Broken Glass, A Review

…in which Helen becomes a big fan of Alain Mabanckou; not for the first time she rambles extensively; she starts to become unsure of how much longer she can keep up with all this ‘in which’ lark when it seems all very self-evident, must yet again apologise for neglecting her blog for too long, the blog readers start to suspect our blogger is slightly unorganised…

Sorry AGAIN that I haven’t posted for a while. I know, I really am rubbish. Luckily, however, I have now finished my exams at laaaaaaaaaast!!! And I have just been so busy because I have landed my self a summer internship doing copywriting! Wahoo…

Anyway, for my second around the world reading challenge book, I have read Broken Glass by French-Congolese author, Alain Mabanckou. Broken Glass is his second translated novel available, and I enjoyed it so much I have added his other book available in English, African Psycho, to my TBR list. I would recommend Broken Glass to anyone who likes the sound of a refreshingly amusing exploration of people and life that makes you think without being too preachy or heavy. Also, if you know your French Literature, the majority of the gags and references will not go over your head, like they did with me. Even if you don’t, there are references to many more in this book, including Hamlet, Tarzan, Catcher In The Rye and I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.

IMG_7427.JPG

Owner of the bar Credit Gone West (I love that name), known as ‘Stubborn Snail’ (everyone in this book has nicknames – such as ‘Pampers Guy’, initially amusing until you find out how he earned his name), gives the main character, the unreliable narrator we know as ‘Broken Glass’, the task of writing this story. He wants Broken Glass to immortalise the bar and the people who visit. And that is what Broken Glass does. It’s such a realistic portrayal of human nature and the unreliability of the tales we tell, that I found it difficult to believe it was written by a once-lawyer academic professor and not a bitter drunk.

…let’s say the boss of Credit Gone West gave me this notebook to fill, he’s convinced that I – Broken Glass – can turn out a book, because one day, for a laugh, I told him about this famous writer who drank like a fish, and had to be picked off the street when he got drunk, which shows you you should never joke with the boss…

One thing you should be aware of is the punctuation style – or lack of. There are no full stops in Broken Glass, and I know that this is something a lot of people have been put off by. I have read some reviews that express a frustration at the inability to focus to everything being narrated due to the lengthy, rambling prose style. Please don’t let this put you off. Some of the best books I have ever read have been written this way. My advice is not to worry too much about paying close attention to each detail and not skimming across things. How can you expect to read and take in the book if you are too busy thinking about the act of reading itself? Broken Glass is a silly, funny – although not exactly light-hearted – story and I think it aims to paint a picture, an overall impression, of life. You wouldn’t pay attention to everything a stranger said in a bar, hanging on to their every word. Like the impression met by a meeting in a bar, what is important in this book, in my opinion, is the overall tone and story arch. This is an excerpt:

…and what I really want people to say when they read me is ‘what’s this jumble, this mess, this muddle, this mish-mesh of barbitraries’

[…] my mischievous answer would be ‘this jumble of words is life, come on, come into my lair, check out the rotting garbage, here’s my take on life, your fiction’s no more than the output of a load of old has-beens designed to comfort other old has-beens, and until the day your characters start to see how the rest of us earn our nightly crust, there’ll be no such thing as literature, only intellectual masturbation’…

The blurb cites the book as a ‘mocking satire on the dangers of artistic integrity’, but if Broken Glass is a comedy – it is certainly a dark comedy. I found some parts uncomfortable, but that’s part of its charm. I have also read some people’s opinions of Broken Glass that claim that it was a little too crude for them. My response to this is ‘Don’t be so boring!’ Yes, there is a section where two characters have a pissing contest and the winner urinates a perfect map of France. Personally, however, I am not above a bit of toilet humour here and there.

I have to remind myself sometimes that I’m writing a book review and not an essay. Some books, like Broken Glass, are so – for want of a better word – tasty that I could sit for hours dissecting and exploring all the different ideas and themes. So I will just have to say this: read it!

To my shame, I must admit I have not read much African Literature (aside from the obvious Things Fall Apart, Half Of A Yellow Sun, etc.) so if anybody has any recommendations they would be greatly appreciated. Likewise, if you have read anything by Mabanckou, or if you know how I feel about ‘tasty’ books, I would love to hear from you. Thanks for reading!

