels, that comprises the entirety of the second year of university. My novels arrived and I was rather pleasantly surprised to find Lolly Willowes on my reading list. Unlike many of the novels for the upcoming year, it is rather short, and in comparatively simple prose. It isn’t overtly dense with meaning, because superficially it seems as though it is just a story about a sheltered woman, living in a tiny village, who becomes a witch.

However, I was asleep one night, and I ended up dreaming about the novel, imagining Lolly as a witch. The novel explores not just the parameters of the family unit, but also looks into ideas about marriage and the stigma of spinsterhood. Spinsterhood remains stigmatised even today, whoever was a much more obvious issue at the time of writing, 1926. The novel also discusses the idea of feminism in a rather oblique fashion. By empowering Lolly to go out into the world, alone, Sylvia Townsend Warner created a novel that supported Woolf’s rather more explicit literature, that also empowered women to go out into the world. The novel is significant in its own right, because of the subliminal message of strength it puts across. However it transcends into a network of early twentieth century literature, becoming a part of a literary network that also included Woolf, Mansfield, and other great female modernist writers.

The novel is not a modernist text in terms of linguistic style. It is written in the form of the Victorian novel, following a traditional structure in terms of time constraints, and character construction. This can be related to the fact that the novel itself is set in the patriarchal society of Victorian England. Lolly’s life, up until her move to Great Mop, is controlled by her brother, who represents the height of patriarchal control within England. Lolly is often considered as being passed around, almost as a package of no consequence. By moving along, and reclaiming herself, she becomes a woman in her own right, outside the control of her brother.

Conversely however, Lolly does fall under the influence of another male persona; Satan himself, disguised as a friend. By her assumption of his control over her, something that is never quite clarified for the reader, we see a necessity of patriarchy that structures all of Lolly’s actions. Whilst she is free, and has come under the influence of Satan somewhat willingly, there is still an echo of patriarchal society underpinning her world view.

The power dynamic that exists between Lolly and Satan is extremely interesting, because he is a kind of optional and yet inevitable patriarchal influence. There is a degree of resignation throughout the last couple of chapters in the novel, resigning Lolly to Satan’s eternal influence. To this extent, we can question the feminist tone that flows throughout the novel, and the extent to which it is effective.

If anything however, Lolly Willowes is very entertaining!

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(1) http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Books/Pix/covers/2012/3/12/1331563702226/Lolly-Willowes-Virago-Modern.jpg

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On The Canvas

The subject of piercings is often a contentious one, especially when raised between parents and children. The same sort of thing goes for tattoos. Parents as a rule do not tend to agree with offspring putting holes in their eyebrows, lips, nipples, and so forth. I have managed to work my way around this by saying that I won’t ever get any tattoos, or facial piercings. Piercings below the neck are accepted with a degree of derision, repulsion and disapproval, however on the whole, tend to pass without being commented upon.

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In a professional sense, I think they ought not be on show to your boss. There are boundaries, however I think that as long as they’re covered, anyone ought to be allowed to alter their body in any way they might want to. It’s an artistic licensing issue. We all have one beautiful canvas given to us at birth, and by the age of eighteen, we are granted the ability to put whatever we so wish on and through our skin. It’s kind of beautiful, if you think about it. Anyone can look as they want to. Nobody has any real right to change the way you look, except you.

I like the idea of being an individual. It depends on you, I think. Everything is beautiful, as long as it’s yours, your idea.

(:

(1) http://www.amazingtattoo.info/data/media/11/tattoo_model_search.jpg

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This Writer’s Block Shows No Sign Of Letting Up

So things are just a little different at the moment. I seem to be leaving a trail of destruction behind me.  I’m exhausted, because I’ve dived straight back into working long shifts, and I find myself confronted with some rather horrible realisations, especially related to my future, and the path I seem to be following. Or as I like to put it, I haven’t found a path yet; I’m just stood at Clapham junction, waiting for the lights to change. I just haven’t figured it out yet, and it’s starting to affect everything, from my self-esteem, to the ways in which I approach employment, and employability.

