Library Visit

After not going to the library for approximately ten years, going again recently was a very different experience. As a child, my local library was very small, and there was only a very small selection of children’s books. When visiting a larger local library, I noticed that there was a lot more choice in books, even in the children’s and teenage sections compared to what I remember from my childhood.

Another difference that I immediately noticed was the electronic machines used to check out books instead of having a librarian stamp my books with the dates they would be due. At first, I felt rather intimidated by these machines having never seen or used one before. However, after using one of these I noticed that there are clear and easy to follow instructions throughout the checkout process. Another thing that was different was that I got a receipt printed with the books I had checked out and when they were due back. This to me is an improvement, as previously I had only had the due dates stamped into the front of each book. The receipt is a good way to keep track of which books you currently are lending in case you misplace or forget about one.

Overall, I enjoyed revisiting the library and would recommend going to others due to the large range of books available and the simplicity of the system to lend and return books.

Wattpad

When first logging into the app Wattpad, you are asked for your gender and age. After that, a short list of books is brought up and the app asks you to choose three that interest you. When looking through these options, I noticed that the app cleary labels each short story and book with a genre, and in some cases lets you know if the story is still in the editing process or not.

I decided to add 3 different titles from this list into my library, each with a different genre. One of the books I chose was a disney fan fiction story. After reading the first few sentences of this, I found that I agreed with Kirci in the article “The tales teens tell: what Wattpad did for girls”. Kirci states that she soon grew tired of using Wattpad due to the poor use of spelling, grammar and planning, which I found to be the case in many of the books on this site, especially in the fan fiction genre.

To see what else the app has to offer, I chose to look at another book, this time a something from the paranormal genre. This book also stated that it was a “Wattys 2015 Winner”. After reading the first few sentences of this story, I noticed that the writing seemed more sophisticated and had used correct grammar and spelling throughout, with only a couple of small mistakes. However, as this was a book that released chapters weekly, between chapters there were messages from the author that I felt broke the immersion in the story and made it more difficult to remain interested in.

However, after browsing through all of the different books and novellas this app has to offer, I did realise that I do still agree with Kirci that this app is a good thing for young teenage girls as it seems to have sparked their interest in reading again, and even inspires some to write things that could go on to get published as she did.

Publishing companies and what they’re about

There are many major publishing companies that work with both aspiring and inspiring writers, some well-established and others rising. My choice of a major publishing company was Penguin Books.

Penguin Books is a British publishing house which was co-founded by Sir Allen Lane and his brothers, Richard and John in 1935. Penguin Books were revolutionary in their part of publishing inexpensive paperback books in English high streets, their part in allowing a wider reading list was pivotal in how we can easily access so many books now.  This was their goal.

I chose Penguin Books as they have a plethora of different genres that they publish, this ranges from children’s books such as  Tom Fletcher’s “The Christmasaurus”, to Clive Cussler’s “Typhoon Fury” which is a suspense novel focusing on war in the Phillipines – both from Penguin Books publishing.

Penguin books also have some off-shooting ventures that further broaden the range of books in their arsenal, one of these being ‘Puffin books’ which is designed for ages 7+ and is focused solely on children’s authors such as Roald Dahl, Jeff Kinney and Jacqueline Wilson. They also advertise another service for younger children aged 0-7 called “Ladybird”.

It’s appropriate for Penguin books to have all of these different services that aid children in reading from such an early age, it goes to show that their original ideals of creating in-expensive paperback books to allow a larger population to read is still in full effect, even today.

Game Review – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an open world RPG set in a fictional world of monsters, questionable aristocrats and intrigue. The backstory to The Witcher lore is vast and full of interesting talking points, one of my favourite being its integration of Polish folklore and its place in The Witcher series, from Leshens and Ghouls to Wraiths and Botchlings – most of the monsters in The Witcher series are takes on Polish folklore, for instance, the Botchling is based on the Poroniec, a terrible demon spawned from the anguish of a stillborn child in Slavic mythology.

