Saturday, April 30

The Acidic Assignment Writer

Why do they give us weekends for our relaxation if we can only survive the weekdays by cramming for assignments all weekend long?  They should dub them studydays rather, so I don't feel bad for spending the entire weekend typing and writing and researching.  And sickness should NEVER come knocking when it is a weekday, because then I have to spend my entire sickday studying at home rather than at school, and inevitably feel guilty for not doing as much or as good quality work as I might have actually in class!  It's a frustrating thing.  Maybe I should pick a lemon from my wallpaper and suck it for a while.

Anyway, on a more positive note, my first shift at my new job went very well yesterday, and I was a happy camper to discover the perks: free movies fullstop.  Pretty good hey?  But my arms from fingertip to elbow were in absolute agony last night and this morning from all the opening of DVD cases and slamming of DVDS up straight on shelves etcetera etcetera.  It's a physical job, however it may seem.  I'm looking forward, though, to really getting the hang of it, and I'm aware I'll have plenty of fun 'keeping up' with the current films and learning all the trivia that will boost me into nerd-surpremacy over my adamantly-superfluent little brother. 

My maths teacher (ironically enough) recommended two books for me to read - To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Catcher in the Rye, both of which I am disgusted with myself for not having read already.  Anyway, enough from me.  What are you all reading at the moment, and does anyone have any fun stuff to share about their reading/writing world? 

Friday, April 29

My Date with Destiny

Well how do you like the new look?  I have always liked this design, so I thought it would be kind of fun to change it, for a short time at least, just for the fun of it.  It's very vintage and fresh flavoured, don't you think? 

Anyway, on with life.  How has life been treating you?  My life has been a tad strange of late.  You do remember how in my earlier post, It Never Rains but it Pours, I told you all how I had a new job opportunity coming up?  Well, forgive me for neglecting to inform you, but I DID get the job at the video library, (a celebration which called for ten minutes jumping frantically on the trampoline and screaming the lyrics to 'Walking on Sunshine'), and tonight is my first shift.  And this would all have been extremely wonderful and exciting if it weren't for two little, annoying things:
  1. Nightmares every night of the week about flunking my first shift in ways I'd never imagined possible, (having to walk to work and never actually getting anywhere no matter how desperately I lifted my heavy feet), plus
  2. Getting the stomach bug last night and living in a state of suspense to see if I'll recover sufficiently to even go to my shift!
Well, cutting past the drama of the situation, I do believe that all will be fine for tonight, and I'm back to being excited.  I am horribly annoyed though, that I've had to miss my classes, and I wonder whether I was missed.  I suppose it doesn't matter, because I've kept the puppy doggy company, and she was pleased to have someone to snuggle with.  Anyway, wish me luck on my date with destiny!

Wednesday, April 27

Frustrated with Fairlie

There have been few times that I have been really truly utterly FRUSTRATED with a character.  My first time was in Wuthering Heights, and I was exasperated with Linton Heathcliffe, to the extent that I wanted to scratch his sickly, pathetic eyes out with my fingernails!  Even just remembering his little vile words, so full of death and revolting pride and blatant lack of even the tiniest drop of empathy, and I want to clench my fists.  Good on Emily Bronte for getting me so emotionally involved.  And now, my second and last time to be frustrated, I am hardly involved in The Woman in White at all, (I've been thinking of other things), and I feel that Mr. Fairlie is just the most miserly, pathetic, grovelling old dirtbag ever brought to life!  Oh I hate him!  I'm sorry, but I really needed to unload some exsasperation! 

Tuesday, April 26

An Incredibly Encouraging Scribble

Well tonight my dears, the internet for my laptop, Herbie, is NOT WORKING, and I sincerely do not understand why.  Therefore I am writing to you all from the family desktop, which is large, bright and fairly impersonal especially because it is nameless.  The point that I am finally getting around to making is that what I would have liked to say was all plotted out on Herbie, and I cannot access it.  So tonight I am "winging it", which is a whimsical new phrase I picked up which basically means "improvising".  I came across this image a couple of days ago and was immediately interested.  If you are at all like me at heart, it will give you shivers, too.

This, my dears, is an extract of the original manuscript of The Woman in White and what's more, it is in Wilkie Collins' handwriting.  I think that this single sheet of script is a beautiful confirmation of the humanity of authors.  I struggle with writing, and I used to always think that other writers didn't; that they were streaming with vital creative juices - never faltering, always filled to bursting with names, places, phrases, words that bubbled from their consciences and splashed onto their notebooks.  But it was a very 'candied' idea, that was.  They are absolutely not like that at all.  And here is proof.  Great Wilkie Collins!  Is that an entire sentence I see scribbled out?

Monday, April 25

Unforgettable Vegetable Moments

Mrs. Vesey looked the personification of human composure, and female amiability. A calm enjoyment of a calm enjoyment of a calm existence beamed in drowsy smiles on her plump, placid face. Some of us rush through life; and some of us saunter through life. Mrs. Vesey sat through life.

... it will always remain my private persuasion that Nature was absorbed in making cabbages when Mrs. Vesey was born, and that the good lady suffered the consequences of a vegetable preoccupation in the mind of the Mother of us all.

Chapter 8, The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, (published 1860).

