Are you comfortably numb?

Friday, February 23, 2007

I love books

Thanks to a gift for £15 Waterstone vouchers for Christmas, I recently purchased 3 new books. I don't normally like getting vouchers, but this was a really cool legitimate excuse to buy books, so yay! I felt like a kid in a sweet shop.

I bought:

Saturday by Ian McEwan
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
Human Traces by Sebastian Faulks

The first was the fruit of my immense enjoyment of 'Atonement' - I can't remember if I blogged about that read, but it was one of the best literary experiences of my life, if one of the most harrowing also. Aidan has got hooked on this one though, so for the moment it remains a closed book (ha ha, sorry, couldn't resist) to me.

Human Traces was recommended to me by Paul, and whilst my parents now own a copy thanks to him, they live in a different country from me, and I really want to read it. Unlike most of the book-loving British population, I haven't read 'Birdsong', so that will be my first venture into a Faulksian world.

I have started reading 'We Need to Talk about Kevin', though. I have picked up this book many times and wistfully put it back. Shriver, who is a woman for those who don't know, has written a book in the form of letters from a woman to her estranged husband regarding their son Kevin, who is in prison for massacring 7 of his fellow students at the age of 15. So far, it's brilliant.

In other news, I'm considering screeing comments before they're posted because Anonymous people keep posting. Whilst I welcome constructive criticism (although I'm not sure how constructive some of it is), it's very hard to know how to take it and use it if I don't know where it's coming from. So please put your names when you post. Thanks...


  • Alan's two-pennorth (for what it's worth!)

    "Enduring love" - ACE
    "Atonement" - OK
    "Amsterdam" - clever and witty
    "Saturday" - I didn't get on with it.

    "Charlotte Gray" - ACE.
    "Birdsong" - OK, kinda.

    I'll give "Human trces" a go.

    Beg, steal or borrow "Enduring Love" if you haven't read it.

    By Blogger Alan Davey, at 9:25 am  

  • For those of you who buy this, here is what Rebecca King wrote about her use of books in an earlier blog. It would, at the very least, imply that she's as thorough a reader as her writing suggests:

    "I'm learning how to get 10 books and get 2 quotes out of each and then throw them into... essays to make it sound as if I'm thoroughly acquainted with every book each author has ever written on the topic… The term 'reading list' is a bit of an inaccuracy really.”


    The Friends of Rebecca King

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:27 pm  

  • OK, so my opinion will be considered biased, but come on 'anonymous', brave man/woman that you are, Miss King is obviously refering to how she uses books to write essays. The books she bought, and is excited about, are for pleasure, she doesn't intend to skim through them for quotes in order to attain the (excellent) grades for her course.

    There is nothing to 'buy' here, unless you are worried that Rebecca is pretending to read books, and why does that concern anonymous blog readers? Blog readers who obviously have been motivated to view the blog for some time, or at least who have been motivated by something to read into the back catalogue.

    As for 'Saturday', I like it.

    By Blogger aidan, at 5:50 pm  

  • Dear Aiden,

    We, The Friends of Rebecca King, have good reason to read her blog, and it's not for our own benefit that we do it.

    Being both well acquainted with the material written herein as well as with that which is published in Redbrick, we are concerned that her ambitions of being a journalist will one day be met. We would only like to see the standard of her writing and arguments be lifted above the superficial nonsense one would expect from a gossip column.

    We know she is intelligent and we don't doubt that she has excellent grades, but by themselves these do not qualify her to write competently. Indeed, from many perspectives these abilities, along with their limits and associated prejudices (yes - even Miss King is prejudiced I'm afraid), stand against her. At the moment it all smacks of the shallow, and it is a large and naive ego that uses a quote from François-Marie in the opening lines of their blog. Especailly THAT quote!

    We are just tired of being bored and would prevent Miss King adding to that feeling if we could.

    For an individual who cites some of the most advanced literary minds as allies and claims to understand philosophers who have sent academics to their graves, we have great faith she can do a whole lot better than this!

    Incidentally, the above comment was a cheap shot and we apologise. Nevertheless we stand by the spirit of the sentiment expressed therein.

    Kind regards,

    The Friends of Rebecca King

    By Anonymous The Friends of Rebecca King, at 2:55 pm  

  • The apology was due, that was a pretty desparate and pointless swipe.

    Your concerns for Rebecca are obvious, and having read the last post, it is evident you have some reason within you. Why not manifest your concerns in constructive comments from which Rebecca can learn? The prime reasons for both this blog and her undertaking of the editorial role at Redbrick are to further her experience and to mature as a writer/journalist. She is under no illusions about this. What you seem to consider as a false sense of grandeur is actually aspiration.

    I would be interested to see the early attempts of a writer/journalist who you consider to now be accomplished in their craft. I'm pretty certain they would not live up to your standards of journalism.

    As for prejudice, we are all prejudiced in one way or another. However we all have the right to our opinion as well as the right to express it. This is, I'm sure, the reason why your comments remain on Rebecca's blog, and are not just deleted. The blog provides you both with a means to vent your opinions.

