Lyrics are so important to me and that’s why I’ll never be a fan of the Foo Fighters. The lyrics of this Joni Mitchell number (perhaps her most famous) are near perfect in the they lead up to the point of the song, all the while giving you examples of it (‘That you don’t know what you’ve got ‘Til it’s gone.’) And until you get to the crux of the matter, you’re wondering about that mysterious ‘big yellow taxi’. A love story with a film noir vibe and an environmental message – I should use it as a prompt at one of my creative writing classes.Read More »
One of my favourite fantasy series is Joan Aiken’s Wolves Chronicles. There are twelve books, including a prequel (The Whispering Mountain), with Dido Twite the protagonist in most of the stories.
After I read Calmgrove‘s post about The Stolen Lake, I couldn’t resist re-reading it. It’s the fourth book in the main series and my favourite as I find it has the most thrilling and unusual plot. The ever plucky and pragmatic Dido is also especially endearing in this installment. I like her so much and find her optimism and can-do attitude inspiring and cheering. (I want to be Dido when I grow up.)
In this story, Dido is onboard the HMS Thrush, heading back to England. Dido, having escaped death and worse in the previous two books (Blackhearts in Battersea and Nightbirds on Nantucket), is looking forward to going home and is dismayed when the Thrush is forced to make a detour after the Captain of the ship is summoned by the Queen of New Cumbria (a country in Roman America, Aiken’s alternate history version of South America). Surprisingly, the Queen requests that he bring Dido with him.
It turns out that Queen Ginevra requires help to get back the country’s ceremonial lake which she claims has been stolen by the King Mabon, ruler of the neighbouring Lyonesse. Even more surprising is that the Queen is apparently more than a thousand years old and is waiting for the return of her husband, King Arthur. Could her longevity be linked to the noticeable absence of female children in New Cumbria?
Dido is soon in the thick of another adventure, this time one involving an imprisoned princess; shape-shifting witches; human sacrifice; cannibalism; and reincarnation.
I’d resolved to re-read less this year in order to make some progress with my TBR list, but I’ve decided to just read whatever I feel like. I will be re-reading Black Hearts in Battersea next.
If I could spend a few hours each week in a picture, it would have to be in one drawn by Edward Gorey. There would never be a dull moment, although it might be more genteel excitement that I could take.
As writing pictures go this is damned near as perfect as it gets. Look at her! We should all be able to assume such elegance of posture and countenance while contemplating the construction of a perfect sentence while a dead body lies at our feet.
A number of years ago, I was asked to participate in an ad campaign for Origins’ new skincare range. Participants were invited to fill answer questions about our skincare regime, what we disliked about our skin and what we wanted to improve.
We were then given Origins’ new products and asked to test them out for a month before answering more questions, this time about how we’d found the skincare range. We were then made-up and photographed. We were asked to rate the products from 1 to 10, and we were (supposed to be) photographed holding up the corresponding number of fingers to show our approval of the range.
The plan was to use our pictures in Origins’ local (Malaysian) promotional campaign for the products, but mine were never used because I didn’t rate the products. The reason for this was I didn’t actually notice a difference in the way my skin looked and felt. Mind you, I’d not expressed any dissatisfaction with my skin during the first round of questions. My skin care regime has always been just to wash with whatever soap I happen to be using in the shower and then slap on the ‘moisturiser of the moment’, i.e. whatever I can afford to get, usually Johnson’s Baby Lotion. I have never spent more than a minute on my skin and don’t pay it much attention, so I really would not have noticed even if the products had resulted in any changes.
It’s been said that the beauty industry would collapse if women were happy with themselves. Cosmetics companies depend on us finding fault with our appearance. Not noticing wrinkles, pigmentation and goodness knows what else women are supposed to stress about with regard our skin meant that I wasn’t an effective tool in persuading other women to part with their cash.
I never had a single pimple growing up, and I’ve been told how lucky I am in that respect, but I wonder if dealing with spots would have been easier than worrying about what others identified as my ‘weight problem’. Acne seems a more acceptable adolescent challenge than being overweight: Apparently, no one asks to be pimply, but you only have yourself to blame if you’re fat.
THINGS FALL APART
By Chinua Achebe
(Anchor Books, 209 pages)
THIS was not my first reading of the book, but my third. I read Things Fall Apart for the first time in my teens, but I admit to only skimming then. The second time I read it was in 2014. For some reason, it was a hurried read and I did not retain much of the story.
Certainly, the first time I read it, I was a very silly girl who only read white authors. My Pinterest record of the books I read in 2014 has me completing the novel on 22nd Feb. Later that year I read other African authors like Gabriel Okara, Elechi Amadi, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Sefi Atta. I believe that was the year I decided to make a big effort to read out of my comfort zone, i.e. more Asian and African authors. However, as it was early days, the part of my brain that handles reading was stuck in a rut. It still had to be kicked in the rear out of its literary ditch.
Three years on and I think I’ve succeeded in getting to a place where it’s not just stories by dead white women that make sense to me. And yes, my ‘problem’ with Things Fall Apart was that I couldn’t ‘make sense’ of it. The writing style, the content – including setting and characters – the language, nothing about it was what I was used to. Thus, I found it hard to relate to, or made no effort to try. Sure, I had read and loved Maru by Bessie Head twenty eight years before, but that was probably due to it being an A-level text, i.e. reading it maybe fifty times over, and discussing it with my tutor would have ensured that that story made complete sense.
My partner, Don, is Igbo, which is the ethnic group of the characters in Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe was also Igbo). I think this has made a difference to my recent reading of the book. This time round, the story seemed familiar. I recognised details from what Don has told me about Igbo cultural traditions. The way of life described was still strange, but it was easier to empathise with the characters and not completely dismiss their actions as outrageous or nonsensical.
It also helped being able to discuss the book with Don. He offered a different perspective and put things into a context I would have found it hard to imagine on my own.
The story is heartbreaking, on the level of it being the tale of a man’s downfall, and also in a larger historical and social context, as the story of the colonisation of Africa. The final sentence of the novel struck me to the core. It sums up the reality of the situation – in the novel, in history, and in race relations today.