The Basics of Burgers

Recently I have been feeling really gross. Everything is disgusting. Everything smells bad and makes me gag. You know what smell makes me the most sick? It’s WASHING POWDER, folks. Yes, the stuff I use to make my clothes clean. I cannot STAND it. I take one whiff and I am done for. The very thought is making me heave.

why do you look like you’ve been slapped in the face? my husband asks, innocently, munching the instant noodles he has just cooked, oblivious to the fact that he has let out an instant-noodle stink bomb which has slowly spread its foul tentacles throughout the entire house.

because you’ve slapped me in the face with that abhorrent smell!

I have not been eating much, suffice to say, and as such I have been making myself more sick, and yes, more hungry. It really is a vicious cycle!

Which is why, yesterday, I let my husband drag me to a restaurant/’diner’ in Manchester called the ‘New Yorker Diner’.

It is set in an area which is practically the definition of Manchester. It’s on the same street as the Britannia hotel, which, despite its name and its grand exterior, has only been labelled a 3-star hotel. A horde of nightclubs and gay bars are situated on every corner, and if you walk five minutes in a straight line you will be passing under the majestic arch of Manchester’s Chinatown (does every city in the world have a Chinatown?!). Parking is scarce, or really expensive (I am staring at you, NCP. I have a massive beef with you. £7/hour in MANCHESTER?! Dirty piece of crap), and there are dubious goings on in the narrow streets behind the fancy main roads. Dolled up girls and dapper dudes, and sometimes dolled up dudes and dapper girls line the streets when the sun begins to set on a Saturday evening, laughing and drinking in readiness for a classic British night out with the lads and the girls and the both. Sometimes groups of women in a loudly stated ‘Hen’ huddle waddle and totter along, carrying massive blow-up male genitalia and declaring their nightly intentions with vivid pink sashes emblazoned across their fronts. Mottled-looking folk with extra large jackets trot nervously down dark alleyways and exchange goods behind filthy, overflowing bins. Groups of girls in hijab laugh and joke amongst themselves along the streets, as the night gets darker, and despite the strong smell of alcohol and weed and the dubiousness of the surroundings, one feels safe on the busy streets of Manchester. Everybody is out, everybody is intermingling.

The New Yorker Diner itself is designed to look like a cross between an underground bunker and an industrial site. You have to go down metal steps to be seated in an underground room, with naked retro bulbs dangling from wires which wrap around metal beams and line brick walls. Neon signs flash in the windows which are half covered on top by the ceiling, and you can watch people’s feetsies walk by. Very hipster indeed, but does look faux-grimy too, which, perhaps, is New Yorky? I wouldn’t know.

Anyway. I tell you I was retching all the way through the streets, passed the rubbish bins and plumes of weed smoke, holding my breath as I entered the restaurant. What if I couldn’t stand the smell? What would I do?

I took a tentative sniff and my goodness, I felt fine!

And when my burger arrived, handmade in a brioche bun with all the regular fixin’s; melty REAL cheese, sliced pickles, lettuce and tomato, and some beautiful sauce that was a little spicy and a lot I don’t know what, with a side of fries tossed in some kind of spice mix, and I took the first bite, I was transported, folks.

Transported and sublimed. I inhaled that burger, and those fries. Well, not the whole thing, I had the other half for breakfast the next day, but my GOODNESS.

I don’t know if it was because by that point I was half starved from being sick, so any food would taste like heaven exploded in my mouth, but man oh MAN I have been thinking of that meal ever since.

That SAUCE, what was it?? They call it ‘Brooklyn sauce’ but there is no indication of what might be in it. It is yellow, and very tasty, and so divine. It definitely isn’t mustard. Please, if you know, share your knowledge!

The basics of a good burger, I find, is to have a solid but tasty bun. The burger must be real meat, seasoned adequately and griddled to juicy perfection. The sauce must be hot, the lettuce fresh, the the tomato turgid. The pickles should be sliced generously, not too skinny that they flop flaccidly, and not too thick that they hinder the bite. And the cheese should be generous, yet not overpower the rest of the ingredients.

Also, New Yorker Diner? 10/10. No questions. You have to be comfy in a fast-foody-looking setting, though, because you order at the till and get one of those buzzy things that tells you when your food is cooked, and boy oh boy is it COOKED. Sizzling hot and melty and just divine. I am already planning my next sojourn there.

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NOT my photo – but this is the burger I had.

