Thursday, March 29, 2012

Gone With The Wind

Gone With The Wind
by Margaret Mitchell
I’ve read many books over the years, as one does, but this is the only one that when I closed the cover on the last page, I just wanted to flip it over and start again! I read it whilst driving across the barren outback of Australia, and it managed to keep me entertained for three, 8-hour days of driving. It is a romance, with a twist. It is an historical drama, with a twist. It’s full of ups and downs and just gripped me from start to finish, with a wonderfully subtle humour.

“With enough courage, you can do without a reputation.”

I love it’s illustration of the impermanence of all things, and making the best out of the hand we’re dealt. I love its depiction of loss: lost loved ones, lost homes, lost foundations, and how it is possible to maintain a strong sense of self regardless – how we must adapt to survive. 

“I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow.”

I love how the purest forms of human compassion and spirit are set alongside examples of outright selfishness, and how you seem to love the respective characters for each of these traits, simultaneously.

I managed not to watch the film before reading the book, for which I’m eternally grateful. The film has certainly become more famous than the book, but I’m a reader first and foremost!

“...he had never known such gallantry as the gallantry of Scarlett O'Hara going forth to conquer the world in her mother's velvet curtains and the tail feathers of a rooster.”

It’s a definite classic without being intimidating; at its core it is reading for entertainment. You’ll love it if you like strong, morally ambiguous, female characters who keep you routing for them even in all their folly! It’s also a great read if you want to get a dramatised illustration of the American civil war from the southern belle perspective. It’s just a downright brilliant, engrossing, epic read.

“No, I don't think I will kiss you, although you need kissing, badly. That's what's wrong with you. You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how.”

Though as a narrative it has been criticised for romanticising plantation life and slavery, as a modern day reader I feel you are able to bring those sensibilities to it yourself, whilst getting a real taste of the naiveté of even the least typical southern belle.  
Naturally, it’s all about Scarlett O’Hara. I always admire strong female characters, especially women that defy their cultural context as Scarlett does – she’s got to be up there with the strongest of them! Vivien Leigh does a stellar job in the movie, but nothing beats the Scarlett that you find between the written pages.

“Life's under no obligation to give us what we expect.”
 Today's favourite book comes from Megan from Charade who has bravely just set sail to America for a few months. Her blog is the perfect mix of inspirational quotes and action - it's such a refreshing read, written by one of the loveliest bloggers out there!
Megan's blog can be found here and you can find her on twitter here.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Listeners


 the listeners
by walter de la mare
"Is there anybody there?" said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grass
Of the forest's ferny floor;
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller's head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
"Is there anybody there?" he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller's call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
'Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:--
"Tell them I came, and no one answered,
That I kept my word," he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.

otherwise known as my first 'favourite poem' i would get my mum to read and re-read this again and again. i still know a lot of it 'off-by-heart' (which says something for someone with as terrible a memory as mine!)

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Write, Hurl, and Try!

Write about your own experience.  By that experience someone else may be a bit richer some day.  Read widely of others experiences in thought and action - stretch to others even though it hurts and strains and would be more comfortable to snuggle back in the comforting cotton-wool of blissful ignorance

Hurl yourself at goals above your head and bear the lacerations that come when you slip and make a fool of yourself

Try always, as long as you have breath in your body, to take the hard way, the Spartan way - and work, work, work to build yourself into a rich, continually evolving entity!
 S Y L V I A  P L A T H
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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Rockettes, Rockstars, and Rockbottom

  rockettes, rockstars, and rockbottom (2nd edition)
by keltie colleen

how might you know keltie?
she's danced for beyonce, taylor swift, starred in 'peep show' with mel b, besties with christina perri

what will you learn from keltie?
what it really feels like to follow your dreams.

Keltie Colleen packed up her Canadian small-town life and headed to New York with $500 and a dream. She was going to be a dancer. This is her story, her own words, of that dream coming true. Not in the Hollywood movie sense but in the hard work, determination, a hell of a lot of tears, rejection and heart-ache sense. The real account of what it is like to have no connections but still go-for-it anyway. There are very few people who can say that they have truly had a dream come true; Keltie made hers come true, which for me, made her story such a compelling read. No, I'm not a dancer, but the stories she shared about her time in New York are stories of resilience and passion; of going from nothing to something.

One of the hardest things I ever had to learn in life is that the things I love won't always love me back. It is heartbreaking. It is disappointing. But I have learned that this is just the way it is. Sometimes we have to get sad and cry and then the next day we have to put on our combat boots of life and stomp through the best we can. We can't get disappointed when the world doesn't give us what we gave it.

Keltie's story is split into three parts; told from the perspective of her most recent heartbreak she recounts the three most significant loves of her life. Balancing a demanding career inbetween her obsession with rocker boys with skinny jeans. It is impossible not to catch Keltie's enthusiasm, her passion, the girl has been through the ringer and still believes in love at the end of it all. Still has space in her heart to pick up where she left off and carry on, despite it all.

