Tuesday, 12 December 2017

currently reading…Sabriel

I’m about halfway through Sabriel (Abhorsen #1) by Garth Nix and I am absolutely loving it. I’ve been wanting to read this series for a while so I hunted it down in the library when I was free from uni and really craving a good Fantasy adventure/quest novel. Fantasy is my favourite genre but it’s not one I really get to read very often for study.
I am enthralled by this novel, it is as good as I was hoping (and it’s always nice when that happens): fantastic characters, a world and magic system that is both really cool and unique, and a mysterious and well-pace plot.
It’s also really inspiring and making me think as I try to wrangle my novel idea into an actual plot. I feel like I picked this up at the perfect time.

I also recently started reading I Call Myself A Feminist, an edited series of essays, and am looking forward to getting stuck into it. It’s the second of three feminism books I bought a while ago that I’m trying to finish by the end of summer, partly so I can justify collecting more…

Friday, 24 November 2017

Fleurieu Peninsula | Day Trip

To celebrate my younger sister’s birthday, the whole family came down to Adelaide for the weekend and then we headed off to explore the Fleurieu Peninsula for the day. I didn’t realise South Australia had such a beautiful coastline!
We visited Myponga Reservoir, Ingalalla Falls, Second Valley and finished the day in Normanville with a walk (and run) along the beach, getting more wet than planned before some obligatory fish and chips.
It was so much fun to have a mini-family holiday and was a much needed rest during the super hectic end-of-semester study period. 

Saturday, 18 November 2017

The English Review Vol. 5 | Adaptation

Adaptations was a great course, especially for the writer in me. Looking at how different people approached remaking and altering stories puts the focus on how stories are constructed in a way that other English course aren’t always able to do (because they’re focusing on other equally interesting topics such as the text’s society, themes, etc.).

The course also changed how I look at book to film adaptations. Analysing what the adaptor did with the source material in order to fit it within a filmic narrative and time limit, what they brought from the novel and what they altered or added, allows you to see that in every story there are thousands of ways it could have been told. I’ll now view adaptations, not as either as good or not as good as the book, but with interest to see what the adaptor’s reading of the story was, whether they are making a comment on the source text, etc. (side note: often an adaption is adapting a number of texts, not just the core novel).

English in general has taught me to be more open-minded about texts that aren’t within my interests and likes and still be curious to analyse and learn from it regardless of whether I like it or not. I think that’s one of the best things I’ve gotten out of university studies so far.
Reading list: Momento Mori by Jonathan Nolan, No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy, The Shining by Stephen King, The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brain Selznick

Film list: Momento (2000) dir. Christoper Nolan, No Country for Old Men (2007) dir Coen brothers, The Shining (1980) dir. Stanley Kubrick, The Talented Mr Ripley (1999) dir. Anthony Minghella, Plein soleil (1960) dir. René Clément, Hugo (2012) dir. Martin Scorsese

Even though I enjoyed this topic immensely, I didn’t fall in love with any of the texts we studied. There were quite a few I enjoyed and one I disliked intensely.
On the good side, Momento (2000) was incredibly engaging and suspenseful, Hugo (2012) was a visually beautiful and narratively charming film, and I really admired Highsmith’s tightly written The Talented Mr Ripley.

On the not so good side, The Shining. The film and novel, though different in numerous ways, both shared the characteristic of not being very scary for a horror and taking three quarters of the text for anything to happen. The treatment of Wendy and the few other women in King’s novel was particularly irking for me and why I’d say I feel more animosity towards the novel than the film. The novel and film were put on the course partially because of the hate King gave Kubrick’s version and that was an interesting thing to discuss, especially since some of the things King criticised in Kubrick’s version were actually already in his novel. There’s always something to gain from reading out of your comfort zone and exploring different ways of telling stories, although with The Shining it’s a bit harder to see.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Quote | All description is an opinion about the world

March feels way too far in the past to have only been seven months ago, but at the same time, with both my major essays finally completed and only my Latin exam to go, it feels too soon for the uni year to end! It’s been a great semester, I’ve enjoyed all my courses and done well with keeping the stress down and grades up (more or less) and I feel a bit sadder than usual to be bidding these courses farewell.

