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Conquering Travel Sickness On Buses

A photograph of trees in motion - the photograph was taken during a car ride

I have always suffered from travel sickness, something I expect a lot of you can relate to. It’s a major hassle when you like to read a lot, and more so when you’ve a review deadline looming. I think in my case it has something to do with the fact my parents didn’t have a car until a good number of years into my life; my journeys in cars were infrequent, they were all different (a few very old cars, too, with the requisite vintage smells which to this day I can’t stand) and it was generally the case that if we were in a car, we were going a long way, to a place without a train station or bus route. I believe my nephew’s the first person not to suffer from travel sickness at all; he’s been used to cars since he was born.

I can read on planes and on trains – the only aspect to contend with there is chatter – and I’ve tried on many occassions to read on buses and in cars but it’s always come with a sense of borrowed time. A 30 second glance at a text message? Sure, but it might affect the rest of the trip.

Recently I tried once again, on a long bus trip, and found something that worked. In researching travel sickness previously, I learned some tips, such as don’t look out the windows, and read in moments here and there, but they didn’t work. I experimented a bit and found a solution:

I sat on my seat, facing towards the aisle. I’d picked a window seat, and this is a good idea particularly as facing inwards mean you’d be intentionally blocking yourself from anyone sitting next to you were they in the window seat. (It’s also more comfortable; I’m not sure what I would’ve done if there was no choice of seat.) I made sure not to look away from my book unless the bus was stationary. When the bus jolted, I stopped reading until it was travelling steady again.

With time I think it will be possible to look up briefly whilst the bus is moving. I don’t know the effect a different direction would have – I sat in the direction of travel. I also don’t know whether format would have an impact – I experimented when I was reading an ebook so I didn’t have to worry about the slight difference in the context of left and right pages or holding a book open.

If you suffer like me, I recommend giving the above a go and seeing if you can work something out. Get that time back.

Next goal: reading when a passenger in the car.

Have you any tips for travel sickness and reading?

 
Further Thoughts On To Kill A Mockingbird

Book cover

Whilst reading To Kill A Mockingbird, I couldn’t help but wonder if the character of Dil was inspired by Truman Capote; Capote and Lee knew each of as children, and there is this quotation from Capote, included on the back of my addition of Lee’s book:

“Someone rare has written this very fine novel, a writer with the liveliest sense of life and the warmest, most authentic humour. A touching book; and so funny, so likeable.”

I didn’t know until halfway through reading the book, wherein I read up about the background of it – that Truman Capote was a friend of Harper Lee’s. Beforehand I’d wondered at the point of a present-day edition including that quote because Capote’s opinion here misses the point of the book and I wondered if there was something to be said of that, a conscious missing of the main point of the book, given the time it was written in and the time it was written about, but the friendship makes more sense, with Capote focusing on the style of the book and Lee’s personality, what he would have liked about her. The tone of it, whilst inevitably biased, is interesting in a literary study sense.

On a different note entirely, as I read more about Lee’s life and the way her book was influenced by her father’s involvement in a similar case to that looked at in the text, I wondered about the reasons for Lee writing it. The possibilities in the way she chose to set it with Scout at the age she had been when her father was working. Is it a novel of ‘what if’ in the sense that Lee would have liked to do more in her position, in the way she involves Scout? Is it simply that she wanted to bring her father’s work to light, to a bigger number of people to show them what happened? Lee said that her book was not autobiographical but clearly, there is something there, the comparisons to be made are too many. Does her reticence on the similarly point to her general shying from the spotlight? Did she simply want more time spent on the text than on her life, albeit that more time on her might have brought more attention to her father’s case? Maybe she wanted people to think generally, and look for commonality between her book and America in general rather than focus on one case.