This sets the tone for The Witcher 3, the third game in the series and the product of a long line of successful books, 13 books in total. The world of The Witcher is a dark and groggy one, horse-trodden roads that lead in and out of war-torn ruins of castles, shrill cries of monsters at every bend in the road and a healthy human population to serve as nourishment for the creatures that live just moments away from their villages. Humans live in adjacency with the monsters that hunt them after a catastrophic event known as the Conjunction of the Spheres some 1,500 years before the novel’s timeline, which brought upon hordes of monsters to be trapped in the human dimension – thus creating the need for a Witcher.

You play as Geralt of Rivia, the butcher of Blaviken. A Witcher. Your initial purpose in the game is to find a woman, Yennefer, a sorcerer who Geralt has grown close to but has lost recently. Geralt then finds Yennefer in a quaint province called White Orchard, she then takes you to the ruling lord, Emperor Emhyr var Emreis of the Nilfgaardian Empire, the most powerful Empire in the history of the known world and a stark enemy of the free people in the North, many belonging to ‘The Northern Realms’, this is relevant as the Nilfgaardian Empire are amidst an invasion on the North and war is common place in these lands. This Emperor tasks you with the objective of finding his wife, Cirila who also happens to be the unrelated child of Geralt and Yennefer – Witchers and Sorcerers are sterile. There is also a plethora of factions that have differing attitudes about Witchers, war and the treatment of races; of which there are many in The Witcher. A lot to take in, that’s for sure.

It doesn’t slow down anytime soon however. Whilst you wrap your head around the tales and twists that are brought on by this Nilfgaardian figure head, it is also your trade to hunt and kill monsters. It’s not a noble or driving duty by a Witcher, it’s purely for gain as they are travellers who have been given great power by the ‘Trials of the Grasses’ – an extensive gauntlet of pain-inducing, mettle-testing and agonizing tasks given to a Witcher when he becomes of age, most of the children die in the process. Witchers are treated with disdain among most of the population, seen as cast-outs and freaks that kill for sport. They are painted with a blood thirsty brush and hold no place in their communities, unless something needs to be slaughtered.

As Geralt, you barter with the populace, collect bounties for monsters, collect trophies that you can adorn and show off, traverse the treachery of political gain and adversary, make your moral mark in taxing situations, get caught up in aristocratic rivalries between great Empires, explore the depth of the lore and hack and slash your way through monster nests, all whilst revealing the mysteries of the incredibly well written and detailed storyline offered to you. The action in The Witcher 3 is second to none, it’s exhilarating and fresh, every scenario you’re put in is immersive and more than not, bloody. This is however not it’s main focus, although the combat is well polished and fine-crafted, a lot of the intrigue comes in the form of it being a role-playing game that truly lets you play your role, many of the choices that come in the story are tailored to how you play, react and act. The game itself has 36 possible end game states, which are dictated by how you take on certain tasks.

In conclusion, I would concretely and with no wavering thoughts, absolutely endorse and recommend this game. Its incredible story, controls and immersion are second to none and it is easily my favourite RPG of all time – if not my favourite game. It has had massive acclaim around the world to no surprise and the producers of the game have been hailed as heroes in the gaming community for their incredible deliverance in its craftsmanship that is The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

Game Review – Persona 5

Persona 5 is a  narrative driven Japanese RPG centred around a teenage boy and his friends in Tokyo who have the ability to change people’s hearts. Similar to the other games in the Persona series, this is done by entering the Metaverse and going into someone’s Palace. The characters and story are different from the other games in the series however, because this time you form a group called The Phantom Thieves and change people’s hearts by stealing the treasure that is deep within the palaces. There is also a lot of clever symbolism in the game, as each Palace represents one of the seven deadly sins.

There is a very unique art style within the game, and the colours red, black and white are mainly used throughout the game whilst in the Metaverse. There are many anime style animated scenes within the game. While watching these, the interest of the player is piqued as these usually happen when there is a major advancement in the story. There is also a huge element of mystery in this story which kept me playing for hours, as there is someone else in the Metaverse that is causing mental shutdowns and death in many people and blaming The Phantom Thieves. The main story revolves around finding out who this person and how they are causing these events, while also proving the innocence of The Phantom Thieves. However, as well as having an exciting mystery, there is also a large element of slice of life within the game as you have to continue to live a normal student life throughout the story by going to school and taking exams.

