Category Archives: Reading

Season’s Greetings – Escape Reality with ‘The Box of Delights’

box-of-delights

If you have children, you can offer them a great time this Christmas by sharing the wonderful book ‘The Box of Delights’ with them. However, you do not need children in your life to enjoy this magical tale. As an adult, I find that it truly transports me. It was written by John Masefield and published in 1935. It is also available on dvd and is magical in that form too. In fact, it is one of those tales which becomes a Christmas tradition and can be brought out every year.

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The old man is abducted

The story is set around the cathedral town of Condicote and begins when the boy, Kay Harker is coming home for the holidays the week before Christmas. He is entrusted with a magical box by an old man who runs a Punch and Judy show. The old man is then abducted. Kay finds out that the box can make you either shrink or run swiftly. It also shows wonders and allows you to travel into the past.

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Kay, along with his pals, Maria Jones and her brother, Peter then set about rescuing the old man who is the magician Cole Hawlings. Cole has been kidnapped by scary wolf figures who are minions of the villain, Abner Brown. Brown becomes viler as the plot gathers pace. He eventually kidnaps the entire staff of the cathedral and demands the Box of Delights as ransom. Of course, Kay saves the day.

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Reading this book takes children on an enchanting adventure from the snowy encampment of Roman legions to the appearance of the medieval Arnold of Todi, the inventor of the box. There are humorous squabbles between pirate rats and house mice. The pure magic of the book is not simply the only wonderful aspect of it; there is something much deeper. The box symbolizes the imagination and the message is that we must protect our imaginations from the vile forces of commercialism, violence and stupidity.

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I think that sometimes we have to embrace the magic of an imaginary world in order to escape from the jingle jangle of commercial greed.  If you feel the need to escape from all that just read the book or watch the dvd and away you will go. A word of warning though – don’t forget to return to reality.

Seasons Greetings.  

 

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Filed under Children's Books, Christmas, For children, Reading

Getting Children Reading – Picture Books – Corduroy by Don Freeman

Picture Book Heaven

If there is one thing in the world that can make the sun shine when it is raining for us at Loony Literature, it is a beautiful picture book. For children up to the age of four, picture books work very well as each page has wonderful illustrations which the child can devour with their eyes while listening to the story.

A truly charming picture book to look out for is ‘Corduroy’ by Don Freeman which was first published in 1968 but children still adore it today. Corduroy is a cute teddy in green dungarees who sits on the shelf of a department store hoping to find a new home. Unfortunately, Corduroy has a dangling shoulder strap because the button has fallen off his dungarees and is lost.

Isn't he cute?

Isn’t he cute?

When a young girl sees him and falls in love with him, Corduroy’s hopes are lifted until her mother says that she has spent enough money and then points out that he has a broken shoulder strap anyway. Corduroy waits until the store closes and then goes in search of a button for his dungarees.

Never Give Up

He makes his way to the furniture department and tries to pull a button off a mattress but knocks a lamp over. The night watchman hears this and when he sees Corduroy he returns him back to his shelf. However, the young girl returns the next day with her own money to buy Corduroy. This is truly a book for little children to learn about determination both on the part of Corduroy as he journeyed for his lost button and the little girl who used her savings to give the little bear a home.

Incidentally, if you are an adult who hasn’t read a picture book for a long time, do try it. The reason for this is that they are uplifting. I find that if I feel a bit grumpy and I spend some time looking at picture books, I emerge in a much better mood.

Happy reading.

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Filed under Children's Books, For children, Reading

Cheer Yourself Up With A Children’s Book – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Here at Loony Literature, we believe that if you need help smiling, you might consider reading a children’s book. Many grown ups do not realize that throwing adultness to one side and losing themselves in a children’s story is as good as taking medicine. It liberates your soul and makes you feel as if anything is possible. Remember how you felt before you grew up and life got you down?

