culture and creation

The summer issue of Razz My Berries magazine is available to view at

www.razzmag.blogspot.com

The summer issue of Razz My Berries magazine, my last as editor, is being launched on Monday. Emma and I are sure that this is our best issue yet and I am very glad that my time with Razz will be going out with a bang! Copies can be bought for just £1 from the Guild Shop on Streatham Campus.

Inside this issue we are very proud to bring you an interview with singer songwriter Emmy the Great, as well as a preview of her soon-to-be-released album Virtue. Razz also considered the power of the pill, the problem with stereotypes and the legacies which each generation leave behind. We had great fun on the beach shooting for this issue’s British Summertime spread. Here’s a sneak peak at the results:

The issue has been published online. You can view it at www.razzmag.blogspot.com or www.issuu.com/razzmag.

if you love your books, let them go

One day on a bus home from my sixth form college, I found a book underneath my seat. White, gold-edged, and claiming to ensure that your chosen man falls head over heels in love with you, this book was titled The Rules: Time Tested Secrets For Capturing the Heart of Mr Right. Scrawled on a pink post-it stuck on the cover were the intriguing words: Free book. Look inside for details. www.bookscrossing.com.

Now, with advice like “Don’t leave the house without wearing makeup. Put lipstick on even when you go jogging!” and “If you have a bad nose, get a nose job”, I’m not sure this book has been especially useful. In fact, it probably filled the head of my 17 year old self with some very questionable notions. Even now, the feminist in me wants to cry when I read phrases such as “Men like women who are neat and clean… why not please them?” and “Wear black sheer stockings and hike up your skirt to entice the opposite sex” (some classic advice there!) but I like the concept. Somewhere out there is a person who has been affected by this book. Maybe (though I doubt it), they’ve even found “Mr Right” because of it, and with the help of BookCrossing they have been able to share the book they love with others.

This, alongside March’s World Book Night, where the tagline was ‘Do you love a book so much you want everyone to read it?’, got me thinking. Some people believe that there is nothing sadder than a book that will never be read again. They think that we should rehome our read books rather than leaving them sat lonely and dejected on our book shelves. I, however, have to disagree. As a rule, on the odd occasion that I actually love a book, I’m strangely possessive over it. When I love a book, rather than sharing the literary joy, I take pleasure in adding it to my ever-growing collection. However, after visiting BookCrossing’s website, I’ve started to change my mind. With the inspired tagline ‘Welcome to the world’s library’ their website has got me in a sharing and caring frame of mind. So I’ve picked a book that I know in my heart of hearts I will never read again, I’ve printed off a BookCrossing label, and I’m going to let go. Tomorrow I’m going to release my book into the world of book sharing and leave it on a train.

All you have to do to join me and start sharing your favourite books is visit the BookCrossing website. You can set up an account for free, print off labels (you can even personalise them with photos of your beaming face if you like) and start releasing your books out into the wild. Share a well worn book, an old favourite, or maybe one that you think other people could appreciate more than you. With BookCrossing’s website you can track how far your books have travelled, who is reading them and whether or not they are enjoying them.

If you love your books… it’s time to let them go. Happy sharing!

Published on June 2nd 2011 on www.litro.co.uk.

a fond farewell to exeter

So, after three years, nine semesters, and more deadlines than we’d care to remember, for us third years the university experience is almost over. But before we pack up our belongings, burn our course notes and throw our graduation hats in the air, we’ve got a few weeks of studenthood left, and we should really make the most of them…

This beautiful little city has seen us through the good times and the bad so appreciate your last moments with it. Visit Exeter’s most well loved establishments: eat at Boston Tea Party, have a Firehouse pizza (there is nowhere else that you can eat so well in the company of a stuffed crow), visit Book Cycle and shop at the Real McCoy. To feel like a proper Devonian, you should probably treat yourself to a cream tea and drink a pint or two of cider as well.

Conform to the Exeter stereotype and spend one full day on campus. Mooch around campus in flip flops and your pyjama bottoms. Though it is unrecognisable from the university that welcomed us as timid freshers three years ago it will always have a special place in our hearts, forum project and all. While you are there, visit the Guild Shop. If you’ve been secretly eyeing up a pair of Exeter flip-flops or a frisbee, give in. If you don’t do it now you never will.

Go to Arena as many times as you can bear. Where else can you dance like an idiot, scream along to Buck Rogers and publically strip to the Baywatch theme tune? I know it’s small, a little bit smelly, and unreasonably expensive past 11pm, but, trust me, you’ll miss it when it’s gone.

While you are at it, take a final trip to the Lemmy. It’s even worse and for some inexplicable reason most nights spent within its echoey walls end in tears, but it’s our student “night club” and we should try and love it in spite of its flaws.

Have a school themed night out. I’m pretty sure dressing up as a school girl is no longer acceptable outside the protective walls of university.

Crack out your student card. After the 22nd of July we’ll have to relinquish our student discount so if you think about it, spending the rest of your overdraft  in Topshop is really just good sense!

Get horrifically drunk on Sunday night. Once we start working 9-5s (well, we can dream), Sunday night booze ups are a no-no.

Embrace your cravings. If you fancy eating cheese and nutella on toast for your dinner, don’t worry. Yes it is disgusting… but your housemates won’t judge you half as much as your parents will.

Fight the urge to clean the bathroom. It’s okay. We students are supposed to live in our own filth and there will come a time in the all too near future when keeping your slowly moulding tea cups beside the toilet is frowned upon. Similarly, when it comes to washing up, from now until we graduate, rinsing is just fine.