Having said that, I’m looking forward to getting stuck into writing projects and a regular sleep cycle.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The English Review Vol. 4 | Literature and Society in Victorian Britain

As the name suggests, this was an English course with a serious History bent. It was super fascinating finding out more about the Victorian era (and super handy for this semester which is once again looking at the Victorian era) and how its novels were both influenced by and influenced society.

Since one of the main things you do in English studies, and one of my favourite parts, is looking at the connection between literature and the society and culture that produced, it proved to be both useful and insightful to have a topic so grounded with actual information about the era. Having said that, a bit more focus on the actually novels would have been good…  

Reading list: selection of poetry, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens, Middlemarch by George Elliot, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.

Middlemarch was much more enjoyable than I expected and Heart of Darkness much more confusing. Our Mutual Friend restored my faith in Dickens as a writer and the likelihood of Little Dorrit being as good as the 2008 BBC adaptation.

And then there was Jane Eyre.  

Jane Eyre was a novel I’d been wanting to read for a while, so I was excited to see it on the course list. But I was also apprehensive, worried it wouldn’t be what I wanted and expected. Jane was as fierce and independent and headstrong as I hoped and she more than made up for the fact that Rochester is actually a super dodgy guy. I liked being in Jane’s head as she came to terms with the world and found her place in it. I enjoyed that more than the romance, which was enjoyable but, like I said, Rochester is dodgy as.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Monarto Zoo | a day at the zoo

Before the mid-semester break, the Buds and I woke up early on a Saturday and took the two hour bus trip out of the city to South Australia’s open-air zoo, Monarto (apparently the largest open-air zoo in the world!).

After fortifying ourselves with an early picnic lunch, we jumped on the first bus to take a look around the zoo. The easiest way to look at all the animals on exhibit is by hopping on and off the tour buses, they take you all the way around the zoo and into the animal enclosures. The bus also stops at viewing platforms, so you can get off and see the animals from a more stable position. There are a few walking trails, but we didn’t get to those this time round.

We did managed to catch a couple of keeper talks though, which were really good, mainly for the opportunity to see some of the animals closer up.
My favourites were the giraffes.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Quote | There is nothing that Art cannot express

Mid-semester holidays are finally upon us! All my assignments (including all my scary-presenting assignments for the semester!) for term 3 are finally done and I can relax a bit … it feels odd haha.

It’s been a good, long, stressful term.

  • Currently listening to Tearin' Up My Heart on repeat.
  • Still reading Dracula, but hoping to finish this week and move onto Peter Pan
  • Looking forward to going home for the mid-semester break (this weekend!).

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Currently reading…Dracula

I am currently reading Dracula by Bram Stoker for English. It wasn’t a text I was looking forward to reading, but I’m barely 20 pages in, and so far I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I’m really enjoying it.

It’s written as a series of journal extracts and the immediacy of the present tense makes the novel instantly engaging.
I’m looking forward seeing to how the story unfolds (what the plot actually is) and getting to know the characters (hoping a good female character gets an appearance but not holding my breath).

Saturday, 12 August 2017

The Art Gallery of South Australia | what studying Art History is really about

The Art Gallery is one of my favourite places to visit, even more so since studying Art History. Art History has given me a curiosity and openness about looking at the possible meanings in art and how that meaning is made through colour, style, medium, etc., regardless of whether I like it or not.

The great thing about studying Art History (studying English is much the same) is it teaches you and gives you the confidence to engage with art. It’s not about over analysing or saying an artist (or writer) was completely conscious of the array of meanings to be found in their work. It’s about learning to interrupt the ways, as humans, we create meaning and how the ideas and ideals of a time are reflected within art and literature.

One of my lecturers warned learning to analyse and think more critically about art and literature can interrupt your ability to just simply enjoy things until you reach a stage when you can enjoy and analyse simultaneously. Luckily I haven’t found it a problem so far, mostly it’s just made me much more curious.

And now I go to the gallery, not just for the atmosphere and architecture but actually for the art.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Why Representation Matters | thoughts on representation and the thirteenth doctor

Representation is a topic I’m immensely interested in in my studies and passionate about in my writing and, with the recent announcement of the thirteen doctor, it seemed like an apt time for a post on that very topic.

Stories are powerful, they can influence the way we see and think about people and ideas, they can comfort us by reflecting our likeness and challenge us by showing us a different way of being and experiencing the world, all while entertaining and enthralling us.

