2018: wot i read*

*disclaimer: i have drunk a LOT of hot chocolate & this post was written on, hahahaha, a massive sugar high

i haven’t posted in months! because i had some kind of unpleasant insomniac episode & screwed up a coursework submission & now my uni is coming after me, & also my housing situation has gone to s h i t, & also some weird shit is going down with my Personal personal life. also i’m writing too many things at once.

i’m in the process of getting my sleeping problems sorted out (i had an appointment with a campus doctor who pretty much just told me to google it), & i’m getting back into a routine with my running, i.e the cornerstone of my mental health. jo & lucy & i have had to find a new place for next year, because our asshole landlords didn’t tell us they’re planning to turn my bedroom (MY bedroom, as in the CUTEST bedroom, which i SLEEP in) into a bathroom this summer. but it’s okay! because we’ve found a super cosy old house with an actual fireplace & an upstairs bathroom &, wait for it, that ultimate luxury: double glazing.

also: do you guys think i should cancel my gym membership & buy a waffle iron? because i’m starting to think i should cancel my gym membership & buy a waffle iron. i don’t know, guys, it’s been a weird few months.

anyway. my favourite person in the whole wide world is visiting me soon. & i’m reading a very unknown mervyn peake novel. & i’ve got into dandelion hands. i need to wrap up this post & go to bed. basically: my reading in 2018 ran the gamut, as usual. i only included books i read cover to cover & individual short stories, so the high doses of mallarmé & t.s eliot & keats aren’t on there, nor are all the academic essays & random bits of seneca & martial & dryden that you read when you do a 17th century lit module.

i’ll be back with more bullshit soonish, depending on how far i get my life together this week!


  1. Vile Bodies, Evelyn Waugh

i finished 2017 on kind of a waugh kick, & read this over a pretty terrible few days in early january. it’s bitter & brilliant (generally speaking, with waugh everything funny is sad & everything sad is funny). i just wish i’d been able to appreciate it more at the time. anyway, i thought this passage was beautiful.

“Don’t you think,” said Father Rothschild gently, “that perhaps it is all in some  way historical? I don’t think people ever want to lose their faith either in religion or anything else. I know very few young people, but it seems to me that they are all possessed with an almost fatal hunger for permanence. I think all these divorces show that. People aren’t content just to muddle along nowadays… And this word “bogus” they all use … They won’t make the best of a bad job nowadays. My private schoolmaster used to say, “If a thing’s worth doing at all, it’s worth doing well.” My Church has taught that in different words for several centuries. But these young people have got hold of another end of the stick, and for all we know it may be the right one. They say, “If a thing’s not worth doing well, it’s not worth doing at all.” It makes everything very difficult for them.”

  1. Among the Bohemians, Virginia Nicholson

i enjoyed this so much. it was one of the few things i could get really interested in over those few weeks. there’s loads of fascinating stuff about the bloomsbury circle & some very juicy anecdotes. my JAM. i want to go hang out with all these guys. especially viva king, goddamn.

  1. Written on the Body, Jeanette Winterson

this one struck… close to home. her writing stops my heart.

  1. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D Salinger

a reread on the train back to norwich in the new year. not my favourite salinger (that’s prolly seymour: an introduction) but there’s nothin like this book for when you want to punch something. how figuratively do i speak? maybe i just beat the shit out of my copy every time i get mad. you don’t know me

  1. Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut

i’d never read it before & i enjoyed it so much. i love the way vonnegut invents verbs whenever he needs a new one.

  1. Pedro Paramo, Juan Rulfo

this was one of the weirdest things i read for my course this year. think mexican wuthering heights, except chronologically it goes all over the place & also you aren’t quite sure who’s dead & who isn’t, because practically everyone seems to be a ghost.

  1. Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson

unbelievably i had never read this before. it’s very good but i like her fairy tales much more. i was amused by how much i related to this, tho.

  1. The Garden Party and Other Stories, Katherine Mansfield

read for my course. this is full of bright haunting images. in my head all her stories look like monet paintings.

