Stalker Soundtrack

stalker gif

Recently at our Medusa book club, we discussed the new TV series Stalker and it’s soundtrack which primarily consists of re-imagined 80’s hits performed in the creepiest way possible.

I thought that it might be fun to gather them all in the one place. Which it was, for I am all the contentment at a good bit of compiling lists.

Then I listened to it… and yup, CREEPY is the word!

*I’d have included a Spotify playlist but unfortunately most of the songs aren’t included on it.

World Book Night 2015 @whiteswanleeds with @isfromupnorth

It’s nearly here! Well, a month away, but planning has begun!

If anyone had any books they would like to give away on the night bring them along, If you want to donate contact me on twitter @isfromupnorth or Niamh at @leedsbookclub.

The event will be held at the White Swan Leeds and this year starting from 6:30pm!

Hope to see you all there!

wbn

Review:Boy:Tales of Childhood – Helen’s Roald Dahl challenge

Boy: Tales of Childhood boy

(Roald Dahl Autobiography #1)

by Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake (Illustrator)
From the evocation of an enchanted boyhood spent in Wales and Norway to his unhappy experiences at an English public school, these sparkling memoirs are filled with high spirits and more than a touch of the macabre.
“An autobiography is a book a person writes about his own life and it is usually full of all sorts of boring details.”  
 
About the Authorroald-dahl-640x360

Roald Dahl was a British novelist, short story writer and screenwriter of Norwegian descent, who rose to prominence in the 1940’s with works for both children and adults, and became one of the world’s bestselling authors. read more at Goodreads.com
My Review
Roald Dahl’s books have always held some magic within their pages and his first autobiography is no different. This was a brilliant first insight in to the amazing man himself. You can see where his stories came from. He had so many different experiences and writes them as if you’re there with him.
“We all have our moments of brilliance and glory, and this was mine.”
He states from the offset that ‘An autobiography is a book a person writes about his own life and usually full of all sorts of boring details’ Instead He goes on to write a book based on a number of events that happened throughout his childhood.
“I began to realize how simple life could be if one had a regular routine to follow with fixed hours, a fixed salary, and very little original thinking to do.”

For instance did you know that when Roald Dahl first went away to school he was homesick and pretended to have appendicitis and was taken home only to be involved in a car accident and have his nose sliced almost clean off at the age of 10 and had to be stitched back on? I was hiding behind a cushion as I read that bit.
Throughout the book, you can see the relationships he built and how close he was to his family, especially his mother. When he moved to boarding school under the careful watchful eye of the school headmaster the boys were allowed to write home to their families, Roald and his mother wrote to each other regularly and carried on doing so later in life. When she died he found out that she had left every single letter, all bound up in green tape. What an amazing find that must have been, to be able to go over letters written by your younger self and see how much you had changed.mama_600
I also found out that Roald Dahl had a love of photography and built his own darkroom near the music room at school. How in his day it was glass plates and he refers to the ease of use of a 35mm camera, I wonder what he wonder think of digital cameras and phone cameras. I myself love photography and was lucky enough to use film negative and darkrooms and these days its just to easy not to think before we snap unlike Roald Dahl and using glass plates.
This was a wonderful book and to know a bit more about the man behind the stories makes you realise what a wonderful imagination he had I just can’t wait to see what happens in going solo.
And of course where would we be without Quentin Blakes Illustrations, the man is a genius.
Thank you for reading.

LBC Medusa – The Wars Write Up

Medusa LBC

 
Date:  Wednesday 11th of March 2015
Time:  7:30pm
Address: 8-10 Town Street, Horsforth, Leeds 
Discussing: 

THE WARS

TIMOTHY FINDLEY
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
  * * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *  
BLURB (from AMAZON)

Robert Ross, a sensitive nineteen-year-old Canadian officer, went to war – the War to End All Wars. He found himself in the nightmare world of trench warfare; of mud and smoke, of chlorine gas and rotting corpses. In this world gone mad, Robert Ross performed a last desperate act to declare his commitment to life in the midst of death.

