Monthly Archives: February 2015

Bus Reads 4: Thoughts on Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’

On the left, a very good cover for the book, with concentric circles suggesting a spiralling and trapped mental state...and on the right... my copy. Garish and rather hideous.

On the left, a very good cover for the book, with concentric circles suggesting a spiralling and trapped mental state…and on the right… my copy. Garish and rather hideous.

I’ve got a long way to go to be up-to-date with my book reviews, but this is another off the list. The problem is that I can’t really remember what I wanted to say about some of the texts, or even if I really wanted to say anything particularly about them at all. This is one such book that has been causing me issue.

Now, don’t get me wrong- I like this book. It is on the list of my favourite novels. However, I can’t really say why I like it. It’s not as though the subject matter is a cheery one that makes you want to read it for light relief, and considering how sublime a poet Plath was, her prose falls somewhat flat in comparison. Indeed, I often found the writing somewhat cold, but it could be said that this matches well the narrator’s mental state, suggesting one of detachment and introspection. The plot is not that elaborate, but I did like the way in which this allows Plath to focus on some of the mundane details and the actual mental state of her voice in the text. The novel also seems somewhat cyclical, with Esther being pretty much where she begun despite her sexual awakening, realisation of her freedom as a woman, and seemingly successful treatment, and this works well to suggest that her recovery is perhaps temporary and the clarity is transitory. I can’t fault Plath on the way in which she describes and illustrates the slow collapse of a person’s sanity and mind, and the sparse plot allows for this to be shown almost imperceptibly, taking the reader along with the narrator and really dragging them into the place of the character.

I feel that I also must comment on the opening line of the novel:

It was a queer, sultry summer; the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.

This works to introduce the novel in miniature, with her confusion and isolation hinted at, along with the electro-shock therapy that Esther will undergo, and the fact that this was a summer that would stand out as being different and defining. I also like it for the fact that the juxtaposition of the summer and the death, almost glanced over, instantly startles and unnerves the reader, and conjures up the images of Plath’s poems. Definitely one to reread and reanalyse.

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LEGO!!!

You may have noticed over my blog posts that I quite like Lego. I left it when I hit teenage years, but have now slowly fell in love with it again, partly thanks to my children being old enough to have Lego (which my two eldest did at Christmas). Well, last month I bought these off eBay:

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The Lego Book traces the history of the company from its origins making wooden toys, up until 2009, and covers the major themes and sets over the years, as well as other milestones in its history. This allowed me to indulge in a little nostalgia, as I was able to remind myself of all of the sets I used to have, as well as surprising myself with just how old some sets that I had were. It also reminded me of what was my favourite* minifigure from my childhood**:

The robot spy from the 'Spyrius' range of the early '90s. Image: http://www.1000steine.com/brickset/minifigs/large/sp041.jpg

The robot spy from the ‘Spyrius’ range of the early ’90s. Image: 1000steine.com

The other book, Standing Small: A Celebration of 30 Years of the LEGO Minifigure is pretty much what it says, and as such is an entertaining if information-lite (and error-strewn) volume. The section detailing the evolution of the minifigure is something of interest, however.

It’s a shame that the new ‘Minifigures’ weren’t out when the books were published, as these would have made a nice section, and indeed will warrant a blogpost to themselves at some point in the near future. If I had the money to indulge myself, I’d invest in all of the historic figures that have been done over the course of the 13 series. I also quite like the palaeontologist figure that is part of the most recent run:

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It is also nice to see that this is a woman, following on from the female palaeontologist in the Lego Ideas set of female scientists. Happily, our eldest managed to get this in his blind bag the other week, so I get to play with- I mean admire- the figure when he’s in bed.

Lastly, I’m quite excited by this image that appeared on Lego’s Facebook page recently:

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Image: facebook.com/lego


* I suppose that it is joint favourite with the original Lego Star Wars Boba Fett figure from the early ’00s, but I had one of the robot minifigures years before the Star Wars range brightened up all our lives.

** As I Googled for an image of the Spyrius robot, I case across the ultimate nerdgasm and the ultimate in COOL:

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New books: January

A bit late, but here’s January’s haul:

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  • Jerome K. Jerome –  Three Men in a Boat     £1.49
  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn –  A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovic     99p
  • Angela Carter –  The Bloody Chamber     49p
  • Douglas Adams –  The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy     49p
  • Dante –  New Life     50p
  • Anthony Trollope –  The Warden     50p
  • Richard Adams –  Watership Down     50p
  • Edgar Allan Poe –  The Works of Edgar Allan Poe     25p

You may (or more likely) may not notice that I do already own copies of the Jerome and D. Adams books (seen on posts here and here), but these new copies are better: the first is an interesting Penguin Classics edition, with notes and an introduction, and the second is not the film tie-in edition with added photos and interviews, so is shorter and thus takes up less space.

Now, I also had two other books:

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I will expand upon these in my next post!

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A cosmic “face” in the galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849

Here’s an interesting image:

A cosmic "face" in the galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849. Image: NASA

A cosmic “face” in the galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849. Image: NASA

It’s a smiley face in space! This image was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, but spotted by a contestant in Nasa’s Hidden Treasures image processing competition, and shows an example of an Einstein Ring caused by gravitational lensing. This is a phenomenon that was theorised by Einstein, when he suggested that light can be affected by gravity. In this case, the light from the smaller, distant galaxy is bent by the gravity of the closer stars in front, and appears distorted in a ring around the stars, magnified to produce a ‘lensing’ effect and allowing us to see a galaxy that usually would not be visible to us. Fun science!

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Cartoon bandages: Life Update #12

I’ve got a couple of posts to get up over the course of tonight, in part to make up for my lack of presence recently on the blogging front. However, first I thought I’d share this:

Poorly toe.

Poorly toe.

I currently look like someone in a cartoon when they hit their thumb or toe with a hammer and it balloons up ridiculously. Since about October last year, I’ve had an ingrowing toenail that has proven impossible to wangle out, and I’ve been to the doctors several times for antibiotics and advice over the pat few months. I thought I as going to have it removed about a month back when I went to a podiatrist, but it turned out it was an assessment to see what needed doing. Then, I stupidly asked for them to make the appointment for its eviction in the half term rather than mid-term time, as there would have been no convenient time for me to have off work. However, in hindsight I should have had it done a.s.a.p., as it has been bothering me for weeks now. Thankfully, now is half term, and yesterday was the day for it to be sorted out. I’d never been under any kind of anaesthetic until this, so that was a novel experience, and the administration was more painful than the nail has ever been. Also new to me was the experience of having to wear sandals, as I obviously can’t wear shoes for a few days. I refuse to sit round and stick my foot in the air for three days, however, as if I do then my wife would be left with the same workload as she is when I’m at work, and she would get very little break this holiday. Let’s just hope I can wear proper shoes by next week when I’m back at work!

When I saw the size of the pieces of nail that were removed, it’s unsurprising that I was in pain, and I did ask to bring them home, but don’t think you need to see a picture of them…

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Shrove Tuesday advice

Image: facebook.com/innocent.drinks

Image: facebook.com/innocent.drinks

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