Google Translate Does Long Book Titles

Dear Google Translate, you are the best and the worst.

These are unusually long book titles as re-re-re-re-translated by our dearest friend Google – can you guess what the original titles were? Some may be more obvious than others!

The Curious Incident of the Dog Night

I don’t know what this means but a Dog Night sounds pretty wonderful, right?

Worldwide, Do Not See

Is this a wise proverb or a stilted instruction? Who even knows.

Italy Hitchhiker Guide

A handy guide to free travel around…Italy. Actually that sounds handy.

The Agenda of Harijs and Felicia Ceramics

I don’t know what his agenda is, but it sounds shady as hell.

Bite

I can’t stop laughing at how this one came out – it was originally a three word title, and if you can guess it, you can seriously have the crown of Book Title Guessing.

Alice

Short and sweet, would read.

Killing a Crap Sword

I only had to put this through once, and it came back a masterpiece.

So If you have any idea what these beauties are, let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

Dani

 

 

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Movements: Beat Poets

So I recently watched the Chilean movie ‘No!’ which details the plebiscite in 1980, in which the country overthrew a particularly nasty dictatorship. One thing that really inspired me about the film was the way that media played a huge part in the campaign; people literally ‘used their words’, and completely changed the direction of the country.

I love the idea that literature can be so powerful, so I’m starting a little series of posts under the title of ‘Movements’, talking about literary movements that worked to positively affect their society. Today we’re starting with the Beat Poets!

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness,
starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking
for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night

-from ‘Howl’ by Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg was an American poet (among many other things) who graduated from Columbia University in the 1940’s. It was at university that he made friends with Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassidy, and William S Bourroughs. These men would all be leading figures in what would come to be known as the ‘Beat Generation’, or the ‘Beat Movement’.

In part, the movement was a response to the end of World War Two, and a protest against the Vietnam War. Most Beat literature was popularised during the 1950’s, and was concerned with criticising a lot of core cultural aspects of America. Its essence was the questioning of the mainstream, and defying the norms of culture and of literature.

Ginsberg wrote:

Since art is merely and ultimately self-expressive, we conclude that the fullest art, the most individual, uninfluenced, unrepressed, uninhibited expression of art is true expression and the true art.

-Source

Although this was never a huge movement in terms of the number of participators, it was highly influencial, and it has been argued that the hippy movement of the 1960’s found its roots in Beat Poetry.

Many writers involved with this movement were also very interested in meditation, Eastern religion, and hallucinogenic drugs; they were looking to reach a higher consciousness, and were not content to remain within the traditions of their society.

Got up and dressed up
and went out & got laid
Then died and got buried
in a coffin in the grave,
Man—
Yet everything is perfect,
Because it is empty,
Because it is perfect
with emptiness,
Because it’s not even happening.

– from ‘Mexico City Blues’ by Jack Kerouac

Is this movement something you’d heard of before? Do you have any favourite poems from this group? And what other movements would you like to see a post about?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

Dani

Month in Books: January 2016

Last year, I managed to get through 120 books. It was a push, but at the same time, it was a lot of fun! I really got to broaden my book horizons, and I’ve learned a lot. This year, I’ve decided to take things a bit slower. I’m getting into the more serious parts of my degree, and I’ve got myself heavily involved in all sorts of extra-curricular things at university. My target is to read 52 books this year – we’ll see how that goes!

Without further ado, here’s what I picked up in January.

Holiness – J.C. Ryle – 5 stars This is a non-fiction Christian book, originally published in the 1800’s. I read a slightly updated version, so it was very easy to read – which was helpful, because there’s a lot of really juicy theological things to get your teeth into! It took me a while to read, but I really liked it!

The Red House Mystery – A.A. Milne – 4 stars I was so excited when I found out that the creator of Winnie the Pooh also wrote novels! This mystery was charming and intelligent, and I thought the main characters were really very sweet. I enjoyed it!

Seriously…I’m Kidding – Ellen Degeneres – 4 stars A memoir by the famous American talk show host. I can remember laughing at this book – it was light and witty and quite enjoyable. What I can’t remember is exactly what it was about…

So that’s a run-down of the whole three books I read in January. What have you read this year? Have you read any of the books I mentioned?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

Review: The Phantom of the Opera – Gaston Leroux

The Phantom of the Opera – Gaston Leroux – 3 stars 

The Phantom of the Opera

I recently just finished reading ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ by Gaston Leroux. It’s a book I’ve been meaning to pick up for ages, because I’ve been completely enamoured with the musical for years now. It was a really exciting concept: I was envisioning the musical’s story beautifully rendered in magical, dancing prose. In my head, this book was a masterpiece, and I think that’s why I’m a bit disappointed with it.

