The Art of Togetherness

So, I recently took up nail art as part of my fundraising efforts (if you’re not sure what I’m talking about, you could read this post). Nail art is pretty much my new favourite thing though. I love the intricacy of it, and the way it makes your fingernails look iced – almost good enough to eat.

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An early attempt at something vaguely hipster-y

And the reason this slightly random topic is getting a blog post is this: every single nail I’ve ever painted – ever – is kind of messed up. I make mistakes all the time – I swear, it is impossible to make straight lines on that kind of scale! But most people have ten finger nails. The smudge on the little finger, or the chip at the base of the thumb aren’t the main focus; it’s the total, the summation of the ten tiny paintings, together. The art is not in one single nail, because I don’t think any of them could stand up to that kind of scrutiny. The art is in the togetherness.

[You can always trust an English Lit student to run with the weirdest metaphors – I’m not even sorry.]

This whole thing got me thinking about community – whether that’s family, housemates, colleagues, church or ‘squad’. I think every time, there’s something really beautiful about togetherness. We really really weren’t made to be alone.

There are an absolute tonne of books that deal with community, but today I wanted to point out some of my favourites.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis 

This applies to all of the books, but my particular favourite scene is in The Horse and His Boy, where we get a glimpse of a peace-time Narnian community. I love the way that everyone knows everybody, and there’s a real sense of inclusion and all round ‘getting along’.

The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare

Is this not everyone’s favourite, though? I am so in love with the Clave community: the way that although there are differences and personality clashes, there’s this fierce loyalty among the shadowhunters.

The Bible

Maybe slightly different to the other books on this list, but for real! The Bible is full of community – even in the Trinity (the doctrine of one God, three persons), there’s a real model of harmony and putting other people first. In the early church, we see the new Christians selling their belongings to provide for less well-off members of their community. (Acts 4:34)

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein

I think this is maybe an obvious pick – there’s such a heavy  emphasis in this series on friendship, and not going it alone. My favourite example of this is Frodo taking the ring to Mount Doom: his friend Sam his there with him until the end. There is such intense loyalty and selflessness in this story – gah. It’s great.

The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez

This pick is maybe a little more obscure than the others, but I’d highly recommend it! I wrote a review here, if you’re interested. My favourite thing about the community in this book is the glaring differences in upbringing, culture and circumstance of each of the women. They each have their own stories, but they have a web of support as a group of friends.

Is this really cheesy? I find a lot of books (especially post-Romantic period?) have this really focus on individuality, and being strong enough to defeat the odds in your own strength. To my mind, that’s neither practical nor practicable – I think a need for community is not a weakness; but a strength!

“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”

-Howard Zinn

I want to hear your thoughts! What are your favourite books about community?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

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Clockwork Princess and Poetry #4

A while ago, I started a series of posts that explored Clockwork Princess (the third book in Cassandra Clare’s Young Adult urban fantasy trilogy ‘The Infernal Devices’), picking out all of the wonderful poetry references, and pointing you in the direction of their sources. I’m sure there’s a much simpler and quicker way to do this, but I’ve been enjoying myself, and I hope you do too!

That said, here is the fourth instalment of ‘Clockwork Princess and Poetry’:

Confessions, Book IV – Saint Augustine This isn’t a poem, but it was so close to the novel, and so beautifully crafted, that I couldn’t leave it out.

For I wondered that others, subject to death, did live, since he whom I loved, as if he should never die, was dead; and I wondered yet more that myself, who was to him a second self, could live, he being dead.

Catullus 101 – Gaius Valerius Catullus This is a beautiful Latin elegiac poem, written for the poet’s dead brother. It’s absolutely heart-wrenching; it’s only short, so I advise you to go and read the whole thing.

atque in pepetuum, frater, ave atque vale

(And forever, brother, hail and fairwell)

The Old Astronomer – Sarah Williams This line is one of my favourites in all of literature, ever:

Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;

I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.

Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady – Alexander Pope I’m not the biggest Pope fan, but I do like some of the stuff in this poem.

Poets themselves must fall, like those they sung,

Deaf the prais’d ear, and mute the tuneful tongue.

No Worse, There is None – Gerard Manley Hopkins This little project has been my first introduction to Hopkins, and I’m really liking his work! This sonnet is sad, but powerful.

Oh, the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall

Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap

And that’s all for today – let me know what you thought of these poems!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

~Dani

Book Characters I’m Secretly in Love With

Hello lovely bloggers! It’s been a while – but I promise there are very valid, work-and-Chile related reasons for my absence. I hope everyone is doing well and I’m looking forward to catching up with everyone’s blogs! (Oh – and happy Easter!)

