Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Moby (Don't Be So Goddamn Rude)

Call me Tom. Some years ago - never mind how many - with having zero money in my pocket, I will look back on this night and remember how I listened to beautiful music and was, once again, surrounded by candles. Why, candles? For heat why else!

I was thinking about Moby Dick today - in fact I put a nice edition of it in my Wish List for Amazon (if you ever want to buy me one of the books I'm listed under Thomas Wolfgang Stewart) - and I staggered across some images to do with Moby Dick. I don't want to copyright the site I found them off, I just wanted to paste below my favourites but if you want to see the rest the site is:

In fact these images also came from a brilliant art blog which we should all take a look at - Moby Dick is one of those books for the continuous classic argument, or, argument of the classics. The continuous debate of are classics books we want to read or just books we want to say we've read? The latter, of course. In my opinion there is no debate. I don't think of 'Moby Dick' and think - yes! I want to read that! - I want to say "yes, I've read it" so I have an opinion on this infamous and apparently brilliant book.

I had this discussion with my tutor a year or two back - in fact it was through a piece of work I did for the class - and she said she found that she learnt more from modern literature than 'classics' - bar 'The Great Gatsby'. To me, 'The Great Gatsby' was a big disappointment for many, many reasons. I wrote a review for Fitzgerald's novel for a website but it got turned down because of some typos and wrongs with the writing.  Tomorrow, I shall post the review. We shall call it the unpublished interview. Sounds better than the rejection interview.

But we, as writers, all get rejected. In life and in writing. 

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Problem With The Great Gatsby

When it comes to reading the classics there is a level of angst before reading. They have been discussed, analysed and written about so it makes sense that such opinions and expectations would cloud a new reader's judgement. The Great Gatsby is no exception. John Carey called it 'the supreme American novel', others have marked it as 'brilliant', 'perfect', it is even now, years later, being turned into a film by Baz Luhrmann. But why are these books deemed as 'classics'? What causes them to still be discussed in schools or book clubs? Why are we still reading them? Because we have to? The inevitable question is - are 'classics' important to literature as a whole or just important to those of that era? Do we, as new readers of a new time, see it differently? The Great Gatsby is narrated by Nick Carraway who is introduced into a world of wealthy people. He moves into a house next door to Jay Gatsby who becomes a very mysterious figure and the subject of some gossip. He meets many people, among them Daisy, a married women with lots of money. As he watches those around him, Nick begins to see the flawed lives of the wealthy and a new side to the great Jay Gatsby - a tragic love merged with a deadly secret.

At the beginning Nick idolizes the 'mysterious' Jay Gatsby. Why Fitzgerald chose this perspective seems quite obvious - so we can see what Nick sees, being guests in the wealthy world of Gatsby and Daisy and Tom but it is this perspective that becomes the double edged sword. Although a good way of allowing us to see things and not get up close - it could have certainly influenced Jeffrey Euganides' perspective for The Virgin Suicides - it becomes a way of distracting the audience. The drama that consists between Daisy and Gatsby seems to just happen, there is no progressing, just mere snippets, which makes the story flat and weak. The whole thing seems to lack meaning. The end comes, however, and then Fitzgerald reveals his master plan but, in a way, the damage has been done, our attention has already trickled away, vanished. 

Fitzgerald, however, allows us to dislike his characters - there is no sympathy just sheer honesty. The perspective comes into play here as well. When we first meet Gatsby we have been told that he is very mysterious, our expectations are that he is a strong man but he is weak, very instantly, there is no time for us to even gather are thoughts because what we see - through Nick's eyes - is this weakness. In addition to this, the character of Daisy - our lead female - is a shallow and irritating character. How can Fitzgerald expect us to become involved in such a story with no characters we can relate to? Admittedly, we are supposed to be Nick and see what Nick sees but Nick thinks differently as to what we see - he thinks the world of Gatsby, we do not. Fitzgerald is a powerful writer and his power comes out in small snippets: 

'"They're such beautiful shirts," she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. "It makes me sad because I've never seen such - such beautiful shirts before."' 