‘The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognising how we are. Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn’t have the weight of gender expectations.’ - We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 34

My approach and interest in representation revolves primarily around women and gender in the fictional sphere. My goals in writing are about creating better, more diverse representation for women. How people are represented in stories affects how we, subconsciously, view ourselves and others, that’s why I think putting women into more central roles that don’t abide by old ideals is vital to helping to end gender stereotypes.

There’s a challenge that comes with all change, though, the status quo is comfortable and familiar and when someone tries to change that it can feel confronting and unnecessary. Which brings me to the recent casting of the thirteenth doctor in BBC’s Doctor Who, one of my favourite tv shows. The casting of Jodie Whittaker was predictably controversial, when a new doctor is announced the news is usually met with apprehension, but her being a woman complicated matters.

Whilst, I’ll admit, I’m a bit worried about this change, it’s mainly that I don’t want the show itself to make a big deal out of the change. In other words, I don’t want the doctor’s gender to become a gimmick. However, regardless of potential over focus of the changed gender, making such a prominent hero character, of an already much-loved and successful tv show, into a woman is an exciting move. Even if the doctor being a women is just to increase female representation, I don’t see that as a bad thing to be trying to do.

There is a comfort in things staying the same, which I understand, but taking the step of changing a character to be a woman, not just any character but the title role, is a positive step. I think Peter Davidson did a really good job explaining why people might be apprehensive of a female doctor and it’s true, the doctor shows a male role model that isn’t as typically masculine as quite a lot of others. However, making the doctor a woman allows girls to see themselves in a hero’s position, which is not something that’s as common for them as it is for boys.

Working to improve female representation allows girls to dream big and, hopefully, by raising the appreciation of women and traditionally womanly attributes, boys can be freed from their gender stereotypes, too. Reading and watching people who are like ourselves doing and achieving, helps us believe we can, too (except maybe time travel…).
And that is why I think representation and a female doctor who are so important. 

I hope that all made some sense. If not, I think I can sum it up by saying that greater and more diverse representation of women in media is vital in breaking down gender stereotypes and I’m really excited to see the thirteenth doctor in action next year!

Recommended Reading/Viewing 

 ~ This Tumblr post. Funny, sarcastic and makes its point well (although it’s also kinda depressing…).

~ We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a brilliant little book that explains what feminism means. She brings up some great points about how we raise girls and boys to think in certain ways that damage and limit both genders.

~ This video on how the language we use effects the way we think about people and things, specifically the term ‘girl,’ is both enlightening and very similar to how representation works subconsciously. 

~ Past Doctors react to the Thirteenth doctor.

~ Freema Agyeman being wonderful and talking about how everyone deserves to see themselves reflected in art. 

Friday, 7 July 2017

Film Review | Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Beauty and the Beast (2017) dir. Bill Condon  
...Certain as the sun...Rising in the east.....Tale as old as time...Song as old as rhyme......Beauty and the Beast...

Disney’s 1991 version of Beauty and the Beast was my favourite movie when I was little and I still love it today, so I was excited when Disney announced an upcoming adaptation of that very film, starring none other than Emma Watson.

For those unfamiliar with the tale, the story begins with an enchantress cursing a selfish prince into a beast until he can ‘learn to love another, and earn her love in return.’ Belle, the story’s protagonist, becomes The Beast’s captive, but with the help of the castle’s enchanted servants, she begins to look past The Beast’s exterior and he, in turn, begins to change…

As I had no expectations that it would surpass the original, I really enjoyed Disney’s 2017 version. As a tale Beauty and the Beast is a great romantic adventure, with heart, humour and a fantastic female lead.

The 2017 movie is incredibly faithful to the 1991 animated film, its plot varies only slightly and even recreates some dialogue word for word. While the beginning of the film is a bit awkward, perhaps in its desire to lovingly recreate everything, it improves noticeably as it continues.
 Throughout the film, there are moments where the closeness of the two versions made the 2017 film feel stilted. Having said that, there were plenty of times where the dedication to the original was appreciated, particularly the ballroom scene. The details that were added to the plot seemed on the whole unnecessary but not unpleasant. However, the climax suffered from these small changes, lacking the drama of the 1991 version and dialogue added in scenes that otherwise exactly recreated the original lacked subtlety. I did love the humour that was added, especially in the banter between Cogsworth and Lumière.