  1. Reckless, Cornelia Funke

an old favourite from when i was a kid. it’s strange, though- altho it was marketed as a young adult novel i’m not sure it really is. the protag, jacob, is twenty-four- too old to be the hero of a kids’ book, really- & difficult, tough, strange. he’s a fantastic character & the book is terrifying in the way of really, really good fairy tales. i reread it while the beast from the east had us snowed into our flat & everything was white & glittering & me & lucy were making proper hot chocolate every day, the kind you make with a big bar of really good 70% dark. good days. i love cornelia funke.

  1. Pére Goriot, Honoré de Balzac

this book fucked me up. some of balzac’s character analyses… whew. i got so hooked on what he’s selling that i ended up writing the most dramatic piece of coursework of my life on it. see:

Goriot’s love reduces him to an undignified asceticism- because it is real and the real makes demands, lines one’s skin, drains one’s fortune. Easier to do as most of Balzac’s Paris does: renounce it and live in comfort. ‘Our heart is a treasure chest, and if you empty it out you are ruined’.

  1. Henry IV, William Shakespeare

also studied for my course. love this play. it’s a happy place for me. falstaff! also, i find hal to be a really acute portrait of a certain sort of person- well-meaning but calculating, with a theatrical performativity that isn’t quite spontaneous, with a perfectly sincere streak of heroism & the ability to shape-shift at will. you think i’m joking?

  1. Anne of the Island, L.M Montgomery

i reread lucy maud’s books about once a year, when i get the itch. i wanted to reread this one bc it’s anne’s uni experience, as well as maybe being my favourite of the anne books (up there with house of dreams). i just… i will never be tired of these books. the emily trilogy is easily my favourite of lucy maud’s inventions, but the anne books just make everything seem brighter without ever being preachy or condescending, or seeming to skip over the really tough stuff. i owe a LOT to l.m, i really do.

  1. The Vicar of Wakefield, Anthony Goldsmith

the less said the better.

  1. Two Gentlemen of Verona, William Shakespeare

what the fuck even is this. it’s ridiculous. it also has this piece of stunning poetry dropped into the midst of a bunch of utter STUPIDITY:

For Orpheus’s lute was strung with poets’ sinews,

Whose golden touch could soften steel and stones,

Make tigers tame and huge leviathans

Forsake unsounded deeps to dance on sands.

  1. Chronicles of Avonlea, L.M Montgomery

i remember only one of the stories from this, the fucking hilarious hurrying of ludovic. i love how well-known characters just scurry in & out of the frame all through this book. also, everyone loves anne SO MUCH, & talks about her in such flattering terms, like… how does l.m pull this off? if any other author did this about any other character i would call bullshit. but because it’s anne- & because we know that anne is a wonderful whimsical sweetheart who occasionally exudes HUGE dumbass energy- it works.

  1. Further Chronicles of Avonlea, L.M Montgomery

clearly i was on a kick.

  1. The Taming of the Shrew, William Shakespeare

big yikes.

  1. Henry VI Part Two, William Shakespeare

i was super confused for a second until i remembered that i started with this one bc it’s thought to have been written before parts one & two. i remember absolutely nothing about it.

  1. À Rebours, Jean-Rhys Huysmans

oh, fuck me, this book. it’s a nightmare procession of decadent BULLSHIT. it’s all crack to me. fellow wilde disciples: this is thought to be the book that corrupted dorian gray. you know that chapter of dorian that everybody except me seems to hate? the one that’s basically just a torrent of jewels, books, flowers & half-hinted debauches? (the one that happens to actually be my favourite chapter, whoops.) this book was obviously a huge inspiration for that, because that chapter kinda reads like a riff on à rebours. except des esseintes is somehow even more horrible than dorian. & there’s lots of stuff about my boy gustave moreau. no, i don’t have a the sirens laptop sticker. no, it isn’t next to my cartoon oscar wilde & secret history quote & birth of venus stickers.

  1. Lolly Willowes, Sylvia Townsend

a lovely whimsical book about a lady who ditches conventional spinisterism to go live alone in a village & become a witch & also possibly a lesbian. what a fucking icon. also there are some sensuous metaphors, y’all.

  1. Henry VI Part Three, William Shakespeare

there are two terrifyingly brilliant soliloquies given by gloucester (i.e richard iii) in this, & i take my copy down & reread the last one when i hate everything.