Which, besides making me smile and laugh a little at the harmless wit of Wilkie’s words, reminds me of something I noted as being very clever in another book. Give me a moment to fetch it from my shelf. This other book is one of my old favourites, bought from the grocery shop for $14 on a day that I felt like going with the flow (thus I also bought a chocolate bar). This other book is James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, (1961). In Chapter 2 he wrote:

Aunt Sponge was enormously fat and very short. She had small piggy eyes, a sunken mouth, and one of those white flabby faces that looked exactly as though it had been boiled. She was like a great white soggy overboiled cabbage.

Original illustration of Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker by Quentin Blake

Another piece of word wizardry that as a kid stopped me short and made me think. Isn’t it just wonderful when somebody uses exactly the right thing to describe something, and you can’t help but stop and think… “yeah, that’s right – that’s exactly what it’s like”, and it’s so perfect that you burst out laughing and never forget it!

Sunday, April 24

Bad Book Dreams

Well, I think the holidays are starting to get to me.  I had this dream last night - in it I knew it was the last day of term, and I was sitting contentedly in my math classroom, waiting for the bell that never rang.  Then I realized that everyone was leaving, so I got up and left too, but forgot my bag (which was red for some strange reason, rather than light blue).  And when I finally noticed that I no longer had my bag, I went to look for it and couldn't find it anywhere, and so settled for taking a random travelling suitcase which looked just like mine (and actually was meant to be red), and left.  I got home, and then was shocked to discover that my book had been in my bag, and my bag was lost, and I wasn't going to be able to read at all in the holidays, and it was just horrifying!  Like that scene with the knife and the shower curtain and the peircing, repetitive music!  Oh the horror!  (I don't watch horror movies, by the way - I know this by watching a parody that involved Nick Park's plasticine sheep.)

Anyway, I woke up this morning, immediately clapped eyes on my book which was lying on the shelf less than a foot from my face, and was happy. 

As Joan Didion said: "When I'm near the end of a book, I need to sleep in the same room with it."  Well, I'm not too close to finishing The Woman in White any time soon, I guarantee you (something like 500 pages to go!), but I seem to have this need constantly.  I wonder why...

Happy Easter to you all. 

Saturday, April 23

Whims and Wills of Wilkie Collins

I promised you all yesterday that today I would share a little about Wilkie Collins' "unique" style.  I could go on and on trying to explain it intelligibly, or you can read his own explaination (extracted from the Preface and Chapter 1 of The Woman in White:

"The story of this book is told throughout by the characters of the book.  They are all placed in different positions along the chain of events; and they all take the chain up in turn, and carry it on to the end."  And later in Chapter 1, he adds "As the Jusge might once have heard it, so the Reader shall hear it now.  No circumstance of importance, from the beginning to the end of the disclosure, shall be related on hearsay evidence.  When his [Walter Hartwright's] experience fails, he will retire from the position of narrator; and his task will be continued, from the point at which he has left off, by other persons who can speak to the circumstances under notice from their own knowledge, just as clearly and positively as he has spoken before them.  Thus, the story here presented will be told by more than one pen, as the story of an offence against the laws is told in Court by more than one witness - with the same object in both cases, to present the truth always in its most direct and most intelligeble aspect..."

As Wilkie declares in the preface: "An experiment is attempted in this novel, which has not (so far as I know) been hitherto tried in fiction."  And as far as I'm concerned, it's never been done again with anywhere near as much success.  The Moonstone, Wilkie's second major novel, is constructed in the same style as The Woman in White, and I can tell you right here, right now, that his fresh, vibrant, kicking idea worked brilliantly.  Now, returning to his attempt, I very much hope that it will turn out to be as suspensful, intriguing, and stimulating as his final one. 

The thing that I loved the most about this idea as used in The Moonstone, was that, being a mystery novel, you were constantly working hard to get an opinion on who was the 'good guy', the 'bad guy' and 'the culprit'.  But Wilkie isn't one to leave you alone with your private thoughts.  Oh no!  By suddenly changing the narrator, you are exposed to a completely new point of view - and consequently, all your thoughts on the situation are changed.  You see the characters from a new perspective and you think, "oh, well I don't like them anymore" or "it could be him, it really could!"  and the whole process of it is so extremely exciting!  It's so stimulating, and I seriously think that it was one of the funnest books to read.

Friday, April 22

Wilkie Welcomes 'The Woman in White'

This is one of the first things that have captured my delight in The Woman in White.  The story begins to be told by Walter Hartwright, and the being he refers to in the excerpt is a foreigner named Pesca.

It may be necessary to explain, here, that Pesca prided himself on being a perfect Englishman in his language, as well as in his dress, manners, and amusements.  Havinng picked up a few of our most familiar colloquial expressions, he scattered them about over his conversation whenever they happened to occur to him, turning them, in his high relish for their sound and his general ignorance of their sense, into compound words and repetitions of his own, and always running them into eacg other, as if they consisted of one long syllable. 

Chapter 3, The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, (published 1860.)

Though Pesca is hardly a principle character to the story (at least so far and you never know with Wilkie - things change quickly and unexpectedly with him), he is definitely a hilarious and brilliant minor character.  From his introduction to his seperation with Walter Hartwright in Chapter 4, he is just wonderful.  I thank Wilkie extremely for having him along.  He's great company and much needed comic relief!