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The Thorn Birds

A peado priest falls in love with a little girl.

No, I am joking. He doesn’t. He only ‘falls in love’ with her when she develops a pair of … I can’t think of a dignified name for those things.

No that is too vulgar. Anyway that really isn’t the entirety of the story, but I think it caused sensation when it was published because that is what stood out the most.

That isn’t what this book was about. I read the last sentence today.

And we still do it. Still we do it.

Do what?

Put thorns in our breasts, that’s what.

This book touched me beyond my brain cells. It touched somewhere deep inside my cranium, some would call it a soul. It prodded it and then it simpered like an evil waif, and vanished, leaving me looking down at a new hole. A bit surprised, actually. I didn’t think it would affect me this way.

Somebody once told me that once you have read or seen something, it is a thought in your brain. It belongs to you. You cannot un-think it.

When a writer writes so well that you feel like you are one with the characters, feeling things they feel, even though you have never felt these things… you have bent to the will of the pen. You have never felt those things? Oh, but you have. You’ve felt an echo of them. And now, you know.

I didn’t like all of the characters, but I liked them immensely.

This book didn’t sear me because of its plot, or its characters. Its plot was devastating, to be sure, and its characters deeply twisted and vastly, enormously human. But this book had a soul of its own. It is life, itself.

Sure, it was life from the perspective of one individual brain, but it seethed into being, it spluttered, it gasped, it breathed.

I really wish I didn’t read it, because I can’t un-think it.

But I am glad I did.

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Rilla of Ingleside

I have heartache, dearest reader.

A heartache borne of the most insipid of things. It’s tragic, really. So painful. The world is so bleak and old, yet so young and fresh.

A long time ago, when I was a wee mite of eight years old, I acquainted myself with Anne Shirely. She lit my life, I assure you. She was eclectic and electric, and her mind soared through mine, influencing everything I touched and saw after that.

Just everything.

I only had the first three books growing up, and the sixth. And oh, how fitting, really. No pain or fear or sorrow touched my soul, the literary world remained quite tame.

Now, I am 23 years old, and have tripped back to old Prince Edward Island, only Anne is older and she has a budding family. Today, I finished reading the last proper book in the Anne of Green Gables series, ‘Rilla of Ingleside.’

I am left feeling bereft. Almost in grief, and it is so stupid, because it isn’t even real, and real life is so much more than this. So why do I feel this way?

You see, in the later ‘Anne’ books, the Anne Shirely we know and love so dearly recedes further and further away from us. In fact, she has already receded by the end of Anne of the Island. Going into Anne of Windy Poplars, we have her in epistolary form, and it isn’t quite tangible because she spends all her time talking about other people. People who aren’t the old, loved Avonlea people, at that! In Anne’s House of Dreams, it is much the same way. Anne starts a new life with Gilbert but we actually learn far more about those around them, than we do about Anne and Gilbert. It’s sad, but Montgomery seems to have drifted away from them. I don’t feel like we had a proper goodbye.

Anne’s House of Dreams introduces us, in so many words, to the first sore loss suffered by Anne. Her first born child dies mere hours after birth, and little ‘Joyce’ is buried in the garden of her ‘House of Dreams’. Montgomery skirts ever so delicately around the subject, dressing it with literary frills, most likely due to the impropriety of uttering such things aloud.

But, in Rilla of Ingleside, it is much worse. Oh, so much worse. Anne is a mother, and we barely ever hear from her except a reaction here, a comment there, an illness over thataway and a reproachful look or two. We learn Marilla Cuthbert has died, but not how or when. We learn Mrs Rachel Lynde has made a throw for the spare room bed, but never hear a single peep from the respected lady. In fact, we’ve heard neither a peep or pipe from neither of the two ladies since Anne’s House of Dreams, and even then they barely said two sentenced. As for the prolific, bursting-with-character Davy, why, he went off and married and had kids and that, reader, seemed to be that! This book is about Rilla Blythe, the youngest of the Blythe children, during the First World War.

This book is about growth and pain. This book is about the blooming of life, and the suddenness of death. This is about anticipation and terror, about love and suffering and patience and, well yes, laughter. Plenty of it. The same spirit of Anne of Green Gables, the same odd characters, but tinged now, tinged with the burnt brush of life. Singed and papery, ready to crumble at any moment.

