books

May Books

Books read: 6
Phyiscal: 1
Audio: 5

The Island of Doctor Moreau – H. G Wells
4/5

At some point I’ll write a post talking about the five H G Wells books in the Audible collection in more details. This book was creepy and dark and clever and so so awesome. There were Frankenstein vibes to it which of course I love.

The First Men In The Moon – H. G Wells.
4/5

I really love H. G Wells okay, I just really love him. This book was one of my favourites, so I’m glad it was the last one I listened to. A nice way to end. Phenomenal characters, awesome made up science, so much fun, so much drama. Man I love this book a lot okay.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris.
2/5

I was really surprised to find that I didn’t love this book. I knew nothing about it going into it other than that I know people who rated it highly. I personally didn’t get on with the style it was written in and how big the focus on romance was.

Circe – Madeline Miller
4/5

This was a recommendation from a friend and I adored it. Greek Myth is something I knew very little about and am slowly wanting to find out more of. I loved Circe’s story, especailly her as sometimes I hated her and sometimes I loved her, most of the time I was rooting for her. Awesome book.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Sáenz
3/5

I really struggled with this book. I found Aristotle kinda bland for a long while, I understood completely that his depression was the cause of that, but I struggled with connecting with him because of it. Dante I adored from beginning to end though. Towards the end, when Dante returned and Ari had a bit of a meltdown on his parents, I really really enjoyed it. I wish I could have connected with the whole book as much as I did the last quarter.

Six Tudor Queens: Katherine of Aragon (The True Queen) – Alison Weir
4/5

I can’t rightly claim this when I have another five wives to go, but I’m pretty sure Katalina is going to be my favourite and hero for the rest of ever. This book showed the level of her defiance, love, faith and kindness and ugh. I love her so much. I also got a better understanding of Mary I through seeing her childhood.

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Health

M.E Awareness Life

Quick note before I start: I will be blogging less regularly for a while until I get my symptoms back under some form of control. My M.E has gotten worse lately and it has made blogging difficult. I will still be blogging just less frequently.

I’ve been meaning to write this blog post since the beginning of last week, when it was actually M.E Awareness Week, but my health has been pretty poor so focusing on my laptop long enough to write a blog post has been a near impossibiltiy. The week ending May 12th was M.E Awareness Week, with May 12 itself being M.E Awareness Day. While I completely understand the need of awareness times, and definitely think we deserve more awareness for this illness than we get, I also get frustrated by them. Living with a debilitating and unpredictable illness like M.E will never be something that just happens in that week, and it’s something we need paid attention to all of the time. If this week helps that to happen then great, I just hate that the way my brain works I feel guilty if I don’t do anything to help raise awareness during this week or day.

I wasn’t actually able to do anything because I didn’t have the energy to focus myself into a blog post or to even write a piece for Instagram. I did plan to go to the Missing Millions campaign in Bristol but I had to cancel my place because the idea of spending 90 minutes on a bus each way sounded exhausted before it even got to getting there and taking part. It was far too much to do. So, even though M.E Awareness Week is over, this is still real for me and for all of us who are suffering from it.

Something like 250,000 people in the UK have M.E. That’s almost double the number of people who live in the city I am from. Worldwide this number is predicted to be anything between 17 and 24 million. That’s up to 24,000,000 people who are suffering from an illness that is widely ignored, widely underfunded, and still in many places unbelieved.

Denmark for example, a country that is widely praised for its happy population and way of life, has only just accepted M.E as a real illness. There are other countries that still don’t. Even in locations where M.E is recognised, there is still a lack of understanding and often even a lack of empathy and support from the medical professionals sufferers are talking to.

M.E has suffered a lot of stigma in the past and still does, with patients told by everyone from friends and family to doctors to completely strangers than it’s not that bad or it’s not real or that they need to try dieting or yoga or whatever. There are companies out there to make money off of ‘curing’ people from an illness that currently has no cure. The name ‘Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’ has caused many people to believe it’s just tiredness, when the truth is the symptoms of M.E are vast and changable and chronic fatigue is just one of them.