For those who are unfamiliar with Wilkie's writing, (although I am only a new acquaintance of Mr. Collins', I feel that I have quickly become very familiar with him and feel disposed to call him by his Christian name), his style is very unique to the era.  I'll give you some more on him tomorrow.

Thursday, April 21

Great Gatsby Mansion Bites the Dust

I found this site yesterday, and was once again blown away.  Not only is F. Scott Fitzgerald once again brought up, but here is yet another ridiculous example of how small the world is.  I adore intertextual references - when one person was at the same place as somebody else and did something with someone rather and was the something to somebody... often confusing, but amazing.  Read this and even watch the clip if you feel like it.

This is the mansion that allegedly inspired Fitzgerald's renowned novel, The Great Gatsby.  Now think about Albert Einstein, the Wright Brothers, Oscar Wilde and Fitzgerald all attending parties here.  And now it's gone.  Well, what a ridiculous little world this is.  How on Earth did all these incredible people possibly contrive to seek out the same house?  And now it is gone, and isn't that just typical?

Wednesday, April 20

The Curious Case of F. Scott Fitzgerald

Well, my dears, if I'm finished reading 1984, and you're finished reading 1984, how about we move on?  But before we do, I have some fantastic and gut-wrenchingly incredible news to impart! 

Last night The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was on TV, and I watched it (my second time).  Now for those who haven't seen it, although it is one of the saddest stories ever written, it has an unbelievably interwoven plot line that perks and falls and just rivetts you with astounding moments of realization, despair and delight, over and over, so that at the end the reader/writer's only annoyance is that they hadn't written it themselves!  Well, right at the end before the bulk of the credits began to roll, flashing up on the screen were three words that I could barely see because I was crying like a...  I don't even know what!  But because I was crying, I didn't know whether or not I had really seen those words, and went to sleep wondering if it was possible. 

I searched it all this morning.  Based on the short story by... 

F. Scott Fitzgerald.

(He first published in Colliers magazine May 27, 1922.) 
Now I feel like a really bad reader.  Oh the guilt, with a sneaking hint of frantic joy!  F. Scott Fitzgerald, currently up there in my top three favourite authors, the author of The Beautiful and Damned, and The Great Gatsby, has written what is to me an epiphany of wonderful stories and I hadn't even realized!  What is wrong with me?  But nevertheless, it is an AMAZING discovery.  I am now more in love with him than ever.  How is it legal for there to be so much talent in one person's head?  Well, I am absolutely bereft of words powerful enough to describe my excitement and happiness! 

I think that you all will just have to watch it, or read it then watch it.  From a reader's point of view, I adore it.  It reminds me of so many beautiful things that I've seen and heard and read, like the merging of a thousand memories into one film.  And to think that it's all our dear beloved Fitzgerald's fault for it!

Tuesday, April 19

Straighten Up and Fly Right

Brace yourselves, my dears!  Part 3 is a doozy!  In a couple of days, those of you who were reading along will all be finished and we can move on completely.  But now that we are in the final stages of 1984, and nearing the very end, I would love to hear what your thoughts have been on this book, on the process of reading along, and the way that I am interacting with you.  What would you like to see me do, or god forbid, stop doing!  I want to get a better idea of what it is that I'm trying to achieve, and what it is that will be fun for both you and I. 

Bouquets of Sharpened Pencils is not restricted to being the ramblings of a reading addict, and I'm going to try to develop it a bit more.  More anecdotes.  More funny, little, sweet, nice things that will be worth your while to hear.  And I think that this development is going to work both ways.  I am going to develop Bouquets, and you my dear followers, can retaliate by sharing your general thoughts, anecdotes, recommendations, reviews etcetera.  They are going to be extremely valued here - another flower or branch in our bouquet. 

I really have noticed that I've dawdled from my original intentions, and become really extremely hard core focused on reading.  So lets freshen up, finish this damn book, talk about it and MOVE ON.

Monday, April 18

George Orwell the Invincible Man

I don't know why George Orwell was let alive after he wrote 1984.  I don't know why I haven't been arrested yet for reading it!  It is chucking dung in the faces of so many things, and without even that much class to make it inoffensive.  The words, the lines, the overall picture is so intense and poignant, so in-your-face, so incredible.  My heart rate goes crazy every now and again, and then all of a sudden, in the final chapter of Part 2, I realise that something awful and terrifying is happening, and I desperately don't want to be sitting alone in bed in semi darkness reading it anymore. 

You know, it's funny how fiction works, isn't it?  Because in the Grand Scheme of Things, many works of fiction spend their lifetimes hurling dung at people, nations etcetera...  and don't get in trouble.  While if somebody writes it down prosaically, plain as day, with no pretence other than sticking it to people, they have it in for them.  It's incredible that the World tolerates fiction saying just the same thing as the all-out fanatics.  In 1949 when 1984 was written, it was all happening.  Everyone understood what he was pointing out, but as he never actually said who it was doing what, he could not be accused - to accuse him of flinging dung in their faces, they would have to admit that his portrayal of them was accurate.  What he did was a very clever thing, presenting it in such a way that he couldn't get in trouble.  He made you understand without putting the words into your mouth.  George Orwell is the Invincible Man, who stood in the firing line and was never wounded.

