Tag Archives: father

Why I’m worried about ‘Go Set a Watchman’.

Did you re-read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ to prepare? Did you read the first chapter in ‘The Guardian’ at the weekend? Did you go to a launch party? Did you buy it at one minute past midnight? Have you read it yet?

My answer to all of the above questions is: no. I have bought a copy but I must admit, I feel guilty and uncomfortable about it. Why? A number of reasons to be honest.

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ was the first book that made me realise the power literature has. It didn’t shy away from the pertinent issues of the day and it held a mirror up to an unequal, prejudiced society. Atticus Finch remains one of my heroes to this day and, following the revelations of the first chapter, I am worried that my view of him will be forever tainted. It’s kind of like finding something terrible out about the father you idolise.

So, not only could ‘Go Set a Watchman’ obliterate a hero in Atticus Finch, it could also damage my high regard for Harper Lee. What if ‘Watchman’ isn’t as well written as ‘Mockingbird’? How will the writer in me feel? That said, will it make me remove Lee from the pedestal I’ve had her on since I was sixteen years of age and bring about that she, too, is human and all writers must hone their craft? I could look at it like that but somehow I suspect I won’t be able to be that pragmatic.

Oh, and let’s not forget the rumours surrounding the publication of the book. Harper Lee has been a recluse for decades, shielded by her sister Alice Lee who died aged 103 in November 2014. By February 2015, it was announced the ‘Go Set a Watchman’ would be published later in the year. Is it coincidence that less than three months after her sister’s death, Harper Lee – who had vowed never to publish another book – decided to publish ‘Go Set a Watchman’, the failed first draft of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’? Did the death of her gatekeeper open Harper Lee up to manipulation and coercion? This is the part I find most concerning. Has an elderly lady with failing sight and hearing been taken advantage of by Harper Collins (a subsidiary of News Corp)? However, an independent investigation has found Harper Lee coherent and happy to go ahead with publication. I genuinely hope that is the case.

In the 36 hours since the release of the book, The Guardian are reporting sales of over 100,000 copies in the UK alone and I have – rightly or wrongly – contributed to that figure.

But I still feel guilt about reading it.

Vic x

Review: ‘Luke and Jon’ by Robert Williams

‘Luke and Jon’ is a heart-warming tale of Jon who, after the death of his mother, moves to a scruffy northern town with his almost entirely mute father who is drinking heavily. Jon meets Luke, a boy in 1950s clothes with a side parting and a twitch. The kids at school refer to Luke as “slackjaw”. Luke has a secret, though, and when Jon finds it out it changes everything for Jon and his dad.

‘Luke and Jon’ is a coming of age story about family, death, depression, friendship and redemption. Robert Williams’ debut novel is really impressively written and has a lot of heart. It’s not all doom and gloom, though, it’s heart warming and, at times, funny.

Shortlisted, rightfully, for several awards, ‘Luke and Jon’ won the Betty Trask Award – and rightfully so.

Vic x

The photographer who sees a car crash……

This afternoon, I had an interesting encounter. I had arranged to meet a writer friend who I used to go to university with. We decided we’d meet at a local coffee shop off the beaten track for a catch-up. I was so looking forward to the meeting, and not just for coffee and cake! This friend of mine is a prolific script writer and poet and I love hearing her ideas and how she’s progressing. Not to mention she is a jolly good human being to boot.

As I picked a table for two, I noticed an elderly gentleman on the next table, occupying a six seater so I assumed he was waiting for someone. We were literally about three minutes into our catch up when the gentleman turned around and apologised to my companion for coughing as we spoke. My friend, as friendly as always, told him not to worry and that it couldn’t be helped. That was the last time I heard my friend talk for another 57 minutes.

This lovely, sad old gentleman regaled us with tales of his childhood, his marriage and his life as it gained years. He told us about the fascists at the golf club who had told him he was no longer welcome in the communal dining room, about his sailing trips and his inability to stand up to his bully of a father.

He sat and tore strips of toilet paper until he had finished the roll (nerves, perhaps?) whilst telling us about his life and his dreams to be involved in literature. At the grand old age of 92, with all of his faculties still in tact, this man was a marvel. I could have sat and cried as he got choked up telling us about wife and his mother.

Every so often, he would apologise for talking so much but say “I’m so lonely” and I would feel guilty for wishing to have time to talk to my friend. How long was it since he’d had a conversation with someone? We forget how lucky we are.

