Monthly Archives: August 2014

Bus Reads 3: Thoughts on Joyce’s ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’

joyce youngI daren’t say when I begun to read this book, or indeed when I finished it. However, I’ve got six more books to review after this one in order to catch up with where I’m at now with my reading. Hmm. The reason I’ve put this off for so long is that I’ve not really known what to say about this work. I mean, it is sublime, in my opinion. I adored it from start to finish, and find it so beautifully poetic that I took in more of the sound of the text and the feel of the words rather than any actual meaning. I probably read it in the way that Ulysses and Finnegans Wake are better read, actually, considering that A Portrait of the Artist… does have a conceivable and intelligible plot.

Firstly, I think that this text works so well due to its nature as a bildungsroman based upon Joyce’s own youth, and interestingly, the actual text almost ‘comes-of-age’ along with Stephen due to the clever way in which the writing style alters almost imperceptibly throughout the story. Morrissey stated recently that when writing his Autobiography, he “…wrote the childhood sequence almost as a child might, and the adolescent period as an adolescent might, and the adult section as a ‘suicidalist’ might”, and save for the last point, this rings true for Joyce here. In the same way as a person ages imperceptibly if you see them over a long period, the text also matures and develops in a way that is not really noticeable unless you stop and take a step back. I was unable to tell when the writing begun to alter until it had done so for many pages, and see in this part of Joyce’s genius, as the text is so fluid and well crafted.

I also quite enjoyed the way in which religion is given such a prominent role in the text and shown to have influenced and shaped Stephen in various ways, but have been debating with myself recently whether or not the tortuously long sermon was required at the length it was. I suppose that the length and somewhat repetitive and cyclical nature of this highlighted the nature of religion to Stephen and to Joyce, not only in focus (mainly sin and salvation) and the way in which this the affects the narrative and the way that the protagonist views himself and his actions, but in its almost smothering, incessant inability to go away (as the sermon seems to have no way of ending). However, this did make it rather heavy going, as it was a lot more preachy than the sermons I am personally used to hearing, but did also show me another side to Joyce, as I didn’t realise he was able to write such text.

The section I had most issue with, though, was the way in which the book ended. After the way in which the blurb built the end of the text up, with Stephen’s final break with everything around him and need for Wildeian artistic freedom, I felt that this didn’t really come across. It was a bit of a damp squib, really- somewhat akin to a child having a tantrum, and then calmly walking out of the room. Perhaps it needs a second read to pick up on everything here.

That said, I  adored the book, and can only look towards my next reading of it!

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Marriage!!! Life Update #8

Well, after nearly six years together and (almost) three children, my partner and I finally got married last Saturday (16th).

wedding figures

We had planned to have both our current vicar and my family vicar to do the service as a symbolic way of showing the two of us coming together in a spiritual sense, but we found out a few months back that my vicar was to be with a group of his parishioners at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham for the Feast of the Assumption, which was the previous week. However, we were able to use his church hall for the reception, which still allowed us to include the two, and we are hoping to have a blessing there in the coming weeks.

We didn’t have as many guests as we’d hoped, but this made for a more intimate and private affair, which was a joy (if rather nerve-wracking) from start to finish. The choir and organist did a wonderful job, and by the end of it my partner and I were married, which was the most important thing. I love her more than anything on this planet (except my children), and cannot put into words how happy I am that we are now married. It also seems to have been a long time coming, as we were ‘officially’ engaged in 2011, and had planned to have the wedding last summer, but weren’t able to for various reasons. I’d never have imagined a decade ago that by now I’d be married and have children, as to be honest I never felt as though anyone would want me, but I was wrong, and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Now for the next chapter!

wedding ducks

 

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Coke is not for me (a sort-of ‘Life Update #7’)

I say sort-of life post, as this is just a few random rants and so forth, and there’s nothing of particular note in terms of key life changes- that’s for another post. Now, first off. It’s currently the start of the sixth and final week of the school summer holidays (one of the perks of working in a school- long holidays!), and for the past five I’ve had the best of intentions to stay up at night to get a fair amount of work done. However, despite having been able to keep myself up various nights over the past few weeks and getting a small way through my pile of jobs, I’ve got nowhere near the amount done I’d intended. This is partly because I’ve got side-tracked into doing other things, or because I have been awake enough to not sleep, but not cognitively awake enough to actually focus on lesson writing or anything more strenuous than researching William S. Burroughs on Wikipedia or posting images of chocolate Lego or toilet roll origami on this blog. I blame the 8 cans of this energy drink I bought a few weeks back and which I recently finished:

KX cola can

In the course of doing that, I’ve realised just how much I can’t stand coke (by which I mean Coca-Cola, Pepsi, or any other cola-flavoured beverage, which this happened to be. I don’t mean the drug). I used to like it, but now it just leaves me a bit “bleugh”. I still quite like the little gummy bottle-shaped sweets, though; they are still quite palatable.

