Reviews

The PowerBook – Jeanette Winterson (review)

The PowerbookThe Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A modern day collage of memories, love, philosophy, history and the grit that lies underneath all of us.

That’s my attempt to sum up the novel in a single sentence. What’s it about? Well, the chapters are laid out with headings you will see on a Apple computer (e.g, SEARCH, NEW DOCUMENT, EMPTY TRASH). Even the title is “The PowerBook”, which has the same layout as a MacBook does (i.e. an Apple Mac laptop for the layman). The story line flickers between an entity online called Ali (or Alix) who writes stories for other people for a living, and a love triangle in Paris. A guy who falls in love with two different women on separate occasions.

I read this in spurts over 3 days. Most of the chapters are around 3-5 pages. If you’re prepared for a postmodern story line that hops back and forth leaving some questions unanswered, this may be for you. Perhaps I was too caught up in the swirling metaphors and visceral imagery which, in turn, propelled me to keep reading.

The PowerBook may not answer all your questions on love, and the inner cogs of lovers. However, it’s a beautiful and moving read. I reckon you should give it a go.

If you’re in-love with someone else while you’re reading it…even better!

 

PhilosopherPoet

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Reviews

Eating Dirt – Charlotte Gill (book review)

Eating DirtEating Dirt by Charlotte Gill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s rare that I finish a book of non-fiction. This is a gritty and visceral read. The prose is sharp, vivid and riddled with shards of experiences.

At times I could feel myself crammed in rusty pick up, hurtling along the dirty road with other soil-plastered planters. Reading this can be frightening, and sometimes funny as hell. It’s written from the heart of someone who isn’t afraid to take you to being in the middle of nowhere.

I learned a great deal about planters, forests, creatures, foibles, and speckles of ecology that intersperse Gill’s memories.

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PhilosopherPoet

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Reviews

Waiting to be Heard: A Memoir by Amanda Knox (review)

How it all began

You’re a young, adventurous, quirky, bouncy and free-spirited girl in your twenties. You develop a fascination with Italy, save up as much money as you can – and after a while – decide to go work/live/study there. You arrive in Italy and after some confusion with the new language find a great group of like minded students to share a house with. It feels like paradise…in fact at the time it really is. You work at night and study during the day. You meet a shy and intelligent computer science student. You fall helplessly in love for a week. The morning after a night at your boyfriend’s place you go back to your room to fetch a few things. One or two things might’ve been out of place, but you rationalize it away.

The worry starts to gnaw at you. You convince your boyfriend that checking the flat for a second time is a good idea. After returning with your boyfriend and a few others, you discover the flat mate you once loved is murdered (brutally, you later find out). This is when your whole experience of Italy changes… The police never trust you. You are interrogated for days in Italian. When the police can’t get the answers they need they slap you and shout louder. Your brain is tangled in your own words, and you give a confession that made sense to you (at the time) in your frazzled state. You’re denied access to a lawyer. You are stripped naked in front of a room of people to be poked, prodded, measured and checked. Once the ‘experts’ are satisfied, you are thrown in a van, driven to a prison, and locked up as you await your trial.

Italy is never the same for you again.

Amanda Knox arrives at her trial for the murder of Meredith Kercher in 2009
The book itself

Above is a brief summary of Waiting to be Heard by Amanda Knox. It is a memoir, and the first time she makes a public stand and tells her side of the story. I found it an accessible and really speedy read. It’s difficult to put down – and more importantly – extremely honest. The book deals briefly with Amanda’s arrival in Italy and the friends she met. That’s all over after 160 odd pages. The remainder of the book deals with her time in prison, and of course the trials in which she was first convicted, and then later acquitted for the murder of Meredith Kercher (along with other charges).

An online friend mentioned this person to me, and before reading the book I actually paid little attention to the media. Why? Well there was so much out there, and it felt overwhelming. So part of me said, “Let me listen to what she has to say.” I went and dug up interviews on YouTube of Amanda Knox. I listened to the way she came across and it felt sincere. I did subsequently glance over a few news articles on the internet, but avoided the tabloids like the plague.

When you listen to someone else’s side of the story, you learn something.
What I took away with me is that Amanda loves people. I felt touched reading her stories of the people she meant in prison, the songs she sung, and the meaning she put back into others. In my opinion, the media was so wrapped up in the final verdict and the courtroom drama it forgot about the people. There was little said about the prison in the media, whatever was said was tough to find.

Perhaps this is also a comment on public opinion. Why do we care about the end result so much? Why is it a big deal if a student smokes a joint, and has sex with one or two people? We leap onto our soapboxes and bring down the judgement without examining ourselves first. Everyone goes through a period of invincibility and throwing caution to the wind. Sometimes that’s the only way we learn.

Why I care?

Perhaps the only time we truly become human, is once we’ve learnt what empathy means. I could identify with this book because I put myself directly in Amanda Knox’s shoes. I am a similar age to her, and also Cancerian. The way I heard her talk about family and the weight it carried, I must’ve given her a few invisible high fives. She put her heart right out there and showed the events according to her, and I thought there was tremendous strength in that.

