Personal Post: Thoughts on the Paper Towns Movie

Thoughts on the paper towns movie
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Thoughts on the Paper Towns Movie

I should preface this by making it clear that I love John Green. I think he’s an amazing Youtuber, and no-one has done more for the nerd community that him and his brother, Hank. The VlogBrothers played a big part in how comfortable I’ve become with my intelligence, and my passion, and for that I’ll always love them.

But I don’t like John Green’s writing. Particularly, Paper Towns.

For me, John’s voice is just too strong. When I’m reading his books, I can hear his voice; the fast pace, stopping only to take a breath; the emphasis on multi-syllabic words; the jovial tone. For example:

Your twenties are not destiny, your thirties are not destiny. Destiny is not something that happens all at once, it’s something that happens only in retrospect.

Compared to:

I’m starting to realize that people lack good mirrors. It’s so hard for anyone to show us how we look, and so hard for us to show anyone how we feel.

Can you tell which is John, and which is Quentin? (The protagonist of Paper Towns.) I couldn’t. Of course, to a certain degree this is expected. A writer without a voice of their own, is a sales assistant. But there’s a limit to how much a writer’s own voice, should affect that of the character. I got particularly irritated by the fact that Quentin – who struggles to interpret the meaning of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself, and who worries that he might fail an English test – can somehow quote obscure T.S. Eliot lines like pop lyrics;

Light, the visible reminder of Invisible Light.

I studied Eliot with enthusiasm at university, but I never got round to reading ‘Choruses from the Rock’. How Quentin – a boy who apparently struggles with basic English Lit analysis – is supposed to know this line is beyond me.

My qualms with Green’s writing style aside, I thought perhaps the story would translate better on screen. After all, who doesn’t like a good teen romcom? Then I made the mistake of watching the trailer, and ruined it for myself.

The trailer is ridiculously spoiler heavy. It covers almost the entire plot, from Margo and Quentin’s night of revenge, through to Quentin getting out of the van at the end of the road trip he takes with his friends. The only thing that’s missing is the story wrap up, which (unless they’ve changed it) is incredibly disappointing. For a book that supposedly subverts the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, it sure turns Margo into a complete ass.

As for the casting, well, Cara Delevingne was a bit out of nowhere, and I can live with it. But seriously;

  1. They could have left her tattoos uncovered – Margo is supposed to be a bit of a rebel, and they had already picked a girl that looks nothing like the original description. Why not let her have her own flair? Go big, or go home.
  2. That poster (see above) – Whoever chose the photo needs their head checked. Having her hair in front of her face does not make her look “mysterious”. If anything, it sort of makes her look like Zack Efron in drag (see below). I mean no offense to Cara – she’s a beautiful woman – but that photo is just bad, bad, bad, and the marketing team should know better.

thoughts on the paper towns movieUltimately, I know it will do well. Fans of the book, and those who just like a good romantic comedy, will be all over it. Hell, I might even give it a try when it inevitably ends up on Netflix.

I suppose my conclusion is this; for the love of God, Green, get a decent marketing team. One that is not going to give away the entire plot of the movie in a two minute trailer.

If you haven’t seen it, the trailer is below. However, if you intend on watching the movie when it comes out in July, I’d recommend skipping it. Otherwise you’ll just be spending £8 to watch the end, and the end is not worth £8.

Well, I definitley made a mess.

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A delicious, delicious mess. Please, dont freeze cheescake, unless you want to eat it as icecream cake. (I will adjust the recipe asap.)

The Graham Greene Affair: A 140 Day Challenge

The Grahame Green Affair
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The Graham Greene Affair: A 140 Day Challenge.

In the summer of 2013, (oh god, it’s 2 years ago, I’m so old) I began working on my dissertation; a 6000 word novel opening, accompanied by a 4000 word essay. I dubbed my novel Rimjhim, a title which I still have trouble spelling, but that I ultimately love more everyday. It is the Hindi word for the sound that rain makes, and acts as the perfect image to open this particular story. Alec, the story’s narrator, has had his memory erased and rewritten so many times, that it is hard for him to tell fact from fiction. Rimjhim is his memoir, his attempt to reassemble the fragments of his life. It was a story that I was passionate about, that I loved, right up until I started trying to finish the damn thing. Suddenly, I find myself looking for any excuse not to sit down and write.

So I’ve come up with a plan.

In The End of the Affair (1951) – my favourite book and a HUGE influence – Graham Greene describes his own writing method:

Over twenty years I have probably averaged five hundred words a day for five days a week. I can produce a novel in a year, and that allows time for revision and the correction of the typescript. I have always been very methodical, and when my quota of work is done I break off, even in the middle of a scene.

He was meticulous and disciplined; traits that, as a writer, I would love to train into myself. In fact, one of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2015 is to get into a regular writing pattern. So, over the next 140 days, I will be setting aside time each day to write 500 words. They may not be as pristine Greene’s, who wrote “without crossing out anything” (Michael Korda, 1996), but they’ll be something.

