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Literary Characters - 16th May 2017

Chambers Dictionary of Literary Characters

This is a browser's heaven - the perfect foil for a bookshop when you can't find one or it is closed - and after a few days of dipping into this, you'll wonder how you ever lived without it. 

Covering characters from plays, novels and poetry and ranging from the likes of Elizabeth Bennett and David Copperfield to modern stars such as Harry Potter, this book provides concise and informative entries. The whole thing is fully cross-referenced and has a thorough index of authors, titles and characters.

Try this and see if you can guess the author and the character:
An alarming creation: a charming, cultured, but deadly hero who is a totally amoral psychotic. Leaving a trail of corpses which stretches from America to Europe, ..... tantalizingly evades police scrutiny using a mixture of phlegmatic coolness and reckless daring. Bewitching his friends, and the reader, he invites our collusion in his crimes.

How to Draw Anything - 13th May 2017

If you can write your name, you already have all the skills you need to draw (apparently). If you can't write your name, please refer to our article from a few days ago!

This complete course in drawing claims that being able to write means you can actaully draw - even if you think you can't. I am not convinced myself, being one of life's unfortunates born without a shred of artistic talent. I mean I struggle to make a cup look like a cup! However, that is beside the point.

How to Draw Anything: A Complete Guide
by Angela Gair
This book suggests that no musician would be expected to play a Mozart concerto without hours of practice; no athlete would think of winning an Olympic medal without years of training; no politician would dream of becoming PM without years of perfecting lying techniques; so why should an artist be any different.

What is required is regular drawing and sketching and lots of practice and Gair's step-by-step guide will quickly teach you to draw pretty much anything. Get started today and the sooner you will be proficient.

A bit of light reading for the weekend - 12th May 2017

Why do women want to talk so much?
Why won't men stop and ask for directions?
Why do women love shopping?
Why do men continually offer solutions & advice instead of sympathising?
Why do women nag so much?
Why do men know so little about their friends' lives?

Why, why, why? If you answered all of the above questions with ease, then you may not need to read this book (but you might want to anyway). If you struggled to find an explanation, perhaps you should get yourself copy.

Why Men Lie and Women Cry
Allan & Barbara Pease

Even if you don't want to know the answers to these and the many other questions addressed in this book, you may well enjoy reading it. It is an interesting discussion on the differences between the sexes and sheds some light on why the opposite sex does what it does.

It's light and amusing but also well researched, informative and full of practical advice and solutions. Oh wait! doesn't that mean the book should only appeal to men? (See opening questions)


Handwriting - 11th May 2017

Have you missed out on a job because you write like a child?
Do people think you're less intelligent than you are because of your scrawl?
Does your script make you appear uneducated?
Is your longhand illegible?
Does your handwriting let you down? 

If you answered yes to any of the above, then here is a handy solution:
A Handwriting Manual
by Alfred Fairbank

This is a clear, concise and admirably practical book. With this book, and a pen in hand, anyone can master the basics in a day. There are "copies" which are easy to learn and, with practise, should result in fine handwriting.

It should suit students, teachers, professionals, and everyone with the slightest interest in lettering and the graphic arts.

You can open this as a complete beginner or a left-hander and readily master letter formation and spacing. You will be penning italics like a real pro before you know it. It is an indispensible manual for those who would like to improve.

Guess the poet - 10th May 2017

Guess the poet Yesterday I was accused of being gloomy because of the poem I chose, so today I have decided to focus on a few short (cheerful) poems and let you see if you can guess the poet.

I'm sorry to say my dear wife is a dreamer,
And as she dreams she gets paler and leaner.
'Then be off to your Dream, with his fly-away hat,
I'll stay with the girls who are happy and fat.

So fair is she!
So fair her face
So fair her pulsing figure
Not so fair
The maniacal stare
Of a husband who's much bigger.

Were all our words as wise as witty,
We should profit: More the pity.

To keep your marriage brimming
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you’re wrong, admit it;
Whenever you’re right, shut up.

(Answers: Stevie Smith, Spike Milligan, Helen Brookfield, Ogden Nash)

Philip Larkin - 9th May 2017

Today's piece concerns the admirable Philip Larkin. For those who are not familiar with his poems, this will serve as an introduction. Once you've become an addict, you can get yourself a volume of his poetry to peruse at will. 

This is my favourite:
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
and add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in thier turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man. 
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

The above comes out of The Complete Poems of Philip Larkin, which is a really thorough collection.

Writing & Reading - 5th May 2017

You are obviously a reader or you wouldn't be on this site but do you fancy yourself as a writer?If you've ever thought about giving creative writing a go, this is the perfect time.

Starting next week is the Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival which runs from 9th to 14th May with many interesting events on offer each day.

Why not start the week by attending the Dunedin Writers' Workshop at the Dunedin Public Library? It's at 6.45pm on Tuesday 9th and is completely free. It might be the perfect way to kick-start your writing career.

After that, you could wander along to Knox Church and listen to local poets talking about a sense of place. You will hear the likes of Dave Eggleton, Emma Neale and Sue Wootton, among others. Maybe that will inspire you to try your hand at poetry writing.

Whatever you want to do, make sure you get yourself a programme and highlight all the events you don't want to miss or just go to www.dunedinwritersfestival.co.nz

A bit of a laugh? - 4th May 2017

A bit of a laugh? Self-Loathing for Beginners
by Lynn Phillips

What a great title for a book! You expect great humour from a book with a title like that. You tend to think that someone who can come up with such an excellent title must be able to write a matchingly witty book. Unfortunately, I don't think it lives up to its initial promise.

"The greatest misconception beginners have about self-loathing is that you have to be loathsome to excel at it. Not true."

That's the opening line of the book. You can move on from there to self-loathing re the body, fashion, sex, romance, family, work, social or spiritual life and more. 

I confess I haven't read it but thumbing through, I thought some of the quotes appeared interesting (Robert Burton 1621 " .. thou cannot think worse of me than I do of myself"). I also wondered if a closer reading would reveal the difference between self-loathing and self-abasement as many of the examples I caught sight of appeared (to me) to deal with the latter.

Why not get a copy of the book and set me straight?

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