So at the moment, I’m bumming around at home, tackling my second year reading list, brushing up on some philosophy, and working every shift I’m allowed to try to save some money up, readying myself for my climb up Kilimanjaro next year. I don’t know what it’s going to be like; I toyed with the idea of dropping out last week. However I received an email that snapped me out of my reverie: my deposit had been processed, and so without any real input from me, the deal was signed and sealed. I’m going to Kenya next June. For sure. I’m sure there’ll be a number of posts about the preparations for the mountain; it’s promising to be a daunting task, and the fundraising itself is going be to a gargantuan challenge; three thousand pounds must be raised.

Another problem I’m facing is that I can’t think of anything to write about. There’s nothing that’s attracting my attention. I seem to have run out of things to write about, because all I can think about, is me. And that’s terribly selfish, and I feel horrendously self-involved. I just don’t know what to say, and I certainly have nothing to say that would be of interest or note to a reader.

I wish I had more to say during this post, but the sad truth is that I don’t. I wish I did. But I don’t seem to be able to think about anything but the above, and I’m hoping I’ll venture back to the blogosphere again soon, hopefully with something better to write about, something a little more positive.

(:

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To Read Or Not To Read; That Is the Question

I’ve often wondered about literary opinion, and how literary opinion differs between people. Everyone understands the world in a different way to somebody else, and so naturally, they will understand literature differently too. Literature, and one’s attitude and understanding towards it, depends on experiences. Experiences of education, literature, whether you enjoyed your lessons when you were in primary school, whether you have a natural love of reading. These are all key factors in understanding what literature is, and whether you enjoy it, or despise it.

I know people who have yet to finish an entire book, and I suspect there are people who go their whole lives barely reading books and magazines. This is of course, a life choice. Whether you want to read or not is entirely up to you; education demands a certain amount of reading. If you choose a literature, or essay based degree, you’ll find reading to be nonnegotiable. Arts courses tend to be much more vocational, and this choice depends very much on the style of learning one is accustomed to.

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It’s difficult to know how you’ll feel about different kinds of literature, until you experience it. For example, I don’t like all kinds of literature. I really dislike mythical Greek and Roman texts, as well as finding James Joyce’s Ulysses utterly intolerable. Some regard it as an example of the greatest literary creation of all time. I think it is a grammatical abomination, and something that is so complicated that it begins to lose its point, because it’s completely inaccessible. Conversely however, I thoroughly enjoy T.S Eliot, who is well-known for regarding literature as an elite pursuit and past time.

Philosophy is something else that is considered highbrow, and rarely brought down to an accessible level. It is complicated because it involves thinking about the makings of the universe, and theorizing on that most illusive of characters, knowledge. However it’s less complex than some think; it’s a matter of having a good teacher and a simple reader, to introduce someone to the rudimentary elements of philosophy. There’s no need to over-complicate things, and dive straight into analysis on Plato’s dialogues.

I consider literature to be one of my greatest loves, and I consider almost everything to be literature. I think that the well-written blog can be considered literature of all sorts; some blogs can be understood as literotica, some can be understood as beautiful prose. New writing is the writing that will one day be considered classic, and will belong to the modern cannon, and so I think it’s important to look at new literature, read magazines, of all kinds; fashion, photography, literary; they’re all part of a modern culture that will, like all cultures before it, be revered by future generations.

It’s all about enjoyment, you see. Culture is formulated through the things that people enjoy; a city with a strong opera programme tends to become linked to the opera as a pursuit and therefore becomes a cultural construct. To this end, we create our own culture. I’d like to think we do, at least.

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(1) http://philosophy.uchicago.edu/workshops/_files/Philosophy-of-Mind-Workshop.jpg

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I Only Fell Over Once Today

I’m quite pleased with myself at the moment, because I got through an entire dance class this morning without once collapsing and begging to go back to sleep. I only fell over once. This is something I consider to be a huge achievement. When I began I could only tackle about twenty minutes of intensive conditioning, which is something I dare you all to try. It looks effortless, until you try it yourself, and you are transformed to a sweaty, pink, strained version of yourself. A helpful hint is that you shouldn’t look in any kind of reflective device for about thirty minutes after finishing this deceptive workout.

Easy, right? Go, on, try it. I dare you. (1)

It’s similar to Pilates, in that you scoff at people who do it, thinking that they don’t actually partake in ‘real’ exercise. I think they just work hard, knowing that they’re building muscles we didn’t know existed. Who knew about this ‘work zone’? I think it’s been a fantastically well-kept secret. Or perhaps I’m simply ignorant to such things.

