Talk Literary to Me

Excuse my language here, but there is no other way to say it – books are the shit. I mean that in a good way. Books are my greatest joy, apart from carbs and my dog Chewie. For three years, I studied BA English Literature & Drama at the University of Winchester; I basically did a degree in books. However, doing a degree in books means that you have to read and you more than likely don’t get a choice of what you read. When you do get a choice, you quickly learn to regret that choice (don’t pick a favourite book for a dissertation topic, it will soon no longer be a favourite, at least for your final year). Reading becomes graded and regimented, and the joy of reading can sometimes fade (especially when you look at texts through psychoanalytic lenses. Thanks for that, Freud).  However, university is now complete, I never have to look at Lacan again, and my love of reading has returned! Less sitting in a hot study room, banging my head on the table, more sitting down with a cuppa with a good book. Riding off the back of my renewed love of reading, here are my top six books (so far). Let me know in the comments below what you think of my choices, and what your favourite books are.

 

6. Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie, 1911

6. Peter Pan.JPG

Ah, that childhood classic. Well for me, the book was not a childhood classic. The 1953 Disney move certainly was. I remember young Rosie putting the VHS in and singing along to ‘We’re Following the Leader’, only to rewind it to sing it again. Looking back, the film was certainly not very politically correct, but young Rosie had no care for that; she just had a desire to sing and an odd crush on Peter Pan. It was when I was older, in my early teens, that I discovered Peter Pan was a book. In my early teens, I was going through an ‘elitism’ phase. I had a side fringe, a studded belt, and an attitude that shouted ‘the only real music is classic rock’. Yeah, I was one of those. That elitism seeped its way into my reading habits, and I started reading classics because ‘they are the only real literature (followed by a teenage grunt and sassy hair flick)’. I remember reading it in bed, feeling ridiculously proud of myself for ‘being cooler than the other girls’ because I was reading a classic book. However, it elicited something more. It was the first book that ever truly struck a chord with me. It pulled me back into childhood wonder and totally absorbed me into the world within its pages. I read it in one sitting, and swiftly read it again the next night. As a teenager, it brought me back to being a child. As an adult, it’s a book that makes me happy in its simplicity, something I have yet to find in another book.

 

5. Voyage in the Dark by Jeans Rhys, 1934

5. Voyage in the Dark.JPG

This was a book introduced to me by The Modern Age module in my second year. I had never heard of it or Jean Rhys before, nor had I ever been really invested in Modernist literature. I mean, I liked a bit, but that was all. I did something that you should never do in university (please learn from me and my mistakes), and that is read the book at 1am the night before the module. I thought I would do a little skim read, maybe check out Shmoop.com for the book’s themes, but I became instantly invested in the text. It’s about a young woman, a chorus girl, who moves away from her home and has to support herself in rainy England. It’s a simple premise, but incredibly enticing. The text deals with taboo subjects of the time, notably female sexuality, race issues, abortion, and the crushing of the darn patriarchy. Feminist and ground breaking? Hit me up. This is the book that really turned me into reading Modernist literature, and turned me into an accidental Modernist scholar. If you like feminism, modernism, and aren’t afraid of bluntness, give this book a go.

 

4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, 2005

4. Never Let Me Go.JPG

I’m not normally a dystopia kind of gal. All of the dystopian fiction I have tried to read was too violent or too regressive for my taste e.g. too many alien slave girls. That is, until I read Never Let Me Go. This books follows the character of Kathy as she grows up in a specialist English boarding school and how she deals with love, loss, and life. Very simple, very lovely. Oh, and a large group of humans are bred as clones to serve the purpose of being a donor. Ah.
I’ve managed to put my finger on two points as to why Never Let Me Go is one of my favourite books. Firstly, it’s just a good, easy, heartfelt read. I took it on holiday with me to Dubai and read it sat by the pool. It is the perfect holiday read. It’s also easy to read because the characters are easy to understand and to relate to (that is, apart from being bred as a clone). Personally, I believe these characters are the most realistically written of any book I have read so far. Secondly, it has an underlying socialist message that questions human morality and ethics. That’s right, lull the audience into a false sense of warmth and then strike them with the Orwellian messages. I have always admired books that can entertain and make you think, and this book made me question the notion of morality and identity for days. In fact, I haven’t read it in about a year and it’s still making me question what I thought I knew.