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

A wonderful one to try is ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ by Ian Fleming. It was actually written as three separate adventures. The first two were originally published in 1964 and the third one came out in 1965. What is really interesting is that Ian Fleming found his inspiration from a car really called Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which was built in 1920 by Fleming’s chum, Count Zoborowski.

The main character of the story is the magical car, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Her owners are the Pott family but their name was changed to Potts for the film. The father of the family, Caractacus Pott is an explorer and an inventor who lives with his wife and their twins.

One day, Caractacus invents a new type of candy which has holes in it that makes a whistling noise as it is being sucked. The owner of a sweet factory buys it for lots of money and that is how Caractacus buys Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Delight yourself by reading about this car which has a mind of her own as she flies and turns herself into a hovercraft. You may not get rid of all your worries but you will certainly forget about them for a time.

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Filed under Children's Books, For children, Reading, Self Esteem and Literature

Textual or Sexual?

English: Portrait of Virginia Woolf

English: Portrait of Virginia Woolf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of my great interests in reading matter is how desire is handled.  After the huge sales of “Fifty Shades of Grey”, I had begun to wonder if readers needed their sex spelled out more nowadays, if so, does that mean that many readers are missing out on playful texts as titillating as Orlando by Virginia Woolf?  In this written piece, I hope to persuade readers to interact with text such as “Orlando” for a deeper and potentially more sexually satisfying read.

I have taken chapter 3 from Orlando (Great Classic Library, 1994) to demonstrate that often it is not what is said that conjures up fantasy but what is not said.  Also, I use the constant ‘she’ but this refers to both sexes, it is simply to keep the text tidy.

Cover of "Orlando"

Orlando by Virginia Woolf with the talented Tilda Swinton on the cover. She played Orlando in the film.

If we can imagine a courtship between reader and text, then it becomes obvious that the text (Orlando) is using details to entice the reader as love object.  Whilst the reader is consumed with the desire to see and know the text, it encourages fevered requests for knowledge by constant teasing.  It attempts to keep the reader interested by manipulative and provocative tantalisation which never allows the desire for textual knowledge to be fulfilled.  Subsequently the reader continues to endeavour to explore and undress the body of the text.  In other words, the text uses a playful strategy which depicts an innocence by using understated sexuality to allure and provoke the reader into the commitment of interpretation.  The signals are there, the reader merely needs to be seduced.

The text displays constant symptoms of needing the reader to become its love object.  Consequently, in order to overcome this, it must attain to interest its love object; therefore it is only by seducing the reader into the position of desiring to know the text that it can attempt to fulfill the desire for unattainable completion.  To initiate interest, the text suggests that it will become love slave to  the reader’s fantasies but only if the reader will respond by opening her psychic space.

 

“There was a hole in the manuscript big enough to put your finger through …. but it has been necessary to speculate, to surmise and even to use the imagination.” (page 54)

 

The language cleverly entices the reader to visualize that which is being suggested.  The beckoning finger attempts to coax the reader into penetrating the written sign and being seduced into allowing her repressed fantasy to filter through.  It invites the reader into its existence with a manipulative proposition which offers a text lacking in language, subtly suggesting that the reader fills in the gap for herself.  Subsequently, the text is pertaining to reach unity with the reader by a language of denial being impregnated by the reader completing the gaps.  However, the fantasy must remain fragmented as the text’s constant denial of knowledge defies fixed interpretation.

As the suggestive finger tempts the reader, so the text uses thresholds to tease and control the reader’s access.  Windows are used to allow a connived amount of voyeurism.

 

“The windows of the Embassy brilliantly illuminated.  Again details are lacking.” (page 57)

 

Windows are used to set a scene to draw the reader in.  They are used as a controlled promise of an insight into the text.  The text manipulates a sense of deviant excitement as the reader anticipates the fantasy of voyeur as illicit views through the windows suggest that the reader should not be in attendance, that she will be witness to a scene which is too prurient to be written about.  However, the text denies the details the reader is hoping for; in essence, the text leaves spaces for the reader to mould it into whatever is fantasised about.

