Category Archives: writing & reading

“If you happen to pass by 84 Charing Cross Road, kiss it for me?” Helene Hanff

I’ve just read this delightful non fiction book and I absolutely loved it! It consists of the two-decade long correspondence and friendship between the reserved Frank Doel, an employee at Marks & Co. Booksellers at 84, Charing Cross Rd in London and the New York based writer and bibliophile Helene Hanff. She is an avid and enthusiastic reader looking for rare second hand books who doesn’t like the dirty, broken editions she can find on NY stalls so she prefers buying them overseas. From the start we can appreciate the contrast between her American informality and Frank’s British professionalism, but as long as the story goes she establish a friendship with him, his family and all the employees of the library and the correspondence becomes informal and heartfelt. We gradually see Helene becoming intimately involved in the lives of the shop’s staff, sending them food parcels during England’s post-war shortages and sharing with them details of her life and career.

I’m grateful that this book had been published in the 70s and that it’s a true story, a modern fictional writer would have inserted a love affair between Helene and Frank who was married and had two daughters, ruining the spirit of the book. Because the magic of this book it’s in its innocence. The rare and pure friendship established between people who live so many miles away thanks to letters.

That’s so relatable to me: I feel so unloved and underappreciated by everyone I live with, while I feel like I’m another person when I’m virtually or in person, with my overseas friends.

I recommend this read to all the book lovers, those who like to browse little bookshops or used book stalls and, like Helene, love “inscriptions on flyleaves and notes in margins”, like “the comradely sense of turning pages someone else turned” and are fond of “second hand books that open to the page some previous owner read oftenest”.

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The Marks & Co book shop located at 84 Charing Cross road has closed, but the street, located in the Charing Cross district at the west end of the Strand in London, is still renowned for the variety of the second hand books shops and independent book stores. The biggest and most known one is for sure Foyles opened more than 100 years ago, but the main road and also the side streets are full of little gems.

The road is named after the homonym district, where, in front of the railway was placed one of the twelve crosses that marked the route of Queen Eleanor funeral procession. It is in central London, very close both to Oxford street and Leicester Square, so with countless of shops, theatres and places to eat.

A little curiosity: in the Harry Potter books, The Leaky Cauldron pub is in Charing Cross Road.

TRACK OF THE DAY: Friends will be Friends – Queen

 

“The best traveller is one without a camera” Kamand Kojouri

<We were walking and you exclaimed:

-You’re pretty when you smile: you get dimples,

-They’re wrinkles.

You laughed, then you looked into my eyes and sweetly said:

-I love you because you never take yourself seriously!

So I grabbed your arm and screamed in my head: “Please, say that you love me again!”>

As I told many times, I love exploring London. One area that is barely mentioned despite of being surrounded by posh neighbourhoods like Maida Vale, West Hampstead, Queens Park and Kensal Rise, is Kilburn. I hope that the fact author Zadie Smith decided to set her new novel “NW” here, will give to Kilburn more visibility.

It is very easy to get there since the transport link is fantastic, I came here from the Bakerloo line, hopping off at Kilburn Park.

This area has been traditionally Irish for a long time, but now it has a huge and diverse mix of nationalities and races (I saw a large presence of Italians, for example). It is claimed to be dodgy at night, but the main street is always full of people. This one is a very long road called Kilburn High Road and it has chain stores (Primark, M&S), pound shops, a beautiful library, a famous cinema (The Tricycle Theatre), independent stores and a few pubs. Fun fact: Ian Dury formed his first band in 1970 and called it “Kilburn & the High Roads”.

Despite of being originated as an ancient trackway, a part of a Celtic route between Canterbury and St.Albans, High Road it’s not very attractive. Just a long serie of two storey buildings that make it look cheap.

In Kilburn Square there’s a very lively market where you can find mainly fabric, candles, hand made stuff and flowers.There are plans to redevelop it and revalue the whole area, but until now nothing has changed.

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I didn’t eat there, so I can’t suggest any gluten free option.

Last year I visited the S.Augustine Church, an Anglo-Catholic Parish Church consecrated in 1880 and affectionately known as the ‘Cathedral of North London’, one of the finest examples of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture. It is beautiful! I don’t like taking pics inside churches, so if you want to visit it, the church is generally open half an hour prior to the advertised service times and for up to 20 minutes afterwards. Additionally there is normally access on Tuesdays and on Saturdays in the morning.

I will surely come back: there’s one thing left to see, The Good Ship, a well known music bar actively committed to bring the best bands to Kilburn; it is also a place where you can see performing a large variety of artist, since every kind of entertainment is welcomed. Moreover there’s a 100 CD juke box and until the coin mechanism is fixed (probably never, they say) it is free.

