Book Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray

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I instantly warmed to the plush-lipped youth depicted in the pre Sibyl Vain era of Dorian’s life. His inability to see himself through the eyes of others alluded to a boyish charm that sparked the inevitable attraction of others; which, tragically so, was the catalyst for his demise.

Shown the merit of his own reflection through the adoration and skill of painter Basil Hallward, Dorian allows himself to be nurtured by a sociopathic spectator, Lord Henry Wooton, embracing a new-found confidence in owning the pleasures of life and art. This soon transpires in to a vulgar obsession to maintain his place on the pedestal upon which others put him.

Hastily developing a hedonistic mind-set that would over shadow his very exisitence, he begins to value beauty over substance. After selling his soul for enternal youth, the consequences of such an act began to manisfest inside Basil’s painting.

Though he’d long but traded his innocence for lust and luxury, his relations with Sibyl Vain was a cornerstone, or more a tombstone, for my opinion on Dorian. Subconciously wishing to make her his trophy wife, as he had learned was the way of life from Lord Henry, he convinces himself he is in love, that he has fallen and that romance triumphs all. This whirlwind, of course, was concluded by the first exhibition of his inability to separate his reality from that which was expected of him.

Lord Henry Wotton’s agressive disdain for womankind was a prevelant theme throughout:

“My dear boy, no woman is a genius. Women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly. Women represent the triumph of matter over mind, just as men represent the triumph of mind over morals.” 

Influenced by such company, it is no wonder he thought Sibyl had something to prove, that her talents would and must win over his male counterparts. The embarassment he felt when she had not lived up to Lord Henry and Basil Hallward’s expectations ironically relfected the despair he was yet to experience when his very core did not live up to its relection.

“You used to stir my imagination, now you don’t even stir my curiosity…I loved you because you were marvellous, because you had genius and intellect, you realised the dreams of great poets and gave substance to the shadows of art…you have spoiled the romance of my life…without your art you are nothing…what are you now? A third rate actress with a pretty face.” -Dorian Gray

 

The conception of his brief affair with Sibyl, to me, symoblised Dorian flirting with the idea of rebelling against corruption. Marred by misrepresenting beauty for art, it became the final nail in the coffin for his humanity.

From then on, Wilde’s whimsical prose tells the tale of a man progressing through life enthralled in a state of selfish luxury. Through beautifully constructed dialogue, the hands of its moral compass jolt frantically in every direction as the desires of three, very different men play out, and Dorian glides in and out of his double life outwardly unscathed by his sins.

The book subtly paid homage to Wilde’s sexuality, most clearly to me through Basil Hallward’s infactuation with his muse. Oscar Wilde is quoted to have said:

“Basil Hayward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps.” – Oscar Wilde

I find it difficult, even after finishing the book, to judge what he could of meant by this in likening himself to these three contrasting characters.

Basil is a man morally reserved to his art, seldom weidling to human impulse. Lord Henry, a vindicitve purist, objectifys Dorian, moulding him into a social experiment for his own ammusement. Dorian becomes unashamedly obessed with pleasure of all forms – though evil as he may become, he is no-longer worried about being socially accepted.

Could it be that, in less dramatic terms, the three characters mirrored, in stages, the shift of acceptance that Wilde felt, and predicted to feel about embracing his own percieved ‘vice’.

To be Dorian is to be several things at once; on the outside he is beautiful and pure, on the inside he is evil and hideous. In body, he is a man who walks, talks, lives and breathes. In spirit he is a distorted reflection on decaying canvas.

 

 

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The Guest of Summer

When cheeks rose from brash colds, no longer flustered,

the guest of summer feasts on warmer lands.

Through skies they sore until days’ meet nights,

over cities, seas and sands.

 

Proud breasted,

chest as white as snow.

Glossed in blue, curved winged;

feathers rustling, to-and-fro.

 

As seasons alter nature, colours change.