140 days of 500 words makes 70,000; the average length of a first novel. The aim of The Grahame Greene Affair is to have a complete novel by March 2016. That’s 6 months to write, and 6 months to edit. And I invite you to come along for the ride. If you’re up for the challenge, I’m more than happy to beta read, and discuss ideas. Just drop me a line!

Yes, it’s certainly going to be an interesting few months, but damn it! I will get to the end of this affair!!! (Oh whoops, I made a punny. That bodes well.)

Best,

Mort.

Tip Tuesday: How to Make a Mess

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How to Make a Mess

AKA How to Make Mort’s Eaton “Mess” Cheesecake

Ingredients:

how to make a mess

For the Base:

100g Ginger Nut Biscuits
100g Shortbread
75g Butter
Lemon Juice (To Taste)

For the Topping:

300g White Chocolate
600g Cream Cheese
300ml Double Cream
50g Caster Sugar
300g Mixed Fruit (Raspberries, Strawberries, Red Berries, Blue Berries etc)
2.5 Regular Meringue Nests

1. Get everything out of the fridge, and let it sit for a bit. This is not only because you want it to be at room temperature when you mix it, but also because you need to lull it into a false sense of security, and catch it off guard.

how to make a mess2. Take your anger out on the biscuits. Brutally bludgeon them to death with a rolling pin. Sometimes it helps to cover them with a picture of someone you dislike. Just to catch the crumbs. No other reason. Seriously, this started off as a bad joke about not liking Bieber, but then it turned out I actually needed him. Keep the ginger nuts separate from the shortbread for the moment.

how to make a mess3. Add the lemon juice to the shortbread, and mix with your hands. Taste test with a spoon. You want it to be quite lemony, as it’s going to have to fight with the ginger. Melt the butter, and combine bit by bit with both lots of the battered biscuits. You may not need all of it. My mixture ended up slightly over-saturated. If this happens, you may want to add more biscuit. Stir until you have an even mixture.

how to make a mess4. Press the mixture into the bottom of a 20cm spring-formed pan. If you don’t have one of these, you can use anything, as long as it’s deep enough. If the mould you use has a fixed base, I would recommend lining it with cling film, to make it easier to lift out. Once your brutally murdered biscuit party has been satisfactorily squished, place it in the fridge to set. You want it to be hard and cold.

5. Tear the white chocolate limb from limb, because sweet treats everywhere should fear your wrath. Dump the pieces into a bowlHow to make a mess and place in the microwave for about a minute, stir, then thirty seconds, stir, and then lather, rinse, repeat until it’s all melted. Don’t do what I did and shove it in for two minutes, then completely forget about it. Yes, I am an idiot.

6. Take your whipping cream, and whip it. Whip it real good! But don’t whip your hair back and forth, how to make a messbecause then it might get in your cheesecake, and that’s just wrong. You can do this with a whisk, electric whisk, mixer, or even a hand blender. I use an electric whisk. Whip the cream cheese and sugar together in a separate bowl. Then combine the contents of both bowls, and whip again.

7. Before adding your white chocolate, make sure it’s reasonably cool. You don’t want it to be too how to make a messwarm, as it will just undo all that brilliant whipping you’ve just done. If it’s just above room temperature, tip it in…and then whip it (okay, whipping no longer seems like a word to me). If you’re using fresh fruit, gently fold it in now. I used frozen (as I was planning on freezing it all anyway) so I used the electric hand whisk a little, just to get the marbled effect I wanted.

How to make a mess8. Now it’s time to retrieve you biscuit base from the fridge. Check it’s nice and hard, then spoon on a thick layer of your fruity, creamy, cheesy mess. You want to make the tin about half full. Then add in a thinner layer of broken meringue (I say mur-in-goo in my head every time I spell that word). Fill to the top with the rest of the creamy stuff.

9. Finally, decorate the top and leave your cheesecake on the side to settle for about 10 minutes. After all that whipping it needs a rest. Then whack it in the fridge to set. 5 or 6 hours should do it, but over night is recommended.

How to make a mess

EDIT: Whatever you do, don’t freeze this dish. When cream cheese is frozen it causes the water and fat molecules to separate. I froze mine because I wasn’t going to eat it for a few days, and while it came out fine, the moment I cut into it, it collapsed. I ended up scooping it into a container, but it was still damn tasty. I’m fairly certain that freezing is what caused this, but I will make another to check.

Overall, I am so happy with how this turned out! It tastes amazing, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with my friends on Friday. (SURPRISE, GIRLS!) If you make this, I would really like to know what you think, as this is the first recipe I’ve ever put together by myself, and the first time I’ve made a cheesecake! Send me pictures too!!

So yeah, that’s how you make a mess.

How to make a mess

How to make a mess

Wish me luck,

Mort.

#Dear Me

Dear Me
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Dear Me (Age 13),

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, CALM DOWN. I know, I know, every day you wake up angry and you don’t know why. You lash out at those you love because you can’t stop feeling this way. Well, Dear Mehere’s the thing; you’re bored. You are actually bored out of your skull. Stop watching TV, put down the trashy chick lit, and get a head start on your reading. I highly recommend anything from the turn of the 20th Century; Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Dorothy Richardson. Throw yourself into it and go crazy. Don’t be afraid to approach people and talk about it. BE ENTHUSIASTIC.

