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A plume with a hue

Archive for the month “May, 2021”

Intentions: review and setting (week 22)

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My new way of allocating certain days to certain areas worked well and definitely relieved the stress. Here’s an update on my progress last week, together with my intentions for this week.

Health and Wellbeing

I found a line dancing class locally. However, having heard that there were more men than woman at the newly-reopened ballroom and Latin classes, I figured I’d be able to find a dance partner so I went along yesterday. It was great to be back on the dance floor but I’m certainly out of practice and it made me realise just how much time I’ve spent sitting on the sofa over the past year. My feet are killing and my brain is frazzled so it was a good workout all round.

This week: I’m going to phone up about the line dancing and see if there are any places.

Personal Development

I’m keeping on top of my Critical Reading course.

This week: I’ll complete Unit 6. I’m also attending some Hay Literary Festival events and a London Southbank Centre International Booker event, all of which are online.

Reading

I’ve started a new reading journal and am exploring using character and plot maps. Last week, I read Hades, Argentina by Daniel Loedel for an online bookclub taking place soon.

This week: I have two plays to read/watch: Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello and Huis Clos by Jean-Paul Sartre for a Literature of the Absurd course.

Writing

I attended the London Writers’ Salon Writers’ Hour and wrote a monologue for the Critical Reading course.

This week: I’m planning on writing a character description for the same course.

Organisation

I was supposed to be finishing clearing the underbed area as I am only a few items away from completing this task. It still isn’t done.

This week: It would be good to get this done for once and for all!

My reading week: 21/52

Currently Reading

I have just started reading I, the Divine by Rabih Alameddine, which is unique in that it is written in first chapters. It tells the story of Sarah who grows up in Beirut.

My new nocturnal read is A State of Fear by Laura Dodsworth, which explores how the UK government has weaponised fear. It is fascinating so far.

I’m still listening to the wonderful Mrs Death Misses Death, written and read by Salena Godden, and working my way through Things I Learned on the 6.28 by Stig Abell.

Recently Finished

This week I completed We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. I very much enjoyed this interesting exploration of the impact that the disappearance of Rose’s sister and the departure of her brother had on her life. More than that I won’t say as there is a surprising twist that I don’t want to reveal.

I also finished Hades, Argentina by Daniel Loedel, which is an interesting look at the choices we make in life, and their impact, set against the backdrop of the political scene in Argentina during the late 1970s. This novel also takes an unexpected turn leading us into the realms of mythology. It’s disturbing in places but has a gripping storyline. I would never have discovered this book if it hadn’t been chosen for the No Book No Life bookclub.

Reading Next

I’m about to start Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello, a set text on a Literature of the Absurd course that I’m currently taking.

Top 5 books I liked better than the adaptation

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I always seem to favour the book over the adaptation. Why is this? It’s probably because I prefer character-driven novels where I am in the head of the protagonist, something that is hard to translate to the screen. In my opinion, plot-driven novels are better suited to adaptations although even here I find interesting scenes are often omitted and the film or series seems only half done. Here are just five of the books that I liked better than the adaptation.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. The minute this moved from London to the US, I felt cheated. For me, place is so often a character and living in the suburbs of London and commuting into the city centre for years, I had a very strong image in my mind, which was immediately destroyed by this shift.

Before I Go to Sleep by S J Watson. I enjoyed the film and thought a competent job had been made of transferring it to film. Despite this, however, I still think the novel was so much better.

Enduring Love by Ian McEwan. There is no doubt that McEwan is a great novelist, a little too self-consciously clever at times, but great nonetheless. There is a philosophical nature to his work, which gets lost in an adaptation.

And here I have to confess that this is a struggle because when I have loved a novel, I no longer want that joy destroyed by a film adaptation so I now avoid them. With that in mind, here are two novels that I don’t want to watch on the screen.

Where the Crawdad’s Sing by Delia Owens. This story is so beautifully told with exquisite descriptions that have created such vivid images in my mind. I don’t want these to be displaced by someone else’s interpretation.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri. Again, although I think this would make a wonderful film, I don’t want it ruined in any way but want to hold on to the moving experience.

And to finish with just one more from a slightly different angle.