Shredding skin to let new life flourish.

The guest of summer takes flight once more,

in search of soil and young to nourish.

 

Retreating to familiar scenes;

homes built in woodlands,

open waters, and fields of green.

 

Cheek by jowl they nest in crooks and eaves,

what once were mountains,

now are buildings, tall as trees.

Forming nests from streams of mud and clay

strong in numbers, safe from prey.

 

A haven made for those soon to arrive,

shells crack; reveal a will to survive.

 

Waters grow colder, freeze over,

and the sun begins to die;

the new must fledge, spread their wings,

and take to the sky.

 

Once again, the guest of summer heads south.

Forever fearless, eager mouthed.

 

The one where they went to Cornwall, *about a million years ago…

In May this year Joe and I took a trip to St Ives in Cornwall. I’d just bought my new Canon 100D, so this was a great opportunity to get to grips with it and have a play.

May was ages ago, you say, why are you talking about it now?

WELL, due to laptop issues and my blatant lust for paying over the odds for incompetent and borderline criminal services,  I hadn’t been able to edit the footage I’d taken.

Now that I finally have my laptop back, 98 moons and 5 billion temper tantrums later, I’ve had a little time over the holidays to finish it up (as above), so I thought it would be nice to write a complementary post of what we got up to.


About Our Trip

Accommodation: Camping at Lower Penderleath Farm

Nestled away about 10 minutes drive from the centre of St Ives, or a 20 minute cycle as it was for us, Lower Penderleath provided breathtaking views and a serene nights sleep under the stars. Equipped with no thrills facilities, we had everything we needed to get away from it all – and for those who want to stay connected, there is access to charging points too. The camping spot was spacious and quiet; situated on old farm land, we were surrounded by fields and country lanes to stroll down.

Repurposed stables now house a decent block of showers, which were hot and clean, with nearby loos. Barbecue blocks were provided so you can cook where you camp, and there were two large fridges to make use of. If you’re camping savvy, you will find all the essentials are covered here. The site also boasts a hostel, though I would recommended getting stuck in and pitching up.

Bar the pig pen down the lane and the big old bull at the top of a nearby hill, the owner Russell is by far the main event here. Now, kooky isn’t quite the right word but he certainly is the kind of guy with a story for every occasion. Fascinating to listen too, he’ll be sat around a fire first thing until sun set; sipping on beers, cooking up jackets and soaking up the Cornish sun. Somewhat a household name with the locals, I found Russell to be a jack of all trades; he’s worked on a ranch in Canada, (essentially a real cowboy), has travelled the world, and apparently, so said our cab driver, once tried to bottle and sell the local spring water!

Brilliant to sit and have a chat with he had some great tips on how to make the most of our time in St Ives. If I went back to Cornwall, I wouldn’t think of staying anywhere else.


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St Ives bay

We packed quite a lot into our weekend away, from cycling into town (albeit a terrible idea, as Cornwall is really very hilly), to hanging out with the local livestock. I even managed to squeeze in a  daily Pizza, which alone is a simply unparalleled success in my eyes, even by the one off landmarks that surrounded me.


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Cream Tea at Penderleath Tea Room

We ate cream tea for breakfast, scarpered away from glutenous gulls on St Ives Bay and took a trip down to Lands End, which was foggy as hell and therefore eerily beautiful. Obviously we smashed back a pasty in Marazion before awing at St Michael’s Mount, wandering down cobbled streets and splashing around in rock pools. Although we didn’t catch a show, we took a peek at the famous Minack Theatre before strolling along its adjoining beach. I found this to be the most beautiful view and regret not being able to spend more time there.


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St Michael’s Mount, when you can travel by foot – which we didn’t…
Image copyright: Cornish Pilgramage

Things I wish I had known

Time your visit to Marazion so you can walk across the sea to the Mount! We didn’t consider this before our trip, and so ended up parking quite a distance from the beach. We hadn’t purchased enough parking to wait for the tide to go out, and thought it pointless to add more to come back again, so we viewed from afar. Absolute schoolboy error, and easily avoidable if, unlike us, you do your homework!

Cornwall is not a haven for leisure cyclists. There are hills for days and you will get very sweaty. That being said, what goes up must come down, and bombing down giant hills until you see the sea was fun, so it’s all relative.


We had a lot of fun exploring, and found three nights a good amount time to see what this part of Cornwall had to offer. By recommendation of a local we swerved Penzance, but perhaps would pay it a visit next time should the opportunity present itself.

Planning a visit to Cornwall in 2017? Did something great we missed out of our trip?

Let me know in the comments 🙂

St Ives, Cornwall. from RJMedits on Vimeo.

Beyond the wall

This weeks module for my Writing for Young Readers course covered genre, form and audience. It touched upon the types of genres specific audience groups prefer, their understanding of language, and how to tailor my writing to cater for each reading level. The assignment that followed required me to choose a genre, form and audience and write up to 500 words on a subject of my choice.

Initially I decided to write a poem for 6-8 years. In the interest of complete transparency, I only chose this based on the amount of effort I thought I would have to put in. I’m quite good at writing poems for comical purposes, so I figured I would be able to knock one up in no time. Little did I know my ignorant laziness would present me with a lesson to be learned. Writing for this age is not an easy feat, especially when you have nothing to draw reference upon. I don’t ever spend time with any children of this age, so I’m massively out of touch with their level of understanding, even after completing this module. I just don’t know what they’re in to. I tried to think back to when I was of that age, but I simply couldn’t remember. Groovy Chick, Goosebumps and Tammy Girl is all I could think of, and even then, was that more 12+. Who knows? Was everything I came up with patronising? Probably.

So I bailed. I’m going to have to let that idea settle while I learn more about this age group. I’ll be doing some market research, so if anyone has suggestions on books to read for this audience then please let me know in the comments.

Instead the end product was something that came to me this morning. The book I’m reading at the moment is called ‘The Girl With All The Gifts’ by  M. R. Carey, which provided some inspiration into the premise of the idea for my story. It’s the idea of being trapped somewhere, knowing your a little different from everyone else around but not really understanding why. I wrote this with the intention that it would be an adventure story for the 9-12 age bracket. I haven’t had any feedback from my course yet, so I don’t know if I’ve hit the marker in terms of getting the language  and sentence structure right for this age. I would love to hear if anyone has any feedback 🙂

Beyond the Wall

Kate had never been on the other side of the wall before, though she’d always wanted to. The boys in her class had said they jumped over once, but she didn’t believe them. They also said that girls weren’t able to climb walls like can boys, so that’s how she knows they are liars. Kate’s a very good climber. Good enough to beat Billy over the wall, that’s for sure. The boys at school are always saying stuff like that. Girls can’t do this, girls can’t do that. Billy once told Kate that no girl could ever become an explorer, or an adventurer. “Girls have to stay on the base, it’s too dangerous for them outside” he would say, but that only made Kate want to do it even more.

That is where Kate and her family live, at a place called the ‘base’. Surrounded by walls as tall as buildings it’s guarded by men with helmets and guns. There is a supermarket and a swimming pool, and their school is on base too, so the women and children never get to leave. Everybody who lives on the base has a dad or husband in the army. Her dad is a solider, so she doesn’t see him very often. He goes away for months at a time, but they spend lots of time together when he comes back. Kate’s dad said she can do anything if she puts her mind to it, and that she believes.

One Friday at school, Billy and the boys were giving Kate a really tough time. In class they were all learning about the Pacific Ocean. Miss Mulberry told a story about a lady called Sharon Sites Adams, who was the first women to sail across the Pacific all on her own back in the 60’s. It was the coolest thing Kate had ever heard. “Miss, when I go to Secondary School, will I learn how to sail like Mrs Adams did?” Kate said. Before Miss Mulberry could reply, the boys burst into laughter. “Ha, in your dreams” said Billy. “There’s no Ocean on base, and you know you’re never leaving” he scoffed. Leaning backwards into the heels of his chair, he reached his hand out to Danny, who gave him a low high-five under the table.

When the whistle blew Kate collected her bags and ran straight through the halls and out of school. Red with anger, she didn’t stop running until finally she made it to the wall at the edge of the base. She stood for a minute, starring at the patterns in the cement. Shutting her eyes she wished she had the courage to make it over that wall. Imagining what it would be like on the other side she squeezed her eyes tightly to fight back the tears. All of a sudden Kate began to feel strange. Slowly opening her eyes, she could see fields of green all around her.  She was beyond the wall.

The Assembly

For the last two weeks I’ve been serving my queen and country, making the streets a safer place for  your children to live in and listening to middle class white men in wigs droning on, all in the name of jury duty. Naturally I’ve had a lot of waiting around to do. When in limbo, I began to pen my observations; not about my case as i’m sure you know the first rule of jury duty is…..but my thoughts on the whole process, and mainly, the behaviors of people within it.

 

If there is one thing you learn from being locked in a room with over one hundred,very varied members of society, it’s that human are animals. I mean so in regards to our instincts, and needs.

In the same way a cat stretches out its chin in search of a stroke of validation, humans allow unsolicited vulnerability to consume them, until they bear all to make them appear just the opposite.Not that it is always that deep, of course, yet for the most part I felt and saw an underlying theme of people craving acceptance, in one way or another.

A good place to start on such a quest is common ground; we all stand on it, but it’s never beneath us in the game of passing time and making friends. “My son is starting university next week….Dave’s in his second year down in Bournemouth…daughters getting married in the spring….oh, I got my hat from there for my Simon’s…..can’t stand this place, what’s with all the waiting around?…bloody joke this is……..yeah, Henry Fonda. What’s it called?…12 angry men….lunch?”.

Magnitised by social class, groups crowd around circular tables sipping instant coffee and groaning in unison. The term opposites attract gets thrown around a lot, but in this case that’s an unfulfilled prophecy.  Two men,of a similar age and build, both in burgundy t-shirts and faded jeans, are engaged in conversation. They hit it off over an agreement of minds, too boring for me to remember exactly what, though it happened moments ago. The conversation flows; drier than a towel washed without softener and left out in the sun to crisp, but relentless all the same.

The person in the room talking the loudest is often the one with the least to say. On this occasion a women; loud and liberal, acting as a platform for others to spark conversation. That way she doesn’t have to say too much, but is still emitting an air of  importance. The business men and women in suits sit alone in the corners of the room, arched over laptops. Their bony fingers frantically forming emails; the fruits of which they hope will line their pockets. Phones to flesh, they pace sporadically. Umming and eering, yes this, no that.

Wondering how long i’ll be here, just like everyone else, I drop a coin in the honesty box and make myself a tea. The sink is making a loud, continuous chugging noise,  like the gargling of a possessed infant. The women beside me laughs, and as I meet her gaze I smile. I’m not sure either of us find it funny, but we’re obliged by social graces. I scuttle back to my seat, looking at the floor to avoid any further eye contact. I’ve done well not to engage in small talk thus far, I don’t want to ruin it now.

The speakers crackle to a start, bringing much desired news. “The Jurors for court eight, due to further delays you are permitted to leave the building for a cigarette or some fresh air. Please be back and signed in with me in 20 minutes”. A dull cheer echoed around the room. Now is when the self-categorisation becomes obsolete, for everyone has their vices.

Prowling to the exit like a herd to water, they acknowledge this commonality they share, pleased that they’re not the only ones. Moaning once more, between puffs and breaths, they talk, tiny words, until conversations dwindle. As the cherry meets its end, a sense of relief washes over them  and they retreat back to their comfortable groupings in the assembly.

 

 

Fun, or Fair?

Fond as I am of giving myself various virtually unattainable challenges to juggle around alongside that other task some people call life, I have set myself quite a hefty goal in order to expand my writing experience and aid me in catering for the tiny humans of the world.

I have recently joined a Writing for Young Readers course with the Commonwealth Education Trust, to guide me with my plan of beginning writing my first children’s book before the year is up. Despite the Gollum-esq voice in my head looping the words “write a book she says, ha! End of the year she says…never”, I’m actually relatively confident. So far the course lectures and writing tasks have been an informative an enriching experience and I’m really looking forward to continuing with the modules and having others read and review my work.

To help me on my journey I thought it would be nice, and beneficial to me,  to share with you each of my writing assignments to gain some feedback from outside of my course.

The first piece I wrote required me to choose a particular viewpoint, then write a story from it inspired by things I’ve experienced in my life and the myths, legends and culture of my country.  While I know tourists may visit each year and soak up the ‘British Culture’ that we so willingly bottle and price for them, there was not a great deal I could relate to my own experiences. I spent a good while mulling this over, and even researched into English Folklore, but the results from this didn’t seem natural, it was like I was telling someone else’s story. In the end, I kind of did tell someone else’s story, so I guess I may have cheated somewhat. I was inspired by a story my Grandma told me when I was a child about something she experienced in her youth.

I decided to draw upon this for inspiration, as although my Grandma and I came from different eras,  different continents and essentially a different world, her story really resonated with what childhood and teenage years meant to me. It embodied a sense of adventure and rebellion, which I  believe was and still is a fundamental part of youth culture in the UK, and perhaps the world over. Having been given a 500 word limit and an example story in the form of an opening paragraph I think it was safe to deduce we were only expected to produce an extract, so that I did. For this story, I aimed to write with the 8-11 age group in mind.

I plan to finish this story off the way my Grandma told it, as the twist is yet to come, but for the sake of ticking boxes, here was my first submission. As always, feedback is welcomed and appreciated.

                 Fun, or Fair?

Cynthia had just turned sixteen when she experienced her first night at the fair. Still at school, she would dedicate evenings to her studies and was the type of girl who was successful in all her endeavors. By no means was Cynthia a rebellious or unruly young woman, but on this particular day she was bored of it all. “I’m just sick and tired of always doing as I am told” she said to Lilian, with a sigh. “And what do I get in return? I get treated like a baby. I am greeted with a big fat no to all I ask for”.

Earlier in the day, Cynthia’s mother had forbidden her from going to the fair that night. She had been given no reason; a simple ‘because I said so’ was always sufficient enough in her mother’s eyes.

“Just how sick are you then?” Lilian said with a grin, slowly raising her eyebrow as a sneaky look of satisfaction crept across her face. They had been best friends for four years, ever since they met on the first day of High School. Needless to say Lilian had always been the more daring of the two; a quality that hadn’t gone unnoticed by Cynthia’s worried mother. “What are you on about Lil?” said a rather puzzled Cynthia. “Look Cee, It’s time to stop asking and just do” Lilian teased, as she pranced towards the door. “Now get in to bed, and remember, you’re really sick okay?” Then faster than a blink she was gone. Voices erupted from downstairs as Lilian spoke to Cynthia’s mother, but they were much too far away for her to make out the words. Her heart racing, she ran to her bed with the sound of heavy footsteps ascending the staircase.

She closed her eyes as her mother entered the room. “Are you okay darling? Lilian said you aren’t feeling too good”. Her mother sat down at the end of her bed and reached for her forehead. Then, there it was, the first lie she would ever tell on the edge of her lips. Cynthia hesitated for a moment, contemplating the seriousness of the situation she was about to get herself into. “Yes mother, I feel terrible”, her voice trembled as she spoke. “Oh dear” her mother replied, “Yes, you do feel rather warm. You’re best off getting some sleep so you’ll be better for school tomorrow”. Pulling the covers over her, her mother got up to turn off the light. “Sleep tight” she said, before shutting the door behind her.

As Cynthia lay still for a few minutes wondering what would happen next she heard a faint tapping sound; a of handful stones hitting glass. She tip-toed to the window and opened it, Lilian was standing below. “Quick, shimmy down the drainpipe, nobody’s looking”.
Her palms began to sweat as she peered down at the ground. Oh well she thought, it’s now or never, and with a deep breath, Cynthia edged herself out of the window.

 

What I’m Reading Wednesday

The White Tiger by Aravinda Adiga, I push this book upon literally everyone that I meet. I’ve gifted it to friends on their birthdays, recommended it to colleagues, given it as a secret Santa, even loaned it to my dad. I bloody love this book! It was first loaned to me by my favourite teacher at college  and has been in my top five reads ever since.

Having forced The White Tiger on quite a few people lately, I thought it would be good to give it another go so it was fresh in my mind. I wanted to be ready to discuss the finer detail when those I have recommended it to have finished it.

It isn’t a strenuous read, the font is large and it’s well paced, spread across 321 pages; keen readers should finish it in a week. If my word is not enough to sway you to read this book, then know that it won the Mans Booker Prize the same year it was published (2008) as well as making it’s way into the New York Times bestsellers list, so I’m not on my own here when I say that it’s good.

The main protagonist, Balram Halwai, tells the story of his life story through a series of charming, witty and somewhat blasé letters to Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, who is soon to be visiting India. Wishing to give Jiabao a true insight to life in India, Balram’s letters to the Premier pay tribute to Balram himself escaping the ‘darkness’ of his village Laxmangarh, and moving to the city to become the driver of a rich family; but this is not merely a story of the triumph of a poor man.

It is a tale of deceit, and the exploration of political corruption and socioeconomic status.  The White Tiger is a based on two disparities: the world from the view of the destitute masses in the rural, improvished villages of India and the lavish lives of the westernised crooks who exploit them for their own privileges.

I can’t possibly tell you any more without ruining the plot for you, but hopefully it will make its way into your ‘What I’m Reading Wednesday’ and you can find out for yourself. I must insist that it does….

Meet Balram Halwai: Servant, Philosopher, Entrepreneur, Murderer.

 The White Tiger

 

What you ate for breakfast

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, don’t they? Well I’ve never really understood who ‘they’ are, nor have I cared for that matter. All I know is that I think they are wrong; after all, breakfast is the only mealtime where it would be deemed unacceptable to order a pizza, and I rather like pizza.

I wonder what ‘they’ actually eat for breakfast, those people that say it’s so important? I bet they have something boring, like Muesli or Weetabix without the sugar. I think that a persons choice of breakfast can say a lot about them. For example, I have an auntie and she has eaten porridge for breakfast every day for as long as she can remember. Every day at 6am like clockwork she sits down to have a bowl of old trusty. She too is like porridge in a lot of ways, comforting and reliable but overall pretty unadventurous.

I like porridge, but not enough to eat it every day. I mean, if we’re going to hold so much stock in breakfast being the be all and end all of meal times then it better be a right good spread. I’m talking continental, like they do in Europe.

Still, as I said I don’t agree about breakfast being the most important meal of the day so I’m not really one to make a fuss, especially before 9am. I’m more of a grab and go kind of girl. A quick fix to tide me over until lunchtime when the real meal goes down. Like this morning for instance, I was a running a little late, so I whacked a couple of those little round doughy things in the toaster. You know, those soft little things covered in dents that harden as they are burned? I packed my bag while they were toasting and when they were done I doused them in butter while they were still hot. That makes them tastier and easier to swallow.

In actual fact I have crumpets for breakfast most days; you can think of that what you like.

Prompt #2:What you ate for breakfast