books · Novels

“Board my body up. I’m not for loving. Anymore”- Love is a Half-Formed Thing

Through studying Irish fiction, I finally got around to reading Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing. After getting past the original difficulty with McBride’s stream-of-consciousness narrative, what I found was a particularly disturbing novel that has stuck with me for some time. McBride’s next novel, The Lesser Bohemians, whilst slightly less difficult to read (in no small part due to having read the first novel) and lighter in tone, shows the same disturbing attitude to sex and relationships.

After the narrator’s rape at the age of thirteen by her Uncle, her life seems to become a series of increasingly terrible ‘relationships’, if you can go so far as to call them that. At first, she appears to have control of her situation, however by the end of the novel the scenes of a sexual nature are barely readable. What the narrator of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing has in common with Eily, the narrator of The Lesser Bohemians is that their first sexual experience is all-consuming. They both feel a strong love and attachment to their first lovers, even though both experiences are less than loving. They both go out and have relations with other men before coming back again to the same one, almost as if they are destined, or doomed as the case may be, to be with them.

Reference is made frequently in The Lesser Bohemians to the concept of ‘Irish shame’, and being Irish in itself. It seems that this is defining, particularly for Eily, their sexual attitude. Although both women become far more free in sexual relationships after their initial encounters, it is shown that it is of great importance to them. Their strong attachment and unique sexual attitudes afterwards seem to show that the sexual restrictions they would have experienced as a result of their Irish background caused this.

However, the most prominent and obvious theme and the reason for the strange relationship with sex for both girls is their innocence. For the narrator of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, she is extremely young when she begins these relationships- whereas Eily is in her late teens, embarrassed at being the only virgin among her peers, and carries an embarrassment about sex for some time that does not exist in A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing because it never even had the chance to develop.

Both novels give incredible insight into the lives of their narrators and are definitely worth reading if you can get past McBride’s prose- and both will keep you thinking for some time.

books · education · Novels

The Perks of Old School Intertextuality

Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an immensely popular novel- and in essence, a coming of age novel. We’re following Charlie through his (sometimes) awkward high school years,and everything that comes along with that- the love interests, the drugs, the music, the literature.  So much literature. The character of Charlie’s teacher Bill seems to soleley exist to give him this literature, and why? Well, supposedly, because literature is enriching. It helps you grow as a person, and that is what you do, when you are coming of age. Though it isn’t just that- it’s not as if authors just throw random references to other books into their work- more so that they’re carefully chosen, specific books. If you’re going to include another author in your book, you’re essentially recommending it to your readers-so if a book is included, there’s a reason it’s in there.

Tobias Wolff’s Old School also has a great deal of intertextuality, and more interestingly, it has a book in common with Perks of being a Wallflower. This particular book is Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. Ayn Rand even appears as a character in Old School, as one of many visiting authors to the school. One of the books main themes is individualism, on which the main character comments this

For once I had a complete picture of the world: over here a few disdainful Roarks and a few icy Dominiques, meltable only by Roarks; over there a bunch of terrifid nobodies running from their own possibilities. Now and then I caught glimpses of other ideas n the novel, political, philosophcal ideas, but I didn’t think them through. It was the personal meaning that had me in thrall- the promise of great mastery achieved by doing exactly as I pleased

Charlie also reads the book, and after being encouraged by Bill to be a “filter not a sponge” gives his thoughts on it:

There was this one part where the main character, who is this architect, is sitting on a boat with his best friend, who is a newspaper tycoon. And the newspaper tycoon says that the architect is a very cold man. The architect replies that if the boat were sinking, and there was only room in the lifeboat for one person, he would gladly give up his life for the newspaper tycoon. And then he says something like this …  “I would die for you. But I won’t live for you.” Something like that. I think the idea is that every person has to live for his or her own life and then make the choice to share it with other people. Maybe that is what makes people “participate.” I’m not really certain.

It is certainly an interesting book for both authors to have chosen for their respective ‘coming of age’ stories- as both fictional readers point out, it’s a book where the main character is extremely individualistic- he is only out for himself, and all of the other characters in the novel are defined by their help/hinderance towards him, and not on their own terms. It could potentially teach the reader that it is more important to share their lives with someone else (as Charlie notes) or it could do the opposite- turning the reader into someone who is hedonistic and who only thinks about themselves, which is what the narrator of Old School takes from it. From there, a reader of Old School or Perks of Being a Wallflower could read this book for themselves, and form their own opinions from it.

