Tuesday, October 22

Humans of New York Book Released

Humans of New York sums up what it is to be human:

As a stranger on the streets of New York.  
As a member of a global community, bound by shared ideas, emotions and experiences.

Readers of HONY become a part of HONY.  

What is HONY?

HONY, as it's called for short, is a book of photography full of stories and images of people from every imaginable background.  It celebrates the beauty of humans and the way  they experience life.  

Brandon Stanton began HONY in 2010, without the slightest clue as to the monumental sensation it would become.  It now has over a million followers collectively on Facebook and Tumblr.

(Scroll down for links.)  

HONY's Impact on Me

Every time that I look at HONY (book or blog) it fills me with a milkshake of emotions.  The stories are sometimes tragic and sometimes delightful.  But one thing that stays the same is that they're always honest.  The stories are authentic, brimming over with individuality.  

This book sums up what it is to be human.  As a stranger on the streets of New York.  As a member of a global community, bound by ideas, emotions and experiences shared.  Readers of HONY become a part of HONY.  

One part of the experience of HONY is that there is always someone that I can empathise with.  Today, I read the diary entry of a 16-year-old girl, which you can also view by following the link.  
A glimpse into the journal of a (quite intelligent) 16 year old girl.
This image reduces me to tears.  It confirms for me that I am not alone.  I am not the only one to think and feel the things I think and feel.  My pain is not mine alone, but an experience and reaction to life that I share with others all over the world.  This is a provider of hope.  

It's useless to attempt to articulate the experience of HONY in a way that does it justice.  It is an intimate and honest book that must be seen to be believed.  Please give yourself the gift of reading this book.  

How to Find HONY 

Official website:  www.humansofnewyork.com
Facebook page:  www.facebook.com/humansofnewyork
Goodreads page:  www.goodreads.com/book/show/17287009-humans-of-new-york

Sunday, October 20

First Look at Lolita

At some time or other, I was bound to read the immortal classic, Lolita.  It seems that hardly a week goes by that one of my lecturers doesn't bring it up in class, emphasising how brilliant it is in so many ways.

So I checked it out from the library and stole a few minutes to read the first few pages.  It didn't take long to get me wriggling in surprised delight.  

For your reading pleasure, a delectable excerpt from page 13.  

Stanley Kubrick film poster
I have reserved for the conclusion of my "Annabel" phase the account of our unsuccessful first tryst.  One night, she managed to deceive the vicious vigilance of her family.  In a nervous and slender-leaved mimosa grove at the back of their villa we found a perch on the ruins of a low stone wall.  Through the darkness and the tender trees we could see the arabesques of lighted windows which, touched up by the coloured inks of sensitive memory, appear to me now like playing cards - presumably because a bridge game was keeping the enemy busy.  She trembled and twitched as I kissed the corner of her parted lips and the hot lobe of her ear.  A cluster of stars palely glowed above us, between the silhouettes of long thin leaves; that vibrant sky seemed as naked as she was under her light frock.  Her saw her face in the sky, strangely distinct, as if it emitted a faint radiance of its own.         
 p 13 of Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.  1955.

The imagery is so sensory and delicious.  I adore the playing cards reference, and the suggestion of the sky being as naked as Annabel is under her dress.  There's something so cool, dry, and fluttering about this.  

A word that Nabokov uses later is "biscuity" and I adore this word choice.  It seems to sum everything up for me.  The chapped lips, the cool but dry breeze, her lovely legs (which he goes on to describe)...  

I know many of you have read this book before, so don't give any spoiler away!  However, feel free to share your favourite passages.  I would love to hear them.  

Friday, October 18

My Writing Wishlist: Voices I Wish were Mine!

"Make a wishlist of writer's voices that you envy."  My creative writing tutor set my class this task as homework, and it's got me thinking.  

There are several writers of whom I am intensely jealous.  If only I had that 'thing' that they have.  This homework exercise has prompted me to consider more deeply what it is that I love about my favourite writers.  

This is my wishlist - writer voices that I wish were mine!

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald is my first true love in terms of voice.  I was floored by his writing long before I could articulate any of my feelings for his work in the technical terms I now know from a year of university.  

The atmosphere and very essence of his era is conveyed in his effortless prose.  His flow is fluid and elegant.  His writing sparkles with sensory experiences - each scene is inhaled and tasted as well as viewed.  

Fitzgerald is on my wishlist of writer voices because it is my ultimate aspiration to have even a fraction of his natural flair for elegance, grandeur, and luxuriant bedazzlement.  I aspire to write with a focus on the senses and I've never seen this done better than in Fitzgerald's work.  

Jonathan Safran Foer

Safran Foer's writing is special is so many ways, as lovers of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close already know.  The visual experience of his experimental work is exhilarating.  

In reference to his voice as a writer, he seems to float through his stories with a heady sense of wonderment for the world and the humans that habituate it.  He articulates so many intimate and authentic observations of the world through sumptuously visual metaphors.  I love his way of constantly questioning the possibilities.  

Safran Foer is on my wishlist of writers voices because I am in awe of his childlike way of experiencing the world with wonderment, from the biggest things like death and love, to the smallest, most intimately unnoticeable things.  I aspire to be a writer who presents wonderment.  

Ian McEwan

McEwan's voice is crystalline, pristine and perfect.  Each word seems fastidiously handpicked so that every image and scene is composed with fragility and delicacy, as though from glass. 