If you’re not familiar with the story, ‘the phantom’ referred to in the title is the rumoured Opera Ghost abiding in the Paris Opera House. He asks for money, and for Box Five to be left vacant for him every showing. No one has ever seen him, until he falls in love with one of the singers. It’s a big story: dramatic and exciting, and I think it’s crafted with great flair.

It did bother me that I was reading a book so similarly written to Dracula, though. Obviously this in itself is not a bad thing, but I thought this was another class of book, you know? I was expecting poetry, and all I got was a nosy narrator joining up a series of diary entries and letters from participating characters. Again, there’s nothing bad about that; only there wasn’t really anything good about it either. I felt like the structure was a bit limp beside the grandeur of the story.

Also, ‘the phantom’ is so much creepier in the book. It makes me slightly more worried about my Meyer’s Briggs results. (if that makes no sense to you, see this post.)

The plot is – in general – beautifully and romantically creepy: I love the setting of a Parisian opera house, and there is a lot of mystery built up around the story. Kudos to Mr Leroux: it’s an amazing concept.

There’s one scene that stands out to me: when the Persian and Raoul are trapped in Erik’s torture chamber. To me, as a modern reader, it seemed so out of place, and far too James Bond for the story. It felt like an anticlimax, and I can understand why they changed it so much for the stage version. It’s not worth the effort.

Having said all of that, the book’s ending is quite perfect, and I put the book down feeling satisfied, if not blown away.

If you’ve read this too, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

~Dani

Interesting Facts About Writers

Recently, I’ve been reading a few autobiographical books of authors, and it struck me that writers can be quite strange and acutely interesting people. Here’s a little collection of facts about famous writers that I found fascinating.

  • Margaret Atwood once had a boyfriend who sent her a real, blood-sodden cow’s heart pierced by an arrow  for Valentine’s Day. What a romantic.
  • Michael Morpurgo’s grandfather was a poet, some of whose works were set to music by Edward Elgar himself!
  • If you reading this have published a piece of writing and are disappointed with the ten copies you’ve sold, take heart – you’re doing better than the Brontes’ first did, my friend! In 1846, the Bronte sisters collaborated and published a book of poetry…it sold two copies.

Virginia Woolf beard hoax

 

  • The above photograph details what is known as the ‘Dreadnought hoax‘. Basically, a group of Bloomsbury writers and artists including, Virginia Woolf, dressed up and donned fake beards to trick the crew of the HMS Dreadnought into thinking they were Abyssinian princes. They were given a forty minute tour of the ship.
  • As a schoolboy, Roald Dahl worked as a taste-tester for Cadbury’s chocolate.
  • Victor Hugo’s cure for writer’s block was…nudity. He’d get his servants to remove his clothes, and instruct them not to return them until he’d met his deadline.
  • John Steinbeck’s first manuscript for Of Mice and Men was eaten by his puppy. He later wrote telling his editor: “I was pretty mad, but the poor little fellow may have been acting critically.”
  • Charles Dickens always carried a compass with him: he liked to sleep facing the north. He thought it would improve his writing.

I hope you enjoyed this little collection of trivia – let me know your favourite literary facts!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

~Dani

What is Literature?

So as some of you may know, I’ve recently started university! I’m studying literature (although I’ve only had one lecture so far!) and it’s really been making me think about what literature means to me. How can we define something so abstract? I wanted to share what I came up with, but I also wanted to pose the question to you: What does literature mean to you?

 

Literature is not so much the end product as the process. It’s not the publication or the type-set, it’s not the pretty cover art, and it’s not the fame or critical acclaim. Literature is words.

Literature is an art; it’s the art of expression, of education. It is entertainment and comfort, and it is discomfort and challenging. It is the gift of escape and the bestowing of empathy. It is a broadening and deepening of perception, and the addition of dimension.

Literature is sharing. It is a relationship between the word and reader that inevitably ends in change.

It is a question and an answer; a journey and a destination.

It is a cry to be heard and the promise that we will be.

Literature is revolutionary; a time bomb and a warning and a blessing. It is the wisdom and folly of times past and the prophecy of more. Literature is human and raw and honest.

