Falling in Love with the Barter Books Bookshop.

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DSC_0464 If there is magic anywhere in England it’s in this bookshop. Did I say bookshop?  Barter Books is so much more than that- it’s the home of the most intense passion for books that walls can contain. And what great walls they are…

Location, location! Barter Books is one of the biggest secondhand bookshops in England, located in an old Victorian train station in the historical town of Alnwick. The owners, Stuart and Mary Manley, put a lot of passion in creating a world dedicated to old books. They started the shop in 1991 and it has since proved to be such a success that it has been called by the New Statesman magazine “The British Library of secondhand bookshops.” The best landlord in the world and my dear friend Laura brought me there last weekend. It has proved to be an unforgetable trip, something I will probably talk about a lot to everyone that will listen. So please listen… Read the rest of this entry »

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The Hunger Games and Academia.

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The Hunger Games (film)

The Hunger Games. Ah! Now that’s a movie! So you think it’s not that great? Well wait until you have to analyze the living soul out of it. Then again, it could maybe suck every trace of fun in it but I seem to enjoy these things much more than I legally should be allowed as a student. Knowledge is power indeed, and I do like things better the more I know about them. The Hunger Games might seem like a pretty simple, young-adultish movie, but when you really start to think about it, it’s can be so much more. OK, so perhaps I’m pushing it now.  Perhaps I’m too tired. Perhaps the two hour lecture on Themes and Issues in Contemporary Media got the best of me, especially since it was followed by a film viewing of The Hunger Games. Again. Yes, it’s the second time this year when The Hunger Games is a compulsory viewing/reading for an undergraduate course. First time I saw it because it was trendy and like the sheep that I am, I followed the flock and saw the damned thing. I enjoyed it, I really did. Then I did a Children’s Literature course that required us not only to read the first book but to see the movie. So I did see it again. And I guess I enjoyed it a bit more since I watched it through the perspective of young adult literature. And now, studying something completely different, here I am again…in an university (compulsory) film viewing of the same bloody thing. And I’m not necessarily complaining, although I realize that at this point I come out as rather whiny. I’m just puzzled at the way Hunger Games attracts lecturers to use it as helping material to illustrate concepts. Are the themes in The Hunger Games so flexible one can push them into different directions starting from teaching injustice and class systems to kids, all the way to illustrating Baudrillard’s view of postmodernism? Well, I guess they are. So I thought that for now, I should share the wealth and tell you what I learned from The Hunger Games movie through two very different perspectives at two very different university courses. Enjoy the ride, I sure did! Read the rest of this entry »

Reading What I Need Vs. Reading What I Want.

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English: Open book icon

 

As an English student there is a constant battle within me to read the books I really want to read or the books on my syllabus. Sometimes, if I’m taking a literature course, balancing things is impossible (like the time my class was going through one novel every week) but sometimes it’s more flexible and I can squeeze in some favorites. I normally try to read two things at one: one for school and one for myself (it helps keeping my sanity intact). If I happen to read British classics for school, I try and make my choice something completely different, like sci-fi or something (although that rarely happens).

This term things are a bit different since I’m not studying literature at all, but media. However, there is loads to read (textbook chapters, articles, massive amounts of googling to be done). This gives me the possibility to read more literature of my choice. Happy days ahead! Read the rest of this entry »

Studying Media in England and Loving It.

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English: Quadrangle, Newcastle University Cate...
The Quadrangle, my favorite part in the campus.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been in Newcastle, England, for two weeks now. I’m an exchange student and although this title would imply I am doing some serious studying, I’ve been pretty much spending my days as a tourist. No, I have not skipped school- Newcastle University has one great week of introductory meetings and lectures for international students, followed by a week of total freedom to roam the streets of the “Toon” (Newcastle) and go to their numerous day trips outside town. So all I did for two weeks was to get accustomed to the campus and the town, figured out where to get this and that, visit York, and had chips on the Tynemouth beach. As awesome as all this might sound, you get really tired after a while. At least I did. I really wanted to start school, which is exactly what happened this week. Read the rest of this entry »

Stephen King’s On Writing, and How I Got to Read It.

