Sunday, March 30, 2008

"All children mythologize their birth".

Go get this book now. As in, right now. Go out, to your nearest bookstore. Walk there if you have to. Get an advance on your allowance, if you must. Steal from your brother's wallet, if necessary.
You simply have to own a copy and read it.
It's been a long time since I last enjoyed a book so much. I sat down with it for 5 hours; during that time forgetting to eat, drink, answer phone calls, perform regular bodily functions and hold normal conversation. I barely looked up. If the roof had fallen in at the time, I'd have barely noticed. My only mission in life was to go to the next page, the next page, the next page, etc..

I am not even going to tell you what it's about.

The thirteenth tale...

Well, okaaaay I will. The story revolves around the prim and proper biographer Margaret Lea, who owns and runs a bookstore with her father. She receives a most mysterious letter from Vida Winter, allegedly the greatest living English novelist of the age (the time period of the story is never actually mentioned, but if I had to guess I'd say it was probably around the 1930s).

The aging Miss Winter wants Margaret Lea, of all people, to write and publish her biography, through many interviews and research processes at Vida Winter's home in the Yorkshire moors.
Miss Winter, being a masterclass storyteller and also, therefore, a phenomenal liar, is an exceedingly mysterious woman. Nothing is known of her birth or early life. Within a 20 year span she gives 20 very different, very wild and very imaginative accounts of her birth and life (all obviously not true). But she is prepared to divulge the entire truth to Margaret Lea, for some sinister reason.
And so begins Vida Winter's amazing tale, of her family, and her life, and her darkest secrets, while Margaret also learns to face her own painful past. The "Thirteenth Tale", so called because Vida Winter once had a book of short stories published under that title, but mysteriously the book only contained twelve stories, the pages of the thirteenth one being completely blank. I suppose you could assume that this elusive 13th tale is the chilling, disturbing and tragic narrative of Vida's own childhood. To call this book "freaky" would be both inappropriate and an understatement. It has the elements of ghosts, adultery, incest, obsession, disease, madness, the concept of twins having their souls torn apart and placed in two bodies, insanity, life after death, secrets, the fragility of family, the love of strangers, murder, arson, rape, religion. All these themes and concepts whirling about and tying each other up in knots and giving you rather unpleasant sensations of being watched (or maybe it was just me).And if you find it all too confusing or boring, even; take my word for it. This is one book you won't be putting down until you've devoured every word of every page.
Diane Setterfield is my new hero.

And one more thing; pay attention to the way Vida Winter refers to herself in the stories. The pronouns she uses; I, you, we, and so on.
That is all.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Poem that made me Cry

The Little Boy

Once a little boy went to school.

He was quite a little boy

And it was quite a big school.

But when the little boy

Found that he could go to his room

By walking right in from the door outside

He was happy;

And the school did not seem

Quite so big anymore.

One morning

When the little boy had been in school awhile,

The teacher said:"Today we are going to make a picture."

"Good!" thought the little boy.

He liked to make all kinds;

Lions and tigers,

Chickens and cows,

Trains and boats;

And he took out his box of crayons

And began to draw.

But the teacher said,


"It is not time to begin!"

And she waited until everyone looked ready.

"Now," said the teacher,

"We are going to make flowers."

"Good!" thought the little boy,

He started to make beautiful ones

With his pink and orange and blue crayons.

But the teacher said "Wait!"

"And I will show you how."

She drew a flower on the blackboard.

It was red, with a green stem.

"There," said the teacher,

"Now you may begin."

The little boy looked at his teacher's flower

Then he looked at his own flower.

He liked his flower better than the teacher's

But he did not say this.

He just turned his paper over,

And made a flower like the teacher's.

It was red, with a green stem.

On another day

When the little boy had opened

The door from the outside all by himself,

The teacher said:

"Today we are going to make something with clay."

"Good!" thought the little boy;

He liked clay.

He could make all kinds of things with clay:

Snakes and snowmen,

Elephants and mice,

Cars and trucks

And he began to pull and pinch his ball of clay.

But the teacher said, "Wait!"

"It is not time to begin!"

And she waited until everyone looked ready.

"Now," said the teacher,"We are going to make a dish."

"Good!" thought the little boy,

He liked to make dishes.

And he began to make some

They were all shapes and sizes.

But the teacher said "Wait!"

"And I will show you how."

And she showed everyone how to make

One deep dish.

"There," said the teacher,"Now you may begin."

The little boy looked at the teacher's dish;

Then he looked at his own.

He liked his better than the teacher's

But he did not say this.

He just rolled his clay into a big ball again

And made a dish like the teacher's.

It was a deep dish.

And pretty soon

The little boy learned to wait,

And to watch

And to make things just like the teacher.

And pretty soon

He didn't make things of his own anymore.