The older I grow, the more my mind expands, the more I am aware of the sheer finiteness of life. The definite end, looming in sight. The pain, just around the corner. The sheer love, enveloping everything. The yearning hunger that is humanity, always reaching, always wanting, always crying out for more. But can we handle more? So much love, yet so much pain.

Rilla of Ingleside brought all that to the forefront in the most raw way possible.

You see, Anne has always been in my heart. Her children have always been in my heart. I dreamed their lives were so wonderful, and they are, they are such fantastic people, one can very well see why Montgomery wanted to escape her grim life and lose herself amongst her almost-perfect characters.

And because Anne has always been in my heart, her joys and pains are my joys and pains. Her children, in some strange way, feel like mine. Rilla’s siblings, feel like mine.

Walter Blythe (oh it hurts) feels like my brother, my son, my lost beautiful soul following the call of the piper, part of the dead army, fighting for the freedom of his loved ones.

Why, when he isn’t real?! When none of them are real?!WHY? And why does it hurt so much to say goodbye?

Ebullient

Well isn’t my Monday-Friday daily posting schedule going well! (not)

Fridays are supposed to be my ‘review’ days, and last week I posted a book review. I have not read nor watched anything particularly enticing recently, so I will review this week.

This week was an event. It was an event I will call ‘Ebullient’, which means ‘bubbling over’. This word can have positive connotations; to be in an ebullient mood is to be excited and enthusiastic about something. However, I like to think that it can also have negative connotations! Bubbling over means danger, heat, suspense. It can translate to anxiety, worry and fear.

Excited and enthusiastic I certainly was about this week, but I was also anxious and worrisome and dreading of it. Is that correct English?

So I geared myself up for it in good cheer, talked myself into a great mood, and plunged myself full swing into some hard work and lots of smiling.

I had two days of training, which was to take place at the golf club next to my workplace. Fear not, we did no golfing. We listened to lectures, saw presentations and participated in ‘exercises’. We were encouraged to ‘network, network, network’ and because I am antisocial and socially awkward, I found this particularly challenging. I like watching people and talking to people, but I think I don’t know how to.

They served a delicious dinner, the highlight of which was a massive tureen of profiteroles and oozing, hot, chocolate sauce.

Both days I returned home late, exhausted and zombie-like. How on earth did I survive university?

After this there was a company team-building day, followed by an evening event.

That was exhausting. I learnt a great deal, I like to think I participated well, but it was exhausting. Every laugh I laughed was forced and fake and eventually it began to hurt my brain.

There were some great highlights, some lovely people, and some excellent food.

But my heart raced, my palms sweated, and I wanted to cry and laugh at the same time. I was so tempted to go home, but I forced myself to attend an evening of socialising. It was difficult. But I was ebullient, in appearance at the very least.

I am twenty three years old, and it might be time to accept that while I am confident, I might just not be the funny, capable, social person I used to think I was.

That was back when I had a firm group of friends, you see. Now I am a nomad and my network of security (of family and friends) is spread over several continents.

Now I am drifting alone, sort of on a little bit of driftwood, following in the wake of the mad backwash created by a magnificent cruise-ship. I can hear the laughter, but never be a part of it. I can see the joy, but can’t feel it. I can sense the warmth, but cannot touch it.

I can be on the fringes, but never in the middle.

I can dance through the dance floor, but my arms will be cold.

I can flit from one group to another, but shoulders will get ever closer together.

I can smile my widest smile, but eventually it will fade, leaving a forced ache in my cheeks.

Today was a crap day. Like a hangover, but a social one. I don’t feel like being nice to anybody, I just want to curl up and be alone for a while. I feel like I’ve had too much socialising with far too many people and I need a break!

Good job it’s the weekend! Time to recuperate!

How was your week? Do you enjoy ‘networking’ and socialising, or does it tire you out and make you desire solitude?

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Amy and Isabelle

I bought this book as an afterthought, selected out of a range of pickings offered to me on Amazon after I’d purchased a book already. It stood out because of its simple, no-nonsense title; I wanted to know more.

The New York Times Book Review daubed it “one of those rare, invigorating books that take an apparently familiar world and peer into it with ruthless intimacy, revealing a strange and startling place”.

Set in a baking town in the middle of an intensely hot summer, the vivid imagery of a rotting green river snaking through the heart of the town makes for a stunning metaphor of the rotting sickness underlying the relationship between mother and daughter. Not that its long-term, of course. The story explores the complicated relationship between a girl on the cusp of adulthood, and a mother who has made many sacrifices in order to lead, at least in her own mind, a ‘respectable’ life.