About the Author
Timothy Findley was born in Toronto in 1930. His first career was in the theatre; he was a charter company member of Ontario’s Stratford Shakespearean Festival in 1953, and toured several European capitals.$$$In 1963, Findley turned to writing full-time and in 1977 his third novel, The Wars, won a Governor General’s Award. It is now considered a Canadian classic. Following his bestsellers such as Famous Last Words, he won an Edgar Award for The Telling of Lies, while his collection of short stories, Stones, won Ontario’s Trillium Award.$$$Findley’s first work of non-fiction, Inside Memory: Pages from a Writer’s Workbook, made him the first two-time winner of a Canadian Authors Association Award; he had earlier won its fiction counterpart for his novel, Not Wanted on the Voyage. He has also written plays, and his third, The Stillborn Lover(1993), won the CAA Drama Award, as well as winning an Arthur Ellis Award and Chalmers Award. His later novels include Headhunter (1993) and The Piano Man’s Daughter (1995). His most recent play, Elizabeth Rex, was produced at the 2000 Stratford Festival in Canada.$$$Along with the likes of Michael Ondaatje and Margaret Atwood, Timothy Findley has become one of Canada’s most acclaimed and best-selling authors. In 2000, Faber published Pilgrim and reissued The Warsand Famous Last Words. His last novel, Spadework, was published in 2002, the year in which Timothy Findley died.

the wars - timothy findleyA few of our book clubbers didn’t get a chance to read The Wars. We have, as a group, become so reliant on digital copies of books that we are occasionally left stunned into bemused inactivity followed by last minute attempts at purchasing when a book is only available in paper copy!

Those of us who did get ahold of the novel were divided into two camps – those of us that had enjoyed Pilgrim (not yet written up) by the same author were looking forward to it; those that hadn’t enjoyed the former approached it as one would a long slow march through nettles. It’s not that Pilgrim wasn’t well written; it was just so very long and so very Jung. However, this book was very different. For one thing, it was written many years earlier and while the writing style hadn’t changed drastically; Findley appears to have been much more economical in terms of descriptions and words. Every sentence in this book carried weight and had impact. Every word mattered. So subtle the writing and so sparse the descriptions that it took this reader as while to realise that it was set in Canada…what a PLONKER! Given that this is one of the centenary years of the war, it was fascinating to read about a lesser known side of the war.

However, with regards to the characters, while Pilgrim was a detailed analyses of a characters journey and interactions with other; this much more sparse story held far less developed characters. Robert – the primary protagonist – was naive to the core and didn’t seem to change much despite all that he had seen and done. He was hugely emphatic and obviously using animals as a substitute for his deceased sister. One of us suggested that his impulsive actions towards the end of the book was in fitting with his development as an animal activist…which I personally can reluctantly concede to. The characters that surrounded him were more archetypes than people necessarily. Or so some of us thought; others disagrees feeling that they – and particularly Robert’s family – were beautifully drawn and that it was down to the reader to interact with the words and allow their imaginations to complete the gaps.

It was difficult to decide exactly what story was being told in The Wars. On one hand, it was a personal journey of a man during a war, on the other it was the tale of the impact of war on one family…or a picture of Canada’s war…or the use of animals in the Great War. For a tiny novel; this book contained so much, it was impossible to pin down one primary theme. It’s fair to say that this was by no means a typical depiction of the Great War or of a soldier during it – whether from Canada or not. The actions with the barn ensured that Robert would never have been able to reintegrate with society after the conflict had ended. Personally, I found that to be a huge shame – as I have enjoyed Findley’s writing and I would have very much liked to have read his view of the ‘typical’ soldiers experience.

Structurally, this book felt a little like an academic exercise. There are 4 trials by elements – water, air, fire, earth. Animals are ever constant and representative of all that is good in the world. His pistol represents authority. There are wars that are both internal and external; personal and profession; resolved and left hanging. There are three time lines told in three different persons – 1st, 2nd and 3rd which works surprisingly well. Each experience has a polar opposite. There are moments of grace and beauty and moments of horror and misery.

It fit for some of us that this was studied at GCSE/O Level age groups in school for a time – it must have been a huge eye opener. I – and this was just me I think – felt a bit more jaded. By the time that Robert and 3 others were sat in a crater, near shell shocked and protecting nonsensical items, I was started to chaff. For a book so well constructed; so contained; so crafted…it all began to fall in onto itself. Again, I think that this was just me. Or perhaps that was the point. All war, all the death, all the misery that come with them, in the end life goes on and renders the past somewhat…less. Not pointless, just…less.

 

We also ended up discussing Sebastian Barry – A Long Long Way; Sebastian Faulks Birdsong and the absolutely fantastic season 4 of Blackadder.

Score  

7/10

For further details, please email me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com or tweet me @LeedsBookClub!
Contact the bar on @MedusaBar
And feel free to let us know your thoughts using #LBCMedusa!

LBC Medusa – Books ‘un’ picked

As always we have a list of books that were not selected, so if you’re looking for some suggestions, have a look here!

