Tag Archives: literature

It’s not just games that need Beta-testing

Humans need beta-testing too, bug-reports and patches. And some of us, like me, need everything explained in detail -stuff I’m doing wrong, stuff that needs changing, stuff that could be better- explained in excruciating detail or I won’t be able to think about it.

There are gaps in each of our experiences, so expecting someone to be able to do something that you need them to do, without asking them, is illogical. They might not be able, because they might never have done it before and they may never have needed anyone to do it before, so it just won’t occur to them.

To take an example from The Man of Feeling, by Henry Mackenzie, “…she fell back lifeless in the chair… It was not until some minutes after, that it occurred to him to ring the bell [for assistance]”. The thought “occurs” to Harley significantly late, because this kind of thing has never happened to him before; he’s probably sitting there with an internal monologue of “Oh my god, she’s fainted, what do I do, help, the prostitute lady has fainted, is she dead, please someone help, oh god, what do I do?”, ya know?

For me it’s emotional-people stuff, people start crying and I’m just there like “oh my god, they’re crying, what do I do, help” and then I go and get a friend and point them in the direction of the crying person.

I made a mistake, long ago, Year 4. Turns out you don’t laugh when someone explains their grandfather, who is suffering from dementia, called them a banana because he couldn’t remember her name. From then on I have been terrified of dealing with emotional people, believing that whatever I say or do, I’ll just make it worse. My one successful fallback is tea and food, throw one of them at a crying person and you’re on to a winner, in my experience.

This, as it has recently turned out, is not a sufficient response when the relationship that you have is a continuing one where you are a main support for the person. “Talking” is apparently a thing that needs to go on longer than a couple of sentences clearly stating a problem, an explanation and an apology. Who knew? (not me) Some people are talky-emotional-people, they need to be listened to, and responded to. In my opinion, these responses are not always genuinely felt or are, in general, meaningless nothings that achieve nothing- there is no practical solution to be generated from them, so why waste the breath on them. It’s not the person, it’s the problem that needs to be solved.

But I’m wrong, this is not always the case. Sometimes all that is needed is an ear and a few sympathetic (ingenuine) phrases. Which freaks me the f’ out, but I’ll try.

Review: ‘The Keep’ by Jennifer Egan

Picked this one up from the library while searching for their apparently invisible Phillip K Dick section(¡so frustrating!). Last term I studied ‘Look at Me’ by Egan and very much enjoyed it; it was a mix of sub-plots that didn’t even really culminate into something but that did seem to be the point. The exploration of new ways of thinking and connecting with people through the internet, as well as the power of the old, was not only enjoyable but intellectually-engaging.

‘The Keep’ is, somewhat unfortunately, much of the same. Different character’s stories (literally) overlap, and this time the culmination seems obvious and yet is played out in the same way- the main female character is the last voice, bringing all of the stories to a conclusion in a way that allows her to seemingly escape from the strangleholds of contemporary society.

The tone, as well, is very similar, and yes, they’re written by th esame author so you would expect some overlap, but for me it had an almost distorting effect on the castle setting as it was a very American ‘European Castle’ setting. Which yeah, the reason that is like that becomes apparent but still, I couldn’t get over how similar the despondency of the tine was to ‘Look at Me’.

And it wasn’t just that that was similar; I recognised the characters! Or at least some of them. Z was there, inhabiting Danny. Charlotte in Holly, Moose in Howie. Again, this was a shame because the plot itself was almost different, almost. Themes were the same; dis/connection, identity in recognising and being recognised (alto), insincerity, and the old wielding it’s power over the new.

With all that said, it did make me cry. At a similar point that I think ‘Look at Me’ made me cry. The motif of the mother not being able to cope, collapsing in bed and not being able to move; it does make me wonder if Egan has experience along these lines. This time, the daughters’ one comment, ‘I just want you to get better’, well, it hit home, too hard, and I struggled to get through the rest of the book before allowing that emotion to overtake me. It’s not something I often do, it’s weak, it may break me- my resolve, and I have to be strong which often leads to me just not feeling.

So, I just wanted to say thank you, to Jennifer Egan, thank you for writing something that while I see all of it’s similarities to another of your books, actually achieves the aims outlined in the plot; it made me feel again, if only for a night, and for that I am truly grateful.

Frustrated Auralologist

We study oral/aural traditions, songs of yesteryear that we now only see written on a page in a dusty book. We discuss the implications of form, presentation and lyrics; point out the poetic techniques; guess at harmonies and melodies we assume may have been used. Hell, we even recreate the performances we think might have been given.

Where is the acknowledgement of 20th Century song lyrics? Just because we’ve commercialised the medium doesn’t for one second mean that it’s any less worth studying the development of as a means of artistic expression.

And I’m not talking abut a musical engineering study of the creation of a record, I’m not talking about the Social Political and Economic study that could be done into the music industry, I’m not talking about a Women’s Studies study into the sexism flaunted by the industry.

I want a true and proper Literature-based study. Not linguistics, literature. Our close reading, our historical context, our historicism and postmodernism, feminism and marxism, thing theory and philology, aurality and myth-making.

I want literature based studies like we would do on anything else. You want to study the chanson de geste, be my guest; I want to study the music lyrics of today and what they explore.


I have the same problem with blog posts, why aren’t we studying this phenomenon in undergrad, not even mentioning it? I assume linguistic studies are being done on them because linguistics seem to be a lot more current than musty old literature. And yes, I believe blog posts will be (one day) and should be included under the term literature. To me they represent the modern day pamphlet, which we learnt about on the Early Renaissance module, how pamphlets were being used for ideological wars and such- is it not true that blog posts are a modern equivalent? Why should we not be tracing this phenomenon which, although being quite young, has already more material to be studying and making claims about.

My own claim would be that tumblr. (specifically) is a modern attempt at Écriture féminine [Hélène Cixous among others], the writing through body and self, the never-ending, the infinite, the reclamation. But who knows when I’m actually going to be allowed to write on such things under the term ‘English Literature’, or tbh at this point ‘World Literature’.


[Soundtrack: A is for Accident (Album) by The Dresden Dolls]