Monday, 30 September 2013

Monday Musing

Granted, the apologies are getting a little old. However, on top of combatting jet lag for the past week, I also spent my weekend in the Land that Time Forgot (a.k.a. my grandmother's house, where internet is entirely absent). But I am fully yours, once again - and yes, I can hear your sighs of relief from my little corner of the UK.

This week's Monday Musing comes to you courtesy of my very favourite poet, Pablo Neruda (you can see more on that particular obsession here).


Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The Weekly Reader

As promised, this post is coming to you from a very dreary and foggy part of the UK. I have returned to an autumn fully underway - the jumpers, duvets, and hot water bottles are all back with a vengeance. While I try my best to adapt, here's another edition of The Weekly Reader, keeping you up-to-date with literary happenings.

TOP STORIES

'Lisa Appignanesi's Top 10 Books About Paris' - The Guardian

Paris is my favourite city. That may very well make me a traitor to my home, but I am prepared to incur the wrath of pro-Londoners everywhere. To describe Paris as the city of romance is, I think, reductionist. Of course it is romantic. Who hasn't dreamed of walks along the Seine and night-time views of the Eiffel Tower with their love? But, as with all cities, Paris is a diversity of dynamics and angles. It has a history steeped in violence, as well as providing the setting for many of the world's greatest love affairs. I adore reading books set in Paris - they evoke some wonderful memories, as well as provoking many  dreams and hopes. This article, detailing 10 great works set in the world's greatest city, is a wonderful starting point for those looking to dip into the contrasts and conflicts that characterise Paris.


'Banned Books Week: In Asia, Freedom Of Speech Is Not As Simple As It Seems' - The Guardian

This week is Banned Books Week, combatting the ongoing issue of censorship. This is not a problem restricted to dictatorships. It rears its head everywhere, in often the most subtle and unnoticed ways. This article casts a spotlight on censorship in Malaysia, describing the manner in which traditional censorship has been replaced with a developing pattern of conservatism online. For any avid reader or writer, this is surely an issue that must penetrate to the core. Books, in particular, address themselves to the heart of the human experience. They are the source of inspiration, consolation, and challenge. They force empathy and engagement. So that censorship continues to work an influence in the world is a problem of immediate concern. The awareness raised by articles like this is one vital way of challenging the process.

'Bill Bryson Urges E-Book Bundle Tie-Up' - BBC

Bill Bryson has addressed himself to one of the central concerns currently facing the publishing industry - the increasing turn to digitalisation of books. As readers continue to move more forcefully towards the convenience of e-books, there remains a very real fear that print books will fall into redundancy. Bryson suggests a solution that is beginning to come to the fore - booksellers offering free or cut-price e-books when purchasers buy hard copy. Amazon US has already announced a plan along these lines. It is, as Bryson details, not a matter deriding the value of digital books. Rather, it comes from a desire to save print. I still can't reconcile myself to the idea of empty bookshelves, or a life without the feel and smell of printed paper. And nor should we be forced to take this route.


TOP IN BOOK FETISH

This week, I have decided to celebrate another of my favourite books - Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. A heroine if ever there was one, and definitely worthy of this insubstantial homage.

'Jane Eyre - A String Tied Here Under My Left Rib Print' - PemberleyPond

Granted, this is a strange quote to celebrate in print form. But the sentiment is undeniably beautiful and, I think, speaks to the core of the novel.

'Jane Eyre Quote Necklace' - Sweetly Spoken Jewelry

This is quite possibly my favourite quote from Jane Eyre and, as those long-time followers of the blog will know, currently decorates my iPhone case. So it is unsurprising that this necklace appeals!

'Custom Jane Eyre Costume Dress' - Bonnybluearts

You all know that I have an adoration for literary-themed costumes. Unfortunately, this comes only in children's sizes. Giving you some idea as to the reason why my children will be heckled in the streets.



Monday, 23 September 2013

Monday Musing

Today's the day. In a few short hours, I will be jetting my way back to the UK. But still finding time to bring you another Monday Musing. See you on the other side of the ocean!


Friday, 20 September 2013

Just For Fun Friday

Friends, I have made an unforgivable oversight. Given the strength of my love for Roald Dahl, it is shocking that I forgot to acknowledge the anniversary of his birth last Friday. I can only apologise. This is, after all, the man who gifted the world James and the Giant Peach. And where would we be without Matilda? So my omission is one of true gravity. It is belatedly, then, that The Book Habit returns to the joys of Roald Dahl - the man responsible for many a sleepless reading night and a truly worrying number of plots against parents. We miss you!

The Three Little Pigs
By Roald Dahl

The animal I really dig,
Above all others is the pig.
Pigs are noble. Pigs are clever,
Pigs are courteous. However,
Now and then, they break this rule,
One meets a pig who is a fool.
What, for example, would you say,
If strolling through the woods one day,
Right there in front of you you saw
A pig who'd built his house of STRAW?
The Wolf who saw it licked his lips,
And said, 'That pig has had his chips.'
'Little pig, little pig, let me come in!'
'No, no, by the hairs on my chinny-chin-chin!'
'Then I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house in!'

The little pig began to pray,
But Wolfie blew his house away.
He shouted, 'Bacon, pork and ham!
Oh, what a lucky wolf I am!'
And though he ate the pig quite fast,
He carefully kept the tail till last.
Wolf wandered on, a trifle bloated.
Surprise, surprise, for soon he noted
Another little house for pigs,
And this one had been built of TWIGS!

'Little pig, little pig, let me come in!'
'No, no, by the hairs on my chinny-chin-chin!'
'Then I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house in!'

The Wolf said, 'Ok, here we go!'
He then began to blow and blow.
The little pig began to squeal.
He cried, 'Oh Wolf, you've had one meal!
Why can't we talk and make a deal?
The Wolf replied, 'Not on your nelly!'
And soon the pig was in his belly.

'Two juicy little pigs!' Wolf cried,
'But still I'm not quite satisfied!
I know how full my tummy's bulging,
But oh, how I adore indulging.'
So creeping quietly as a mouse,
The wolf approached another house,
A house which also had inside
A little piggy trying to hide.
'You'll not get me!' the Piggy cried.
'I'll blow you down!' the Wolf replied.
'You'll need,' Pig said, 'a lot of puff,
And I don't think you've got enough.'
Wolf huffed and puffed and blew and blew.
The house stayed up as good as new.
'If I can't blow it down,' Wolf said,
'I'll have to blow it up instead.
I'll come back in the dead of night
And blow it up with dynamite!'
Pig cried, 'You brute! I might have known!'
Then, picking up the telephone,
He dialled as quickly as he could
The number of Red Riding Hood.

'Hello,' she said. 'Who's speaking? Who?
Oh, hello, Piggy, how'd you do?'
Pig cried, 'I need your help, Miss Hood!
Oh help me, please! D'you think you could?'
'I'll try of course,' Miss Hood replied.
'What's on you mind...?' 'A Wolf!' Pig cried.
'I know you've dealt with wolves before,
And now I've got one at my door!'

'My darling Pig,' she said, 'my sweet,
That's something really up my street.
I've just begun to wash my hair.
But when it's dry, I'll be right there.'

A short while later, through the wood,
Came striding brave Miss Riding Hood.
The Wolf stood there, his eyes ablaze,
And yellowish, like mayonnaise.
His teeth were sharp, his gums were raw,
And spit was dripping from his jaw.
Once more the maiden's eyelid flickers.
She draws the pistol from her knickers.
Once more she hits the vital spot,
And kills him with a single shot.
Pig, peeping through the window, stood
And yelled, 'Well done, Miss Riding Hood!'

Ah, Piglet, you must never trust
Young ladies from the upper crust.
For now, Miss Riding Hood, one notes,
Not only has two wolfskin coats,
But when she goes from place to place,
She has a PIGSKIN TRAVELING CASE.



Thursday, 19 September 2013

Review: My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

A couple of weeks ago in my column for The Riveter, I talked about the importance of literature in cultural exploration. As I think anyone who has occupied multiple countries will appreciate, fiction can provide an invaluable window into the historical, social, and political factors (among many others) that feed culture. When I first moved to the US, it was a wonderfully explorative American literature curriculum that best served my need to understand the country. Now back in my place of origin, I continue to believe that fiction provides the next-best option for those in possession of a limited travel budget. It was in this spirit that I decided to read Orhan Pamuk's masterpiece My Name is Red - my first dip into the world of Turkish literature.

My Name is Red is set in Istanbul, at the end of the 1500s. Following the death of one of the Sultan's chief illuminators - the result of a controversial book that the Sultan has commissioned for illustration - the novel's multiple, intersecting narratives unravel the mystery behind the murder. Yet beyond this, My Name is Red offers an exploration of the romance and rivalry surrounding Istanbul's artistry. Religious and cultural tensions abound as the novel progresses, asking whether the illuminator's death was ultimately the result of artistic devotion or opposition.

"'What attracts us to writing, illustrating and painting is bound up in this fear of retribution. It's not only for money and favour that we kneel before our work from morning to evening, continuing by candlelight through the night to the point of blindness and sacrifice ourselves for pictures and books, it's to escape the prattle of others, to escape the community, but in contrast to this passion to create, we also want those we've forsaken to see and appreciate the inspired pictures we've made - and if they should call us sinners? Oh, the suffering this brings upon the illustrator of genuine talent! Yet, genuine painting is hidden in the agony no one sees and no one creates. It's contained in the picture, which on first sight, they'll say is bad, incomplete, blasphemous or heretical. A genuine miniaturist knows he must reach that point, yet at the same time, he fears the loneliness that awaits him there.'"

My Name is Red is a novel about which I had no preconception. Other than some truly emphatic recommendations on the cover, the novel's origin, from the mind of a celebrated Turkish author, was all that I had to go on. This does, however, only consolidate my belief that My Name is Red serves as a perfect example of the merits of cultural exploration through literature. While I would certainly not claim that deriving cultural knowledge exclusively from books is a good idea, this novel absolutely developed my understanding of the complex history and dynamics at work in Turkey during the 1500s. Much of this was the result of an expertly executed exploration of the tensions exhibiting themselves at the time - tensions that continue to dominate contemporary global cultural narratives:

" 'To God belongs the East and West,' I said in Arabic like the late Enishte. 'But East is east and West is west,' said Black. 'An artist should never succumb  to hubris of any kind,' said Butterfly, 'he should simply paint the way he sees fit rather than troubling over East or West.'"

Each chapter of the novel is told from the perspective of a different character, with varying levels of relationship to the murder victim. That Pamuk is able to effectively distinguish between the voices of such a propensity of characters is one of the more impressive aspects of the work. Including chapters titled 'I Am a Corpse' and 'I Am a Murderer', readers will be hardly surprised to find this a novel weaved with true suspense. At 666 pages (unintentional, I am sure) this is a long work. And I did not find that it was a novel I could speed through. Yet the plot was always perfectly paced and each character balanced with the necessary depth and complexity.

Beyond these aspects, I particularly enjoyed the chapter's narrated by My Name is Red's unidentified storyteller. Based on the origins of illustrations that the storyteller selects from Istanbul's resident illuminators, these chapters relate the story of a diversity of items: from a dog and a tree, to the colour red. Providing a break from the murder mystery aspect of the plot, these chapters provide some of the most beautiful and reflective prose in the novel:

"I hear the question upon your lips: What is it to be a color? Color is the touch of the eye, music to the deaf, a word out of the darkness. Because I've listened to souls whispering - like the susurrus of the wind - from book to book and object to object for tens of thousands of years, allow me to say that my touch resembles the touch of angels. Part of me, the serious half, calls out to your vision while the mirthful half soars through the air with your glances. I'm so fortunate to be red! I'm fiery. I'm strong. I know men take notice of me and that I cannot be resisted. I do not conceal myself: For me, delicacy manifests itself neither in weakness nor in subtlety, but through determination and will. So, I draw attention to myself. I'm not afraid of other colors, shadows, crowds or even of loneliness. How wonderful it is to cover a surface that awaits me with my own victorious being!"

My Name is Red is a revelation in many ways. For a book of such length, it never deviates from purpose and plot. It is consistently beautiful. If you are looking for a fictional cultural exploration of true magnificence and undoubtedly timeless significance, you need look no further.


Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The Weekly Reader

I am now at that point in my holiday where, with less than a week left, I am beginning to question my ability to enter back into the real world. I continue to hold out hope for an almost supernatural transition into work mode. Naive, perhaps, but I remain optimistic. Next week's The Weekly Reader will be coming to you from the UK, so if you could all begin sending positive weather vibes that way, I would be very grateful.

TOP STORIES

'A New Precedent For Female Authors?' - The Riveter

This week, I begin with my latest column over at The Riveter. In my defence, it is the crossover with some key topical literary news that gains it principal place on this list. This week, I consider the announcement that the National Book Award's '5 under 35' list consists entirely of female authors - asking whether this represents a new precedent for the recognition of female literary talent. Alluding to the continuing practice of female authors adopting male pen names (with J.K. Rowling's Robert Galbraith a case in point), the column argues that there is still a substantial battle to fight in gender equality in the literary field.

'Philip Pullman: Illegal Downloading Is "Moral Squalor"' - The Guardian

As you all know, if there are two things that I love in this world they are: (1) Philip Pullman; and (2) a good rant. Bring the two together and I imagine that you end up with something akin to this article. Writing a piece for one of my favourite organisations - Index on Censorship - Pullman argues that the illegal downloading of books and music amounts to theft, on par with physical robbery. The development of computer technology, Pullman argues, does not alter the underlying principle of copyright laws - that an individual's work must be paid for, in order to be enjoyed. Philip Pullman always could make a good argument. This piece is no exception.


'Global Expansion For Booker Prize' - BBC

You will remember last week's update regarding announcement of the Man Booker Prize's 2013 Shortlist. Subsequent controversy has surrounded the decision of the organisers to open the prize to authors beyond the Commonwealth, Ireland, and Zimbabwe. From 2014, any author writing in English will be eligible to win the £50,000 prize. While many have welcomed the change, a number of authors - including A.S. Byatt - have expressed concern for the rigour of judging a substantially increased number of works. There appears to be particular concern that British authors will be forced to relinquish the limelight to American heavyweights, such as Toni Morrison. It will certainly be interesting to see what this means in practice for the Man Booker Prize, as one of the most reputable literary awards.

TOP IN BOOK FETISH

Today we celebrate the wonder of The Bard, with a homage to all things Shakespearean.

'William Shakespeare Decoration' - British Library

Preparing you for a fantastically literary Christmas tree, this combined with the Darcy decoration will get you well on your way. Get ready to impress your party guests.

'Fantasy Renaissance Elizabethan "Shakespeare In Love" Gown' -  SewHistorical

I have a soft-spot for fearless costume replication. If you have £771.41 to spare, why would you not spend it here?

'Felted Hamlet Hamster' - Mythillogical

WHY DO I LOVE THIS SO MUCH?

Monday, 16 September 2013

Monday Musing

Hi pals!

I hope that you are all having a stellar Monday so far. It's my last week in the great United States before returning to the UK for immersion into the joys of a PhD programme. Fortunately, still some time to go before I will have to trade in my current reading pile for textbooks and journal articles. I hope that you all find some reading time this week, and here is some inspiration courtesy of Caitlin Moran to get you in the right frame of mind.


Thursday, 12 September 2013

Review: The Buddha, Geoff and Me by Edward Canfor-Dumas

In trying to broaden my reading experience as much as possible, I recently made the decision to join a book club. I know many people, dotted around the globe, who conduct most of their reading at the impetus of discussion groups. The idea of 'reading on demand' has never really appealed to me but (as you may be able to tell) I love discussing books and relish the opportunity to push outside of my comfort zone. In that spirit, I attended my first meeting at The Bookshop in Welwyn Garden City, armed with book of choice - The Buddha, Geoff and Me by Edward Canfor-Dumas.

The book relates the story of Ed, an unlucky Londoner having trouble in love and life. Finding himself stuck in a cycle of increasing despair, Ed's chance meeting with the unlikely, modern Buddhist, Geoff, sets him on an alternative path. Initially resistant to change, Ed opens himself up to Geoff's counsel and determines that he must take control of his life. He begins to challenge his negative attitudes in an effort to move forward. Although he often fails, Ed's story is one of hope in the face of modernity's complexity and difficulties.

"Nothing prepares you for the moment when you meet the person who's going to change your life. I'm not talking here about meeting someone and falling in love and deciding to start a family and all that. I'm talking about meeting a person who alters, deep down, the way you look at life, and sets you off on a totally unexpected path. Geoff was the bloke who changed my life. I wasn't looking to change. I wasn't looking for a new direction. I wasn't looking for anything. Except a drink."

The Buddha, Geoff and Me is fundamentally a story of the challenges posed to the individual by modern society. Ed is a man drained by his existence: troubled at work, failing in love, and exhausted by the demands of daily life. The arc of the book is, therefore, one of a life redeemed. Through meeting Geoff and beginning to integrate Buddhist teachings into his life, Ed is able to see that there is an alternative path - one that centralises positivity and the concept of karma. For those who find themselves struggling to keep their heads above water, The Buddha, Geoff and Me delivers an affirming message.

" 'The point is, we all create these habits, and they can end up trapping us. And the most powerful habit of all is how we think, because that controls how we act. We shoot ourselves in the foot by saying we can't do this, we can't do that; that something's impossible. Maybe we're scared of how we'll look if we fall flat on our face, or maybe we failed before and lost heart and don't want to try again - when, actually, if we made just a bit more effort or developed some kind of skill, or got the right advice or help, or just stuck at it for a bit longer, we'd definitely succeed. I mean, look at all the people in history who've been written off but won in the end just because they didn't give up: Robert the Bruce, Nelson Mandela, Churchill, God knows how many scientists and artists. That's my motto, in fact: "Perseverance Wins".'"

This is most definitely a book that I would not have picked up, had it not been for the Book Group. While it served as an extremely easy and positive read, I struggled with the agenda pursued by the author. All writers who set out to compose a work of fiction are pushing a personal agenda - they are, after all, attempting to paint reality from imagination. With The Buddha, Geoff and Me, however, the plot and characters were usurped by Edward Canfor-Dumas's determination to sell Buddhism.

I personally have a lot of time for Buddhism. It is a topic that I have spent a good deal of effort studying and contemplating. The lessons at the heart of Canfor-Dumas's work are, therefore, morals that I consider both pertinent and helpful in modern life. But The Buddha, Geoff and Me reads as an instruction manual for Buddhism, that lacks both plot and substance.

I have no inherent problem with utilising fiction as a carrier of particular messages, whether they be spiritual, political, economic, or otherwise. But I believe that fiction should prioritise the fictional world it creates. Otherwise, the author's purposes would be better served in writing a textbook. With The Buddha, Geoff and Me, the author's decision to sacrifice a complex and well-developed plot for the sake of repetitive 'life lessons' means that the beauty of the Buddhist understanding of life is lost in a sense of superficiality.

That said, I believe this is a book that could offer some assistance to readers looking for a certain Eat, Pray, Love experience. We do, after all, look to fiction as a mirror to our own experiences. For those finding themselves overwhelmed by the pace of modern life, The Buddha, Geoff and Me would no doubt offer reassurance and insight.

"I was actually feeling sorry for myself when I filled up, I reasoned. Geoff leaving just reminded me of my loneliness, the pain of disconnection. And yes, I did want to be whole. I didn't want to be stuck alone in my flat night after night, getting slowly pissed in front of vapid TV. I did want to be connected - with a woman, a family, friends, society. I looked up. Even with the stars, I thought. It was a clear night and the major constellations were quite visible. I remembered reading somewhere that the stars you see are so far away and the light's taken such a long time to reach you, that when you look at the night sky you're actually looking thousands, maybe millions of years back into the past. If that was true, and we are all stardust, all part of the Big Bang, and some minute residue of that event was in me at this very moment, was it totally ludicrous to believe that my life could somehow permeate to the distant fringes of the universe?"

The Buddha, Geoff and Me is described on the front cover as 'A Modern Story'. Ed is painted as the epitome of a modern man, dragged down by life's difficulties. That the messages laid out are messages of value is unquestionable. The book is about reconnecting with life and appreciating the consequentialism of actions. My belief is, however, that the book is an inappropriate forum through which to ask the questions it poses. Were the plot better developed and the characters given more depth, the Buddhist message would be more effectively delivered. If you are looking to learn a little about Buddhism, I would suggest turning to non-fiction as the most valuable resource. Certainly, The Buddha, Geoff and Me can offer only limited insight.


Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The Weekly Reader

Happy Wednesday, my literary lovelies!

I hope that this post finds you all enjoying a wonderful start to September. I am missing the beginnings of autumnal English weather, having exchanged it for 95°F Missouri heat and more mosquito bites than it is possible to count. While I go off to rub an entire tube of Gold Bond on my legs, here is everything you need to know about the last week in literature.

TOP STORIES


'Man Booker Prize 2013: Toibin And Crace Lead Shortlist' - BBC


Yes, it is that time of the year once more - the Man Booker Prize is upon us. Among this year's six named writers are two veteran nominees, with Colm Toibin nominated for The Testament of Mary and Jim Crace for Harvest. Female writers also outnumber males on the 2013 Shortlist, with author Eleanor Catton the youngest nominee at 27 years old. It is also great to see some diversity in the cultures represented by both the authors and the settings of their works.

'The Problem With Prologues' - Book Riot

Love them? Hate them? I have often been surprised at the passion with which some readers decry the prologue. The author of this article suggests that prologues are problematic because they tend to either excel the rest of the work or fall far short. Personally, I think that a well-written prologue can add a huge amount to the reading experience. In certain cases, it can help to re-read prologues after finishing the book, particularly the case with crime fiction and thrillers. But I do always enjoy a little righteous anger - and that's what this article delivers.

'Reading Lolita In Tehran in England' - The Riveter

A little more shameless self-promotion. I've written a couple more From Austen to Zola columns since my last edition of The Weekly Reader. This week's column discusses the utility of literature in cultural exploration, with allusion to Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran (which I reviewed a few weeks ago here.)

'Reading Controversy' - The Riveter

And the second of my columns deals with the issue of reading controversial literature. In light of my decision to work through Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, I thought it appropriate to discuss the merits of controversy and the need to challenge personal reading prejudices.


TOP IN BOOK FETISH

We all like a bit of the weird now and again. It keeps life interesting. My exploration of the best in book fetish has thrown up some of the strangest literary items on the market. This week, I thought we would celebrate all things bizarre, just in case you have money to spare.

'Mr Darcy Doll' - UneekDollDesigns

Now, you all know that I am perhaps the world's biggest Mr Darcy fan. I always believed that there was no inappropriate homage to the man in the breeches. Until I saw this doll. And had many nightmares.

'Harry Potter Theme Character Cushions' - MaxAndMillieArt

I get Dumbledore. But the others are beyond confusing.

'Gollum Earrings' - AttisTreasures

I can imagine no situation in which these would be anything other than terrifying to all.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Monday Musing

Hello hello! 

I am still alive, despite disappearing for most of last week. My mum's birthday brought about a surprise trip to the US and, with jet lag and an Elvis impersonator to contend with, my attention to blogging has been less than stellar. But I am back to it this week, with some more reviews and the regular features. Enjoy!


Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Literary Excursion: Oxford

Hello Literary Excursion fans!

Since winding up university work and finishing the Season at Knebworth House, I have made efforts to get in a few book-themed adventures. Fortunately, a visit from my bibliophile mother afforded me the perfect opportunity for a new exploration. Ordinarily resident in the US, my mum's work visits to the UK are the highlights of my year. This time, we thought that we would mix it up a little. Rather than subject her to yet another tour of Knebworth House, I went and stayed with her near her work office in Oxford. Literary excursion heaven!

Obviously, there are many Oxford sights of particular importance to the dedicated bibliophile. As such, I am well aware that this post will only scrape the surface of what is available. But I think that, for two days of sight-seeing, we did a pretty comprehensive job! The first stop was the infamous Bodleian Library. Serving as the principal library for the University of Oxford, the Bodleian houses over 11,000 items.


It is a beautiful building and is currently home to the Magical Books exhibition, with original manuscripts from J.R.R. Tolkien and Philip Pullman on display. And entry is free!

Above one of the Bodleian's doors.

Well hello Laura the Scholar!

No literary-themed Oxford trip could miss a visit to the Alice in Wonderland shop. Lewis Carroll was educated at Oxford, along with many other well-known British authors. The Alice Shop is the ultimate homage to Carroll's creation, selling every imaginable Alice-themed souvenir. It is, however, a tiny shop - so be prepared to jostle with the tourists. Personal space is something that you will not retain here.


Among those authors celebrated as Oxford alumni, perhaps the most famous are C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Both were members of The Inklings, an unofficial literary group that would meet to discuss fiction. The group frequented the local pub, The Eagle and Child - a must-see for the literary-minded. Amazingly, despite the small size, it was relatively easy to get a table. And the walls abound with interesting artefacts related to the pub's most famous patrons.


Finally, no visit to the Oxford city centre could be complete without a trip to Christ Church College. While I am sure that the history of the place provides for an interesting aspect of the university's history, my visit was for one purpose only - to see the hall used as the Hogwarts Great Hall in the Harry Potter films. I would advise against a visit to this particular location during the height of tourist season, however. It was heaving and our visit amounted to a lengthy circular shuffle around the hall.


A visit to Oxford comes highly recommended for any literary fanatic. The place abounds with bibliophilic hotspots. For our mother-daughter weekend, however, the joy did not stop there. Mum's office is located outside of the town and near the small village of Woodstock, where we stayed for the duration. The best thing about Woodstock is that a two minute walk to the edge of the village leads you to the back entrance of the beautiful Blenheim Palace. While not strictly literary in nature (for anyone interested in the history of the Palace, I would recommend a visit to the website), we spent a lot of time reading in the grounds. I do not think it possible to find a lovelier reading location.




So there you have it. The perfect Oxford Literary Excursion. Highly recommended for anyone who finds herself (or himself) in the area. And the best opportunity for a wonderful weekend with your fantastic mum.


Monday, 2 September 2013

Monday Musing

Welcome to September, my friends! A month of autumn leaves, countryside walks, and (most importantly) my birthday. Yes, it's the big 2-5 this month. A quarter of a century. Doesn't the time fly? I hope that you are all looking forward to a fabulous month ahead. And to my pals in the US, I am wishing you all a wonderful Labor Day!