How Realistic Should Books Be?

CharlieMERKELEons and eons ago I read a post about how we *need* more bodily functions in books- now my first instinct was (naturally) “EWW”, quickly followed by “you need to read more books”. Let’s dispense with that myth right away, because bodily functions come up in books way more than you think, the most obvious example being its use in the satiric tradition. Everyone and their mother- from Horace to cartoonists in Charlie Hebdo- have used this technique at some point. Sorry to those writers who think this is the road to uniqueness, but this is nothing “new” or “EDGY” 😉

beautiful broken thingsYet this is just symptomatic of a wider issue. Because more and more I’m seeing books and art trying to replicate the most mundane parts of human existence. As I mentioned in my review of Beautiful Broken Things, there were far *too many* references to texting and social media squeezed in. Apart from being extremely dull, it served *no purpose* in the book. Which brings me to my first rule of thumb…

game of thrones bookFOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY (and unholy) don’t do this if you don’t have a reason. I’m never one to entirely close off any avenues when it comes to art- and this subject is no different. Thus WHEN IT SERVES A PURPOSE it is perfectly reasonable to include it. I mean, we can all think of how much grittier the death of a certain somebody is in Game of Thrones when they are dispatched whilst on the toilet. That shock factor killed it for me.

deenieIt’s therefore apparent that this can be a feature in some books, but authors really ought to know their genre. As I’ve already mentioned crude jokes easily fit into comedic subject matter, yet I do think this can be expanded out into other areas. Personally, when I was a teen I was very grateful for books by Judy Blume for educating me and normalising a lot of things I didn’t understand at the time.

the recruit cherubHOWEVER this should be used sparingly- and I mean SPARINGLY. It is way too easy for this trope to be overused- for instance, while it was funny the first time a major spy operation in the Cherub series was interrupted by someone’s inability to control their bladder, this quickly got overused and became an *insert we need a bit more drama* crutch for the plot. Not good.

my-bed-tracey-emin-011Gross gimmicks and the like should never be the sole focus of any piece of art. To my mind this merely debases the medium. It’s no secret at this stage that I am disparaging of some forms of modern art (#notall). I never argue that it’s not art- that would be as pointless as the art itself- only that it is poor versions of art. For art, good art, can be appreciated on multiple levels, whereas something like Tracy Emin’s bed is designed to shock and repulse you, which really takes little effort to achieve and has no depth of meaning.

judeOn the other end of the spectrum, one can take a look at the horrors of a book like Jude the Obscure. Many people would argue this also has shocking moments (don’t worry, no spoilers) but every single shock is woven into the story for a good reason. It is supposed to make you feel the plight of the poor, the constant injustices, the impossibility of bettering oneself. Yes, it is a book designed to make you feel shell-shocked, though not without just cause. No one could say this could be read on one level alone.

0787_07Still, as any fantasy lover knows, there are *plenty* of books which avoid any hint of the real world altogether and that is a-okay with me. Not all books are designed to be realistic and the ones that are don’t always need to scream its realism at us. Sometimes what we need from books is a touch of idealism. The Alexei Karamazov’s of the book world inspire us to be better; Michaelangelo’s Pieta’s lift us up out of our murky human existence to something resembling the divine. Art should be truer than the real world. Reducing it down to the basic necessities of life- and yes, weirdly enough, facebook and the like has become a part of that- gives us nothing as readers. Frankly, I know how to send/receive a text and most of us know how our body works- we don’t need reminding of these things all the time. Publishers, authors, readers take note- this is not a burning issue (if it is for you, please see a doctor).

Well, that was a subject I never thought I’d cover. I feel a little dirty now. What do you think? How real should books be? Let me know in the comments!

The disingenuous fantasy blurb

Alrighty then- it’s Sunday! The end of another week! And last week we learnt two things… 1) I like fantasy (okay we already knew that) and 2) I can be a bit lousy about keeping up with my blog (okay we knew that too, so really we learnt nothing). This post was consequently inspired by this simple equation:

Fantasy + Lousiness = Lousy fantasy

So without further ado here is my disingenuous fantasy blurb:

Read this book- I swear there will be dragons in it. The title is vaguely dragon related after all (what did we name this in the end? Fire-flaming-dragon-wings or something…?)

