Book Review – American Psycho

American Psycho American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Interesting read and journey into the mind of a ruthless, troubled soul. Not for the faint hearted though. Far more graphic than the film.

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Children’s Book Review 2 – The Gruffalo

The Gruffalo The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a children’s classic and we have been reading this to our daughter since she was around 10 months old. She loved the beautiful illustrations by the talented Axel Scheffler, that are so vidid and lifelike yet still imbued with a child’s view of the world. The story of a little vulnerable mouse outwitting various hungry predators in the woods and nearly coming undone by his own tall tales is very simple to read to children and for them to learn language with but it is also extremely smart and sharp from an adult’s perspective.Many children’s books rely on the surreal or stretching what adults consider logical into completely fantastical tales that make little sense in any world and serve no purpose other than to try too hard to impress. The Gruffalo does not do this. It uses myth to make it’s point but it is grounded in very down to earth ideas and narrative.The deliciously worded descriptions of The Gruffalo were fun for our daughter to read yet simple enough for her to remember and aid the development of her language skills. the illustrations play a big part in this as ideas such as knobbly Knees mean nothing to a toddler unless they can see them!When meal times became an endless chore of trying to convince our little one to eat her dinner we always had this book as a back up to distract her. It always worked and she always jumped straight into the wonderful world of the woods with the Mouse strolling through to meet the “imaginary” Gruffalo!A must for all parents.

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The Golden Treasury

The Golden Treasury Bookshop After just 5 hours sleep it was always going to be a struggle to get up and drag myself to visit London’s largest Independent Children’s bookshop, The Golden Treasury, on a cold, grey Saturday Morning. It helped that, being the father of a walking, talking near 2 year old toddler, I have a very effective and persuasive natural alarm clock to force me out of the comfort zone of my warm, cosy bed. I don’t get out of bed for just anybody, and my daughter know’s what strings to pull.

After witnessing her demolish the carefully constructed Mega Bloks plane I had so lovingly made for her, after she “requested” (more like demanded) that I play with her and the myriad of large, multi coloured blocks she had thrown all over our lounge floor, I thought very seriously about going back to bed. However my wife had somehow transferred herself to said daughter’s bed in her nursery and this allowed my energetic young child to jump all over our bed pointing furiously at the bookshelf asking me to read her “Toad Makes  a Road“. I gave in and as I lay down next to my now calm and non jumping daughter reading about the Toad who lacked the foresight to build his house on a sensible, easily accessable place, I saw the look of enchantment, focus and joy on her cute, little chubby face and I was overcome with a sense of extreme fulfilment and satisfaction (a rare feeling for me).

Sharing my love of reading with my daughter, and being able to combine 2 loves of my life (reading and my daughter) are powerfully positive experiences that I must nurture and encourage as much as I can.

With that in mind I managed to drink my regular dosage of double coffee, add a can of Diet Pepsi, take 10ml of Metatone, 1 multivitamin with multi minerals and my Hydrocortisone and Thyroxine tablets and forced myself to wake up enough to join my wife and daughter in their first trip to London’s largest Independent bookshop.

The Golden Treasury is a great find. My wife’s colleague at work actually told her about it and although I had fantastical dreams of a wondrous, magical kingdom with cute, furry talking animals and fake snow amongst the hundreds of cherished children’s books, I was not actually disappointed when I stepped into the shop and discovered it was far more attractive on the inside than out. It was also larger than it looked, not Narnia sized larger, but large enough to be able to split the books by age group and then by topics such as Animals, Geography, Science, Baby Books etc. They also had specific sections for various popular children’s characters like Peppa Pig, The Cat in The Hat and Thomas the Tank Engine. There were sections dedicated to signed copies of Children’s classics such as The Gruffalo. Even Axel Scheffler himself (the illustrator of The Gruffalo) has visited the shop, as this link shows: http://twitpic.com/t99cb

So there may not have been snow , large bewitching Christmas tress, Elves or Fauns but I was transported back in time to a more innocent and joyous part of my life and a world full of stimulating characters and ideas. There is something special about a small independent shop where the loving care for the subject being sold oozes out from every corner, not in a crude, manipulative way but in a subtle, sublime manner. I hope that this store never gets taken over by a large chain or is forced to sell up and go online. I may virtual worlds and the places that cyber space can take your imagination but sometimes there is nothing like the real thing.

