In which a plan comes together…

Today was a very exciting day. Today, a group of women synchronised their watches, set their alarm clocks and arrived at work at 9am on the dot. Or, if you are me you try really very hard to get to work for 9am but instead arrive for 08.34. Sigh.

Anyway, there was a reason for this mass arrival, a very important reason. The previews of the A-Team movie were showing in our local cineplex. We all enjoyed the A-Team tv series, had even been to “A-Team: the Musical” at the Edinburgh Fringe last year. All this aside, there was one reason and one reason only we were gathering en masse today…Bradley Cooper.

Jeebus, the man is hot. H.O.T.T. Delightfully appealing to the eyes, in fact. Stupendously splendiferous to behold. We are girls, sometimes we need these things. And Liam Neeson isn’t too bad either—some of you will know that I love a man with a certain amount of power. I was happy. And I swear, I am not drooling. Almost, but not quite.

Anyway, to be very honest, we were prepared for a giant pile of shite. We would willingly put up with this for Bradley, or The Bradley as we were calling him by the end of the movie.

But it was good. It was enjoyable, funny, light. Quite a bit of what one could wish for when going to the cinema for some escapist entertainment. The movie started with the longest intro in the world, introducing the characters, showing The Bradley in a dangerous situation with his shirt off, Hannibel with a giant cigar practically bursting with integrity (Hannibel, not the cigar…just to clarify), BA beating all around him to get his beloved van back and Murdock, a pleasant surprise as a completely believable genius lunatic.

The story was fine, light. The A-Team’s easy manipulation of dangerous situations, effortlessly saving everything in the nick of time is exactly what we expected. It fell down a little bit in the climactic battle scene, but that is just because I am pedantic and, do you know what, rockets can’t do that. Any more and I will be awash with spoilers so you’ll have to see it to see if you agree with me.

There was plenty of laughter, a lot of lighthearted camaraderie—I can practically guarantee that every one in that cinema left with more joy in their heart than they entered with. And that can’t be bad. And Bradley looked good…which is even better.*

* I am completely aware that I sound like a vapid, ridiculous girl basely objectifying The Bradley. I have no come back to this. I will state that, for the amount of times he wandered around without a top on, the filmmakers expected this…so if he’s happy to do it, I’m off the hook, right?

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In which I realise I didn’t think things through…

Oops, I just realised (well, ok, a colleague just pointed out) that I have decided to do the Big Booker Challenge in July…which is the month before August (shocking, I know), and I live in Edinburgh. August in Edinburgh is a complete wash-out. Everything else fades and the Book/Fringe/International and Jazz festivals take over completely. Which I completely adore but it does slightly scupper me. 

So, considering I have already booked 13 things to see throughout the month with the intention of booking more after payday I have, in fact, a month and three weeks (if I get started right now and removed August entirely) to read 13 books…things Just Got Serious.

I can do it, right?!


In which I set myself a Booker-related challenge…

So amid the daily Twitter traffic there was a special buzz in the air…admittedly, my stream was biased due to the number of people who work within publishing, writers, agents and other interested parties that I follow. The Man Booker longlist was due to be released and there was interest a-plenty.

There was speculation on pretty much every aspect of the list, from who would be included to what time it would be announced. In the end, it was about 4.30pm, by my reckoning.

So here is the list:

Peter Carey Parrot and Olivier in America (Faber and Faber)

Emma Donoghue Room (Pan MacMillan—Picador)

Helen Dunmore The Betrayal (Penguin—Fig Tree)

Damon Galgut In a Strange Room (Grove Atlantic—Atlantic Books)

Howard Jacobson The Finkler Question (Bloomsbury)

Andrea Levy The Long Song (Headline Publishing Group—Headline Review)

Tom McCarthy C (Random House—Jonathan Cape)

David Mitchell The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (Hodder & Stoughton—Sceptre)

Lisa Moore February (Random House—Chatto & Windus)

Paul Murray Skippy Dies (Penguin—Hamish Hamilton)

Rose Tremain Trespass (Random House—Chatto & Windus)

Christos Tsiolkas The Slap (Grove Atlantic—Tuskar Rock)

Alan Warner The Stars in the Bright Sky (Random House­­­­­­­­­—Jonathan Cape)

I don’t really know how I feel about this list at the moment. I am, therefore, contemplating working through the longlist before the winner is announced on Tuesday, October 12. I already have Alan Warner’s book…so I shall start with that and see how I go.

It might also provide the kick up the arse that I need to get back into my reading groove…since I’ve been in my “grown-up” (ahahahaaa) job I have found that my rate of reading has decreased dramatically. My rate of buying has, of course, stayed the same. I am an eejit—but then we all knew this to be true!

