“Development” A Creative Response to Geography For the Lost by Kapka Kassabova

When I first read Kassabova’s short story collection I found myself growing quite fond of a piece titled “I Want to Be a Tourist”. In this piece Kassabova compares her life to a city which gave me the idea decided to write a piece in where I describe my own life as a city. As the days dragged on it became harder and harder for me to resist the urge to write this piece but I finally gave in once I had a free slot of time. I certainly hope that you are ready for a lot of metaphors and I also hope that you thoroughly enjoy the piece you are about to read!

—————————-

If my life were a city it would quiet and quaint, hiding behind its sister metropolis, not because it fears being seen but because it would simply rather not be. Not many other large cities understand why, but if they knew what had happened to the town all those years ago then they would take caution to do the same.

You see, my life used to be a much larger city, in fact it used to be one of the largest cities in the country because of its preoccupation with the development of the arts. It was vibrant and full of people, kind people that did everything they could for the good of their city. They decided it would be best for the happiness of their fellow residences to encourage everyone to open their hearts and try to follow their passions, regardless of where it took them. As a result, the city became home to thousands of the most successful restaurants, stadiums, art galleries and production companies in the world which attracted thousands of new residences. This was the downfall of the city of my life.

The new residences began to abuse the town, ignoring the comradery that the rest of the town had spent so many years creating. They burned down libraries, broke into recording studios and even killed the city’s most notable artists. Eventually, the mayor had grown weary of its residences but decided that he would give them one last chance and offered them an olive branch. Unfortunately, the residences chose to cut it down for decoration instead.

The mayor lost hope and shut down the town entirely, kicking out the town’s current residences and locking himself away in the town hall.

Through tears rage, the city’s mayor refused help from the neighbouring cities and lashed out at anyone that dared to approach him.  Soon enough, this drove away anyone who could have possibly helped him and made the city the most un-inhabitable city in all of England. This was when the vultures decided to attack.

The vultures tore at the weakest points of the city, taking it apart bit by bit until there was nothing left, leaving the mayor no choice but to rebuild the city on his own. After months of rebuilding the residences came back to the town, asking for a place to stay. The mayor welcomed the original towns folk back with open arms providing them with new homes, schools, hospitals and even restaurants. In the few months following the towns folk decided to help fund and open several development programs that would ensure a final positive growth within the town.

The influx of vacant jobs in the town attracted new comers once again, this time however, the mayor had developed an intricate plan on how he would choose the people that were good enough to live in the town.

The city now proudly stands on its own two feet, proving that the mayor’s plan was a complete success. The mayor had learned a valuable lesson: his town can accept new comers but it much accept the right new comers in order to continue developing and growing itself.

This is the truth behind the pickiness of the townsfolk. This is why, no matter the circumstances, the town continues to remain hidden, only noticeable to those who deserve it.

“Dreams” a Creative Response to Eidolon by Sandeep Parmar

When I read Sandeep Parmar’s book I fell in love with the way she recreated Helen of Troy, it was so different to how she had been portrayed in earlier works that it became hard to put the book down, even for a second. As a result, I decided that I would like to write about a lesser known historical figure that also managed to make quite a lot of if not more, difference in the world. That is why I chose to write about James Baldwin: he is a historical black lgbtqia+ writer and civil rights activist from the 60s. He did a lot for the black rights movement, the gay movement and most of all the writing world.

He is by far one of my biggest heroes so I genuinely hope you enjoy it.

—————————-

Jim Blakely has quite the mundane life, nothing very good has ever come his way but nothing extremely bad has ever befallen him either.

Every day starts the same: he wakes up at 7PM and makes his way to the bathroom. He brushes his teeth as he stares into his dull brown eyes and reminds himself of the day’s plan. Upon leaving the shower he heads to the kitchen to get his usual breakfast of oatmeal with no sugar and one cup of black tea which is also sugarless.

Jim then sits in front of the pitch black television for exactly an hour, eating his breakfast as he recalls the absurd dreams that plagued him the night before. After the hour is up he leaves the couch and washes his bowl before drying it and placing it in the empty cupboard.  He gets changed into his work uniform and slips on his black unbranded shoes on his way out of the apartment.

He works the night shifts at a local grocery store so he has yet to deal with any of the common placed situations most retail workers have had to face. It has never been too crowded nor has it ever been deserted, there has never been any familial arguments had in the store nor has there ever been a cute dog tied up outside for Jim to pet. The only food they ate were left over sandwiches and drinks from the fridge aisle that are due to go off the next day.