Advertisements

This One Time I Went Interrailing…

…in which the blogger retells many a told-before anecdote; ritz crackers are awarded to two weary travellers; a passport is lost in the icy depths…

IMG_7352You may have read in my second ever blog post that it’s a running joke among pretty much anyone who knows me that I can’t stop bringing up the time I went interrailing.

IMG_7351

Switzerland is the prettiest place you will ever see

Well, faced with the risk of losing those closest to me, I have been forced to ask myself what I am going to do about this constant reminiscing. Consider this post a catharsis, if you will. A purge. A release. The last time you will ever hear me use the word ‘interrailing.’

People once told me that prom would be the best day of my life. I have been told that my university days, even fresher’s week, would be the best days of my life. An ex-boyfriend once actually promised me that Valentines Day would be the best day of my life (makes sick noises). My time at University has not, so far, included many of the moments I would choose for my ‘best bits’ video. Fresher’s week was certainly not my finest moment. Prom was overrated. That particular Valentines Day, or any since then, have, quite simply, not been the best days of my life. The best days of my life, without a shadow of a shadow of a shadow of a doubt were the days I spent interrailing around Europe with my best friend.

FullSizeRender-14

Bastille Day Parade in Paris

This isn’t necessarily a ‘how to’ or advice post. Indeed, do not replicate any of these actions unless you would like to end up throwing up, stranded in the British Embassy. A ‘how to’ post is something I am definitely thinking of posting in the future, though. In the mean time I would be happy to answer any questions for any prospective interrailers out there (I’m jealous) – if you don’t want to leave a comment you can email me at helengracebookface@gmail.com. Yes, it was a lie when I said I wasn’t going to mention interrailing ever again. A big fat lie. I have a problem.

FullSizeRender-3

This is one of many photos I have no recollection of being taken. I also have no idea who this dude is.

This is just me telling anybody who is interested what I experienced. For anyone who is interested in the philosophy (for want of a better word) of interrailing rather than the logistics of it, I really enjoyed reading this article from the bbc; it’s what made me decide to write this post.

(cont below)

 FullSizeRender-12

Interesting people I met along the way

Creepy Creative Aura Guy

You meet some weird people on trains, I swear. This is an actual note my friend passed to me:

FullSizeRender-1

Creepy Ritz Cracker Stalker Guy

You meet some weird people not on trains, too.

So, following our adventures in Venice, me and my friend were supposed to be changing trains in Padua, Italy. Except our next train to Budapest wasn’t for three hours. After biding time at a McDonalds we managed to find a bar. Everybody we asked seemed to be baffled by the fact that we wanted to find somewhere to drink on a Friday night?! There seemed to be a congregation of people passing a bottle round near one of the tram stops but that was about it. ANYWAY. In this bar there was this weird guy who sat next to us and kept asking where we were going and had been with our backpacks. I don’t like to jump to the conclusion that any strange male that takes an interest is a creepy perv, so I answered his questions while my friend gave me stink eye across the table.

Admittedly, I probably shouldn’t have shown him our itinerary but I felt too awkward too decline. He denied this but we are both 99% sure he took a picture of it on the phone. I started to realise that our gut instincts were accurate and yes, he was a creepy perv when he started trying to persuade us to go back to his house. Surely we would at least let him walk us back to the station, he kept saying, to keep us safe. In the end we pretty much had to tell him we wanted to walk back alone. I always feel mean in these situations. Maybe he did have the kindest intentions, and the whole ritz crackers thing (which I will come to in a second) leads me to think this is the case in a small way. But why do people feel the need to put you in these situations in the first place? Right, so, anyway. We managed to escape.

