Friday, 25 February 2011

Look at me, I'm a target!

I've been watching 'My Life in Books' this week on BBC2 and have to say I've rather enjoyed it.  When I first read what the show was about I set it to series record but did expect to find some of it a bit dull - I am happy to say that this dullness never materialised.

It's clear that the guests they have on each day really are passionate about books which is lovely - there's nothing worse than some minor celebrity pretending to be all 'learned and cultural' just to get publicity.  The books the guests chose were varied and interesting.  Greek classics seem to be turning up more often than I expected, leading me to believe that I really ought to get round to reading one at some point.  My younger brother is putting me to shame by reading The Odyssey at the moment - I'll have to borrow his copy.

I found Giles and Sue (on Tuesday) particularly entertaining but then I've watched many of their food programmes which are, quite frankly, hilarious.  I was a little mystified, however, by Sue's description of Jane Austen as everyone getting consumption and fainting.  People are quite welcome to dislike Austen if they wish but I have to say I cannot remember anyone in the six completed novels getting consumption and cannot recall any frequency of fainting either.  (This will be horribly embarrassing if, after posting, I suddenly remember something and it turns out Sue was actually referring to real passages).

Oh dear, Austen rant again.  Thankfully only a mini one today.

Anyway, the series continues next week (yay!) with some very interesting guests.  Jeanette Winterson, for instance, is on Tuesday I believe.  I only hope that, for once, my digibox decides it actually quite fancies working and will actually record the timings set.  That would be very nice indeed.

Today's title is because I forget how much Doctor Who makes me laugh.

Monday, 21 February 2011

The elbows are never wrong

I have been watching the series 'Faulks on Fiction' these past few weeks with varying levels of enthusiasm.  For the most part I enjoy the debate about characters and rejoice that there is something on television that doesn't involve a panel of judges or Katie Price.

There's a part of my brain that says I shouldn't be disagreeing with someone like Sebastian Faulks - he being a well-respected, famous, published author after all - but in each episode I'm finding something to gripe about.  These annoyances also tend to grow somewhat after reading critical responses/reviews of the series in various places around the net.  Accusations of sexism, for instance (specifically in relation to his show on 'The Hero') made me rethink the episode but I'm trying my best to form my own opinions.

On the whole I tend to find my attention waning a little by the time the end of the show comes but I think this is more due to my taste than to any fault with the programme - my interest has been nineteenth-century fiction for a while now and I'm more familiar with the works of Jane Austen than with, for example, Alan Hollinghurst.

The faults I dare to find tend to be small details - the implication (although not stated fact) that Robinson Crusoe was the first novel irked me a little, having been informed on numerous exuberant occasions during my undergraduate that Aphra Behn (who, incidentally, was already dead by the time Robinson appeared) penned the first works called 'novels'.

There was also the part, in the second of the series, where Mr Darcy was deemed (among other things) 'humourless'.  Darcy is certainly not my favourite of the Austen men but I would never say he was without a sense of humour - his lively exchanges with the heroine, after all, show his love of her teasing.  A man without humour would surely find her behaviour offensive, not enchanting.  Then there was the somewhat tiresome conclusion that Darcy must have been suffering from a mental illness (at least it didn't go so far as to suggest he had Asperger's Syndrome).  Of course there's nothing wrong with a character suffering from a mental illness but why is there such a sudden fascination with diagnosing characters?  Can't poor Mr D just be a bit of a grump sometimes?

Oh dear: get me on the subject of Jane Austen and I just start ranting.

The last in the series is coming up and I hope I can find more positive in it next time.  My worry is that now I will only be looking for negative, which is never a good thing.

Today's title is for weather-predicting-limbs everywhere.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Allergic to running

I had my second 'Publishing Project' session yesterday.  We were mostly talking about blogs and websites relating to the world of literature etc etc and I got my first view of what Twitter looks like (and no, I wasn't inspired to sign up).

