If I could steal anything…

I’d steal a library. Yep, how sad is that? Not the crown jewels, not enough money to live for ever, not the heart of the one I love, I want a library. Every book ever written. I want that library from Beauty and the Beast, ever nook and cranny of my house filled with pages of words, stair cases lined with them, shelf after shelf of classics. Its sad I am aware but I do love my books. I love the escapism. I love the way a new book smells, I love reading a book and not breaking the spine. I love seeing a full bookcase of books I’ve read, of those I’m about too, full of little gems.

There are so many books we never get to read, so many great writers that remain obscure, lost in a vast collection that we don’t appreciate. They could be our new favourite, they could have written that book that we read over and over and over. I’d read every spine, every blurb. If I liked it, read a chapter and if I get into it – keep it. I’d make my library stocked with the books I love, with the stuff I want to read, with the things I find interesting.

From poetry, to fact, from fiction to novella, from romantics to Augustine, Victorian to Georgian, from modernism to american, to Gothic and graphic. Erotica, horror, thriller… I’d want them all. To read and read and read. I sat down and read, for Uni, Rasselas, a novel of Augustine Literature. it was about a man trying to to escape paradise in a hope to discover what life was, what made people happy. They went in search of the rich, the poor, the middle ground, the critics, the philosophers, the poets and the leaders, and they all came to some conclusion.

The overall outcome? we can’t all be happy all the time, but we must try to pursue what does make us happy. I’d want knowledge, to learn, eternally, to not work but sit and learn, read, research, reiterate, rediscover – love. There is nothing more exciting and fulfilling than knowledge that of experience or facts or understanding. Of ancient histories and arts, of society and psychology, of art and science.

I know I sound like a massive English toff. I am no academic, I am not the smartest of my classes nor the most profound. I do not write ground-breaking essays of understand things as well as I should, but I do love to learn, to ponder, to think, to muse, to wonder. It’s in my nature to be inquisitive. I get obsessive over a subject I discover for the first time, I want to know everything, to read everything, to understand, to penetrate its core. I’ve been obsessed with researching serial killers and then psychology behind murders, to suddenly being obsessed with epistemology, the theory of knowledge of how we learn, to the life of 1950’s women post war and then to learning about astronomy.

If I could steal anything, I’d steal a library and lend books forever, share my passion with others, decorate my surroundings with the pages, and submerge myself in a world of poetry and prose.

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Who said Literature students didn’t read…

See now, despite seemingly reading forever at University and yet at the same time, never seeming to complete a book, I”ve been surprised just how many books I’ve read throughout my University Career. Including those for the up and coming term. Reading has always been a passion of mine but to be honest, I always thought I’d slacked off a bit recently, no quite so apparently.

When recalling books I have read, I’ve been amazed at the list, astounded some might say. Not because i’ve read hundreds and fancy a good boast, but how lucky I’ve been to be forced (yes it is forced, however much you like reading) to rattle through some of the greatest books considered ever written, without thinking about it. most of them appear on lists like, Books you must read before you die, and I’ve kinda done most. Cool.

So I thought, I’d share my recent reading with you, I say recent meaning that of the novels and plays I have read since starting University and so far for my third and final (whoopee) year. Why, I don’t know. I guess so if any of you think, I really wanted to read that, well I could say, do, don’t or possibly with caution!