We were waiting on the platform when this guy appears up the stairs. I’d seen Taken. I thought my life was over. I was expecting him to bundle us in a bag when he started questioning us about our food provisions. I was confused. He was insistent on finding out what we had with us to eat or drink and whether it was of sufficient nutritional value. Maybe this was something that affected our worth when we were kidnapped and SOLD. He disappeared after finding out we only had a bottle of wine between us. I assumed we must have offended him or something. But he reappeared again five minutes later with some ritz crackers and some bottles of juice for us. We thanked him and he waited with us in awkward silence until our train came. He asked us for our addresses. I can’t remember what we said but we managed to dodge our way around this so he wrote his down on a piece of paper and asked us to write to him. Creepy ritz cracker guy just wanted a pen pal. Yes, he was a bit of a creep who didn’t know when to leave, but I feel sad thinking about it now. If we had kept his address I might send him a postcard…

The Owner of this Croc

IMG_7343Again, weird people. Europeans, jeez!

Is that a Bratz croc?! Also, I would like to point out that this was a lone croc. There was no matching left croc.

Crazy Dutch Lady

We only stayed one night in Berlin, and we only spoke to this woman briefly. I can’t remember her name, or much of what she said, which is a shame because she had some interesting stories. She was an artist and she mostly travelled and gave all her food to the homeless apparently, and had been to stay in some kind of homeless recycling convent in France somewhere that had something to do with the pope or something. I can’t remember the name of that place either, which is also a shame because it is something I would like to read about (or at least check is real). She kept showing us her armpits in the smoking area, which she didn’t shave. I think she hoped that we would be amazed and enlightened by this, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her she was about thirty years behind in the feminist trend and armpit freedom was a well documented and frequented phenomena these days. Anyway, both of us went along with it when she got us to ‘inhale our scent’ and exclaim to the sky in celebration of our femininity with a kind of black-pride-esque fist thing. Neither me or my friend did it with quite as much fervour as she did, though. We got some funny looks.

So many genuinely lovely and kind people

FullSizeRender-2

me and a hostel pal in suicide circus, Berlin

If you are planning, or have planned any kind of trip like this, you will no doubt come across countless warnings about strangers and murderers and kidnappers and the lochness monster etc. etc. I’m not trying to say that these warnings are not necessary. We know from horror stories, and I could guess from all the weird creepy people we met too, that they are absolutely necessary and should be heeded. But instead of diminishing my faith in human nature, our trip multiplied it by a hundred. Honestly, people are so nice. I can’t even explain. I just had the best time of my life meeting people and talking to them and everybody was so welcoming and had so many amazing stories. All I can do is urge you to go and stay in lots of hostels and don’t be shy and just talk to people. Hostels are full of young, open-minded people from different cultures who are often well-travelled. And they know some good drinking games.

Which brings me to….

The best and worst day of my life

I lost my friend on the infamous Prague Pub Crawl. At the time I was angry at her for leaving me, but I must admit that after one hour of free all-you-can-cope-with absinthe shots, the blame lay entirely with me. I lost the rest of the group while I was having a conversation with the most gorgeous man I have ever met. I hope my boyfriend isn’t reading this. He was Swedish and tall with a blonde ponytail and he was a primary school teacher and actually drove a vw camper van (he probably made all this up). I’m still in love. Where are you now, Alexander? (I think… or something beginning with an ‘a’).

FullSizeRender-8

all of the signs in our hostel had strange pictures of cats on them?? I don’t even know

I have no idea how i managed to track down the ice bar that everyone had ended up at whilst I was in this state. Sometimes I think I must have a fair godmother. After what felt like two hours searching for my friend and the others among the seven-hundred-and-forty-eight different rooms of this ice club contraption I decided to head back to our hostel. My friend’s texts were getting increasingly incoherent and I was tired. After about five minutes, however, my drunken brain processed the fact that my friend had our only set of keys. I panicked. Her phone was dead.

FullSizeRender-6

lovely people, rude gestures

By the time I ran into these three gents (left) I was crying hysterically. I think I had managed to convince myself (but not them) that someone was trying to rape/mug/murder me. The next morning I shamefully realised that the car I was convinced was trying to run me over was actually driving really slowly behind me, not because they were following me but because I was staggering about crying in the middle of the road they were trying to drive down. They were shouting and beeping for me to move, not because they wanted my blood.

FullSizeRender-5

Anyway, these guys kindly walked me back to my hostel to meet my friend and even bought me a McDonalds. After she didn’t turn up (she had got lost too. It’s a wonder we are both still alive) they walked around Prague with me for hours. We were trying to waste time til ten, when the reception of my hostel opened.

