Wednesday, 11 January 2012

My Mistress' Eyes Are Nothing Like The Sun by William Shakespeare

I've had a literature blog for six months and not once have I mentioned Shakespeare or school. UNTIL NOW.
This is a beaut of a poem that I first read whilst studying for my GCSEs. I think the fact that it's written by a male for a female, basically telling her that she's brilliant just as she is, really appealed to me at age fifteen. He's essentially the Elizabethan Bruno Mars (though clearly not as talented).

My Mistress' Eyes Are Nothing Like The Sun

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

William Shakespeare

Friday, 6 January 2012

Top Five Book Covers

I'm judging books by their covers, because that's just the kind of rebel I am.

Note: It has come to my attention that this post is really quite pretentious. Maybe just ignore the words and concentrate on the pretty pictures.

1. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

I love this cover because it's become an icon in it's own right; there's no way you can see that bowler hat and the cog-eye without thinking of lactose-obsessed, Beethoven aficionado, psychopath Alex and his band of droogs. I fell in love with this book, and I think the cover reflects the tone perfectly. It's a novel which features gang rape, pedophilia, homicide and brainwashing, and the bold, block colours on the front illustrate these booming, intense themes; but the fact it is so bright and vivid, where it could easily be dark and brooding, shows that the book also has a sense of humour and fun - it's a book which doesn't take itself too seriously. The pop art feel is also reminiscent of the era - the sixties - of which novels such as A Clockwork Orange were a quintessential part.

2. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

Jonathan Safran Foer seems to have a knack for book covers but there is something about this one in particular that really gets to me. There are no pictures. Instead, the words snake round the edges of the book, completely filling up the cover as if trying to break out of it. On the back of the book, there's no blurb - just a mirror image of the front cover, upside down - the claim that "Everything is Illuminated" becomes less of a title, and more an unrelenting promise about the novel itself. The book sprirals from one narrative to the next, linking individual stories together in order to provide one resounding message - the very same that is scrawled, almost frantically, on it's front cover.

3. Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges

There's something very "Being John Malkovich" about this, and if you have read Borges, you'll know that this surreal cover perfectly illustrates the stories he creates. "Labyrinths" explores alternate universes, the differing perceptions of time, the nature of dreams and crises of identity. The identical men suggest that the labyrinth Borges is most focused on is that of the human brain; and that, despite the fact people may differ in terms of dreams, everyone is inexorably fascinated with the nature of our their realities. Oh God, I really am pretentious today. I'll dumb it down for the next one.

4. The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Nice one right? I really like how Niffenegger makes a story about a forty year old man travelling back in time to make his five year old wife fall in love with him, seem absolutely fine and not pervy or weird at all. The cover illustrates the same thing. It's immediately intriguing and, once you finish the book, really quite heartbreaking as it both reflects the start and the end of the story. I hoped that the film would strike the same kind of chord, but due to to a shite script writer and some unfortunate casting, it was not to be.

5. The Trial by Franz Kafka

A cover that I maybe don't fully understand, but I think it reflects the content of The Trial so perfectly for that reason; it's quite a complex narrative, full of twists an turns, some of which are pretty inexplicable. It also seems appropriate that the man on the cover is blindfolded; throughout the novel, the protagonist K is completely bewildered by the events that surround him. A bit like the strange contraption that is wrapped round the head of the front-cover man; part torture device, part bird costume, it dehumanises him and makes him entirely vulnerable, prime themes featured in The Trial.

Alas, this blog is limited to "Five Easy Steps", but here are a few others that I'm very fond of:

Sunday, 1 January 2012

To A Mouse by Robert Burns

Right. 1st of January. I've got tons of plans for this year, one of which is to blog like the absolute shitters. I'm starting off the year with an appropriate, if not terribly optimistic poem by Robert Burns, the same man who wrote Auld Lang Syne. The line "and forward though I cannot see, I guess and fear" might not indicate that I'm terribly enthusiastic about 2012's prospects and my "best laid schemes", but let's be realistic; the world's probably going to end this year anyway.

To A Mouse

Small, crafty, cowering, timorous little beast,
O, what a panic is in your little breast!
You need not start away so hasty
With argumentative chatter!
I would be loath to run and chase you,
With murdering plough-staff.
I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth born companion
And fellow mortal!
I doubt not, sometimes, but you may steal;
What then? Poor little beast, you must live!
An odd ear in twenty-four sheaves
Is a small request;
I will get a blessing with what is left,
And never miss it.
Your small house, too, in ruin!
Its feeble walls the winds are scattering!
And nothing now, to build a new one,
Of coarse grass green!
And bleak December's winds coming,
Both bitter and keen!
You saw the fields laid bare and wasted,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel plough passed
Out through your cell.
That small bit heap of leaves and stubble,
Has cost you many a weary nibble!
Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,
Without house or holding,
To endure the winter's sleety dribble,
And hoar-frost cold.
But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!
Still you are blest, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

Robert Burns