It is a beautiful and distinctive image that Fitzgerald portrays perfectly. The perfection comes at the end of the novel when all the pieces of Fitzgerald's seemingly simple puzzle falls into place. As a novel about the world of the rich The Great Gatsby works. It allows us to visit this world we are alien to and witness the downfall and stupidity of such people. It allows us to see that the wealthy have the same characteristics and flaws as everyone else. But as a book that allows you to relate and wonder and feel it doesn't make the cut.

The Only Moment We Were Alone.

With songs there comes memories. At least that is the case for me. I remember listening to this song in the winter of 2009 and had a feeling that everything was new and exciting. Ice laced outside of my window. Darkness welcomed me. And this song wrapped me up in a cocoon, told me a tale, told me everything was exciting, everything was new and beautiful and radiant. Listening to this song brings back wonderful memories, memories I will cherish forever. Always. 

Why Harry Potter Is Fucking Amazing

On Youtube there's a guy who makes movie montages, his name is Kees van Dijkhuizen Jr., or at least that's the name he goes by on Youtube. His movie montages - his series entitled [the films of] and his cinema series - have introduced me to great music and shown real beauty to me. Last night, while cooped up in the ice box that is my bedroom - candles flickering on my desk - I came across his page. There, glaring at me, was the retrospective of 'Harry Potter' we, all of his fans, had so eagerly waited for. I clicked on it and watched the thirteen minute video in glee, remembering my own story of 'Harry Potter'. The thing is we all have our Potter stories. I remember sitting on the sofa in my parent's house, the fire blazing, the lamp next to me as I listened to Stephen Fry read me the first book. I remember coming home from school and waiting for my mum to bring home the third set of cassette tapes - as I had trouble reading then - so I could begin the third book. 

I remember being on the bus to go to high school and my friends Jacob and Ben telling me that Sirius died in the fifth book. I remember being in Turkey and reading that Dumbledore had died and feeling empty inside. I remember locking myself in my house for three days so I could ploy through the final book and coming downstairs to pant to my mother "they all survived." I remember all of this because this is my 'Harry Potter' story. We all have it. The lucky ones have two stories - the books and the films. Of course we, as the dedicated, hardcore nerds of 'Harry Potter' remember getting angry that they cut out the elf story-line in Order of the Phoenix or had an angry Dumbledore in Goblet of Fire. But we loved it - I did - because it showed my imagination on the screen, it showed the beauty and the wit of J.K. Rowling's beautiful world.

I remember going to see Goblet of Fire with my mother and my friend Joe and having him ask me questions throughout. I remember going to see the first film and my father coming home from work one night to have a 'pirate' copy ready for me, something I had never heard of. I remember buying my first DVD - Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - and being fascinated that I didn't have to rewind it. 

Why is 'Harry Potter' fucking amazing? Because one woman, one fantastic woman, created a world. She, like many writers, made up her own rules, her own characters, her own stories and we loved it. But what did she do different? People will be asking themselves that question for the next hundred years. All of us will have different answers, all of us will have our favourite character - Snape, for me - or our favourite story-line - the back-story debate of Dumbledore - or our saddest moment - Dobby's death. 

For me it's also the small details - the fact that by Prisoner of Azkaban we were told there was Hogsmede, by Order of the Phoenix we were taken to the ministry. It's the fact that they drink Pumpkin juice and have Berty Bott's Every Flavour Beans. It's the fact that there are houses and headmasters that we know very little about but know that Rowling knows everything. In an interview J.K. Rowling was asked what she liked to see when she read a book. She said that she liked to have the feeling that the writer knows everything - she knew everything and I totally agree with her. She knew that McGonagall was in love with a Muggle and married, she knew it all.

She created a beautiful, magical world. I'm sad it's gone but, as Dumbledore says, "it's not really good bye after all." 

Monday, 24 September 2012

Mischief Managed

Wuthering Cardiff

2012 - I have just returned from work, at Paperchase - a confined place that I spend most of my time. This is certainly a quaint city! In all of Wales I do not believe I could have picked a more robust place, where there are bars that serve strange concoctions that get me rather - as my mother would say - piddled. There are restaurants and cafes, shops and cinemas, theaters and clubs. There are houses that keep the most deranged and inquisitive of beings. Four of them live together and indulge in literature, cinema and the odd bit of wine.

In such a place I sit and ponder. I pour over my books and papers and try and piece together a story. The story to which I am working on at the moment is one that I am toying with for my MA - trying my hardest to put off the application forms that dawn in front of me...but it shall be done soon! Right now, among the clusters of books - a battered version of Wuthering Heights and Pete Doherty's journals - I am listening to the music score from Jane Eyre and thinking about writing. 

I suppose many writers spend a lot of time thinking about writing rather than doing. There's this great quote from a man I always forget who said "what no wife of a writer will understand is that when he's looking out of the window, he's actually working." That quote is what I model any great relationship with a writer to be based on. If a spouse can walk in and see you're sitting there and leave you, then they get it. They get you. 

It's hard to find someone who gets you these days, no? Did Heathcliff and Cathy get each other? I think they did and I think that was their flaw. They had a bond but that bond was what tore them apart. Complex, eh? What isn't? 

Monday, 17 September 2012

Description 101

I remember when I was in school that the teachers used to make us do something called 'descriptive writing'. We would pick a room or a person or anything and describe it. It would have to be one sheet of A4 paper. Then, we would have to incorporate this description into our stories - describe everything: touch, taste...all those senses. If we didn't, we wouldn't get a very good mark. 

Forced description is a bad thing. If I read a book and feel the adjective sitting there on the page just for the sake of it, I'm not happy. There are many types of writers and some don't describe at all. For a long time I firmly believed you should describe every character. Stephen King argues - and I now completely agree with him - that why do you need to describe a man named Bill? Or even describe your main character who is a forty-year-old male? Surely the reader can imagine what he looks like for themselves? Now if this was fantasy then I'd describe because the characters would be weird and I'd make them different - their details would be needed but in a 'literature' book, why?

Now you have a writer like J.K. Rowling or even China Mieville. Rowling laces her writing with very in-depth descriptions - little quirks that add to the story but doesn't over-do it. Mieville writes beautiful descriptions - just read the opening to his novel The Scar, I was blown away by the wonderful way he described the beast and the water and the nature. 

Be safe with description, that's my advice from my very limited storage of it. When I was at Yale I decided to read of the tutor's from my University's book Diamond Star Halo and fell in love with the writing. I've mentioned it before, I know, but the simple use of the language, the very gentle word choice worked marvelously. It is very stripped back prose and the little details really add to the whole situation and feel of the novel. 

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Love, by Tim Burton & Others

How much time do we spend thinking, writing, reading, experiencing, seeing, crying, wondering, wanting, dreaming, disliking, hating, craving, visiting, avoiding, love? 

I suppose it's everywhere and there's a lot to be said and dealt with it. I suppose, myself, that I talk - perhaps more think and write - about it too much. But, through the twisted mind of Tim Burton - concluding further thoughts on him - he has dealt with love in very different ways. The relationships of people such as Ichabod Crane and Katrina (Sleepy Hollow), Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett (obvious) and so on. Love is what we make it and is a very different thing for each of us. 

And, in ode to Mr. Burton, here's some great minds speaking on love:

'True love, like any other strong and addicting drug, is boring — once the tale of encounter and discovery is told, kisses quickly grow stale and caresses tiresome… except, of course, to those who share the kisses, who give and take the caresses while every sound and color of the world seems to deepen and brighten around them. As with any other strong drug, true first love is really only interesting to those who have become its prisoners. And, as is true of any other strong and addicting drug, true first love is dangerous.'

- Stephen King, Wizard and Glass

'Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses. You build up a whole armor, for years, so nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life... You give them a piece of you. They didn't ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn't your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like 'maybe we should be just friends' or 'how very perceptive' turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It's a soul-hurt, a body-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. Nothing should be able to do that. Especially not love. I hate love.'
- Neil Gaiman, The Sandman #64. 