I enjoyed the adaptation of Normal People by Sally Rooney; however, I felt there was something lacking. I haven’t yet read the novel but wonder if I might not find that missing piece of the jigsaw within it if I had greater access to the thought processes of the characters.

I think part of the problem with the shift from page to screen is that it destroys the image created in the reader’s mind and omits interesting aspects of the novel, such as the machinations of the characters’ minds.

Intentions: review and setting (week 21)

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I’m not in a good place at the moment and therefore had limited success with last week’s intentions.

I practised yoga regularly (nine sessions in total), meditated daily, didn’t use my phone after 9.45pm (this one is now consolidated), and cut out sugary snacks. As for the news, I seemed to go into overdrive with this – what a week it was here in the UK.

This week, I have a complete embargo on following any news.

Regarding my other intentions:

Health and Wellbeing

I had planned on going back to dance lessons. However, in view of the fact that I would have been waltzing and jiving on my own, coupled with the likelihood that partner dancing will never be sanctioned again in the UK (except for a fixed partner, which I don’t have), there doesn’t seem to be much point in pursuing this. Dancing has been a crucial part of my life for the past ten years; going forward, I think the only viable way of continuing is to find a line dancing class.

This week, I’m just going to continue with the yoga, try to walk more, and research local line dancing classes.

Personal Development

I submitted my Critical Reading assignment (a week ahead of schedule) and almost completed week 4 of the programme. I have just one short activity left to do.

This week, I plan on finishing unit 4 and completing unit 5.

Reading

I read and made notes on Convenience Store Woman by Sayata Murata. I didn’t get round to making notes on literature of the absurd and Endgame by Samuel Beckett.

This week, I will make the notes, and finish reading and making notes on Hades, Argentina by Daniel Loedel.

Writing

I didn’t do any creative writing.

This week, I’ve scheduled in the London Writers’ Salon Writers’ Hour and will use this time to do a bit of catching up.

Organisation

The underbed area is still not finished.

By the end of this week it will be!

I’m changing the way I do things this week. Instead of having a long list for the week, I’m having a daily focus, which I hope will allow me to concentrate on one area at a time instead of feeling pulled in different directions. My plan is as follows:

Monday: work admin and preparation

Tuesday: study

Wednesday: life admin, organisation and writing

Thursday: study

Friday: round-up (outstanding work/housework/life admin)

Saturday: pleasure/social

Sunday: study (complete week’s tasks)

I’m hoping this will be a more effective way of doing things.

My reading week: 20/52

Currently Reading

My main read at the moment is Hades, Argentina by Daniel Loedel, which is the June choice of the No Book No Life book club. As the blurb says, ‘A decade after fleeing for his life, a man is pulled back to Argentina by an undying love‘. I’ve read the first four chapters and it has already taken an uncanny turn.

I’m still making my way through my nocturnal read We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. Depending on my sleep pattern, I should finish within the next couple of weeks. I can’t predict how it’s going to end and it’s certainly an intriguing read.

I’m enjoying listening to Mrs Death Misses Death by Salena Godden. She narrates her novel (or is it a poem?) beautifully.

I haven’t read much of the May section of Things I Learned on the 6.28 by Stig Abell. As the end of the month is fast approaching, I need to get on with this.

Recently Finished

Last weekend, I simultaneously watched and read Endgame by Samuel Beckett, the first text on a Literature of the Absurd course that starts next week. It completely held my interest and I enjoyed it, despite the fact that as a human being I’m programmed to look for meaning and yet the point is that there isn’t any, except therein lies the meaning!

I also finished Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, a novel about displacement and loss. It is not your normal refugee story as it doesn’t focus on the journey but more on the arrival, and the transition from one country to another is via portals, thus employing an element of magic realism. It is also a love story.

My final completion was a reread of Convenience Store Woman by Sayata Murata. It tells the story of Keiko, who has dedicated eighteen years of her life to working in a convenience store, much to the disgust of her friends and family, who also shame her for her lack of a relationship. But Keiko is perfectly happy with the way she lives. The novel tells of the struggle to remain authentic in a society that has difficulty accepting those that won’t conform to its norms. This is a very clever novel and I’m looking forward to reading her next book, Earthlings.