  1. Bluets, Maggie Nelson

so good i can barely talk about it. pure poetry, tbh.

  1. The Price of Salt, Patricia Highsmith

the novel the movie carol was based on. it’s very good. highsmith gives me shivers. those little cogs & wheels that showed the hairpin turns of ripley’s brain are just as effective when it comes to all the terrifying twists & plunges of a love affair. read this over a weekend visit to see one of the most important people in the world to me.

  1. The Blue Castle, L.M Montgomery

i read this whenever i need to get shit STRAIGHT in my head. it always fixes me right up. some of l.m’s most gorgeous nature writing went into this. a seasonal montage chapter sounds like a terrible idea but it’s so gorgeously done here that it makes me want to ditch this century & set up camp on mistawis w/ barney & valancy & their dumb fat cats. no, but seriously: this book reminds me of what is real & important in life. it’s also deeply, deeply funny.

  1. Henry VI Part One, William Shakespeare

i remember liking a lot of stuff here, but like… there’s these big symbolic set-pieces of dialogue that read really weirdly. but it’s one of his earliest plays, so, you know, dude gets a pass.

  1. Wise Children, Angela Carter

all about the sweat & glitter & greasepaint & uh, incest of a huge showbiz family (one side well-established shakespeare actors, the other side taking whatever dancing gigs they can). it’s hilarious. i adored it.

  1. Titus Andronicus, William Shakespeare

so… that happened

  1. Hour of the Star, Clarice Lispector

this was so vivid to me that it made me terribly uncomfortable. it’s a story about a girl living in abject & miserable poverty in brazil, told in bizarrely luxurious prose, the kind of rich & textured writing that lives in weird colours & gets inside your head. i read it in the same day that i read the last act of titus andronicus & the combination made me feel like i was absolutely off my head for days.

  1. Anne of Avonlea, L.M Montgomery

this has some of my favourite characters & episodes of the series. just… miss lavendar… & davy… & the bit where they all go for a picnic in the woods… & mr harrison… incidents that are more alive to me than a lot of my own memories.

  1. Captive Prince, C.S Capat

this trilogy is NUTS. i read the first chapter, wasn’t convinced, & then went on to polish off all three books in just under two days. i was up til four, five in the morning reading. it’s a trilogy with a dumb tropey concept straight out of fanfic but it’s about sexual tension. it’s agonising & you can practically feel the whir & tick of character development beneath the whole thing. i really wasn’t expecting to like it as much as i did. there’s a lot of humour there, too, without which it would have probably sucked.

  1. Prince’s Gambit, C.S Capat

this is my favourite book of the trilogy. it’s so much fun!

  1. Richard III, William Shakespeare

terrible segue: i have a teddy bear who my friend ibby & i decided one day to name by opening my complete works of shakespeare at a random page & picking the first name we saw. he ended up being called catesby after richard iii’s evil valet.

  1. Kings Rising, C.S Capat

filled, hilariously, with political machinations.

  1. The Fiery Pantheon, Nancy Lemann

i aspire to be walter. i love the weird rhythms & patterns of lemann’s writing.

  1. The Comedy of Errors

what the hell, honestly.

  1. Magic Flutes, Eva Ibbotson

the marketing of eva ibbotson’s romance novels is so stupid & patronising it makes me furious. yes, it’s a good thing they were reissued at all, but with those stupid captions i’m surprised anybody read them. they even changed the titles, for god’s sake. anyway: i love these books. they’re pretty magical: really funny, carefully-drawn modern (ish) fairytales. this one involves a huge austrian castle that is pretty much a character in its own right & a heroine who was the reason i wanted to hack all my hair off when i was eleven. this book is also everything i know about opera.

  1. A Company of Swans, Eva Ibbotson

the love with which eva ibbotson writes of brazil floors me. also, her characters are wonderful.

  1. The Prelude, William Wordsworth

i studied this for reading texts. there’s some sublime passages. it’s kind of an epic poem about the experience of reading.

  1. Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones

read because i adore the ghibli movie. the book is even funnier, although as pure fantasy i think the film hits more of my personal sweet spots.

  1. Love’s Labours Lost, William Shakespeare

hahahaha. there’s some serious zingers in this. i think it’s suffered in comparison with much ado, but this is funny as hell in its own right. moth & armada & biron & rosalind & the princess are all brilliant characters.