Good luck, my dears!  It's got more plot twists to squeeze out of its entrails yet! 

Sunday, April 17

Watch as I Get Driven Nuts

How are you?  My world at the moment is mostly nice, too, but there is just one aspect of it that is enjoying driving me nuts.  And what's worse, I've got a terrible conscience over it!  It is Chapter 9 of 1984.  In my copy it is 41 pages long, and it is Winston reading The Book.  I do not feel like reading it.  I fail at skim-reading.  So I'm skip-reading.  And I feel guilty.  Anyway, out of the gloomy depths of Chapter 9, I have succeeded to unearth a paragraph of relative sanity - a small snatch of writing that is not Winston reading but rather Winston thinking!  And I like very much what it is that he thinks, because there really is a lot of truth in it.  

The book fascinated him, or more exactly, it reassured him.  In a sense, it told him nothing that was new, but that was part of the attraction.  It said what he would have said, if it had been possible for him to set his scattered thoughts in order.  It was the product of a mind similar to his own, but enormously more powerful, more systematic, less fear-ridden.  The best books, he perceived, are those that tell you what you know already. 

Part 2, Chapter 9, 1984 (published 1949).

Well, we near the end of Part 2.  Are you in for Part 3?  I'm actually very much looking forward to finishing the book and starting afresh on something else.  I think I'll be freer about reading next time.  I seriously feel that this reading plan is restrictive, and is even succeeding in stressing me out!  So next time, read along if you want, but I'll putting no boundaries on anything.  I'm going to be boundless.  I'm thinking of things that I can do to shake it all up a bit, and am open to suggestions for things that you would like to have me do - Mum suggested a weekly or fortnightly random book review...  Anyhow, it would be good to break out of convention and enjoy the process a bit more, like when we were reading My Life in France.  I enjoyed that so much, and all I can try is to make it as fun as before.  In the meantime, however, the list of 100 Books to Read Before You Die is sick of the silent treatment it's been receiving.  Would somebody like to humour it?

Saturday, April 16

It Never Rains but it Pours

It was a vast, luminous dream in which his whole life seemed to stretch out before him like a landscape on a summer evening before rain. 

Part 2, Chapter 8, 1984, (published 1949).

I love the sound of this sentence, and the picture it paints for me.  It makes me think of a time when you could tell the rain was coming because you smelt it everywhere - very fresh and green but also very heavy and wet. 

Speaking of wet, I have been futilely attempting to get myself a job for nearly two years.  As Dad said, "it never rains but it pours", and I had two opportunities open up very rudely one on top of the other.  Here is how it happened.

There was an ad in the local paper for a swimming instructor at the pool just across the road from my house.  Oh how convenient! though I.  I had an interview, was practically hired, and that weekend was scheduled for the training.  That weekend didn't work out.  So I said the weekend after.  Now this was where it began to get sticky.

The video library, a store that I have always wanted to work in (the next best thing after a bookshop), was looking for someone too, when I went to return a couple of DVDs on the Tuesday.  They said that they were hoping to hold interviews the following week.  So feeling like a flustered goose, I waltzed home, printed my resume, and gallumphed on back, extremely excited. 

Well, I cancelled that weekend for the swimming training for two reasons.  First and foremost because I had a cold, but fringing those sneezes was the feeling that I needed to learn the outcome of the video library situation before I committed. 

Anyway, as it happened, the video library didn't talk to me that week.  So this morning I really had to do the training.  I got up at 5:50 am, for a 7:15 start.  So after five hours of non-stop, non-paid, non-fed, non-watered training, I ended up in a pretty bad place.  I would love to say 'near-death experience', but it was really more along the lines of wanting to vomit, having black outs and failing at walking straight - all the result of low blood-sugars and hydration.  I reallly did enjoy it though, until I got out of the pool.  It was freezing, but the girl that I was with was sweet and the kids themselves were very fun.  It was certainly an experience, albeit a weird one.

It is now present day.  I am almost completely recovered and I'm hoping tentatively for a call about my job interview for the video library.  It's a whole lot of drama, hey?

Friday, April 15

Home Sweet Home

Now that they had a secure hiding-place, almost a home, it did not even seem a hardship that they could only meet infrequently and for a couple of hours at a time.  What mattered was that the room over the junk-shop should exist.  To know that it was there, inviolate, was almost the same as being in it.  The room was a world, a pocket of the past where extinct animals could walk. 

Part 2, Chapter 5, 1984, (published 1949).

Don't you feel the truth of this excerpt?  Ha, well perhaps we're not living in a corrupt and terrible society, but I still know that I feel this way about my home, and my room particularly.  I can do anything during the day, but there are some things, I know, that would be too much if I could not eventually escape to my home and burrow my way into familiarity again.  The comfort of its existence makes the rest of life bearable.  Perhaps home sweet home is too cliched to ever mention, but that's just what it is.  And I adore that final line 'the room was a world, a pocket of the past where extinct animals could walk' .  Doesn't it just fill your head with pictures?  My room is absolutely a little world, and I love that it can be, so much.

Coffee Anyone?

