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

©

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

©

White Noise Is Rather Tough To Take…

 

White Noise by Don DeLillo was a novel I was expecting to dislike. For some reason, the front cover was repelling me, and I thought it was going to something similar to a postmodern ghost story. I was right, to a certain extent, because Don DeLillo does write a prelude to a ghost story. He maps the mentality of death, and an abject fear of what is to come, and what comes afterwards. His protagonists, Jack Gladney, and his wife, Babette, represent a kind of paralysis of mentality; their fear of death overrides their sense of everything else.

This, I think, can be considered both an advantage and a disadvantage. A disadvantage, because they live, believing that they can and will be dead at any moment; their marriage is overshadowed by a fear of the other dying, and so their petty rows, and Babette’s ‘arrangement’ with Mr Gray is insignificant, in comparison to her fear of losing the physical and emotional entity that is Jack. Therefore in many ways, the sanctity of marriage and union itself is questioned.

The cover that so unnerved me… (1)

Their sense of death however is an advantage because it allows them to explore the parameters of marriage in terms of a whole existence. Instead of a focus on small events, the couple manage to look at everything as a whole. The ‘airborne toxic event’ is not an individual disaster, and instead, the protagonist seems to focus on the impact it has on his entire life; the fact that it is shortened by this unknown threat. In some ways then, the fear of death provides a mechanism so that both protagonists can stay united by the unresolved fear.

The novel places a very heavy emphasis on the importance of technology to modern-day life. Throughout the text, phrases such as “the radio said” are used. This reminds the reader of George Orwell’s 1984, because there is an outside force that influences the character’s movement. The instantaneous information that is available through the television and radio influences the fear of death that Jack and Babette experience; unreliable information seems to only emphasize the unreliable nature of life, and the unpredictability of death. The relative power of the medical industry is also highlighted by Jack’s “brackets and stars” status. His doctor represents an omen, and therefore towards the end of the novel, Jack refuses to visit him, to find out more details of his impending death. This refusal shows a monumental step in his life, because he refuses to indulge the fear itself.

By far my favourite scene however, is when Jack shoots Mr. Gray, the man who has allegedly created the drug that removes a person’s fear of death. The shooting can be seen as an irony, because Mr. Gray represents being fearless. Therefore by causing him serious injury and plotting to kill him, he metaphorically attacks the idea of being unafraid of death. Gunshot wounds are an unnatural way to die, in the same way that it is unnatural to be unafraid of one’s own passing.

The novel itself is an interesting comment on 1980s society, especially because of the novelty value of technology at the time. I enjoyed it far more than I thought I should.

(:

(1) http://theasylum.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/whitenoise.jpg?w=470

©

 

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.

Philosophy of the Mind (1)

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.

(:

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

©

On the Publishing Industry

As far as the publishing industry goes, I know very little about it. I know that I would like to be involved in it. And I know that it is incredibly difficult to get into the big publishing companies, purely because they’re just so competitive. The problem is less about your own aptitude for something, as opposed to finding a position that will allow you to pursue the career of your choice. Because in the corporate world, your dreams are just the same as another applicant, and you both want everything in the position.

(1)

The problem is acquiring experience and having enough initiative to search for the highly competitive internships that do exist out there. I think being aware of them is part of the challenge, and then finding out where to go from there is naturally difficult, but not completely impossible. I personally felt better about the whole prospect of searching for a job after attending some employability events, and realising that networking as opposed to simply qualifications, is the way forwards.

However, a note on talent; I feel that everyone has one, and it just takes longer to come out in some people. It’s always there, and I do honestly believe, even though I am known for being a tad cynical, that everyone has something. It’s hard to compete with people who have a huge amount of talent, all the time, but I think that’s just a part of the world we inhabit today. Once upon a time, people found a career and worked in it until they retired, however today, we’ll all have a number of different careers, and we’ll be wanting to move on, and upwards in the world, until we retire. There’s more of a hunger to be rich and famous today than there ever was; we all want to be something, or someone, or at the very least, we want to be rich and famous.

I don’t really know how I will go about being somebody, however I think my business which has started well, and I hope it continues to go well, will help with this. It’s not always easy, phoning and emailing everyone you know to tell them about it, but eventually you have to be accepted somewhere; it’s a law of averages. Eventually, someone has to say “Yes!”. Eventually however, is not a specified time frame, and everyone I’ve spoken to says that perseverance is key. Networking is also key. Talking and communication is key. It’s almost comparable to the Deathly Hallows, really; the three ingredients to worldwide domination.

So there we are. I love the idea of belonging to this industry, no matter which bit of it. I’d like to be involved in PR, and maybe even consultancy, but it’s so difficult to really define what it is I’d like to do. Which is natural, and it’s why people of my generation tend to have a multitude of careers, and areas of expertise. The agony of choice; that’s what’s made our lives both more delightful, and more difficult, all at the same time.