The combat in this game is turn based, and attacks are made by using Personas. Having simple turn based game-play makes it easy to pick up and play the game, even if you have spent a long time away from it. The character you play as, Joker, has the ability to use multiple personas and fuse them to create new ones. When fusing personas, there is an option to view the backstory of each one. This gives the game some great readable content and short stories throughout the game, which really made me feel immersed in the Persona world and excited to see what the next available Personas would be.

Another way in which this game introduces more short stories that are optional for the player are when relationships are formed with other characters. As you higher your relationship level with people, more of their backstory is revealed as well as skills gained that can be used in both Palaces and the real world. This can allow the players to form a connection with all of the characters in the story and make you want to continue playing the game in order to find out what happens or did happen to all of the characters. 

Overall, I would definitely recommend this game to others because of the main story line being very exciting and interesting, but also because of the way that you can be fully immersed in this world by all of the details that have been put into other characters and locations in this world. The game-play is very easy to pick up and play even for those who have never played anything like this in the past, and is also very easy to come back to after some time away.

Neil Gaiman Biography

Neil Richard Gaiman was born in Hampshire in the UK in the year 1960. His family are of Polish-Jewish and other Eastern European origins. He has two younger sisters, Claire and Lizzie.

The family moved from Hampshire to West Sussex in 1965 so that his parents could study at the Scientology centre in the town. The family were all raised as Jewish Scientologist. However, Gaiman does not consider himself to be a Scientologist now, and that it is his family’s religion(1)

As a child, he discovered a love for reading and books after reading the works of C.S Lewis, Tolkien, Edgar Allan Poe among many others. He describes himself as a “feral child who was raised in libraries”. He says that he was at his happiest when his parents would drop him off at the library on their way to work and he would spend the whole day there, He also credits librarians with a lifelong love of reading. He also states that he would not be the person he is without libraries(2).

Gaiman went to several Church of England Schools for education. However, his fathers’s position in the Church of Scientology as a public relations official resulted in Gaiman at the age of seven being blocked from entering a boys’ school, meaning he was forced to stay at his previous school in East Grimstead. He lived in East Grimstead for many years and even met his wife, Mary McGrath there. She was studying Scientology and living in a house that was owned by Gaiman’s father when they met. They married in 1985, after they had had their first child, Michael(3).

Footnotes

1- Wikipedia, “Neil Gaiman”, available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neil_Gaiman accessed 09/11/2017.

2-Neil Gaiman, “Biography”, available at http://www.neilgaiman.com/About_Neil/Biography , accessed 09/11/2017 

3- Wikipedia, “Neil Gaiman”.

“Ebooks are changing the way we read, and the way novelists write” and “Why Do We Always Proclaim That the Novel Is Dead”

In the article “Ebooks are changing the way we read, and the way novelists write”, Mason writes that the attention span has shortened and people are now reading on devices such as mobile phones and kindles, and “dipping into them in the coffee queue or on public transport”. In my opinion, this is not something that has been caused solely by ebooks as all of technology has had a part to play in this. In the past before technology, reading was a way of escapism for people whereas now escapism can be achieved through many things, like watching television and playing games. To me, it does not seem necessarily bad that people choose to read small segments while doing things like using public transport because it means that people still value reading and the novel as a source of entertainment. It means that the novel is not actually dead.

Liesl Schillinger’s response to “Why do we always Proclaim that the Novel Is Dead” raises many good points. For example, she talks about the fact that the people who proclaim that the novel is dead are people like her professor, who want to be the deciders of what is “good” literature. To say that the novel is dead when there are “richly realised fictional worlds that rise all around them” seems to me to mean that the literary novel is dying, not the idea of novels overall. The way that people like her professor and Will Self proclaim this idea makes me think that only their idea of what real literature is appear to be dying. Things such as literary novels however, are sometimes not actually thought as such at the time they are written. There could be things out there right now that in the future will come to be literary novels, they just may not be recognised as such right now. To continue to discredit all of current literature can only discourage writers and could even move along the process of the death of the novel.

What are everyone else’s views on this?