TRACK OF THE DAY: Periscope – Papa Roach feat. Skylar Grey

“I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself” Rita Mae Brown

A friend of mine told me that I could make money with my blog; first I laughed at him because it’s not a popular one (and the fact that he reads it doesn’t mean that it’s a stellar blog, but that he’s a ducking stalker). Second I introduced him to the wonderful world of PR friendly blogs and why I don’t like them.

A PR friendly blog is run by someone open to working with companies to review, giveaway or promote products. When I see that badge or disclaimer I have the feeling that everything I’m about to read is bought and paid for and that those bloggers have their hands out for freebies. Honestly I think that blogging is more than reviewing stuff, above all if you do that because you’re paid to talk in an enthusiastic way of any shit agencies propose you. How can I believe you knowing that your sponsor won’t accept a bad review and that sometimes posts need to be approved by their customers? Didn’t you start a blog to be free to write, to express yourself or to communicate with people?

It’s a bit dishonest to share and magnifying products you don’t like, believe in or that won’t bring any value to your readers lives. It’s the same on Instagram where well paid models, wannabe celebrities and VIP, celebrate the magical properties of over priced herbal supplements in loose-leaf tea form. It’s a big scam: you lose weight because they contain senna that is a natural laxative. You can make your own detox/energetic tea with less than 5€ by mixing green or matcha tea, a bit of ginger or guaranà and adding some stevia, honey or cane sugar if you like it sweet.

Last two things to say.

1) Everything you read about in this blog, any review or recommendation is not a sponsored content. It’s something I experienced for real because I liked it or because it was a present from a friend or because it simply was something I was curious to try or to visit or to read.

2) A blog reflects who you are, if your content is valuable, brands and agencies will be happy to contact you. It will be up to you to accept the collaboration.

PS. Despite all this: I’m very “Concert tickets to see my favourite artists” friendly.

TRACK OF THE DAY: Barbie Girl -Aqua

 

 

 

“In quoting others, we cite ourselves” Julio Cortázar

I love quotes and, as you can see, I use them a lot. It is mainly because, when I started this blog, I wanted that it had varied content, but a fixed structure that could encase my love for literature and for music. So I decided to have a quote as a title and a song at the end of each post, that could be its ideal soundtrack. Nothing original, as some of you remember, many fashion blogs used to have a song as a title. That’s a device I use for my fan fictions, where every chapter is named after a song (mostly from The Cure).

I find amazing how another person can sum up what I think or feel in a few words, I can’t be concise, so I admire those able to write memorable quotes a lot. I know it’s not something to be proud of: as a wannabe writer, I should be able to write my own quotes and using words of others makes me looks lazy or dumb. But is it a crime ordering a pizza instead of making it? Neither is using quotes.

I love using other people’s words also for my Instagram edits, like this.

While I don’t like female singers (just a very strict number are good to my ears), my favourite writers are mainly women and of course the quotes that most represent me, are from them.

You can tell the deepest truth with the lies of fiction– Isabel Allende: it’s this blog’s header and also a truth since I always mix reality and fiction, so nobody can tell when it’s the character speaking or when it’s me.

This hole in my heart is in the shape of you. No one else can fit it. Why would I want them to?- Jeanette Winterson: a celebration of unrequited love.

To tell someone not to be emotional is to tell them to be dead-Jeanette Winterson: I have this quote in my Instagram bio. It’s an invite not to be ashamed of feelings.

As if you could pick in love, as if it were not a lightning bolt that splits your bones and leaves you staked out in the middle of the courtyard. (…) You don’t pick out the rain that soaks you to the skin when you come out of a concert– Julio Cortázar: a bit long, but it pictures well the inevitability of love. This explains exactly that when love hits you, everything loses its meaning, that reason should never win over feeling and instinct.

TRACK OF THE DAY: Say- Kingsfoil

 

“Always there have been six ravens at the Tower. If the ravens fly away, the kingdom will fall” John Owen Theobald,

I read a smart book by Julia Stuart that has been published as “Balthazar Jones and the Tower of London Zoo” in the UK and as “The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise” everywhere else. I don’t like to sum up plots, because mine are only honest personal opinions and not reviews, I can only anticipate that it describes the life of the little close community living within the gates of the Tower of London: the Beefeaters (particular Mr. Jones and his wife Hebe), the mean Raven master, the Rev. Septimus Drew who writes erotica under a pen name and has a secret passion for the barmaid of the Tower’s Rack & Ruin pub. The novel is also set in the “Underground Lost Property Office” where Hebe works and That is a continuous parade of odd, unusual objects and weird people. All the characters are well rounded and sometimes absurd, but here it lays the best feature of the novel that is a hallmark of British humour: despite of the tragic event in the background (the death of the Beefeater’s son), the novel is enjoyable and interesting. Here and there you can read facts about the Tower or about its prisoners.