I read Lee’s book around the same time as I read Kate Chopin’s Bayou Folk story collection and it’s interesting to compare the ways the writers wrote about race, Chopin’s general thoughts of equality (given her time) not being dissimilar. What struck me particularly was In Sabine for its inclusion of a free black man choosing to help a ‘Cajun woman’, married to a ‘white man’ (phrasing the white man uses) with the chores. There is nothing here of Lee’s story beyond this factor, but reading the stories together, it strikes you that, particularly given the ‘white man’s’ stereotyping something could have happened. His wife does not seem happy to be married to him and the narrator, a visitor, notes how much she has changed.

It may have been due to expectation or simply that I didn’t know the book followed a child, but I found it less involved than I thought it would be, less about the courtroom, though the added narrative of difference was a good find. I did think there would be more ‘action’ but it was enjoyable for what it was. Certainly the autobiographical nature of it impressed me. Lee involves all types of people (well, to an extent, in keeping with the time).

This post feels very me-centric, more than usual in terms of Further Thoughts, but it fits the general background context in which I approached the book; not the most concrete of expectations, but enough that it got me thinking. For all the ‘lack’ of action, though, I loved the quietness of it, the slowly unfurling nature of what is transpiring – even if it’s easier for the reader and you have to wait for Scout to understand. And I think there’s something special in the way Scout is recounting the story at an older age, with the benefit of hindsight but also the innocence of childhood mixed in.

What do you think of Lee’s book, or if you haven’t read it, do you plan to?

 
Orlando Ortega-Medina – Jerusalem Ablaze

Book Cover

The twisted firestarter.

Publisher: Cloud Lodge Books
Pages: 174
Type: Fiction
Age: Adult
ISBN: 978-0-995-46570-1
First Published: 26th January 2017
Date Reviewed: 8th September 2017
Rating: 5/5

In Japan, a young man finds himself with blood on his hands and looks back at how he came to be beside the dead master. In Israel, a priest finds himself in a prostitute’s erotic fantasy. And in town, a child finds themselves in the presence of a crowd running towards a tiger.

Ortega-Medina’s Jersusalem Ablaze is a collection of short stories full of darkness, both the humour and macabre, as well as a few stories dotted about that are less so (and can be a blessed relief!) It’s a fantastic collection, devoid of messages, but nevertheless leaves you with a lot to think about.

This is an incredibly well-written book, with a general style of writing used throughout yet the voices of the individual characters are unique. Told through a thin lens, the wrier is there throughout, both at a distance from the text – letting the people speak for themselves – and in the definite position of storyteller, the darkness of the narrative as a whole echoing the idea of sitting around a fire listening to spooky tales. It’s at once both a fair boundary – the reader being far enough away from the character to see the subtext – and wonderfully immersive.

Unsurprisingly, considering what I’ve said above, there are many stand outs, which amounts to most of the collection, given the size of it. A particularly good piece, covered briefly in the summary, Torture By Roses looks at the forming of identity and vulnerability in youth, going to the extremes of having the character taken in by a reknowned figure who in the privacy of his own home spends his days sitting amongst a mass of dead roses, wounding himself on the thorns deliberately; his promise of an inheritance for his young companion (or, to the reader, servant) causing the boy to stick around even though his mental stability is crumbling under the weight of what the man is doing to himself. After The Storm tells the story of a woman isolated in a lighthouse who, after said storm, finds a body on the shore and takes it home. The title story, Jerusalem Ablaze, again, summarised, puts an impressionable Israeli priest in the house of a prostitute with a specific fetish (that’s putting the whole situation lightly), and The Shovelist studies the way an old housekeeping agreement can continue once the house changes hands, an elderly couple persuading the younger to let them shovel their access routes.

On the subject of a lack of messages, it’s worth noting that the book isn’t something you read through and put down. There are no morals or so forth in the book but Ortega-Medina does provide much for you to think about, sometimes in the fashion of ‘stay in your mind for days pondering it’ and, suitably more often, the content will keep you thinking simply due to its weirdness. On the whole the lasting impact of the book is as a collection – the general quality and interesting ideas.