Then it happened

That the little boy and his family

Moved to another house,

In another city,

And the little boy

Had to go to another school.

This school was even bigger

Than the other one.

And there was no door from the outside

Into his room.

He had to go up some big steps

And walk down a long hall

To get to his room.

And the very first day

He was there,

The teacher said:"Today we are going to make a picture."

"Good!" thought the little boy.

And he waited for the teacher

To tell what to do.

But the teacher didn't say anything.

She just walked around the room.

When she came to the little boy

She asked,

"Don't you want to make a picture?"

"Yes," said the lttle boy.

"What are we going to make?"

"I don't know until you make it," said the teacher.

"How shall I make it?" asked the little boy.

"Why, anyway you like," said the teacher.

"And any color?" asked the little boy.

"Any color," said the teacher.

"If everyone made the same picture,

And used the same colors,

How would I know who made what,

And which was which?"

"I don't know," said the little boy.

And he began to make flower.

It was red, with a green stem.

~Helen E. Buckley

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Very Premium Book and Its Equally Premium Movie

So. After weeks with no word from my fellow freakybloggers, and a push from the International Mastermind, my boss who gives me the highest payment by reading what I've written and commenting on them, I have decided to be selfish and post yet again. In truth I miss freakyblogging, and reading what you guys are reading, and I hope the rest of you come back soon!

Until then I'll just draw your attention to a book I've wanted to read ever since it came out, but only got the chance to read very recently.

Everything is Illuminated

Everything Is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer, isn't a freakybook on the whole, but its many disparate and freaky bits and pieces create a tale that proves sometimes just regular everyday life can be freakier, stranger and more miraculous that any freaky product of the imagination. The book follows three points of view, across three different time periods; that of Jonathan, the young American author come to Ukraine to find his grandfather's wartime saviour(a woman named Augustine)while writing a rather magical account of the village and people of Trachimbrod ranging from the early 19th century to World War Two; that of the young Ukrainian translator and guide who describes and narrates the search for Augustine using his hilarious and endearing mangled version of English, and all these being attached to letters Alex sends to Jonathan.
It sounds a bit confusing but once the book is in your hands it really isn't all that daunting, even being rather short for a novel with such an epic scope. The problem with Everything Is Illuminated, as one critic so accurately points out, is that its first chapters are so hard to read, mainly because " burst out laughing every few sentences, lose your place, get tempted to call your friends and read out long sections of the prose, and then have to start all over again".
The novel excels at being a comedy; in fact the last time a book made me literally laugh out loud was Tom Holt's Earth, Water,Fire and Custard, but also is so incredibly touching, poignant and utterly miserable, only to make you bust a gut laughing again by the next page.
Most of the humour comes from a dog named Sammy Davis Junior Junior, a "blind" grandfather who apparently has no problem driving a car or reading road signs, and my personal favourite, Alex's mangled English,which surely must be some genius form of sentence construction. The dialogue is also sharp, witty, and almost insanely funny;

Jonathan: I'm a vegetarian.
Alex: You're a what?
Jonathan: I don't eat meat.
Alex: How can you not eat meat?
Jonathan: I just don't.
Alex: [to Grandfather, in Russian] He says he does not eat meat.
Grandfather: [to Alex, in Russian] Yes you do.
Alex: [to Jonathan, in English]Yes you do.
Jonathan: No meat.
Alex: Steak?
Jonathan: No...
Alex: Chickens!
Jonathan: No...
Alex: And what about the sausage?
Jonathan: Oh god, not the sausage,no.
Alex: [to Grandfather, in Russian] He says he does not eat any meat.
Grandfather: [to Alex, in Russian] Not even sausage?
Alex: [to Grandfather, in Russian] I know!
Grandfather: [to Alex, in Russian] What is wrong with him?
Alex: What is wrong with you?

In any case, Bloody Awful Poetry highly recommends. There is also a movie adaptation of the book,starring Elijah Wood and directed by Liev Schreiber, which, for once, I am very pleased to say, is almost as good as the book itself. This is for the simple reason that it does not stay with the book word by word, neither does it stray too far from canon, but it simply becomes its won wonderful story while staying true to the essence of the novel. For a little taste of it you can have a look at the trailer. It makes an equally premium movie, with a supremely premium soundtrack,which is really just the icing on a very premium cake, as Alex Perchov would say.

You can buy the book here or purchase the DVD here.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Downfall of the Freakish Empire!

Hello? Is anyone out there? I gotta say, this is really becoming sad. Have you all just completely FORGOTTEN this blog? Or are you just being lazy? I for one think that I am going to have to send out alert messages, if no one has posted in... *checks calendar* ...four days.

So, as my extreme and agonizing disappointment continues, I have one last thing to say. Not much really.