Thankfully my daughter was as enchanted by The Golden Treasury as I was and we ended up buying 2 books, one with rockets going to the moon (she loves the moon more than anythign else at the moment with exception of homous) and another about a girl who misses her mummy when the mummy goes to work but gets over it, as one needs to in these economically challenging times. The best part of it for here was being able to spin the Dr. Seuss rotating bookshelf and pick up as many books on tractors as she could. They also had a bean bag with one of her new favourite characters, Maisy, plastered all over it.

When it came time to leave (she was havign her haircut with Mama and the stimulating effects of my caffeine and pill popping were fading fast) she refused to stop chanting “Bookshop, bookshop” for the entire jounery back home.

I was glad that I found the energy to visit The Golden Treasury and go there with my little one as it brought back a piece of my childhood that I rarely get in touch with, which is something I must do more often, especially If I am to stay positive in these increasingly bleak times.

Why the sudden feelings of satisfaction you ask? I love reading and even though I struggle to find the time and energy to read as much as I would like to I still think that reading, both fiction dn non fiction, has a very important place in human society. Stimulating the imagination and chasms deep within our minds like no other form of media, reading books, with their magical descriptions of characters, places, events and emotions, and their imaginative illustrations, is a part of life that I really want my daughter to cherish. the pervasive intrusion of modern forms of edutainment, such as TV, Video Games and the Internet, may have made absorbing creative entertainment and culture easier, but it has also made it too passive, and these forms of education/ entertainment are not a substitute for reading a good book.

I love TV, Gadgets, modern technology, the internet, my iPhone and any advances in media distribution but there is nothign that quite replaces the feelings of suspense and excitement I get from reading a good book. This maybe why I love bookshops so much. Like the beautifully illustrated, carefully bound hardback classics, a bookshop owned and run by book loving enthusiasts is a place like no other. It is like entering through a portal into another world. A world with much more colour, magic and excitement than the Traffic ridden Southfields High Street outside The Golden Treasury.

Back to Blogging

As you may have noticed I have not been blogging for a while. This is not due to a lack of experiences or subjects that I am formulating comments on but because I have actually become overwhelmed by the magnitude of events entering my once simple, ordinary life on a daily basis.

If I actually described how I felt right now or everything that has happened to me since the beginning of 2008 then this blog would never end and would become longer than War and Peace combined with Ulysses and Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past (all books which I am dying to read but need to create a clone of myself to be able to ever achieve this goal).

So I will try to be succinct. I have a lot to say as I have experience a lot in a small amount of time. However, we live in a quick fix instant gratification age where people have short attention spans (myself more than others) and so no one, not even I would bother reading through all my diverse and over complicated thoughts in just one blog  post. So I propose to commit some of my current thought to digital cyber code in a series of blog posts on specific subjects.

Compartmentalising the different aspects of our lives, thoughts, characters and experiences may be anathema to me, as I feel one loses a great deal of meaning by disconnecting various interwoven threads, but at least it will be easier to read and compose. Hopefully you will find something in there that you relate to, a conflict I am facing that you may have faced before, or are currently facing and maybe we can conjure up some useful insights by the process of transferring my thoughts and your feedback using the power of modern technology (i.e. this blog.)

To Keep this blog post short I will just list some of the various topics that I will write about as they have been a big part of my life since January 2008. That may seem an arbitrary year to begin my cyber “memoirs” but it has some significance. 2008 was the year in which my first child was born and was the year in which I was made redundant from a job I would have never left and then went to work in a modern day professional office “sweat shop” and fell ill having contracted a serious of viruses and developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, to add to my already debilitating Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diarrhoea.

2008 Was also the year I started CBT – Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, sessions, in order to combat my worsening IBS-D, and that forced me to start dissecting my thought processes and lifestyle to uncover the root causes of my various physical and pyscholigical illnesses.

In 2009 I continued with the CBT, took up Yoga, joined Weight Watchers, lost 2 stone in weight in 5 months, put back on most of that 2 stone since November 2009, honed my skills as a multi-tasking househusband, babysitter cum live at home father, dogsbody son and son-in-law (carrying out various time consuming duties for my family), was put on various trials of medication to try and combat my CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), such as Vitamin B12 injections on a weekly basis and a variety of polypharmacy solutions.