Some of the sites seemed better than others.  A lot of the blogs are quite interesting but - as was pointed out in class - it sounds like Twitter needs to be monitored pretty much constantly because otherwise you'll miss something.  Sounds a bit dull to be honest.  I'm sure not even the most interesting person has something enlightening to declare every hour of the day.

We also talked some about the threat to books due to the increase in digitalisation of texts and so on.  I've been hearing about all this for a while.  Sometimes I think that maybe the book is going the way of the dinosaur (or the cassette tape or video player) but at other times I can't believe it at all.  Books have been around for a lot longer than either of those things (the tapes and videos, not the dinosaurs) and I can't see them being totally replaced for things like those stupid kindle contraptions.

Perhaps I just move in very atypical circles but I've never heard anyone say that they prefer reading from a screen over reading from a book.  I know I certainly don't but then I am a dinosaur so I guess my views don't often go with the masses.

I had a prime example yesterday of why old-fashioned, plodding-along books are so much better than computerised whatsit-doofers.  I was in the library at uni trying to log onto a computer.  I tried wiggling the mouse, using the keyboard, pressing various on/off buttons several times (which only liked to point out that they'd noticed the first time after I'd done it the second time, so I'd end up switching off what I'd just switched on) and so on, taking ages to come to life and finally load to a screen I could actually use.  It ended up taking at least ten minutes for me to get the bloody thing to work.

And what did I do in that intervening time?  I reached in my bag, pulled out a book, opened it and started reading.  What's so difficult about that?  Nothing, that's what.  Which is why I own over 400 books and NO KINDLE.

I do, however, obviously own a computer.  A desktop one, for the single reason that they are (and I quote) "easier to fix" - because I think I've broken four laptops to date.

Long live the dinosaur.

Today's title is what I concluded after running for two trains and one sister.

Monday, 14 February 2011

How are the tomatoes getting along?

Yesterday I started exploring the Tin House website ( hoping to find some magnificent inspiration and/or instructions which would show me how to write short stories.  In my life I have only ever written three short stories because, on the whole, I just don't know when to shut up.  Whenever I write fiction it always seems to end up being the beginning of a novel.

Alas, no such wonder-cure for my excessive word counts materialised (or at least none that my dinosaur-like brain could uncover, damn you technology!) but I did come across a very interesting blog about none other than the female-male ratio I nattered about in my last blog.  I appear to have accidently developed a theme to my internet research.  How clever of me.

I remembered this morning (to my horror) that I'm supposed to talk about my internet wanderings in tomorrow's session for FIVE WHOLE MINUTES - if you think about it, that is rather a long time to talk continuously about something.  I'd been previously working on the assumption that I'd give a brief run-down on what I'd found out (probably on my newly-discovered theme of lots-of-people-talking-about-women) but on reflection I realised that this would probably take all of about thirty seconds to relate.

So now I'm starting to panic a little bit and will have to find something more in-depth to say.  Maybe I could just bring along a load of statistics and read them out really slowly.

Will have to give that one a ponder.

Today's title is for my apparently greenhouse-like bedroom.  Perhaps I should buy some citrus trees.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

"Some people may be put off because he looks like Voldemort"

As part of the Publishing Project module we were tasked with choosing a website from a provided list - all related to the publishing world, obviously, such as book reviewers - and follow one for a week and report back to the rest of the class.

I appear to have chosen the Times Literary Supplement (  I say 'appear' because it almost seems to have happened accidently in the end.  When looking at the list my first instinct was to go for the TLS purely because I know it so well from having indexed the thing for several months in my old job.  But this struck me as being rather lazy so I thought I'd have a look at some others too.  Tin House, for instance, caught my attention ( because apparently it specialises in short stories (alas, I've not yet got that far to find out the details).  For curiosity's sake I also loaded up the TLS's page and opened a few articles that caught my eye.

One of these was by the editor, Peter Stothard, about Women writers in the world of reviewing - 'Women and men in the TLS' - and I found it very interesting.