I wanted to kick off my return with a little something I think everyone – or at least, everyone who reads – can relate to: you know those literary characters that you aren’t exactly in love with…but if they walked out of those pages and proposed, you would totally say yes. Here’s my list – but please let me know I’m not alone! Who’d be on yours?

  1. Edmund Pevensie of The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis)

I understand that this may seem strange – betraying your family for turkish delight is never really okay. In Edmund’s defense, he really grows up after ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’, and does end up quite a great human. Everyone loves a redemption story!

     2. Howl ‘Pendragon’ of Howl’s Moving Castle (Diana Wynne Jones)

I’ve just binge-read this trilogy, and I am a little bit obsessed. Howl is obviously very showy and spontaneous, but hey – never a dull moment!

    3. Will Herondale of The Infernal Devices (Cassandra Clare)

If you’ve read this trilogy, you’ll understand. If everyone could just be 19th-century gentlemen, that’d be great.

    4. Charles Bingley of Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)

I think I’ve said this before here, but I’m not a huge Darcy fan. I just think Bingley is super sweet, constant, and, overall, the drama-free option.

    5. Todd Hewitt of The Knife of Never Letting Go (Patrick Ness)

While his spelling’s not great, his heart is…? Sorry, that’s a bit too cheesy, even for me. Todd does a lot of growing through this trilogy too (by the way – if you’ve not read the Chaos Walking books, what are you doing? Go!) and the thoughtful, ethical person he grows up to be is…well, it’s cool.

So that’s my top five! Do you agree with any of mine, or does your list look completely different?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

Clockwork Princess and Poetry #3

Here’s the third part of my series of posts outlining all the poetry mentioned and quoted in Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Princess. Onwards!

The Unquiet Grave Again, I couldn’t find the exact variation that Bridget sings, but this one’s close! I’m actually really enjoying reading the full versions of Bridget’s songs – they’re fantastic stories, and really accessible reading.

I’ll do as much for my true love

As any young man may;

I’ll sit and mourn all at her grave

For a twelvemonth and a day.

If the Past Year Were Offered Me Again – Augusta Lady Gregory This one’s nice and short! A really pretty love poem.

Ah! Could I bear those happy hours to miss

When love began, unthought of and unspoke

Riddles Wisely Expounded This is another of Bridget’s songs, and it belongs to a story where a knight tests his admirer’s wit. There are many variations, but here’s the one from the book:

“Oh, what is brighter than the light?

What is darker than the night?

What is keener than an axe?

What is softer than melting wax?

Truth is brighter than the light,

Falsehood darker than the night.

Revenge is keener than an axe,

And love is softer than melting wax.

Tamerlane – Edgar Allan Poe This one’s an epic poem, which means it’s a bit long. Lovely, though!

I have no words – alas! – to tell

The loveliness of loving well!

Barbara Allen Here’s another ballad that isn’t exactly the same as the one quoted in the novel, but bears some similarity.

O mother, mother, make my bed

O make it saft and narrow:

My love has died for me today,

I’ll die for him tomorrow.

And that’s all for today!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

Clockwork Princess and Poetry #2

Here’s the second instalment of this little series: I’m going through Cassandra Clare’s ‘Clockwork Princess’ and picking out all the lovely poetry.

Great Expectations – Charles Dickens I’m fully aware that this isn’t a poem, but I just couldn’t miss out this line!

“Estella, to the last hour of my life, you cannot choose but remain part of my character, part of the little good in me, part of the evil.”

Troilus and Cressida – William Shakespeare Again, not a poem, but a kind of poetry nonetheless.

For to be wise and love

Exceeds man’s might.

Laus Veneris – Algernon Charles Swinburne This is a very long and very creepy poem.

For til the thunder in the trumpet be,

Soul may divide from body, but not we

One from another; I hold thee with my hand,

I let mine eyes have all their will of thee

Paradise Lost – John Milton This poem crops up so much throughout the books! It’s a phenomenally lengthy poetic retelling of the creation and the fall, and I really enjoy reading it in small doses.

Abashed the Devil stood,

And felt how awful goodness is.

In Memoriam A.H.H. – Lord Alfred Tennyson This poem has already been quoted, but I like it a lot! Here’s another excerpt:

Let Love clasp Grief lest both be drown’d,

Let darkness keep her raven gloss:

Ah, sweeter to be drunk with loss,

To dance with death, to beat the ground.