I also developed asthma and Hay fever just to add to the myriad of medical conditions attack me. I quit smoking (not because of a less stressful life – life was ever more stressful, but due to the asthma), supported my beloved wife as she completed her Doctoral thesis, whilst working and being a mother and stressed out wife and daughter all at the same time.

My father-in-law had a sudden major stroke in late October 2009, 2 days after I had booked non refundable tickets to a wedding in Houston that I couldn’t afford to go to but was a reward for my wife’s year of constant stress, struggling and no sleep. We didn’t go to Houston over Christmas but instead shuttled between hospitals and funerals through the sudden snow storms of 2009/2010 as I began to start job hunting seriously, having realised we were on a financial precipice.

I got a job interview and job offer after 30 job applications, for one of my favourite Consumer electronics companies, only to be told that they had messed up and in fact the company had a recruitment freeze so the job I had been given was taken away from me bringing back into the same frustrating, anxious, stressful place of being broke, jobless, overweight, confused, conflicted and struggling to re-train as a web designer whilst finding a temporary finance job and supporting my wife as she cares for her bed-ridden father and physically drained mother (whilst she herself is still working and raising our daughter with me).

On the plus side I got to spend a lot of time with my daughter, which taught me a lot about myself, about fatherhood, the trials and joys of parenthood and has made me re-learn many subjects and pieces of knowledge that I have forgotten over the years (such as astronomy and geography, not to mention grammar and basic maths).

I have also been forced to grow and challenge myself and my preconceptions due to marriage and my never ending crisis situations, and I have discovered that adaptability is a very under rated skill that is vital to success in life.

I have also had the good fortune to discover the artistic genius of TV shows such as The Wire, The Sopranos and Battlestar Galactica (re-imagined) whilst getting more involved in social media experiences like Twitter and blogging.

I also managed to buy a Nintendo Wii, using vouchers from my credit card provider, so if things get too much and I am in need of some techno salvation i can always fire off some stress with my Wii Zapper gun (so long as the wife is away, she is not a toy gun fane).

I also completed a Career Change programme with a Career coach that was a real eye opener into the way I live my life and how I can take back control and start living more of my “truth”, rather than the crowd pleasing facade I have become so accustomed to wearing almost permanently.

I managed to read some Chekhov Short Stories and finish reading Dune by Frank Hebert, which was an immensely enjoyable read, and A Farewell to Arms by Hemingway, the first Hemingway book I have ever read, which was also a revelation.

And finally, most important of all, I managed to get in game of Scrabble, which I haven’t played in years, although the joy was short lived as I was beaten by my wife. So much for my aspirations to become a short story writer and novelist!

P.S. See the next post for the promised list of topics I will blog about and put links for.

Links of the Day 24062009

I should be balancing the heavily reddened books of our personal family finances and updating the bank account balances and setting the budget which shows just how dire my current financial situation is. As this is not only very depressing but also very dull I have decided to escape back to the world of blogging and share the few interesting articles I have come across.

I also wanted to let you fellow blog addicts now that I actually managed to spend 3 hours away from a computer and in the garden dealing with nature by mowing the lawn, trimming (actually butchering) the hedges, and learning about butterflies from my neighbour, who also proceeded to tell me about how she went to Sloane Square to buy a Baguette Baking tin, as she is into baking bread, and she gave me half a white loaf of freshly baked bread which melted in my mouth instantly, even the slices not smothered in Nutella.

I did not take a picture of the Nutella covered bread but here are the links and the garden post clear up.

Guardian article on slow death of Blogging:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2009/jun/24/charles-arthur-blogging-twitter

Libraries Tap Into Twitter:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/jun/24/libraries-twitter

JG Ballard Obituary from the Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/apr/19/jg-ballard-obituary

Link to the Guardian Book Blogs:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog

Revolutionary Road – Iranian Blog

http://shooresh1917.blogspot.com/

Official Website of the excellent documentary I watched last night about Virtual Online worlds, such as Second Life. They even interviewed Philip Rosedale:

http://anotherperfectworld.submarine.nl/

What will the literary archives of today’s authors look like?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2009/jun/22/literary-archives

Sam Toman’s blog about his travels to the land of his forefathers, Ukraine:

http://samtoman.wordpress.com/

Before my return to manual labour:

Garden Before

The garden after I pulled myself away from blogging:

Garden After

One final link, to a blog that is a taking life more seriously than me, with a different perspective on what is happenign in Iran at the moment:

http://socialist-blogs-news.blogspot.com/