Book fall

 

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN – Paula Hawkins

A FOOLS ALPHABET – Sebastian Faulks

H IS FOR HAWK – Helen MacDonald

IF ON A WINTER’S NIGHT A TRAVELER – Italo Calvino

SHADOW OF THE WIND – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

THE THREE – Sarah Lotz

THE GOLDFINCH – Donna Tartt

WSwan LBC – Canada – Richard Ford

LBC White Swan

Date:  Sunday 8th of March 2015
Time:  6:00pm
Address: Swan Street, Leeds

 

Discussing:

CANADA

RICHARD FORD

The BLURB (Amazon)

First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later.

It was more bad instincts and bad luck that lead to Dell Parsons’ parents robbing a bank. They weren’t reckless people, but in an instant, their actions alter fifteen-year-old Dell’s sense of normal life forever.

In the days that follow, he is saved before the authorities think to arrive. Driving across Montana, his life hurtles towards the unknown; a hotel in a deserted town, the violent and enigmatic Arthur Remlinger, and towards Canada itself. But, as Dell discovers, in this new world of secrets and upheaval, he is not the only one whose past lies on the other side of the border.

canada - richard fordThis is a very deceptive book. While the first chapter suggests that the plot is going to be action driven – actions are going to be the point of the story – robbery, murder, fleeing the law – it turns out that this is not the case. This is rather an introspective memory – an account of a very young 15 year old, written some 50 years later. There is much speculation about morality and fate and predestination and when a person becomes a criminal but no meaningful conclusions are drawn.

Our narrator appears reliable, but his account is so detailed that we found that no conclusions could be drawn about any of the characters that weren’t contradicted at a later point. He constantly tells us that he isn’t inward looking. Indeed he spells that out many times across 420 pages. All this time he is analysing every aspect of his memories. I noted that he wasn’t a good observer, just a wordy one.

Structurally – this was a difficult read. The third book encompasses 40 years of the narrators life despite only being 5-10% of the book and flew by. The first two sections covered mere months and dragged out somewhat. The writing was outstanding – at least the majority of us agreed on that – but the pacing was atrocious. (*Note – one person was driven to distraction by the use of the word waked.) NOTHING seemed to happen. Or rather, everything that happened was outlined in the very early chapters. There will be a robbery. They will be caught. He (Dell) will go to Canada and there will be a murder. As a result, the book is an exercise in patience. There is no sense of anticipation, no build up, no atmosphere – rather it’s a case of ticking off the actions previously outlined. If you are wondering whether this became tedious…it surely did!

We noted that the pleathera of descriptions were grim and visceral for the most part. It was a dark world, people were uniformly …well…crap really. One of the book clubbers noted that while reading the story, she kept thinking of other authors that would take the story and use it far more effectively – such as Annie Proulx. Which set us all off. My personal pick would be AS Byatt.

We wondered why anyone did anything in this book and concluded that it was purely to satisfy the plot. The whole story in fact felt to many of us as an exercise in writing. There were a number of strands that in and of themselves might have been interesting but were abandoned and never brought up again as part of the whole. We begin the book being told that everything followed on from the robbery – that nothing could have happened without that preceding it. However, EVERYTHING that happened could have happened independently. Like Oliver Twist. Indeed, it reminded me of the Big Bang Theory breakdown of Indiana Jones (beware – once you see it, you can’t unsee it!).

Throughout the book, there was a huge over-reliance on appearance. Bev constantly pointed out that his wife was foreign looking. The maternal and caring women (Neeva, Mildred and Florence) all wore green at one point or another. His parents didn’t ‘look’ like criminals…but turned out to be and of course that was one of the defining factors in their arrest. Dell constantly misread people, their motivations and the impact of their decisions and he was hugely judgmental about it. Ironically, CQ and Rudy were the most interesting characters – despite being described in the most unappealing terms. Rudy eating that under cooked steak was stomach churning, while CQ was portrayed as near deviant what with Dell afraid to go to the bathroom and noticing that CQ wore makeup…neither of which observations actually led to anything. Ultimately, they were the only ones that really seemed to live in the world as it was, recognise people for who they were and turned out to provide Dell with some much needed honesty and perspective.

We were disappointed regarding the characterisation. The parents were probably best described but were quite stereotypical. The father was pretty and dumb. He really wanted to rob a bank and one day…did. He didn’t kill anyone, even when he considered that he might be better of removing the witnesses because he hadn’t ever visualised that being part of his mental plan. The mother was intellectual and an outsider. We did quite enjoy speculating as to why Neeva had decided to accompany her husband on his criminal endeavors and decided that it was probably to prevent him from bringing Dell along instead. The sister was UGLY and free-spirited and therefore destined for an unhappy ending. (There was a Forrest Gump element that really bothered at least a few of us. If you were like Forrest and followed the rules, went with the flow and had no agency at all – things worked out for you. If you broke free of expectations, left the path outlined for you – things went very poorly for you.) Mildred was a drudge and functioned purely as a plot device. In face, quite a few of us were far more interested in Berner story – particularly after they separated and she went to San Francisco. The letter that she sent him was quite intriguing.