 

3. Ten Years in an Open Neck Shirt by John Cooper Clarke, 20143. Ten Years

A-Level English crushed my love of poetry. We seemed to only study Romanticism, Blake, Bysshe, Byron; all self-important men with whiny words that bored me to death. I decided poetry was not for me, except for good ol’ Shakespeare’s sonnets.  That’s until I discovered John Cooper Clarke. I was meandering my local Waterstones, and came upon this book in the poetry section. I loved the fantastical Rolling Stones-esque cover, opened it up to page 49 and was sold. Page 49 was a poem entitled ‘Evidently Chicken Town’ and it was like nothing I had ever read before. It was rude and rhythmic and real. It was intelligent and silly and garish and all encompassingly punk. After buying the book, I fell in love with one of the poems called ‘I Wanna Be Yours’, which was made famous by the Arctic Monkeys. For me, Ten Years, upholds everything I like about poetry. The musicality, the brashness, the honesty, the creativity. I tell you, I would pay good money to read John Cooper Clarke’s rewriting of the Romantics.

 

2. Just Kids by Patti Smith, 2010

2. Just Kids

My enjoyment of Patti Smith’s memoir Just Kids came as a big surprise to me. I had heard such marvellous things about the writing of the book, but I had never listen to any of Patti Smith’s music before. I just assumed she was your usual nineteen-seventies punk rocker, all loudness, sex, drugs, and rock n roll. Hand on heart, Just Kids is the most beautiful book I have ever read. It is so incredibly descriptive, you can feel her emotions dripping off the page. It documents the struggles she and others like her went through, the rise to fame, the high and the low points. What impressed me the most, is that you can hear Smith’s voice throughout. She has such a distinctive way of writing, whether that be poetry, lyrics, or her books, and she unashamedly keeps her voice. I would recommend Just Kids to anyone for the sheer beauty of it, but I would highly recommend it to my friends trying to make their way in the arts. She documents that endeavour perfectly, but also inspires.

 

1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, 1963

1. The Bell Jar

This is the book that made me me. I would not be the Rosie Lewis I am today without it. I first read this book when I was about fifteen, when I knew that I wanted to study Literature. I was starved for influential female writers, so I made it my mission to read as many books by female authors as I could. When I read The Bell Jar at that young age, I could feel the importance of the book. I could tell it was ground-breaking and daring but I couldn’t really relate to it. I enjoyed it and put it back on the shelf and in the back of my mind. I re-read it again when I was eighteen, and I broke down sobbing on a train because it affected me that much. The story follows Esther Greenwood as she tries to be successful whilst struggling with mental health problems. Every theme, every interaction, every thought Esther had had felt like mine. Every struggle and joy she had, I had a variant in my life. I have read this book more than ten times in the last two years and it has gotten me through my worst depressive period. I can genuinely say what pulled me through was anti-depressants, love from my family and friends, and The Bell Jar. For a book written by Sylvia Plath about depression, treatment, and oppression, it’s a surprisingly uplifting book. Every time I read The Bell Jar, I find something new and resonant within it. It has made me, changed me, and inspired me; that is why it is my favourite ever book.

 

Thank you for reading! Let me know what you think of the post, and what your favourite books are in the comments. I’m all about that conversation.

 

Rosie, out.

New Year, New Me?

‘Twas the night before New Year, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…

Apart from Rosie Lewis who was having an extestential crisis.

It was in early December that I remembered the year 2017 would be arriving shortly, and there would be an influx of people on Facebook saying ‘New Year, New Me’, people bettering themselves, and asking me, ‘what are your New Year’s resolutions?’ Cue panic regarding New Year’s Resolutions.