Anyway- this all means that over the next 7 days before the start of term, I’ve got quite a bit to do and will need to inspire myself to have several late nights. I’m writing this quite late (or rather quite early), having just watched the first episode of the new ‘Doctor Who’, but still can’t bring myself to do any deep thinking. I don’t think the worry that we’ve got at the moment is helping, though, to be honest.

I mentioned in a previous post that my partner and I were expecting another child, and we had thought that he may have been here early, around the middle of the summer. It was even touch-and-go whether he’d make last Saturday awkward for us (see my next post), but as it turns out, we are still waiting, and are now several days overdue. We just really don’t want him to decide to come next week once I’ve started back to work, as I can’t have paternity leave off, as I haven’t been there long enough to get this paid enough to be viable for us. However, this added pressure really isn’t helping my other half, as you can imagine. All very stressful.


Also, is it worrying to find that at the tail end of being 21, you are slowly becoming more and more like Victor Meldrew by the day? I can see that by the time I (hopefully) reach pension age, I’ll probably go out raving and partying, and have the youth I’ve never ever wanted.


A VM rant coming on here. My other half ordered me several books off a well known auction website (eBay) for my birthday, and one of them- a silver Penguin Modern Classic edition of John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids– came the other day with a note inside saying that it had a ‘minor flaw’, but as it was the only copy left, the seller had sent it anyway. Now, my idea of a ‘minor flaw’ would be a crease to the cover, a tear, or maybe a loose page. Not water damage to the three open edges, and a peeling spine. I’m hoping that they will replace it for me when a better copy comes into stock. Personally, I can’t help but feel that it would have been so much better if they had simply refunded us for that and said it wasn’t in stock, or if they had left it and sent a copy later when they got more. Anyway. Rant over.

 

 

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Pained faces

I also came across this the other day (in the same internet browsing session as the neckless duck I posted a few moments ago), and thought it worth sharing:

They look like quite interesting and animated clay faces, don’t they? Wrong. They aren’t clay at all. They’re intriguingly made from mangled and contorted origami-inflicted loo rolls by a man named Junior Fritz Jacquet, and more of his work can be found here.

 

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That’s quackers!

Image: graphicashen.com

Image: graphicashen.com

I came across this the other day, and thought that I’d share it. Why? Well- why not?

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Delicious Lego!

More Lego, but this time- made of chocolate! WOW!!!

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Charlie and the Sexualised Plastic Doll Factory (‘A New Take by Penguin’, or ‘Dahl 2.0’)

10606393_10154424928960371_8941943695899364569_nYou may have seen the recent furore surrounding this latest upcoming release from Penguin in the wonderful Modern Classics range. As you can tell from the title, it is a fiftieth anniversary reissue of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and in a rare move, the publishers have released it as an adult Classic rather than as a Puffin children’s classic. Now, as you may have been able to tell from some of my previous blog posts, I really don’t have a problem with the appropriation of ‘children’s literature’ for adults, as truly great literature shouldn’t really be confined by age ranges and all that. I enjoy Roald Dahl now as an adult, and there are many children’s and teenage books that easily bounce between categories, mainly based upon their cover images (think Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Alice in Wonderland etc.), but here… oh dear. I can sort of see where Penguin are going, with the slightly dark and unnerving cover image, but I fail to see how it relates easily with the story. Sure, there’s bratty female characters in it that this could represent, with supporting and yet somewhat absent/ineffectual parents, but unless this is a more general representation of the parenting critiques offered by Dahl, I don’t find this truly representative of the novel as a whole. Personally, I can’t help but feel that a slightly cliched image of chocolate or sweets may have been better. Hopefully, Penguin may bend to public opinion in this case and change their offering before the publication next month.

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One year on Wordpress! Happy birthday Electric Puppet!

cake_and_candle_clip_art_13455

Well- today is my 1st anniversary on WordPress, and to be honest I never thought that I’d stick with it for a few months, Let alone a whole year! I can’t say that my reach has been that far, but I’m happy, as this blog has been something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while, as it provides me with the opportunity to just share things I find of interest, and to get things off my chest at occasional intervals. Also, I no longer keep a diary, and so it’s nice to be able to look back over it to see my first thoughts on various texts and to keep a track of my intermittent ‘Life Updates’. I’ll come back to this point at the end of this post, but for now will steal a bit from my New Year post, where I referred you to the best of Electric Puppet in 2013, and add some of 2014:

I think that’s enough links to my other posts to be getting on with for now. Anyway- check some of these out if you haven’t already, or have a browse of the blog and see what you come across. Also, you can follow Electric Puppet on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/electricpuppetblog

Lastly, I’ve got quite a few more book reviews and posts to get up on here over the next few weeks, but am toying with the idea of doing slightly more regular random life-post blogs, a bit like a daily blog. Feel free to comment if you think that this would be a good idea or not.