  1. The Lonely Londoners, Sam Selvon

not sure there’s anything quite like this. it reads like a song. one of the best books on isolation i’ve ever read.

  1. Sarrasine, Honoré de Balzac

you wander into an empty theatre. the stage is covered in statues of apollo. on closer inspection, you realise that the statues are of young girls. there is dust on your fingers. the statues begin to sing. you notice that you are holding a trowel. what are you doing here? the girls are laughing at you now. you do not know why. perhaps your tie is knotted wrong.

  1. The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes, Neil Gaiman

i lost my mind & blew over a hundred quid on a sandman folio box set in second semester. i don’t read many comics but the sheer scope & creativity here- even in its earliest stages- blows my mind.

  1. S/Z, Roland Barthes

this was the most intellectually gruelling book i’ve read since (& possibly including) ulysses. i found it so hard to get my head around that when it actually started making sense to me it was so rewarding. it’s a very thorough deconstruction of how our minds & our narratives interact & work, & the underlying systems that hold stories together.

  1. The Sandman: The Doll’s House, Neil Gaiman

um, this one is fucked up. it’s also the first issue i ever read of sandman. i was thirteen, obsessed with neil gaiman, & had to get my mother to write me a note saying i was allowed to take it out of the library, because the sandman was prohibited for the under-16s.

  1. The Sandman: Dream Country, Neil Gaiman

so beautiful. i adore the midsummer night’s dream story.

  1. A Song For Summer, Eva Ibbotson

in general, i think this is the weakest of her romance novels, but there’s still loads of really charming stuff about it. to be honest, though, a lot of this one just gives me dragonfly pool deja vu; the concept of the Extremely Liberal School Filled With Rich Unpleasant Children And Surrounded By Palatial Countryside was done so well there that it kinda overshadows this. still: i love marek. her heroes & heroines are all very well individualised (to say that they often belong to the same trope system), but i don’t think she has another character quite like him.

  1. The Sandman: Season of Mists, Neil Gaiman

so brilliant. the artwork for hell is spectacular. i’m a huge sucker for lucifer narratives in general.

  1. The Sandman: A Game of You, Neil Gaiman

wtf. kind of a heartbreaker.

  1. Romeo & Juliet, William Shakespeare

rereading this felt like reading a whole different play to when i read it for school aged twelve, probably because my school sucked. it’s so much funnier than i remember. & i know this gets said about shakey all the time, but it really is all about the language w/ this one.

  1. The Sandman: Fables & Reflections, Neil Gaiman

‘soft places’ knocked me down.

  1. A Countess Below Stairs, Eva Ibbotson

i refuse to use the stupid new title. i’m so bitter. anna is one of my favourite ibbotson heroines. (& muriel might be one of my favourite ibbotson villains. she’s so awful it beggars belief.)

  1. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare


  1. Richard II, William Shakespeare

one of my favourites. over the course of the play- as richard falls from political grace- he has to grapple with who he is as a human being now that he is no longer a king. & in this way his humanity blossoms, he struggles, there’s lots of narcissism & christ comparisons- & also a really silly funny scene where aumerle receives & issues so many challenges to duels that he runs out of gauntlets & has to borrow one.

  1. King John, William Shakespeare

two things MADE this play. a) the bastard of faulconbridge (he got his own post). & b) queen constance’s grief speech. listen. i had goosebumps.

Death, death: – O amiable lovely death!

Thou odiferous stench! sound rottenness!

Arise forth from the couch of lasting night,

Thou hate and terror to prosperity,

And I will kiss thy detestable bones;

And put my eyeballs in thy vaulty brows;

And ring these fingers with thy household worms;

And stop this gap of breath with fulsome dust,

And be a carrion monster like thyself:

Come, grin on me; and I will think thou smil’st,

And buss thee as thy wife! Misery’s love,

O, come to me!

  1. Notes on Cafes and Bedrooms, Rosemary Tonks

the first collection included in bedouin of the london evening, which is amazing. i studied this for a conference at the end of summer term. the conference ended with me getting ostracised by a whole bunch of people & us kicking someone out of our housing arrangement, so… whoops? people are really sensitive about books over here, you guys.

anyway, i posted the speech i gave here.