There are millions of people missing because of this illness. People who are missing out on work, hobbies, friendships, family, people who are missing out on the life they want because of this illness. I can’t speak for everyone, but right now, I’m not looking for a cure. Of course a cure would be great, but it seems too big a thing to ask for, right now, I’m asking for compassion, understanding and a willingness to learn if you don’t know.

M.E is real for us every single day, we are not invisible.

 

books

April Books

Read: 7
Audio: 6
Psychical: 1

Girl Heart Girl – Lucy Sutcliffe
3/5

I know nothing about Lucy Sutcliffe before I read this book, and I think maybe I would have liked it more if I had been a follower of her and her girlfriend’s YouTube. That’s not to say I didn’t like the book, I found Lucy’s story great, I even realised that we were living in Plymouth at the same time, just at different Uni’s. We also both met our girlfriends online, so it was nicely relatable. I just found the writing a bit too simplistic.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms – George R R Martin
4/5

Although I am extremely far behind on the series, I got caught up in all the hype for the final series. In order to give myself something of a Game of Thrones fix, I finally got around to reading this, which I’ve had on audible for ages. I loved Dunk and Egg so much, and found their stories fun and enjoyable.

The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass – Phillip Pullman
3/5 & 4/5

Sometime last year I read the Northern Lights and finally I got to the sequels. I had forgotten how much I loved the world of His Dark Materials. Although the second wasn’t my favourite, I don’t really understand all the hate it seems to get in reviews. The third one though, is probably my favourite in the series. Although I don’t like the Will/Lyra moments at the end.

The War of The Worlds – H G Wells
3/5

I watched the movie of this a few years ago and really didn’t like it, so I was a bit concerned about reading the book. However, I refuse to be someone who judges the book by the movie, so I gave is a solid chance. It’s never going to be my favourite H G Wells book, but I did enjoy it more than I expected to. I like the way Wells wields story.

The Invisible Man – H G Wells
4/5

I really loved this one. There was something of a Jekyll and Hyde feel to it, I felt which is definitely part of why I loved it. The book was humourous at moments, serious at others, it was interesting how at times I wasn’t sure who I should be rooting for.

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4/5

My opinion of this book can be summed up with St John Rivers needs to die. In all seriousness, this will never been my favourite Bronte book, but I do love it, and I think I appreciate it a bit more every time I read it.

books

Heathcliff’s Religious Beliefs?

Religious language is littered through Wuthering Heights and amongst other places, it’s clear Emily was hugely inspired by the works of John Milton. It’s easy to compare Heathcliff to the devil, something that is also littered throughout the novel, and something I will mention later on in this point. But something that isn’t discussed very often is what Heathcliff actually believes in, so let’s discuss.

Religion was a huge part of the time.

Pre-Victorian England was a time when everyone was expected to be Christian. Dissent was high, yes, but generally speaking, people were expected to be good upstanding Christians. Ir was a time when phrases like “the year of our Lord” and other religious lexicon was common in everyday language. More specifically to the novel, Heathcliff was around Joseph for many years. Joseph who only speaks to spout the bible or condemn someone to hell. On top of this, he has Nelly who tells him to forgive because “it is for God to punish wicked people” and he would have had religious teachings in his lessons, probably with higher importance than literacy and arithmetic.

Going from this, it’s easy to see that even if Heathcliff didn’t believe in God or Heaven or Satan or Hell, then he still would have picked up the language because of how commonplace it was around him. He may not have even considered the religious context but rather just as expression words. It’s something we see nowadays with the expression ‘oh my god’, most people saying it don’t mean it in a blasphemous way, they are simply expressing something in the terms that the society around them does.

He believes in God but he doesn’t accept it.

It is possible that someone of a dark character such as Heathcliff might believe that there is no a heaven or at least that the Christian Heaven is not attainable for him, so there is only hell. There are only pain and the devil. Heathcliff’s language regarding God and other religious things are littered through the novel but I’m just going to focus on a couple.

When Nelly tell him God should punish, Heathcliff’s comments that “God won’t have the satisfaction I shall” which suggests that at this point at least there is a God in Heathcliff’s mind. I don’t believe him to just be pandering to Nelly’s believes, I think he actually believes God does exist but he doesn’t have time for this God. While the vast majority of people believe people that God will deal with everything because He is all powerful and caring and to be feared, Heathcliff doesn’t buy into that. Heathcliff thinks he needs to take things into his own hands, that he has the right to avenge rather than waiting for God to do so.