  • Atkinson, Kate Behind the Scenes at the Museum
  • Beckett, S., Waiting for Godot, Endgame
  • Braddon, Elizabeth Mary, Lady Audley’s Secret
  • Brecht, B., Mother Courage
  • Bronte, Charlottte, Jane Eyre
  • Bronte, Emily, Wuthering Heights
  • Brown, Dan The Da Vinci Code
  • Browning, Robert, Selected Poetry
  • Burney Frances Evelina
  • Burgess, Anthony Clockwork Orange
  • Carroll, Lewis, Alice in Wonderland
  • Chekhov, A., The Cherry Orchard
  • Chopin, Kate, The Awakening.
  • Collins, Wilkie, The Woman in White
  • Conrad, Joseph Heart of Darkness
  • DefoeDaniel  Moll Flanders
  • Dickens, Charles, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations
  • Ellison, Ralph, Invisible Man
  • Ensler, Eve The Vagina Monologues
  • Equiano, Olaudah  The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
  • Fielding Henry  Tom Jones
  • Fitzgerald, F. Scott, The Great Gatsby.
  • Forster, E.M.  A Passage to India
  • Gaskell, Elizabeth, Mary Barton
  • Gay, John Beggar’s Opera
  • Eliot, George, Silas Marner
  • Eliot, T. S. The Waste Land
  • Gilman, Charlotte Perkins, The Yellow Wallpaper
  • Haddon, Mark The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time
  • Haggard, H. R., King Solomon’s Mines
  • Hardy, Thomas, Jude the Obscure
  • Handke, Peter Offending the Audience
  • Hawthorne, Nathaniel, The Scarlet Letter.
  • Heller, Joseph, Catch-22.
  • Himes , Chester Cotton Comes to Harlem 
  • Hurston, Zora Neale, Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • Ibsen, H., Ghosts, A Doll’s House
  • Joyce, J.  Ulysses
  • Kane, Sarah 4.48 Psychosis
  • Kerouac, Jack, On The Road.
  • Kesey, Ken, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
  • Kipling, Rudyard  Kim
  • Kureishi,Hanif Intimacy
  • Lanchester, John Mr Phillips
  • Lawrence, D. H. The Rainbow
  • Lee, Harper, To Kill A Mockingbird.
  • McEwan,Ian Atonement
  • Melville, Herman, Moby-Dick.
  • Miller, Arthur; Death of a Salesman, The Crucible; A View from the Bridge,
  • Moore, S.,  In the Cut
  • Morrison, Toni, Beloved.
  • Mosley , Walter Devil in a Blue Dress
  • Nabokov, Vladmir Vladmimirovich Lolita
  • Orwell, George  Burmese Days
  • Pirandello, L., Six Characters in Search of an Author
  • Plath, Sylvia, The Bell Jar.
  • Roth, P.,  Portnoy’s Complaint
  • Shakespeare, William Richard III, Henry V, Othello 
  • Smith,Ali The Accidental
  • Steinbeck, John  Grapes of Wrath
  • Stevenson, Robert L. The Strange Case of  Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
  • Stowe, Harriet Beecher, Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  • Thackeray, William M., Vanity Fair
  • Twain, Mark  Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 
  • Walker, Alice Color Purple 
  • Wharton, Edith, The Age of Innocence.
  • Welsh,Irvine Trainspotting
  • Williams, Tennessee; A Streetcar Named Desire
  • Wilson, August; The Piano Lesson
  • Winterson,Jeanette Oranges are not the Only Fruit
  • Woolf, V.  Mrs Dalloway
  • Wilde, Oscar, The Picture of Dorian

The best bit about looking at that is seeing progress. Studying an English degree most of the time, you don’t feel like you’re doing alot. You read alot, you write an essay on some of the stuff you’ve read, you move on, you forget all that is talked about in reference to text, the history, philosophy, sociology, psychology, and theoretical concept that are referenced, and discussed in depth within each seminar. Then there’s the secondary reading, the textbooks, journals, the resources, the essays, that you plough on through, its all seemingly forgotten when you move onto your next topic or task. As with everything, its stored somewhere in the back of your minds, and at the end of the year all your have is 8 essays and a piece of paper with your grades.

It does seem a little strange for a degree, the amount of marked work, but it is the same wherever you go. Looking at that makes me insanely happy, I’ve done something these three years, even if its only having read 15,000 pages of primary print.

Not a self promoter.

Now I’m not one for boasting, bragging or bigging oneself up… it would seem I’m not really a fan of words that begin with B, apart from… boobs, belles, boys, bits, bums… We can see what I have on my mind. Anyways, I don’t think it’s necessary or very becoming from a young lady, such as myself. To be honest, it’s not great in anyone. There’s confidence, there’s being proud of an achievement, then there’s arrogance and rubbing people’s faces in your success – it’s a fine line to tread.

I’m not one for self promotion. I don’t wish to attract that much attention to myself. I am confident in my own skin, I know me, what I like, what I don’t, and if I don’t or am unsure, I’ll spend a few hours debating it in my mind, and possibly sharing it with you. But. There are things I know I am good at, and there are things I know I excel. We all know our own strengths as well as our own weaknesses but I tend to focus more on what I enjoy, more than what I think I may be good at.

As far as I am aware, I think its fairly dangerous to trust your own opinion of yourself. Know yourself, like yourself be proud of yourself, but don’t think you know it all, after all, we lie to ourselves all the time. We lie to others about ourselves, we are in effect our best friend and our own worst enemies, for quite those reasons. Always out to protect but also to blind. So well, I thought I’d do something very random, because I am random and I feel like it.