As opened windows are used to lure the reader into the ranks of hopeful voyeur, so the closing of doors is a carefully operated device which causes the reader’s mind to engage itself in a frenzied thought process which hungers for knowledge of the text.

 

“The Ambassador was seen to go to his room, still wearing the insignia of his rank, and shut the door.  Some say he locked it, which was against his custom.” (page 59)

 

The narrative content of the text draws the reader in by locking her out.  The concept of the text as love slave is being played as the reader is only provided with alleged details.  The text essentially offers the reader the chance to create her own fantasy within the text.  In other words, the text is again using denial of details as a promise of adaption in order to satisfy the reader’s fantasy.

English: Entrance to Freuds consulting room

English: Entrance to Freuds consulting room (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a never ending craving to complete the cycle of lack and desire the text successfully employs the device of ellipsis to create more gaps to encourage the reader to allow her repressed fantasies to surface.  The use of ellipsis suggests events which are too shocking to mention.

 

“Wondrous… utterly beyond description… gold plates…candelabras…negroes in plush breeches…” (page 58) ( please note that I do not agree with racist labels and I am not suggesting that Virginia was racist either; I am merely quoting the text)

 

The language which is used paints a decadence to indicate indulgence; to add ellipsis creates a subjacent meaning for the reader which arouses the most dormant of fantasies.  Fundamentally, the text works the reader’s mind.  The lack of language in the text encourages the reader to search the decadent language which is present for signs which indicate what the reader is hoping to locate.  As ellipsis in the text intimates a joining of language and absent language, the marriage must result in a lack desire interchange which can never be fulfilled as both are always acting as chameleons in search of each other.

The text uses Orlando as bait for the reader’s desires.  The sexual titillation concerning Orlando’s body is ambivalent.  The denial of details can be interpreted as writing which is vaguely aware of sexuality but unaware of how to work it; similarly it can be interpreted as the love object who attempts to lure the reader by a provocative indication of sexuality.  The interpretation will be open to the reader’s own exploration of the text but it is ultimately a stimulation used to attempt satiation of the reader’s psychic erotic space.

 

“Going indoors again, withdrew to his bath.  An hour later, properly scented, curled and anointed.” (page 54)

 

The reader is denied access to the bathroom in order to fantasise about Orlando having his body prepared for the events of the day.  The connotations of the above quotations are erotic by denial of detail.  It is probable that nudity and genital washing is involved, but it is purposely ambiguous as to whether he is vainly paying homage to his body himself or whether another is used to cleanse and cream the crevices of the protagonist’s person.  The innuendo is perverse as the use of the two sentences allows the reader to act as voyeur (which can be regarded as a perverse act in itself) to the most personal erotic bathroom fantasies desired.

If the text entices the reader with suggestions of being voyeur to Orlando’s personal moments, then to have Orlando in position of ultimately any fantasy is the pinnacle of invitations for the reader.

 

“And still Orlando slept.  Morning and evening they watched him.” (page 60)

 

The text deigns to give details as to Orlando’s long sleep but using sleep is an indication of death which can be an interpretation of orgasm.  According to Sigmund Freud in “The Interpretation of Dreams” sleep also is a signal for repressed fantasies being released in the form of dream.  Therefore the written sign becomes cohesive with the code of sexuality which encourages the reader to embark upon a scenario of being the mistress of Orlando’s body.  In actuality, the text as love slave is seducing the reader into being the love object by stimulating the fantasy of control for Orlando’s sleeping body.