The main protagonist – our narrator – was UTTERLY passive. He didn’t seem capable of making a decision to save his life. He stayed in the house because his mother told his to. He slept with his sister because she had been planning to sleep with Rudy and he had left. He went with Mildred because that was the plan. At least two of us wondered how he had ever married – did Clare propose to him (leading to a beautiful chat about a friend of a friend who moved into her fella’s apartment gradually – without ever having a conversation about it). While he is ostensibly 15 years of age during the bulk of the book – he seemed much younger than that to us. His naivety might have been due to his isolation – enforced by his parents, but we weren’t convinced by it.

I couldn’t understand *why* the book was called Canada. It could have been called The Robbery, The Escape, Life without Parents. Fortunately, one of us had read an article where the author answered that very question. It was because he’d always wanted to write a book called Canada. *heads desk*

Having said all that, many of us would seek out another one of his books to read – the writing was that good, it made up for the galacial pace. Perhaps this, like Suttree was the author at his most introspective.

Regardless of the plot, we had a fantastic discussion – which always endears a book to me!

SCORE

5 out of 10

For further details, please email me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com or tweet me @LeedsBookClub

The Pub can be contacted on @WhiteSwanLeeds

And feel free to let us know your thoughts using #LBCWSwan!

LBC White Swan – Books ‘un’ picked

Book fallAs always we have a list left over, so if you’re looking for some suggestions, have a look here!

GO SET A WATCHMAN – Harper Lee

HOUSE OF ASHES – Monique Roffey

WHIT – Iain Banks

CLOUD ATLAS – David Mitchell

THE TROOP – Nick Cutter

THE 25TH HOUR – David Banioff

THE CASUAL VACANCY – J.K. Rowling

ALIAS GRACE – Margaret Atwood

UNDER HEAVEN – Guy Gavriel Kay

ANANSIS BOYS – Neil Gaiman

THE FIFTEEN LIVES OF HARRY AUGUST – Claire North

A CHANGE OF CLIMATE – Hilary Mantel

REVIEW – Fancy Pants Poetry 2 – Agostino Scafidi

FANCY PANTS POETRY 2

Recently I reviewed a book of poetry by Agostino Scafidi. No sooner had I pressed publish, then he let me know that the sequel had become available.

While there are no major stylish or drastic format changes, this is a very different book from its predecessor. The original was dark, cynical and sarcastic – caustic in tone. This – while retaining the quick sharp observations that seem to typify Agostino’s writing – is much more cheerful in general with a greater focus on positive (or at the very least more neutral) interactions and experiences.

Whatever the situation, Agostino appears to be tackling his challenges with a different viewpoint, one that is less stung by rejection or betrayal and more capable and confident of his own worth. For me, this was a far more pleasurable read (though I greatly enjoyed the first!) as it better suits my point of view.

 

So Many

There’s always more than one,

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,

It’s not like I can help it,

However there still might be one.

 

One who I’ll always come back to,

Who I’ll hold above all others,

I just hope that won’t die either,

Because quantity doesn’t comfort me.

 

Today,

Each moment,

I’ll cherish it,

While it’s here.

 

Reminders

Petty and grand,

Mostly pretty,

Little itches,

Nothing to scratch with.

Can’t scratch it,

Just ignore it?

Can’t ignore it,

Just watch it?

Yes,

That feels better,

I think I’ll do this more often,

And have faith.

The Hermit Rant

Agostino’s STORE

Agostino’s TWITTER

Agostino’s FACEBOOK

 

Review – Fancy Pants Poetry

Review – Fancy Pants Poetry 2

Book Quotes

Quote-by-George-Bernard-ShawQuote-by-Oscar-Wilde Quote-by-Henry-Ward-BeecherQuote-by-Jacqueline-Kennedy-OnassisQuote-by-Jim-Rohn Quote-by-Josh-Jameson Quote-by-Oscar-Wilde Quote-by-PJ-ORourke Quote-by-William-Lyon-Phelps Quote-by-W-Somerset-Maugham

POEM – Notes on the Art of Poetry – Dylan Thomas

happy wbdNotes on the Art of Poetry

I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on
in the world between the covers of books,
such sandstorms and ice blasts of words,,,
such staggering peace, such enormous laughter,
such and so many blinding bright lights,, ,
splashing all over the pages
in a million bits and pieces
all of which were words, words, words,
and each of which were alive forever
in its own delight and glory and oddity and light.

Dylan Thomas

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