I’m going to share some things with you. What they will be are things I like, things that interest me, things I love, and they’ll be relevant. To me, to you, to something you like, a common interest, to someone you know, or to knowing where I’m coming from when you hear my ramblings a little more.

I’m an English student. I spend most of my days with my head in a book, thinking about a book, reading a book about a book or thinking about what I’m not reading. I spend time exploring history, philosophy, psychology, sociology, epistemology, literary theory, I’m an overthinker by trade, probably why I spend such a long time looking into things on a microscopic level, I’m a lover of analysis – whether its of a page, a character, a period, a psyche, or just my muddled and cuffudled brain.

I’m a TEFL qualified teacher, so I mould the brains of non English speaking students, which is ironic seeing as I seem to pay very little attention to grammar, punctuation spelling, or even whether the word I use actually exists in my own personal life. I enjoy teaching, love teaching, I find it the most interesting and fascinating thing to do. Its inspiring, rewarding, challenging, had work and fun, and they are all the reasons I love doing so.

I’m a writer of erotica. Don’t get too excited, I’m not published (well in an anthology, somewhere… not big time, published) I have a blog, I write sex as sex should be, raw, passionate and without too much soppiness and character. Its all about release and self expression. its another side of me to this one, a more primitive, raw, randy side agreed, but a side I embrace all the same.

I’ve started a music blog, because I’ve realised I listen to a lot of obscure stuff, that people seem to be very interested in when it comes up. I mention people nobody has ever heard of and that have less than 1000 followers on Facebook. I like finding odd little artists and songs, searching for something new to my ear, to prick the hairs on the back of my neck and make me stop and listen. And as I love sharing, well why not share that too, seems selfish to keep all my little musical treasurers to myself.

I write for my University online publication, infact, I’m under interview for Editor in Chief. I’ve been in print issues, and my writing is journalistic, from news to current affairs, reviews and previews, entertainment to fashion, politics to columnist pieces. I enjoy all sorts of writing. I think words are the most powerful tool, and weapon at our disposal, and I’m rather a fan of playing with them.

Now. I know that all this sounds like a bit of a boast, that I’m trying to show off, say how well I write, how many different things I can throw my hand at, how busy I am. Its not. I’m not a great writer, I enjoy it, there are certainly better out there. I’m a fan of commas and long sentences, using the ‘three’ in description and prescribing to clichés when I feel like it. I write colloquially, without thought, or point. I ramble, I jump about, I even forget the point I started with and end up somewhere completely different – not a to b, more… j to r (if you follow my meaning).

I’m simply saying it because, well I thought you might like to get to know me. Maybe you might want to read something completely different and fancy my other blogs, perhaps I felt like divulging, or maybe I felt like taking stock of what I do do. I think I may have my fingers in two many pies to do any properly or to the level I truly wish to. I’ve neglected my blogs of late with life’s general hiccups as it is, let alone kept on top of everything else, but as long as their a pleasure and not a chore, I’ll keep doing them. Thats what life’s about isn’t it. Sharing. Doing things you love. Talking to one and other.

Do I follow you, do you have another blog I should be checking out? – post it. If I’m not writing I’m reading something, editing work for the paper, books for University, marking for students homework or an album review. Might even be the back of my cereal box. If you fancy some music, or erotica – ask. If you want to know something else –  ask. If you want to chat – talk. I am, as they say, all ears. I fancy sharing, so lets here something about you.

What do you do, what do you like?

The Eternal Learner…

For me there is nothing greater than studying. I know that sounds clichéd, and like one of the sentences I’m spun at University, about becoming more than just a degree, becoming an academic – but its true. I love studying. Ever since a young child I loved school, I loved the idea of learning, of feeling myself getting cleverer, storing information in my memory banks to draw upon, having those light bulb moments when suddenly everything makes a little more sense, you understand everything a little bit more.

Of course when you’re a child that happens almost continually. You are more or less bombarded with a new slice of information, slither of experience or newly figured fact on a minute by minute basis. As we get older, that seems to change. Suddenly we understand the basics, we have the answers to the simple stuff, how to read, write, (in my case, attempt) maths, science… our biology. It’s all there and readily explained. We’ve drawn our conclusions on our basic views, our opinions on the big stuff, religion, family, politics, education… We’re already quite formed.

What do we learn as adults? Relationships. There’s a wealth of experience and knowledge we continue to learn there, about ourselves more, with each new experience comes a moment of self-awareness… learning to drive? That always seems an odd one, it’s the first time since a child when we learnt to walk, to ride a bike, to swim, we have to do something that seems completely impossible and illogical to us….