Also, stop drinking caffeine. It probably isn’t helping. Oh, and deep breathing is your friend.

There are a few choices you are going to make over the next few years, and I’m going to say it now; you’re doing the right thing. I Dear Memarvel at your ability to go with your gut. Going to sixth form college was the best thing you could have done. Your attendance rate will sky rocket from 63% to almost 100%, because it turns out when you’re not being told off for wearing the wrong colour hair tie, or trousers made out of the wrong fabric, you actually enjoy educational environments.

I know that leaving secondary school, causes a rift in certain friendships, but they weren’t worth it. You may not realise it now, Dear Mebut the one who introduced himself by gyrating in your face, turns out to be a far better friend. Even when he’s gone, you miss him a great deal. Besides that, you will make solid friendships wherever you go. Join Tumblr as soon as you can, go to ALL the Cosplay Cymru meets and NERD THE HELL OUT.

Give people time. You may not be what they expect, but once they realise you’re serious they will grow to respect that. Stick to your guns, and don’t hide who you are, even if you’re not entirely sure who that is yet. You’ll learn more about yourself by answering otherDear Me people’s questions on your sexuality, beliefs, gender etc, than you could ever learn by sitting inside your head all day.

Your skin will clear up. The redness will fade by university. Having to take a pregnancy test every time you need to refill your prescription is hilarious, particularly that tense moment where you know you’ve never had intercourse, but you’re still worried it’ll be positive.

University will be exactly what you hoped it would be, but it will also be entirely different from what you’d imagined. You will learn Dear Meto argue with students studying PhD Physics, about Physics, and you will win. You will often be wrong, but you will still win, because the central skill of an Arts degree is being able to pull connections out of nowhere. Also, you will find a sport that you actually care about!

Finally, graduating will seem like the weirdest thing, and you will spend a great deal of time faffing about, trying to figure out what to do. The answer is, go with that gut. There is only one thing that you’ve ever wanted to do, and you will find a way to do it.

dear me

Best,

Em.

P.S. While creating the main graphic for this, I realised how much we photobomb. Keep doing that.

P.P.S. For those of you wondering #DearMe is a feature currently running on Youtube, in which you write a letter to your younger self. I’m not a big vlogger, so I thought I’d get involved this way.

Review: Every Day

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Every Day by David Levithan

WARNING SPOILERS

Every Day left me in two minds. It definitely has it’s good qualities; as a commentary on sexuality and gender, it’s an outstanding piece of young adult literature. However, as an example of science fiction, it made me want to weep, and not for joy.

The narrator of the novel, A, is an entity who jumps from body to body, regardless of gender. As such A is not gender neutral, or gender fluid, but just a person, who doesn’t really understand what the fuss is all about;

“I had yet to learn that when it came to gender, I was both and neither.”every day

“In my experience, desire is desire, love is love. I have never fallen in love for a gender. I have fallen for individuals. I know this is hard for people to do, but I don’t understand why it’s so hard, when it’s so obvious.”

For me, this was so incredibly relatable. While I’m fully aware of being a female of the human species, I have never really understood phrases like “You think like a man” or “That’s not lady like.” I have often felt that you could pick my consciousness out of my body, park me in another, and I would still remain the same person. Seeing Levithan approach this subject, in a way that makes it accessible to readers who cannot identify in this way, was amazing.

However, by the end of the novel, that sense of awe had worn off. I found myself infuriated by the poor use of the science every dayfiction elements in this story, particularly in regards to character utilization.

From the beginning, Every Day sets itself up as a romance novel. You know the novel’s plot will rotate largely around A and Rhiannon, but alongside is the sci-fi sub-plot: who is A? Is A one of a kind? Is there a way for A to stay in one body? And through Nathan, A discovers answers to these questions. Vague, vague answers, that A decides to run away from. Just ups and leaves Rhiannon, this girl he loves. Don’t even get me started on the I-have-to-go-but-this-guy-who’s-currently-hosting-my-consciousness-will-make-a-great-boyfriend scene. To Patrick Ness, who calls Every Day, ” a wholly original premise racing along with a generous heart towards a perfect ending,” I say, “You, sir, are a heinous liar.”

As A runs away from the priest, Levithan seems to launch himself in the opposite direction to any kinevery dayd of satisfactory ending. He abandon’s the priest character, not even deigning to let us read the e-mails that A and the priest exchange. Here I am, thinking perhaps he could learn from the priest how to stay in the body of a comatose kid, thereby gaining a family and a happy life with Rhiannon, but no, no.

The ending was so insanely frustrating, that if I hadn’t been reading a friend’s copy, I would have actually thrown the thing across the room.

In conclusion, do I love the concept and characterisation? Yes, absolutely. Do I think it’s worth a read? Certainly. Do I recommend finishing the book when you’re along, purely to protect those you love from flying objects? Oh definitely. Definitely, yes.