Reading Next

My next read is another play for my course on the Absurd: Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello.

This week’s quotation is from Convenience Store Woman:

As long as you wear the skin of what’s considered an ordinary person and follow the manual, you won’t be driven out of the village or treated as a burden.

A few initial thoughts on getting more out of literature

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Having joined a few book clubs and taken several short literature courses, I’ve been considering how I can enhance my experience of studying and discussing texts. Here are a few initial thoughts.

Making Notes

For me, it’s become essential to make some written notes to clarify my thoughts, to encourage a closer reading, and to aid memory. However, I’m still not certain of the best way to go about this. Ideally I’d like some sort of template but exactly what should be included in this, I am not sure, and it all feels very experimental at the moment.

Character Map

This is a simple and effective way to keep track of who the characters are and their relationship to each other. I find a mind map style works well for a quick overview.

Author Interviews

For more contemporary writers, there are often interviews available online, which provide a greater insight into the motivation for writing, and the ideas and themes that they are exploring.

Critical Analyses

Other people’s views are also a useful source of ideas to consider when reading and can provide a way into the work. These can be anything from formal journal articles to newspaper reviews to blogs – all can be the source of valuable insights.

Productions

When studying a play, I feel it is essential to watch a production of it: plays are written to be performed and it can be a struggle to take in the text in isolation in any meaningful way. I like a combination of watching with the text in hand so I can refer to it and underline key points.

Audiobooks

Listening to an audiobook and reading the text simultaneously can help with more challenging work (for example, Virginia Woolf’s The Waves). Sometimes the audio version is a little too slow for me so I increase the speed to something that feels more in line with my reading pace.

Reading Guides

Reading guides and book club questions can provide a focus when reading and are a useful tool.

These are my preliminary thoughts. If anybody has any hints and tips, I’d be delighted to hear them.

Intentions: review and setting (week 20)

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I feel disappointed with my progress last week.

Regarding my mindful intentions, on the positive side, I attended nine yoga sessions, completed the final week of The Listening Path by Julia Cameron and have been meditating daily and not using my phone after 9.45pm. However, I have had a bad week in terms of following the news and have been doomscrolling on Twitter – why do I do it? It has a knock-on effect of crushing my motivation. I had one lapse on cutting sugar.

This week I’m going for a complete embargo on the news and sugary snacks – it’s the only way!

And my other intentions?

Health and wellbeing: I didn’t do any dance workouts, and I really don’t know why.

This week, my ballroom and Latin dance lessons are restarting so I’m planning on attending these. We’re focussing on the waltz and jive (two of my favourites) so what a lovely way to begin.

Personal development: I completed week 3 of my Critical Reading course and have written the first draft of an assignment.

This week, I’m going to submit the assignment and then work through week 4.

Reading: As intended, I finished Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I also began the reading for a Literature of the Absurd course beginning in a couple of weeks by watching/reading Endgame by Samuel Beckett.

This week, I want to make some notes on Endgame and read around the topic of the absurd. I also want to read Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata for a one-off reading group I’m attending.

Writing: I haven’t done much, if any, creative writing this week, and didn’t work on my ‘ghosts’ poem.

This week, I’m going to the online London Writers’ Salon writers’ hour and will work on the poem during this time.

Organisation: I didn’t make any further progress with the underbed storage area, which is frustrating as I am so near to completing it.

This week, I’m going to get it done for once and for all.

In retrospect, perhaps last week wasn’t quite as bad as I thought. The key this week is to ignore the news and focus on my other intentions instead.

My reading week: 19/52

Currently Reading

I’m slowly making my way through my nocturnal read, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.

I’ve started listening to Mrs Death Misses Death by Salena Godden, which is beautifully read by the author herself.

Recently Finished

This week I completed The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud. It is a response to Albert Camus’s The Outsider, and gives a voice to the Arab whilst simultaneously challenging the reader on their reading of the original. An incredibly clever work, I need to read this again to get my head around its various strands.

I also finished a reread of Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I thought I might not enjoy it so much second time around but I think I probably appreciated it more. It is atmospheric, painful and uplifting and a beautiful piece of writing. The descriptions are evocative and engaging and the story of the Marsh Girl is sympathetically told. The final scenes are gripping. I’m glad it was chosen for my May book club, thus forcing me to reread it.