After work, Jim makes his way into the apartment and immediately changes out of his work clothes. He then goes over to the cupboard and takes out the same bowl that he had eaten from earlier that morning.  He places one of many pre-cooked meals he had created earlier on in the week and places it in his plain white microwave.

After he finishes eating Jim changes into his pyjamas and closes his eyes, escaping into a dream filled with adventure, sex and freedom.

In reality he was boring old Jim Blakely but in his dreams he remembered a better time, a time when he was James Baldwin.

In these dreams he followed in his father’s footsteps and preaches to his adoring flock about God and all of the wonderful futures that he has in store for every single one of them. He attracts people like flies when he talks about the work of God and befriends many when they agree with his teachings.

In these dreams he leaves the church and gets published in magazines while he writes beautiful poetry and bestselling novels about what it’s like to be gay and black in the 60s.

In these dreams he stood up for his rights and marched in D.C with Heston, Brando and Poitier.

In these dreams he left behind a legacy of influenced writers and inspired LGBTQIA+ youth of the world.

In these dreams he got his final chance to relive his past life and remember what it feels like to enjoy life.

City of God: Authenticity in Film

After growing up in the City of God himself Paulo Lin used his knowledge of the favelas to write a touching semi-autobiographical novel that reveals the truth behind what goes on in the run down slums.

The stories that Lin chose to write about were inspired by several true events that he had witnessed throughout his childhood: Rocket was based on a childhood friend of his whom dreamed of becoming a photographer, the runts were meant to mimic childhood versions of the Comando Vermelho (the most notorious gang in Rio De Janero) and the rest of the background and side characters were meant to portray other people living in the favelas and the drug dealers that terrorised them.

This book was called “City of God” and became a massive hit in Brazil soon after it was published. It was then later picked up for a film adaptation by Fernando Meirelles which was released in 2002.

The emotion and realism found in the novel successfully made its way into the film and as a result has made it quite difficult to distinguish it from real life documentaries. This creates a feeling of authenticity which was further emphasised by Meirelles decision to choose people and kids that were found living in the City of God to act in the film. Even the main antagonist, Lil Ze, was just a teenager from the favelas before he was discovered when he accompanied his friend to the auditions process.

Unfortunately, the rest of the review does contain spoilers for the film. So if you are intending to watch the film or read the novel then please stop here.

The main message found in this film is “the cycle of violence in City of God never ends”. This message is pushed time and time again in the book and film by scenes such as: Lil Ze’s death, The Tenderr Trio’s deaths, Knock Out Ned’s demise and even Benny’s unfortunate ending. However, this message is most noticeable in the ending scene of the film. We watch as the runts walk around with weapons as they talk about their latest ‘hit list’ of large drug lords and gang leaders. They are also seen discussing their futures as the most powerful gangsters in the favelas.

Meirelles even chose to show the viewers real footage of Knock Out Ned being interviewed at the end of the film in order to make sure that this message truly resonated with the audience. It reiterates that this isn’t just a film, it’s the devastating reality that people in the favelas have to live with on a daily basis.

Personally, I loved this film: it creates an amazingly authentic and heart breaking story that captivates its audience in ways I haven’t seen most ‘big films’ do in quite a while.

Regardless of my over flowing love for this film I do acknowledge that like any other film it has its downfalls. The film was a little sloppy at parts and the acting could have been better, though, looking back on the film I also realise that the decision to use people from the favelas for actors was for the greater good. It has given children from the favelas such as Alice Braga a chance for a new and successful life outside of City of God.

I recommend that you watch this film as it does challenge the norms of what the world thinks of when it pictures Brazil. Even if you don’t end up liking it, at the very least, after you watch it you will be able to think of something other than the Olympics when you hear the word “Brazil”.

What do you think of City of God?  Is it great or does it not live up to the hype? Let the discussion begin!

The Tate: Social Commentary and Tapas.

Art has always been an abstract concept to me: I knew it existed but due to the restrictions of the country I used to live in I never really came into contact with it till I was about 12 years old.  When I moved however, one of the first things I did was visit the Walker Art Gallery, so when I heard that we were going to a modern art exhibition a few months ago I was quite excited but I also wasn’t sure what to expect.

I thought I was going to look at a few paintings and sculptures that looked weird and had virtually no meaning so when I found pieces such as Cecile B Evans’ Sprung a Leak it became obvious that I was completely unprepared for what I was about to see.

So like any red blooded university student that was currently struggling to grasp a concept, I went to the bar to consume a worrying amount of beer and tapas.

Sprung a Leak was the first piece of art work I came across and upon first glance it was an odd three-act-play that only emphasised our generations ever growing reliance on technology. Which, in a sense it did, but it did so in a completely different way than one would expect.