At the heart of this story is a tale of two minds, formed and influenced by unfortunate circumstances. It speaks of loneliness, desperation for human contact, and highlights the way your own mind can form a barrier between you and your basic human desire to be social. In a way this novel spoke to me directly, because I related on a very personal level with the loneliness felt by Isabelle, the construction of social events in her mind. I was terribly lonely when I moved to a different city, leaving all my friends behind. Gradually we lost contact, and I found it immensely difficult to make new friends. It got to a point so severe that I did something incredibly stupid – for want of human contact. It’s sad and pathetic, but so real. Elizabeth Stout painted this in such a raw, open way. It was quite tough subject matter to navigate through.

Despite loneliness being the driving force behind the main characters’ actions, there were many more complex themes driving the plot forward. Amy’s burgeoning sexuality, Isabelle’s anxious, overprotective and even jealous tendencies towards her daughter, feelings of inadequacy, lack of communication and even Amy feeling a little embarrassed of her mother, were just some aspects explored by Stout, and which made for often uncomfortable reading.

I didn’t particularly enjoy reading this book. It was difficult, at times revolting. Despite this, I couldn’t put it down. The narrative was compelling; with Strout interweaving the minds of the two protagonists, combining two very separate outlooks on the same world (which I suppose is the reality of our lives, viewing the world through a million different perspectives), and setting them amidst vivid descriptions of the town, the slow, almost zombie-like townsfolk who, as it happened, had very real, very raw lives of their own.

This book was brilliantly written, the exposition foreshadowed almost poetically, and the emergence into truth almost like a blossoming of understanding, which I felt fitted in marvellously with the subject-matter. The novel ‘came of age’ beautifully, in a way which is wistfully reminiscent of much of our growth and understanding. This novel is about learning to love, learning to let go, and learning to ‘live’.

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Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

I just watched this film and didn’t quite know what to make of it.

I usually enjoy films like this; sweet and romantic, with vivid imagery and significant conversations.

This one fell a little flat, somehow. Maybe it was because I grew up in the Middle East. One of my closest friends at school was Yemeni. I was submerged in the Arabian culture, and even met plenty of bedouins.

The thing that stands out about these people is that they are intrinsically tough, but a lifestyle of riches and ease has made them softer. Their natures are harsh, but they are the most generous, warm and hospitable people I have ever met. The desert folk are certainly not as affectionate as, say, the Lebanese or the Syrians, or even the Moroccans. However, they have a charm of their own, a charm which is years of strife in the heat and strong family connections and a deep sense of self-less generosity.

Salmon fishing in the Yemen is a story about a sheikh who wants to bring salmon fishing to his people in Yemen, a scientist who strongly opposes the absurd notion of taking British salmon to a torrid country, and the young woman who works for the sheikh, and plays a large part in persuading the scientist (Dr. Alfred Jones) to help make the project happen.

Essentially, this is a love story. The story of a scientist in a dead-end marriage, a young woman who has promised herself to a British soldier whom she barely knows, and a sheikh intent on changing his homeland to make it better for his people and join the tribes together.

Growing up in the Middle-East, the whole tribe thing was very much a real situation. My husband, who also grew up there, bore the brunt of it. He went to an all-boys government school, populated by the sons of bedouins, and if you looked a certain way, or talked differently, you were bullied. If you were friends with a boy with that particular surname, then the boys of another surname would harass you and attack you. He was called ‘Bush’ because he was white, and came from England, and the boys hated ‘Bush’ because Bush bombed other countries. He had to survive by mocking them and their ways, and learning how to fight. Only when he fought them, was he accepted as their equal. It was ultimately tribal, and small boys learned from older boys who learned from their parents.

On the girls side, it was less violent and more catty. It was more bragging about how many princesses they know and who’s mother was friends with which princess. If a girl was from a revered tribe, the other girls would treat her royally. For me, it was disgusting, and I wanted no part of it. For that, I was made to feel like a ratty little girl from the slums who sweats. Ugh, how could she sweat?! How undignified. Look at her, let’s ignore her because she is not as pretty as us and her hair is not straight. Look at her uniform, and my goodness, she uses the same school bag every year?! That was honestly the reason why a lot of girls shunned me or looked down on me. They all followed fashion trends when it came to accessories and because my parents were British and working class, they didn’t see fit to waste money on a new bag when I already had a perfectly useful one. So while all the other girls had their gleaming, satin trim Lulu Catty bags, I walked in with my square pattern, solid bag coloured a drab brown.