‘It’s a New Year, there must be a new me!’ I worried. ‘Everyone else is doing it!’ (As my mum says, if your friends jumped off the pier, would you jump too? But, alas, I forgot about that saying for a while…)

I sat down to gather my thoughts and my possibilities. 2016 Rosie was a massive jumble of anxiety, Shakespeare, confusion, and gin. Who could 2017 Rosie be?

Well…

I could be an intrepid traveller, running off to different parts of the country to ‘find myself’. I could explore the world, meet new people, learn about new cultures!

Then I remembered that I have no money, I can’t stand up straight the majority of the time, and I don’t really have a desire to go travelling on my own.

I could be a full-time, dedicated worker. Like Dolly Parton, 9-5. Working all day, every day, to make that dolla dolla.

Then I remembered, I’m not all about the money. I need money to survive and I want to have a good life but I don’t want to work myself into the ground. What a way to make a living.

I could become a fitness guru! Green smoothies, 5am starts, getting those gains, Tuesday leg day, shaping my body to be the epitome of the human form.

Then I remembered, definitely not. I love being healthy but I’m not concerned about muscles or BMI. Sure, I’m concerned about my health and my looks, but not to the extent of waking up at 5am for it. I don’t think there’s anything on earth worth waking up at 5am for…

I could go home and take a year (or a few years) out; recover from my health problems, work down the mines, return to my Welsh roots.

Then I remembered, I’ve settled down in Winchester. I have my work and creativity and love and friendship up there. Wales is home but Winchester is where I live and thrive.

I could become a mother.

Then I remembered, NO. NO WAY, NOT YET SUNSHINE. NOT FOR MANY YEARS TO COME.

I could drop everything and join the circus.

Then I remembered, I have no discernible talent that could contribute to a circus in anyway. Apart from maybe falling over? Hmm. No.

I could go and work in a Greek taverna and escape it all.

Then I remembered, I don’t want to escape it all.

 

This internal dialogue continued up until December 31st, New Year’s Eve.

Here’s an example of the brain mush that was going on at this time – perhaps an SNL cast member, it’s not too late to take up a sport, maybe I could be a professional musician, perhaps if I gave up reading classics, I’ve always enjoyed interior design etc. etc. etc.

 

And then it hit me. ‘New Year, New Me’.

I don’t even know who ‘me’ is. I know I’m Rosie Lewis, but I don’t know how I would go about making myself new because I don’t even know who I am.

I am confused and fidgety and Welsh and in love. I know I like Shakespeare and hate Jonson. I love lemon curd and hate Marmite. I like dogs and cats but I’m not too fussed on hamsters. I have mental health problems and I’m fighting through them. I don’t know exactly what I’m doing after university but I know it’ll creative and theatre based. I like Sylvia Plath but I never got into Rupi Kaur. I love to watch the rain but I thrive in the sun.

These are all parts that make up ‘me’ and I don’t mind these parts. In fact, I quite like them. Although they make up ‘me’, I still don’t really know who I am yet. I’m 20 for Heaven’s sake! I’m just starting to like myself, I don’t want to change that! Just because some people want to renew themselves and be different people, it doesn’t mean that I have to.

 

New Year, Same Me. Panic over.

Just hopefully dealing better with my finances and washing my hair a bit more…

 

(Originally posted on January 1st 2016 @ https://rosiealou.wordpress.com/2017/01/01/new-year-new-me/)

My Employee of the Caudate Nucleus is misbehaving…

Dear Employee of the Caudate Nucleus,

This is an official warning from Head Office. Please consider your recent behaviour and the effect it has had on the Work Place.

In other words, what the hell are you playing at? Seriously. Over the last few weeks, nay, months, there has been an immense deterioration in your work. Like everyone, we all have blips in our work and we’ve discussed that, but this is like nothing we have experienced before. You have completely ignored all of the orders sent to you. For an example, one month ago, I requested ‘A Humorous Yet Savvy Blog Post About the Ghostbusters Reboot – ASAP’. What did I get in return? An essay entitled ‘101 Ways in Which You Are a Failure’. Whoa. I expect this from the Department of Mental Instability, but not from you.

