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Literature, & Etc.

Posts Tagged ‘the guardian

‘Smoking Martyr’

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I do not personally smoke cigarettes. But let me be clear, I have no problem with people that do smoke as long as it does not get in my face as I hate the smell and would rather not breathe it in.

The following article is interesting though: ‘Smoking Martyr’ Lynn Barber pulls out of festival.

Barber, who writes for the Observer, was due to appear at Richmond’s Book Now festival in November to discuss her memoir, An Education, which tells of the destructive affair she began as a teenager with an older man who picked her up at a bus stop. Her publisher Penguin had supplied a black and white photograph of Barber for inclusion in the festival’s brochure, embroidered scarf around her neck, head thrown back, cigarette in mouth.

But Richmond council deemed that using a picture of an author smoking went against its responsibility to encourage “good health habits”, and asked Barber to provide another. She declined and pulled out of the festival, saying that she had “always wanted to be a Smoking Martyr and obviously this is my opportunity”.

“If a pic of me smoking is such a threat to the good burghers of Richmond, imagine what my presence would do,” she said this morning. Barber, winner of five British Press awards, is also the author of a study of Victorian naturalists, The Heyday of Natural History, along with How to Improve Your Man in Bed and The Single Woman’s Sex Book.

I believe that this festival has every right to deny access or limit the types of people that attend and this includes the type of documentation that they publish (advertising, etc). But even though they have every right to do this it seems a bit much to ask that a photograph of an author be replaced because deemed unworthy of the “good health habits’ that the festival wished to promote.

Lynn-Barber-001This is a book festival not a health fair. I could understand if the primary sponsors of this festival was an organization that was about lung cancer or something of that nature, but this is a festival. Should the festival censor the types of writing that authors and publishers are promoting. God forbid an author have a character that smokes or does drugs or dare I even think it: have sex.

The festival responds as follows:

“A Richmond council spokesman said: “We don’t like to use images of people smoking in our promotional material. As a local authority we are responsible for encouraging good health habits in the area, and to be seen to be endorsing smoking, no matter how unintentional, doesn’t complement this.”

What do you think? Is it out a bit much for the festival to demand this photo be changed? I think that she was right to pull out of the festival. I’m sure that if other authors were scrutinized along with their photographs someone, anyone, would find  a reason to object.

I am going to hold a Literary Festival of my own and invite famous authors and publishers but I swear to God if I see one photograph of an author sitting in an armchair it’s off with your damn head.

Your thoughts and commentary?

Written by thebeliever07

August 24, 2009 at 2:49 pm

Independent Safeguarding Authority

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I used to think that the United States was pretty intense in its fear mongering of all those “what if” scenarios… What if 9/11 were to happen again? What if we ignore the threat to our security and Al-Queda sneaks into the country and kidnaps your children and brainwashes them into zombie sleeper agents?

But the more I read the Guardian and the more I look at the politics of Great Britain, the happier I am to be in Canada.

There has been some concern of a recent proposal put forth by the “Independent Safeguarding Authority”:

Set up in response to the murders of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells by school caretaker Ian Huntley in 2002, the Independent Safeguarding Authority will vet all individuals who work with children from October this year, requiring them to register with a national database for a fee of £64.

The Vetting and Barring Scheme is managed by the Independent Safeguarding Authority, which was set up in response to the 2002 Soham murders, committed by former school caretaker Ian Huntley. It kicks off this October, requiring the 11.3m people across the education, care and health industries who work with children to register – for a £64 fee – on a national database.


Philip Pullman, noted children’s author, has stated that he will not comply with any such requests and I think that he hit it right on the head.


There are several reasons why this form of “security” or “vetting” is ridiculous. First off, when you invite someone to speak at your school, for the most part they are people of some importance: scholars or academics, writers, film-makers, actors, people who have a name. I mean why else would they be invited there. So I’m thinking that most of these types of people are not going to be doing things that are harmful towards children.

Secondly, if these noted persons who are invited into the school are being left in a position where they are on a one on one basis with a child, then your concern should not be directed towards the person who has been invited into the school but the school administration itself and the way they handle your children and their safety.

Third, I am not saying that we should not inspect people who come into schools. This whole issue is in response to a murder that took place after a caretaker at a school attacked two students. If the schools want to require a mandatory check of all bags and/or some kind of metal detection, whatever, by all means go for it.

But to require people to pay money to enter a database, hmm, why not ask them to wear some kind of insignia on their sleeve so that we can identify these persons.

Think about it, what if this starts a precedent where Academics are singled out. It’s a slippery and scary slope.