The parts describing the animals are really enjoyable, but my favourite parts were the ones at the Underground lost property office, not only because Stuart makes the history behind each lost object interesting and endearing, but mainly because I figured in my head the amount of the bizarre things that people may forget on the Tube trains. How cool is imagining the history behind them and how hard must be rejoining them to their owner, I think this job it’s more interesting that it looks.

And at last, a thing that I really loved about this book, is the hate that the people working in the Tower, have towards dumb tourists. I used to laugh and shake my head while reading, approving every single nasty comment.

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You know how much I hate tourist traps, so I can’t write any useful guide for Tower Hill, I only hopped off at the homonym tube station and had a quick look around the Tower of London before heading to Shoreditch that is a place where I’m more at my ease.

It’s worth a visit, anyway. I like to take unusual pictures, so I tried to capture the contrast between the ancient Tower and the shiny Shard. And, to be frank, the Tower Bridge is always a good model.

TRACK OF THE DAY: You’ve got time- Regina Spektor

 

 

“Self improvement is masturbation” Chuck Palahniuk

When I read a book of Palahniuk I do it with an open mind, without trying to reflect on what I’m reading,  taking every single thing as a part of his own creative process. If something seems senseless, I go on reading until every part of the puzzle goes at its place. I let the writer take my hand and bring me in his head. “Beautiful You” is one of those novels that can only be loved or deeply disliked. No need to say I loved it since I discerned it was a satire of the books I hate the most (the infamous trilogy of the 50 shades, please note that my disgust is mere jealousy toward something that made the fortune of its writer despite of the stereotypical characters, bad grammar, dull sex scenes and plain plot). The female character is an anonymous secretary who clumsy spills coffee on a fascinated, powerful millionaire who uses her as a guinea pig for his sex toys.

The whole book is a satire, not only on the 50 shades books: Palanhiuk talks about the classic men vs women battle, criticize the power of corporate companies and fashion brands, it emphasises the quest of the vaginal orgasm. He’s a master of satire!

The novel is full of clichés, I think he tried to demonstrate that despite of a predictable storyline, already known sentence structures,  clichés characters and banal dialogues, a good writer can make a great book.

Read it only if you’re going to take it as it is, sometime it’s delirious and sex scenes are more scientific than erotic; sometimes the plot gets weird and probably in the end you will say “What have I just read?”. So again, you’re going to love or hate it.

I’m not going to spoiler here its content, but if you leaf through “Beautiful You” in a bookshop, don’t let the beginning block you. The book starts with the female main character who seems to get raped in a court with everybody staring at the scene without helping her. It’s not an odd disturbing scene: it’s the metaphor of all of us being raped by consumerism and the society that looks at what happens without acting, as if it was normal.

TRACK OF THE DAY: I don’t need a Man- The Pussycat Dolls

 

“A lot of you cared, just not enough” Jay Asher

I don’t have Netflix and I’m not a TV shows addict (even if I’ve seen every single episode of ER at least twice), but it’s almost impossible to ignore what’s popular at the moment, due to the huge amount of posts on socials.

I read “13 Reasons Why” when the serie didn’t exist and when it wasn’t on fashion already, because my best friend suggested me this book. The story is about Hannah Baker,  a young girl who has committed suicide, but who also previously recorded 13 cassette tapes where she explains the reasons behind her act. Each tape is dedicated to  a single person who had a negative impact on her life.

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT

Even if I believe that most of the people commit not because somebody did something bad to them, but because they felt guilty of or uncomfortable with what they experienced, the book wasn’t bad nor triggering at all.

I didn’t like the show (yes, I watched it because I was curious) despite of admitting that its intents were positive and that it was meant to be useful and supportive for teens (ask for help if you feel depressed, you’re not alone, find someone to talk to, denounce bullies and rapists).

It looks like it’s trying to glamorize suicide, since in the book Hannah simply tells that she killed herself by taking a bunch of pills and her act is almost glossed over for the most part. In the show, she slits her wrists and it’s a very detailed scene that could disturb or be triggering to people who experienced or are still into self harming.

The show also tries to suggest a romantic involvement between Clay and Hannah, while in the book they’re no more than friends, I think this was made to lead the viewers to sympathize with the characters. It also gives a bigger importance to the functionality of parents rather than in the book, where they are mere extras.

One thing I like a lot about the show, was the soundtrack: 133 songs for all tastes from Selena Gomez (who is also the executive producer of the TV show and who is very active in social causes) to Vance Joy, passing through Joy Division and hear ye hear ye, The Cure. I was very happy to listen to “Fascination Street”, but there’s another song of theirs that I think it was perfect for the show and it’s “The Reasons why” (it’s also the title of a fan fiction of mine).

TRACK OF THE DAY: The reasons why- The Cure