Of course, as I grew older, and my little enemies became my very close friends, because bags no longer mattered and deep down, these girls were wonderful and had deep, understanding personalities. I am still in contact with a few of them and they are some of the truest friends I have ever had. I learned that tribal feuds were very real, but also not as nuanced as the days of yore because everybody’s lifestyle had changed.

The point is, of course, that Salmon Fishing in the Yemen portrayed a glorified and unrealistic Arab sheikh. Even when they were speaking with each other, I had to laugh. Every man had a different dialect, and some were speaking Standard Arabic, which is like Shakespeare to desert-folk. They only use it for poetry and when they recite the Qur-an. Literally nobody, ESPECIALLY not a bedouin, speaks like that. I know I am nitpicking. I know. But for me, it dimmed the magic of the story somewhat.

Then we move on to the story itself. The plot was actually wonderful. It was a story of survival, faith, a merging of cultures, acceptance and ultimately, of course, love. If you took the love equation out of it all, the story would have been magnificent. However I think the filmmakers tried way too hard. They romanticised the sheikh to an absurd level. I found it hard to buy his character, namely because it was a version designed to fit the Western ideals of good and bad. It wasn’t true to Yemen or the Arabs.

I felt there was no chemistry between the lead actor (Obi Wan in the prequel series! Ewan McGregor) and actress (Emily Blunt, who is brilliantly beautiful, I have to say). I didn’t see why they had to fall in love, they basically had nothing in common and certainly nothing real to talk about. Blunt’s character was grieving for her army boyfriend throughout their ‘courtship’, so falling for Dr. Jones seemed vastly inappropriate and exceedingly uncomfortable, especially when her boyfriend was miraculously found alive. Dr. Jones said some dubious things to him, and it really didn’t go down well for me or add to his character. Not to mention that he was already married!? I didn’t like how he left his wife, sending her a text saying ‘it’s for the best.’ That was cruel and harsh. If there had been a real reason to be so horrid, it would have made sense, but to me, marriage is sacred, and one could at least make a show of trying, rather than scarpering at the call of the first attractive young woman. It was ridiculous and cheap.

To be honest, I didn’t feel invested in the story. The dialogue was dry and tried too hard to appeal to emotions, ultimately failing to convince me of anything.

I heard this film was based on a book, but frankly I have no interest in reading it. Who knows, it might be brilliant, but I just didn’t buy it. I hate that sometimes other cultures are ‘Westernised’ to fit into the Western ideal or understanding. They are romanticised and made to seem ethereal and magical, when in reality they are just other people living their lives just like we are.

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Anne with an E.

I started watching the recently released Netflix show, with high hopes because of how beloved Anne of Green Gables is to me. The previous TV film and spin off series was captivating and mostly true to the books, if you disregard ‘The Continuing Story’.

I understand that all TV shows and productions are adaptations of original sources, and are to be seen as interpretations, not ‘real life versions of written work,’ no matter how desperately we want them to be. I don’t like watching an adaptation which has been changed drastically to demonstrate another person’s interpretation, merely because I love an original piece of work and don’t like to see that work marred by another, more morbid piece, masquerading as the original source. Do you understand me? I loved Montgomery’s Anne because she was Montgomery’s Anne, and I didn’t like Moira Walley-Beckett’s Anne because it is a fan fiction Anne. Moira would have been better off creating an entirely different character with a similar story, but I guess that is not how adaptation works.

Anyway. I began watching the show, and from the opening scenes I decided that actually, I was peeved and irritated and this was not for me. What first got me was the speech. Anne spoke very much like Megan Follows did, in terms of language applied, however her intonation and expression was highly modern, reeking of the millennial generation and its snarky, questioning lilt. I disliked that so I began to skip through the whole series.

Anne with an E is extremely morbid. People have said it is a good show because it dealt with ‘PTSD, rape and gender equality in the first few episodes’ (reference). Anne appears in this show to deal with her new life as a victim of abuse, suffering extreme PTSD and shrouding all her previously lighthearted ‘scrapes’ in a darkness only alluded to in the books.