I’m glad that people like Philip Pullman are speaking out against this type of inane fear mongering. I’m inclined to agree with him as he asked why he:  “should have to pay £64 to a government agency to be given a certificate saying ‘I’m not a paedophile’. It’s so ludicrous that it’s almost funny, but it’s not funny, it’s actually rather dispiriting and sinister.”

What’s scary though is that the current “Children’s Laureate” thinks that writers should comply.

I’m all for the safety of children, nothing is more important. But, this seems like a bit much.

Interested in your thoughts?


Anyone who has “regular” or “intense” contact with children or vulnerable adults will by law have to sign up to the Vetting and Barring Scheme from November 2010.

“Regular” is defined as more than once a month and “intense” as three times a month or more, the Home Office says. BBC.com

Ok, so this seems a bit more reasonable as people who have authority and are likely to be models for students to look up to should be held under a more rigorous standard, as we expect the same checks on our teachers and principals.

I still see this as a bit scary though. At what point do we say enough is enough, should are children be locked up at home and only taught by parents, because no matter how much they vett and interogate there will always be an element that gets through, its horrid to envision, but its true.

Just had a very intense discussion with Mrs. Karriana about how far is too far when it comes to this issue. As much as I respect these types of policies and laws to keep children safe, I worry about the precedent it sets. How much “Think of the children…..” fear mongering can we have and at what civil cost? Something I want people to consider before they attack me for letting the pedophiles into the school system. The Government does not discriminate. It is often very much black/white. Suppose you commit a minor offense as a young adult, you get caught with some pot or something like that, and now you have a record. If policies like the one set above in UK are put forth it sets a precedent that allows for legislation to be passed that prevents anyone with a record from entering school grounds. So now you’re screwed for something early on in life, as if people do not grow up or change or sometimes shit just happens. What if you get caught with a bag that is not your own and heaven forbid the police mess up with evidence, b/c we know that doesn’t happen, what then, you’re punished for life. It’s all or none when it comes to children. Parents are fallible and I’m not saying let rapists into the school, but things happen in life, we have to be weary that in the name of the children, our own civil liberties are not lost. Something to consider.

Written by thebeliever07

July 16, 2009 at 7:29 am

With Apologies to Mr. Salinger

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J.D. Salinger sues author over ‘sequel’. 

I’m not sure I agree with Mr. Salinger’s claim: The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and says the right to create a sequel to the Catcher in the Rye or use the character Holden Caulfield belongs only to Salinger.”

I think it is pretty obvious that this is a work inspired by his that has taken a character from his literary world and transplanted it into another. The Guardian writes: In 60 Years Later – scheduled to be published in Britain this summer and in the US in the autumn – a character very much like Caulfield is a 76-year-old escapee from a retirement home identified as “Mr C”.

The novel is dedicated to Salinger, who is a character in it wondering whether to continue Caulfield’s story. 

If every artist started to protect their work in such a manner, so much of the wonderful art that we have in our world would be lost. Everyone steals and adapts and moves forward. As if Mr. Salinger was not influenced by other writers and characters from his own time. 

I have great respect for his works and for he need of privacy but this seems a bit much.


Hay Festival Blues

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One of the many reasons I wish I lived in England is because here in Canada we lack the Hay Festival.

ziaie07For those unawares:

The Hay Festival of Literature & Arts is an annual literature festival held in Hay-on-WyeWales for ten days from May to June. Devised by Peter Florence in 1988, the festival was described by Bill Clinton in 2001 as “The Woodstock of the mind”. Since its inception, the festival was held at a variety of venues around Hay until 2005 when it moved to a central location just outside of the town. The Guardianhas been the main sponsor of the festival since 2002, succeeding The Sunday Times.

The festival has expanded in recent years and now includes musical performances and film previews. A children’s festival, “Hay Fever”, runs alongside the main festival. It has also expanded internationally and sister festivals take place in Cartagena and Segovia.

The 2008 festival included: Gore VidalSalman RushdieJohn IrvingWill SelfJulian BarnesJimmy CarterJhumpa LahiriNassim Nicholas TalebIan McEwanNaomi KleinChristopher HitchensStephen FryBoris SpasskyGary KasparovHanif KureishiJames Ivoryand John Bolton.

The Hay Festival is one of 11 Welsh winners of The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise for 2009.  [ Courtesy of Wikipedia ]

It would be nice to have an arts festival that celebrated literature in such a way, but sadly we do not. For those who have interest though, there is non-stop coverage over at the Guardian Book Page and here at the Hay Festival Homepage

From the implications of climate change, food supply, eco-footprint, all the way to interviews with authors and their most recent works, the Hay Festival is a hodge-podge of arts, entertainment, and culture of the highest order open and available for people to explore and consume. It’s a wonderful idea to invite top thinkers, writers, artists, musicians, and allow them to interact with society. 

