Archive | February, 2013

Heart of a Dog, an LSE Language Centre Production

28 Feb

On Monday, a friend told me that as part of the LSE Literature Festival, the LSE Language Centre was putting on a production of Bulgakov’s ‘Heart of a Dog’ for free.  It’s strange – as an LSE alumni, I probably am becoming more aware of the literature scene at the university than I did when I actually studied there.  Anyway, along I went with a friend to see the play, knowing very little about it apart from that it was based on a satirical novella by Bulgakov.

I was pleasantly surprised.  I think I am someone who finds it difficult to lambast anything that it offered for free and although much of the acting was notably amateur, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment or interest in the plot.  Very simply, the story follows a stray dog on the brink of death, who is taken in by an eminent Professor.  The Professor then proceeds to perform an experiment on the dog, transplanting the pituitary gland and testicles of a recently deceased member of the Proletarian.  The majority of the play follows the chaos and horror Sharikov (the dog-human) causes to the Professor, whose forays into eugenics seem to be going very badly indeed.  Instead of ‘improving’ the human race, the Professor and his assistant Bormental despair at Sharikov’s lack of etiquette and scorn for manners, which he views as relics of Tsarism.  In the end, they perform a reverse operation in what is a rather disturbing scene where they grab Sharikov by force.  The play ends with Sharikov transformed back to Sharik (the dog he was initially) who seems to be ignorant of what has happened and relatively comfortable in his ignorance.  Intermittently, we see the Communist influence as the Bolsheviks on the Housing Committee try to decrease the Professor’s living space but despite his clear anti-communist stance, he is able to get away with his arrangements due to his preeminence in the medical world.

I was impressed with the overall production which utilised a variety of materials, including a projector to portray the Professor’s notes post the experiment.  I felt that they managed to successfully create a suspenseful and slightly perturbing atmosphere which was broken up by some comedic elements demonstrating the farce of Communism.  I also found myself feeling incredibly sorry for Sharik, his plight and the way the Professor and Bormental used him for their perverse operation.  Sharik, the dog, ironically seemed to be the character with the most human characteristics.  The Professor’s hypocrisy and his inclination to  ‘play God’  provided an interesting insight into the crazy world of eugenics and also made him a very interesting character to me.  By the end, I couldn’t quite work out who I sympathised with most – him or the Communists.

Very thought-provoking and it has encouraged me to read some Russian literature – watch this space!

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The destructive impact of Chick Lit

25 Feb

I was interested to read an article on The Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/23/body-image-chick-lit-study_n_2534838.html?ir=Books&utm_hp_ref=books) which discusses the destructive impact of Chick Lit on women’s body image.  Interested but hardly surprised.

I consciously avoid books that fall into the genre of Chick Lit after realising years ago that they made me feel a little rubbish by sparking feelings of unhappiness, dissatisfaction and gave me a skewed perspective of the world.  Most protagonists in this genre are meant to represent the average woman and are often expressing their dissatisfaction with their bodies and wishing for a more glamorous body and life.  This emphasis on weight and beauty could actually have a detrimental effect, inducing the reader to doubt their own body and start to compare themselves to others.  ‘Successful’ female characters in Chick Lit tend to be skinny and good-looking.  Such novels rarely explore themes beyond fashion, popularity and beauty which can lead the reader to adopt a very narrow view of the world and the important things in life.

However, I think that the destructive effect of Chick Lit is not just limited to that. The majority of Chick Lit books portray women in a limited number of ‘glamorous’ professions – namely, magazine journalism and fashion.  There is a definite lack of strong female leads having other careers – correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think there’s one single ‘Chick Lit’ book where the protagonist is a scientist or a mathematician.  No wonder most young girls nowadays shun these professions for those they consider more ‘glamorous.’

The characters in Chick Lit tend to be mainly one-dimensional.  Sure, the lead may go through some kind of ‘transformation’ but mostly this is of a superficial nature – she may lose weight and become more confident in herself but this is dependent on conforming to society’s aesthetic.  Rarely is it that she undergoes a real internal transformation and realises that what is important in life goes beyond appearances and the materialistic.

I know the majority of people probably don’t get as swayed by Chick Lit as I am implying but I do think that they can be incredibly detrimental to more vulnerable readers, even implanting ideas and values in the subconscious minds of those who think themselves unlikely to be affected.

Tiny Buddha article

22 Feb

I was SO happy to see my article, ‘How to be at peace with the way you look’ on the Tiny Buddha website yesterday.  For those of you that don’t know, Tiny Buddha is a website, set up by the lovely Lori Deschene, which ‘offers simple wisdom for complex lives.’  It’s one of my favourite websites and the fact that the majority of articles are written by contributors makes it far more personal than the multitude of personal development websites out there.