But she did not neec to tell him why she had wrapped it up.  The smell was already filling the room, a rich hot smell which seemed like an emanation from his early childhood, but which one did occasionally meet with even now, blowing down a passage-way before a door slammed, or diffusing itself mysteriously in a crowded street, sniffed for an instant and then lost again. 

'It's coffee,' he murmured, 'real coffee.'

Part 2, Chapter 4, 1984, (published 1949). 

Sorry my dears for being silent yesterday, but circumstances rendered it nigh impossible for me to post anything.  This excerpt is to make up for it.  It isn't particularly exciting or anything, just very simple and fascinating.  Just think about something as taken for granted as coffee being lost in time like this, and then how incredible it would be to rediscover it.  Food for thought. 

Wednesday, April 13

Who Doesn't Have a Deathwish?

In a way she realised that she herself was doomed, that sooner or later the Thought Police would catch her and kill her, but with another part of her mind she believed that it was somehow possible to construct a secret world in which you could live as you chose.  All you needed was luck and cunning and boldness.  She did not understand that there was no such thing as happiness, that the only victory lay in the far future, long after you were dead, that from the moment of declaring war on the Party it was better to think of yourself as a corpse. 

Part 2, Chapter 3, 1984 (published 1949).

Well, as we have ten chapters to devour this week, I guess that it is necessary for me shove a couple of chapters down in one bite.  So today is Chapters 1-3 from Part 2.  Even if you are not up to where we are, post anyway and share your thoughts as you go along.  I don't care if you are behind - it doesn't matter. I'M RUNNING BEHIND FOR PETE'S SAKE!  Obviously not a very comfortable position to be in on my part!
I am currently enjoying the new twist of the story-line.  Sorry to those I roped into this who are suddenly discovering they've landed in alien territory, but I don't think that it's going to be like this for all that long.  I just can't help but think that something will suddenly happen and then we'll all be a mess, sitting around in inconsolable suspense!  Won't that be fun? 

My English teacher said this week that the corps (WWII) were just as good as corpses, (but undoubtedly in better phraseology!)  And here it comes up again.  Is there a single one among us who would not be doomed if crime consisted of as little as thinking unorthodoxly (differently to everyone else)?  I'm a goner.  Seriously, though.  Just allowing yourself to think about people or things and not agree with them, or even dislike them, and you've got a deathwish.  It's very disconcerting.

Tuesday, April 12

The Godsent eBook

Well, my dears, if we're all presently on track, we should be beginning Part 2 today, or tomorrow, or in some of your cases, even a week's time, in which case I would trying to avoid reading the excerpts, as your appetites might be spoiled!  I've come to understand, however horrified that I am, that for some of you, the principle issue is not in keeping up, but in finding a copy!  The dratted library!  Going out of their way to inconvienience us whenever possible!  It's very uncool, I know. 

Anyhow, to combat this problem, I have found a good, helpful, easy-to-use site from which you could download the ebook version for free, (and not get imprisoned for it which is undoubtedly a bonus.)

This link will take you straight to where you can download 1984.  You will find that on the right hand (or on your other-left) side of the screen, there will be two download options: 1-Page Version and 2-Page Version

I would recommend you right click the 1-Page Version (smaller file and just as easy to read) and select a save option to download it.  Now this copy has the chapters and the page numbers etcetera etcetera that you would want, as I am very aware that some absolutely arrogant sites don't break up the chapters, so that you are constantly confused.  Completely out of spite.  Hopefully for those of you who would like to read but can't get your hands on a copy, this will be very useful.  If not, at least you've found a site that may come in handy in later life. 

Anyway, coming back onto topic of the book itself, I am very pleased, and yet surprised too, to inform you that there has been a sudden and unexpected plot twist.  So I am now in a state of renewed suspense!  I'm am more hooked now than ever.

Monday, April 11

In Real Life

In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it.  It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it.  Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy.  The heresy of heresies was common sense.  And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right.  For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four?  Or that the force of gravity works?  Or that the past is unchangeable?  If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable - what then?

Part 1, Chapter 7, 1984, (published 1949)

In principle a Party member had no spare time, and was never alone except in bed.  It was assumed that taking part in some kind of communal recreation: to do anything that suggested a taste for solitude, even to go for a walk by yourself, was always slightly dangerous.  There was a word for it in Newspeak: ownlife, it was called, meaning individualism and eccentricity. 

Part 1, Chapter 8, 1984, (published 1949)

Well, my dears, if you're all still alive, how are you all?  Today we complete Part 1, and tomorrow we commence Part 2! 

This last excerpt, as well as being savagely ironic, is also sort of hilarious.  I refer to my life in three separate parts, or threads, more like, that intertwine every now and again: school, internet, and home.  School and the internet are sort of like a semi-reality, while I refer to my home life as "real life" - where I am completely and unabashedly myself in every single way without having to try.  It's almost funny, how my brother and I will be talking and one of us will stop talking about school and return to a home-related subject by saying "and in real life"...  And this is my ownlife.  I live it completely in my own style, eccentrically I'm sure it would seem to many, and extremely individual.  So I feel the word works well.  But then to not be allowed it.  Well.  Imagine that.

Sunday, April 10

To Shout Filthy Words!

