Sunday, 25 January 2009

Exams Aren't Without Reward...

Sometimes blackmail is as good a way as any of making yourself work. This is a little something I've discovered over the past two weeks. It is an epic saga of torment, despair, longing, and...

A book.
This book, to be precise.
Yes, I've been ferreting around bookshops again. Waterstones had a nice range of material on Mary Shelley and Frankenstein so I'd thought I'd take a look - not to mention buying both the wobbly but fairly accurate Kenneth Branagh's Frankenstein (shame about De Niro, but you can't have everything), and the dire Hallmark made-for-TV version, which had more to do with my admiring er, Luke Goss as the Monster than anything study-related.

But anyway! Whilst shopping for reasonably sensible critical works on Frankenstein and worrying about exams, I happened to stroll past a section entitled 'Crusades' that had this on the shelf. Just one copy amongst a few others that were more general.
Under normal, unstressed circumstances I would have bought it, devoured half of it on the bus back to my halls, and spend the rest of the day in a dreamy stupor reading the rest. Usually whilst trying to take my shoes off whilst reading at the same time. But given the pressure at the time, my resolution was to buy it, yes -
But not read it.
This is the torment part. And a fair part of the 'despair'. Because unread pristine new books in my vicinity is the equivalent of dangling baby deer over a pool full of piranhas. But promising myself that if I revised for the exam then AFTER The Leper King and His Heirs was all mine actually worked! I studied, ignored the temptation to grab the book of the top shelf and read it cover to cover - and it made the horrors of Anglo-Saxon saints and pseudo-Biblical quotes on the nature of obsession all worth it. Survivable, actually.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Mirabile Dictu! The Exams Are Over!

I thought I'd post a short, celebratory epistle:

January Exams = Over. How did I do? Honestly? I don't know... I tend to have immediate amnesia with exams lest I drive myself insane with thinking about the stuff I failed to mention. But I can actually live life again instead of driving myself crazy over The Life of Saint Swithun and a certain American novel - and once more have an actual presence aboard the great wave of Internet enjoyment...

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Bibliophilia 2: A Student's Passion

"When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.”
Desiderius Erasmus.

I bought books again yesterday. Which, despite Christmas having come and gone, was still just as heart-stoppingly wonderful as it always is. There is something wonderfully reassuring about a bookshop - not least my particular favourite bookshop, which is three storeys high and filled with enough reading material to make me gibber with delight.
My next semester happens to involve a close reading of Frankenstein. Which, I guess, is reason enough to buy literature associated with it - but not enough reason to quite excuse the massive 'illustrated' version I also bought too.

Let's face it, I like books. And I already have two copies of Frankenstein - one in an anthology of Gothic literature I only bought for the sake of the other stories, the other, boring 'syllabus-required' one with enough sidenotes to distract you from actually reading the book for six months. But books - as I've said already, more than once - have to be an experience. The texture, the feel of it - the quality. My reason for buying it was, in Victor Frankenstein's own words,

"I had selected... it as beautiful. Beautiful. Great God!"

Illustrations always make me quite a sucker for book-buying. Take my Arthur Conan Doyle books, for instance. They have some of the original Strand illustrations on the covers, and although they're not quite the Holmes of my imagination, I love the Edwardian feel to it - as though I'm reading the latest edition back in 1912. And did I mention how many fairytales I've gone through ?(and still get through, I have to admit - I have a profound fascination for folklore and old tales, and the beautiful illustrations of Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac are gorgeousness personified).
My mother came up with a great nickname for this. She called it being a 'book junkie' - going out to buy books is my 'fix' (which is probably more expensive than drugs). I tend to do it when I'm at a loose end, or know I should be doing something else, so perhaps there is something in this. It's a great way of distracting myself from the things I should be doing:
1) Reading the interesting if unappetising criticisms on Frankenstein instead of admiring the illustration of the Monster reading a book.
2) Writing an exhaustive 2000 word essay on King Lear as life in theatre
3) Revising
4) More revising
5) Everyday things like washing, ironing, and the usual student run of chores.
Whilst instead I:
1) Spend ages browsing the 'European History' section looking fruitlessly for the Meideval section
2) Consider teaching myself Norwegian as research - don't ask why.
3) Read
4) Read some more.
5) Watch the whole of North and South until 11 at night.