    There are many prominant figures in our media who, for one reason or another, we wish were not there. But, imagine the media, imagine, on a wider scale, our country or world with no difference in opinion and no diversity of thought. It would probably be a place ruled by a dictator who only let journalists he liked write in the papers, who only let one genre of music be played and who commanded that his favourite foods be the only available things on the menu at your favourite restaraunt.

    In short, learn to cope with something you don't like; if you do want to change it, be proactive, instead of just active. Also, I guess, you could give people a chance to shine, a tired quote but; 'Rome wasn't built in a day'.

    This is the last I will write on the matter as I am not in the habit of conducting virtual discussions, for one, I claim to be no writer!

    Aidan (with an 'a', not an 'e', for the less observant of you)

    By Blogger aidan, at 6:37 pm  

  • Dear Holier than thou... I mean Friends of Rebecca King,

    What obnoxious, unconstructive bollocks you write! Perhaps instead of resorting to abuse you might consider engaging in a real debate, because that, after all, is what competent writers do. Perhaps you should take your own advice and lift the standard of your arguments above the "superficial nonsense" of cheap jibes and petty point-scoring.

    I, like you, often strongly disagree with Rebecca. However, utterly unlike you, I post real arguments in response so that everyone involved can enhance their understanding. Yet you have never once mentioned what you disagree with and why... maybe because you lack the talent for writing that she so obviously possesses. Or perhaps because you've actually got nothing interesting to say at all!

    If you really have the best interests of journalism at heart, as you so nobly claim, then perhaps you should dispense with the cheap shots and move the debates forward.


    P.S. If your proud of what you write and the message you put across, then why be anonymous? In my opinion, making offensive comment behind an alias is cowardly...

    By Blogger Adam, at 11:39 am  

  • Dear Hypocrite… We mean Adam,

    Wowee! Pure vitriol! Whatever could motivate such a heartfelt tirade on behalf of Miss King? We wonder.

    Not meaning to steal your thunder or anything, but if you read our second comment a little more closely you will find an apology for the “cheap shot”. It was written in our name but without our say so. We hoped that by acknowledging its shabbiness we would undo some of the offence, but apparently at least one person is still upset. So this we direct to you alone Adam:

    Our sincere apologies for offending your sensibilities. That was not our direct intention.

    As for the remainder of your message, we have read a fair amount of the writing in this blog and have just reviewed a number of entries. However, we have yet to find anything submitted by an individual named ‘Adam’ that would qualify as “real argument”. This is not an attempt at facetiousness on our part, it is merely a fact. Maybe you could direct us to a few posts that contain your alleged counterpoint to Miss King’s views. Real argument now. Not just commentary.

    In response to your observation about our not mentioning what we disagree with, this is simply because we have not yet had occasion to do so in this forum. A number of extensive and detailed critiques of Miss King’s work have been submitted to Redbrick but, as yet, none have been acknowledged (and it’s been many months). Furthermore, a number of our members have offered criticism to Miss King personally, only to be met by derision, haughtiness and temper tantrums. Ultimately, it was this behaviour that prompted us to start our little circle of critics. Perhaps you would be heartened to know that many of us are in fact published academics who work at the University of Birmingham. Perhaps you won’t believe me. Perhaps you really don’t care. Nevertheless, as those comments we submitted to Redbrick met with no response we have decided to try our luck with the blog, and in this forum we simply have not had the opportunity to illustrate the problems we have with Miss King as a pseudo-journalist. If and when we gain her personal attention we will direct you to our website (not the ‘myspace’ site – that is nothing to do with us, although the individual who posted the first comment is clearly familiar with it).

    As for moving the debate forward, you are hardly a great one for discussion yourself are you? Certainly you are less of an adept than Aidan seems to be. We find your comment to be little more than an emotional tirade directed against the people who dared to criticise your friend/idol/fixation (choose your noun). There is no content there, no style or ability or insight. It’s a dull rant, overflowing with bile, garnished with a cute little postscript. Furthermore, contrary to your less than informed opinion, competent writers do not engage in debate. Politicians do that. Competent writers see through debate and express the truth in language that is beautiful and can be understood. Second-rate writers debate because they have only the will (or the wit) to see the world in monochrome.

    Lastly, how are we any less anonymous than you? Do you think we know who you are or have any sense of your identity just in virtue of the fact that you have attached a name to your comments? If so then your complaint is weak, for our name reveals as much about us as yours does about you. Nevertheless, the reason for remaining anonymous is that many of us are in everyday contact with Miss King. That being the case, criticism of the kind we intend to offer will only be emasculated by her knowing our identities since, doubt it though you may, none of us has any real desire to hurt her personal feelings. It is the fact that we remain nameless that allows us to be honest without offending her in this way. But in future, if it makes you more comfortable, we suggest you address your pieces to Mr Smith.