Your worst enemy, he reflected, was your own nervous system.  At any moment the tension inside you was liable to translate itself into some visible symptom...  He had written it down at last, but it made no difference.  The therapy had not worked.  The urge to shout filthy words at the top of his voice was as strong as ever.

Part 1, Chapter 6, 1984, (published 1949).

Does anybody else feel the need to shout?  Maybe it's shouting for shouting's sake, but I could certainly do some shouting.  !@#$$%^&*()(*&^%$#@!  I don't even know what it was for. 

Saturday, April 9

Narrowing Down the Range of Thought

'Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?  In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.  Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly define and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten.  ...  Every year fewer abd fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller.  ...  The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect.  ...  Has it ever occured to you, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, nit a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having nnow?  ...  Even the slogans will change.  How could you have a slogan like "freedom is slavery" when the concept of freedom has been abolished?  The whole climate of thought will be different.  In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now.  Orthodoxy means not thinking - not needing to think.  Orthodoxy is unbconsciousness.' 

One of these days, thought Winston with sudden deep conviction, Syme will be vaporized.  He is too intelligent.  He sees too clearly and speaks too plainly.  The Party does not like such people.  One day he will disappear.  It is written in his face. 

Part 1, Chapter 5, 1984 (pubished 1949).

This was for me a very disturbing concept.  Think about it - language, thought, vocabulary - all being governed and then slowly stripped away to leave nothing.  Unconsciousness.  I took in my breath sharp when I read it.  What effect did it have on you?  How about the bit just before this, about the word 'good' and its derivatives?  I didn't want to make you read such a enormous chunk of words, but if you are reading along, that part connects to this and renders it doubly terrifying.  My dears, time to catch up?

Friday, April 8

Survival of the Totalitarian

How are you all my dears?  Surviving?  Thriving?  Good.  I thought that you might be interested to know that I went to the State Library yesterday, and was shown, not into, but past, a room in which the books were so valuable and old that nobody is permitted to have skin contact with the paper. 
Well, anyway, I didn't really have a favourite part of Chapter 4, but I had an extreme revelation in my Modern History class, today.  Nazi Germany.  I don't doubt that for many of you, this will be no surprise.  But listen, just like in 1984, Hitler had all history books that were not congruent with his current views recalled and destroyed, and just like the children that made their parents terrified they would be dobbed in to the Thought Police, Hitler recruited a mass of indoctrined, "brain-washed" youth to act as his spies.  And the name of almost every Jew that was killed by the Nazis was erased from the past so that they 'never existed'.  It is Totalitarianism (Fascism), just as 1984 is an allegory of.  What we are reading, ladies and gentlemen, as you recline in your beds, sweat in your baths and curl on your sofas with the book before you, is massively meaningful.  Nearly scarily.  (Scarily is a word, ay.  If it isn't, at least I've spelt it right.)  This isn't a notice for you to take it all from an opinionated, political view, but rather an invitation to keep in mind that what you see as fiction has already, more than once, been fact.  I'm proud to be reading something so important, and of course, I adore Orwell.  That is innocent enough.   

Thursday, April 7

Doublethink Got Me

He, Winston Smith, knew that Oceania had been in alliance with Eurasion as short a time as four years ago.  But where did that knowledge exist?  Only in his consciousness, which in any case must soon be annihilated.  And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed - if all records told the same lie - then the lie passed into history and became the truth.  'Who controls the past,' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'  And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered.  Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting.  It was quite simple.  All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory.  'Reality control', they called it: in Newspeak 'doublething'. 

Part 1, Chapter 3, 1984, (published 1949).

This excerpt really stepped straight off the page into my reality when I read it.  It really gets to me, this disturbing little idea - the past can be rewritten.  It's not impossible.  It's been done.  In history, 'reality control' has literally been pulled off, in Ancient China for one at the very least.  In Ancient China, emperor Shi Huang-Di ordered all books (save those which would contribute to the nation's economic growth, religion and physical health) were burnt and "Anyone referring to the past to criticise the present should, together with all members of his family, be put to death" - Shih chi, Memorial on the Burning of the Books, 87:6b-7a.  (I study Ancient history.) 

It just GOT me like a little pinch on the bum, and I realize now, just how awful it is.

What things have really 'got you' so far?  I am completely convinced that nobody could have made it so far into this book without being HIT by something like a ton of bricks.

Wednesday, April 6

Big Brother is Watching You

Oh the happiness of me!  Not only have I been smiled at by a nearly creepily cheerful menagerie of teddies and toys on the end of my sister's bed, laughed at a hanging plant that literally looked like an octopus and given Dalloway the Labrador puppet-hugs to some forty different grade oners today, I have also reached my first goal for followers!  I officially have ten real life followers, and I am absolutely delighted.  I seriously need to do something celebratory. 

Anyway, I thank you all extremely for coming and listening.  It certainly is a bubbly feeling! And thankyou Kayla from The Many Colours of Happiness, who said that she thought Orwell's writing was wonderful.  Well, dear, I am completely and utterly devoted to that very opinon.  Here is a quote from George Orwell that I have stuck up on my wall -

A scrupulous writer in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 1.  What am I trying to say?  2.  What words will express it?  3.  What image or idiom will make it clearer?  4.  Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

He sticks absolutely true to his guidelines, and to such an effect that I feel engrossed in an entirely new way as I read his book, 1984

(I think that the only other person who writes like this is Virginia Woolf, whom I adore and consider one of my most beautiful friends.  I know I'm wandering from the topic, but she also, presents every line like it in itself is a tour de force!  The images and idioms she uses are completely new and astonish me every time that she whips them out - words that work perfectly, but we would never expect.  She's another person that I would happily introduce you to.)