My friend and I kept catching each other’s eyes and smiling sympathetically until the man asked us what we did. I say we, he was mainly directing the conversation to my friend, and she told him we were writers. To this he responded by asking if we’d be prepared to send him some of our work and so addresses ended up being swapped.

We bid him goodbye and walked to our cars and I felt so relieved as my friend said “It’s like that story of the photographer who sees a car crash and, instead of helping, takes photos. I was listening to him the whole time and thinking ‘This is great material’.” She looked sheepish until I began to laugh and said “Me too!” I guess it’s what was drummed into us during our course – look around, inspiration is everywhere.

I’ve thought about it since I arrived home, how easy it is to take one’s life for granted. In the blink of an eye any one of us could be that old man sitting at the table wondering where his life went.

His final words to us: “I may not write back immediately as I like to go out and have fun. It’s no good if you don’t enjoy life.”

Vic x

Britney: how can she know any better?

I have a shameful secret, I am a Britney Spears fan. She has had a lot of ups and downs during her 13 year career in music but I do love the music she produces.

We all know the story of Britney, the girl from America who took the world by storm aged just fifteen, dressed as a schoolgirl in her video for ‘Baby, One More Time’; the girl who’s been married twice and has two kids who she doesn’t have full custody of. Possibly the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of Britney is the bald girl who had a breakdown, who we watched on the news being stretchered out of her home and who then played cat and mouse with paps she thought were her friends. It’s a sad story in many ways.

I have to admit that her work schedule concerns me somewhat. I went to see her during the ‘Onyx Hotel Tour’ in 2004 not long after her marriage to childhood friend Jason Alexander was annulled. I next saw her in 2009 on her ‘Circus’ comeback tour. She puts on a great show but in 2009 I worried that she wasn’t choosing to go on the stage, she was put there by her father and her manager, Larry Rudolph despite her fragile mental state. I also feel that, despite stricter vetting processes for staff since her father’s conservatorship took effect, some people will still try to make money off the back of Britney.

And now someone else is trying to cash in on her. Former bodyguard, Fernando Flores, is seeking $10 million for psychological damages after claiming he was subject to ‘unwanted sexual advances’. Wow, he must be the only guy in the world who didn’t want Britney to come onto him. But in all seriousness, if these allegations are true – how could Britney know any better after being taught how to be nothing other than a sexual object for almost half of her life?

Let’s study some of her videos as examples:

  1. ‘Baby, One More Time’: Britney becomes an overnight sensation thanks to a navel-baring school uniform and pigtails.
  2. ‘Oops, I Did It Again’: The red catsuit, need I say more?
  3. ‘Don’t Let Me Be The Last to Know’: By now, even Britney’s ballads require her to wear bikinis and to snog with a hunk on the beach.
  4. ‘I’m a Slave 4u’: 19-year-old Britney wears PVC pants with her pink lace thong over the top and drips sweat while lip-syncing heavy breathing.
  5. ‘Me Against the Music’: yet another chance to catch girl-on-girl action with Madonna as well as gyrating hips and hair flicking.
  6. ‘Toxic’: Britney plays different characters in this video – air hostess with her knickers on show, black-haired assassin who kills a man by kissing him. Oh, and the naked diamond catsuit also features.
  7. ‘My Prerogative’: Britney lap dances for K-Fed and rolls around a bed in her white bra and knickers.
  8. ‘Womanizer’: Yet more half-dressed, provocative multiple personalities.
  9. ‘If You Seek Amy’: Not contented with the song actually spelling out “All of the boys and all of the girls are begging to F-U-C-K me”, this video shows a sex party involving Britney, who looks trashed but then gets changed and poses for the paps as the perfect housewife.
  10. ‘Til The World Ends’: Brit dresses in yet more leather and bodysuits with fishnets, flashing all she’s got.

So that’s just ten of Britney’s many music videos. There’s also VMA performances to consider, remember the time she stripped off to reveal a nude bodysuit? How about the semi-naked performance with a python? Or the Madonna snog? Then, of course, the 2007 shambles where she appeared in a sequinned bikini and cocked up her lip-syncing and dancing.  

According to a lawsuit filed by Flores, Britney leaned over him, with her breast exposed, looking him in the eye as if waiting for something to happen. Isn’t that what she’s been taught to do since she was sixteen, if not younger, by countless directors, photographers and choreographers?