Wikimedia goes bananas

Image: David Slater/Caters

Image: David Slater/Caters

Hello there. Always on the look-out for interesting selfies and selfie-related stories, I came across this the other day. It’s a rather charming selfie taken by a crested black macaque, and has been (along with 100-or-so other similar and less focused images) at the centre of a row between a wildlife photographer, David Slater, and Wikimedia Commons. They have been using this image and not credited the photographer, which understandably irritated him. However, they would not remove the image, as they claim that he doesn’t own the copyright. Right. So who does? The monkey, apparently, because it took the image. Well, yes, technically it did. But come on. What a ridiculously stupid argument to make. Is someone from Wikimedia going to track the macaque down to give it its royalty cheque? Are they going to demand that Mr Slater buys the copyright off the monkey? I’m all for animals being treated fairly, humanely and as we would like to be treated (one of the reasons behind my recent move to becoming a vegetarian, but that’s for another post), but come on. This can be taken a bit too far, and has been here to be honest. Now come on, Wikimedia- give that man back the money he deserves. You’ve had your joke.

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Sexist Lego and the power of Ideas

Image: David Horsey/Los Angeles Times

Image: David Horsey/Los Angeles Times

That’s something I’ve thought for a while, to be honest, and I know that I’m in no way the only one. I suppose a product that revolves around the use of bricks and involves building things would inevitably be geared more towards males due to our cultural association of construction with males, but it does seem somewhat unduly male-centric, especially considering that when Lego began there was nothing particularly gender-specific about any of the sets that they produced. They did produce a range with the rather dated title of ‘Homemaker’ between 1971 and 1982, and I remember playing as a child with this set that my Mum had:

lego homemaker living room

I can’t say that I ever saw this as particularly feminine, and even now can’t help but see it as still quite gender neutral. However, I remember growing up in the 1990s and seeing these rather gender-specific sets:

Untitled

 

They look incredibly crap now, but the thing to note from them is that Lego decided to make the people look like dolls rather than the standard yellow cubey people we all know and love. All of the sets were horribly stereotyped in their focus, looking very much like a pathetic attempt at Barbie rip-offs, and I was almost glad to not have to look at them any more when they vanished from our shelves. However, in a much-publicised move, Lego resurrected their female-friendly lines with Lego ‘Friends’ in 2012, which even though it is less shitty-looking, is still just as stereotyped, and seems to suggest that girls both don’t like to build a lot in their sets, and that all females do is swim and lounge on beaches, go to nail bars and cafes, or groom pets.

So, it has come as an enormous surprise to see one of Lego’s most recent sets in their ‘Ideas’ range:

lego female scientistsThis range is made up of designs submitted by and voted for by members of the public, and the set shows a female astronomer, palaeontologist and chemist. The set has won praise from many quarters, and personally I think that it’s fantastic not only for the profile of women in science and in scientific professions, but also for the professions depicted, too. However, I can’t help but think that really we shouldn’t be getting excited over this set. Does it not just depict three scientists? Do we need to specify that they are female? I don’t mean this in a dismissive way, but more that it should be something that we don’t need to comment on because it isn’t anything that we wouldn’t expect. Of course women can be astronomers, palaeontologists and chemists- what’s all the fuss about? Going back to the cartoon at the top, perhaps the whole idea of Lego producing this set shows that indeed it was and still is sexist in the way it operates.

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New books: July

july books

Up until the last few days in July, I’d only amassed the first four of these, and then…I weakened. Ahem. Anyway, they are as follows:

  • Nancy Mitford –  The Pursuit of Love     25p (Library book sale)
  • James Joyce –  Finnegans Wake     Free!
  • Leo Tolstoy –  Anna Karenina     50p
  • Philip K. Dick –  A Maze of Death     50p
  • Virginia Woolf –  To the Lighthouse     £1.49
  • Aldous Huxley –  Brave New World     99p
  • Graham Greene –  Brighton Rock     99p
  • Dante –  Inferno (trans. Robin Kirkpatrick)     £1
  • Teresa Monachino –  Words Fail Me     Free!

The two books that were free were given to me by my line manager at work, as he cleared out his office at the end of the school term (he’s leaving for a year) and didn’t want them. Obviously, greatly received by me though, especially considering I’ve been looking to get a copy of Finnegans Wake for a few months now. I’m quite interested in the cover, though, as it’s one I haven’t come across before. The 1990s Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics edition that keeps popping up on Google is the one with an image from the Book of Kells (I think it’s the Book of Kells- I should know considering the Early-Medieval period is my specialism), and the head of cartoon Joyce also appears on the spine, which is a tad unusual. This haul has also been profitable, as three of the books (Joyce, Huxley and Greene) were on my list of Classics to look out for. Usually, I don’t come across many of these if any, and those I get are just what I come across. And yes, I do have a list of Classics that I would like to own; a sort of wish list, if you like. The Dante book I do already own in a black Penguin Classics edition, translated by Mark Musa, but wanted to compare translations, and also fell in love with that cover. It’s embossed too, you know. Just zoom in on it or Google it. It’s a thing of beauty.

Also, just a quick point that the box room I mentioned we were going to clean out is now free of unnecessary and unused crap, and is home to books that are eagerly awaiting the arrival of shelves to sit on. I’ll be sure to take some pictures and get a post up when these are done.

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