The atmosphere and sensory experience of his writing is sumptuous and heady.  I adore the feeling of entering his worlds, which on arrival, are already perfectly fashioned and refined down to the last detail.  There is a sense of an ingenious omnipotent mind weaving this universe from a thousand threads so that every image is important in the grand scheme.  

McEwan is on my wishlist of writers voices because I aspire to build my characters and story worlds to his level of atmosphere and refinement.  

So, having seen my wishlist, what do you think?  As an aspiring writer, this homework prompt has really assisted me in articulating some of my goals.  

Friday, October 11

The Idiot's Guide to Trainspotting

I started reading IRVINE WELSH'S 'TRAINSPOTTING'.  Perhaps you're better acquainted with director Danny Boyle's 1996 film adaptation.  Having seen and enjoyed the movie, I was intrigued by what the book would be like.  I certainly wasn't prepared for the adventure that awaited me.  

Thinking in Scottish

At uni, we talk about the importance of developing a unique 'voice' as a writer.  Never before have I been confronted with such a shockingly unique voice as that of Irvine Welsh in Trainspotting.  

It is written in dialect.  The first paragraph succeeded in annihilating my expectations:  
"The sweat wis lashing oafay Sick Boy; he wis trembling.  Ah wis jist sitting thair, focusing own the telly, trying no tae notice the c***.  He wis bringing me soon.  Ah tried tae keep ma attention own the Jean-Claude Van Damme video."  
Don't take for granted how difficult it is to get used to this.  I normally read aloud to myself, but the dialect made it impossible.   I simply couldn't get my tongue or brain to work fast enough.  

However, after reading in my head for a while, it all began to make sense.  It was slow going, but the words flowed.  I imagine it would feel similar to when you finally know enough of a language to have a proper conversation.  

And the very funny thing is that it became so natural to my brain, that even after I had put the book down, I continued to think in a Scottish accent in my head!  When I spoke aloud, it actually made me feel weird that my voice didn't match the one in my thoughts.  


When I borrowed Trainspotting from the library I didn't intend to read it.  I had it in mind to quickly glance over the first chapter, just as a study in narrative voice.  But I've fallen prey to its irresistibly compelling narration and now there's no turning back.  

Welsh's mastery of language is sensational and obvious.  I'm proud to flaunt the fact that I'm reading this book because it is evidently a classic and at the very least, an adventure I will have trouble forgetting.  

If you need any more convincing to check it out, read on....

Criticism for Trainspotting

'The voice of punk, grown up, grown wiser and grown eloquent' - Sunday Times 

'A novel perpetually in a starburst of verbal energy - a vernacular spectacular... The stories we hear are retched from the gullet' - Scotland on Sunday

'Trainspotting marked the capital debut of a capital writer.  This marvellous novel might feel like a bad day in bedlam, but boy is it exhilarating' - Jeff Torrington 


Tuesday, October 8

The Helsinki Roccamatios

I think it's safe to say that now everyone knows of YANN MARTEL, the author of LIFE OF PI.  Before Pi, however, I knew nothing of this great storyteller.  My creative writing tutor strongly recommended his Man Booker Prize-winning short story collection, The Facts behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, so I went and checked it out from the library.  Shall we begin?

 The Size and Shape

It's been a long time since I've picked up any book so irresistibly attractive even before I read the blurb.  It's because of it's size and shape.  I never take for granted a book that just feels 'right' and this book is as close to perfect as it gets. 

This hardcover gem is 19 cm by 12 cm and 3 cm thick.  It is the most warmly welcoming, little brick of a book, the sort of thing you would want to take with you everywhere purely because it's nice to hold.  I'd fallen in love before I'd read a word of it.  

Yann Martel's Introduction

I haven't even started reading the stories yet because the author's note was so compelling!  I knew by the end of the first page that I wouldn't be able to resist blogging it.  

"...  One consequence of this youthful existential crisis was my first creative effort, a once-act play I wrote over the course of three days.  It was about a young man who falls in love with a door.  When a friend finds out, he destroys the door.  Our hero promptly commits suicide.  It was, without question, a terrible piece of writing, irredeemably blighted by immaturity.  But I felt as though I'd come upon a violin, picked it up and brought bow to strings: the sound I made was perhaps terrible - but what a beautiful instrument!  There was something deeply compelling about creating a setting, inventing characters, giving them dialogue, directing them through a plot, and by these means presenting my view of life.  For the first time, I had found an endeavour into which to pour all my energies."

Excerpt from the Author's Note.  Yann Martel.  1993.  The Facts behind the Helsinki Roccamatios.  Edinburgh: Canongate.  2004 Ed.  

Martel articulates such a lovely concept of writing: the wonderment of the form, and the necessity and compulsion to develop in it.  

As soon as I get a break from script-writing, I'm going to devour this little book and hopefully it will provide plenty of fodder for blog posts, so keep an eye out.

Saturday, October 5

Mastering the Art of Book Titles


Do you remember way back in the beginnings of this blog, we read Julia Child's gorgeous memoir, My Life in France?  (Follow the link to relive it.)  

Well, I stumbled upon a lovely thing today:  Julia Child's typewritten letter to her editor, Judith Jones. 

This relic of  her life takes place just before Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published.  You can see Julia's vision for the title and a list of her suggestions, the last and not least of which is winning title, just pencilled in at the last minute!  

Bon app├ętite! 

Source: www.slate.com/blogs/the_vault