Published in Exeposè, The University of Exeter’s student newspaper, on June 6th 2011. 

summer reads, whatever the weather

The British summer is almost, but not quite, upon us. April taunted us with the promise of a long, hot summer, only to pull the carpet out from under our flip-flops and replace the cloudless bank holidays with grey and drizzly 9-5s.

Maybe you are in the middle of exams or just plain sick of work? Perhaps you’re eagerly awaiting your summer holiday or maybe, like me, your student bank account won’t let you book one. Either way, while we are all stuck inside dreaming of the sunshine, here are a few books to give your imagination an ash-cloud free holiday.

Cider with Rosie (rrp £7.99)

Who needs to go abroad this summer? Cider with Rosie is a beautifully written memoir of Lee’s childhood spent in the lush Cotswolds. Lyrically written, Lee evokes a postcard worthy picture of rural England before high speed trains, mobile phones and the internet. Reading Lee’s gentle descriptions of sunlight speckled fields, rural festivities, and long summers is almost as good as being there and will certainly make you want to don a daisy chain and lie in a British meadow.

A Room with a View (rrp £8.99)

Perhaps a staycation is not quite your thing? E M Forster’s A Room with a View has the best of both worlds. Opening in Florence, Forster’s tale follows Lucy and her troublesome love life through rustic Tuscany back to Surrey’s undulating countryside. Forster’s descriptions of love in Italy will undoubtedly distract you from your dreary your office and the dribble of rain on your window.

Eat Pray Love (rrp £7.99)

Fancy a more extended trip? Elizabeth Gilbert’s international best seller, Eat Pray Love, takes you on a journey through Italy, India, and Bali. Satisfying even the most demanding holidaymakers’ desires, (gorging on ice-cream, achieving spiritual peace, and toying with a summer romance) after finishing Gilbert’s autobiographical journey of self discovery you’ll feel like you’ve been away too. On top of that, Gilbert’s descriptions of her exploits with Italian cuisine actually made my stomach rumble; I’ve never felt more like dropping everything and finding a cheap flight to warmer Italian shores.

These books will give your imagination a well deserved break while we wait for the British summer to start, but if an imaginative holiday just won’t cut it, pick up a travel guide!

Published on May 25 2011 on www.litro.co.uk.

review: the hand that first held mine

Moving and bitterly sweet, The Hand That First Held Mine is Maggie O’Farrell’s fifth novel and winner of the 2010 Costa novel award. Exposing the fragile nature of our human relationships, O’Farrell’s novel paints two compelling portraits of women separated by fifty years.

O’Farrell’s novel cuts between two timelines; following the life of beautiful and headstrong Lexie as she struggles to find her place in 1950’s Soho alongside a haunting depiction of Elina’s attempts to cope after the traumatic birth of her first child. Effortlessly constructing the tales of these two women, O’Farrell calls into question the relationship we assume to be the most stable of all, that of mother and child. Although the connection between the two women isn’t revealed until the very end, these two storylines are seamlessly sewn together throughout. Whilst Lexie falls helplessly in love, Elina battles with the bumpy terrain of motherhood. Lexie’s chapters are dynamic whilst Elina’s sections, though intensely absorbing, are disorientating; as Elina cautiously navigates the first few weeks with her child, O’Farrell creates gaps in the narrative which leave us reeling. As Lexie’s life and loves are told in fast forward, her vibrancy set against the static nature of Elina’s chapters, with painful empathy we, like Elina, feel confused and overwhelmed.

O’Farrell’s honest depictions of life’s darknesses and pleasures are at times almost too poignant to read (her depiction of Lexie’s suffocation after returning from university verges on painful for a soon-to-be graduate!) We are led through Ted and Elina’s story at the same pace as they are, acutely aware of the gaps in our own knowledge. But in Lexie’s chapters the narrator intriguingly hints at her fate. Leaving us uncomfortably more knowledgeable than our loveable protagonist, we know from the beginning that she is heading for disaster: “She has no idea that she will die young, that she does not have as much time as she thinks. For now she has just discovered the love of her life, and death couldn’t be further from her mind”.

As O’Farrell herself has recognised, there are more than just our two female protagonists in this tale. The Hand That First Held Mine constructs a picture of bohemian Soho as vivid as the John Deakin images that initially inspired O’Farrell to write. Connecting these characters through the streets they walk on and the buildings they enter, London acts as a reminder of the stability of stone and the fleeting nature of our human existence. As Ted goes for coffee in the very same building where Lexie works we are reminded of the way in which each building must house the imprint of its past. The nostalgic portrayal of London is tainted by our knowledge of Lexie’s fate and O’Farrell’s focus on how our capital city has itself changed beyond recognition in a mere fifty years.

Elina’s visit to a John Deakin exhibition cleverly exposes both the connection between O’Farrell’s two main characters and the ultimate reason why this tale is at times so uncomfortable to read. As we see Lexie, our bright and vibrant protagonist, transform into an unidentified woman in a black and white photograph, we are reminded of the inevitable passing of time. Elina describes Deakin’s photography of 1950’s Soho as being “kind of melancholy…because they capture something that’s gone” and I think that O’Farrell’s novel could be described in the same way. Littered with references to loss and the unreliability of memory, The Hand That First Held Mine forces us to question our own fragile existence. Just as Lexie’s ghost haunts Elina’s London, this novel will stay with you long after you have finished its last page.

The Hand that First Held Mine is published by Headline Review, RRP £7.99

Published on May 18 2011 on www.litro.co.uk. and in Exeposé, The University of Exeter’s student newspaper, on May 22 2011.