In doing this, it creates an experience that you as the reader can share with the characters of the book- it is something you can have in common, having read the same book, and perhaps even the same opinions.

img_2298

 

 

 

books · Personal

“I Wander’d Lonely as a Cloud”- Windermere Wanderings and Christmas Cheer

This weekend I visited Lake Windermere- home to the Beatrix Potter museum, The Hole in T’ Wall (frequented by Charles Dickens) and one of the prettiest log benches I’ve seen yet

img_2230
“I wandered lonely as a cloud, that floats on high o’er valleys and hills, when all at once I saw a crowd, a host of golden daffodils”- William Wordsworth

We came across this bench after taking a random detour when we found we couldn’t walk directly around the edge of the lake- thanks to a caravan park and a building site that likely weren’t there in Wordsworth’s time- and had almost turned back after walking over a mile down a straight road, which I of course had insisted was taking us somewhere (all it had taken us to so far was a less-than-picturesque car dealership ). In typical not all those who wander are lost fashion, it did eventually lead to a field, which could be crossed to reach a leafy path by the very edge of the lake, which gave access to these beautiful spots, so my navigational reputation remains intact!

 

It’s easy to see why so many writers would choose the Lake District as a place to work- it’s difficult to not be inspited by views like this. It is so peaceful and idyllic that it often really is just you and the views when you are walking, and more often than once you’ll wish you could afford to live there permanently.It is full of hidden spots like these to be discovered and to write in peacefully, and although your feet may hurt after an eight mile walk, some mulled wine soon makes you forget all about it.

One of the reasons for our visit to the Lakes at this time of year is that the University Christmas Break is coming up- and so as we don’t get to spend christmas together, we have our own earlier in the month. Two of the presents I recieved were (inevitably) books from our favourite bookshop – Kernaghan Books, in Liverpool- and one is by Charles Dickens, a frequent visitor at The Hole in T’ Wall, one of the many pubs we visited for mulled wine during our trip!

 

Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle is one of my favourite books of all time, and so this first edition paperback (from etsy store PrettyHappyVintage) was a brilliant gift for me. This copy of Oliver Twist is beautiful, tiny, emerald green with gold embossed writing.

img_2279

I’m already looking forward to visiting again next year!

Continue reading ““I Wander’d Lonely as a Cloud”- Windermere Wanderings and Christmas Cheer”

books · Personal

“Never Judge a Book by its Cover”- The Rise of the Mystery Book

All too often in a bookshop, I find it impossible to pick a book. There’s so many to choose from that if you haven’t gone in to the shop with a particular book in mind, it’s almost impossible to make only one choice. Inevitably, you will choose based on a combination of the cover, and/or the blurb, because it is near impossible to not do so. The concept of the mystery book removes the factor of the cover from the decision making process, and in doing so makes it surprisingly easier.

A few months ago I saw a post on instagram of a bookshop filled entirely with books wrapped in brown paper packages, with only descriptions of the content on the outside. I thought it was a good idea, but it seemed like a one-off sort of thing- it was creative and it was interesting, but didn’t appear as if it would be widely applied. To my surprise, while wandering around a station market, I found a stall named Myriad Market selling just that:

IMG_0169

As soon as I saw one I knew I’d have to get one- and for only £2 picked up this novel, which had an even more limited synopsis on the package than those I had originally seen. I knew just based on this that I would not have read the book before, and decided it was time to try something new. Inside was Vince Flynn’s Consent to Kill, which I now plan to read over the summer holidays:

IMG_0171.JPG

In addition to the single novel packages (pre-loved for £2 and new for £3) you could also purchase a mystery box, which contained two books, two tea bags, and a book mark, normally priced at around £7, although in this case the box was on sale for only £6:

IMG_0164.JPG

IMG_0166.JPGIMG_0167.JPG

I was happily surprised with both purchases, and felt the concept worked very well- it is not until you only have a small blurb to look at that you realise how much you did once rely upon the cover to help you choose a book, or how unnecessary one really is to that decision.