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stephen-king-on-writingA couple of years ago I took a course that required me to try my hand at writing small texts on different themes. It was fun and made me realize how much I enjoyed writing, how good I thought I was, and how horrible I really was… .This was a course that simply asked me to write small texts, not literary masterpieces, but I always felt that if I am to show someone a text I produced it has to be good. I didn’t want to “just pass” a course, I wanted to be the best, I wanted to catch the attention of the teacher, I wanted to be THAT student that tries extra much. Basically, I wanted to know that I did everything that I could do before I submitted that assignment. The problem was, I never felt like I did everything I could for my prose; I always had the sensation that I could have done more, like I was missing a piece of the puzzle. It was a dilemma, since the course itself didn’t offer any support on writing technique and I felt like I was lost at sea and my boat was leaking as hell. And so I thought that maybe I should just buy a book on writing. Upon googling around this subject, I concluded that there are two major groups: people who think that writing is just something you have or you don’t, a gift that can’t be learned; and people who think a textbook is vital to get you started, giving the young writer a solid base to build upon. I personally believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle (doesn’t it always?) I think a textbook can improve your writing a lot, giving you ideas and hints on how to find your inspiration, or answer some questions you might have regarding the craft itself.

It so happens that whenever I really like an author’s style I tend to google him/her and see if I can find an interview where they talk about their writing. This, combined with my before-mentioned dilemma, helped me find a great book- On Writing by Stephen King. Yes, I came to find the book because I am a great fan of King, but this has really nothing to do with him or his books (in essence). The book contains some really good advices for beginner writers like me. Since I finished reading this book, I got my hands on other creative writing books and I took a real course on it (I am actually doing the second part now), but every now and then I come back to this one for reference. There are small things that stayed with me, like his thought on the overuse of adverbs: “The road to hell is paved with adverbs”. I never really understood what he meant until I saw it in my own prose. And when I stopped doing that mistake, my peer reviewers appreciated it, the text flowed better, and my paragraphs stopped sounding like something out of a novel with a couple making out on the cover (yeah, you know which ones, you are as guilty as I am). Read the rest of this entry »

My future plans regarding blogging.

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abroad
The optimist-looking figure in the imagine does not reflect my feelings on the matter.

 

In the last few months Bold Italic became my home. I don’t literally live in it, but if that would be an option I would strongly take it into consideration and spend my days surrounded by pixels. For a long time I was looking for what I really liked doing, what I really liked studying, what I was really passionate about. I now know I always had this. Literature was always a constant in my life, if not the only one. Once I figured this out, the next step was finding people to share my thoughts and ideas with. It’s hard to find the right folk who would listen to your rants and weird opinions. To blog about this has turned out to be one of my best ideas. I’m grateful that people I don’t know are interested in reading my stuff, and it gives me the confidence I need to click the “publish” button for yet another post. I love this blog as it is my treasured, contained space where I can be myself and write what I want. Nobody dictates what I write about, there are no deadlines, and I love the community.  As it turns out, I really like blogging!

Seeing as I am so happy to type away my literary thoughts, it’s only natural to want to blog about the next big thing in my life: a semester abroad in UK.

This September I will go to Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom, where I will spend four months doing great things for my future: studying, making friends, building memories, and possibly getting drunk. I’m not sure about the getting drunk though. We’ll see.

I realize this is going to be really great for me and really boring for many (I mean really…who cares). Therefore, I decided not to blog about it on BoldItalic, and instead make another blog dedicated to this. I’m mainly targeting an audience of students or future students, especially those that are planning to make that big step and apply for a semester abroad, but everyone who is interested in reading this kind of stuff is welcomed. My home university is being awesome as usual and will share my blog on their Facebook, as well as let me post on their own blog.

BoldItalic is still my main blog, and I will probably have common posts on both blogs if they are about literature. In any case, there is always a link to my study abroad blog up there in the menu bar.

At this point there is nothing left to say other than I’m equally terrified and delighted at the experience that will follow.  I lied wrote a post on the new blog about how brave and courageous I am, but I guess I didn’t fool anyone and everyone knows what I really want to do is get in my bed under my blanket and never go out again. But plane ticket is booked, I have a course selection, my student grant is on its way and so am I on 17th September (to Newcastle).

Wish me luck! I will surely need it. Especially on the drinking and having fun part.

 

P.S: next post is going to be a book review. Pinky swear and all that.