'So, miss me. Send me love and light every time you think of me... Then drop it. It won't last forever. Nothing does.'
- Liz Gilbert, Eat Pray Love

'Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.'
- Aristotle

'Immature love says: "I love you because I need you.' Mature love says 'I need you because I love you."'
- Erich Fromm

'Love is what we make it. It can be cruel and sad or happy and wonderful. We make it want we want and fight for it when it means something.'
- Anonymous 

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Tim Burton

As a kid I was always obsessed with books. But they had to be magical books, weird books, books about witches and wizards, spells and potions, creatures and boogeymen. I loved being scared, loved watching and reading about things that would frighten and yet fascinate me. And then, one day, I watched Sleepy Hollow and I fell in love with Tim Burton's films. A couple of years later I read The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and re-discovered my love for the weird and wonderful worlds Tim Burton creates. 

The thing I love about Tim Burton is his sense of innocence.  One of my favourite characters of his is Edward Scissorhands which is a wonderfully gothic story about an outcast. It is an innocent story and one of those films I wish was a book before - I hate reading the book of a film I have watched, you always find yourself skimming which is never good. Edward Scissorhands is the kind of character I've always wanted to create and tried to. A few years back I wrote a novella for my grandfather for his birthday - cheap you might say but my grandfather loves reading any of my stories. 


The story was about a young boy named Lucifer, a lover of books and a bit of an outcast. (I think I put an extract from it a while back.) Anyway, he escapes into his own world and the forest - ten points for the reference to Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan etc - and meets a being called the Snowdemon. There he begins a friendship and the friendship is one of magic, wonder and discovery. I am happy to say that that is perhaps one of my stories that has a happy its own way. 

I'm not sure how I feel about Tim Burton doing that Dark Shadows film, I saw the trailer and it really played on the comedy side of it which didn't interest me at all. Burton's subtle, dark humor - that is evident in Sleepy Hollow really did it for me but his latest film, not so much. Sweeney Todd and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were great and he really needs to do another adaptation of Roald Dahl - Tim Burton + Roald Dahl = Nerd Heaven!

Friday, 14 September 2012

(500) Days of Winter

So there's this film - one of my favourite films - and it's called (500) Days of Summer. It's about a relationship that doesn't work out. I remember the first time I watched. I was in Hatfield, near London, visiting my friend Hannah at her University. The previous night I had gotten severely drunk and was extremely hungover the next day. To cure my groggy stomach Hannah ordered us two large pizzas and put on the film. I managed to work my way through half of the pizza while watching, in awe, at the wonderful film that flickered before me. I remember the whole thing - the small, compact, University halls room, the way her laptop was propped up on two fans to stop it from over-heating, even the discussion of going for round two on the drinking front which I hastily declined. 

When the film was over I said "wow" and discarded my pizza, for fear of vomiting. The film was real. It told the story of a relationship not working simply because one party was no longer interested. Admittedly I find the main character, Summer, very annoying but I had an argument with my friend about it and he gave me some reasons as to why she isn't the villain - didn't convince me but I understood where he was coming from. 

I've been having some conflicts with the idea for my dissertation novel. Should I stick to a novel I have already written and nursed and loved? A literary horror novel that took me a few months to write and two years to consider? Or should I save that to work along side Cupid's Obsession - whenever I begin that badboy! - and start another idea I had. The latest idea I had is an updated version of Wuthering Heights, inspired by one of my tutors, Tiffany Murray whose book Diamond Star Halo is beautifully written and really captures the essence of nature, she uses phrases like "the Ribena coloured..." showing the naivety of the character but also really - cliche as it sounds - drags you in. The writing really made me want to write like that, such short, powerful, rich sentences. 

Here's to thought! And what triggers it!

Why Am I So Excited?

Thursday, 13 September 2012

What We Talk About When We Talk About The Naked and Famous

Why do I love The Naked and Famous? I discovered them when I was watching a music video for the cinema of 2011 - a great montage, of course. But The Naked and Famous - who I desperately want to see - bring me joy. They're the kind of band you want to listen to as you sit in a field, drinking Brothers when the sun is setting. 

Great Music

The Perks Of Being A Student, Wanna-Be Writer and Nerd

September 13th 2012 (3.55pm)

Dear friend,

My room is a nest. A nest of books. It hoards things. It hoards notebooks I have kept over the years that have blackened pages from the ink I've splattered on them. It keeps journals I have nursed over and lingered. It keeps - to random eyes - bits of crap but to me, memories - a Saw figurine, a mask from Venice, a wooden chest, a series of hand-written letters, some bought by myself, others, mainly, from one very special person.