This play actually portrays Evans’ vision of the possible future of Cécile B. Evans, Sprung a Leak 2016technological singularity, an idea brought upon partially by her interest in the current generations’ obsessions with social media and a partially by a section of William Shakespeare’s and John Fletcher’s Tragicomedy Two Nobel Men. The jailer’s daughter performs a soliloquy where she describes the crashing of a ship, “a leak has sprung.” Evans re-imagined this as the reoccurring leakage of personal online data, even referencing the Ashley Madison hacks.

Evans’ focus on modern society’s obsession with technology and social media isn’t new, if you look at many of her other works (Hyperlinks OIDH, AGNES, etc.) you’ll see that this is probably one of the main focuses of her artists ID.

The only thing I could say was a tad annoying about Evans’ piece is the fact that it doesn’t pick a side of the technology debate to fully explore, it simply observes all possibilities. It would have been interesting to see Evans’ opinion revealed through the piece though perhaps this could be seen as Evans’ attempt at provoking thought in the observer in order to help them pick what side they are on themselves.

Regardless, this piece does make you wonder how far humans will go with technology and whether this is less of a possibility and more of a certainty of the future.

Tracey Emin, My Bed 1998Just as with Sprung a Leak, when I first approached Tracey Emin’s My Bed (1999) I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. It was a bed, a messy one at that and if anything it made me feel a little disgusted and uncomfortable but, something about the piece resonated with me.

After a while of research I realised that Emin created this piece to portray a particular time span in her life, 4 days to be exact, where she had a breakdown and lost track of everything she was doing. When she came to Emin found her bed like this, destroyed, covered in used tissues, cigarette butts, empty bottles of alcohol, etc.

This is why this piece resonated with me, I had seen a majority of this picture before… in my own room.

It’s hard, to suffer through a depressive episode, to fall into such a spiral of a breakdown that you end up doing nothing but wasting your days away in a funk. But, that doesn’t mean people don’t get through it and make their lives better. Emin is one of those people, as am I and as are probably many of you out there reading this right now.

This bed may not be the socially acceptable way of portraying it but this is what happens when you hit critical levels of depression, you lose it. Nothing big matters anymore, so why should the state of your bed?

So many pieces of art deal with the concept of depression but this piece is the first one that entirely and unapologetically shows it in such a raw fashion that it’s hard to look at it Edward Krasiński, J'AI PERDU LA FIN!!! 1969and not have a memory or two pop up. It’s no wonder this piece got shortlisted for the 1999 Turner prize.

After these two pieces the rest of the artwork began to blur in my memory, it wasn’t that the other artists were bad. I’m sure that Yves Klien, Edward Krasinski and the others are fantastic artists in their own rights, they just didn’t resonate with me half as much as the last two pieces did.  So please, go to the Tate and form your own opinions of the art works.

Even if you end up hating every piece of art you come across, you can at least get some shopping done and eat some fantastic Tapas afterwards.

So what do you think of modern art? Do you not like tapas? Let the discussion begin!

‘Charm and Strange’ by Stephanie Kuehn 

Stephanie Kuehn is one of the few authors whom have successfully taken the plunge into the mature side of young adult literature. Rather than writing a story solely centred around romantic interests she has written a story so full of mystery and intrigue that it’s actually quite hard for readers to realise that as they read they’re beginning to discover the darker and more sinister side of human nature: the broken psyche.

In Charm and Strange Kuehn explores themes ranging from issues with mental health to the difficulty of dealing with ones familial issues by having Andrew/Win come face to face with his own scarring past. This is something of a motif in her other works such as: Delicate Monsters, The Smaller Evil and Complicit. 

It’s a hard book to explain without spoiling the entire plot so I’m going to quote the author’s own ‘spoiler-free’ description:

” Its the story of a boy who believes that he is a monster. And it’s about understanding why.”

This book can be quite cliche at times which could have allowed these themes to fall flat if it wasn’t for Kuehn’s understanding of clinical psychology and her knowledge of Wittgenstien’s private language argument. This knowledge aided her in creating a believably cliche character (the brooding male protagonist with a dark past that has shaped their mistrust of the world) as she focused on what he would say and think rather than what would give away the narrative the quickest.

This decision could have put her work at a large disadvantage but she managed to save it with her unique chapter structure. Kuehn’s decision to alternate chapters between both Andrew/Win’s past and present life was probably the best thing she could have done for her novel. It intrigues her readers as they watch Andrew/Win’s past come to life as every other chapter explains his actions in the chapter before it. Kuehn’s scientific expertise comes into play once again when it comes to this unique structure as the chapters are labelled as “Matter” and “Antimatter” which means a lot more than you think.