The link to my article is here:

http://tinybuddha.com/blog/how-to-start-feeling-at-peace-with-the-way-you-look/

Please feel free to leave any comments!

Fashion writing

18 Feb

While my ultimate goal is to become a novelist, it is common knowledge that many writers need to work in various jobs to support their lifestyle and their passion before being able to do what they love full time.  As with most jobs, most of my past experience has required good writing skills.  While good writing requires knowledge of sentence structure, an extensive vocab etc., writing for different sectors often demands different skills.

A couple of years ago, I complemented my interest for fashion by undertaking a couple of internships in various fashion-related roles.  The first was working as a PR and Marketing intern for fashion designer, Jasper Garvida.  This provided me with such an insight into the heady and often chaotic world of fashion and I learnt a lot – namely, writing effective content for a new collection and the art of the perfect Press Release.  The whole point here is to use evocative language to connect the reader with the various textures and inspiration behind the collection.  Out came the flowery language and metaphors aplenty.  The language has to match the frivolities and extravagance of London Fashion Week, where Jasper Garvida was showcasing his collection.

I also wrote a Clothing guide for Cancer Research UK but this was extremely different.  Aimed to be user-friendly and practical, this was a guide to inform those that didn’t know too much about fashion so language had to be simplistic and clear.

Here’s an example of my work at Jasper Garvida:

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I am recently getting back into fashion blogging, after a period of utter apathy towards the industry in general.  If you are in any way interested, my fashion blog which I have been updating sporadically since I was 19 is jadethecrazybaglady.blogspot.com.  Of course, fashion is not to be taken too seriously and I think to live and breathe fashion is destructive but there is something completely escapist and transformational about fashion and like writing, it often acts as a source of inspiration for me.

Creative writing progress

12 Feb

Finally submitted my second assignment for my LSJ course, which involved having to write a plot summary of a published novel and submitting the first chapter or section of your novel.  Being Queen Procrastinator, this took me a lot longer than I had anticipated as I completely rewrote the beginning of my novel, deciding to adopt a first person narrative.  This has radically altered the tone of my novel which has slipped into darker and more reflective territory – something I feel I am better suited to.

With regards to the course, I am far more interested in the personal feedback I receive from my tutor and I would probably pay the fee purely for the constructive criticism I get.  However, I find some of the assignment tasks like writing a random plot summary slightly arbitrary.  I think this is all useful stuff, especially when you’re trying to sell your novel but at the moment, I’m much more concerned with writing my novel, rather than marketing it.

Currently reading…

12 Feb

Mrs Fry’s Diary by (Mrs) Stephen Fry

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Because commuting can be such a drag so why not read something that gives you a little chuckle now and then?!  It breaks up the morning and confuses weary commuters who are not used to seeing someone happy so early.

As expected, containing the wit one would expect from the great Fry. I especially like the various pop culture references Mrs Fry refers to, highlighting just how crazy our celebrity-fuelled society is becoming.  I also like Mrs Fry’s sometimes philosophical questioning of her life and what she used to imagine her life would be.  Some definite laugh-out-loud moments for times when your brain starts rejecting the “heavy stuff”.

Currently reading…

6 Feb

‘Inglorious’ by Joanna Kavenna.

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This is probably not a book I would have picked up myself but my tutor from LSJ advised me to read this as it deals with themes I am looking to explore in my own writing (despite the misleading trashy chic-lit cover).  She said that it would be useful to look at this, even if it tells me what I should not do in my own novel.  The story follows Rosa, a thirty-something successful arts journalist, after the sudden death of her mother and her subsequent existential questioning of life and its meaning.  It’s meant to chronicle her fall in society – her unemployment leads to feelings of isolation and detachment from her friends which is emphasised by Rosa’s introspective thoughts.

I am not really a fan of this novel.  I find the language overly descriptive, to the point of tedious.  Kavena does a very good job at portraying London life but I find some of her detailed descriptions to be superfluous and distracting from Rosa’s inner turmoil.  I think certain aspects of Rosa’s disposition seem somewhat laboured and at times, I found myself wishing that Rosa would just take action and ‘get on with it’, whatever ‘it’ means.  Rosa seems to fixate on philosophical issues which is a theme I really want to explore; however, I really don’t like the way she repeatedly discusses esoteric philosopher’s thoughts.  I felt that was a bit forced and actually made me quite annoyed with the character of Rosa, whom I felt was constantly trying to prove her intelligence and knowledge of culture.

But – all very useful ‘research’ for my own work.