Library Finds: White Teeth, by Zadie Smith

It’s a long book, for sure. Three generations, two families. One (multicultural) Britain.

This humorous book gives an amazing insight into what it’s like not to be middle-class, not to be white, not to have been born in this country. It is a book about the friendship between Samad and Archie, who bonded over a dangerous and not quite legal issue they plotted in the end of the second World War. It is also the story about Alsana and Clara, their wives, who also bond – over their marriage problems.

But maybe most of all, it is a story of twins who are so different that their father despairs about it. Samad becomes more and more obsessed with religion and the fact that his sons do not care about Allah as much as he does. He believes that growing up in Britain damages them. There is a decision to be made…

A book from the St Mary’s library collection, reviewed by Jane Kremer, first year English and Creative and Professional Writing student.

Advertisements

Library Finds: Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace

Infinite Jest is a collection of worldview-altering quotes. The plot tying it all together is the concept of an entertainment so addictive that its viewers will die of dehydration before turning it off. Across 1079 pages it traverses multiple genres such as hysterical realism, tragic comedy and postmodern satire. The plot follows the lives (mostly) of Hal Incandenza, a student at Enfield Tennis Academy, and Don Gately, a recovering drug addict at Ennet Recovery House. The novel explores addiction, withdrawal, recovery, family relationships, death, entertainment, linguistics and national identity. Set in the near future of dystopian America and spanning nine years, each subsidized by a specific corporate sponsor for tax revenue, Infinite Jest will teach you about consumerism, greed, social politics and the shallowness of pleasure. It moves you between characters and years so frequently you’ll give up on control, and in that is the magic reflection of daily life which Wallace aimed for; every scene demands to be read as an individual. Wallace’s language is effortlessly concise. Phrases such as ‘My chest bumps like a dryer with shoes in it’ are the real page-turners. Reading this novel feels like when you’re chasing something in a dream and you almost catch up to it but then you wake up, and that’s when the book ends. It’s irritating and inconclusive and I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s a like a virus.

A book from the St Mary’s library collection, reviewed by Ellen Willett, third year Creative and Professional Writing student.

Library Finds: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, by Jeanette Winterson

I first checked out “Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal” because I wanted to look at one of the books from the Voices in Contemporary Literature course and this one looked the most interesting.

Despite the title referencing when she moved out and her adoptive mother asking her the titular question “Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?” the book deals more so with Jeanette’s issues with the idea of being loved and wanted by those around her. This is shown particularly with the references to the fact her adoptive mother told her that “The Devil lead us to the wrong crib.” The idea of her being “The Wrong Crib.” Comes up often in the novel, whether it’s when she tried to behave “correctly” in the hopes of being acceptable and loved by the woman who adopted her, or later in life when talking about seeking her adoptive mother and being told she’d always been “wanted,” despite being given away for adoption.

Fittingly, as it is a book about her own life, “Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?” is not a set book where things go as they should in a ‘story’ the abusive adoptive mother is not entirely demonised as a monster and the book doesn’t end with a triumphant reunion with the birth mother making everything okay. Rather the book poses the question of nature vs nurture and how someone can love and be loved despite difficult circumstances.

I enjoyed this book and think that anyone else who enjoys learning about the lives of others also would enjoy it.

A book from the St Mary’s library collection, reviewed by Kirstin Richardson, first year English and Creative and Professional Writing student.

Library Finds: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

This is a book told from the voice of a boy who suffers from Asperger syndrome, and the insight we get into this character’s life is honest and heart-wrenching, without making you feel like the author is trying too hard. Christopher (the protagonist), finds his neighbour’s dog murdered and gets the urge to solve the mystery behind this death. Christopher’s condition makes his prose highly literal, and this sometimes makes him miss out the real truth behind certain situations. Despite making you quite emotional, this book also has  plenty of humour arising from Christopher’s naivety and his lack of embarrassment. All this gives us a new view of the world through Christopher’s honest and humorous voice.  Highly recommend it!

A book from the St Mary’s library collection, reviewed by Erica de Silva, second year English and Creative and Professional Writing student.

New Writing from Twickenham at The Exchange

Autumn 17Last night we had the latest in our rolling programme of undergraduate readings. This was a bit different, however. Rather than just sharing our work amongst ourselves, on campus or in the back room of a public house, we decided to thrust our students into the limelight in the first of what we hope will be the first of many public readings.

‘New Writing From Twickenham’ took place at The Exchange, and was programmed as part of the Richmond Literature Festival. It was something of a hybrid. The first half was given over to St Mary’s Creative and Professional Writing students, while the second was opened to the floor with open mic slots available for audience members. Each half was rounded off with a reading from the wonderful Eley Williams, who read two stories from her brilliant debut collection, Attrib.

The evening was a great success, with everyone reading to a packed cafe at The Exchange – the first time we’ve held one of our readings in this new cultural venue at the heart of Twickenham, and, again, I hope not the last.

It was marvellous to hear our students share their work, and for them to have such a great reception. So put your hands together for Shaun Dicks, Jane Kremer, Beth Fisher, Solomon Atkinson-Padmore, Martha Farrall-Hyder, Abi Silverthorne, Alex Mitchell, Amie Carden, Stephanie Marquardt, Ari Haines and Naima Young….

Eley Williams read two stories from Attrib., ‘Alight At The Next’, which you can read online here, and ‘Smote, or When I Find I Cannot Kiss You in Front of a Print by Bridget Riley’, which you can read online here. But really you should be buying a copy of the book itself, because it’s a corker.

Autumn 17 Eley Williams

Library Finds: The Shock of the Fall, by Nathan Filer

“5/5: Poignant, important and very realistic, this is another great 2017 read for me. The characters were so alive that I had to keep telling myself it’s a fictional novel and the story is so emotional at times it’s difficult, but the author’s ability to engage and captivate makes this an interesting read nonetheless. Only improvement would be to have more of it! (Especially the relationship between Matthew and his dad, I think.)”

So that was my goodreads review of The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer, but it’s not a great review, is it? The word “interesting” should be “outstanding”, the syntax and grammar isn’t at all perfect and, well, it’s just quite short really. However, despite all of that, the review matters because that’s how I felt the minute I finished this book. The story and the characters (and their billion emotions) were still raw and I just had to write about it. So, even though that review is far from flawless, I’m happy with it.

Nevertheless, I would like to add some more.

The Shock of the Fall features a boy named Matthew, and about his and his family’s lives, coping with his brother’s death. It is a raw story about someone dealing with grief but also their own mental health, which yes can be upsetting at times but due to his endless attempts to overcome each obstacle in his path, this read is both inspirational and astounding.

I would therefore recommend this read to anyone over the age of 16/18 (depending on the individual) as there are mentions of suicide attempts/ self-harm within the novel, but in my opinion it is definitely a novel worth reading.

A book from the St Mary’s library collection, reviewed by Beth Fisher, first year Creative and Professional Writing student.

Poem: That Damn Green Light

That Damn Green Light

by Beth Fisher

I’ve wrote this stupid poem too many times,

But love, pain and sorrow won’t fit into rhymes,

Syntax and iambic meter; I’m sorry it isn’t all neater,

You can’t fit with the times; it isn’t always so sublime,

 

But we do our best and that’s quite alright, right?

 

I drink tea at 03:25, with a passion in my heart struck alive,

And sometimes I wish I could shut it all down, if only just to survive,

I wish I could be a fighter, I will be, just let me be something lighter,

Sometimes you can’t jump and dive; you just have to escape the hive,

 

But you do your best and that’s quite alright, right?