Later on, in the novel, when Cathy is dying, Heathcliff comments that “nothing God or Satan could inflict would have parted us”. I find this particularly interesting because generally speaking God and Satan are seen as opposites. One is good, one is evil, etc. Heathcliff look at them as the same. He sees them both as forces he and Cathy were bigger and stronger than.

I think, from this, that perhaps Heathcliff believes in God and Heaven but not as a Christian. He doesn’t follow the teachings or believe that Heaven is the ultimate goal, but rather that God is something/someone that can be subverted.

Heathcliff is actually the devil.

Now, this is a little off topic but it’s worth mentioning in terms of Heathcliff and religion. This is a theory that has been tried and tested and wrung into the ground. There is so much in the book that bacn be used to defend this theory but I don’t buy it. I would argue rather that Heathcliff is a demon, a creature of Satan rather than Satan himself.

Isabella asks if he is a man or a devil – not the indefinite article – and she speaks of ‘his kin below’ and she comments that a tiger (a devilish creature at least in William Blake’s poetry) or a venomous serpent (see: the Garden of Eden, specifically Milton)  could not scare her in the same way. She refers to him as a “lying fiend, a monster not a human being”. Other people comment on him being devilish and Heathcliff is aware of it.

Heathcliff comments that “you think me the devil” to the second Cathy, however, he also uses language that suggests that he himself is not the devil. He speaks of Linton being worse than he expected and adds “and the devil knows I was not sanguine.” He comments on the second Cathy regarding Hareton and said: “send him to the devil.” Towards the end of the book, he says that he has “nearly attained my heaven, and that of others is altogether unvalued and uncoveted by me.” And the final argument I have for Heathcliff not being the devil but being the devil’s kin is when he dies Joseph says “the divil’s harred off his soul.”

books

The Problem of Dorian Gray’s Appearance

I’ll be honest when it comes to adaptations of books, I have been something of a loyalist in my time. I was the one sat in the cinema aged 16 watched the Darren Shan saga going ‘that didn’t happen’, ‘that’s not how it happened’ until the poor girl who went with me probably wanted to punch me in the face. Since, however, I have got better, because the myriad of Wuthering Heights adaptations forced me too. I love films that are accurate but I understand the creative licence, and that some things cannot be done in movies the way they are in books. They are different forms.

What I cannot forgive, is the 2009 adaptation of A Picture of Dorian Gray, and the way it takes Oscar Wilde’s beautiful Victorian gothic and turns it into a pile of shit. Adaptations of books can be a great way for people to find an in if they are intimidated by a book and adaptations like this one are terrible because of this. However, now isn’t the time to rant about that film.  So let’s try and stay on topic.

Image result for dorian gray 2009

If the only thing you knew about Dorain Gray was this movie or even just the cover/posters associated with this movie, then you could be forgiven for thinking that the title character has dark hair and dark eyes and that he is someone who you wouldn’t trust for even a second.

This is wrong, of course, but it’s almost to be expected, adaptations generally get these very important details wrong. The problem is, that it’s not just this film. The generally known image of Dorian Gray is this dark image.

The top left of these covers is the one I had when I first read the book. Much like the movie, the book covers have fallen into the same trap that the movie did, of turning Dorian Gray into someone with dark hair and eyes and a suspicious look about them.

So, what exactly did Oscar Wilde say to describe his Dorian Gray?

 I really can’t see any resemblance between you, with your rugged strong face and your coal-black hair, and this young Adonis, who looks as if he was made out of ivory and rose-leaves.

This is spoken by Lord Henry Wotton after Basil claims that he can’t put the portrait of Dorian in an art show because there is too much of himself in it. Instantly, we get an image of Basil as having dark hair and Dorian as looking nothing like him. Strike one on the generic image of Dorian Gray being wrong.

Later on, we see Henry Wotton meeting Dorian face to face.