Finally, as Orlando undergoes metamorphosis from man to woman:

 

“THE SOUND OF TRUMPETS died away and Orlando stood stark naked.  No human being, since the world began has ever looked more ravishing.  His form combined in one the strength of a man and a woman’s grace.” (page 62)

 

The reader is denied details of Orlando’s perfect form except the fact that he/she is ravishing.  This implies that the text is again using Orlando to capture the reader as love object.  In other words, Orlando is there to be moulded and created into the reader’s version of that which would be desirable, a Frankenstein’s monster made in the form of beauty to the eye of the reader.  The denial of details are cleverly used to incorporate whatever the reader desires in the way of physical features.  Therefore, as details of Orlando are lacking, the reader will write the body of Orlando herself to portray her own fantasy of loveliness.  Subsequently, by continual denial of detail to the reader, the text ensures in a controlled and intelligent manner that the reader commits an interest to it by being whatever she desires.

In conclusion, with a text as fluid as Orlando, we can write our own sexual fantasies, in essence, this means that the text can be read as a sexual fantasy or simply as a fine story; fundamentally, it adapts to what its love object – you the reader wants – can this be said about text like “Fifty Shades of Grey?”

 

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Kindle! Kindle! Little Star!

English: Third generation Amazon Kindle

English: Third generation Amazon Kindle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s been a strange Christmas in many ways but also one where I have been shocked to find out that I have been totally wrong about a strongly held idea.  I’m open minded about most things, but my mind had been firmly closed about this issue for about sixteen years.  If I say that I received a Kindle for Christmas which I hadn’t asked for, things might become a bit clearer about where I am going with this.

Roland Barthes

Roland Barthes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It might be a good idea to explain where the distaste for the electronic reading device came from.  Sixteen years ago, I was on a writing course and attended a lecture about writing and the future.  A guest speaker gave the lecture and as the evening wore on he made me more and more depressed as his discourse consisted mainly of threatening my whole way of life as a reader.  As Roland Barthes had written in his famous essay that “The Author is Dead”, so this speaker seemed to be saying that the book was dead.  He gleefully wittered on about how we would not sit reading physical books anymore but would have these electronic reading devices which would send books down a type of telephone line.  I came away from that lecture feeling as depressed as if a lover had ended our affair and I hoped desperately that the chap giving the talk would physically get sent down someone’s telephone line.

Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So why did the idea of sitting looking at an electronic device instead of holding a book alarm me so much?  Reading is one of my greatest pleasures and therefore the atmosphere when reading a book has always been important to how I feel about life.  For instance, I remember sitting by a coal fire at about thirteen years of age having just picked up my very first Agatha Christie murder mystery.  The room was silent apart from the very loud ticking of the clock and the odd hiss from the fire.  My grandmother had developed a need to hoard confectionery after the food rationing of the war and had a long sideboard in her bedroom full of packets of Tate and Lyle sugar and boxes of chocolates.  She’d given me a box of Milk Tray and the chocolates lay open on the arm of the chair as I devoured the details of the delicious murder by the safety of the fire.  As my hand wondered into the chocolate box to find my favourite strawberry flavoured one, my eyes left the book for a moment to glance towards the window.  The moment my eyes met the ones leering in at me, the book fell to the carpet and momentarily, I was in my book.  I stared at the nose with huge hairy nostrils pressed up against the glass and after my initial fright, I become furious and stamped to the front door to berate the middle aged man who was peering in at me.  It turned out to be someone with learning difficulties who had wondered off from the house he was visiting and decided to look at what I was doing.  However, that feeling when I was lost in a murder in a vicarage with a face peering through the window at me will stay with me forever when I read a cosy murder mystery.

(Sir Henry Irving was a real-life inspiration for the character of Dracula.)

So have my opinions changed since I have owned a Kindle?  I have to say that they have.  This Christmas, I have sat by the fire with Mildred, the cat stretched out on my knee, a box of chocolates on the arm of the chair and reading Agatha Raisin on my Kindle.  I have to admit, I was just as transported as if reading a physical book.  I’ve also been reading “Dracula” and when Jonathan Harker was being taken to the Count’s castle in the coach with the wolves circling it, I was there.  It’s a strange way to begin a new year, admitting that I have been wrong all these years but hey ho, it means that I can now carry a full library with me wherever I go!

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