As the day wore on, I felt the need to revise a multitude of English related things, whilst all the time cursing the existence of exams, and wishing we only had to do coursework to fulfill the terms of the degree. I think this is a rather faraway fantasy at the moment, however. The problem with being proficient in exam taking is that the higher education institution you attend makes you continue to take them. There are institutions across the country that increasingly use alternative methods of assessment. I, alas, do not belong to any of them.

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So I’ve been in my bedroom throughout a beautifully sunny day, on the basis that I have an entire syllabus to trawl my way through before my exam week begins. I am a little offended by the four exams that have been crammed into one working week, however it seems there’s very little I can do about it, and unfortunately moaning doesn’t seem to have any impact. I suspect that if moaning could cancel an unpleasant event, I’d have escaped many unfortunate occurrences in my lifetime.

However, I do find ways of revising that some people find incredibly boring. I write everything down, in a beautiful project book. I like to colour things in, and therefore I find it necessary to purchase a shiny new notebook, and try to make a new start when I try to revise. I also buy and write out numerous packets of beautiful key cards, that I can’t bring myself to throw away when my exams are finished because they’re just so beautiful. I find that using old text books, and so on, only serves to remind the poor student of the pain they experienced the first time they tried to learn the material. At least with new pages and new books, we can feel as though we’re starting again, instead of just going back to something that mentally feels, well, a bit dark and oppressive.

I want to wish everyone else taking exams on every level good luck, for this upcoming exam period! I’m sure you’ll all do fantastically.

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(1) http://bellevuewachiropractic.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/Pilates.jpg

(2) http://www.cartoonstock.com/newscartoons/cartoonists/rma/lowres/rman10110l.jpg

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The Road Less Travelled

Last night, I sat down, and decided to read my novel for next week; the novel in question being Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. The novel focuses on a destroyed America; a world in which commercial values and commodities have been completely destroyed, and the only living people left are either ‘the good guys’ or ‘the bad guys’. The two groups are defined; society has been reduced, in the wake of this destruction, to being composed of binary opposites; good and bad, dead or alive, starving or not.

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The world of binary opposites is something proposed in Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics. Binary opposites exist to define the world in relation to what it is not; something that is essential in McCarthy’s The Road. The child is a haunting reminder of the innocence of childhood, and the ways in which it can be affected by the nature vs. nurture environment, and is a striking example of how environment is paramount to the development of a person.

The way in which America, or the developed world is portrayed here takes us back to an almost prehistoric sense of existence. The scavenging and hiding that occurs is almost animalistic, and the country seems to reduce its inhabitants to little more than dogs, in the ways in which they try to survive. Hiding, and seeking refuge, is a part of human nature, or of the fight or flight response. This is not however limited to humans alone; animals often confront their attackers in the same way as the man in the novel, who shoots the person holding his little boy hostage.

The division between being a human and being an animal is made by way of the fact that the man remembers his wife, and the birth of his child; his ultimate role in the novel is to keep the boy safe, to protect him from harm. The harm that befalls him is primarily psychological, and represents how parents, with all the love in the world, cannot always protect their children from the world outside; this idea is not just limited to burned out pieces of America, or a world in which law has been removed; it is present throughout real life too, and the novel highlights rather acutely, how experiences befall people and how they cannot always be protected from these experiences.

The issue of paternal love then, is very prevalent throughout the novel; there is nothing the father won’t do for the child, and rather disturbingly, he has had to teach the child how to use the pistol, a symbol that runs through the novel, to commit suicide in an emergency. Self destruction is constantly debated through the novel, and the man himself often meditates on the benefits of suicide; his goal is to reach the coast, however the reasoning behind it isn’t made particularly clear; what lies ahead of them seems to be endless foraging, scavenging, seeking survival; however in such a desolate landscape, the reader simply wants to ask, “but why?”.

This term as far as novels go, has been far more rewarding than the last. I’m a huge fan of postmodern literature, and the development of modern literature often grabs my attention to a much greater extent than classical literature. The novel itself is terrifying and extremely sad; it makes a person question how they would survive under such a hostile environment. I recommend reading it, if you have an evening devoid of entertainment, especially because it’s thought-provoking, and asks questions that focus very much around the environmental crisis, and the nature of human survival in the wake of an apocalypse.

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(1) http://thewordofward.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/theroad.jpg

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