This is me jealous of my lack of access to such a beautiful collection of minds.

Written by thebeliever07

May 27, 2009 at 7:04 pm

365 Nights: A Memoir of Intimacy

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 “Intimacy every day is trying. It requires stamina, patience, personal grooming and a work ethic I didn’t know I possessed.” – Charla Muller – 

I’ve seen this woman make the rounds on various talk-shows and I’ve read several interviews (here at the Guardian), and I’m very much put off by her notion of intimacy. Maybe I’m off a bit, but shouldn’t sex/intimacy be something you enjoy and are passionate about, not a chore that you “force” yourself to get through. 

Her husband I believe demonstrates one of the problems of making intimacy a “deal”:

It wasn’t always that good. For instance, in her book Muller recalls the moment Brad said to his wife during what she calls, significantly, “the final stretch”, “Could you stop grimacing? Could you at least pretend you’re enjoying it?” And she replied, “How about you close your eyes?” He sighed (the brute!) and did just that. – Guardian

How about instead of turning your lagging sex life into a bet and subsequent publishing deal, you work on your communication. I believe that is what this “deal” ended up  focusing on anyways. I would assume that because of this “deal” to have sex every day, she ended up spending more time with her partner and communicating her needs (physical & emotional) and he also did the same.

Why make this completely about sex, if the two of them had been more open about their relationship, they would probably have sex more often to begin with, and this also ceases to be a “chore” and something that the partners are both into.

I’m also not sure if I’m good with airing the personals of the bed out in public in such a way. A bit crass. Sure, we all crack the occasional joke at another couple’s expense, but to write a whole book, a bit weird. 

How would you feel if your partner came to you for your birthday and said: “This year, for your birthday I’ve decided that I’m going to have sex wtih you every day and then write about it and tell everyone about the intimate details of our bedroom life, HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEAR!”

Oh and the best part of this article, enjoy:

This is hardly the first time that a woman (and it usually is a woman) has devised a project to revivify a long-term couple’s sex life, and then written a book about it. The delightfully surnamed Esther Perel wrote a book called Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic; the less delightfully surnamed David Schnarch wrote Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships. In The Surrendered Wife, Laura Doyle argued that women should stop telling men what to do and how to do it. “When I surrendered control, something magical happened,” wrote Doyle. “The union I had always dreamed of appeared. The man who had wooed me was back. The underlying principle is simple: the control women wield at work and with children must be left at the front door of any marriage to revitalise intimacy.”

People just need to communicate more, be open and honest about how they feel, and that also includes the risk of sometimes hurting another person’s feelings. These types of books seem so stupid to me. Ah well, if you write it, they will read.

Written by thebeliever07

April 22, 2009 at 6:42 am


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This weekend I was listening to Rex Murphy on the CBC and the topic was NEWS.

This week on Cross Country Checkup: cbp1055831_veer

The business of news is changing. Blogs, podcasts, online aggregators are all nibbling at the heels of mainstream media such as TV, radio, newspapers and magazines …and the recession is weakening them further.

Newspapers all over the U.S. are downsizing, some are closing their printshops and moving online. In Canada, several broadcasters are struggling and they’re cutting back.

What do you think? What effect will it have on the news? How do you get your news?

I tried calling in but the show is far too popular and as a result the lines were clogged. But I will throw in my two cents here.

I think the internet is wonderful and that it has made news much richer and easier to consume. Think about the old days, sorry to those who would rather re-live those times. 10 Years ago if you wanted news in your city you were most likely limited to a finite number of newspaper and media outlets. A handful of television stations and then your local newspaper, at most two or three in a city. But in today’s modern world, what with all the doo dads and internets and such… we are not as limited.

I consume my news from a variety of sites: CNN, NYTIMES, SLATE, CBC, The Guardian, Mefi (Metafilter), and various other blogs. I also consume a number of blog aggregators that link up with specific themes and topics I am interested in: BritLitBlogs (exactly what it purports to be a site devoted to British Literature Blogs). Some of these sites lean politically to the left and others to the right. And almost all of them contain sections that allow for discussion or commentary on various news or media that is being reported on.

Now of course there are some drawbacks to having this much media bombardment. It is far too easy now to only consume news or media that is associated with the politics that individuals prefer and this can marginalize and estrange people from the real world into thinking that news only has one particular filter or lens. Also, how does a person wade through this mess of the internet with so much to read and stay caught up on. Also, we now have the horror that is 24/7 news, an endless cycle of meaningless reporting on news that is not actually news.