If, she did walk around her home wearing see-through clothes then bend down to retrieve her lighter, showing that she was wearing no underpants, hasn’t she spent the last thirteen years in a pretty much permanent state of undress in photo shoots and even on stage?

Flores even claims Britney ‘engaged in numerous sex acts in front of’ him. Hasn’t she simulated sex on stage before? Isn’t it part of her act?

I’m not saying it’s healthy but this is not a ‘normal’ situation. Britney has no idea what is appropriate, having spent her life in front of cameras and on stage simulating sex, touching herself and licking her lips provocatively while lip-syncing sexually charged lyrics. This is the girl who is rumoured to have had a boob job at sixteen.

All of her life, Britney has performed to gain attention and approval from others. She has not had a normal life, even before she became famous. Her mother moved to New York to allow Britney to perform on Broadway as a child, as well as a stint in The Mickey Mouse Club. In Kentwood, Louisana, where Britney grew up, she was a celebrity long before the rest of the world knew who she was, performing at every competition and carnival going. Not only this but her parents were in a tumultuous relationship due to her father’s drinking and the debts that threatened to overwhelm the family.

Britney was not allowed to be a child.

Perhaps the rebellion we saw in 2004 starting with the Vegas wedding to Alexander and ending with a marriage and pregnancy to Kevin Federline was an act of rebellion, or an attempt to finally have a normal life.  In 2004, there were rumours of excessive drinking, drug taking, pictures of Britney looking less than stage-ready with her Starbucks drink and fast food. After a knee injury, the remainder of the Onyx Hotel tour was cancelled and Britney jumped into marriage and motherhood – was she just looking for love? After all, she’d had six years of adoration from fans but, in reality, was lonely having continued working after her split from Justin Timberlake.

Some of the claims from Flores are pathetic: that Britney picked her nose frequently, broke wind unapologetically and ‘didn’t fix her hair’. Is that a crime? Would it psychologically damage you? I know these are unpleasant things and we might not want to consider that the polished pop princess is human, but we all do it. Let’s face it, we’ve seen Britney at her lowest – being carried out of her home into a waiting ambulance, we know she has issues. Even Britney’s ex husband, K-Fed, acknowledged – through his lawyer – that Flores’ claims are ‘a product of economic motives’.

Flores also claimed Spears was under the influence of prescription drugs, like Ritalin. Unfortunately we also know she has to be medicated due to her psychological issues. This is why I think Britney is also being taken advantage of by her father and Larry Rudolph, her manager. If she has such serious psychological issues – rumoured to be ADD and/or bi-polar disorder – is she fit to go on a gruelling world tour? Or does she do it because she doesn’t know what else to do? Her whole adult life has been touring, recording and promotion.

Britney is a victim of her own success. She hasn’t been able to enjoy her life because of schedules and fame. She’s tailed by paps constantly and doesn’t understand boundaries because of her sexualisation thanks to the industry she’s in but she shouldn’t be allowed to be taken advantage of.

Vic x

Review: ‘Afterwards’ by Rosamund Lupton

Following on from one of last year’s biggest selling novels (and the fastest selling debut from a British author), Rosamund Lupton continued her success with second novel ‘Afterwards’ which went straight into the Top 10 on its release and, within a month of its release, became the fastest selling e-book ever.

‘Afterwards’ is the story of Grace, a mother of two, who runs into a burning school building to save her daughter Jenny. Afterwards, Grace needs to find out the identity of the arsonist and try to put her family back together while protecting them from an unknown threat. Not only does Grace have to contend with these issues but she has to accept the fact that no-one but Jenny can hear her – and that they may never wake up.

Lupton is really carving herself a niche in the thriller genre. The only other book I can think of written in this style in ‘The Lovely Bones’ by Alice Sebold but ‘Afterwards’ leaves it looking simplistic.

As with ‘Sister’, there are many red herrings thrown in for good measure, so much so that you suspect someone, dismiss them and then suspect them again which makes this novel seem all the more realistic. It is cleverly plotted and the prose is almost lyrical. Not only is this an intelligent thriller but it is, yet again, an honest portrayal of family life and relationships.

My one bugbear with Lupton is that she often writes in the second person – “I said to you….” – which can be distracting at times although I know she does it to make the reader feel entirely involved.

Think Jodi Picoult meets Audrey Niffnegger. This is a unique novel that is eloquently written, you will be blown away by it.

Vic x

To order your copy of ‘Afterwards’, click here: http://amzn.to/l0kfFY