Saturday, April 28

The Things They Carried

As the end of the month draws near, it brings with it another addition to my #12books12months series. After the hellfire of last month, I wanted to read something this time that I could potentially actually enjoy. I wasn't prepared to take a risk, so I picked one of my all time favourite novels: Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried.




The Things They Carried is an amazing novel, in part (I think) because it does a lot of things at once. On initial reading, it's a series of sometimes-interlinked stories from a platoon deployed in the Vietnam war. The stories range from matter-of-fact to others that seem impossible in that faraway way that things do when you haven't lived through them yourself, and others seem to stretch even the imagination of the characters who are telling them.



That's another thing this book is about: storytelling. There are passages in their droves within the novel about how stories are constructed. The character discuss why sometimes they twizzle and warp in their retelling because they need to express how the narrator is feeling-- whether it be excitement, fear, happiness or cold faced distress. You've called for help after spotting a spider, right? Once or twice? If not, you can imagine the feeling. It was in your shower maybe, long legs hairy and menacing. You know it wasn't really enormous... but you also felt like it could have been a loose tarantula. It's that leap to convey emotion that O'Brien calls 'story truth'.



It's an interesting game within the novel; unpicking what's 'true' and what isn't. There are passages where O'Brien seems to be writing an autobiography, talking about 'himself' and the people he knew. He lists in minute detail the contents of his bag and how the weight of it bent his shoulders back. Then there are stories that he retells for somebody else-- in their words. But then, you find out it's not their words because their story didn't fairly reflect their experience, so he has to use new words. And then there are stories around the campfire of things he-said she-said, that no one seems to believe, but at the same time they're all afraid are true. What's interesting is that the stories that are far-fetched aren't always the most unbelievable.



That's another thing I think the book is about: fear. Or really, what can follow fear: Trauma.  Obviously this is a book about war and so with that comes trauma. The novel talks about it in a lot of ways and fundamentally they all stem from conflict (both literally and otherwise). There are characters who detach themselves from conflict while they're in the midst of it with grave consequence, others who baulk at the face of it, some who process it as they go and others who carry it with them. O'Brien depicts the many ways the people can and can't shake it off. He himself, or perhaps it's better to say his persona; doesn't realise he's dealing with trauma until he comes across someone who is unable to hide theirs. He says that as he can talk about the war he must not be suffering from it, until he realises that the process of writing about it has been a means of catharsis.



That's what I like about this novel. It kind of winds itself up and then unravels the pieces ten different ways until you forget what the point was. It doesn't really give an answer, or go anywhere. But as O'Brien says: "A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it".

Or, as they say in The Princess Bride:



In this digital age, a thought we could all do with carrying in our pocket..!

Friday, April 20

Devon and Dorset in 9 Tracks


Just yesterday, Sam and I returned from a trip to Devon and Dorset. There's more on this to come but while I'm still clinging on to being in Holiday Mode I wanted to post a mixtape of our holiday soundtrack. I would describe this one as stereotypical indie surf/holiday... It took a lot of restraint not to just put the entire Best Coast discography on it but I thought that was an album that required a warm climate which Dorset was not!


Friday, March 30

Rupi Kaur - The Sun And Her Flowers


First and foremost, this blog is not necessarily a book review blog. Although I am, at present, reading and reviewing these books; it's not because I consider myself an expert my any means. 

I wanted to start this challenge because I know I don't read anywhere near as much as I used to, which is a shame, but also because I have a particular interest in book cover design. I think a great cover is one that picks up on minute themes within the book and can express them in a clever and subtle way. These Kafka cover reimaginings by Peter Mendulsund, for instance. They're brilliantly abstract and perfectly convey in incredible shorthand what's happening inside. Or even this beautiful edition of The Lord of The Flies by the Folio Society. Isn't is fantastic? Red, black, cracked glasses and ominous desert palms. What else do you need?

The reason I wanted to start March's #12books12months post with this is because, in some instances, a great outside can disguise a truly naff inside... Which brings me to Rupi Kaur's The Sun And Her Flowers.

Monday, March 26

Spring Things


There are some things in life that feel universal, maybe when they aren't. For example, I feel like everyone must have grown up making 'perfume' at home in the summer, right? Picking the best petals one by one, then painstakingly crushing them in whatever nearby resembled a pestle and mortar, adding water, then swilling the mulch into some sprayable receptacle. It's such a bright memory from growing up that it seems impossible that not everybody did the same.

Saturday, March 24

To The Lighthouse




Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse is actually I book I’ve read before. It’s short, with an uncomplicated plot and interesting prose structure. I thought it would be a great quick pick for the shortest month of the year.

You may well notice that it's actually late March now and not February any more:

Well, I obviously forgot that it's Virginia Woolf and not The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Friday, March 2

Snow Daze: A Mixtape For When It's Snowing And You're Trapped In Your House With No Escape


Those of you who have been around this blog for a little while will know I have a penchant for mixtapes. I would like to imagine there is the potential for a soundtrack to every occasion. This week, I've been moreorless literally snowed in to my house and have been doing what I can to prevent a slow hell spiral into Cabin Fever Fortunately, I have had some company in the form of Brandy, our pup, and so the 'album artwork' is in obvious homage to her. If it hadn't been for her happy little face and floppy ears this week I think I would have genuinely been gnawing off my arm by now. This is a playlist for that.

February Favourites


Hello all! I hope you've been well. It's been Snowmageddon my side (more on this soon) and I've been going, quite frankly, stir crazy. I have been wanting to think back to a simpler time (a mere week or so ago) when I could venture outside freely without the real fear of immediate icy death at every turn. For this reason, I felt now was as apt a time as any to compile my favourites for the month of Feb.


Saturday, February 17

One Month with Brandy


Happy Saturday all, I hope this week has been a good'un. Alongside Valentine's Day and the attributed gumpf, we also marked another somewhat sentimental occasion this week-- one whole month since Sam and I collected our little demon child/puppy, Brandy. I thought with all good intentions it might good to fill you guys in-- for better or worse!

Tuesday, February 6

The Princess Diarist


Hi all! So far, so on-time: I have my first book recommendation of the year! That being said, truth must be told-- I haven't read this one. I've been listening to the audiobook on the way to work and it's been the absolute perfect remedy for January Blues.

Sunday, January 21

Twelve Books for Twelve Months

Hi all! I hope January has been treating you well so far. Considering it's supposed to be the most quiet month of the year it's been exceedingly crazy for me so far. In no small part thanks to a recent addition to my life-- a puppy! We picked her up a week ago and it's been a whirlwind so far.

Having a little one who needs me has meant I've been lining up things to do that keep me occupied at home (particularly for the next few weeks when she can't go outside). I'm already midway through season three of Peaky Blinders after only starting watching two days ago, but I wanted to line up some reading for when that runs its course. Fortunately, I'm coming into 2018 with a reading list as long as my arm so I'm off to a good start!