Posts Tagged ‘books’

I am inked

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“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.” –  Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Actually, apparently some editions say “bray”… which does kind of sound a little more Plathian I guess. My copy says “brag” though. But whatever. The point is, I got my first tattoo, and I LOVE IT SO HARD.

10 things you can do instead of write, while on a writing retreat

2014-07-27 11.24.30-1I’m all about productivity.

  1. Browse baby name sites, because maybe you should change the names of all your characters.
  2. Put on another cardigan. Wrap yourself up in blankets. Turn the heaters up, because how can you be expected to be creative when it’s like the Arctic in here? Gradually become too hot. Unlayer; open the door to let in the ice.
  3. Make another cup of tea. Eat some cookies.
  4. Read and reread that short story you love, the one that perfectly captures everything you’re trying to do with this chapter. Wonder if you can somehow copy it without copying it. Feel miserable because you can’t.
  5. Write yourself little inspirational notes and bluetack them to your desk. Listen to Flawless by Beyonce.
  6. Go antiquing. Remember that you have no checked baggage allowance on your flight home, and cannot buy any antiques. Also, you don’t have a huge rambling house to fill up with junk. Think about buying a ridiculous 1930s beaded shawl to make yourself feel better.
  7. Write inane blog posts about that song you love or that model you think is pretty. Tell yourself: all writing is productive.
  8. Find a musty old record store. Confuse the two record store owners by being 25 and coming into their empty store, interrupting their listening sesh. Buy records to make it less awkward.
  9. Go look at some cliffs. Get inspired by the cliffs. Remember that your novel is set in inner Melbourne, not in the Blue Mountains.
  10. Buy books. You probably need more books.

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The psychological benefits of reading

thumbs_marilyn monroe reading, where is the cool

Reading is good for you. Even science says so.

Anyone who loves literature can tell you that reading is good for you. For me, it’s one of the only things that slows down my mind; it lulls me into a kind of dream-state where I can become so absorbed in another person’s story that I forget about my own craziness, at least temporarily.

For me, it’s definitely therapeutic, and I knew there had to be some real reasons for that. I wanted to know more about what research has been done about the psychological benefits of reading, and how it can possibly be used as a tool to help improve your mental health. So I wrote an article for WellBeing magazine about just that, and during my research I learned some really interesting things about the emerging field of bibliotherapy. (more…)

Mental illness in literature: Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

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At age 18, Susanna Kaysen was sent to McLean psychiatric hospital in Massachusetts, “for a rest”. From her memory, she was admitted after only a brief, surface level discussion with a doctor, no longer than 20 minutes. Her paperwork says it was closer to two hours. In any case, it’s difficult to imagine these days someone being institutionalised so hastily. But it was 1967, a very different time for psychiatric care, particularly for young women.

At the time, Susanna was wading through a life thickened and dulled by depression. “Emptiness and boredom: what an understatement,” she wrote. “What I felt was complete desolation. Desolation, despair, and depression.” At the hospital, she was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, and she stayed in their care for two years. (more…)

Review: How to be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman

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How to be a Good Wife is a cold, harrowing psychological thriller that wades through the murky waters of marriage, trauma and madness. Set in a remote, unnamed Scandinavian village, this is British writer Emma Chapman’s debut novel, a suspenseful and cleverly written mystery with parallels to S.J. Watson’s bestselling Before I Go to Sleep. (more…)

Review: In One Person by John Irving

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Brave and beautiful at times, In One Person is a tragicomic story of desire, longing and sexual identity. It both delights in and agonises over sexual differences and gender-bending, with a diverse cast of characters and a conflicted narrator who comes to understand that “we are formed by what we desire.”

This is John Irving’s 13th novel, and in many ways recalls some of his most-loved books such as The Cider House Rules and The World According to Garp. There are familiar themes and motifs: prep school, writing, wrestling, New England, Vienna, missing parents. Both tormented and funny, this is a memorable coming of age story that charts the shifting politics of gender and sexuality over more than half a century as the narrator, William, comes to terms with his own identity. (more…)

Review: Beautiful Fools by R Clifton Spargo

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There’s something seductive about the legacy of F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald that makes them the perfect subjects for fiction. Beautiful and volatile, the novelist and his muse were icons of the 1920s Jazz Age, where everything seemed shimmering and decadent and reckless. But the aftermath of youth hit them hard, and their story quickly became a tragedy. Beautiful Fools is one of three novels released this year imagining the lives of Scott and Zelda, and of the three is the most accomplished. With a masterful sense for the nuances of characters, R Clifton Spargo creates an intimate, startlingly human portrait of two people and the end of their love. (more…)

Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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Seeping with darkness, pulsing with dread and jagged as barbed wire, Gone Girl delves deep into the trenches of a very twisted marriage. A compelling and sharp-edged psychological thriller, Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel grapples with the manipulations, games and lies that go on in relationships, and asks the chilling question: how well can you ever really know another person’s mind? (more…)

Review: Animal Wise by Virginia Morell

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Anyone who has ever loved a pet will tell you without hesitation that animals have thoughts and feelings – but what do we really know about how they think and feel?  In Animal Wise, science journalist Virginia Morell delves into the current pool of knowledge we have about the minds of our fellow creatures, surveying the most recent research on animal intelligence and the scientists who have devoted their lives to finding out what goes on behind those majestic creatures’ eyes.  (more…)

Review: Indiscretion by Charles Dubow

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Indiscretion is a sensuous novel about desire, folly and love in all its permutations. Set against the alluring backdrops of the Hamptons, Manhattan, Rome and Paris, debut novelist Charles Dubow tells the story of the splintering of a seemingly perfect marriage. Though not exactly a literary masterpiece, this is an engaging beach read that blends the dramatic and the familiar, providing a bit of escapist fun.

To dispense with the negative comments up front: as a first novel, Indiscretion has its fair share of flaws. The dialogue often feels like it’s from a bad soap opera, unnatural and laden with eye-rollingly profound statements. The characters motivations are not always believable, and much of the action borders on the clichéd. And yet, if you can put all that aside and allow yourself to just be taken into this world, you’ll find it’s quite an enjoyable one. (more…)

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