Jerusalem Ablaze – excellence all round.

I received this book for review. It has been shortlisted for the Polari Prize. The winner will be announced on 13th October.

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Adrian Mourby – Rooms Of One’s Own

Book Cover

For some writers.

Publisher: Icon Books
Pages: 228
Type: Non-Fiction
Age: Adult
ISBN: 978-1-785-78185-8
First Published: 11th July 2017
Date Reviewed: 3rd September 2017
Rating: 3/5

Mourby travels around the world to experience the living and working spaces of famous past writers in order to get a feel for it all.

Room’s Of One’s Own presents a very specific idea that is appealing but doesn’t always achieve its purpose. Where it focuses on its premise of the way a writer interacted with their residence, it’s excellent, with some choice quotations included, great anecdotes, and the sort of information that you do have to travel to the place in order to learn.

It’s good to note straight away that this is as much about Mourby’s experience than a general report on the places. Most pieces of information are filtered through his own thoughts on the subject and the book is in many ways a travel log. However the histories of the buildings, away from the context of the writers’ lives, are often there to make up for the lack of personal experience and description Mourby is able to include; a sizeable number of the buildings are inaccessible to him – he is barred access by the staff or present residents – which will almost inevitably result in a sense of disappointment on your own part as you wonder why he didn’t just exclude that particular place in favour of another. On a few occasions, the places chosen were not used for writing.

There is a lack of diversity in the book, which is very noticeable. All 50 chosen are white, despite the fair number from the 20th century in particular.

Mourby’s interest in the writers is apparent and some of the angles he takes on them are particularly good to read, it’s just that the book is in many ways more for those interested in architecture.

I received this book for review.

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The Polari First Book Prize 2017

The Polari Prize logo

I wanted to take a moment to feature the Polari First Book Prize. I was given the opportunity to read last year’s winner, The Good Son by Paul McVeigh, and, having it enjoyed it, when I was offered the shortlist this year I said ‘yes’ to a couple of them (time restraints). I didn’t know much about Polari other than the fact there was a prize and so decided to look into it, so, full disclosure, I’ve been asked to review some books which will happen soon, but this post is of my own making.

Paul McVeigh

Photo credit: Krystyna FitzGerald Morris

The Prize is for LGBT books, books that explore the LGBT experience. Entries are accepted in all forms – poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and self-published works are welcome. On the shortlist lasy year was Andrew McMillan’s awesome poetry collection, Physical, that was high on the list for the Young Writer of the Year, too.

This year’s shortlist (lots of independent publishers):

    Expecting by Chitra Ramaswamy (Saraband)
    Guapa by Saleem Haddad (Europa Editions UK)
    We Go Around In The Night And Are Consumed By Fire by Jules Grant (Myriad)
    Straight Jacket by Matthew Todd (Bantam)
    The Vegetarian Tigers Of Paradise by Crystal Jeans (Honno)
    Jerusalem Ablaze by Orlando Ortega-Medina (Cloud Lodge)

I’ll be reading the Ramaswamy and the Ortega-Medina. The first is a memoir/essay collection, the second a collection of short stories.

The Prize was launched in 2011 by the Polari Literary Salon, a once a month Arts Council supported event hosted mostly at the Southbank Centre in London. To mark the Salon’s 10th anniversary (so that’s 2011 for the Prize, and 2007 for the Salon), they are doing an event tour that runs until October. Eighty authors are involved and the winner of the Prize will be revealed on 13th October at the Southbank Centre as part of the London Literature Festival.

The tour started in June. Here are the remaining dates:

    13th September: Printworks, Hastings
    15th September: Lewisham Library, Lewisham
    17th September: The Place Theatre, Bedford
    22nd September: Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh
    8th October: Birmingham Literature Festival
    13th October: Southbank Centre (winner revealed)
    20th October: Marlborough Theatre, Brighton
    24th November: Southbank Centre, London
 

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