Yes, he was certainly wonderfully handsome, with his finely curved scarlet lips, his frank blue eyes, his crisp gold hair. There was something in his face that made one trust him at once. All the candour of youth was there, as well as all youth’s passionate purity. One felt that he had kept himself unspotted from the world. No wonder Basil Hallward worshipped him.

In these two scenes, we learn everything we need to about Dorian Gray’s appearance and how pretty much every image of him in media is wrong.

Oscar Wilde created a story based entirely about appearance, Dorian keeps his innocent, young face despite the evil and sinful things he is doing, because his portrait takes them rather than him. It plays on the idea of darkness showing on a face and the fact that such an innocent, young, unlined face could not be seen as anything but trustworthy.

Of course, it’s understandable why Dorian Gray is mostly portrayed in this darker manner. Society believes what the point Oscar Wilde is making, that people who do bad things must have a bad look about them. But in showing this in the image of Dorian, the adaptations, and book covers miss the entire point of the novel. Dorian subverts this belief and people continue to trust him by his face despite the rumours they hear of things he has done.

It is infuriating to see this constant wrongness in Dorian Gray, not only because it completely misses the point of the novel, but because it seems to imply the cover artists and movie directors didn’t even bother to read those two rather short descriptors.

books

Nick Carraway is Gay (Part Two)

In part one we looked at the fact that Nick is seemingly attracted to the strong masculine form of Tom, that the female Jordan is more interesting to him because of her masculine qualities and that he ended up beside an almost naked man in bed. Now we move on to the really interesting stuff, which is the way in which Nick looks at Jay Gatsby.

When first meeting Jay, and knowing who he is, Nick focuses solely on the perfect smile. In a paragraph that is brimming with romantic connotations.

He smiled understandingly–much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced–or seemed to face–the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor.

I find it almost impossible to read this as a platonic feeling towards a man he has just met. Nick is looking at Gatsby and basically swooning because ‘Oh my god he smiled at me.’ The way Nick continues this paragraph would only need a couple of words changed to become something from vows or a wedding speech

It understood you just so far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.

Instantly, Nick is attracted to the physical presence of Gatsby, and curious to know more about the character he has heard so many mixed reports about. I will forever be grateful to Baz Luhrmann for giving us this image when showing that scene in the 2013 movie.

Image result for great gatsby 2013 smile

When Jay takes Nick out for lunch, Nick is well aware that Jay is lying to him about all the things he has seen and done. However, Nick isn’t particularly angry with it, he is interested, literally saying “My incredulity was submerged in fascination now”. This continues as they cross the bridge into New York City. We know from a previous description that Nick loves the city, and then he tells us his thought process as they cross the bridge.

“Anything can happen now that we’ve slid over this bridge,” I thought; “anything at all. . . .”

Even Gatsby could happen, without any particular wonder.

Nick feels the same openness of possibility that he felts with New York when he thinks of Jay Gatsby.

When the shit hits the fan – and Tom, Daisy, Nick, Jay and Jordan are in the city – we see that Nick is disgusted by everyone in the room. Everyone except one. (bolding mine)

 Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction–Gatsby who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn. If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away

Ah yes, just a straight man referring to his friend as gorgeous.

If we skip now to nearing the end of the novel: Myrtle has been killed and Jay is hoping Daisy will call. We see Nick feeling the need to compliment Jay.

We shook hands and I started away. Just before I reached the hedge I remembered something and turned around.

“They’re a rotten crowd,” I shouted across the lawn. “You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.”

I’ve always been glad I said that. It was the only compliment I ever gave him, because I disapproved of him from beginning to end. First he nodded politely, and then his face broke into that radiant and understanding smile, as if we’d been in ecstatic cahoots on that fact all the time.

Once again we are shown Nick’s attraction to Jay’s smile and also to the vibrant personality that is Jay Gatsby. He claims that he disapproved of Jay, but he still stuck beside him, was the only one from the parties to attend his funeral, and could not distance himself because he was so attracted to him.

Once again I want to thank Baz Luhrmann for a movie scene. After Gatsby’s death, Luhrmann shows us Nick sleeping on the stairs, watching over Jay’s casket, clearly not wanting to leave him even in death. Although not directly from the book, it definitely captures the essence of Nick’s character.