So my mission, to read and review all the books in the Booker longlist. That way I can, for once, make an informed decision about whether the eventual winner deserved it (subjectivity be damned!). Now to decide whether I should read them alphabetically…although actually, considering the fact that I have the Warner book I will just go in reverse alphabetical order…well, that wasn’t a difficult decision!

Insert Snow White’s dwarfs “Heigh Ho” song here…off to work I go!

P.S. If anyone wants to join me in the Big Booker Challenge, you’re more than welcome!


In which I review Brad Listi’s “Attention. Deficit. Disorder.”…

Today I shall be reviewing “Attention. Deficit. Disorder.”. I came across this when, on his blog, Scott Pack (http://meandmybigmouth.typepad.com) offered people a book as long as they made it the next book they read and reviewed it online afterwards. So I did and I am. And I loved it. LOVED.

“Attention. Deficit. Disorder.” (the full stops are part of the title, I swear) was published by the Friday Project in 2008, ISBN 978-0-906321-09-3, is, it states in the blurb, “the first great road novel of the 21st century.” This is what first drew me to the book…I’m a sucker for a road movie with all the emotional journey/actual movement connotations.  That sounds sarcastic, but really isn’t.

Anyway, in a nutshell, Wayne Fencer attends the funeral of his ex-girlfriend. She has committed suicide and, as he finds out at the funeral, previously aborted his (their) child. He then goes on a journey, mental and physical, that involves travel through Cuba, the Appalachian trail and finally, the Burning Man festival in Nevada. More importantly, arguably, he examines himself, his life and his attitude to those around him.

Brad Listi writes is a plain, matter of fact, but beautiful way. His method of portraying a questioning young man is so realistic. The things Wayne asks himself, the way he reacts to situations, his thought processes are almost hyper-ordinary…or maybe I just really identified with his particular brand of insecure confusion.

Stylistically, the book is written in an unusual way. A list of short quotations by a range of philosophers, authors and politicians lead into the narrative. Peppered throughout the book are definitions of keywords and recipes…including, usefully, one for a cuba libre cocktail. My liver shall not thank him.

To be honest, I think a lot of the book, both stylistically (the quotes, definitions, layout, recipes) and thematically can be summed up by the word “useful”. I have a quote to back me up, as per all good student-practice:

“The philosophy of utility fits every occasion…and I am implying the principle in urging you to begin at once to plan for the future”.

(p.146­­­­­­—I will also take this opportunity to point out that this is not the protagonist’s voice, but a letter written to Benton Mackaye, founder of the Appalachian trail, by his brother. These words spurn Benton on to move on from the death of his wife and cement his vision for the Trail.)

“Attention. Deficit. Disorder.” really is an excellent book, you care for Wayne and as mentioned above, I had no trouble identifying with him. His insecurities, his desire to question and understand life and the actions of those around him, and the emphasis of others (family members, friends) to focus his “trajectory” are all too real. I would heartily recommend reading it, and to be honest, I don’t think this review has done justice to how enthralling, exhilarating and strangely comforting I found this book.

*At this stage, if I knew how to link to amazon.co.uk I would do it here. Or maybe this will work… http://amzn.to/9b0cJk


In which I celebrate my lack of creativity…

I will never win an Oscar. Neither will I win an Emmy, a Grammy, a Tony, the Booker or a Pulitzer. Thusly, you can extrapolate that I can’t act, sing or dance. Nor can I write in a theatrical, novelistic or journalistic fashion. So far, this is a barrel of laughs, right?

I, however, am not bitter. I do not lament this lack of creativity. I don’t have the urge to write a bestselling novel that speaks to people on an intrinsic level. (Can I add here that I am fully aware of the fact that I am saying that I don’t have the urge to write, or speak to people. Here. On my blog. Which I set up. I understand irony, I’m an editor for frick sake.)

So many people are creative, want to be creative, want to be heard, should not be heard (yes, I’m looking at you, crazy American Idol contestants). And sometimes it really hits home. Hundreds upon thousands of people have talents that are wondrous to behold. Huge multi-bazillion pound industries have been built of these talents. Creativity is inherent in these people. The desire (if not the ability) to express themselves as natural as breathing. Not so for me (evidenced by the length of time it has taken me to put this post together, not to mention the trite, ridiculous manner in which I write). Despite this, I think setting up this blog is a result of seeing the almost overwhelming amount of people who are creative on a daily basis. If so many people want to write books (and they bloody do, I’ve read through inhuman amounts of slush (and I am not using “slush” in a derogatory fashion. Also, before you ask­­­, children’s books—DO NOT include pictures of your cat with your submission is the advice I would most like to give you…)) why don’t I? Surely I have a story to tell?