Anyway, this was the my favourite thing that I read today.


He took a twenty-five cent piece out of his pocket.  There, too, in tiny clear lettering, the same slogans were inscribed, and on the other face of the coin the head of Big Brother.  Even from the coin the eyes pursued you.  On coins, on stamps, on the covers of books, on banners, on posters and on the wrapping of a cigarette packet - everywhere.  Always the eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you.  Asleep or awake, working or eating, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or in bed - no escape.  Nothing was you own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull.

Part 1, Chapter 2, 1984, (published 1949).

Yes, this is where the phrase originated.  I know!  The world is a tangled web of textual references!

Well, I am blown away by Orwell so far.  I am excited by his book as few books have ever excited me.  I am literally buzzing inside, nearly frantically, for no real reason - just wanting to keep reading, but disturbed by the tragedy that is unfolding before me. It's ironic, really, but incredible.  Please, I bet that you will be the same.  Don't be afraid to start reading now.  We've only just begun! 

Tuesday, April 5

Ignorance is Strength - We Begin 1984!

Phew, well that was intense.  Alright, I now see that the book will be pretty intense, but I've only read the first chapter and a half and I'm already taken aback by the burst of just... I suppose... amazing and exhilarating concepts and thoughts that are flooding out.  It might be heavy reading, but it will be very thought-provoking as well.

The Ministry of Truth - Minitrue, in Newspeak - was startlingly different from any other object in sight.  It was an enormous pyramidal structure of glittering white concrete, soaring up, terrace after terrace, three hundred metres into the sky.  From where Winston stood, it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party.


... The Ministry of Truth, which concerned itself with news, entertainment, education and fine arts.  The Ministry of Peace, which concerned itself with war.  The Ministry of Love, which maintained law and order.  And the Ministry of Plenty, which was responsible for economic affairs.  Their names in Newspeak: Minitrue, Minipax, Miniluv, and Miniplenty.

The Ministry of Love was the really frightening one.  There were no windows in it at all.  Winston had never been inside the Ministry of Love, nor within half a kilometre of it.  It was a place impossible to enter except on official business, and then only be penetrating through a maze of barbed wire entanglements, steel doors and hidden machine-gun nests.  Even the streets leading up to its outer barriers were roamed by gorilla-faced guards in black uniforms, armed with jointed truncheons.

Part 1, Chapter 1, 1984, (published 1949).

I really feel that this is a fantastic example of the sort of ironic and dark concepts that fill this book.  I am in agonising suspense over it, truthfully, because it's like a movie - a dark pre-apocalypse feeling movie that I must watch to the end!  No pulling the stops out now! 

Also, well done to the two wonderful people who told me (outside of Bouquets etc.) that they meant to read 1984.  So I thank you both EXTREMELY and please, if you have thoughts on it as we go, speak up and share it.  For those who are still seriously considering reading it and would like to hear another example of the style and intensity of Orwell's writing, I have included another excerpt from Chapter 1 that might just tantalize or intrigue you enough to convince you.  Here it is:

The horrible thing aboutthe Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to a act a part, but this it was impossible to avoid joining in.  Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary.  A hideous ecstacy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in which a sledge-hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one's will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic.  And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp.  Thus, at one moment Wiston's hatred was not turned against Goldstein at all, but, on the contrary, against Big Brother, and at such moments his heart went out to the lonely, derided heretic on the screen, sole guardian of truth and sanity in a world of lies.  And yet the very next instant he was at one with the people about him, and all that was said of Goldstein seemed to him to be true.  At those moments his secret loathing of Big Brother changed into adoration, and Big Brother seemed to tower up, and invincible, fearless protector, standing like a rock against the hordes of Asia, and Goldstein, in spite of his isolation, his helplessness and the doubt that hung over his very existence, seemed like some sinister enchanter, capable by the mere power of his voice of wrecking the structure of civilisation.


Monday, April 4

The Home Reading Guide and Introduction to '1984'

Well today I cheated.  I got 1984 out of a different library so I could start it earlier.  So the date is set, dears.  Tomorrow we start. 

Now, for those of you who intend to follow I am making a casual reading plan so you can stick with me as we read together:

The book is divided into three parts:
Part 1 containing eight chapters.
Part 2 containing ten chapters.
Part 3 containing six chapters.

I think it would be sustainable for most of you to read one Part a week, and so finish the book in three weeks. 

I think that my intentions are to share my opinions and what I liked about the book with you, and then hear from you what your thoughts and favourite parts are.  Let's give it a go, hey?  It's casual and personal, so maybe you can enjoy it.  And of course, if you're not reading along, I'm sure you can still enjoy hearing about the book and responding to my opinions. 

For those who want to read along, (and those who are innocently interested), here is a brief and spiffy introduction to 1984 (which, by the way, I have not read before, and so am on a level playing field!):

The blurb on the back of the Penguin Books edition:
"Newspeak, Doublethink, Big Brother, the Thought Police - George Orwell's world-famous novel coined new and potent words of warning for us all.  Alive with Swiftian wit and passion, it is one of the most brilliant satires on totalitarianism and the power-hungry ever written." 

George Orwell, born 1903, was a classic English author whose famous works included Nineteen Eighty-Four (published 1949) and Animal Farm (published 1945), both of which are unique and powerful political satires.  As a child, he was inspired by H. G. Wells' Modern Utopia, and thought he would like to write a similar sort of book.  Now what excited me most about this is the web of textual references which intertwine authors!  H. G. Wells, authors of War of the Worlds and The Time Machine, inspired George Orwell, the great, to write books that inspired so many others!  I love stuff like that. 

Anyway, here are your introductions and the Home Reading Guide, so get ready to enjoy, or read too, if you're game. 

Sunday, April 3

Splish Splash I was Taking a Bath

I regret to inform you all that yesterday and today have been two of the most disgustingly unproductive days of my life.  I currently have no real need to study, and I am waiting.... waiting... waiting... on 1984 to arrive at the library!  And to make matters worse, even if it comes tomorrow, I can't pick it up until Tuesday because of the library's unbelievably inhumane hours.  It's nearly as though they're trying to discourage readers.  In all seriousness, I often think that.  (Please, dears, if you would like to join in and read with me, I would love that.  I encourage you to send me a comment - just click at the words at the bottom of the post - and let me know that you would like to be a part of it, and I will make up a bit of a reading plan so that I don't give spoilers away, and vice versa.) 

Anyway, my dog has benefieted from my inactivity.  She got a shampoo and blow-dry, followed by a root-stimulation comb through and then a teasing of the hair, after which she got a style package and chose to go (however boldly) for the fresh, youthful look.  She is now a new woman.  Glad she feels that way.  While everyone is walking by humming "I belive in miracles - you sexy thing" to my dog, I am feeling especially pointless. (I'll see if I can share a picture with you, but for now it so happens that the camera is in someone else's handbag.) I think my overall, and yet immature, conclusion on life is that if I was not a reading person, I would probably be a dying person.  Here I am - sitting on my bed, drinking a cup of tea, singing "splish splash I was taking a bath" for absolutely no reason, being horribly sarcastic, because I'm bored.  That always happens to me when I'm bored.  Sarcasm. 

Not to sound jealous of my dog, but she certainly has life covered, and thanks to me, a great hair cut. 

Saturday, April 2

Toujours Julia

I read the final chapter and Epilogue of Julia Child's My Life in France to Dad as he finished up some work in the garage a couple of days ago, and when I finished, we lapsed into a silence, so full of joy of her final memories, and then heavy grief.  Moments later, we were both crying and shuddering and mourning miserably.  That was perhaps three days back, and thinking about it now, I feel a heaviness in my chest of missing.  Missing Julia.  I could cry again. 

The snippet I am about to share is the last paragraphs of the book.  (Epilogue, My Life in France, first published 2006.)  It reminds us of the sole meuniere she ate at La Couronne in France, which I shared with you.  You might want to re-read the excerpts so as to appreciate the significance of her final words.  

1.  Fish Taken Seriously

2.  A New Kind of Appreciation

Now, are you ready?  Don't cry, or you'll set me off again. 

If one doesn't use the freshest ingredients or read the whole recipe before starting, and if one rushes through the cooking, the result will be an inferior taste and texture - a gummy beef Wellington, say.  But a careful approach will result in a magnificent burst of flavor, a thoroughly satisfying meal, perhaps even a life-changing experience. 

Such was the cose with the sole meuniere I ate at La Couronne on my first day in France, in November 1948.  It was an epiphany. 

In all the years since that succulent meal, I have yet to lose the feelings of wonder and excitement that it inspired in me.  I can still almost taste it.  And thinking back on it now reminds me that the pleasures of the table, and of life, are infinite - toujours bon appetit!  [toujours bon appetit - always enjoy your meal].
I know this moment is not even a fraction as significant for you as it is for me, but I loved every second that I was with her.  What was she like?  She was beautiful, honest, courageous, determined, perservering, funny as anything, loud and lovely, bursting at the seams with delight and warmth.  Her words were full of truthfulness and life - I don't mean vivacity though she was vibrant, but life, as in she gave all the little beauties and all the troubles and then smiled at the end of all to show us it was good. 

"That's all in a book!  You don't know her!" people might say, thinking themselves perfectly intelligent and supieror. 

To which I can only shake my head and roll my eyes.  In my head I'm thinking: "You poopoo-heads.  I knew her in the book.  That is the life that I spent with her.  I know her.  I was there."

And so I was.  One of the only books in which I feel in love. 

Friday, April 1

Pinch and a Punch

ME: Ah ha!  (Approaches THEM with fingers poised like a crab claw.) Pinch and a punch for the first of the month!

THEM: (Retaliates with a fierce kick to the ME's shin.) Slap and a kick for being so quick!

ME: Dammit. 

The sad tangled web weaved by the twelve times yearly tradition - The First Day of the Month. What is so deformed in our genetic make-up that we think this is actually fun?