I only indexed the TLS in 2009 and 2010 but in this limited timeframe I'm happy to say that I never found cause to complain about the male-female ratio of reviewers or authors on review - and believe me, I'm so often first in line to notice such things.  Even from the work I did on the TLS archives from the first half of the twentieth century I found a fair amount of female writers, although admittedly it was rare to find a woman reviewing a man's book, or vice versa.  Women tended to review 'appropriate' things.  But I'm talking 1910s-1940s here so what do you expect?

With today's magazines and newspapers still being flooded with stories about how much such-and-such female celebrity weighs, or what miss-pop-star said about another, it's wonderfully refreshing to open a publication where a woman is appreciated for her academic ability rather than be analysed on what she wore to lunch (*cough* Daily Mail on Kate Middleton *cough*).

Another interesting thing about Mr Stothard's article was a comment underneath about how the TLS could employ women doing postgraduate courses in English or Creative Writing.  Now there's a thought.

Today's title is for Charlie the cat - if we didn't already have six, I'd adopt him.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

With love's light wings did I hie up over here or whatever

Yesterday evening I had my first Advanced Writing (Non-Fiction) Workshop session.  I was rather nervous about it because I'd only ever taken one non-fiction module before (in the first year of my BA) and was, quite frankly, rather abysmal at it.  It frightened me off the whole idea for a while.  So what made me go for it in the MA?  Well the other option was to do screenwriting.  I did this for all three years of my BA and was even more shockingly awful at that.  I think I actually got worse as time went on.  In fact I know I did.  I reworked a script from my second year for my third year and managed to drop from 65% to 57%.  Needless to say I'm not terribly enthusiastic about trying it again.

So non-fiction it is - and I am happy to say that the first lesson exceeded my expectations.  We look set to study lots of different styles, such as history, journalism, political writing, biography... and all with a focus not just on the creative but also on viewing writing as a profession.  This is something I have often struggled with.  Only in my wildest dreams do I imagine that I could actually make a living through writing novels and it will be nice to look at other ways of earning an income.

Hopefully both with this and Tuesday's Publishing Project module I should have something of a better idea about how the whole market works.  Either that or I'll be so intimidated by the whole thing that I'll run away to a 9-5 office job, where I will wallow and rot in a puddle of boredom until my brains leak out of my ears.  Lovely.

I was planning to happily report that the cursor is behaving itself today but it seems to have changed its mind and instead wishes to continue darting every which way around the screen.

Today's title is an example of how to quote Shakespeare badly.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Sorry I trod on your foot

I'm hoping that the first post will be the hardest and that blogging will become easier with time.  I have been meaning to start a blog for quite a while now - and although part of my excuse has always been that I haven't had enough time, part of it is also that I've often been distracted by things which are infinitely more interesting.

This doesn't bode well for the future of my blog, I fear, for if I find my life too dull to write about who on earth will be interested enough to read it?  I suppose part of me hopes that I will be forced to do more just so that I'll actually have something to write about.

Right now I want to write about how much this computer-website-box-thingy is annoying me.  Whenever I press the enter key it goes up.  Why would I want to go up?  Isn't that what the 'up' arrow key is for?  Or it stays in the same place.  If I wanted it to stay in the same place, surely I wouldn't have pressed anything at all?

Wow, that took astonishingly little time for me to go off topic.

My point: I'm starting a blog.  I'm not really sure what I plan to write about but seeing as I was finally motivated to do it by my MA lecture yesterday I'm guessing it will focus on that and my writing.  I suppose I'm hoping that, when I get better at it, it will turn into a useful career-enhancing thing.  Anything which gives me a tiny bit of help in that field will always be worth doing.  Methinks one needs all the help one can get, doncha know.

It will also be fun to see how many times I can destroy my own site and/or computer just through my sheer talent for damaging all-things-technological.  I am assured by a lovely lady on my course that it's impossible to wipe everything but alas, from past experience, I remain somewhat unconvinced.  Anyone who has sat next to me in an IT lesson will know how often computers lose the will to live whenever I approach.

Today's title is for the man on the train last night.