Reading Next

I have a Literature of the Absurd course starting at the end of this month for which I need to read and/or watch three plays, the first of which is Endgame by Samuel Beckett. However, before that I think I will read Exit West by Mohsin Hamid.

Top 5 books I wish had TV adaptations

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The kind of books I believe would make good TV series are generally plot-driven novels. Here are five suggestions based on recent reading.

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue. Set in a hospital in Dublin during the 1918 influenza outbreak, this novel follows Nurse Powers as she cares for pregnant fever sufferers. It would be a good Sunday evening drama series.

How Hard Can It Be? by Allison Pearson. Kate Reddy struggles to cope with the approach of her imminent 50th birthday, the menopause, her teenage children, her unfaithful husband, her re-entry into the workplace, and the reappearance in her life of an old boyfriend. It would make a good drama with a mix of humour and seriousness, along the lines of Cold Feet.

The Secrets of Strangers by Charity Norman. A gunman shoots the owner of a cafe and holds its customers hostage, while the police attempt to diffuse the situation and bring it to a satisfactory conclusion. This has all the makings of a gripping TV drama.

Dear Mrs Bird by A J Pearce. Set in 1941 war-time London, this novel follows an aspiring young, female war reporter, who finds herself working as a typist for the agony aunt of a woman’s magazine. Again, this has moments of lighthearted humour set against the horrific backdrop of a city being bombed.

The Catch by T M Logan. When Ed meets his daughter’s ‘perfect’ fiancĂ©e, he becomes suspicious. When nobody else shares his concerns, he sets out to investigate his future son-in-law’s background in an attempt to prove he is not what he seems. This has the potential for a gripping adaptation.

These five novels would be ideal candidates for adaptation from the page to the small screen.

Intentions: review and setting (week 19)

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Last week was a bit of a mixed one: whilst I did well with some of my mindful intentions, I disappointed myself with others.

The successes are that I’ve now been meditating daily for thirty consecutive days and do feel the benefit of this brief interlude of calm. I’ve also achieved thirty straight days of not using my phone after 9.45pm. The Bank Holiday interfered with my yoga sessions, although I did manage six sessions over six days. I completed week 4 of The Listening Path by Julia Cameron.

Unfortunately, I caved in and broke my run of eliminating sweet snacks from my diet. Having avoided Twitter for a few weeks, I somehow found myself spending three hours on it over the course of the week, three hours I could have spent on something far more rewarding. Slipping on these two intentions was definitely fuelled by the stress I’ve been experiencing over the past few days, but instead of helping, it only makes the stress worse.

This week I will try and get back on track with my mindful intentions: make an effort to get on to my yoga mat first thing in the morning, cut the sugar, and eliminate Twitter, whilst continuing with my daily meditation, the Listening Path programme, and not using my phone after 9.45pm.

I also had mixed results regarding my other intentions.

Health and Wellbeing

I had planned to complete three dance workouts; I did two, which is a start. I found a YouTube video, which used steps from the cha cha, salsa, bachata and rumba. I used to do around ten hours of dancing a week before lockdown so it felt good to be practising a few moves again.

My aim is to do three workouts this week.

Personal Development

I finished week 2 of my Critical Reading course, and completed the optional reading and activities, which were worthwhile so I’m glad I made the effort to do this.

We move to poetry in week 3 so my plan is to keep up-to-date on this and attempt the optional tasks.

Reading

I read Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami for the Japanese Literature book club I’ve just joined.

This week I want to reread Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, which has been chosen as this month’s read for the book club I set up for my friends this time last year.

Creativity

I attended a Writing Inspiration Jam session with City Lit. It wasn’t quite what I expected as I thought there would be far more prompts and short writing sessions with ideas sharing whereas there was more ‘teacher-talk’. It was a three hour Zoom session without even a short break and I found myself suffering Zoom fatigue, which affected my concentration.

I’ve set myself the task of writing a poem on the theme of ghosts.

Organisation

I made a very small amount of progress on organising the underbed storage but still haven’t finished it.

I’d really like to be able to say that this has been completed by the end of this week.

Here’s to a fruitful week!

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