Studying, makes the world, my world, more interesting. The more I learn the more I feel I have to offer, to contribute, the more I understand the smaller things in life, the more opportunities I give myself. I reform opinions, have my ideas challenged and tested, have my intellect stretched, my own foundations undermined, and…. I love that feeling. I love learning something new. Studying English it’s almost something everyday, a new word for my vocabulary, a new concept or idea, historical, philosophical, psychological, sociological details I didn’t know before.

I love reading something I’ve never heard, researching something and discovering a new interest, going into the tiny details… I can feel myself brighten up with each new sentence or concept, my brain buzzing with questions, ideas, contradictions. I lose hours lost int he recesses of my brain processing, ordering, thinking, understanding. I love finding out about everything – anything. What really interests me  is the big picture stuff, culture, society, gender… to civilisations, history, the makings of man.

I study when I shouldn’t be studying, constantly undertaking a new course or programme to keep my mind active. I qualified as a TEFL teacher last summer and this took at Level Four, Educational Psychology, learning about studying – learning why I like studying, we like learning – studying about studying. It couldn’t have been a more perfect course… I’m reading and studying Epistemology, the theory of knowledge, after my degree I begin teacher training, a masters… I’ll never stop wanting to learn – it’s just me.

Everything is a learning experience. Reading, articles, the newspaper, novels, facts, watching programmes on life, on art, on culture, on history… Talking to people. Getting to know them, their story, imparting and sharing knowledge. Life is so rich, so full of amazing things; of knowledge, interesting people, of questions, I just want to enjoy and share it all. We never stop learning, so why don’t we embrace it whole heartedly and aim to learn something new, each and everyday. I certainly do, do you?

The Black Destruction of Words…

As writers we all want to create something new, something poignant, something funny, something heartfelt, something honest…We strive to find that perfect phrasing, that sentence that says more in a few words than a paragraph could. We want clarity, perfection – drama.

We strive to delete all the unnecessary words, to strip back to what’s not needed to what simply is. It’s a hard task. Then there’s the inspiration. Where to start, how to draw together an idea from the hundreds of bubbling brooding thoughts of our mind.

What if, there was a way of using another’s work, and creating something, totally unique, unrelated to what was there before, that brings life, colour and meaning to a piece of work. Well, I introduce, Black out poetry.

Created by Austin Kleon, the idea is simple. Take a newspaper, find an article. Do not read it, do not spend time working through the article, do not try to force something out of it that is already there… Find a word – A phrase – something that stands out. It could and probably should be random, something that stands out to you. Skim for related words, words that fit the idea or the topic, the mood you’ve already chosen. Get a marker pen. Heres the fun bit… Draw around your chosen words, link the words across the page, and create something ingenious.

It sounds easy, but it’s a skill, a talent and something that will take time. Everyone can do it, but its a new way of working and as we all know, it takes a little time to adjust. When your little poems formed, black out everything else. Wipe the page clean so its only your words, your work that stands out against the darkness. You’ve made your first poem.

Blackout poetry provides a great starting point for all poets, writers and those who enjoy literature in general. It gets your creative flow going, it allows in the shortest of time to create something unique from something plain, bland – the pages of a newspaper. You can use the poem as inspiration for a longer piece of writing, to adapt into an epic poem or simply, to hold on its own, as its own piece of art.

The best thing about Newspaper Blackout is simply, you can do it anywhere. Over a morning coffee, on the train to and from work, in bed when you can’t sleep, in any spare five minutes you have a day. We all know of five-minute exercises that are supposed to keep us in touch with our creativity and help our writing, but what better way to do it than to, force something from our minds and get stressed about that five minutes. Sit back, relax, and just do it.

Austin Kleon is to me, a hero in his own right. A figurehead for the generation of writers that are finding more creative ways to be, well, creative. To find art in the profoundest of places, to work with something that’s already there, to reinvent the written word and poem.

Stealing! I hear you say… How can something be creative, be individual, be unique, when you’ve stolen someone else words, when you’ve had no hand in the writing itself. If you’re still of this mind, you’ve missed the point of Blackout completely. Its recreating not reiterating. You aren’t working with something already there and condensing, your finding something new, something hidden, amongst the garble of corporate wording.

Now I’ll admit, I’m not that great. I’m hardly the next and newest Blackout poet, ready to set your minds alight and show you examples of brilliance but you know, its a new hobby. Its something exciting and more importantly, its something I enjoy. Why not give it a go, and see what you may discover, lost and found on your favourite broadsheet.

