David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace

Today is World Mental Health Day, and it appears that myself (and other bloggers) couldn’t let it pass without mentioning the late, great, David Foster Wallace.

His short piece, Suicide as a sort of Present is poignant, (today, more so than any other day).  

The title seems a little odd at first, but becomes a phrase that haunts the reader long after they have closed the pages of Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.

Wallace’s sort not only highlights mental health (thus offering us a platform to talk about it), it offers an insight, into, possibly, his own darkness – given his death by suicide in 2008.

Suicide as a sort of Present is that rare fiction piece, which seems to say so little on the surface, but offers so many questions once the reading is finished.  

Who exactly dies at the end?  

Does Wallace try to justify their demise?

And attempts at literary critique inevitably cross over into mental health – why did that character kill him/herself …?  These are the type of questions people actually ask, after suicides occur.

In short, Suicide as a sort of Present is the discussion we should all be having on World Mental Health Day.  

Wherefore art thou Juliet?

Wherefore art thou Juliet?

Today the BBC ran a story about Shakespeare’s heroines, and their ability to act as role models for girls today.  They reeled off a list of ‘usual suspects’ – except nobody mentioned Juliet.

Why Juliet is a fantastic role model:

  1. Juliet is a love struck teenage girl.  She echoes the thoughts and feelings of love struck teenage girls, everywhere.  Role models need to be relatable, and Juliet is.
  2. She is true to herself and what she believes in.  Her parents more or less tell her, ‘No, you can’t go out with Romeo; he’s from the wrong type of family’.  Not caring where he comes from, she goes out with him anyway.  
  3. She is tolerant.  She is told over and over how the Montague’s are different, or bad – but she still likes Romeo.
  4. She struggles with her emotions.  There is no escaping it; Romeo and Juliet is a text where two young teenagers take their own lives… Maybe teens should be taught to view Juliet as a teen who struggles with her emotions.  If Juliet was their friend, how would they help her?

I suspect Juliet was left off the list because she, (and Romeo) meet an unfavourable end.  Isn’t suicide a topic that should be approached more readily with teenagers?  Would exploring the text from that angle, get teenagers to talk more about such a sensitive topic?  Would it help them, in their own troubles?

So, maybe Juliet isn’t just a role model, she’s a gateway into a whole new mode of discussion we should be having with teenage girls (and boys).

Throwback Thursday: Books I loved as a child

Throwback Thursday: Books I loved as a child

It’s 1994, and the Scholastic Book Fair had been unleashed all over your school hall.  This is Nirvana for all young bookworms – who are soon parted from their not-so-hard earned pocket money.

I am no exception.

This time I buy:

The Mennyms by Sylvia Waugh.

My reason for buying it is simple: 

  1. It’s about dolls – I like dolls.
  2. The cover is blue – I like blue.
  3. It’s £2.99 – I have £2.99

Then I read it.

It was amazing.  I couldn’t tell you why.  The story was good…and it was a good story about dolls.  I devoured the sequels.

Then, a few years ago – I did something after finding it at the back of the bookshelf – I re-read it.

This book is phenomenal.

So much of it went over my head as a child.

It’s a book about pain and grief, hope and love.  It has qualities so much adult literature lacks (like a well rounded characters).

Don’t believe me?

SPOILER WARNING: 

How many kid’s books do you read where a blue rag doll ends up in a church, praying to a God he doesn’t even believe in, because his twin sister has gone missing? 

Also – one of the characters has an Accrington Stanley Mug. Enough said.

Seasonless Clothes get a frosty reception

Seasonless Clothes get a frosty reception

London Fashion Week is drawing to a close, and BBC News have reported how change is a-foot in the fashion industry: changes like ‘seasonless fashion’.

What is Seasonless Fashion?

This simply means buyers don’t have to wait 6 months to get their hands on the clothes – they can buy them right away.  In effect, there is no ‘Autumn/Winter’ or ‘Spring/Summer,’ anymore.  In September, you can buy clothes for next Summer…you can buy them right now.

This tells us a lot, not only about the state of the world, but the state of our climate.

Do people want seasonless fashion because they are travelling more frequently, globally?  Australia one week, then Sweeden the next?