And that’s all for this post! What do you think of Cassandra Clare’s taste in poetry? Is this the sort of thing you would normally read?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

Clockwork Princess and Poetry #1

If you’ve been around for a while, you may remember that time I trawled through Clockwork Angel (Cassandra Clare) and collected all the poetry into a post…or five. It took a while, but it was fun! Or, at least, I thought it was fun. So we’re doing it again! I know that Clockwork Prince would be the next logical choice, but I can’t find it, so we’re moving on.

In Memoriam A.H.H. – Alfred Lord Tennyson I love this poem! Cassandra quotes so much Tennyson, and I honestly can’t blame her. This poem is really long, but lovely.

We have but faith: we cannot know;
For knowledge is of things we see
And yet we trust it comes from thee,
A beam in darkness: let it grow.

British Folk Rhyme This is a cute little traditional poem! I like how it sounds when you read it out loud.

Marry on Monday for health,

Tuesday for wealth,

Wednesday the best day of all,

Thursday for crosses,

Friday for losses, and

Saturday for no luck at all.

The Conqueror Worm – Edgar Allan Poe I think this is a great poem! It’s dark and weird and creepy, but then again it is Poe.

Sit in a theatre, to see
   A play of hopes and fears,
While the orchestra breathes fitfully   
   The music of the spheres.
Carrion Comfort – Gerard Manley Hopkins I find this poem so unsettling, but it’s a really interesting one. Worth a read!
Not, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist — slack they may be — these last strands of man
In me ór, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.
The Kitchie Boy This is a very old, traditional ballad. I couldn’t find the exact version that Bridget sings in the book; there are a lot of variations out there! This one is very similar, though, and it’s a lovely story!
She’s far awa frae me, lady
She’s far awa frae me
That has my heart a-keeping fast,
And my love still she’ll be.
And that’s all for now! Which poem is your favourite?
Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!
~Dani

City of Ashes and Poetry

I’ve written a lot of posts about Cassandra Clare’s taste in poetry before, but it’s been a while! Today I’m going through the second book in her ‘The Mortal Instruments’ series – City of Ashes – and outlining all the wonderful poetry she uses. Enjoy!

This Bitter Language – Elka Cloke This is a beautiful poem, and belongs to a collection of the same title.

There are languages
of which you are the blueprints
and as we speak them
the city rises.

Night of Hell (from A Season in Hell) – Arthur Rimbaud I don’t think this is technically a poem, but it does read a lot like poetry. It’s a beautifully written piece, but very dark and disturbing.

Ah! To return to life! To stare at our deformities. And this poison, this eternally accursed embrace! My weakness, and the world’s cruelty! My God, have pity, hide me, I can’t control myself at all! – I am hidden, and I am not.

Inferno – Dante I think Clare quotes this poem a lot, and no wonder! It’s so fitting to the series.

Before me things created were none, save things

eternal, and eternal I endure.

All hope abandon, ye who enter here.

Dies Irae – Abraham Coles This is one of those religious poems that looks long, but is actually fairly quick to read and understand if you have at least a basic understanding of the Bible.

Day of tears and late repentance,
Man shall rise to hear his sentence:
Him, the child of guilt and error,
Spare, Lord, in that hour of terror!

And that’s all the poetry quoted in City of Ashes! Which one’s your favourite?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

Books About: Vampires

I feel like vampires are a recurring theme in literature, and have I ever talked about them? Nope. I decided it was time to remedy that, and present to you some of my favourite books that involve vampires.

Vampires have been present in folklore internationally, although not always under the same name. They’re usually defined as undead people who thrive upon the blood of the living. It’s pretty grim, really.

There’s been a lot of debate as to where the word ‘vampire’ actually came from, and I actually just read a really interesting essay here! Some people look to the Slavonic synonym ‘upyr’, which is a derivative of the word for witch. Interesting, right? The perception of this creature has changed so much over time, to the point that we no longer really fear it but heavily romanticise it (okay, Twilight – that was your shout-out.)

I haven’t read a great deal about these creatures, but I really really liked the ones I’ve picked to talk about today, so I hope you enjoy!

1. Dracula – Bram Stoker Duh. The vampire story to end all vampire stories – need I say more? I love the kind of quaint British characters, and the creepy trips to Romania. Vampires make awesome villains!