Matter is made from regular particles while antimatter is made from antiparticles which means that it has the opposing charge and spin to that of regular matter. This is why the titles of the alternating chapters are just so brilliant! These titles not only portay Andrew/Win’s current obsession with science but also subtly correllate with what each chapter is about. Chapters titled “Matter” show us the current side of his personality (cold, hard headed and mentally disturbed) where as chapters titles “Antimatter” show us the more innocent and vulnerable side of his childhood.

Of course, there were some things that I believe Kuehn could have done better. She could have fleshed out Win’s friends from boarding school a little more, especially Lex. I mean a character who’s response to a guy stripping off and running into the woods to ‘become a werewolf’ is “you’ve got one bony ass, you know that?” deserves to be fully fleshed out.

Kuehn’s unique mixture  of interestingly genuine side characters, heart wrenching narrative and scientific knowledge really has made one of the most interesting novels that I have read to date.

I personally fell in love with this book and would honestly recommend that you read this if you are interested in books that are mysterious, have traces of of the mythical in it and  have large reveals towards the end.

Do you think I’m right? What’s your opinion of Charm and Strange? Let the discussion begin!

After Dark by Haruki Murakami: Enticingly Unique or Simply Lacklustre?

“Unremarkable but adequate lighting; expressionless decor and tableware; floor plan designed to the last detail by management engineers; innocuous background music at low volume; staff meticulously trained to deal with customers by the book: “Welcome to Denny’s.” Everything about the restaurant is anonymous and interchangeable. And almost every seat is full.”

This Hopper-esque scene is brought to you by Haruki Murakami’s After Dark, one of the most confusing books you will ever read.

After Dark is a story full of loneliness and alienation, themes that are first introduced by Mari Asai, a girl whom spends the majority of the plot switching between reading an unknown novel and helping passersby with the unconventional issues that the night has thrown their way. Mari Asai is the most obvious embodiment of these themes as she is consistently portrayed as an “other” by many story arcs (eg: the memory of her high school self being the opposite to her popular sister) and many comments made by the other characters. (Eg: “It’s not the size book most girls carry around in their bags.” “For a girl nowadays to know ‘Five Spot After Dark’…” Etc.)

Throughout the novel Murakami sprinkles the seeds of these themes by having many of his characters portrayed as “others”. (Eg: Takahasi as the misunderstood musician, Karou as the masculine “big hunk of woman”, Mari as the girl whom is “not like other girls”, etc.) However, these are the only feasible parts of the story as soon the narrative begins to crumble, giving way to Murakami’s postmodernist style, particularly in Murakami’s use of Fabulation and other conventions of the genre of Speculative Fiction.

This style can make the book very hard to digest for some readers, however, it is also one of the things that most of Murakami’s fans adore him for. In fact, it is possibly one of the most important parts of his work as without it this particular novel would come across as quite haphazardly written due to the books noticeably lacklustre and virtually non-existent ending.

Now, this is the first Murakami novel that I have read so perhaps my cynical response to his work is simply due to my lack of insight and experience of his writerly ID and motif. Though, after doing quite a bit of research I have come to understand that many of his books follow a similar pattern: lack of initial direction due to an alarming obsession with the art of writing and many references to Jazz music due to his love of it. While the latter is merely an interesting addition of depth to Murakami’s style the prior seems to have become quite a handicap. The book feels as if it has been written with the sole intention of  portraying the author’s impressive use of literary techniques instead of telling an interesting story to the reader. Of course, by focusing on these techniques he does meticulously create an atmosphere and mood that is unique to this novel but other authors manage to portray a range of moods and atmospheres with a variety of literary techniques all while still telling an interesting story. (J.K Rowling, Patrick Ness, Neil Gaiman, etc.)

Of course, this review is based on my literary preferences and as you can tell an interesting narrative does mean quite a lot to me so I do acknowledge that it’s highly likely that Murakami intentionally does what he does and he does it well. This has been made undeniable by the fact that he does have so many loyal fans and has recently been named the 4/1 favourite to win the Nobel Literary Prize.

With this said, you may very well like it if you’re into literature that is much more mysterious and mood driven then it’s highly probable that you will love this book! However, if you’re like me and prefer more narrative driven novels then this may not really be your cup of tea either.

Though, there really is no harm in trying to read it and see how it goes anyway.

Think After Dark is over rated? Let the discussion begin!

Hey There.

So, how are you?

Of course I know that’s not really the correct way to start a blog entry, but honestly I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve only ever written about myself once and that was in my diary back in year 6 and to be honest that 11 year old dribble was probably better than what I’m managing to string together right now.

Continue reading