This bothers me because this generation seems to be fixated on darkness and illness and pain, thinking that these things and social issues need to be represented on TV shows and films. While that makes sense, it also is worthy to note that not everything needs to be about social justice. One can enjoy the vitality of Anne of Green Gables, and learn some wonderful morals, without being reminded that she suffered in her past.

The greatest thing about Anne was that she never let her suffering determine who she was. She overcame it with positivity and love, she grew and transformed into a sensible and wonderfully strong and able young woman because she was loved when she came to Green Gables. She found a home, and solace, and the books were very much focused on the vibrant characters she encountered and who, essentially, made her eventually who she was; a brilliant mother and a wise and accomplished woman. Completely different from the homely, carroty chatterbox with an overly fanciful nature with a knack of getting into trouble that she was when she first arrived on the scene.

I don’t see anything wrong in viewing Anne as a survivor of mental and physical abuse, because, ultimately, that is exactly what she was. I know that this series is meant to allow the viewer into the deeper, darker recesses of Anne’s brain, because in the books we only ever saw Anne in the third person.

Montgomery wrote about Emily Starr, through Emily’s own eyes and words, in Emily of New Moon and the sequels, and in there we do see some darkness and hints of abuse and more adult themes, I suppose. However, Anne, for me, was a focus on the love, light and beauty in the world. I want it to remain so, and for that reason I will not be watching the new Netflix adaptation. Anne is the voice of my childhood, and there are some things that shouldn’t be tainted through adult eyes, and Anne is the ultimate of these things for me.

If you do watch it, I hope you enjoy it, as it seems to be well-made with love for Montgomery’s original work.

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Girls is an Abhorrent TV Show

Girls is a TV show which debuted in April 2012, and became critically acclaimed for its raw nature, ‘refreshing tone’ and original, if dry humour, as it explored a group of young girls in their twenties, trying to make something of their lives in New York city and making a tremendous amount of mistakes along the way.

I came across the show in 2015 and honestly, I was shocked into watching it. It was different from other TV shows, it was addicting in a way for me because it not only explored experiences but delved into the raw feelings and emotions people work so hard to keep hidden, but which add dimension to motives. I didn’t find the jokes humorous at all, but I generally don’t find mirth in dark comedy. The first two seasons expressed this very well. There were some genuinely excellent plot points, and the characters, although abhorrent, had redeeming ‘human’ qualities.

Well, once I’d watched the first season I was hooked of course, so I carried on watching all the way through to season 6. It was like watching a train wreck. I finished each episode feeling more and more depressed as the seasons progressed. The show, which started off as a mocking satire, became downright meaningless. I was watching for the sake of watching, not caring if these self-sabotaging characters sabotaged their way to hell.

I really don’t see how this show is innovative, sure, it challenges the norms of TV and our expectations from the programs we watch, but the only way it does this is by grossly exaggerating the deepest, sickest human notions ever. Everybody is disgusting. People rape each other. Best friends sleep with each others’ lovers, and they do it the in the dingiest, darkest settings imaginable, and it almost ALWAYS boils down to sex. It is as if to say that the most nefarious of human intentions is always, inherently sexual.

I feel like the show reeks of STDs and unwashed humans. A lot of characters are just so explicit about matters regular people would just keep to themselves to create even a semblance of dignity. The small, supposedly humorous mentions of the creepy openness between Elijah (Hannah’s ex-boyfriend and gay roommate) and Hannah is not funny, it is disgusting. Why does a show have to be so sexually explicit and feature nude women and men to be appealing? Why does it have to make its characters make the same old mistakes at every turn, and never learn anything from them, except perhaps to be even more disgusting and revolting and self absorbed? Are people in the real world really like this? Or is this show an exposé on the darkest aspects of daily humanity just bled out in the open for the world to see? This show strips characters of all dignity they might have, whilst allowing them to think they still maintain it. It’s like a dirty form of dramatic irony. I don’t want to see people having sex, thinking they are doing it in private. People having sex is ugly, and I don’t think it’s something others need to watch. I don’t want to see people masturbating. If you wanna do that, do it in private. It literally adds NOTHING to the plot, and if a point needs to be made, surely there are a billion more creative ways to do so?

I just think the creators of the show had nothing to offer except shock factor.

I don’t know why I carried on watching. I felt honestly like I had to flush my soul to get rid of all the black filth my eyes were seared with. I don’t think this show is innovative, I think the writer of the show took some of her own life experiences, dramatised them with some shocking nudity, sex scenes and ‘raw’ revelations about characters suggesting outlandish and ALWAYS sexually deviant things to other characters, whilst disguising this laziness under the pretext of feminism and freedom of expression. I admired the way the writers flouted their flaws, but each of the four main characters gave up on every endeavour they attempted.

