Wednesday, 27 August 2008


I just stole this from the lovely Bettye Dugan's blog... I believe she stole it first, so it's more of a re-steal...

Look at the list and bold those we have read.
Italicize those we intend to read.
Underline the books we LOVE

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan - this one is my favourite book of all time
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce

76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo (abriged)

Now, I know this makes me look ridiculously well read, what with there only being 13 on there I've yet to flick through and a startling percentage of them being among my favourites, but hell, that's why one picks carefully the memes one does, right?

It should probably be pointed out, too, that I set myself the challenge of reading the BBC Big Read's Top 100 books a couple of years ago - just ask Tim how many hours I spent grumbling at The Magus, what a load of old bollocks that one is - and a lot of these were on the list.

And, of course, there is the fact that I am ridiculously well read. It comes of being very, very dull and having a mother who force fed me Thomas Hardy at the age of 8. To this day I couldn't tell you what was so obscure about Jude.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Hell on Toast

No sooner do I make the foolish claim that any trip to the cinema is capable of holding my rapt attention and giving me that special movie feeling, I get proved wrong. Tim, Yaz and I went to see Hellboy II this evening and, though I didn't hate it, I certainly didn't love it as much as I wanted to.

I adored the first movie, and the director of this one is the same guy who made Pan's Labyrinth, one of my all-time favourites, so I was convinced it would be an immediate hit. How could it possibly go wrong, combining excellent characters with the powerful imagination of Guillermo del Toro?

But I couldn't shake the feeling that someone had given the man a big pile of money and a checklist of Things That Must Go In This Movie and told him that, as long as he ticked every box, he could do whatever the hell he liked.

Not seeming to be a natural superhero movie director, I don't think del Toro has any vested interest in the fame and fortune of our hero, and that really showed - important pieces of character development were skipped over in single sentences, the humour was lame and cheesy and there were far too few emotional hooks. The Dark Knight this was not.

Instead we were treated to the unbridled imagination of a true visionary, something I would normally have been thrilled to watch - but I didn't go there to watch a fairytale, I went to watch Hellboy.

The creatures del Toro dreamed up were fantastical, weird, wonderful, beautiful, awesome - all the good words. You'd have thought that, having combined a similar sort of imaginary world with the painfully stark tale of a little girl caught in the middle of a war, he would find it child's play to balance the character-driven part of the story with the big visual thrills.

Not so, at least not to me. You know when the sound levels on a programme are all rickety and badly balanced, so you can hear that people are talking, but they're so muffled by the music and effects that you've no clue what they're saying? This movie had the same effect. Hellboy was an aside in his own movie, brushed over for the sake of the glorious menagerie.

It picks up in the second half - especially humour-wise - but by then it was all a bit too late. I wanted to see into Hellboy's soul with glimpses of his love for Liz and his relationships with the other characters, but none of that interested del Toro. Even the fight scenes felt ever so slightly as if he didn't really want to do them. There was a visible contrast between the things his heart was in, and the things his heart was not.

But I will still be waiting excitedly for the next Hellboy, should there be one, as my faith has not been shaken in this franchise. And as for Guillermo del Toro, I will be praying someone hands him just the stack of cash next time, so we can clamber back into his world without that checklist getting in the way.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

A Very Odd Journey

My journey home from work today (which, incidentally, this week is taking place at Hotcourses in Hammersmith) was a rather peculiar one.

I've been a little tired from lots of late nights, partly because the first installment of the book I've been writing is due on Wednesday and - of course - I'm not ready to hand it over. Also thanks to a particularly bad hangover (that Loaf, he forces you to drink wine at gunpoint, you know) and a trip home to see the parentals, and other things besides.

Working at Hotcourses, just to veer off track, is a giggle because it's also the stomping ground of the beauteous Yaz, who has been mostly launching bits of rolled up paper at me. I have also been introduced to the infamous, intriguing Secret Starbucks (often mentioned: here) - a place she and Tim frequent that could barely be situated closer to the absolute centre of town, but is somehow completely hidden from public view and always has free tables. I am one of the cool kids now, with a pass to the secret den. IDV will seethe with jealousy.

So anyway, back to the journey. Because of all this tiredness I decided to have a little nap, with my headphones on. Unfortunately I couldn't relax because a little old lady opposite me kept glancing up at me in what seemed a terribly disapproving manner.

Assuming she was narked by the volume of my music, I thoughtfully turned it down. Repeatedly. Until I couldn't hear it myself and was tutting inwardly at the fuss she was clearly making about nothing.

But when I stood up to leave the train and happened to glance down at said little old lady, I had a bit of a shock - all that time she had actually been doing the most amazing sketch of me on a little piece of paper.

Now I know from paying attention to Lessons With Lorna that artists pick their subjects for the horns, wrinkles and nobbles, but we'll just let that bit go, shall we?

Sunday, 17 August 2008

The needs of the many

"You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain."

Tenuous quote, right sentiment. Sorry for the cryptic post, this won't take long.

Sometimes you have so much respect for people that the only thing you can do is what they need you to do. For now I will be, I believe the phrase goes, 'hiding in plain sight'.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

To learn a thing or two

I got a telling off earlier from Tim for neglecting my blog over the past week, so here I am, chastised and typing despite the ridiculous hour.

I would have shared a few random thoughts with you earlier, only I was busy enjoying the anger and common sense of Henry Rollins, punk icon and thinker, at the O2. I didn't really know an awful lot about him pre-this evening, but I was up for something new, as always, and I can never resist good comedy.

It was so much more than a bit of a laugh, though, and had an impact I wasn't prepared for. Rollins is shockingly well-travelled and well-read, clued up about the political and social climates of half the world's countries and not afraid to speak his mind and, in his words, make it his daily business to "stick it to the man".

He told tales of his travels, interviewing and filming to expose the lot of the less fortunate. He spoke of the killing fields he visited in Vietnam, with bits of tooth and bone still sticking out of the ground, and the clinic he visited in South Africa, where doctors work 16 hour days to keep mothers with HIV alive long enough to bring their children up.

He talked for hours, until my backside was well and truly numb and my mind was dancing with information. I was humbled at my own ignorance and have made a pact with myself to pay more attention to world affairs from now on (any is more than none, right?).

Furthermore, I've been toying with the idea for a while of getting involved in a cause I feel passionate about - my skills might be somewhat limited to stringing together sentences and then checking they make grammatical sense, but who's to say that wouldn't come in handy somewhere, somehow? I was thinking of offering my services to a local political party, but now I'm wondering if there might not be a few worthier causes to dedicate time to.

Life has been treating me well recently - so well that I've been waiting for the punchline. Perhaps it's time to give a little bit back.

Monday, 4 August 2008


I've been all around the bloody houses today - quite literally, at one point, when Google maps had me off traversing a council estate that didn't exist. And then sent me in a big loop in completely the wrong direction until a local chav took pity and turned me back round. All of this out in Cheam, a stupid place that took me almost two hours to commute to, though in total I travelled a paltry 9.7 miles. For shame!

But it was for good purpose, as I spent the morning freelancing at NewsQuest, which, for those who don't know (so, pretty much everyone not working in publishing, then), is the company that owns 300 of the local daily papers in the UK.

I was proofreading my own local paper! When this issue drops through the letterbox I am totally going to point at it and cackle maniacally. I might even do a little dance. I was also proofing news stories for Kingston, Wimbledon and various other local papers, and they even let me do the headlines. Fools, but generous, trusting fools. My favourite kind.

The best story of the day - I had to hide my chuckles from the earnest news team - was of a medal for bravery being awarded to a little old lady for her work during WWII. She protested that it really wasn't much, and the story then revealed that she was knocked over by a cow during her first week and spent a month in hospital with a broken leg.

I also got the giggles when someone called in to report a "serial urinator and defecator" who kept leaving little messages in their garden.

I've been doing a course with the London School of Journalism for a good long while now, what with one thing and another getting in the way (gold star to the person who sits me down long enough to do my next assignment), with the intention of slowly starting to infiltrate the local papers, handing in stories to be published.

Imagine my glee at being given this chance to meet the team, gather a few contacts and make my face known! My tutor will be awfully proud, assuming he remembers my name. And then I can be intrepid and Louis Lane-like, only in a very English manner - I am more likely to investigate wheely bins than wheeler dealers, frankly. Here's to living the dream.

p.s. Today's illustration of Queen Willow was brought to you by Kitty and her evol brain. Mind you, I DO look rather good in a crown, don't you think? Click here to see what spawned it.