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Also magic- expect magic- and lots of it. (Although this will mostly be in the form of staring mysteriously into fires and errr no one having actual powers… but still…)

Plus we put TOLKIEN on the blurb just now… so now you have to read it to be considered a proper fantasy fan

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We’ve also made this a juicy *thousand pages*- 99% of which will consist of infodumps- so yay!!

And have I mentioned that there will be DRAGONS!!

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*Warning: will not contain actual dragons, just lizard people*

*Also, second disclaimer: don’t read if lots of walking gives you brain blisters*

Okay, hope you enjoyed that! Now I’m gonna try and do some blog hopping… wish me luck!

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Honest YA Dystopian Book Blurb

(Un)inspired by the subject of my last review, I decided to write my own Honest YA Dystopian book blurb- enjoy!

This is one hundred percent about important issues- sort of…

I mean there will be an end of the world plot… even though the world already ended before this book began… But who cares? The world can end twice, right?

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Plus- get excited cos we have not one, but several oppressive governments nested inside each other like a Russian doll (really this book is a bargain- that’s why it’s £9.99 for a kindle edition)

And don’t worry about Instalove- IT WILL BE INCLUDED- we know how much you love it. And expect plenty of staring at the main love interest to- *lots and lots of stares*- to convey all the *emotions*. We wouldn’t want this “love at first sight” thing to be subtle. Also, we know this is important to you as a reader, so THERE WILL BE NO LOVE TRIANGLE (until book 2)…

LOVE triangle of doom

You’ve probably read about ten (better) versions of this before- but ho hum, what’s an eleventh gonna hurt? So sit up and take notice- cos I swear this will not be as exciting as the Hunger Games or Divergent (nor will the protagonist be nearly as kickass, but the narrator will tell you she is on countless occasions)

Also, if this blurb makes you *in any way* afraid for the main character, don’t be! We all know corrupt systems of government are totally useless at stopping teenage girls and their hunky boyfriend(s).

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Annd that’s it- you’ll have to read the “book” to know more  😉 Hope you enjoyed that! 

A Critical Review of The Tiger Who Came To Tea

*Insert usual “this is satire” disclaimer here: sometimes my brain just comes up with this and I can’t be held accountable 😉 *

In times of Trump…

And of Brexit…

What we really need is to come together and invite tigers into our homes… to steal our food and make our water bills impossibly high…?

Wait a minute… I don’t think this book is actually being inclusive. In fact, I think The Tiger Who Came to Tea is actually bigoted propaganda for the BNP… or something…

Oh my goodness, Judith Kerr ran away from the Nazis to start her own genocide against tigers!!! This is racist bilge and we must burn it… Cos that worked out so many times before…

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#MakeCensorshipGreatAgain

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Oh boy- I just know I’ll get in trouble for this one- I really shouldn’t be allowed near children’s books, should I?

Most Pretentious Novel Plan Imaginable

Well hello again- as you can probably tell from my post the other day, I’ve been thinking a lot about pretentious books lately, and wondering what exactly drives a person to write one of these “I really, really want a Pulitzer” atrocities. And since it’s been a while since I made one of my novel plans, I figured I would get in the mindset of these literary crooks and write the Most Pretentious Novel Plan Imaginable!

*The Sitting Room*

(This doubles up as a wanky title and the place where all the non-action is about to go down)

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A group of middle class twats are all sitting around a sitting room waiting on the results of the trial of the century. Everyone is fidgety and on edge in such a way that gives away their chief characteristic:

The hostess, Ms Peters, is hovering around with the teapot, pressuring people into taking refills and sending silent messages with her eyes that they better not try to leave before she kicks them out- or so help her she will gossip about them all next time she goes to church!

The Vicar (who apparently lost all right to a name since becoming a member of the cloth) is leaning against the piano clearly trying to say “I can play more than just an organ!! For god sake, cheer me on as if it’s X Factor!!”

Mr Vanderwall is pretending to write something down, whilst itching the side of his nose and wondering if he can get away with a quick, sneaky pick- a look from his wife tells him he can’t.

Aforementioned Mrs Vanderwall (nee Lily Gatherer) is rolling a cigarette with one hand and lifting her skirt up with the other, in a way that says both how devil may care she is and how long it has been since she last had sex.

Mr Smarves is staring up said skirt.

Bill McBlanderson is just staring at the walls.

First plot point: a circular argument has just ensued between Mrs Vanderwall and Mr Smarves.

“But war is bad!”

“Yes, war is bad”

“But it’s bad”

“Yes, it is.”

“I said it’s bad!”

pg-tips-monkey-sustainability-v1Ok- this seems like enough plot for now- I think it’s time for a diversion: insert digression on tea for about ten pages (no, this post is not sponsored by PG tips, I swear). Mr Vanderwall- the writer character and therefore the hero- is drinking all the refills Mrs Jones offers because it makes him feel important and British. It also reminds him of the Cambodian Civil war, partly as he associates all tea with Asia (in a way that is inspired by post-colonial guilt, not racism) and partly because he’d just read the Killing Fields in the hope it would make good small talk, but realised now that this was not a good fashionable choice of book, because it was popular 30 years ago. He really should have gone into an indie book store and asked “what’s popular now and will make me sound smart if I read it”- that would teach him to go into second-hand…

*News broadcast cuts in* (fortunately interrupting this monologue)

Everyone gets nervous and excited- because finally something is happening in this damn plot:

Gloucester City Council finds Tony Blair guilty of littering… Dum dum dum!!

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*Chaos erupts!* Well, I say chaos- more like Bill McBlanderson falling off his chair, because Mrs Vanderwall batted Mr Smarves away as he went for a quick grope up her skirt, with a hiss of “not in public!”.

Annnd that’s it. The book ends in that nice anti-climactic fashion. Maybe with a random obtuse ending moralising that we are all “everything and nothing all at once”- ooh- sounds profound…

So will Tony Blair have to do community service for his crimes? Who know? I guess it’s just one of life’s unanswerable questions- since this is fiction and, like all pretentious books, there won’t be a sequel! Hope you enjoyed that!

Firelight- How it should have ended…

Hello all! I’m still getting back into the swing of things, but thought I’d share this funny little post! So I don’t know if you’ve ever seen How It Should Have Ended on youtube, but I thought I might do one for a book I read a while ago called Firelight…

firelight

So here’s the synopsis on Goodreads:

Marked as special at an early age, Jacinda knows her every move is watched. But she longs for freedom to make her own choices. When she breaks the most sacred tenet among her kind, she nearly pays with her life. Until a beautiful stranger saves her. A stranger who was sent to hunt those like her. For Jacinda is a draki, a descendant of dragons whose greatest defense is her secret ability to shift into human form.

Forced to flee into the mortal world with her family, Jacinda struggles to adapt to her new surroundings. The only bright light is Will. Gorgeous, elusive Will who stirs her inner draki to life. Although she is irresistibly drawn to him, Jacinda knows Will’s dark secret: He and his family are hunters. She should avoid him at all costs. But her inner draki is slowly slipping away;if it dies she will be left as a human forever. She’ll do anything to prevent that. Even if it means getting closer to her most dangerous enemy.

And here’s how it should have ended from the moment she finds out he’s a dragon hunter (aka in the first chapter)…

“Beautiful,” he says looking her straight in the eyes, still holding the crossbow he probably used to murder her dad.

And she can feel herself warming to him for a moment, because even dragons are susceptible to a bit of flattery. But then she realises she’s got flames literally writhing round in her belly and it’s likely just indigestion.

“What did you just say to me DRAGON HUNTER?” she booms.

“Oh you noticed I’m a dragon hunter did you- well let me explain…” he says in his most nasal, wheedling voice, getting on his hands and knees for good measure. “You’ve got to understand I’m really attracted to you- you’re so beautiful- even if you are a big fire breathing beast… No- wait I didn’t mean to say that! Umm I mean I’d never hurt you and I didn’t mean to kill your friends and family… Oh shit that’s not helping. Just let me explain… We don’t just butcher your kind we do experiments on them- so really it’s all very noble… Oh whoops- really not helping. Okay, okay, I’ve got it- this always works on teenage girls- I LOVE YOU!”

But she just rolls her eyes and burns that murdering toerag to a crisp. After all, she’s a mother-effing dragon!!

THE END.

I don’t even know what that was in all honesty… hope you enjoyed it either way!

(Plus for any purist fans of the series- all five of you– my memory is pretty hazy and I made a lot of stuff up!)

The Existential Crisis of Goodnight Moon

goodnightmoon

So I have done a fair number of analyses of children’s books- but nothing comes close to this. Because this book is so full of meaning and existential despair that I have decided to show my workings to you all:

goodnight-moon

 

Looks heavy doesn’t it. that’s because beneath the seemingly minimalist style is the full weight of nihilistic philosophy. It’s not just about going to sleep- it’s about some severe anxiety and OCD behaviour patterns that underpin a deep seated feeling of resenting existence. It is everything and nothing all together.

Yeah, I know, deep stuff right. No I swear this is not just some claptrap I’m making up on the spot. If you “read between the lines” you’ll see this is chocoblock with symbolism about life and death. I mean clearly night and sleep are just metaphors for death. And the clocks are clearly ticking away in the background, counting down the minutes until we pass out of this world… Plus all those cats are clearly harbingers of doom. Lots and lots of doom.

So I think I’ve sufficiently proved my point- hope you enjoyed that extremely dark reading…

And if just to let you know the Saturnalia is still ongoing- so if you would like to enter- check out my last post for details!

Announcements and MASSIVE THANK YOU!!!

So last week this happened….

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I think you can probably imagine the squeals, but just in case, here’s an idea…..

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I am absolutely chuffed that this happen and just want to say a MASSIVE *thank you* to all of you!!

So announcing a little something I’m calling:

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(yes, yes I know historically speaking this would have been in December- but it’s not like the Romans can call me out for being culturally insensitive…)

So just for a bit of background, the Saturnalia was the winter solstice in Ancient Rome, and was typically a time of partying, gift giving and for everything going a little topsy turvy- masters became slaves and slaves became masters! Free speech and satire ruled the roost! (Whoop!!)

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve already started with a little satire of my own… And because I love comedy, I thought I’d do a little contest to encourage you to all write and share *your* own comedy and satire. This can be something you’ve published before or something new- it’s upto you! And it can be written or cartoons (because I know there are some talented cartoonists out there on the blogosphere). All you have to do is link to this post or comment down below with a link to your post!

Prizes: The prize will be a book (or two, if you can manage it) worth upto £15 on Bookdepository for the best entry and being featured on this blog. If there are enough entrants there may be a second place prize.

Conditions: This contest will be open until 12:00 GMT on 3rd February 2017 and is open to any country that Book Depository ships to- the full list can be found here. Prizes cannot be shipped to PO Boxes. You have to be over 18 or have the permission of your parents to give me details such as your full name and address (none of which will be shared). The final decision will be made by me.

Annnd I think that’s all the legal shmeagle stuff. Hopefully it’ll be a bit of fun and I look forward to seeing your posts!

Right now I’m off travelling, so don’t panic if I don’t reply to your comments/posts, but there will be a couple of (hopefully) amusing little posts while I’m away- TTFN!

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Why Satire Is Evil!!!

Disclaimer: My satirical pieces have attracted some comments about being insensitive in the past and I was gonna do a serious piece about what satire is- you know, clear everything up- buuut, let’s be honest, I can’t do serious! So I wrote this instead!

Disclaimer about the disclaimer: satirical work requires a disclaimer so that people don’t get shot for making a joke- which shows that it must be evil because it’s only ever evil people that get murdered…

So in the past I’ve written a number of satirical pieces on here- but now I have seen the error of my ways! I mistakenly believed it was one of the stalwart institutions of a free society, employed since the dawn of democracy to challenge the ways we look at the world. How wrong I was. Because of all the whining and butthurt comments I’ve seen on this blog and around the internet in general, I realise now it launches indefensible attacks on ideas, cultures and people. Obviously it is an evil enterprise conducted only by the most narcissistic, nasty and noxious of human beings. Don’t believe me? Well prepare to be bamboozled by my really, really, really well thought out arguments on why satire is evil:

  • Because satirists are offensive bastards who should be shot. It is literally their job to cause offence- that’s right, you heard me correctly. They’re trying to get under your skin and make you think- the shits. “But that’s not nice! I don’t want my ideas challenged!” I hear you say- no it isn’t nice or genteel or polite in any way- hence the only respectable response is violence. Because obviously words are provocative and if you say something mean, people should retaliate by killing you. (Or at the very least assault)

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  • Because satire is unsanitary. It’s not just that it uses downright offensive language- but that it’s all around unwholesome, inappropriate and dirty as hell. And if you can’t have it around your kids then it’s got no place in society. OH LORD WON’T YOU THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!

think-of-the-children

  • Because it uses humour as a weapon– and humour should never be used as a weapon. There’s obviously got to be a better solution to difference of opinion than talking it over or laughing about it. I mean, that’s what fists were made for. Duh.

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  • Because satire is a double edged sword and satirists are always falling on their swords (the dumb fucks). I mean, forget all about killing satirists, they usually string themselves up in their work, tying themselves in knots with their blatantly ridiculous arguments, their self-deprecating humour and their inability to keep their mouths shut. If anything the biggest victims of satire are the satirists themselves. We should all join in solidarity to pity the poor fools that feel compelled to make this stuff. (In fact we should pity them with our money and attention- by buying their stuff and publicising it as much as possible. That’s the only way to show them how much we loathe them)
  • Because satire is a slippery genre that refuses to be pinned down– it’s not something to be taken seriously and yet it’s often a cover for serious issues- what are we supposed to make of that?!? Again- it’s like satirists want us to use our brains or something… The nerve of it!

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  • Because satire breaks all the rules. Don’t you know there are rules about what is and what is not funny? It’s not just about what makes you laugh. No, no, no!! It’s about obeying rules. Nothing says “laugh out loud” like being told by totalitarian tyrants when to laugh. Personally I find it hilarious to have someone standing over me informing me when it is safe to belly laugh and when I’d better keep my chuckles to myself! (For instance, right now I am making a really serious point and don’t want you to laugh! Stop laughing!! I said STOP!!!)

And that is where I’ll leave you. I hope you now know how truly despicable the satirical genre is and that you feel sufficiently sorry for satirists in general- enough to read, promote and share their work as much as possible 😉

Not Suitable for Children! Reading Between the Lines of Dogger…

So it’s been a long time since I’ve done this, but I thought I’d do some more “reading between the lines” of one of my favourite childhood books…

*Insert usual disclaimer that this is satire*

doggerWell, I have to say I used to think this book was suitable for children, but boy was I wrong! The subliminal messages in “dogger” would give Freudian psychologists a field day! I mean, just look at the wordplay in title for heavens sake!

And what about the fact it’s all about a toy getting lost and found… I mean it’s not too difficult to insert some Fifty Shades of Grey style thoughts in there!

NO THIS IS NOT ME READING TOO MUCH INTO IT!! Like every good psychoanalytical reading I just happen to see phallic symbols everywhere… And incest- cos siblings in books equal incest- you’ll know this if you’ve ever studied English Lit… Every single book is corrupted by sex and you’ve got to take my word for it because *I have credentials*- very, very shiny credentials! (No- I’m not reading it this way cos I’m a bit of a pervert- don’t you try to psychoanalyse me now!)

I think my argument can be summed up thus:

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So yeah, I think I proved my point there. Obviously this book is an absolute disgrace and you should in no way buy this for your children for Christmas!  (maybe just for a friend who appreciates a giggle …)

Okay, that’s all for now- I think that got slightly weird….