  1. The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare

yes anti-semitism but also: shylock is complex. the prejudice is 100% present. but shylock isn’t a stereotype, he’s a fully realised human being. portia made me gag a bit. but this has some of the most beautiful passages i’ve come across in shakespeare. (the film adaptation is bangin, too.)

  1. Iliad of Broken Sentences, Rosemary Tonks

the other part of bedouin. lots of greco-roman myth gets dragged into this one. it’s jazzy.

  1. Henry IV Part Two, William Shakespeare

oh, god, this play makes me sad. you can feel the cosy grubby world of part one crumbling away. falstaff 😦

  1. Ada or Ardor, Vladimir Nabokov

one of my favourite books i read last year. wrote about it here.

  1. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote

i’d never read it before. i really liked it. holly is so WEIRD.

  1. House of Flowers, Truman Capote

read a few of his short stories after tiffany’s. i barely remember anything about this one.

  1. The Diamond Guitar, Truman Capote

on the other hand i have a super vivid memory of this one. read it while my mother was driving me back from uni with a carful of luggage at the end of june. it’s a #nohomo story about a prison romance, basically, complete with wrenching betrayal & heartbreak.

  1. A Christmas Memory, Truman Capote

nope, the memory’s gone.

  1. Vathek, William Beckford

another favourite. wrote about it here. i really want to read beckford’s travel diaries.

  1. The Merry Wives of Windsor, William Shakespeare

falstaff gets the shit kicked out of him by a bunch of irritated, fabulous ladies.

  1. Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare

i was laughing so hard reading this that my mother knocked on the door to ask if something was wrong. such bliss, my brothers.

  1. Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel

i have no idea where to start. everyone else knows this already, because everyone else read this in like 2007, but the hype is real with this one.

  1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K Rowling

i started rereading the books in the summer & had a great time. i honestly don’t care what stupid shit j.k’s said on twitter this week. these books gave me so much joy (& scared the shit out of me so delightfully) when i was a kid & the magic’s still there for me.

  1. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K Rowling

rereading the books for the first time in ages reminded me just how weird & funny they are. a lot of that seems to have got lost in the transfer in the past few years.

  1. The Folding Star, Alan Hollinghurst

god, this was such a find. i didn’t really like the swimming-pool library, so i was surprised to find how much i loved this. it’s full of dust & shadows & prose so gorgeously (over)wrought that it physically hurts. reading it took it outta me but in a weird way i couldn’t put it down. i think i finished it in about three days, despite how dense it is.

  1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K Rowling

i just love this one.

  1. Eugene Onegin, Alexander Pushkin

read for my 19th-century russian lit module. it’s very, very funny. pushkin is razor-sharp when it comes to absolutely trashing onegin. he does not spare his characters. his rendering of tatiana is a perfect balance of tragic & hilarious.

  1. A Hero of Our Time, Mikhail Lermontov

maybe my favourite discovery of the year. it’s a fierce, unsparing look at the psyche of one very weird character- a guy who is privileged, charismatic, ruthless, creates scenarios & manipulates people into feeling for him & then keeps on falling into his own play-acting. is he a sociopath? he’s capable of great feeling. it’s one of the most tragic & passionate & desperate things i’ve read all year. it’s about what it’s like to feel like a patch of darkness, wanting there to be something good in you.

  1. Sejanus His Fall, Ben Johnson

brilliant terrifying play about rome as a totalitarian police state. stunningly reminiscent of stalinist russia in a lot of ways, particularly the chinese whispers aspect of everyone telling tales on their neighbour.

  1. Dentaphilia, Julia Slavin

i was assigned this as reading for a cw class. it’s brilliant. horrifying. the narrator is an awful human being, as far as i’m concerned.

  1. A Real Doll, A.M Homes

more cw reading. when i read this i started laughing out of sheer disgust. i say that as someone who has been known to give dramatic campfire readings of thomas the tank engine pornography. it’s about a teenage boy & his little sister’s barbie doll. i think it’s kind of great but huuuuuuuuge yikes.

  1. Dead Souls, Nikolai Gogol

oh my god, this book is OUT there. i love nabokov’s analysis of it.