The cinematography of the show is mediocre at best. None of the characters are redeemable, nor am I able to empathise with them because they all just seem to be little devils biting at one another and trying their best to hurt each other.

An example of how ridiculously this ‘feminism’ and sexual harassment is portrayed can be seen in one of the episodes in season 6, when Hannah visits a writer she wrote a bad review about. The writer invites her into his room, she lies down on his bed, and he pulls his penis out. Just flops it out like nobody’s business.

I am sure this has happened to people in the past. But I honestly felt like Hannah put herself in a dodgy situation where this, clearly, to anybody, could be a likely outcome. Why would a woman lie down on a strange man’s bed without even knowing the man? I’m sorry, but any sane woman not intoxicated would not do that – everybody knows you shouldn’t lie down on strange mens’ beds if you don’t want to be sexually harassed. And for all the people saying ‘a woman should be able to lie on a man’s bed without being harassed’ – YEAH, IN AN IDEAL WORLD SHE SHOULD. But this is the REAL world, and people rape each other, so in the name of self preservation one would avoid situations where such attacks will be likely! It is unrealistic.

Hannah is a blob of body she takes pleasure in exposing, and whenever I look at her I think she is riddled with unhealthy ailments. What was the point of showing her naked with her legs spread basking in the sunshine? Literally, how did that add anything to the plot? She is completely self absorbed and selfish and her parents are a goddamn mess. In fact, all their parents are goddamn messes. I don’t think in real life that ALL PARENTS are messes. She gives up on everything she ever tries to do and blames everybody else for her failures, disguising it as concern for her friends; which, coincidentally, is what all the others characters do as well.

If this were a story about people navigating their twenties, it would be less about the sex and more about the character development. We all know people have sex, we don’t need it shoved in our faces every other scene. I don’t even know how these people make money, how do they pay the extortionate NY rent rates, when all they do is backstab one another and sit around with their legs wide open (literally). All their conversations are melodramatic and self absorbed, and they always find a way to revert the conversations back to themselves. I really don’t see how that is innovative in any way. Each season follows the same format and eventually it just became a string of sex scenes and selfish actions which none of the characters ever learnt anything from because they were all just too busy attacking each other and being absorbed within their own depressing selves.

The show only serves to show young people that it is okay to accept the lowest forms of achievement and to not have any passion for anything. To wallow, to flop around like a fish and to have no human dignity or self respect. The characters deserved to be slapped silly.

Bill Persky of Time magazine makes a refreshing point when he says “You would think that a young female talent like Lena Dunham would be showing her generation a way up, rather than reinforcing the idea that it’s cool to be down.” (Time, 2013).

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Flowers from the Storm

I hate love stories. I hate stories written purposely because there will be a romance in the end, and all we get are a string of sex scenes punctuated by poor dialogue and a laughable plot. I don’t mind a bit of romance sprinkled into a plot otherwise meant to be something different. I don’t mind a coming of age novel with a blossoming romance between its pages.

But let me make it so very clear thatI hate erotic novels with a passion. They are sleazy and make me roll my eyes. Sex scenes are just porn, really, cheap and designed to enthral.

However, this book was not an ‘erotic novel’. I was duped into this ‘historical romance’. I was offered the title on a Kindle buying spree. Flowers from the StormLaura Kinsale.

It was £1.99 and the ratings were high, so I thought, who cares for a blurb and bought it anyway. I started reading the first page on Saturday night.

Oh, some arrogant rich man is having sex with another man’s wife. Classy.

Then the man began to have a pounding headache. You know an author does not insert a pounding headache, one that makes one incapable of performing basic needs, for no reason. I was intrigued, but also tired, so I put the kindle away and closed my eyes to sleep.

I didn’t touch it again until Sunday night, when it ensnared me in a vortex of mathematical equations, and a headache that morphed suddenly into lunacy. What. 

I desperately wanted to stay awake that night reading but the husband was getting irritated with the light of my kindle and I was tired.

I lay like a foetus all Monday, folks. I read eight hours straight, I only stopped once because a woman called me about a job interview and another called about a gym membership. I did not eat and did not drink. I was lost in this world.