Still despite these drawbacks the internet has brought the news to us in our homes at a very low cost. I can read the TimesofIndia from my couch at home, something that was unfathomable just years ago (cost and accessibility).

I am still a bit weary of the fact that people are now consuming news from sites like facebook or twitter. Yes, it is amazing that people now have the ability to report first hand accounts of news or action that is occurring in front of them, and it does provide other readers the ability to step beyond filters of corporations and media groups that regulate and restrict certain types of news, but then again this also allows joe-blow idiot to spout his inane commentary and views in unintelligent non-academic professional ways. [ The irony that I am doing just such a thing. ]

So what are your thoughts on the changing face of news? Is newsprint dead, should we just let that go the way so many large newspapers have been doing the past few years and shifting online. Is this shift online more problematic? Are we becoming too obssessed with consuming news and the fact that we can now tune in at any moment and be informed of everything and anything, does this provide us with too much content, content that is not edited properly or screened for idiocy???

Written by thebeliever07

March 25, 2009 at 7:37 am

You Still Can’t Write About Muhammad

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Offensive Editorial Cartoon on Free Speech

Offensive Editorial Cartoon on Free Speech

Asra Q. Nomani writes in The Wall Street Journal on Sherry Jones’s new historical novel, “The Jewel of Medina” about Aisha, the young wife of the prophet Muhammad. Random House has pulled the book for fears of a political and extremist nature. In a statement, Random House said: “We stand firmly by our responsibility to support our authors and the free discussion of ideas, even those that may be construed as offensive by some. However, a publisher must weigh that responsibility against others that it also bears, and in this instance we decided, after much deliberation, to postpone publication for the safety of the author, employees of Random House Inc, booksellers and anyone else who would be involved in distribution and sale of the book.” Over at the Guardian, you can read more about the controversy.

Erin and I were discussing this earlier today and we sorted out on our own that this is obviously a very complicated issue. On the one hand you have many different people, bloggers, writers, publishers, etc, making judgements of a critical and editorial nature, some without having ever read the piece of fiction in question.

Should Ms. Jones be aware of sensitive nature of this type of fiction and its subject matter; without a doubt she should realize that this type of writing, especially in the post 9/11 climate in which we live, will result in many controversial views.

I personally feel though that she has every right(write 😉 to release fiction of this nature. Just as Random House has every right to pull the book. Now, just because I believe Random House has the right to pull this book from their shelves and not go through with the publishing, I also believe that they handled this poorly. I’m thinking someone over at Random House should have seen this coming and if they knew of the sensitive nature of this type of writing and the possibility of negative feedback from enraged people, they should have early on not offered her this deal and the money. To go back on this deal after so much time has passed is in poor taste.

Erin made mention of the fact that many people would take some offense at a person outside of the Islamic culture writing about such a sensitive issue. For those unaware, there is a scripture somewhere in the Koran that prohibits the criticism of Muhammad.

From Wiki:

Criticism of Muhammad is often equated with blasphemy, which is punishable by death in some Muslim-majority or Islamic states. This is because the Muslim belief is that Muhammad is the messenger of God himself, and that his actions were willed by God.[citation needed]Many Muslims believe that to reject and criticise Muhammad is to reject and criticise God.[citation needed]

The most notorious recent case of a critic condemned to death is that of Salman Rushdie, who wrote a novel (The Satanic Verses), satirizing Muhammad as a cynical schemer and his wives as prostitutes. In 1989 Rushdie was condemned to death in a fatwa issued by Iran’s theocratic leader, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Rushdie had to go into hiding for years.

The only excerpt from the book floating around on the blogosphere is as follows:

“the pain of consummation soon melted away. Muhammad was so gentle. I hardly felt the scorpion’s sting. To be in his arms, skin to skin, was the bliss I had longed for all my life.”

I guess what is considered offensive or sacrilegious is up to an individuals interpretation of what constitutes criticism or blasphemy. While I understand that there are certain types of issues and subject matters that are sensitive and if they are handled in the wrong way, they may incite anger, frustration, and in extreme cases hatred and/or violence, I believe in free speech and that people should be allowed to express themselves in what ever way they choose. I’m prepared to accept that with this my own beliefs and values may be questioned, and/or ridiculed.

It is why I’ve posted the cartoon up above. I find it to be in poor taste, this is true, but I believe in the right to post such a thing.

Written by thebeliever07

August 12, 2008 at 7:30 pm