  1. Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, Wells Tower

i read the short story (again, for cw). some of the prose is extraordinary. i dreamed of some of the images in it- the field of heather like the fleece of a giant animal tossing in its sleep, for instance.

  1. Fathers & Sons, Ivan Turgenev

the last page killed me. i was on a silent study floor of the library at the time & i was crying so hard i think i disturbed several history students who were trying to work.

  1. Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, Nikolai Leskov

chilling. this feels incredibly modern (something that comes up again & again in nineteenth-century russian lit). i love his flat deadened tone. really scary.

  1. Crime & Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky

gah. what do i even say. this book is, for me, a reference point for so much stuff in my life.

  1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky

i’d read it when i was twelve or so but i connected with it more this time, which prolly doesn’t say great things about the progress of my maturation. i relate to patrick a whole lot.

  1. Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Marisha Pessl

this book is so ridiculous & kind of irritating but it also really got to me. the ending is genuinely devastating.

  1. Sexing the Cherry, Jeanette Winterson

love jeanette winterson. loved this book. the dog-woman is marvellous. the twelve dancing princesses section… whew.

  1. Dangerous Liasons, Choderlos de Laclos

this was one of the books that i read this christmas holiday, when i was still reeling because i could finally read for pleasure after the crush of coursework. i enjoyed it so much. it also contained what is easily the hottest line of anything i’ve read this year, possibly ever, which is Very well: war.

  1. The Box of Delights, John Masefield

my dad showed me the old bbc series every christmas when i was a really little kid, & i kept remembering it & getting super nostalgic, so i read the book. i’m glad i finished the year on this. his prose is poetic & dreamy & kind of perfect. there’s a very interesting thread of paganism running through the book in its myths & history, as well, & masefield doesn’t seem to fear that; it becomes part of the narrative, even the central narrative of the thousand-year-old cathedral.


so there you have it. i’m gonna post a list of the stuff i intend to get read this year, i think. in the meantime i’d love to hear what you guys thought of any of the stuff i’ve banged on about here.

happy new year ❤


this is from that one time i got to feel up some old-ass books & it was great


flip-flops & globs & hares, oh my!

-i write this sitting on a rock in the arse-end of nowhere. i actually got lost half an hour ago & ended up in some kind of farming metropolis, surrounded by agitated horses. but all is well; i am now enthroned in state upon a shapely rock, looking out at the valley. i think the purple flip-flops were a rash choice of footwear, though.

-so far my home-for-the-summer status is strictly theoretical. i think i’ve spent more time haunting ibby’s house, wandering the woods, facing down zenwriter among the dust motes & sunbeams of the library, than actually at home. all this going outside has put me into a state of being that i have not experienced since the age of ten: reader, i am tanned. it’s wreaking havoc with my whole scruffy impoverished pre-raphaelite aesthetic.

-a large & persistent golden retriever just appeared out of nowhere & disgorged a stream of bubbly slobber all over my rucksack. i wanted to be friends but i think he just wanted my strawberries. so it goes.

-i feel like the last person ever to discover what a fantastic writer hilary mantel is, but i finished wolf hall this morning. i think my favourite thing about it might be the awareness there of a not-quite-banished world just beneath that one, lingering in the grins & sneers of gargoyles, in carved saints, in bowls of milk left out for the fey-folk. in the ghosts whose language is the creaks of rope & floorboard.

-it’s so hot here. in the suburbs you can feel the heat striking up from the asphalt. i’ve been despairing over my wardrobe, which goes black, black, purple, black, maybe a bit of scarlet here & there, you get the picture; i’ve been hacking up old t-shirts with scissors & the result tends to be indecent but pleasantly breezy. i’ve also developed a habit of wandering around barefoot over the past few weeks; occasionally this bites me in the ass, because the pavement gets so hot it actually burns my feet. okay, yes, this predicament would be easily evaded if i put my damn shoes on, but where’s the sense of adventure?