But no matter what I did or accomplished, I had to fake self-esteem. I put it on in the morning along with my make-up. I forced myself to act strong, confident, and in control. My heart and my head were constantly fighting. Sometimes my guts got involved. They couldn't agree on what I should do with my life, my career or my heart. I built too much to stand around and watch it all fall apart so I did what I always did - smiled, skipped and sucked it up.

As I said before, this isn't a story of the glitz and glamour of being a radio city Rockette, choreographing music videos, starring in shows in Las Vegas, dancing at the VMAs with Taylor Swift and Panic at the Disco, or even having several love songs written about you, being everyone's muse. It's real - it's the girl behind those songs which we sang, the girl who was lied to and belittled by show directors, the girl who no matter how tight money was carried on dancing, refusing to become a dancer / (something). Personally, I found the whole book inspiring, her words have a way of making you believe that with just as much hard work and heart ache that anyone's dreams, no matter how crazy, can come true. The honesty with which Keltie bears her soul is like no other memoir I have read. This is one book that I was unable to put down, except to make a cup of tea, and even then I was boiling the kettle and still reading!

the book is available to purchase in e-book format for only £3.33 from amazon - here! 
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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sonnets From The Portuguese

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints - I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! - and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Writing Tips From John Steinbeck

Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.

Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.

Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.

If a scene or a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it—bypass it and go on. When you have finished the whole you can come back to it and then you may find that the reason it gave trouble is because it didn’t belong there.

Beware of a scene that becomes too dear to you, dearer than the rest. It will usually be found that it is out of drawing.

If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.


ps: i am on the hunt for new music. please let me know who your latest musical amours are, my iPod and ears will thank you in kind. 

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Unbearable Lightness

 'unbearable lightness' by portia de rossi. 

what did i know about portia prior to reading? 
she's married to ellen de generes.
what did i learn about portia de rossi whilst reading?
what a confident, brave, fantastic woman she is. 

Detailing her career from model to actress living in Los Angeles; this is the story of Portia de Rossi (born Amanda Lee Rogers) attempting to simultaneously stand out from the crowd to book jobs but trying desperately not to do so for the wrong reason: being 'overweight'.  Rewarding herself with food having starved herself to lose the vital pounds before a photoshoot led to fully blown bulimia once the jobs started being booked back to back. 

It didn't get any easier when she moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of an acting career, a lesbian, she was terrified of revealing her sexuality - no lesbian actress got the lead role, they were the 'character actresses' stuck overweight and unfashionable - nobody wanted to be a character actress.  Simultaneously Ellen Degeneres had recently come out as a lesbian herself; she was the benchmark - if Ellen could maintain her career it might be possible for a fledgling lesbian actress to make it in Hollywood.  As we all know, Ellen didn't make it, her tv show was cancelled and her calls went unanswered for years.  Being a lesbian and especially being an 'overweight' lesbian, in Hollywood, was unacceptable.

Instead meal times were measured by chop sticks - each bite was smaller than the width of the chop stick, each portion rigorously measured out, each calorie was painstakingly added up - at her most extreme she stopped using toothpaste, lip balm, anything which you would consume calories without even being aware.  At 80 pounds she collapsed on set of her first lead movie role; diagnosed with lupus, osteoporosis, and cirrhisis of the liver, this wasn't about being over / under weight anymore; it was about surviving.

The thought of being in the middle of the pack had always worried me.  From my first awareness of competition - that someone could win and another person could lose - the pressure to excel in everything I attempted was immense.  I had to win, get an A, and take home the prize.  Even when I took first prize, topped the class, won the race, I never really won anything.  I was merely avoiding the embarrassment of losing.  When ability is matched by expectations, then anything less than an exceptional result was laziness.  And laziness in my opinion was shameful.
This isn't an easy book to read.  I gasped much more than I would have liked.  In an interview Portia said that she didn't want to use a ghost writer but instead wanted to painfully live through every word because she wanted the story to be told from the point-of-view of the sick person.  It really is like stepping inside of an eating disorder - of understanding the thought process behind her actions, the events leading up to them, and thankfully the happy ending - a stable weight, no more yo-yo dieting.

It's one of those books which I think, sadly, is so prevalent in our society.  Understanding that complex relationship we've all developed with food.  Having a better understanding of the thought processes behind these problems, I believe, can help us deal with them.  Portia's family and friends continually told her that she was 'too thin', a concept she couldn't understand, it was a compliment, surely? How could anyone be too thin?!  So many people, I am sure, have already been helped by this book - even if you've never experienced an eating disorder personally, most of us know someone who has.  Ultimately this book has a very powerful, personal, and potent message - and I can't recommend it enough.
PS: I'm now on 'facebook' and it would mean so much if you would give me a cheeky 'like' :)
click here to be transported to facebook! 
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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Make Your Soul Grow

The arts are not a way of making a living.  They are a very human way of making life more bearable.  Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake.  Sing in the shower.  Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can.  You will get an enormous reward.  You will have created something.

Kurt Vonnegut 'A Man Without a Country'.

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