Is it that global warming means, where-ever we live, our climate has changed? Increasingly wet winters (in my part of the world) negate the need for the wool coat…

Or is all this just an example of global consciousness.  We want to buy spring dresses in September because we follow a sunny other-side-of-the-world designer on Instagram – and we want to share their ‘California State of Mind?’

Of course – there are industry insiders who don’t like all this.  They prefer the rarity of the fashion industry, the exclusivity, the wait list… I prefer the idea of the now.

The clothes we wait 6 months for, can literally be out of season.  The September weather can be so nice, it means you can wear that Spring dress, that’s just paraded down the catwalk.  What’s worse is the other alternative – freezing on the high street, knowing coats won’t really be readily available for months.

All hail seasonless fashion, because we all know – long may it rain….

7 Great things about Bookmarks…

7 Great things about Bookmarks…
  1. They make great presents.
  2. They are light and easy to post (see point 1).
  3. You can make them yourself.
  4. They are environmentally friendly.  They can be constantly re-used.
  5. You can make them from a range of materials – wrapping paper (laminated), wool (knitted), magazine adverts (cut to size), raffle tickets (that didn’t win – laminated… I did this!)
  6. During a tense/scary/horrifying moment in a book, you can use the bookmark to cover your eyes.
  7. If you don’t know where you’re going in life, at least you know where you are in a book…

Holy Jackpot, Batman!

Holy Jackpot, Batman!

Happy Batman Day everyone!  The Caped Crusader has been with us since 1939!  So let’s play a party game:

Tell me what Batman’s superpower is…

Give up?

The answer: Money.  Cold hard cash.

He’s not an alien like the Man of Steel, he’s not a mutant like Bruce Banner, he’s just a man, with a lot of money.

So what does that mean for Batman Day in 2016?

How relevant is a ‘superhero’ whose only ‘super power’ is the size of his bank balance?

Maybe this is why it’s so easy for Batman to tip over to the dark side, to be seen so easily as the villain?  

We can dress up as Batman on halloween, but unless we win the lottery, we’ll never get the car and we’ll never get the gadgets.  We are the counterfeit, he is the designer.

In the modern world, and the current global climate – maybe Batman will only be relevant when he goes bankrupt? 

Books and the bedside table

Books and the bedside table

There are lots of things that go together: rainy days and reading-marathons, notebooks and ballpoint pens, bookshops and the emptying of my bank account…but what about books and bedside tables?

I’ve always got a leaning-tower of books on my bedside table, Liz! I hear you cry – but that’s exactly the point – should they be there?

My bedside cabinet is a table-top bunker for midnight emergencies: a torch (in case the power runs out), tissues (in case I get struck with the flu at 2am), a money box (in case I want to count the pennies like Scrooge McDuck, in the small hours), an alarm clock, a glass of water and about six books and two notebooks….

I’ll say that again:

A glass of water and about six books and two notebooks

You know how that story ends: one false move to turn off your alarm, and you’ve unleashed a tsunami of water over your new copy of The David Foster Wallace Reader (I speak from bitter experience). The only solution is to introduce your hairdryer to your newly-drowned book and hope for the best.

So why do we play roulette with our beloved books in this way?

I wouldn’t call book-lovers irresponsible for building book-walls close to them in the night.  Maybe it’s the tiny spec of Jay Gatsby in every writer, that eternal thread of hope at the core of our being that tells us: nothing bad will happen to our books, again.  Maybe it’s the fact that on some level, we find books medicinal, and it’s easier if they are close at hand, to be digested in the small hours to lull us back to sleep.

Sometimes, it can be a problem of pure logistics.  The bookshelf is too full – the bedside table is all that’s left.  Then of course, there are those groups of people who use books as a bedside table…but that’s a whole other post.

For me, it’s more of a visual to-read list. I move the titles around in the pile, like a literary top-40, as they get read, re-read and relegated to the I’m not in the mood for this bottom layer.

What’s at the top of my current book pile? A notebook, for story ideas.  It’ll be all the more difficult to dry out if I tip water on it, and the loss will be far greater than a book I can just re-purchase from Amazon.

So maybe now we’re getting closer to an answer.  Maybe, for us readers and writers with all our book-marathons and literary heroes – maybe we are just adrenaline junkies.  Maybe it’s not a tower of books at all, maybe it’s a cliff-face and the danger of book-demise is our adrenaline rush.