My house is a collage. A collage of multi-bits. Bits from Elly's house, bits from my own, bits of Dom's, soon Sam's. It houses books that we all share - poetry on the side cabinet, Postsecret and cooking books. It keeps DVDs that we all linger over - Sex and the City when bored and feeling the urge to out-let my gay side. 

It's new. It's all very new and we plan on making memories in it, moans and worries, lingers and hopes.

Sincerely yours,
Thomas J. Stewart

September 13th 2012 (3.59pm)

Dear friend,

I don't think I'd be the person - the writer - I am today if I hadn't become a student. A student that has no money, likes alcohol a bit too much, works a lot in his part time job and then lazily slumps himself on the sofa watching shitty TV and bad films. I don't think I'd be the person - the writer - I am today if I hadn't experienced what I've experienced, met the people I've met. You understand, of course you understand but a lot has happened and I wouldn't be the person I am today if it hadn't. When people ask what the perks of being a student is, I'd tell them the experiences you have and the people you meet. 

Nerds like myself that love what I love. People very different from myself who adore other things, new ideas, new worlds. 

So, until then, friend, when we make more memories.

Always yours,
Thomas J. Stewart

Radical Face.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Need - To - See!

New Age

Today I decided to change the background to my blog - not the biggest of changes but hey ho, just thought I'd mention it. Why? Because change is good - at least that's what they say and make you think is the right thing so the blog is changing. But, truth be told, I don't like change very much. 

(This is me in case you didn't know already.
I'm the guy who likes to read...and write.)

The Problem With Madame Bovary

Today, among a correlation of Welsh cake wrappers, mugs of tea, a discarded piece of toast, more Welsh cakes and some flu tablets, sat Madame Bovary. I have recently just finished Stephen King's The Shining - a book I've been reading for the past two months - and due to my new story idea decided I wanted to read a novel about a tragic, flawed romance - of course! So, rattling through the mountain of books in my room I picked up my copy of Madame Bovary. The opening was bad but I continued. Then, 144 pages in I put it aside and realised I would not be continuing the tedious exercise that Gustave Flaubert had created for me.  

At first I was angry at myself and said - mumbling past the flickering TV and the mounds of tissues - that I should stick to it. It's a classic and I have a wonderful edition that my mother bought me for Christmas last year. But then, staring at the front cover, I decided not. Why should I read this book just because it's a 'classic'? If this was Fifty Shades of Grey I would just discard it if I thought it was badly written, of course I would. And, I'm here to say Madame Bovary is badly written.

Flaubert's style - at first glance - seems to resemble the latter writers, for example, Tom Perrotta. But then, going on and reading the stupid way Bovary meets her first lover and very quickly - too quickly I might add - falls in love with him, you realise there is no skill to Flaubert's writing - it is just a splatter of words on the page. There is no thought, no intellect, just a random amount of words vented out. He tells too much. I know I'm no expert - I'm still starting out and all that jazz but something I firmly believe - and told my students when I was in America - is you shouldn't tell unless you need to tell, you should show and, in some cases, there's a way you can tell by telling through showing. 

Flaubert, maybe in a few years I will return to you, but right now, you fail me. Sorry! 

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Angry Ode Of Stupidity

Last night, as my jet lag eyes gloomed over the screen, my friend, Vicky, sent me a link to her blog. It discussed as follows: I pulled away disgusted at the article and in full agreement with my friend. Put ratings on books, "beware! This book discusses sex and violence!" Oh dear, no?! And if we have this debate again, the 'art makes people do horrible things' debate - video games that make kids go and shoot up their whole schools or books that make men go and shoot famous band members then I say "quiet." It's stupid. Stupid because the idea that art can make people do it is foolishly. I believe - now I understand we are all different and all have different ways of thinking - but my belief is that we are born with these tendencies, art does nothing to aid nor change these tendencies. 

I also believe - flashing back to Vicky's post - that some of us can give our argument in a much more liberal way than others, I feel I just throw around words such as "stupid", "silly" and "fuck" and believe I'm right.

Anyway just a small blog today - an ode - on the stupidity of such a notion. Books that need ratings? Don't be foolish!

We Need To Talk About The Elephant