(:

(1) http://www.consumercareinc.com/grey_business_group.jpg

©

On Waiting, and Trying Again

The problem with being a potential candidate for something, is that there are also other, potential candidates. They all want the same thing; you all have the same goal. They probably all want it just as much as you do. They probably worked just as hard on their articles as you did. They probably researched just as thoroughly, as you did too. So how can you possibly play the guessing game? You can’t, is the reality of it. Sure, you can add up the possibilities; you can endlessly rake over your work, look at things you could have done better; you can reread, as much as you like, but the reality is that you can’t change the article you’ve already submitted.

Latest photo of myself... (1)

The same sort of thing happens at job interviews, and in the case of being a student, the question is not whether you are good at your job or not, or how much experience you may have; it’s about your ability to be able to work consistently, throughout the year. And in the course of being a student, I live on the other side of the country to home. Which means that I would not be able to work during the holidays, because I have a job at home to go back to, and a family, that I like to see at least every three months. However, employers aren’t satisfied with having you for nine months of the year; if they want to hire you, they want it to be on a consistent basis. This is currently one of the challenges I am facing, in finding a job down at university; even pubs seem to be looking for permanent, and not absentee-for-three-months-a-year staff. This, coupled with the present state of the job market, makes part-time employment increasingly more difficult to obtain.

This tirade, you might say, was somewhat unprovoked; however in my little (exhausted) mind, it all made perfect sense, because I’ve been submitting applications left, right and centre. It sounds petty, and it sounds pathetic to be so cross, about this, but it’s a journey that seems futile. Having recently read Mr. Palomar as well, things are certainly feeling a bit futile; the man’s constant existentialist crisis makes me want to shout at him, and ask, (almost) politely, whether he has a real problem. A debt collector, or an illegitimate child, perhaps. Anything that would motivate him, to actually do something. And this is entirely the problem; even when you do everything, all the time, it doesn’t always work out perfectly.

But nevertheless, even though I’m not feeling optimistic today, due to a combination of being tired, my muscles hurting, and being buried under a pile of work, it will “all come to he who waits”, as my mother often says. A phrase that has annoyed me since I was about twelve years old. I hope she continues to be right; it would be beautiful timing to end the trend of “Mum is always right” now. Anyway, chin up, chuck.

(:

(1) http://www.routerfreak.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/frustration.jpg

©

The Day I Was Seduced By John Donne

The other day, I received books from home that I’d forgotten about; in particular, John Donne’s collection of selected poems. I studied the man for A Level, and whilst at the time, I resented him somewhat, because he reminded me of a long and stressful examination that was coming up, I realised today, that I had rather missed his company.

John Donne represents an age in poetry before anxiety, and before modernity began to swallow up literature as a whole. The poems are to some extent, simple representations of a world of love and sex, and of faith. John Donne’s poetry is divided into two distinct categories: the secular, and the divine; the latter was written in the later part of his life, during his time as a protestant minister. The former was written during Donne’s youth, when the man was an excellent example of Elizabethan sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.

My favourite poems tend to be the secular ones; they are playful, and imaginative, and continually toy with boundaries that no longer exist to the modern world. However in the Elizabethan period, these boundaries formed the basis of social propriety, and to Donne in the earlier part of his life, were something to be rejected, in favour of sensuality. An example of the seductive poetry is “Elegy: To His Mistress Going to Bed”. Donne states:

“To teach thee, I am naked first; why then,/What need’st thou have more covering than a man?”

John Donne in portrait (1)

If there was ever such a thing as the Elizabethan striptease, then this was it; the poem describes his mistress getting ready for bed, and undressing completely. As the above quotation states, Donne explicitly alludes to the pleasures of sensuality, and of female company. The poem is playful, and most certainly defied the education he received as a child, growing up as a devout Catholic. Donne however abandoned Catholicism in favour of Protestantism in the early seventeenth century, and was ordained as an Anglican minister in 1615.

Donne became much more contemplative after the death of his wife, Anne More, during childbirth, in 1617. The responsibilities of fatherhood to no less than twelve children, and his bereavement, led him to write poems rooted in mortality, and feelings towards God himself. Many of his later poems also focus on redemption, especially for the sins of his youth. In Holy Sonnet XIV, Donne declares:

“But I am betrothed unto Your enemy;/Divorce me, untie me, or break that know again, Take me to You, imprison me, for I,/Except You enthrall me, never shall be free,/Nor ever chaste, except You ravish me.” 

This rather striking quotation represents the shift in Donne’s perception of himself; his desire to be forgiven for his sins extends to wanting divinity to take full possession of him. The sexuality and passion that dominates his earlier poetry is matched in later work; the passion however is no longer directed towards pursuing carnal fulfillment, and instead, moves towards divine fulfillment. The passion with which Donne writes is in my opinion at least, unmatched by other poets of the period.

Undeniably, Donne was passionate; a poet who used linguistic devices to portray a passion that was by no means reserved for the page; it was a passion that dominated his adult life, and goes on to make his poetry very special. The move against formulaic expressions of romance captured my impressionable literary heart; he was a rebel, just as Oscar Wilde was, three hundred years later. There is nothing more seductive in literature as an author with no respect for boundaries.

(:

(1) http://paganpressbooks.com/jpl/DONNE25.JPG

©

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.

(1)

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.

(:

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

©

On Knowledge, Books, and Post-modernity

We all have something that we collect, something that we cherish; some people collect stamps, others collect antiques; some collect photographs, and some people just collect friends. I collect books; I have a couple of hundred of them, in all shapes and sizes. I love the “new book smell” and I love how they all sit together on my bookshelves, looking out over my room. I like the order, and the consistency; I love that they all, in one way or another, relate together, and are essentially the same. I like the continuity there.

Post-modernity however (I’ve been reading introductions to it all day), would disagree with my “unified” bookshelf; it would create “the other”. It would differentiate between genre, and the time in which it was published. Post-modernity essentially subverts the essence of an object in order to form a critique of itself, making post-modernity a paradox that cannot be unraveled, because the definition of something is the playground of its subversion. “There is nothing outside the text.”- Jacques Derrida.

Trust somebody to make a mess. It's a beautiful example of postmodern art however, by Marcus A. Jansen. This is however not quite the same as post-modernity, which has a broader focus in society and politics.

You see, I like to play with paradoxes, but the challenge I have is that I’m not logically minded; I end up having to make spider maps so I know what I mean, and what I think. The same thing applies for when I’ve read a complex essay. It seems that my brain resembles a computer; sometimes you have to use the disk defragmenter to clean up all those little nuggets of knowledge, otherwise the computer might slow down, heat up, or just outright explode. I often suspect the latter.

I spend an awful lot of time pondering how my lecturers have spent as much time as they have in the research lab; how they’ve understood all these magical things, how they’ve written groundbreaking papers about the forefront of literary criticism. I can barely understand my introductory postmodern research, and I’ve already made six diagrams about Derrida. It is humbling when you realise that you know absolutely nothing at all, in comparison with what they already know. Even they don’t know everything; nobody does, but they know more than most of us ever will do. This is mainly however because it’s their career choice; it’s what they wanted to do. I like that they can inspire you to enjoy a text purely because they’re so passionate about it that they can present you with facets of it that you couldn’t hope to find on your own.

So, back to my beautiful bookshelf. I love the order, and the tidiness of it. I like it’s superficially orderly ways. But what I like the most, and the reason that I will continue to collect them, is that behind that smoke and mirrors facade of order, and logic, is a world that can’t ever be fully dissected. It can be examined and explored hundreds of times, but no one will ever know every secret of every book. And I like that behind this simple exterior, is a rich, decadent world. But what I like the most is that by looking at this world, I will obtain a degree, alongside invaluable skills in analysis, close reading, and research. And I really do enjoy it, too.

(:

(1) http://www.contemporary-art-dialogue.com/image-files/postmodern-art-surreal.jpg

©

It’s Nice to Meet You, Mr. Hyde

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is possibly my favourite novella, and I only made this discovery on Monday night, having realised, in something of a panic, that I was due to discuss this novella in relation to Freudian psychoanalysis, the following morning, ten am sharp. So, I did what all good students do: camped out on my bed, with a big pile of pillows, and read all eighty-two pages, feverishly, and with fear of my seminar leader deep in my heart. It took about two hours.

Anyway, I finished the novella, and came to the conclusion that I had rather enjoyed it. In fact, I’d enjoyed it so much that I thought I might well read it again, just for fun. The best element though, in my opinion, is the protagonist’s ability to be himself, and yet somebody entirely different, at the same time. In some ways, isn’t this what we’d all like to be able to do? I certainly would.

Book Cover (1)

Dr. Jekyll however becomes a fantastical opposite of what he is in reality; a blood thirsty monster, subject to his own innate impulses.  It can be said however that the Jekyll that is sane, and balanced, is not the true self that exists within him; instead, it is possible that he is in fact the monstrous character of Hyde, by way of the fact that he finds these impulses within what is essentially his soul, however I use this phrase with some apathy.

This can be related to the Freudian idea of the id, ego and superego, however personally, I’m not a devout follower of this school of criticism. In fairness to the wonderful Dr. Freud though, he might have managed to save us if he’d managed to keep his appointment with Hitler. His neuroses would have allowed the man a significant case study and one heck of a field day.

In a way, the idea of having multiple personalities stored inside you is completely terrifying. There is perhaps nothing so disconcerting as this idea, because according to this hypothesis, nobody is really aware of their limits, or how far they could possibly go. This is true of life however; people are never quite aware of what they can do until they choose to push the boat out and find out. People sometimes overstep themselves, and forget their limits; they do things that damage them. However the idea that we have innumerable possibilities before us is both liberating and horrifying because we can’t ever know what we could do.

Hyde however, is far less enigmatic; he is evidently capable of unrestrained evil, murder and deception. An interesting idea however is what would happen if we could all release ourselves into this world of unmitigated impulse. This idea is reflecting, in two of my favourite texts, of course; (can you guess what they are?) The Wasteland and The Picture of Dorian Grey The latter is probably the best example however; excess, temptation, and the abandonment of restraint all seem to make rather delectable reading, at least to those who adore decadence and anarchy, like myself.

If you’re in the mood for some light horror, and an evening’s entertainment, then this is the novella for you. Especially if psychodrama tickles your taste buds.

(:

(1) https://sarahalicewaterhouse.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/read-dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde-online-free.jpg?w=224

©