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The Correction by Jonathan Franzen

26 Feb

The Correction by Jonathan Franzen

So, this novel was one of my favourite reads last year. Ask me what novel would inspire me to be a writer and I would reply, ‘The Corrections.’

There is no story more interesting to me than that of normal everyday life, where individuals are stripped naked, their lives and thoughts dissected and measured along with the society they live in.

‘The Corrections’ does just that, telling the story of the traditional Midwestern Lambert family. The Lambert children have fled to live on the busy East Coast of America, leaving their parents in the comfort of their quiet hometown in the Midwest. The mother’s suffers from increasing dementia and a constant fear that her children made the wrong decisions in life whilst their father has Parkinson’s disease. The novel takes us on an in-depth journey of each individual character, documenting their growth, mistakes, weaknesses and relationships.

All three of their children present themselves as successful East Coast professionals, but in reality their lives are far more complicated. Gary, the eldest son is a miserable alcoholic, exhausted by his life as a banker, fearful of his manipulative wife and children. The middle child, Chip, is afforded the role of the Marxist lecturer whose life is ripped apart by scandal when his affair with a student is made public knowledge. Subsequently, he loses his job and his life begins to spiral out of control due to growing financial problems, and unsuccessful attempts to pursue his dream of becoming a successful screenwriter. Finally, we have Denise, the successful chef who finds herself unemployed after becoming embroiled in an affair with her boss’ wife.

It is clear that Franzen is consciously influenced by novelists such as Thomas Pynchon. Like Pynochon, Franzen writes with upmost accuracy and detail, analysing the relationship with society’s dependency and abuse of drugs, technology and the ability to criticise one and other so easily. Frazen does this by exploring both the external and internal personalities of our characters, creating richer, purer images. By exposing the character’s personal thoughts he displays the ludicrously that exists in people’s minds.

The novel deals with themes such as the decline of the technology-driven economic boom of the late nineties, the loss of America’s industrial economy and the conflict that arises form the pregressive and debilitating disease of an elder.

I love and appreciate this novel because thought Franzen is critical and analytical he also displays great compassion in a highly sarcastic and ironic piece of literature. It’s a funny, enlightening, character driven story that often leaves you unsettled in the knowledge that we have all probably come across one or two of those characters at some point in our lives!!!

Great read and well deserved universal acknowledgement!!

F.Scott Fitzgerald and Justin Timberlake

22 Feb

Thank you Mr Fitzgerald. Not only are you a magnificent writer but you also lead me into the path of my childhood love, Justin Timberlake.

Wrestling with the unnecessary contents of my oversized handbag I was struggling to uncover my new subway buddy,  ‘The Great Gatsby.’ Not focussing on where I was walking I happened to take a wrong turn, completely miss my exit and instead found myself in amongst a crowd of screaming females and overly hyped males trying to contain their excitement.

There he was ladies and gents – the man who brought Sexyback. The man in the suit and tie! The only celebrity in the world worth invading the privacy of by whipping out your phone to document the experience. Proof is necessary!!!!!

Reading isn’t just knowledge; it’s the ticket to JT!

Good day? Great day!

Bliss!

Xx

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The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

21 Feb

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It is decided – the next novel for my subway reading is . . . (Drumroll) . . . The Great Gatsby!

One of my personal favourites, I think it is time to revisit a story that is beginning to dim in my memory. All this excitement over the film release has gotten me all giddy!

Speaking of the film, I love Baz Luhrmann in ridiculous proportions. ‘Moulin Rouge’ and ‘Strictly Ballroom are two of my all-time favourites but I can’t help but feel slightly let down by the feature trailers that have been released for Gatsby thus far. Is anyone else worried that the film might disappoint?

Sure they have Mr DiCaprio, a film Maverick, my obsession and guaranteed great performance but I am disappointed by the selection of Carey Mulligan and Toby McGuire for the roles of Nick and Daisy. I fear too much glitz, sparkles, and general Baz-ness . . . will it really work on this classic??

Or am I just a bit fussy!?

Hmmmmmmmm . . .

