It’s back to blog post with song titles! Play spot-the-obscure-song with me, actually, this is not so obscure, but I was listening to Operation Ivy this morning and it seems appropriate to my mood.

I’ve been being very good recently and have been reading more non-fiction. I find it far too easy to just read Warhammer novels and other light stuff, but I’ve been trying to challenge myself a bit more. I’ve recently been really enjoying Fringe, and I’ve just started watching Dollhouse, they both have a lot more obvious science elements than my usual TV fare does so I’ve been supporting them by starting to read science books, an odd thing for a literature graduate. I’m struggling through The Science of Discworld, which I am enjoying when I can understand it. I like the bits about space a lot though, that was always my favourite bit in physics at school. The chemistry bits are less good. I will try to read the follow-up books, but slowly. My next thing is to try to read A Brief History of Time, intimidating as that is.

Other good things happening are me keeping up with my resolutions, I’ve been updating my blog and spending time thinking about new posts.  I have more or less finished my personal statement, it just needs checking and then I’ll be ready to start applications. I have also discovered that I should be eligible for a career Development Loan, not that I really want to take out a loan for my MA, but library school is beckoning. Lastly, I have a meetup of people from the LIS New Professional forum next week, basically people who work in libraries are going to sit in a pub and chat. With my limited social life this sounds like the best thing ever, I’m very excited and hope to get to drink gin and talk about books.


Library book reviews (1)

Managing Stress and Conflict in Libraries

Sheila Pantry

The text is clear and easy to read, though sometimes overly simplistic, for example the advice to call 999 in an emergency, though when dealing with legislation this is useful as a counterpoint to legal jargon. The case studies male for interesting reading, especially seeing the various ways different libraries have dealt or not dealt with cases of bullying at work, it seems obvious that bullying among members of staff is much more difficult to deal with than aggression from users. The suggestions to deal with bullying and aggression are useful, and it is nice to have the information of the various help groups and legislations in one place. There is an emphasis on transparency and good communication which seems very sensible, and many of the measures proposed sound sensible. However, it feels like this book would be more useful as a reference tool after an incident has occurred, or for higher level employees attempting to prevent incidents taking place than for most staff in day to day cases.


Cataloguing without Tears

Jane Read

I’ve recently been really enjoying the bits of cataloguing I’ve been able to do, and so read this book to try to get a broader knowledge of cataloguing, what I know so far is very haphazard and specific. My random choice was perfect, this book is readable, simply laid out, has a whole section on why to catalogue and how cataloguing developed, as well as more in-depth discussion of different cataloguing types and techniques. It seems to have been written for a complete beginner, which is what I am, and the sparing use of jargon, with a glossary of abbreviations at the beginning, both made the book feel very accessible. The made up examples, notably the imaginary novel ‘Dentures of Desire’ made the facts stick more easily, a clever technique, though there were also real examples of hard to catalogue items, such as unknown foreign languages and formats other than books. As well as being a surprisingly enjoyable read this book would also be useful as a reference, if not for the specifics of each way of cataloguing, at least of useful resources and a reminder of why cataloguing is done the way it is.