Do you know what? I don’t. I don’t have a story to tell, I don’t have anything to say (again, awareness of irony). I can out-drama queen Mariah but put me on a stage and I assume plank-like qualities, ask me to write fiction…well, it isn’t horror but it’s damn scary!

And it really doesn’t bother me, it never has. I am on the non-creative side of a very creative industry and I’m thrilled about it. Because I can spot an error at 20 paces.* I check running heads, paragraph indentation, count the words in a quotation. I find the end of your double parenthesised sentences (I mentioned I work in legal publishing, right?). I examine the minutiae and think about your book in a way that you never have (well, I almost guarantee this is true…). What I—and my friend The Red Pen of Accuracy—do is make creative people better at being themselves (yup, I’m that bigheaded).

I have come to the conclusion, therefore, that I am the stool under the bum of the writer. Or, taking into to account the profession we are discussing, the bar counter that props them up…and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

*Feel free to laugh at the spelling mistakes, etc. that have probably crept into this, I spot *your* mistakes, not my own…but when I see them after the fact I will die a little inside. Enjoy!


In which I ask you what to blog about…

So we all know this is a new blog (with a total of three amazing posts…amazing, I tell you!). Since I started this I have been rolling around ideas, pondering what to write about. A few nights ago, I had the most amazing idea right before I went to sleep.

It was that blissful moment right before sleep, when your limbs are heavy and your eyes can’t open. Some of my best thoughts arrive in these moments…not that I have ever remembered any of them! Never. Not one. But I know had I retained the topic in my brain it would have been the most epic blog post ever. It would have made you laugh, cry, made your ears bleed, make your mind explode with its awesomeness…

So anyway, I can’t remember it. So I asked my flatmate (hereafter known as Beloved Flatmate) what I should blog about. Her initial response was (word for word) “dirty dirty sex”, her second was the new Howler Monkey that has just been introduced into Edinburgh zoo. So, in the spirit of appeasement, there is a new baby Howler Monkey and very cute he looks too.

Then I asked Twitter (the collective hivemind that I love) and it threw up a multitude of responses, from buses and fairies, to poop and my inability to pronounce certain words…thanks for that, by the way. I will deal with some of these topics in the future, no doubt.

So you’ve read to the end of this post and nothing much seems to have happened right? Imagine how I feel, my best idea floated away on a bed of dreams.


In which I damn “Shrek Forever After”…

Abberation: Deviation from the ordinary or normal type of any natural production; abnormal structure or development (as per OED).

Sweet popcorn is an aberration. Popped corn, melted butter, a sprinkling of icing sugar—maybe some cinnamon if you are feeling particularly American. We don’t have this disgustingness in Ireland—no saccharine popcorn for us, thanks, we’re sweet enough.

Shrek Forever After…or Shrek 4, Forever After Known as the One That Shouldn’t Have Been Made* is not an aberration. Or, more accurately, it was not the aberration I was hoping for. It was merely a passable kids movie. It is decent, funny-ish…and if you can’t tell yet I am damning it with faint praise.

The whole thing was very disappointing because Shrek 1 and 2 (no snappy names here) were a complete joy—funny, sly and hammered home an important message (ugly people can be happy too…) without being preachy.

Not so for Forever After. In the most hamfisted way possible the main subtext of the movie’s storyline is the inability of men to deal with family life. Shrek is blissfully happy as father to three wee ogres, husband to the feisty Fiona and best friend to the terminally enthusiastic Donkey. For about a day. Then, poor little fella, he gets bored. Family life has changed him, he isn’t feared and respected any more. He is no longer King Of His Castle*. It gave me a pain to be honest…as if women don’t get sick of daily life? As if women don’t feel like their previous role in life has changed irreparably after childbirth? And there are millions upon millions of men out there who adore family life. Not all men are feckless gadabouts who mourn the death of their single days (I know, I know, it came as a shock to me too).

So yeah, Shrek goes all Faustian, meanders through a few things and soon Learns The Error of His Ways and All Was Well In The World*. In other news, Puss did the big-eyed thing, the Gingerbread man perished in an amusing fashion, and Donkey sang another song and canoodled with a giant dragon. That’s about it.

On another note, I went to the 2D showing. I chose 2D for a variety of unexciting reasons: I arrived 5 minutes before it started; the 3D one was 15 minutes later; it was before payday (PAYDAY as it is in my head) and 3D is relatively expensive; there were a pile of screaming (not really, but there’s always the possibility) brats who appeared to be gearing up for the 3D showing. I am sure this made no difference to the movie itself, or the frankly offensive subplot inherent in the movie, so this review is still valid, right?

* Please note, I fecking hate Significant Caps so when I include them here it denotes a point of extreme sarcasm or a particularly hamfisted attempt by the filmmakers to thrust their point home.