An Open Letter to Will Self

Dear Will Self,

In response to your article “The novel is dead (this time it’s for real)”, I believe that you had some relevant and interesting points regarding the novel, however, this could have been conveyed in a different way.

The very first thing that is mentioned in this article is the reference to your children being canaries in your own personal culture-mine, which is continued throughout the . You also refer to them as “little harbingers”. The wording of these phrases right at the beginning does not seem to be a good start in terms of trying to get people to see things from your own point of view. To a reader such as myself, this image of your children being used as test subjects for modern literature and culture seems impersonal and harsh to them. You also state that your son has ambitions to be a rock musician, yet instead of encouraging him to develop his talents and helping him to write something more original you only criticise him for doing things that has been done many times before. If as you say, the novel truly is dead, as well as music and other forms of self-expression, then surely the best way to try to revive this is to help and encourage the youth, like your son, instead of discouraging them.

Although I disagree with your actions from the first paragraph, i do agree with what you have said next in this article. I also believe that the web and the internet have allowed us to be able to access anything at anytime, or a “permanent Now” as you put it, which doesn’t really allow room for a new musical era especially with the older generations sticking to their own nostalgic tastes. This too, links to the first point I made regarding the way that the youth is not as encouraged to create new music and literature. According to Pitlane magazine (http://www.pitlanemagazine.com/lifestyles-and-subcultures/generational-differences-in-musical-taste-why-older-people-dont-like-new-music.html)  the reason that the older generation don’t enjoy modern music, which could also be said for other things such as novels, is because they have more of an emotional connection to things that remind them of their childhood and adolescence. In order to find new material and to revive the novel, we should be actually listening to what the newer generation wants to read, write and hear, instead of instilling a sense of failure in them before they have even begun.

[Discussion] ‘On the Joy of ebooks’ and ‘Why teenagers are so resistant to ereaders’.

In Margaret Drabble’s ‘On the Joy of ebooks’, she opens with the fact that some people are taken aback by the fact that she prefers ebook readers over traditional books. At first I was also surprised at this fact as I’d expect the nostalgia and sentimentality that she even describes herself to keep her coming back to her favourite paperback books and I expected the younger audience to be drawn more to ebooks.

The more I read however, the more I realised that she’s already lived through a time of struggling to fit your books into a bag and lug it around while travelling and she seems to understand and is more grateful for the invention of the ebook. The younger generation on the other hand haven’t had as much of an exposure to the paperback era of having to carry around an arsenal of your favourite books only to have it weight you down, clearly not as much as Drabble at least. I think that a lot of the younger generation are reading physical books over ebooks because they want to have that paperback era for themselves, feeling as though they may have missed out on something that was so prevalent before their time.

This is shown in the second article; “A survey carried out for the Bookseller Children’s Conference in 2015 claims that 16-24 year olds (the same demographic that BBC Three went online to reach, remember) prefer physical books to digital books, with 64% saying print books were their favourite and 20% saying they didn’t mind.”

In my opinion, the argument that ebooks are more practical and space efficient is fair however there is a clear bias towards books in most scenarios as, despite this argument, the article says ‘the sale of physical books is on the up and the sale of digital books is falling.’

The only way this can be the case is not through practicality but instead the sentimentality of what the younger generation haven’t experienced and the almost defiance of ebooks to experience it.

Any thoughts on this?

 

 

Linda Grant’s Biography

Linda Grant is an award winning novelist and journalist. She was born in Liverpool on the 15th February 1951 and was the oldest child of Benny Ginsberg and Rose Haft. Benny’s Family was Polish-Jewish, whilst Rose’s was Russian. They adopted the surname Grant in the early 1950’s. Much of Linda Grant’s fiction comes from her Jewish background, family history and the history of Liverpool.

She attended The Belvedere School, a secondary school in Liverpool, she then studied English at the University of York from 1972 to 1975. She then went on to complete an M.A. in English at McMaster University in Canada, which lead to her doing her post-graduate studies at Simon Fraser University also in Canada. Linda Grant returned to England in 1985 and worked as a journalist for The Guardian, she wrote her own column for eighteen months. Her first published book was a non-fiction work called ‘Sexing the Millennium: A Political History of the Sexual Revolution’ in 1993. Linda Grant currently lives in North London.