The film was never going to be as good as the original in my eyes, however, 2017’s Beauty and the Beast is still a very enjoyable film.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Quote | If you have a real dream

Dreams and future planning have been floating around my head the last week or so as I’ve come home for the holidays and have a bit more time to spend on other things. I’ve been working on my novel again (yay!) and also started looking into universities for my exchange. I watched this TED talk the other day and it’s really got me thinking.

I’ll be celebrating my birthday over the next couple of days and like the New Year, it feels like the perfect time to have fun planning and thinking about goals and dreams and fears.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Reading Classics

Before starting my Arts degree, the only ‘classic’ book I’d read was probably Pride and Prejudice (after seeing the brilliant 2005 adaption). I’d always felt a bit apprehensive about reading older books, assuming they would be too difficult to understand or incredibility boring, perhaps both.
However, studying English literature somewhat forces you to read older literature and, thankfully for an English major like myself, I discovered it’s not as difficult or as boring as I feared. In fact, older literature can be just as entertaining, moving and interesting as contemporary fiction.

Classics and other older books that have survived long enough that you can still borrow them from a normal library have done so for a reason, because they’re actually quite good. The novel has gone through various incarnations, but at a fundamental level, it’s stayed the same for hundreds of years. Realism is still the gold standard, as my lecturer put it, and Victorian (and I’d argue earlier) realism is actually quite similar to the current realist genre (normally just called ‘fiction’). Different eras preferenced different subgenres and styles, some of which can be confusing (post-modernism, for example), however that can also be part of the fun as it allows you to see what people enjoyed reading.

Reading older books can also be a great way to get a sense of how people lived and thought at a particular time and, especially with realism, an authentic view of the world as a particular writer saw it. Books are such a marvellous way of getting to understand a different way of seeing or thinking about the world and that’s what makes reading books of every and any age, but especially classics, so interesting.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

The Language of Books

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern // Burial Rites by Hannah Kent // Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

There are many different ways a book shows you that it is well written, the construction of plot, witty dialogue, the way it makes you completely invested in the characters, the list goes on.
But there are some books that make their craft visible in the very language of the text, the way things are described. They’re beautifully descriptive, often with surprising imagery that also feels incredibly accurate. These three books have brilliant stories and characters as well, but they are examples of books whose language is so finely and intricately woven that the pleasure is as much in the fine language as the compelling story.

The Night Circus 

Morgenstern’s prose is laden with descriptive detail, which, rather than making the book heavy and slow, makes it rich and enthralling. The Night Circus is one of my favourite books because of its beautiful story and the way the prose creates a world both like and unlike our own. The enjoyment of reading the novel is almost as much in the detail threaded through every chapter as in the story itself.

Burial Rites 

Burial Rites is a wonderfully evocative tale of the last woman to be executed in Iceland. The way Kent tells the story through jumps back and forth in time is clever and compelling. The harsh, beautiful Icelandic landscape is described in believable and captivating detail, creating an otherworldly atmosphere that transports you to that place and time. It’s not a happy tale, but the way Kent creates such a captivating, convincing atmosphere is skilful and absorbing.

Mrs Dalloway 

My first experience with modernism, I approached Mrs Dalloway with apprehension, but Woolf’s language and style is not as difficult as it first appears. Woolf allows you into the heads of characters to see how their thoughts shift from musings to memory to what is happening around them, all in a seamless fashion. The thoughts of the characters are convincingly realistic and provide moments of both profound and relatable thoughts. While there isn’t much plot and it’s a bit sad, that’s not really the point. The point is to explore how people experienced life at that period of history.

 And those are three of my favourites for their descriptive detail, I encourage you to read them all!

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Quote | Worrying means you suffer twice

Currently in the black hole of final assignments, I’m hanging out til Wednesday when two out of three will be done. For now I’m just popping up to share one of my favourite quotes/life mottos, it can be hard to follow but it does help my anxious, worrying mind to remember this piece of advice.

Now, back to those essays…

Monday, 29 May 2017

Bits and Bobs #4

READ | I finished all my semester one reading a few weeks ago and am currently making snail-paced progress on the first of my semester two books, The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle (because I’m busy with study not because it’s a terrible book, because it isn’t). I’m hoping to get a couple of non-study books read in the next month or so, that’s be so nice.

WRITE | essays, essays, essays. The pointy end of the semester is here and I’ve got two major essays to write, both due in about a week. After that I’ve got a luxurious two weeks for next and final essay of the semester. I like doing essays, but it’s pretty stressful at the moment.