Xx

When Life Gets Too Busy – The 7 Habits of Calmness!

20 Feb

What do we all crave most in todays society? Sanity? Quiet? Success? Happiness? Quality? Comfort? Excitement?

We probably crave it all! And what’s more bizarre, we crave it because few of us seem to be able to achieve these ideals. Slaves to bad routines, stress, procrastination and sitting in front of computers and television screens – it eats us all up!!

We’re so busy in our daily lives that someone you need to remember to take a moment, relax and be.

When does this moment exist, you might ask?

Personally, mine lies in my morning routine, specially adapted to instil my own sense of calm. My own personal ritual goes a little bit like this:

1) My alarm clock goes off at 6.00am

2) I begrudgingly role out of bed and make my way to the bathroom

3) Shower and throw some clothes on

4) Pour a large cup of coffee, make some food (yogurt/toast/nuts/leftover chocolate on an off day)

5) Sit down, open my book/laptop and I read for at least an hour. Fact, fiction, blogs, news, it doesn’t matter. I just read. I read because I like it and I like to learn from it. Some days I rotate and do an hour of exercise.

6) I then leave my house and soldier on with the day!

Boring? Dull? It doesn’t matter, it’s my time, I decide what I do with it, no one bothers me and I can 100% relax without any outside interference. What’s most important in my morning ritual is that there is a NO POLICY to emails, phone calls, Facebook or Twitter. It is 100% ‘me’ time. Ever since I have adopted this attitude, I realised that I have begun to train myself to steer away from the daily stress that life puts on us, particularly when it comes to technology. It’s practically impossible to avoid contact 24/7 hours a day. But let me tell you – sometimes we really have to force ourselves too!

So this blog post is to share with you the great mind of a fellow blogger who made me change my attitude in life . . .

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The 7 Habits of Calmness

By Leo Babauta

I have come to believe that high stress, constant anxiety over tasks and work and life, social anxiety … is all a part of the modern way of life.

Most people just don’t feel a sense of peace, of calm, of serenity, throughout their day.

I have to admit that I’m the same way some of the time, but I have learned a few things that have helped me create a feeling of calmness much more of the time than ever before.

It’s a series of habits that have developed over the last few years. I’m not perfect at them, but I do practice them, and they are always helpful.

These are habits, not a one-time change in my surroundings or work pattern. Changing your environment is great, but you can’t control the things that happen to you much of the time, and you certainly can’t control how other people act. The only thing you can control is your response — and this response matters. You can respond to the same event with anxiety or anger, or you can respond with peace and calmness.

Let’s figure out how.

The Habits of Calmness

These are the habits to develop that will help you develop calmness (based on my experience):