It is marks on page, but they are marks that come from the soul.

What is literature? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

~Dani

Invictus

For those of you who don’t know, I spent the last two weeks in South Africa! It was an amazing experience, and a big part of this was learning about some of the history of the country. We visited the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, and one thing that really stood out to me was a quote from the William Ernest Henley poem that Nelson Mandela read during his jail time.

It’s a testament to the power of language; words strengthen the spirit. Here’s an excerpt of the famous poem:

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Can I Change the World?

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

-Anne Frank

We live in an imperfect world. That’s not really debatable. We can argue over the whys and wherefores another time, but we all look around and know that many things are just not right.

It stands to reason, then, that change is not only necessary but inevitable; humans don’t always make the best decisions, but there’s always someone who burns with justice, and who will stand up and tackle serious and – if we’re honest – intimidating issues.

I don’t know about you, but for me great people like William Wilberforce and Martin Luther King Jr spring to mind when the topic of changing the world crops up. What I love about this Anne Frank quote is that she not only assumes that everyone wants to change the world, but that everyone can.

 I’m going to go ahead and be honest here: I’m bad at public speaking. Big groups of people make me nervous. I’m not great at arguing or debating, I have a quiet voice, and I can barely spell ‘committal’, let alone put it into action. I’m a reader. I like writing, and watching movies, and chats over hot chocolate. I’m not exactly cut out to be a ‘world-changer’.

Cue some wise words from Persian poet Rumi:

Raise your words, not your voice. It is the rain that grows the flowers, and not the thunder.

Words are POWERFUL. Non-fiction books have played a huge part in sharing knowledge and combating ignorance.

My real passion, though, lies in fiction, and I’m a firm believer that novels can have just as much impact on society as purely informative books. 

I could list so many books that are comments on society: ‘Les Miserables’ by Victor Hugo, ‘Oliver Twist’ by Charles Dickens, and ‘Trash’ by Andy Mulligan to name but a few, and don’t get me started on the Dystopians! Literature is practically defined by its power to challenge the way we think and view things.

It’s not just blatant social comments that can be challenging; books like ‘I am the Messenger’ by Markus Zusak and ‘Divergent’ by Veronica Roth offer ethical messages that provoke readers to double check what they stand for and strive for in the realms of personality traits and how they relate to other people.

Writers like V.E. Schwab (Vicious) and Ted Dekker (Showdown, Burn) force us to look carefully at our stances on right and wrong, and inspire us to keep fighting.

All of this is incredibly inspiring (and, I would argue, essential), but where do books like ‘The Rosie Project’ (Graeme Simsion) fit in? How does a sweet, humourous and fun piece of literature in any way contribute to society?

Did you know happiness is really important? “A joyful heart is good medicine”, as Proverbs 17:22 will tell you. As a writer, and in ‘real life’ as well, I can tell you that there is nothing I find more up-lifting than to make someone else smile, especially if they’re going through a hard time. This summer I’m going to be heading to South Africa, where I’ll be partaking in charity work among people affected by AIDs, and I’m being completely honest when I say that if I can make one orphaned kid smile, the entire trip will be worth it.

As a famous (fictional) author once said:

Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. 

(That was John Green as Peter van Houten, by the way)

So no, I don’t think a reader/writer like me is ever going to impact every single individual on this planet, but I don’t think that was ever expected. I genuinely believe that giving a pep talk, buying someone hard on cash coffee, and even just being with someone who’s struggling changes their worlds, and the individuals matter so much.

Part of being human means we are part of what is – for lack of better words – a team. Our stories interlock and twist and you don’t know how that fiver you put in the charity jar could make a difference for someone. You don’t know how that sentence you wrote, or that book you recommended could impact someone’s perspective of life.

After all, the definition of change is this: “to make the form, naturecontent, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone.” Personally, I endeavour to be one of those people who don’t leave injustices alone. Yeah, that homeless guy deserves a sandwich today. Yes, that girl who sits alone should be offered company. Yes, I should treasure the people in my life because we’re all temporary and fleeting and brimming with the potential to be meaningful and live meaningfully, and I don’t want to just grow that in myself but in others.

I want to be part of a sharing world; a world that is communicative and connected, and I’d say literature is a fantastic place to start.

So thank you Anne Frank and Rumi: I’m going to add my raindrops to the river, and I’m going to start now. Whose little infinity can you impact today?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani