Tag Archives: literature

10 Book Inspired Soaps to Clean Up Your Act

21 Aug

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Books smell good. You know what I’m talking about, right? Apparently it’s down to this:

Lignin, the stuff that prevents all trees from adopting the weeping habit, is a polymer made up of units that are closely related to vanillin. When made into paper and stored for years, it breaks down and smells good. Which is how divine providence has arranged for secondhand bookstores to smell like good quality vanilla absolute, subliminally stoking a hunger for knowledge in all of us.

– Perfumes: The Guide

The good news for us is that there are some bookish crafters who have combined their love of literature with their desire to be clean. The results smell pretty good. Continue reading

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Book Porn: Rainbow Bookshelves

19 Jun

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From my Pinterest board ‘Sexy Bookshelves‘.

It could be practical if you can always remember what colour the spine is on your favourite books!

I think it could be fun to devote one or two shelves in a house to LGBT+ authors. And for sexist and homophobic authors you could try gently ripping off the covers and sort of tossing the book into some mud somewhere.

What do you think of the rainbow bookshelf method of organisation?Are you more of an alphabetical or organise-by-genre kind of reader? Or are all your books on a Kindle? Let me know in the comments!

Are Book Covers Gendered?

15 Jun

The answer is… probably. YA author Maureen Johnson set her Twitter followers the challenge of the ‘Coverflip‘ — taking a book that is marketed for one gender and then imagining it in reverse. She explains:

the simple fact of the matter is, if you are a female author, you are much more likely to get the package that suggests the book is of a lower perceived quality. Because it’s “girly,” which is somehow inherently different and easier on the palate. A man and a woman can write books about the same subject matter, at the same level of quality, and that woman is simple more likely to get the soft-sell cover with the warm glow […] This idea that there are “girl books” and “boy books” and “chick lit” and “whatever is the guy equivalent of chick lit” gives credit to absolutely no one, especially not the boys who will happily read stories by women […] I would love a world in which books are freed from some of these constraints.

It turns out that the results of Coverflip are a bit like the male pinup project Men-ups!, meaning that they’re a sad and absurd insight into how gender is represented, commodified and exploited… but they are also undoubtedly hilarious. Here are a few of my faves from Johnson’s Twitter followers (the original cover will appear first):

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The ‘Lord of the Flies‘ one just kills me.

Johnson (whose book appears in the slideshow above) notices that “lots of times the ‘perceived good’ stuff goes to male authors, with the female authors falling in that ‘let’s sell it as romance, which is soft and silly’ pile, when in fact romance is fascinating. And not all women write it.”

Jodi Picoult weighed in over Twitter:

Why is it ‘domestic fiction’ if a woman writes about family/relationships, but if a man does that, it’s Pulitzer-worthy? … what would happen if a woman submitted a book under male pseudonym to a publisher? Would it be treated differently?

And Amanda Hocking blogged:

more women read books than men, more women write books than men, but only a small fraction of books that win literary awards are written by women. Women are the publishing industry’s bread and butter, we are the backbone of the damn entertainment industry, but we are constantly demoted to ‘fluffy’ to ‘light’ to ‘meaningless’.

So, question time! Is the publishing industry inherently sexist when it comes to women’s fiction? If so, do we only think this because we think that “girlie things” are considered inferior by default? Do you judge a book by its cover? And what would a nongendered book cover look like? Does such a thing exist? Will this argument become moot when the Kindle takes over the world and the last book has been used as kindling? Is that why they named it that? Let me know in the comments!

The Poetry of Book Spines

13 Jun

Nina Katchadourian is a Californian artist whose work has appeared in The Serpentine and MoMA. It’s been a decade since she conceived Sorted Books, an ongoing project which has manifested itself in many different places. Sorted Books is a very simple concept. Katchadourian visits private homes, or is commissioned by museums or peers, to peruse a collection of books, cull them down to their most useful titles and then group the books together so that their spines can be read in a sequence with the semblance and majesty of poetry.

Procrastination
I’ll Quit Tomorrow
I’ll Quit Tomorrow

DAVID
DAVID
FIRST AND LAST LOVE
SWEET MAN
Trust Me With Your Heart Again

MADE OF IRON
THE VICTOR WEEPS
The End is NEAr!
Yes, but…
STILL
IT HURTS

A DAY AT THE BEACH
THE BATHERS
SHARK 1
SHARK 2
SHARK 3
SUDDEN VIOLENCE
SILENCE

They seem to beg that age old question, what qualifies as art? Do these books become art when they are deliberately placed together? Do they remain art when the components are taken apart and the separate titles are returned to the shelf?

I was so inspired that I decided to try my hand at making some myself. The results are under the cut.

Continue reading

New Fiction Review: ‘The Academy: Game On’ by Monica Seles

12 Jun

gameon

Author Monica Seles is a retired tennis champion. She won the French open at sixteen and went on to become the number one ranked woman in tennis, winning a total of nine Grand Slam titles before retiring from the game in 2004. I know this only because I read her biography in the back of ‘The Academy: Game On’, which I won through a Goodreads First Read competition. ‘Game On’ also has another author in very small print on the title page, so I’m guessing it was ghost written – not that it really matters.

It turns out that ‘Game On’ is your typical rags to riches plot, set against the backdrop of a very exclusive sports academy. You know, “17-year-old tennis superstar in the making gets the scholarship of her dreams… and more than she bargained for”. It’s sort of like Mean Girls meets Bend it Like Beckham, with a touch of The OC (‘cause they’re all so super rich).

The girls were fairly interesting, and this novel definitely passes the Bechdel Test with flying colours. There’s the protagonist, Maya, who is fairly likeable, punk Cleo, rising star of the ultra conservative golf scene, Renee, a girl rich enough to buy her way in to the Academy, and Glamazon Nicole, Maya’s heroine – and competition.

‘Game On’ is filled with all the hot guys and frenemies you’d expect. I haven’t read a lot of teen romance, but I imagine the romantic interests are fairly typical of that genre as well (bad boy vs. shallow stud). There are so many twists and changes of heart that my eyes were flicking back and forth across the page like I was witnessing a tennis match. Some of them were predictable, some of them I didn’t see coming and they struck me with the force of a tennis ball hurtled from a malfunctioning ball machine. (Are these tennis metaphors going a bit too far?)

This novel had a slow start but picked up the pace very quickly. It was genuinely funny at times, and although I never found myself laughing aloud I did find myself smiling a lot. The author does have a tendency to spoonfeed the reader a bit with her descriptions and there are a lot of instances of wishing she’d show instead of tell. This sentence on page two we probably could have gleaned for ourselves: “Finally, she had done it. This sixteen-year-old have-not from central New York with absolutely no connections whatsoever had somehow made it into the most exclusive club.”

Some of the description made me wince a little bit, like calling Cleo “an Asian girl with a towel wrapped around her head” the first time we see her, and

“You will be able to pick a Russian from a Belarusian from a Czech at a hundred yards in three seconds flat. Facial features, skin color, clothing, hairstyles […]”

feels borderline racist and wasn’t really necessary to the story or plot at all. ‘Game On’ also has a very “feel sorry for the poor beautiful rich kids” feel. For example, this quote:

“The only things Maya had ever heard about the way she looked were how freakishly tall she was, how creepily blue her eyes were, how plain blonde her hair was.”

Like, you can’t really just add an unflattering adjective to a word and make it so it seems like she doesn’t fit society’s idea of the perfect woman. Come on, Seles!

Also, after a dad says something offhand to his son:

“Jak and Maya found each other’s eyes. The pain was almost physical. Certainly worse than anything the kid he injured was feeling.”

I kind of disagree, considering that the character in question had just broken a fellow football player’s arm so hard that he’d let out a scream which sounded “primal, like a wounded animal”!

The whole novel offers an interesting commentary on class divides. I know it’s never going to happen in a million years, but a spinoff series about Cleo and her life as a Chinese immigrant who is also a lesbian would be A-MA-ZING. I really liked Cleo and it was super inclusive of them to put a lesbian in BFF role, but they really skimmed over her romance with Svetlana. Like we didn’t even meet the girl. I’m hoping to see more of baby dyke Cleo and her radical undercut in the sequel – although, speaking as a queer girl with an undercut, Cleo is pretty misogynistic for a queer girl with an undercut.

I have to admit that I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. And what I mean by that is that when the sequel comes out, I’m prepared to spent actual, real money on it. Nice serve, Seles.

Happy Birthday Maurice Sendak!

10 Jun

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Google marks what would have been Maurice Sendak’s 85th birthday with a delightfully interactive tribute to his most famous work, ‘Where the Wild Things Are‘.

Sendak is pretty much the coolest picture book writer of all time, even if he had a bit of internalised homophobia going on. He didn’t believe in fairytale childhood, and while my favourite story of his has a very clear moral (“care”), most of his work didn’t. He simply believed in telling the truth. Sometimes the truth involved man-eating lions, sometimes it involved death, sometimes it involved a penis or two.

This bluntness was the central message of his documentary with Spike Jonze, ‘Tell Them Anything You Want’. If you’ve never seen it you should make time for it today. Right now, actually.

Come on. It’s only forty minutes long!

What is better than books and tea?

8 Jun

Question: What is better than books and tea?

Answer: Tea-stained books! No, wait — TEA THAT IS SOMEHOW BOOK-THEMED!

Novel Teas are cute little English Breakfast teabags that have been individually tagged with literary quotes. According to the website:

There is no better company than a steaming cup of tea as you open the cover of a favorite classic or turn the page of the latest thriller. Whether traveling to distant times and far off lands or discovering new characters in a nearby locale, a soothing cup of tea makes the journey more pleasurable and the memory lasting.