Mini Reviews – horror, heroes and angst

Self Made Man by Poppy Z Brite – I’ve tried to read Popy Z Brite’s work in the past, because I know her reputation as an amazing and controversial writer, but it didn’t really work, I didn’t even get the whole way through Swamp Foetus, I think I found it too brutal. This time was totally different, yes, several of the stories in Self Made Man are very brutal, especially basically the whole of the title story, heavily influenced by Jeffery Dahmer, but with a bit of a cult horror twist that was unexpected but really interesting. In some ways Brite’s writing reminds me of the feeling Angela Carter’s stories in The Bloody Chamber have, though more overtly erotic, in some cases pornographic, there is the same dark beauty among the grusomeness, it’s just that for Brite the ratios are reversed so that the violence is more explicit than in Carter’s fairy stories. Brite’s own fairy story is of course the one where the similarities are most obvious, King of Cats works as a homosexual reimagining of a classic story because it doesn’t present the homosexual relationship as deviant or even really worth commenting on, it simply is. The only problem I have with Self Made Man is that several of the stories are about recurring characters from Brite’s novels, which I have not read. Much as I appreciate the stories on their own there is none of the pleased recognition of a character which I could have had, but the fact that the stories do work on their own with no previous knowledge being needed is a compliment to the accessibility of Brite’s writing, if not always of her sometimes rather unsubtle scenarios.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by John Chobsky, is in some ways the opposite of Poppy Z Brite’s short stories, the actions that drive most of the plot are subtle, not emerging until the very end, and even then there is a understatedness to the reveal, there is a climax but it feels more as if the whole novel has been one long denouement. I had always known of Wallflower without actually really knowing what it was about, only knowing it has a reputation for having a really good ‘soundtrack’, and it does, reading it made me want to listen to The Smiths, to Nirvana, bands that were important for me at the same age as they are important to the protagonist Charlie, even if I was that age nearly 10 years later, perhaps there is a universality of being an awkward teenager. I found the whole novel very easy to read, I read it in a day, reluctant to do anything else, and very affecting, the epistolary nature of the novel means that the ‘dear friend’ letters are addressed directly to the reader, making it very personal, I did end up in tears a couple of times. Despite that it is a very happy novel, when the group of friends are having fun it seems unselfconscious, they seem the type of people you could really be friends with, by no means perfect or even always nice, and it’s full of little recurring in-jokes, for example about celebrity interviews which create the feeling of belonging between Charlie and the reader that has strives for throughout the novel.

Soon I Will Be Invincible, by Austin Grossman, is also obsessed with the theme of inclusion and belonging, or lack of it. This is not surprising as the narrators are a literal mad scientist and a cyborg with no memory of her previous life, struggling to adapt to life on a superhero team. The novel contains so many parallels with classic DC and Marvel comics that it is almost a game of “spot the parallel hero”, as well as containing many superhero tropes, I only found this distracting when it came to Fatale, the cyborg who could be Justina Robson’s Lila Black character taken from Keeping It Real and given a new name. Despite this found Invincible to be an incredibly fun read, the way the best comics should be, but also it is though-provoking, I found Doctor Impossible an utterly tragic character, in the classic sense, he is so bound by the tropes of the evil genius, even while he is aware of them he is almost totally unable to avoid them, constantly nearly telling other characters his cunning plan. However, the most interesting character by far was Lilly, villain turned hero and the only really morally ambiguous character, by the end of the novel I felt I was as unknowing about her motivations as at the start, but not in an annoying way, it was pure mystery rather than bad writing. Despite the novel’s awareness of the grim-and-gritty direction comics have taken, acknowledging it in places, Invincible was a fun read in a way that the frustrating love/hate relationship I have with DC cannot compare, a loving homage to a genre as well as a good standalone novel.

BBC meme

I just found this, so, lets see how well read I am (read in bold, started in italics):

The BBC apparently believes most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here:

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare – read maybe 8 or 9
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy.
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth.
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt.
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

That has to be over half, and then some started but not finished, mostly because I didn’t like them. What a surprise that most of the ones I’ve read are either children’s literature or classics, or both combined. I was surprised to see no Virginia Woolf at all, I thought everyone had at least read Mrs Dalloway. There’s quite a few books on there I still really need to read, though The Bell Jar may be too depressing as holdiay reading. Still, I have reassured myself that yes, I have read a lot of the canon, at least according to the BBC.

Writer’s Block 2

‘If you could go back in time to another decade, which decade would you choose and why? Would you want to return or stay there? What if you could bring one other person with you?’

This is easy, it would obviously be the 1890’s. Hopefully I’d still be in London too, perfectly poised to be on the edges of the fin du siecle, I’d be able to read all the amazing literature as it was happening, and of course I would be a New Woman, maybe even writing for journals myself, or editing one. I’d be a suffragette too, of course, and would probably be doing everything I could to combine the decadent and the political lifestyles, and also possibly being arrested for stalking Oscar Wilde  or Algernon Charles Swinburne.

I would want to stay there, but that would mean living through the 1900’s, which would be good from a political perspective at least, but knowing that WWI was coming up, though hopefully I’d not be too old when Virginia Woolf’s early work started coming out. I wouldn’t need to bring anyone with me, I’d be having enough fun on my own.