WATCH | EUROVISION!! Eurovision 2017 was amazing. The hosts were a bit awkward (three white guys was an interesting choice when your motto is ‘celebrate diversity’), but I kind of grew to love them. Bulgaria and the UK were my favourites, but I’m so happy a lovely, non-English language song won. Yay for Portugal!

Also, watching the current season of Doctor Who and it’s amazing! So sad Twelve and Bill are only going to be together for one season because I think this is Twelve’s best and one of my favourite seasons ever, actually. It just feels like the old, fun Doctor Who before it started getting a bit too ploty.

GO | Finally went on a pub crawl and it was actually a lot of fun, much to my surprise! I’m now a proper college kid, haha.

While I have not really been going anywhere, my brother’s went to Japan for a month and brought me back some lovely things. It’s so much fun when family goes away and you can follow along on their adventures! You can check their trip out here & here.

And now my lil sis is over in Europe now! Follow her adventures here (she’s a pretty great photographer).

 ETC. | Despite feeling like it’s all been study, study, study lately, I’ve actually had a number of lovely weekends this past month – home alone with just my lil sis and pooch one weekend, a shopping weekend with my Dad and lil sis, Mother’s day weekend with Eurovision, baking and helping around the house/business.

So, really it’s been a lovely little while. Can’t wait til these two essays are done and handed up, though. xo

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Quote | I don’t obsess. I think…intensely

With most of my minor assignments done (and all the presenting ones, yay!), I can start working on my major assignments, which is good because they should be interesting but scary because they’re worth so much.

Such a busy time for study and I’m currently getting over a cold, but it all pales into comparison with Eurovision to look forward to this weekend!

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Adelaide Writers’ Week 2017

Adelaide Writers’ Week is one of my favourite times of the year. Hearing authors talk under the shade of the Pioneer Women’s Garden’s trees is entertaining, insightful, and fun. The weather is often lovely and cool or quite hot. This year was somewhere in between.
I spent the whole first day (and a session on day two) listening to this year’s authors, avoiding study and learning a thing or two.

I saw Marsden talk at the Salisbury Writers’ Festival a few years ago and he was as full of amusing stories in this session as he was then. While I did find his view on the market and the idea of writing for a market a bit cynical for my liking, he gave a number of interesting tips. Particularly interesting was his explanation of the difference between first and third person point of view, first person is about finding voice, third person is about finding tone.

Both Ladd and Fine’s talks were interesting. I half listened to Ladd while I scribbled in my bullet journal. He said poets are always inventing new metaphors to ‘guard against dead languages’.
Fine’s whole talk was fascinating and I really need to read her books. She talked about the myths surrounding gender and the different notions that influence our, often incorrect, perceptions, even affecting how science perceives gender.

This talk on writing about big ideas and topics for children was really fascinating. Bell talked about her book, The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade, which tells the story of an introverted little boy that doesn’t end up breaking out of his ‘shell’ and going to the parade but is rather allowed to be who he is. Bell explained that as an introverted kid she thought she was wrong for being as she was because we live in a world that encourages you to push to be extroverted, but that’s not always the right thing to do. And as I was quite an introverted kid (still am), this really spoke to me and made a lot of sense. 
A few other things: 
- A great book should be provocative
- Kid’s books should be bold, entertaining and comforting 
- When you’re writing from outside your experience, you should consult people who have that experience
- The message in a children’s book needs to be light and speak to children’s experience 
- Language in the children’s literature can (and should) delight both adult and children readers 

Being a great fan of Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites, I had to come in on Sunday to hear her speak. It was an entertaining and interesting panel from Macae Burnet and Kent. 
Lots of interesting things to think on:
- Kent saturates herself with the history she’s writing before she begins to write (she spent 18 months researching The Good People before writing)  
- Kent spent time in Ireland to create sensory memory of the place for her writing 
- A novel becomes more complex the more ambiguous it becomes 
- Create a sense of empathy rather than sympathy, empathy draws in the reader, sympathy distances them 
- Writers’ are attached to the gaps in history 

You can listen to these and all of the talks at Writers’ Week 2017 here. I still want to listen to a few I couldn’t make it to because of uni, especially Magical Places (Hannah Kent and Sara Taylor)

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