 

 

 

Difficult Exams are like Skydiving Without a Parachute: You Might Just Make It.

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schwa
If you don’t get this joke there is still hope for you. For the rest (like me) there is only therapy.

You have good exams and you have bad exams. I don’t mean life exams or any other deep stuff like that; I mean sit-ins, pen and paper exams, the ones you need to study for or stay home. In my student life I had mostly good exams. Not that I’m bragging or anything, but I get pretty good grades. Ok I’m bragging, so what? Most of my exams ended with well-earned good results for which I studied hard. Except THAT ONE. The exam that was left in history as the horrible, despicable, Phonetics exam!

Lecture after lecture I was left with a sound and reassuring impression I understood the stuff. It made sense. It was oh-so-logic. In retrospect I think this might have been because it was taught by a teacher who I previously had for other courses, and from whom I knew I understood very well. He is a good teacher, knows how to explain, and it is only because of him I managed to pass the god damn thing anyway. He would make funny association as “ the Hugh Grant sound”, the “ cat A” and other weird stuff that made us laugh and therefore remember them.

So together with this awesome feeling that I knew everything I started doing my revision and started to practice phonetic transcription. And lo and behold: I knew nothing. Every time I transcribed a word and then checked in the dictionary something equally strange and different was staring back. Late nights would find me surrounded by loads of paper, empty coffee mugs, and a ton and a half of frustration. In the end I had to give up and tell myself I won’t show up for the exam and just go through the whole thing for the re-examination. I had never failed an exam before. Son of a… Read the rest of this entry »

The Book is Dead. Long Live the E-Book.

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Sony PRS-T2
© Per Palmkvist Knudsen (Own Work)

Except the book is not dead yet. As a matter of fact, far from it. The electronic vs. paper books seems to be a popular debate for today’s avid readers. Should we get our intake of literature from ink or pixels? Well… why choose just one option when you can have both? This is not going to be about the ongoing discussion where “the real book feels better in my hands and I like the smell of paper”, although I wholeheartedly agree. This is about what goes beyond personal preference and the olfactory sense. Read the rest of this entry »

I Guess I Like Writing Horror Fiction.

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I’ve always found writing to be rather therapeutic. Writers often agree on this, and I strongly believe writing can take you in that hidden place inside your mind where all the twisted stuff is- the subconscious. Freud based his theory of psychoanalysis on this, arguing that the subconscious is a complex and vital part of us. So when we write, especially free write, things from our subconscious might come out and say hi.  This is really great news if you happen to write romance, fantasy, or comedy. But what about horror?

It took me quite some time to realize that the only thing I really enjoy writing is dark and horror fiction. It came to me, not so long ago, when I was putting together a portfolio for a creative writing class. This portfolio consisted of a short story, a personal essay, a couple of poems, and a multitude of writing exercises. I was proofreading everything for the last time when I realized the common denominator of all my work stopped being comma splices and misspells, but instead turned out to be blood and gore. What?! Read the rest of this entry »

The Arrival, by Shaun Tan. Teaching Children and Adults About Immigration.

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cover

Shaun Tan is one of the most talented artists when it comes to children’s literature, and this is not merely my opinion. Winner of the most prestigious children’s literature prize, The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, Tan manages to reach out to both children and adults by bringing up contemporary and important themes wrapped in a beautiful world of fantasy. The Arrival is a wordless book, winner of many prizes such as New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award, Children’s Book Council of Australia, Western Australian Premier’s Book Award, and many others.

I am not here to list Shaun Tan’s accomplishments, but to explain how I believe The Arrival can be enjoyed by both adults and children, and used as base material for explaining important social issues.

The Arrival is a picture book containing no words. When I say ´´no words´´ I do mean it, so except the title you won’t stumble upon any other written language you can decode. This is smart for three reasons: firstly, little readers won’t have to know how to read about subjects that often have to be explained in ´´big words´´ and ´´complicated phrases´´; secondly, the readers will have to decode the illustration’s meanings themselves by looking at the pictures and letting their minds work (which is a great creative start); thirdly, the adult and the child can have much more fun making up names for the characters and places, or narrating the action themselves, which is a much more interactive way of storytelling than the classic adult reads- child listens approach. Read the rest of this entry »