To get a better idea of what I’m talking about check out, Austin Kleon’s book “Blackout Poetry” or http://newspaperblackout.com/ for examples and ideas to inspire you all. The best thing about the website, you can post your own works, and if your lucky (such as my friend and colleague at Uni) Austin may just reblog it himself as a fine example, of just what he wanted to achieve.

But why stop at newspapers. Think of the possibility, every old book you hate, those long-winded Victorian epics that bored you silly, wouldn’t you like to destroy the text and create something, brilliant? A journal, a pamphlet, an old novel, a horoscope… The opportunities are endless. Suddenly every word ever written can be recreated, redesigned, reinvented, recreated.

We always say how can you write something new when everything’s been written once before? Well… start with the stuff that has been done, and find your own magic within…

Every book is an artefact.

Literature. The lifeblood of a nation, one of the true representations of our life, our current economy, our society, our… reality. Its stands to represent the thoughts and feelings of a nation. From the upper classes, to the lower, with popular culture and the start of the serial press back in Victorian Era, literature has come to be something we can all appreciate and reflect upon.

So why is it so important? Well, like all the arts, it’s a way of preserving our time. Think back to the Victorians, without the emergence of the popular serialised publishing by the new middle class, we would know nothing of the strife and struggle for the lower classes, the working conditions, the sense of the time they lived in. We wouldn’t understand the emergence of the middle class, it wouldn’t be, documented by those high brow writers we cherish. Victorian Literature that’s studied now is just that sort, the sort that focuses on the sociological and economical England of the time.

Every literature tells you something, ever written piece of prose, a thought, a doodle. Think of notes from a class, they reveal the voice of that age, their issues, their humour, the individuals perspective, their worries, which relates to the bigger picture. You get a note from a thirteen year old saying they’d love to do someone, well you can tell that the younger generations are sexually active, grown up, independent. It tells you something about the people of our time.

So why are we so concerned with the canon, the literary on that is. Of the high brow critics the writers that changed our nation, of Shelley and Joyce, of Hemingway and Shakes, of Woolf and Keats – because they wrote something revolutionary, the changed the course of the literature, they made a difference to our heritage or culture in someway with its representation of it. But don’t all authors do that.

A romance novel, concerned with a young woman trying to find herself and her lovers, husband the one. It shows the emotional state, talks of romance and love, of all the clichés we’ve heard a thousand times. Yet it does something more than that, so much more. It tells you about gender, about representations of the Masculine and Feminine in our time, it represents ideologies, so engrained within our culture, we write within them without realising or thought. It  tells you about what’s popular, what our nation is reading and why, about escapism, about a world which doesn’t reflect the romantic parallel we’ve made up. It explores the idea of anyone being able to write, about women writers, about their role within Literature during our time, our representation and restraints on society.

Erotica, a genre we might not normally consider. It represents our culture, open and accepting, or sexuality and the importance of sexual desire and freedom. It shows a nation willing and participating in the voicing of certain fetishes, of difference, of individualism, of self-expression. It represents issues of self-esteem, of freedom, of wanting to escape the norm, of fantasy. It shows relationships and the way we interact with one another, as sexes, within our gender constructs. All from one titillating tale of the plumber and the girl next door… But that’s just my point.

Everything we read is having an effect on us, its transcribing and voicing all these little details that we soak up and process without realising. It helps to broaden our understanding of our world, of ourselves, our society and our individualism. It challenges us with philosophy, sociology, psychology, politics, history and theoretical concepts. It imparts knowledge and understanding, opening our minds to new prospects, ideas and vocabulary.

Literature, every literature, is valuable. It should be saved and recorded, studied or enjoyed. In an age of technology we must not lose the written word, to online uploads and computer software. Books, the smell of the them, the feel of a hard back, of soft covers, of the pages, should always remain. What if we become so advanced, we lose books? We lose reading in all sense of the word, we simply get to a time where we download a book into our brains and we’ve read it instantly. The process of reading, of time out, of learning and the enjoyment of the journey would be lost. Its far-fetched I know, but its true. Reading is a learning process and one we must sustain and encourage.

Literature and every art form, represent us. Individually, because we fit into the grander schemes of society, of women and men and gender, of sexuality, of a nation, of a species, and therefore we are engaged with it. Lets not segregate ourselves from our world and heritage. lets read and enjoy, immerse ourselves in the brilliant minds and imaginations of others, enjoy each word, syllable and phrase for what it is – a journey through someone else’s eyes, a discovery of ourselves and an experience of our culture.