 

I question heaven at 03:27, with a heart that’s hardly beaten,

And sometimes I wish I could shut it all down, if only just to cease the sounds,

I wish I could be so much lighter, I will be, just let me be something stronger,

Sometimes you can’t be the siren; making everyone else around you listen,

 

You do your best and that’s quite alright, so right-

 

Don’t dwell on the before at 03:34; focus on the future (that’ll last),

Let your worries be no more; left at the door, raise your flags and mast,

Go and let yourself explore; don’t hide away like the times before,

Everything will be okay, have hope and someday you will find the shore,

 

We’ll do our best and no one can ask for more than that.

 

Here we are, together and apart, in a world born of a different heart,

We shy away as we loathe to restart; we prefer to hide in the dark,

And sometimes you don’t quite fit the part, but would it really tear you apart-

Just to look up at the dying stars; how wonder and life can journey that far,

 

I’m doing my best and, no one can deny, that’s sure a start.

 

We’re in a world where blue is black and white is orange,

Where waters are darker than the blazing sky, things are deranged,

We’re surviving but none of us really know how or why,

I’m sorry that it doesn’t make much sense, but beauty is strange,

 

We’re doing our best and, no one can fault, we are as strong as rain.

 

I’m coming to the end of overthinking whilst before I was sinking,

Drowning in thoughts and screaming, but here I am blinking,

I am waking from a sleep I didn’t realise I was sleeping, seeping

Into my bones, I can feel an awakening; a new formation that’s linking,

 

Beautiful day, beautiful people, beautiful everything; I am floating.

 

To those who are lost and unknowing, stars are always born, then glowing,

Evolution is about change and knowing, that plays are deeper than showing,

And people are stranger than you could know; better if you stay for the show,

Life can be a boat against the hitting tide, and the secret is to keep on rowing,

 

We do our best and that’s quite alright; we find more highs than we do lows.

Beth Fisher is a First Year Creative and Professional Writing student.

 

Anatomy / A Scene / Limbo

‘Anatomy’

The anatomy of the boy. His skin is soft and off-white like almond milk, the tips of his fingers blistered and the nail bludgeoned, plump and fluid-filled because he punched his bedroom wall too hard. His legs are thin and gangly like his arms, too long for the torso, still, he is growing, and he stares without attachment, the eyes muddy like his father’s and doe-like his mother’s – speckled browns of emotional poverty, a lack of nurturing, stunted. He has her lips, the family’s brow. The snarl of a beast in the throat of a child.

‘A scene’

A biker jacket swung over an armchair.
A birthday cake with a slice cut out.
An ashtray filled with cigarette butts.
A sheet of wrapping paper peeking out from under the sofa.
A fuzzy television screen.
An empty wine glass with a stained red rim.

‘Limbo’

Limbo is standing at a bus stop for more than fifteen minutes and feeling a certain dread that your bus is never going to come.

Three pieces of flash fiction/poetry/you decide by 1st Year Creative Writing student Sophie RA Duggan.

Voice and Style 

By Jamie L. Cruise

In my writing adventures, learning and demonstrating new knowledge in practice, I have been educated in several important elements and have become aware of their universal applications, the key two being ‘voice’ and ‘style’. By the latter, I mean how a tool or mechanism in writing fiction or poetry can be used in the same ways in non-fiction writing, whether essays or otherwise. Some of these are more subtle than others, going largely unnoticed but still appreciated by the reader (and sometimes, perhaps, the writer), whereas others are obvious and aid us to appreciate a passage of text as fluid, coherent and embodying a core purpose.

Being naive and often flippant in my own writing across most mediums, I had not considered how the former, a writer’s ‘voice’, is present in their writing and across their works. I had gathered that a distinct ‘style’ of writing can be detected, regardless of whether the text is fiction or non-fiction, but had not considered that part of that style is the voice in which the reader hears when reading a body of work. Given that recently the majority of texts I have read have been of an analytic nature, I have learned that in many cases an author’s voice can be construed, in non-fiction just as well as fiction, regardless of the purpose of the text.