Tom isn’t exactly a character you want to listen to in the novel, but even he notices Nick’s feelings towards Jay’s, going as far as to compare them with Daisy’s. “He threw dust into your eyes just like he did in Daisy’s”.  There’s no denying the attraction Daisy felt towards Gatsby and here Fitzgerald outrightly admits it as the same thing Nick feels towards Gatsby.

One final note, I was watching the 2013 movie on the coach on the way to my graduation in December, and my Mum looks over at the ‘you’re worth the whole lot of them’ scene and just went “So are they gay?”

books

Nick Carraway is Gay (Part One)

Nick Carraway is the narrator of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, although he is not the protagonist. Jay Gatsby is and it is through Nick that we come to know and judge the characters of the novel.

The first time I read The Great Gatsby, I googled is Nick Carraway gay because I genuinely thought it was going to be a confirmed thing. What I found was a lot of people discussing the possibility but nothing outrightly confirmed. However, the way I see it, it doesn’t really need confirming, because the evidence is right there in the text. Here’s the proof and all of this without even mentioning him and Gatsby himself.

Although the most obvious clues as to Nick’s sexuality come from his connection to Jay Gatsby himself, we actually see a few indicators before Gatsby is even introduced in the book. Firstly there is the way Nick talks about Tom Bucannan.

Now he was a sturdy, straw haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner. Two shining, arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward. Not even the effeminate swank of his riding clothes could hide the enormous power of that body–he seemed to fill those glistening boots until he strained the top lacing and you could see a great pack of muscle shifting when his shoulder moved under his thin coat. It was a body capable of enormous leverage–a cruel body.

Tom Buchannan is one of the antagonists of the novel and is generally disliked by most people, Nick included. Despite this, Nick’s description of Tom’s physical appearance is one that comes across as a form of primal attraction. We’re shown Tom as someone with a harsh personality but an attractive physique, truly masculine physique. The use of effeminate here is interesting because of its negativity. Tom is still purely masculine despite this feminine outfit, and I have always felt like Fitzgerald is not saying that femininity is bad but rather it’s just not something that interests Nick.

This can be easily compared to the way, just a scene later, Nick describes Jordan Baker – his so-called love interest.

I enjoyed looking at her. She was a slender, small-breasted girl, with an erect carriage which she accentuated by throwing her body backward at the shoulders like a young cadet. Her grey sun-strained eyes looked back at me with polite reciprocal curiosity out of a wan, charming discontented face.

With Tom, we see that the effeminate outfit cannot take from his attractiveness, but with Jordan masculine language is used to add to hers. Jordan is a sportswoman when sports was (and in many ways still is) considered a male activity while the word ‘erect’ does more than tell us she had good posture but also shows Nick’s need for masculinity to have an interest in someone.

The most important character when it comes to Nick’s sexuality is Mr McKee. “Mr McKee was a pale feminine man from the flat below,” Nick tells us when Tom has taken him for some fun in the city. Nick seems distant from the conversations going on in this room, until he notices Mr McKee asleep he feels the need to wipe ” from his cheek the remains of the spot of dried lather that had worried me all the afternoon.” suggesting that Nick has been paying a lot of attention to Mr McKee despite the numerous, assumingly attractive women in the room.

“Come to lunch some day,” he suggested, as we groaned down in the elevator.

“Where?”

“Anywhere.”

“Keep your hands off the lever,” snapped the elevator boy.

“I beg your pardon,” said Mr. McKee with dignity, “I didn’t know I was touching it.”

“All right,” I agreed, “I’ll be glad to.”

. . . I was standing beside his bed and he was sitting up between the sheets, clad in his underwear, with a great portfolio in his hands.

I’m not sure what there is to add to this. Nick is in an elevator by the man he’s had his eyes on all afternoon, only to then find himself beside the guy’s bed while the guy is only in underwear. The ellipsis is also very telling here, suggesting that there is a lot that happened between the offer for dinner and the standing beside the bed.

There also something worth mentioning in the fact that McKee is told off for touching something that he shouldn’t be, then is all but naked with a man at his bed.

In part two, we’ll move on to Jay Gatsby from Nick’s eyes.