This world of mathematicians and Quakers and dukes and it sounds so silly and frivolous but there was something so tangible and real about it. I was ensnared, I tell you, bewitched by someone’s hand. Drawn by characters on a page into a world I did not want to leave, and was not ready to leave at 1:10am last night when I turned the last digital page and felt an ache of loss in my heart.

I didn’t expect to love this romance the way I did. So I thought about it. I desperately wanted these two characters to be together by the halfway point. I was on tenterhooks throughout the book, and upon glancing down at see how much I’d read, realised that even at 19% my heart was beating furiously. At 30% I felt nauseous with anticipation. At 50% I felt dread and my nerves were clanging.

Not halfway through the book and already we were being taken on a roller coaster of small literary climaxes. Of fiends and cold baths to cure ailments of the mind and human apes. A field day of all emotions readily available to man, inspired by the actions of people who do not even exist.

The story was compelling. The premise rich and intriguing. The plot vibrant, never ending.

A rogue duke with a pounding headache pronounced a lunatic and put in an asylum. His mother thinks it is a punishment from God for his waywardness. He had some sort of stroke which rendered him incapable of communication, but to medical practitioners, who didn’t know this, he appeared a lunatic. I felt I was being exposed to the depths and layers of nineteenth century thought and medicine, of notions of ‘propriety’, of religion, and this made the story so plausible. Nothing like the crudely assembled plots of other romances I have tried and hated. I was reading about the treatment of ‘lunatics’ – in this case a man with temporal loss of some cognitive part of his brain due to an accident, but also the ‘lunatics’ around him – the stigma with which mental illnesses were viewed, the class system; I was reading about all this and more, and not just a historical love story.

The characters did not fall in love upon their first meeting. There was too much between them, and too many differences in who they were and where they came from for this to be even a passing thought in their heads. After the ‘accident’, and the lunatic asylum, there was a beautiful, gradual build up. Slow, progressing character development, mind development, and after the halfway point, a strong sense of duty deteriorating and blossoming into something richer, stronger, more passionate. There was rich pain, all the characters’ misgivings, their drawbacks, their fears and their hopes painted so richly. Their pain was my pain, literally, I loved it!

That is why it satisfied beyond belief. It was satisfying as ‘romantic literature’ – something I previously despised. However I genuinely feel as though something is now missing from my life. And I know this feeling very well. I had it first at the tender age of nine after reading a book so rich my entire existence paled in comparison. Of course my existence hasn’t paled, but doing daily things now feels irritating. I feel like I need to go back into that world, and I can’t, and I want to be severely upset, but I can’t because the book had a happy ending. See? Why do I react this way if the book ends on a good note? Why do I feel so incredibly dissatisfied, even though I honestly loved reading it? My gut feels wrenched, folks. Perhaps this book awoke in me something I didn’t know I wanted? I want –  I don’t know what I want – and it’s all this book’s fault.

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The Age of Miracles

This is a review.

The Age of Miracles is a coming of age debut novel by Karen Thompson Walker.

As debut novels go, this one was outstanding. Walker did not waste a single moment getting to the point, which I found refreshing and mesmerising.

The tale followed the story of an eleven year old girl ascending slowly and painfully into adolescence, chronicling all the awkwardness of the age, in an apocalyptic time when the earth begins to slow, rendering the days longer. With each cycle around the sun, more minutes are added to the day, and this phenomenon is called the ‘Slowing’.

It was a new idea, and what made it plausible was that it was backed by scientific theory – which gave life to the events unfolding.

I loved how Walker combined the coming of age with this almost sic-fi plot line, and wove them together seamlessly. This was a girl, growing up, going to school, experiencing what we have all experienced with friends and parents and troubles that might seem insignificant to an adult but could make or break a child struggling to make sense of their rapidly changing world – and to have that world very literally change around her too, is remarkable.

Walker, I felt, took a great idea and delivered it excellently. I did not feel as though I was reading words. I felt submerged in the tale and when I was jerked out of it at one point because it had got so dark out that I literally could not see the words on the page anymore, I felt as though I had resurfaced from another world.

It takes a great deal of skill in writing to make you feel like that, and I think Walker has delivered this very well. I would say it was the defining factor of this book. It is a beautiful tale, tragic and extraordinary. I had me thinking about it days after I had turned the last page, and I found myself wanting a bit more.

I would give this book five stars out of five, and would love to read more from Karen Walker.

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