I totally agree! And there’s no better place to drink fiction-themed tea than in a fictional cafe. Failing that, in your own home will do, with one of these lovely tea accessories under the cut.

Continue reading

Book Porn: Antique Occult Edition

6 Jun

While doing a routine Google of the Enchiridion from Adventure Time (I live a sad life) I found this amazing website that sells antique occult books, i.e. the top fifty books most likely to be cursed of all time).

Look at this Enchiridion! It’s hand coloured! It belonged to a Pope! It also has several handwritten inscriptions, including an invocation written on an extra paper and inserted in the book. It’s so coooooooool.

Look at this cool and practical diagram for making your own magick circle! Don’t try this at home, kids. This is a page from one book from a set of four grimoires. But they’re priced at € 6,000, so au revoir grimoire, I guess.

This is a Major Inquisitor’s manual on Demonology from the year 1578 and I want to casually read it on the tube on the way to work.

This comes from the end pages of ‘Discours et Histoires des Spectres’, published in 1605, the most beautiful copy of the most extensive study on the history of ghosts and Demonology to come out of the period. Just look at this page! Don’t you just want to stroke it? Can’t you feel its demon powers of hypnotism taking hold?!

What’s your favourite book from the website? I bet I’ve missed all the good ones.

Novel charms: Book-themed Accessories on Etsy

4 Jun

I love Etsy almost as much as I love Regretsy. You can get amazing and unique gifts, and all the profits from your purchase go straight to the person who made it! Here are my current five favourite bookish accessories. Click through for more information!

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Tiny Book Earrings by TheIdleBindery.

Harry Potter 'Always' Haircomb by KyraBothwell.

Harry Potter ‘Always’ Haircomb by KyraBothwell.

'The Hunger Games' Mockingjay Pins by Gliterature.

The Hunger Games Mockingjay Pins by Gliterature (that’s me!).

'I Found My Love In A Book' Necklace in Blue by BeneathGlass.

‘I Found My Love In A Book’ Necklace in Blue by BeneathGlass.

Miniature Bookcase Necklace by JanDaJewelry.

Miniature Bookcase Necklace by JanDaJewelry.

Were there any that I missed? Let me know in the comments!

Ten Things You Didn’t Know About ‘The Great Gatsby’

2 Jun

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s seminal novella is regarded as one of the greatest stories of the twentieth century. It has been translated into forty-two languages and touched countless lives.

There’s a lot of hype surrounding the story right now, what with the new film out and all, and last month I was lucky enough to attend a screening of the 1974 version, hosted by Oona Chaplin and The Gathering Goddess, at The May Fair Hotel. It was amazing! Tonks from Harry Potter was there, as were Cassie from Skins and Talisa from Game of Thrones. I was fangirling like there was no tomorrow.

Here are ten things you may not have known about the original text, which I’ve blatantly plagiarised from my own list over at the Vintage Screenings website. If you want to know more about the 1974 adaptation, or other Gatsby adaptations in general, I’ve written about those too!

  1. The great American novel has been adapted into several films, stage productions and ballets as well as a graphic novel, three video games and an opera.
  2. The Great Gatsby may have inspired Breakfast at Tiffany’s (both the novel and the film), and was at the forefront of Hunter S. Thompson’s mind when he wrote ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas‘.
  3. Francis Cugat was commissioned to create a cover for the book before Fitzgerald had finished writing it. The author liked the design so much that he wrote it into the novel.
  4. David Lynch directed a 30-second commercial for Calvin Klein’s Obsession fragrance which was titled ‘The Great Gatsby’ and which featured Heather Graham.
  5. The author tried to change the name of the book several times, his final preference being for ‘Trimalchio’ or ‘Gold-Hatted Gatsby’.
  6. There are several conspiratorial readings of the text, particularly by scholars. Some argue that the narrator is in love with Jay Gatsby and therefore unreliable, others write papers outlining the reasons why Gatsby should actually be read as a black man.
  7. The author and his wife Zelda walked out of the 1926 silent film adaptation of the novel.
  8. Some people have said that the entire text is a lipogram devoid of the letter ‘e’. This is not the case – it’s in the title, for instance, and it appears sixteen times in the first sentence alone. Readers may be confusing ‘The Great Gatsby’ with ‘Gadsby: A Story of Over 50,000 Words Without Using the Letter E‘ by Ernest Vincent Wright.
  9. Screenwriter Francis Ford Copolla went on to write Apocalypse Now, based on Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness‘, but Fitzgerald was also indebted to Conrad’s text and drew inspiration from it during the composition of his own novel.
  10. The poem which appears as an epigraph is credited to one of Fitzgerald’s characters from his first novel ‘This Side of Paradise‘.