You can read online about the ordeal she went through, but she essentially lost 3 years of her life in prison for a crime she did not commit. Many people may have wanted to let the past be the past, not Amanda. I’m reminded of a DIO song titled Stand up and shout. That’s exactly what Knox eventually did. When something doesn’t sit well with you, there is no alternative. You have to have your final say. Being a writer as well, I more than identify with this notion. She had the sheer courage to stare at her old wounds and slowly describe and clarify each one.

Perhaps writing this novel brought her a sense of catharsis and closure. It would have done so for me.

waiting to be heard
Why read it?

Most of the time, it didn’t feel like I was reading anything. I was listening. Listening to the stories of people sculpted by Knox’s pen, and hearing the fears she overcame made all the difference. While reading it I couldn’t shake off the feeling that all this really happened. After being smeared and bad-mouthed by a variety of media, its refreshing to see someone speak with very little judgement in her voice.

To call an attractive girl a slut is a simple and ‘easy’ opinion. Rather take the longer road, listen for a while because maybe…she really does have a point.

 

PhilosopherPoet

 

 

Additional Reading

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Quotations

The Abyss (Quote regarding depression)

Because depression is so unpleasant and so impairing, it may be difficult to imagine that there might be another way of thinking about it; something this bad must be a disease. Yet the defect model causes problems of its own. Some sufferers avoid getting help because they are leery of being branded as defective. Others get help and come to believe what they are repeatedly told in our system of mental health: that they are deficient. . . . People still feel inclined to whisper when they talk about depression. Depression has no β€œRace for the Cure”; this condition rarely spawns dance marathons, car washes, or golf tournaments. Consequently, the lacerating pain of depression remains uncomfortably private.

– Jonathan Rottenberg

 

For more info check out the Good Reads review here

 

The Depths: The Evolutionary Origins of the Depression Epidemic Author: Jonathan Rottenberg

The Depths: The Evolutionary Origins of the Depression Epidemic
Author: Jonathan Rottenberg

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poetry, Reviews

The world you recognize

Often you want to read something that feels natural. Like it was meant to be. For that reason I struggle to read magazines thoroughly, unless I’m taking a meaningful tour of the toilet in the early hours of the morning. In my area there’s a small second hand book shop that’s run by two elderly ladies. It’s one of those places where you find the most beautiful books, for a reasonable price. A few weeks back I found one of those gems.

This time a book of poetry. A painted field by Robin Robertson. All I can say is…wow. All my life I’m certain that my literary mind grew up elsewhere. I appreciate local and contemporary literature. However, the minute you bury me in anything of English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh decent, you have me intellectually weak at the knees. You remember the first time you met that girl you like, and you felt your legs swimming through a bowl of pudding…that’s me.

By Robin Robertson.
For a more detailed review, click here.

Robertson is Scottish. Well, that’s where he grew up and most of the book I’ve read is based there. The words are crisp and tight. From reading this book I know every word was firmly placed. Parts of it are a bit depressing, where he mentions dealing with suicide, and walking in on a friend of his who had an overdose. Other parts are damn intriguing, and rich. I get the feeling this poet is rooted. He has a firmness inside himself and is prepared to show us some of that. This is the world I recognize, the place I feel most alive in.

For those wondering what the hype is all about, I’ve typed out two of his poems. If you enjoy wrestling with words, this might excite you. πŸ˜›

 

 

Visiting my Grandfather

In a room as dark as his
you remembered color, in amongst
brown bakelite, teak,
and felt for furnishing,
the black-out curtains from the war.
I saw the blue cuneiform of the crossword
looming under the magnifier
for my father to finish;
the slow valves of the radio
warming like coals
into English voices;
the rainbow spills, for his pipe,
in a beaker by the hearth.
And the fire, of course, when lit,
full of all the usual pleasures:
caves, dragons, life.
But being children
we were out too far to feel the heat,
kicking our legs on the high chairs,
nursing our flat lemonade
and trying not to see our blurred ghosts
in the dresser’s unsilvering glass.

Once a year, though, it was summer,
and in the great window
were the white yachts of Stonehaven,
the yellow yachts in the bay.
As if colour TV
had come to Scotland, all afternoon
we watched a testcard
of acid primaries
on wavelengths of green
and a lemony blue.

It was a chill parlour, despite the fire,
but leaving was like opening
the door of a fridge: cold
dumping on your sandaled feet,
your bare legs.
Finding my way back from the kitchen,
arms out in the dark
for the connecting door.
I came against
a womanly thing,
some kind of shawl
or handbag dressed in feathers,
which I felt all over,
putting my hands down now –
till I touched the wetness,
neck and sudden beak,
left it swinging as I ran,
leaving half my life behind
with the hung pheasant
and half in my hands with blood:
cinnabar, carnelian,
rose madder, rust.

New Gravity

Treading through the half-light of ivy
and headstone, I see you in the distance
as I’m telling our daughter
about this place, this whole business:
a sister about to be born,
how a life’s new gravity suspends in water.
Under the oak, the fallen leaves
are pieces of the tree’s jigsaw;
by your father’s grave you are pressing acorns
into the shadows to seed.

PhilosopherPoet

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