In my study of language, RL Trask (Language: The Basics) and Noam Chomsky (voicing opinion and theory in a range of linguistic and philosophical fields) have proven to be amusing – certainly not in the subject matter, but in the way they inform and elaborate on their subjects: their voice. Through their use of humour, relatable examples and rhetoric, information is absorbed by the reader that might otherwise be lost

Now, at what point does this get interesting to you – my reader? Well, the names I’ve dropped are of little significance here and are purely anecdotal. The point I’m seeking to make is that I have become aware of the presence of my own voice as a writer (title pending). Perhaps ‘existence’ is more appropriate than ‘presence’, as I am starting to wonder how much of a voice, and subsequently style, my existing publications (blog posts) emanate. In truth, I am confident it is present and growing in form (which is encouraging). However, in much the same way a writer is their own worst critic, I find myself comparing my own style to other authors who have already established themselves and I see striking difference in their delivery. While being different is far from a bad thing, one must consider how that voice will be heard and the style received.

For a practical example, let’s look at this blog entry. Sure, if my reader is an English or Creative Writing student, or perhaps someone with an interest in language study or a novice writer, then perhaps I have already captured their attention with some content – but what about those who do not fall into those categories (hereby referred to as the royal ‘They’)? Have I bored Them already? *close tab, continue scrolling social media*

If I haven’t (thank you for sticking with me!), then why are They still reading? Assuming that it isn’t through a prior established relation to me, or an inability to leave without completing what They have started, one would assume that the style in which I have composed the post in, and the voice I am conveying through particular lexical arrangements on the page or screen have been entertaining enough to warrant reading on. This, obviously, is a vital concept to consider when trying to make a career in writing, be it in journalism, fiction, non-fiction, historical reports, sales pitches, etc.

Taking a step back to look at my style and voice in a more general light, it’s hard for me to immediately ascertain what makes them what they are. I am not shy in admitting that I write reasonably freely, without much hesitation or editing beyond an occasional grammatical correction, and often inebriated to some degree (fun fact: not tonight). I feel, and have been told as much, that this gives a very personal touch to my work.

I imagine for those reading this who know me personally may hear my own voice when reading my words because of this (and if you weren’t, perhaps you will now).  My concern is that perhaps it is too personal to be interpreted as favourably by someone alien to me. Perhaps it goes so far as to be offensive or irritating to others. It makes little difference to me if it does, as I quite like the idea that I have a voice that can get under the skin of some and into the hearts of others. However, understanding one’s resources proves vital in using them most effectively.

Jamie L. Cruise is a first year English and Creative and Professional Writing student

Talking About London

Talking about London
by Stephanie Marquardt

“Talk about London.” What do you mean by that?
A man with a cane, Victorian coat and hat?
Or the Houses of Parliament making decisions,
Or problems with race and class divisions?

Do you mean
Talk about the Queen?
Red telephone boxes,
The population of foxes,
A Ripper with knives,
A King with six wives,
Dr Who and Amy Pond,
Sherlock Holmes, James Bond,
The chime of Big Ben,
Number Ten,
Or summers on Richmond Green?

So when you tell me to talk about London,
Please tell me, which one do you mean?

A poem by Second Year Creative and Professional Writing student Steph, written as part of the Writing London module. Steph said, about the inspiration for the poem:

Being a Londoner, I feel the place is so multi-faceted that it cannot be defined in a short sentence: it is a combination of people, events, objects and of course, the buildings and areas of the city.

As per to the actual writing of it, I had the last 2 lines in my head for a while, to do the rest (the ‘list’ part), I tried to write down every image I have when someone says “London.”

A lot of my friends are musicians and spoken word artists, they give me a lot of inspiration about how things should sound and flow. I wanted to have a smooth, bouncy rhythm to the poem that forces the reader to speak it faster as it goes on. This city does not have a slow rhythm.

I suppose the poem’s a love letter about home, really. I’m proud to have come from here.