Writers Block 1

‘Which character from any film, television show, or book would you most like to take on a date and why?’

We got asked this question in my very first English Lit lesson at college, then I said Dorian Gray, to the confusion of many people, especially my teacher. I still totally would go out with him, it would be an amazing night, even if the aftermath was all kinds of horrible.

Now, I’d love to go to a gig with Dr Alison Mann from Y: The Last Man, but when she was a young punk girl rebelling against everything and every one, while still being inceredibly intelligent. She’s amazing as an older woman, but far too intimidating, but she’d be great fun when she was my age, and so sweet. The other one, also far too intelligent for me, Dr Spencer Reed from Criminal Minds (apparently I have a thing for doctors).  He’s actually a genius, has really nice hair, is a total geek and we could have fun conversations about gruesome things, awesome.

Excuses, excuses

I’ve been really crap with updating recently, again I’m going to blame work, job-hunting and being ill. However, this will change, and I will post at least once a week, even if it’s rubbish, until it stops being rubbish and I finally start having something meaningful to write.

On that note, here is something I came accross via StumbleUpon which really made me laugh, especially all the Jane Austin titles: Book Titles If They Were Written Today.

A new and old experiment

My old experiment, my fanzine, is over. I’ve tried really hard to keep up with it, but I just don’t have the enthusiasm for it any more. I know a lot of that is due to the fact I don’t have the time for it any more, now I have a job. So, that is over, and it failed, though in the next few weeks I will post some of the articles and reviews I wrote for it, I don’t want to waste them, and I’m proud of some of them

Instead, I have a new experiment. The plan has always (read, since I decided I didn’t want to be a teacher) been to work for a year while I apply for an MA, then go back to university for an MA of some sort, either English Lit, hopefully followed by a PHD, or Library Studies, hopefully followed by a job as a librarian. At the moment I am leaning towards the English route, and have been looking at MAs, there are several Victorian Studies ones that I am very interested in, both in London and out of it. Upcoming members of family moving to various areas of the north of England have made me following them seem sensible, especially as it is cheaper, but ultimately I’ll be ruled by course choice over everything. I’m going to make my application the best I can, so I’ve started my research already, to make sure I know as much as I can about the courses I’ll be applying for, and the application process.

The preparation for uni has also taken a different form. As I’m considering a Victorian Studies MA it makes sense for me to be reading Victorian literature, but for the last couple of months I’ve been totally reading for pleasure, lots of comics, sci-fi, fantasy and pulp fiction, with lots more ‘literary’ books as well, but all of them post-1960’s at least. I’d been worried about getting out of touch with Victorian literature, and resolving ‘I’ll start reading more Victorian lit after I finish this book’… Luckily, I have been jolted from my procrastinating, by a book of course. I bought Elaine Showalter’s A Literature of Their Own the other day, it’s something I’ve read bits of in classes and wanted to read the whole thing, and only one chapter in it’s done the job.

I have resolved to keep a reading diary, and each week I have to read at least one book that I think will be useful to my course. It doesn’t have to be Victorian, theory and earlier and later books are fine, as are all genres, but I must read one book that isn’t obviously nothing to do with what I will be studying. I’m going to dig out all the random classics I’ve acquired and not read yet, the Arnold Bennet one will be interesting, considering how scathing Woolf was of him, and I have a list of more minor Victorian authors to keep and eye out for as well. To help today I bought some Ruskin and a collected edition of modern women’s poetry, as well as A.S. Byatt’s Elementals, not Victorian at all, but perhaps rather inspired by some work of the fin du siecle, so that’s ok. It’s the first entry in my reading diary too.

Hopefully, by the time I get to uni I’ll have read over 50 books related to my course, I even before I find out what the reading lists for it actually are, I am super prepared. Forcing myself to keep some sort of academic frame of mind will be really useful, I just wish I knew someone I could actually talk to about some of the books I’ll be reading. I forsee this blog having lots of reading-related ramblings, I’m really looking forward to it.