  1. A calm morning ritual. Many people rush through their mornings, starting the day out in a stressful rush. I wake up a little earlier (5 a.m. these days, though that changes), and start with a little meditation, then a few yoga poses. I then start writing, before I let the noise in. Exercise is another component of my morning routine. You don’t need to do the same things, but find the quiet of the morning and make the most of it.
  2. Learn to watch your response. When something stressful happens, what is your response? Some people jump into action — though if the stressful situation is another person, sometimes action can be harmful. Others get angry, or overwhelmed. Still others start to feel sorry for themselves, and wish things were different. Why can’t other people behave better? Watch this response — it’s an important habit.
  3. Don’t take things personally. Many times the response (that you noticed in Habit 2) is to take things personally. If someone does something we don’t like, often we tend to interpret this as a personal affront. Our kids don’t clean their rooms? They are defying us! Our spouse doesn’t show affection today? He/she must not care as much as he/she should! Someone acts rudely at work? How could they treat us this way?! Some people even think the universe is personally against them. But the truth is, it’s not personal — it’s the other person’s issue that they’re dealing with. They are doing the best they can. You can learn not to interpret events as a personal affront, and instead see it as some non-personal external event (like a leaf falling, a bird flying by) that you can either respond to without a stressful mindset, or not need to respond to at all.
  4. Be grateful. Sure, lots of people talk about gratitude … but how often do we apply it to the events of our day? Things are crashing down at work, or our boss is angry, or our co-workers are rude, or our kids are misbehaving, or someone doesn’t love us as we’d like … do these cause anger/anxiety/unhappiness, or can we be grateful? Drop the complaints, and find a way to be grateful, no matter what. And then smile. This unbending habit can change your life.
  5. Create stress coping habits. Many times, when we are faced with stress, we have unhealthy responses — anger, feeling overwhelmed and withdrawing, eating junk food, drinking alcohol or taking drugs, shopping or otherwise buying stuff, going to time-wasting sites, procrastinating, and so on. Instead, we need healthy ways to cope with stress, which will come inevitably. When you notice stress, watch how you cope with it, and then replace any unhealthy coping habits with healthier ones. Healthy stress coping habits include: drinking tea, exercise, yoga, meditation, massaging your own neck & shoulders, taking a walk, drinking some water, talking with someone you care about.
  6. Single-task. I’ve written numerous times in the past about single-tasking vs. multitasking, but I think people multitask now more than ever. People text while on the train, while walking, while driving. They tweet and post to Facebook and Instagram, they email and read blogs and news, they watch videos while getting things done, they watch TV while eating, they plan their day while doing chores. This is a great way to cause a level of anxiety that runs through everything you do, because you’re always worried you should be doing more, doing something else. What if, instead, you just did one thing, and learned to trust that you shouldn’t be doing anything else? It takes practice: just eat. Just wash your bowl. Just walk. Just talk to someone. Just read one article or book, without switching. Just write. Just do your email, one at a time, until your inbox is empty. You’ll learn that there is peace in just doing one thing, and letting go of everything else.
  7. Reduce noise. Our lives are filled with all kinds of noise — visual clutter, notifications, social media, news, all the things we need to read. And truthfully, none of it is necessary. Reduce all these things and more, and create some space, some quiet, in your life.

Question: what should I read next?

19 Feb

I have so many books in my check list to read but I would really love some recommendations on generally amazing books you all love!

Romance, horror, crime, thriller, fantasy, humour – I don’t care. I just want a book that makes me go WOWZA!

Heeeeeelp! X

Chuck Palahniuk

18 Feb

Chuck Palahniuk

Having just finished one of the most ridiculous, fabulous, hilarious, vile novels I have ever read, I find myself handing out my copy of ‘Snuff’ by Chuck Palahniuk to all my friends insisting, ‘I don’t know what it is, why it was written or why I am making you read it but I absolutely insist you do!’

I finally got around to reading ‘Snuff’ as it was the last novel by this man that I had yet to conquer. The title of the novel really gives the basis of the story away – a sordid journey following one woman’s ambition to star in the first known snuff film and the questionable men who are there to help her succeed for her own benefit. Yes, it sounds horrible, pointless and completely unnecessary, which indeed it might be, but somewhere along the way the readers find themselves engulfed in his vulgar humour and spurning off his random list of facts to friends and co-workers.

But don’t be fooled! Though Palahniuk woos you with his quips and puns, lolling you into a false pretence of mutual banter, he throws some stomach churning moments that make you want to skip a chapter or two!!

Having completed his entire novel works, it still remains that Palahniuk is undoubtedly one of my favourite authors of all time. When I pick up one of his novels I know I am guaranteed a bizarre and enthralling journey that makes me question every aspect of the society we live in. I also know that it will have me wide-eyed in shock and laughing inappropriately on the London tube.

Do I always enjoy the plots in his novels? No. But I enjoy the fact that the only thing I know to expect is the unexpected. Witty, powerful, poetic, disturbing and questioning, he forces you to perceive the world in a manner that is often highly uncomfortable.

If the absurdist, misanthropist in you is ever looking for the appropriate novel – I can recommend no one greater than Chuck Palahniuk!!!!

The Libertines – Sunday Reminiscing

3 Feb

ITunes Sunday Reminiscing

A youth spent worshipping this band, I can’t think of a better way to spent my sunday afternoon than jamming to a bit of ‘Vertigo’.

Love.

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