    Very sincerely and respectfully,

    The Friends of Rebecca King

    By Anonymous The Friends of Rebecca King, at 4:27 pm  

  • Dear "Friends of Rebecca King".

    Not only do you not have the courtesy to abide by what can hardly be considered unreasonable ground rules that she has asked for to be observed in her space ...

    ... which she has tolerated, hitherto - I switched off anonymous comments on my blog much earlier than she has, with much less provocation ...

    ... but you also hide behind your anonymity to write offensively about her and her friends.

    Wow! What a bunch of heroes you must be! Do you have any white pointy hoods to go with your super-suits? Democracy and the free exchange of ideas would be really safe in your hands! Bec sets out a case for genuine tolerance and freedom of expression, and you throw things at her from virtual hiding.

    The Guardian says: "You have a triangle with fundamentalist secularists in one corner, fundamentalist faith people in another, and then the intelligent, thinking liberals of Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, baptism, methodism, other faiths - and, indeed, thinking atheists - in the other corner. " says Slee. Where do you see yourself fitting in there, I wonder?


    Paul (not Liz)

    By Blogger Paul (probably - maybe Liz), at 6:42 pm  

  • Oh, yeah. the reason for remaining anonymous is that many of us are in everyday contact with Miss King. That being the case, criticism of the kind we intend to offer will only be emasculated by her knowing our identities since, doubt it though you may, none of us has any real desire to hurt her personal feelings. What sort of crap is that? In what way is a whispering campaign less likely to hurt somebody's feelings and frankly intimidate than you going up to somebody and saying, "Look, I disagree with you about this."? Take a reality check.

    By Blogger Paul (probably - maybe Liz), at 6:44 pm  

  • Dear all,

    We, the Friends of Rebecca King, feel it necessary to explicate a little bit more about our esteemed and mighty selves.

    Who are we?

    We are the Brutuses of Birmingham University. Many of us are in day-to-day contact with Miss King yet we remain anonymous because betrayal is what excites and motivates us. We are never more content than when we are lurking in the shadows, dagger in hand. Some of us are atheist zealots, others are "published academics". Most of us simply have nothing better to do in an evening than engage in a good old-fashioned bullying session.

    Anyway, who we are doesn't really matter. What matters is that our opinion is worth far more than anyone elses, so we must bully those who dare disagree with us. After all, We would like to remind you that "many of us are in fact published academics who work at the University of Birmingham".

    It is an absolute disgrace that our "extensive and detailed critiques of Miss King’s work" have not been accepted uncritically as the absolute truth.

    Unlike Miss King and her allies, our superior selves need not engage in petty debate or argument, we special ones "see through debate and express the truth in language that is beautiful and can be understood."

    Of course we have a unique faculty that lets us see the world in multi-colour. Our objective must be to free the Redbrick from those "pseudo-journalists" who only see the world in "monochrome". We have much to fear from those colour-blind people with aspirations to work in the press.

    Allow us to just explain our wonderful philosophical skills.

    We disguise the lack of content in our arguments with hyperbole and offensive remarks.
    We believe that so long as we write eloquently and poetically, we don't need to provide evidence in support of our arguments.

    All hail the journalist-kings

    Sincerely and respectfully

    The Friends of Rebecca King

    By Anonymous the friends of rebecca king, at 3:09 pm  

  • From Wikipedia,
    The Free Encyclopedia

    "Hate mail (as electronic, postal, or otherwise) is a form of harassment, usually consisting of invective and potentially intimidating or threatening comments towards the recipient. Hate mail often contains exceptionally abusive, foul or otherwise hurtful language.

    The recipient may receive disparaging remarks concerning the subject's ethnicity, sexuality, intelligence, political ideology, or sense of ethics. The text of hate mail often contains profanity, or it may simply contain a negative, disappropriating message. Hate mail is often sent anonymously."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:29 pm  

  • also from Wikipedia,

    Cyberbullying (also spelt Cyber-bullying, Cyber bullying) or online bullying is the term used to refer to bullying and harassment by use of electronic devices though means of e-mail, instant messaging, text messages, blogs, mobile phones, pagers, and websites. Other terms for cyberbullying are "electronic bullying," "electronic harassment," "e-bullying," "sms bullying," "mobile bullying," "online bullying," "digital bullying," or "Internet bullying".

    It can constitute a computer crime. For example, in the United States it is a federal crime to anonymously "annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person" via the internet or telecommunication system, punishable by a fine and/or up to two years imprisonment.[1]

    Cyberbullying is willful and involves recurring or repeated harm inflicted through the medium of electronic text. According to R.B. Standler[2]bullying intends to cause emotional distress and has no legitimate purpose to the choice of communications. Cyberbullying can be as simple as continuing to send e-mail to someone who has said they want no further contact with the sender. Cyberbullying may also include threats, sexual remarks, pejorative labels (i.e., hate speech)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:31 pm  

  • Dear Miss King,

    We are not telling you anything that life won't tell you in the long run.



    By Anonymous Mr Smith, at 2:04 am  

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