A cup of tea, a bath, and a nice book

Recently I was telling a friend how I was going to have a cup of tea, a bath and read aromance book, we found it amusing how much I was fitting into the stereotype of the intelligent, introverted girl, probably single, maybe ‘alternative’, to be honest there are similarities with the stereotype of the old lady, and I fulfil this too to some extent, I really do drink gin and tonic, and I do knit and sew, and I like cats and poetry. I really do tend to prefer staying in and reading, the othe night there was a concerted effort to get me to go to a club, it failed and I spent the evening reading Aurora Leigh, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Especially recently I have been noticing how introverted I really can be, mostly because I have been going out a lot, I’m back at uni now, and especially last week I ended up in the pub with my friends nearly every day, and it was great, but it was exhausting. It was supposed to be, it is all part of my new resolution of keeping busy, but the weekend of hardly leaving the house and working my way through the reading for this week at uni and my dissertation was nice.

I’ve always had reading as a major occupation, there was a time in secondry school where I didn’t really have any friends, but I didn’t mind because I always had a book, so, sitting outside in all weathers as we weren’t allowed in school during lunch, I became known as ‘the girl with a book’. I confused one of my teachers at college when they asked what I was reading and I showed them Lolita, maybe they thought at that even at 16 it was a bit unsuitable.  Even earlier, at primary school, I would sometimes stay in the classroom on my own to read or draw, rather than go out to play, and I really did read under the covers with a torch. Nothing much has changed, I still always have a book in my bag, at the moment I am reading Aurora Leigh, The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf and The Virgin in the Garden by A.S. Byatt. Reading three books at once isn’t unusual for me.

Doing an English degree is amazing, the other day I had dinner with a friend and we talked about children’s literature for most of the meal, someone else who grew up on a mix of Victorian and 1950’s childrens books, and most of my friends carry books around with them. I’m sad about leaving the degree for itself, but I’m also sad to be leaving the experience of being around people nearly as obsessive about reading as me.I’m going to miss writing about books, I forsee this blog getting very full of literary stuff, mini-essays, my discoveries of new authors that have been dead a hundred years.

It scares me that in just over a year and a half I’ll be a teacher, trying to teach 11-16 year olds that Shakespeare isn’t as boring as they assume he is and poetry isn’t a load of old-fashioned rubbish. Of course all the poetry I most love is old-fashioned, and when it comes to prose I’ll either be corrupting them with Jeanette Winterson and Sarah Waters, or boring then with the Brontes, Jane Austin and Oscar Wilde. Well, maybe not, I think the National Curriculum will stop that, rather than enraged parents.

Still, next month my friends and I are starting a book club, so I’ll be supposed to rant at them about books I love, especially as were starting with a Sarah Waters book, Affinity. My least favourite of hers, but an amazing book,and certainly one I can talk about for ages. We’re going to have wine and cake and books, and I can see that stretching out for the rest of my life, only with more tea and cats as well, until I become a crotchety old teacher, surrounded by cats, still trying to make a load of 16 year olds appreciate Tennyson and Browning. It doesn’t sound too bad, tame maybe, but I’ve always said I’d rather be respected in my field than famous.

Course Choices

Since last posting I have been working on more stuff for this blog, but what I thought would be a quick entry has taken on a life of its own, and is not ready at all, in fact I have no idea where it’s going, unfortunately. However, I have had my course choices for third year, and the reading lists for most of them as well, so I’ve begun buying and reading books, which is exciting.

One of my units is called Contemporary Writing, we study books published only in 2008, none of which I have heard of which is awful, it shows how out of touch with literature I am, as I’m sure if it were comics I’d know them all and have read a proportion of them. With literature I get a bit stuck if it’s after about 1935 and not sci fi or Neil Gaiman. However, this is kind of good, I need to widen what I read, and both previous years I’ve discovered new people because of uni (Katherine Mansfield <3)

Also good is the fact that the last three weeks are student choice, we have to persuade the lecturer’s what books are worth studying. Last year Alison Bechdal’s Fun Home was part of the same course, but this year there aren’t any graphic novels, so I’m going to try to get us to study one, they’re a perfectly respectable medium after all. The question is now – what? So far the only idea I’ve had is Brian K Vaughan and Nico Henrichon’s Pride of Baghdad, but that was published in 2006, so it’s not recent enough. I think this is definitely the sort of question I should be asking the internet.