Don’t just think that your change in behaviour and work has only affected Head Office, oh no. You’ve affected a large amount of the other departments too. I went to visit the Music Sector (usually large, noisy, and full of life). I found them all curled up around a record player, crying about the inadequacy of their own lyrics compared to Blur’s and Belle & Sebastian’s. Normally, the Music Sector don’t give a toss about their lyrics; they just want to get loaded and have a good time.  Your neglect on your department is severely affecting theirs. And don’t you get me started on the Department of Dissertation. For the last month, every time I ring them, all I can hear is screaming down the line, and I’ve got to hang up to save my ears.

If this issue was just as simple as your poor behaviour and lack of work ethic, we could have a little meeting, have some coffee, and go back to normal. But it’s not that simple, is it? No. You’ve decided to be theatrical and block off your entire office with a Les Mis inspired blockade. Nothing can permeate that wall – no witty comment about Trump, no opinion of Suicide Squad; not even a discussion about mental illness can drag you out of your hiding space (and we all know how much you love writing about that). I feel you are behaving very unreasonably.

I’m sorry Employee. I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed. All I want is for you to come back to us. Come back to me. Remember all the fun times we had, eh? Writing poems about Dragons in Year 3. Writing for the Young Playwright’s Festival in Year 7. Writing shite Morrissey-esque songs in our awkward teenage phase. Remember how happy we were when we got payed and published for the first time? And who could forget the backlash we got over that Red Light District blog post? Probably not a good example but there you go.

We could have some more good times… if you stopped being an insensitive nonce and pulled your arse out of hibernation. I am so close to firing you and hiring Emma Thompson’s Employee of the Caudate Nucleus (if it wasn’t already hired and didn’t cost so damn much).

Well, I would be so close to firing you if you weren’t just a little part of my brain. The only way to get rid of you is if I had a lobotomy. I definitely don’t want that. That would be painful and difficult, I don’t have time for that.

How about you just started behaving like normal and stop giving me writer’s block? Hmm? Sound good? That would be great.

I hope to see the next piece of work on my desk soon (and not in the form of a soul crushing essay, thank you).

Kind regards from The Head of the Work Place,

Rosie

 

(The Caudate Nucleus is the part of the brain that is used when those who write a lot, write. This is according to Zimmer and Lotze and some other psychologists and scientists. Google it if you are interested)

 

(Originally posted on August 23rd August @ https://rosiealou.wordpress.com/2016/08/23/my-employee-of-the-caudate-nucleus-is-misbehaving/_

Deep breaths, exam timetables, and puppies.

It’s that time of year again. Oh Heavens, I wish it wasn’t. That semester of Hell. If you walk within a mile of a campus or a school, you can hear the low rumble of crying and cursing students. The end is so close and yet so far. It’s that dreaded time; the Assessment Period.

It’s that time of year when across the nation, youths and adults in education are stressing out. For those of you who do not know, May marks the beginning of exams, practicals, essays and results in universities and in schools. It’s a time feared by everyone; the terrified students, the parents at the end of a phonecall with a terrified student, the lecturers and teachers that cry knowing that they have months of marking ahead. Everyone I know who is currently a student is in a critical state of ‘OH NO, SAVE ME, OH WHY?!’ I’m currently so stressed out that I think I should be renamed Stressy McAnxioushead. Instead of me just whittling on about stress, let me give you some facts. According to YouthSight, 75% of students have personally experienced emotional distress at university, and 43% have experienced the mental disorder of anxiety. Yeesh. That is a lot.

Since coming to university, I have personally developed a chronic anxiety disorder, but it’s really not a rare thing at all. So many friends have confided in me or have made public the fact that they too have an anxiety disorder (we should start a group up like AA but instead of introducing ourselves and talking, we just have a cathartic group cry). Everyone deals with their anxiety in a different way; we are all very different human beings with different coping mechanisms. However, I’ve developed a few tactics that help me when I’m having a panic attack, an anxious episode, or am just generally fretting about life (I tend to do that latter a lot). And here they are –

1. Make a plan. By ‘make a plan’, I mean you grab a notebook/sheet of paper/calendar and just fill in what you need to do. List it out. Assign days, breaks, colour code it. Gosh, I love colour coding. Making a plan just gives me some form of control over a hectic situation. Honestly, I rarely stick to the plan in the end but it always helps just to lay everything down in front of you.

2. Have a hot bath (if you don’t have a bath, avoid this point, and I am sorry for your loss). And not just a ‘oh a pleasant, lukewarm bath’. I mean a ‘AH OW that’s hot but nice ohh so relaxing, that’s better’ bath. It makes your muscles relax, you can lock the door and have no-one bother you. You can block out the world, put on a Shania Twain CD (if you want) and read a non-work related book. That’s right, I’m looking at you, Mum. Put the book about Bible study down and get working on that reading list. Actually, the same rule should go for me. Reading Sarah Kane for a lecture really does diminish the relaxing nature of a bath.

3. Puppies. Find a puppy; pet it. Look at picture of puppies; smile. Watch a movie about a puppy; feel good (but not Marley & Me. Don’t ever watch that when you are feeling down. It’s a recipe for a teary disaster). The same goes for adult dogs, kittens, adult cats, and koala bears.

4. Jog/Run. Run away from your problems. Run far away. Run away to a different country. Run like Forrest Gump until you are so far away from your problems that you can no longer see them. Or you could just go for a jog to relieve stress and tension. That would work too, I guess.

5. Make food. Bake cookies, make a proper meal, try cooking something you have never eaten before. It distracts from the troubles of life, takes your mind off of the problems. Plus, you get to eat your feelings (I like that part).

6. Speaking of food… make sure to actually eat! With anxiety, it’s easy to forget to eat or not feel hungry at all. It’s true that the opposite can be said; some people over eat when they are anxious. We are all different. Regardless of eating habits, you’ve got to make sure that you eat and get your nutrients, otherwise you’ll just make yourself worse. Haven’t eaten all day? Go and make your favourite pasta dish. Feel guilty that you’ve eaten a whole chocolate cake but it relieved the anxiety? Oh well. You eat that chocolate cake and enjoy it. Everything in moderation, right?

7. Get colouring in. Go get yo’ paints. Go get yo’ pencils. Go get yo’ eleven year old colouring book and go crazy with it. Feel childlike and colour in that picture of Scooby Doo with passion. There are some amazing, more mature colouring books available for the less childlike of us, with flowers and quotes and things. I would seriously recommend them.

8. Don’t cram. If you have an essay, revision, a presentation, don’t do it all in one go. It’s just not sensible. Make sure to take breaks. I’ll say that again because it’s important. MAKE SURE TO TAKE BREAKS. If you don’t find the time to relax, your brain doesn’t like it and won’t function well. Simple. (I’ll admit, I struggle with this one a lot. I just want to power on through and get everything I ever need to do done in one go, but it never works. I’m working on my relaxing, I swear).

9. Sleep. If you can’t sleep, the anxiety gets worse. That’s just how it is. If you are tired, take nap. If you are beyond stressed, find time to take a nap. If insomnia is getting the better of you, take a short, mid-day nap. Naps are great, they solve so much. Naps have my heart.

10. This tactic, I think, is the best one ever. It’s so simple. It’s natural. Just cry. Sob uncontrollably into a pillow. Cry loudly and proudly. Have some quiet tears. If you need to cry, (in the words of Shia LeBeouf) just do it. Don’t ever leave it bottled up. If you are in a situation where you are around people and don’t want to cry, wait, hold it in, go home, and just bawl. I will admit, I cry a lot. I do. But that’s fine. It doesn’t make you weak or lesser. If someone tells you that you are weak for crying, they are very wrong and ridiculous. Let it all go. Cry.

I hope that you found this post interesting and maybe even helpful. It’s fine to be an anxious human bean. That’s life.

Let me know what you do to relieve anxiety or stress in the comments; the more help, the better!

Rosie, out.

 

(original posted on May 16th 2017  https://rosiealou.wordpress.com/2016/05/16/deep-breaths-exam-timetables-and-puppies/)