IMG_7342

Empty and beautiful

I watched the sun rise from Charles Bridge at 5am. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Charles Bridge but it is always rammed. I will never forget the sight of it completely empty and tinged in a pink light.

FullSizeRender-4

Thank you!!

Eventually, my new pals managed to convince me to stay at their hostel. We were all really tired. I don’t want to advocate, especially not to any young girls reading this, galavanting off with three random blokes.

But honestly, these guys just wanted to help. They didn’t try anything. I slept in one bunk bed while another two top-and-tailed. I’ve never met such caring strangers. They were just concerned about the safety of this mad crying idiot girl running around in front of a car and saying something about a band of armed murderers. I regret to say we haven’t kept in touch but I am eternally grateful.

FullSizeRender

This is what an emergency passport looks like. I hope you never have to get one.

Of course, in the morning I realised I had lost my passport in the ice club.

After reuniting with my lost friend and buying her an apology Kit Kat for having a go (she had had a traumatic night too, I later found out) I made an appointment at the British Embassy. Have you ever thrown up in the embassy toilets? I have. One of my favourite icebreakers, I’ll admit, but not my overall proudest moment.

The Soppy Bit

FullSizeRender-13

bmfl lol

IMG_7337

My friend amidst our trail of mess…

Planning this trip, one thing I read over and over again was to travel with someone you know you’ll get along with. Nobody wrote that you and your travelling companion would become closer than ever. The girl I went interrailing with has been my best friend since I was about fifteen (violins/puke) but after interrailing I feel closer to her now than ever (I know, puke vom bork).

IMG_7338Thank you for putting up with my ridiculous amounts of anxiety. Thank you for agreeing to stand near the door of the train so we didn’t miss our stop twenty minutes before it was necessary. Thank you for coming with me to the train station two hours early. Thank you for following my meticulously planned travel itinerary. And thank you for running out to buy something for me when I felt really sick in Amsterdam (two day hangover? You have no idea. Try three week hangover.) Number 1 Interrailing Life Lesson: The ultimate hangover cure is hair of the dog and yogi tea.

FullSizeRender-7

Ly forevz

IMG_7340

This is our coaster, which is on the wall forever (I hope) of the oldest bar in Amsterdam!

Mostly I learned not to be so uptight. The first time we missed a train in Paris, I actually cried, for some reason, quite a lot, while my friend just sort of looked at me unsure of what to do. By the time I lost my passport in Prague, I marvelled at how calm I was about the whole thing. She said ‘I always think to myself, as long as I am okay, and my family is okay, there is nothing to worry about.’ Good advice.

What Kind of Girl, Exactly? A Review of Lena Dunham’s Memoir

…In which our blogger discovers the holy grail of TMI; struggles to form an opinion; the resulting review probably makes no sense…

Also WARNING: I think I’ve mentioned on here somewhere that I am a huge fan of children’s fiction and YA novels, but I just wanted to make it clear that Not That Kind Of Girl, and by extension this review, is not suitable for children.

“If I could take what I’ve learned and make one mental job easier for you, or prevent you from having the kind of sex where you feel you must keep your sneakers on in case you want to run away during the act, then every misstep of mine was worthwhile.”

I don’t know what to tell you about Not That Kind Of Girl. Honestly, I have mixed opinions, so I have just written how I felt – please bear in mind that I still wholeheartedly recommend this book to anybody who hasn’t yet read it.

IMG_7207.JPG

I was pretty excited to read this book because it was not only recommended to me personally as a piece of feminist writing, but revered as (I quote this from the back cover of the book) ‘To a generation of girls, she [Lena Dunham] is the thing. The very thing. The absolute thing.’ Big boots to fill.

Unquestionably, Lena Dunham’s writing is brilliant. I started reading this book when I picked it up from a friend’s bookshelf. Instantly, it felt like Dunham’s prose started a conversation with me, and this was so absorbing that I borrowed the book from the library as soon as I got home. I even laughed out loud several times the one night I stayed up to finish the whole book. A book rarely makes me laugh out loud.

This being said, I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed. It’s not that I found Lena’s account problematic exactly (although I can see how people feel that way). The problem was more the fact that the narrative was really, well… annoying.