2. The Infernal Devices – Cassandra Clare This is a little YA urban paranormal trilogy, so while vampires aren’t really the main focus, they do play a vital part in the plot. In these books, vampirism is a demonic illness, which I think is the major difference between them and a more traditional blood-sucker. Also – these vampires aren’t automatically ‘bad guys’, just saying.

3. I Am Legend – Richard Matheson This is a great one! Here there’s not just one vampire, or even a clan, but a whole freaking apocalypse of them. The story follows the last remaining human, holding his own against the sun-fearing monsters. What’s different about this take on the vampire is that it’s very scientific – there’s no real para-normality; the whole thing is more like a virus. Again, these guys are pretty villainous.

4. The Bloody Chamber – Angela Carter This is actually a collection of short stories that are re-tellings of fairy tales and folkloric beasts (vampires included). The female vampire in ‘The Lady of the House of Love’ has a papery beauty and calculated seductiveness, but what makes her different to the other vampiric interpretations mentioned above is her dependence. She relies not only on her maid, but on the people she feeds upon, and this gives her a kind of twisted innocence.

What other great books about vampires can you recommend? Have you read any of the ones I mentioned?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

Clockwork Angel and Poetry: Part 4

We’re getting through it! Here’s part 4 of my compilation of poetry quoted in Clockwork Angel.

Laus Veneris by Algernon Charles Swinburne – This is another long poem, but if you’re into romantic, beautifully-written verse, you should probably have a read.

I dare not always touch her, lest the kiss

Leave my lips charred. Yea, Lord, a little bliss,

Brief bitter bliss, one hath for a great sin;

Nathless thou knowest how sweet a thing it is.

Maxims by Francois La Rochefoucauld – Apart from being the proprietor of a fantastic name, Francois is also the writer of a book of philosophical maxims. I really like this one!

Absence diminishes small loves and increases great ones, as the wind blows out the candle and fans the bonfire.

The River’s Tale by Rudyard Kipling – I’m confused as to how I’ve managed to write over 100 posts about literature and NOT mention this man yet. Doesn’t this little excerpt make you want to read more?

Twenty bridges from Tower to Kew

Wanted to know what the River knew,

For they were young and the Thames was old,

And this is the tale that the River told

The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde – Wilde was imprisoned in Reading Gaol for ‘homosexual offenses’. It’s thought that this poem was written during his exile.

Like two doomed ships that pass in storm
We had crossed each other’s way:
But we made no sign, we said no word,
We had no word to say

Hamlet by William Shakespeare – Believe it or not, there is more to this play than an over-quoted line spoken at a skull. Shocking, I know.

There are more things in heaven and earth…

Than are dreamt of in our philosophy.

Part 4 is done! As always, I love to hear what you think of the poems.

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

~Dani

Clockwork Angel and Poetry: Part 3

For those of you who haven’t read the previous posts, I’m going through Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare and picking out all of the beautiful poems mentioned, for you to read at your leisure.

Without further ado, I present to you: Clockwork Angel and Poetry, Part 3!

The Rubaiayat of Omar Khayyam, translated by Edward FitzGerald – This book is a collection of poems that were originally written in Persian. I really really like this quote:

But helpless Pieces of the Game He plays

Upon this chequer-board of Nights and Days

Hither and thither moves, and checks and slays.

Dolores by Algernon Charles Swinburne – This is another very long poem, but I think the rhyming couplets make it reasonably easy on the brain. I love that this extract almost exactly describes Camille!

Fruits fail and love dies and time ranges;

Thou art fed with perpetual breath,

And alive after infinite change,

And fresh from the kisses of death;

Of langours rekindled and rallied,

Of barren delights and unclean,

Things monstrous and fruitless, a pallid

And poisonous queen.

Maud by Alfred Lord Tennyson – I’ve read so much Tennyson thanks to this little project! It’s great though.

May make my heart as a millstone, set my face

as a flint, Cheat and be cheated, and die: who knows?

we are ashes and dust.

La Belle Dame Sans Merci by John Keats – Title translation: The Beautiful Woman Without Mercy. I really love this narrative poem – I definitely recommend you check it out!

I met a lady in the meads,

Full beautiful – a faery’s child,

Her hair was long, her foot was light,

And her eyes were wild.

King Henry VIII by William Shakespeare – You’ve got to love Shakespeare! I’ve not actually read this play yet, but I love the quote.

We all are men,

In our own natures frail, and capable

Of our flesh; few are angels

And we’re done with Part 3! I’d love to hear what you thought of the poems mentioned, and whether there was anything you hadn’t read before in the list.

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani