(modified) image from here
Regular readers of this blog might recall the mention of a girl called Mary, who crops up in the occasional post here and there. Her first appearance is in this old post from last year: http://jump-into-the-void.blogspot.com/2009/09/i-saw-osprey-just-other-day.html
Mary has just finished a 6 month stint living in a yurt and cooking in the woods for students of greenwood working. As I might have previously mentioned, I occasionally help her, or whoever happens to be cooking in the woods.
Mary has left the woods for the streets of Southampton. Yes, a very stark difference there. For the next three years she will be studying for a degree in Environmental Sciences. She is wary about this, as she knows this is time spent away from learning crafty country things. But she will be learning in depth, important and interesting things that will go on to help her understand more about the world that surrounds us and our place and duty within it. While she studies into these things, I will continue to make jam, spin wool, weave baskets, sew quilts and knit ponchos. Plus all the other literary stuff I am working on. We will share our thoughts and what we have learnt and experienced here. Together we will learn the best of both worlds and stay in contact while she lives in the city and I live in the country.
Mary and I are both interested in things of a spiritual nature. She was in regular attendance of a weekly meditation group before leaving for Uni. I was not because I am stubborn. But we share many of the same ideas, and perhaps we will continue to discuss these things via this blog.
Mary likes to read weird self-help books recommended to her by her weird older brother. I hope she will continue to tell me about them, because in general they are hilarious or insightful or a bit of the both. I will endeavour to occasionally review any particularly good or particularly bad fiction or non-fiction I come across. In many ways this blog will not be changing much, but I hope it will change a little for the better.
There is no guarantee we will both update very often, and maybe not at all. Mary will be very busy, and I am working very hard on the aforementioned novel http://jump-into-the-void.blogspot.com/2010/09/linc.html But if we manage to post anything, it’ll be good. So keep your specs peeled for interesting, insightful and immature dual blog posts.
Recipe to make you feel nice when you have a cold:
2 tbsps elderberry syrup
A generous splash of brandy (or 2)
Hot water (mug of)
A splash of lemon juice
A sprinkle of sweet spices such as Cinnamon
A tiny amount of honey
Put it all in a mug. Taste it, if it’s weak tasting, add more elderberry. Add more honey if you like it sweeter.
And some good music
Also, some drawings I have made of parkour:
I am writing a novel for teenagers that incorporates parkour. The last drawing is of a main character in that novel; Scott. Watch this space for further info.
I’ve now read two of the three books written by Scott Heim. I watched the film Mysterious Skin before I read the book, simply because I did not know it was a book until after having watched the film. Brady Corbet spoke about the book in the dvd extras section. The film had really got to me. Not only the amazing performances of Joseph Gordon Levitt (my favourite actor) and Brady Corbet, but for the way it was filmed, the subject, everything about it.
So I read Mysterious Skin. The film is very close to the book. The book is more in depth, and in some ways I think the film is more successful than the book because it holds things back that the book delves right into. The film is certainly the subtler of the two. However, I found Mysterious Skin to be an awesome read. The way the vantage points flick between characters really worked, in my opinion. Heim’s style is cool. It’s rare for me to find novels that are actually cool, that can contend with films, TV, music. Don’t give teenagers shit like Twilight to read, give them stuff like Mysterious Skin.
We Disappear is just as good. I couldn’t put it down, and like with Mysterious Skin, the style was cool. Obviously it was less harrowing than Mysterious Skin. I did feel that We Disappear went deeper than Mysterious Skin, and Heim had got a little better at writing, his style more honed. I felt We Disappear outwitted me at times, kept me on my toes, whereas Mysterious Skin didn’t, perhaps partly because I already knew how it ended, having seen the film first.
Both these novels are examples of fresh writing, vibrant/ interesting characters, gritty subject matters. For this reason I think they are good for young people to read (17+). Heim’s style is flawed. It is by no means perfect. The characters in Mysterious Skin alternate the narration, but each chapter has the same narrative voice, despite the fact that different characters are narrating from chapter to chapter. This didn’t bother me, because their different personalities were crisp and obvious enough from their actions, rather than their narrative voices. Heim tends to over explain some parts, gives the reader too much detail sometimes. But again, I think this is part of what makes the books cool. They are not perfect, they are rough around the edges and that suits the subject matter and the audience.
He had the appearance of a young Trotsky, the same square jaw, dimpled chin, piercing wolf eyes, thick lips. He wore his hair in a mess of waves above his forehead, an almost-bouffant. He even wore pince-nez glasses. It was the glasses and the hairstyle that I found attractive. I knew next to nothing of Trotsky, let alone his appearance as a young man.
It was my colleague, Ruben, who first approached him and commented upon the likeness. As we sauntered towards the counter at the back of the café, Ruben paused by the table, cocking his head and sliding his eyes down to meet the young man's . 'Is there much call for a Trotsky impersonator around these parts?
'Enough,' said Trotsky's likeness.
Ruben slipped his hands into the pockets of his brown corduroy trousers and arched his back. 'Well yes, I suppose this is a fairly likely place, you being in a pokey academic café in Cambridge and all that. I suppose the University employ you to add a certain realism to their lectures, or something like that?'
The man neatly placed the book he was reading down upon the tabletop. He flicked his eyes from Ruben across to me. I was fascinated by his pince-nez glasses. Light grey pupils dilated a little behind the lenses. He prized his eyes from mine, slowly as if it took him great effort to do so. 'Something like that,' he confirmed to Ruben and then peered back at me.
The intensity of his stare quickly became oppressive. I blinked and stammered, 'I like your glasses.'
The pause was long enough to be obvious, but too short to enable a new line of conversation. 'Thanks,' he replied, totally deadpan.
'They're not a fashion statement, Julie,' Ruben scoffed. 'They are a tool of this man's trade.' He left no room for a comment. He swooped his attention back to the young man, chin raised. 'You do a good impression, even in your lunch hour.' He was using his patronising "I am very impressed" voice. 'The sobriety of your gestures, the cool indifference, the aura of intelligent vanity. Very good. ...I wonder... how much would it cost me to hire you for a lecture?'
His wolf eyes slipped between us, back and forth. Finally they rested on me. 'I will give you a discount,' he said. 'If you agree to go on a date with me.'
I dropped my gaze to the dark polished tabletop. There was a dog-eared copy of a Kurt Vonnegut novel placed in front of him. Breakfast of Champions. I thought this was someway off-kilter. It didn't seem to fit.
As I said, I found him attractive on the basis of his funky hairdo and those pince-nez glasses. Perhaps that was why I agreed. It certainly had nothing to do with wanting to hire a Trotsky impersonator.
We arranged a time and place, then exchanged numbers. Ruben teased me everyday between then and the arranged date.
As the date grew closer I became less confident that this was a good idea. The guy seemed totally dull, devoid of humour or soul. We probably had nothing at all in common. Agreeing to a date with a stranger purely on the basis of liking his hair and glasses (neither of which reflect a personal style) suddenly seemed like a rather stupid idea.
We met at a small eatery in central Cambridge. He was still wearing his pince-nez glasses and his hair was wild and wavy above his forehead, the same as before.
'Do you always dress as a young Trotsky?' I asked as I took my seat.
He answered with an immediate roughness, 'Yes.' He shuffled in his seat and cleared his throat. This time he spoke with a softer, less abrasive tone of voice. 'It's just a habit. I'll wear something more normal on our next date.'
I raised a single brow high. 'Assuming we have a next date.'
He shrugged and realigned his cutlery.
'So you must really love Trotsky then. I must admit, I don't know all that much about Trotsky. You'll have to fill me in.'
He seemed to sag in his chair. I assumed that I must have majorly disappointed him. The prospect of a second date slipped into obscurity, thank God.
At this point a waitress came to take our orders.
Selections made, the two of us sat in splintered silence, only background restaurant noises saving us from total awkwardness.
He gulped some table water, thumped the glass down and then leaned back nonchalantly. 'I too have a confession to make regarding Trotsky.'
I waited for him to go on, gliding the wetted tip of my index finger around the rim of an empty wine glass. I counted four rotations before he spoke.
'I am not a Trotsky impersonator. I am an English Lit postgrad student.'
I paused in trailing my finger around the glass, eyes flicking across the table.
He put his hands behind his head. 'I dress like this in order to impress professors and score with intelligent girls. So far so good as far as professors go.' He gave an impish cocked smile and put his thumb up, then returned his hand behind his head. 'As for scoring with clever chicks, they are only interested in Trotsky.' He rolled his eyes and turned up his lip. 'Soviet history absolutely bores me.'
I squinted at him, surveyed him for a moment, and then cracked a wide grin. 'Me too,' I said.
His lips curved into an echo of mine. 'But the pince-nez and the crazy hairdo get a double thumbs up. And death by ice-pick sounds like a spectacular way to go. It's not all boring.'