I don’t know if you’ve ever watched Girls, but the main character, Hannah Horvath is noted for being self-centred. In interviews, Lena has always distanced herself from Hannah, saying that Girls is in no way autobiographical (although this has been disputed). However, on page 135 Lena admits ‘I can be very self involved’. In my opinion, it seems as if the book is written from the point of view of Hannah Horvath. I can cope with this as a piece of fiction, but as a memoir it causes me to feel slightly exasperated. Are her stories supposed come across as self-aware because she honestly admits that she cried when her sister told her she was gay, that she insisted that a girl she knew at college was pretending to be gay, and that she (possibly?????) sexually abused her sister, among other things? (Also, I won’t spoil anything, but for those of you who have read this part – wtf is up with ‘Emails I Would Send If I Were One Ounce Crazier/ Angrier/ Braver’?! Startlingly childish.) However, my initial thoughts were that the narrative lacked self-awareness. This can get irritating.

I’m sorry for how up-and-down this review is. I just can’t seem to grasp at an opinion of this book.

I have criticised the book for lacking self-awareness. Somehow, at the same time, I still feel Lena’s writing can be inspiringly self-aware:

“I’m an unreliable narrator.

Because I add an invented detail to almost every story I tell about my mother. Because my sister claims every memory we “share” has been fabricated by me to impress a crowd. Because I get “sick” a lot. Because I use the same low “duhhh” voice for every guy I’ve ever known.”

Perhaps Dunham’s book generates this kind of criticism because it is analysed in the same way we might analyse a self-help book. The front cover with its bold typography is clearly a parody of this kind of genre. As I neared the end of this memoir, I felt increasingly frustrated that Lena doesn’t seem to learn anything. She continues to be self-absorbed and doesn’t seem empathetic to the other people in the stories she tells. Despite what she says in the introduction – I can’t help but feel like maybe this is the point. A block of text on front cover surmises the book: ‘A young woman tells you what she’s “learned”.’ Perhaps this is the reason that learned is in inverted commas. You can’t learn anything from anybody else’s experiences. I find that refreshing. This brings me to an extract I liked:

“What was it that I couldn’t understand and how I could I understand it, short of moving to a war-torn nation? I couldn’t escape the feeling that I had experiences to gain, things to learn […] The secrets of life aren’t being revealed when someone laughs at you for having studied creative writing. There is no enlightenment to be gained from letting your semiboyfriend’s bald friend touch your thigh too close to the place where it meets your crotch, but you let it happen because you think it might be love.”

Sorry to continue being so up-and-down, but I’ve just got to add before I finish this, that it is still definitely a valid point to say that unfortunately, the annoying-ness of this book interrupts the book and spoils it a bit. The most annoying aspect, I forgot to say, is the title. Not what kind of girl? What is she implying? I hope that this is intended in an ironic way, because it comes across as judgmental and misogynistic.

Okay! I’ve said everything I think about Not That Kind Of Girl. I think you should read it even if you end up hating it because it is so rich and so relevant. I’m not even going to attempt to rate it out of 5 until I’ve thought about it for at least another week.

I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts about this book. What did you think? Did you find it annoying?

The Liebster Award

…In which our heroine feels suitably chuffed with her nomination; ramblings in some form of answers to questions; nominations are made…

Firstly, thank you My Red Page for nominating me for this award. I had so much fun doing this.

liebster1111

If you’re interested in cooking, films or fashion you should read My Red Page. Personally, I really enjoy Julia’s photography – go and check it out!

Anyway, here are the rules:

– Once you are nominated, make a post thanking and linking the person who nominated you.

– Include the Liebster Award sticker in the post too.

– Nominate 10 other bloggers who you feel are worthy of this award. Let them know they have been nominated by commenting on one of their posts. You can also nominate the person who nominated you.

– Ensure all of these bloggers have less than 200 followers.

– Answer the ten questions asked to you by the person who nominated you, and make ten questions of your own for your nominees.

– Lastly, COPY these rules in the post.

These are my (attempted) answer’s to Julia’s questions:

1) Why do you blog?

Blogging seems to combine many of the things I would like to get out of life: meeting likeminded people, writing, and challenging myself.

2) What are the first five words that describe you?

Hmm… I would have to say: Curious, emotional, sensitive, enthusiastic and friendly.

3) What is that you always wanted but never got?

I seem to be on a permanent diet but also forever gaining weight (sigh). It’s probably something to do with all the midnight pizza binges. One day!

4) Did you ever danced in the rain? Would you?

I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a music festival in England but I have a few times and it is basically 80% dancing in the rain and 20% finding somewhere not soggy to sleep.

5) How is your perfect pizza look like?

OMG. My only requirement is garlic butter – I have been known to order triple garlic butter from Domino’s before. I’m not even ashamed.

6) What was the last picture you took?

This one:

IMG_7209.JPG

I was just trying some things out for my next blog post.

7) What is your motto in life?

I don’t have a motto. If I did I would find it hard to stick to – like Alice said, ‘I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.’ (Lewis Carroll). I have, however, noticed a kind of internal repetition of ‘never mind, never mind,’ that I think my brain likes to regurgitate in times of panic. Does ‘never mind’ qualify as a life motto?

8) What is the best book you ever read?

It has taken me three days to post this because I have been stuck on this question. I CAN’T ANSWER THIS QUESTION.

9) What is the simplest thing that makes you smile?

I like wrapping presents, I don’t know why. How cute is this?

IMG_6505

10) Best compliment you’ve received?

A pregnant woman once told me I was beautiful on a train. (By that I mean the place that she said this was on a train. She didn’t say ‘You are beautiful on a train’)

And these are my questions for you:

1) How do you feel that blogging has changed you?

2) Ok, Fictional Book Character Snog Marry Avoid: Ron Weasley, Hamlet, Heathcliff???

3) What is your favourite blog and why?

4) If there was one book you wish you had written what would it be and why?

5) Would you ever break the law?

6) Is it better to try and fail or to never have tried at all?

7) Try to describe yourself using only song lyrics.

8) If you had one message you could deliver to everyone in the world, what would it say?

9) What have you learned from your mistakes?

10) What is your best piece of blogging advice?

Finally, these are the 10 blogs I have nominated: (apologies but I’m still finding my way around wordpress and I can’t tell who has or hasn’t got less than 200 followers so I was forced to ignore these rules. If anybody would like to enlighten me it would be much appreciated)
1. Love, Taylor J
2. Glitterbloodedwords
3. Susanrushton.net
4. My Little Book Blog
5. Jabrushblog
6. XingSings
7. Literary Ramblings Etc
8. Lioness Blogger
9. Black Tea and Milk
10. My Red Page (sorry Julia to nominate you for the third time – I would love to see your answers to my questions!)

Can You Sell A Country? The Atom Station Review

This is my first book review and the first book I have read for the around the world reading challenge. Icelandic writer, Halldór Laxness is the only Icelandic Nobel Laureate, having won the Nobel Literature Prize in 1955 for his sixty novels. The Atom Station is one of them…

IMG_7191

Ulga is a country girl from the North and The Atom Station is the tale of her experience as a maid in the house of a politician. Somewhere inbetween a political satire and a coming of age novel, Laxness’s story revolves around the themes of corruption, westernisation and the preservation of traditional Icelandic values. Personally, I found parts of The Atom Station quite amusing, but I’m not sure whether I found it amusing enough to warrant being classed as a ‘satire’. Although, I understand that the irony mostly relies on knowledge of the context, which I don’t claim to have. This book would not be wasted on anyone with an interest in Icelandic history or politics. However, parts of the book resonate with anyone who knows anything about the nature of politicians. They did with me anyway…

“But he turned on his heel in the middle of the hall on his way up and continued his monologue: ‘As I was saying, you can always depend on him absolutely: If he swears something to you in confidence when he is sober, and pledges it on his honour, you can be quite sure that he is lying. If he swears it thrice in public on his mother’s name, then, quite simply, he means exactly the opposite of what he is swearing. But what he says when he is tipsy he really means, even though he swears it.'”

One of Laxness’s strengths is his characterisation. He has the ability to sum up a character just through his description of how they first appear to us in the book. Ulga is a real treat of a narrator. She is witty, curious and bold. I think if the character of Ulga hadn’t been as strong and quirky I wouldn’t have enjoyed The Atom Station quite so much. Parts of it were very heavy on philosophy and politics, which felt overwhelming and almost obnoxious, actually. The distinct preference for Communism and the Communist characters cannot be ignored. However the parodies Laxness paints of the various social groups (the upper class families, the old-fashioned farmers, the overdramatic modernist guests at the organ player’s house) were insightful and, at times, hilarious. I particularly enjoyed Ulga’s account of the spoilt family for whom she worked…

“‘I will, I will, I will go to America.’

In the middle of the floor of the study this beautiful, sleek woman lay on her back, her skirt up around her waist, wearing nylon stockings, silk panties and gilt shoes, belabouring the floor with her heels and fists and screaming, her bracelets jingling with the blows and one gilt shoe flying across the room.

Her husband stood at a distance, watching, wearing a surprised and helpless look; yet I suspect he had seen such a performance before and was not particularly amazed.”

Ultimately, The Atom Station was thought provoking and incredibly readable, although not unputdownable. At just 180 pages, I managed to read the whole thing over two two-hour train journeys. While I would not say that this was one of my favourite books, or that it moved me emotionally, I would recommend it to anybody as an insightful and unusual novel that is fun to read.  I’ve never read any Icelandic Literature before so if anybody else has read anything Icelandic or has any thoughts about this I’d love to hear about it!

#2

…in which Helen ceases to talk about interrailing at last, the awesome power of nature and the insignificance of man…

IMG_7190

I was planning my next few blog entries when I came across the around the world reading challenge.

I love travelling. I think everybody should travel whenever they can, if they are able to. It’s a running joke among pretty much anyone who knows me, actually, that I can’t stop talking about the time I went interrailing. Well, I didn’t know you went interrailing, Helen, they say, you never mentioned it. Some have even gone so far as to compare me to that gap yah video. I promise you I am not that annoying. And I have never, probably, possibly… mentioned ‘the awesome power of nature and the insignificance of man’ (although I can say, without a doubt, that I have ‘chundered’ all around Europe. I’m not sure that this is necessarily something to be ashamed of).

Anyway… I was thinking about reading and travelling and how linked they are. Well, for me anyway. I think it’s cool how you can read a book when you are away from home and that book will always remind you of that place. Slaughterhouse 5, unfortunately, will always remind me of sitting on a hot, sticky bus for 15 hours, slowly losing the feeling in my left bum cheek. If anyone has any books that remind them of places they’ve been, or any travel book recommendations, I would love to read them.

For my first around the world challenge book, I’m reading the Nobel Prize winning The Atom Station, by Icelandic writer Halldór Laxness. I would really appreciate any recommendations for books from any of the other five continents, so comment below!

Hi

… In which our novice blogger contemplates the innumerable possibilities of introducing herself; the conundrum of whether to incorporate or omit the dubious ‘OMG this is my first ever blog post LOL’; other matters…

I’m Helen and I’m a 20 year old English and Philosophy Student. Since removing myself from the world of social media, I’ve been trying to find a creative outlet to fill all of this spare time I suddenly have.

I know, she thought, let’s join a newspaper. I thought I’d write online for the Tab but it didn’t really work out. I ended up writing the world’s naffest article on the incredibly original subject of the walk of shame. The research for this somehow escalated into me and my best friend getting drunk at 9 o clock in the morning and going into McDonald’s with neon green UV paint all over our grinning, goofy faces. I decided to scrap this. Then, after not actually submitting anything for two weeks I was hilariously awarded a cream egg for being the Tab’s most ‘illusive writer’ at their end of term meal.

I am more optimistic about this blog. Instead of writing about cool, edgy-type things us students are supposed to be interested in, like walks of shame (which I couldn’t really comment on anyway if I’m honest, the one time I did a kind of walk of shame was when I was 15 and my sandal strap snapped the morning I was walking home after staying at my friend’s. I did get one evil eye from a neighbor washing his car but overall it wasn’t too bad, one nice lady even wished me a good morning. I can’t see what all the fuss is about), I will probably be writing about things I’m reading, literature, really bad word jokes and what it’s actually like to be a student: the ever oppressing plight of paying to print out your work. Less one night stands, more book stands.