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Monday, 30 October 2017

Halloween storytime: The intruder


Enter if you will, gentle reader, pull up a stuffed armchair by the fireside and join me in a true tale of small-town terror.

When I was a young teenager, one of the biggest and most important obstacles my friends and I faced was convincing all our parents to allow us to stage spontaneous sugar-fuelled sleepovers and backyard 'campouts'. We would listen to cheese-rock ballads on a temperamental Walkman, play pass-the-buck-style dramatic storytelling games, conjecture wildly about our dream futures and generally achieve little to no sleep.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Love Your Shelf Book Club #2: The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler


With Sarah and Lynette

SUMMARY

Los Angeles PI Philip Marlowe is working for the Sternwood family. Old man Sternwood, crippled and wheelchair-bound, is being given the squeeze by a blackmailer and he wants Marlowe to make the problem go away. But with Sternwood's two wild, devil-may-care daughters prowling LA's seedy backstreets, Marlowe's got his work cut out – and that's before he stumbles over the first corpse... (Penguin re-issue edition)

IMPORTANT TOPICS AND THEMES


L: Money – everyone's doing something for money. I think this book is set in the 30s, right? Depression era. So money is pretty high on everyone's mind. And honour – family honour and Marlowe's own honour code, which I thought was interesting; he's an honourable man even with his 'dirty' work.
S: Ooh, I like those. I thought that, too – it's interesting that Marlowe is shown to not just be in his job for the money and has his own code of ethics. There're the classic noir themes: moral ambiguity, cynicism, fatalism, treachery, corruption...
L: Yes, cynicism was a big one I noticed, too. I wondered if that theme was also linked to the Depression era (which I believe is when a lot of noir classics are set). And, of course, corruption – no one is innocent, everyone has some sort of angle or connection. I thought the ending was quite dark, in line with the cynicism.
S: Definitely – there's that postwar pessimism and darkness that is consistent throughout the book, despite the wry humour.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

The pursuit of work–life balance


I remember the first time I had to study through the whole day, stopping only once I climbed into bed, defeated and dreading starting all over again the next day. I had been plagued by a particularly bothersome high school assignment for my least favourite subject, biology. It was the early noughties, and my household had no internet access; our only reference books comprised an outdated encyclopedia collection that pre-dated World War I. I particularly remember the intense dismay I felt at the knowledge that I wouldn't be able to play my recently acquired copy of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time that night.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Love Your Shelf Book Club #1: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera


With Sarah and Lynette

SUMMARY

A young woman in love with a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing; one of his mistresses and her humbly faithful lover – these are the two couples whose story is told in this masterful novel. In a world in which lives are shaped by irrevocable choices and by fortuitous events, a world in which everything occurs but once, existence seems to lose its substance, its weight. Hence, we feel 'the unbearable lightness of being' not only as the consequence of our pristine actions but also in the public sphere, and the two inevitably intertwine. (Harper Perennial edition)

IMPORTANT TOPICS AND THEMES

L: Probably a massively obvious one, but the nature of love. Tomas with all his women, yet love for Tereza. Tereza's jealousy. Sabina and Franz.
S: Uh huh. And the ‘lightness’ vs. ’heaviness’ of love and sex.
L: And of life in general. Meaning in life. I thought the book verged on the nihilistic in both respects.
S: Lots of parallels. Personal freedom vs. commitment. Coincidence/chance vs. fate.
L: Yesss. The idea of motifs in life tying in with the coincidence vs. choices thing.
S: Politics, death. And interesting point about the nihilism! Think we'll pick that up again soon.
L: Communication. The complete mismatch of understandings between Franz and Sabina. I think the same could be said of Tomas and Tereza.
S: Yup, good one! The soul vs. the body.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

We need to talk about the reality of life on the UK welfare system

'That constant humiliation to survive. If you're not angry, what kind of person are you?' – Ken Loach, director 

I've tried not to dwell on my time on the welfare system, which remains one of the darkest points in my life. However, even though I've now been in full-time employment as a copyeditor for around two and a half years, the spectre of unemployment hangs over me. Working at a small but busy company that has previously let go of a coworker due to financial strain and knowing talented, hardworking individuals who have met the same fate, the prospect of being made redundant is never far from my mind. As my time after graduation has shown me, sometimes one's best efforts don't count for much.

Monday, 7 November 2016

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter (Redux) review: A very human horror adventure game



I came into this gaming experience without really knowing what to expect. Despite never having heard of the horror adventure title from indie games studio The Astronauts before, I bought it during a Steam sale without viewing much more than the description and a brief trailer. As someone who likes to research games in depth before committing to a purchase (and as a notorious 'fraidy cat), this was an unusual move for me.

Certain key phrases really sold it to me on the store page: 'immersive storytelling'; 'inspired by the weird fiction from the early twentieth century'; 'atmosphere, mood, and the essential humanity of our characters'. Sometimes, when it's right, you just know.

I wasn't disappointed.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

'But where are you REALLY from?': Mixed race, otherness and 'off-colour' remarks

Photo credit: Hiroto Hata (Mili)

I learned early on that I wasn't seen in the same way as everyone else. My friends and I had been playing a careless game of Block 123 with a street lamp as our target post when a passing neighbourhood kid pointed at me. 'Eurgh,' she sneered. 'Why are your arms brown? You look dirty.' It wasn't said with malice, exactly; we lived in a small, racially homogeneous village and she was genuinely oblivious  both to why my skin looked that way and how her words might make me feel. And, having never been confronted with the brownness of my skin before, I didn't know how to respond. Although it had nettled me, I simply pretended not to care.