-i’m also the last person ever to watch kenneth branagh’s film of much ado, but so much of it was just spot-on perfection. i laughed so hard during the benedick-‘overhears’-his-frat-bros-gossiping scene that there were tears streaming down my face. i think it was claudio launching into a full on wailing, breast-beating performance that did it. i couldn’t take it. i also LOVED how emma thompson & denzel washington played don pedro basically asking beatrice to marry him. he’s absolutely laying himself on the line- it’s very vulnerable- but he does it so lightly- & she gets this, & i love her response. she makes light of the situation, but she’s gentle about it, she does it in a way that doesn’t shame him. it’s very compassionate. i find it a really touching scene.

-i have finally, finally got round to reading hemingway! i’m about seven chapters into the sun also rises. it’s his first novel & the writing is very good, although there’s something a little too self-consciously ambiguous to it at times. i’m not sure what i’ll read after it- it’s between the thousand autumns of jacob de zoet & the well of loneliness. unless i’m feeling whimsical- in which case who knows.

-i’ve been rewatching season eight of supernatural. the whole amelia thing works so much better than i remember- it’s a difficult & delicate relationship, but there’s a maturity to it, & to the writing. sam is not in a younger brother role here; everyone is an adult; he & amelia are both weary drifters. it’s not nice (& oh boy neither are those colour filters) but it works. & my god- all the sam-dean-benny stuff is so WEIRD- by which i mean that there’s such an absurd jealous love-crossed vibe to the whole thing. they really go for it & everyone is seething & deceiving each other & lying out the wazoo. it’s completely horrible. i’m enjoying it so much.

-okay, so, a fucking hare just came lolloping into the clearing where i’m sitting on my rock-throne. with long graceful back legs & black fur in its ears & it sat up & gave me the most hardass stare you ever saw & then went gambolling off, presumably to bully its family. i’ve never seen a hare before. clearly i am at the centre of a teeming hub of wildlife.

-jo & i communicate through a convoluted system of in-jokes & personal slang that occasionally amounts to our own language. we undertook some artistic collaboration.


this resulted in her painting these lovely dancy little chaps!


jo’s selling them as stickers on her redbubble at castle of jo (& her cuttlefish are beautiful too). so, you know, go & buy them if you want your life to be filled with small jumping beans of joy. also to fund our olive habit.

-i’ve been plugging away at A Certain Project for weeks now, & i keep saying that i’m gonna go on one of my 31k-in-twelve-days kicks, but between all my reading- shakespeare in the morning, poetry in the evening, novels wherever i can fit them, plus things like, you know, socialising & exercising & watching stuff- i’ve been getting maybe seven hundred words a day done. i’m going to face the fact that unless i let everything else go out of the window for a fortnight, i won’t get this done. so i’m going to let everything else go out of the window for a fortnight. i’ll try & keep posting- probably little stuff- so that you guys won’t be deprived of my delightful online presence.

-you get no apologies for the title. ‘but isabel, do you have no shame?’ no, & you still get no apologies for the title.

-anyway, my throne is getting distinctly chilly, & i’m a little worried that the next visiting creature of the wild will be a grizzly bear or something, & most significantly i want to watch the joss whedon much ado tonight, so i’m going to attempt to flip-flop the four rocky miles home. pray god that i arrive with my feet still attached.


note: isabel did indeed retain her feet, although she arrived home with some exotically placed blisters & a sunburned neck. it moreover turns out that she was trespassing on land belonging to some fancy-ass golf club or other for most of her walk. she advises readers to wear sturdy shoes if they plan to go on extended hikes in the british countryside, & to watch out for friendly animals; the last creature she encountered was not a bear but an extremely willing cat, who ruthlessly exploited her back-scratching skills for a good ten minutes on her way home.



‘In such a night as this…’

so, i meant to post this last night, but instead i wrote myself into fuzzy-eyed exhaustion. LOOK AT THIS SCENE.


LORENZO: The moon shines bright!- In such a night as this, when the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees, and they did make no noise; in such a night, Troilus, methinks, mounted the Trojan walls, and sigh’d his soul toward the Grecian tents, where Cressid lay that night.

JESSICA: In such a night did Thisbe fearfully o’ertrip the dew, and saw the lion’s shadow ere himself, and ran dismay’d away.

LORENZO: In such a night stood Dido with a willow in her hand upon the wild sea-banks, and waft her love to come again to Carthage.

JESSICA: In such a night Medea gathered the enchanted herbs that did renew old Aeson.

LORENZO: In such a night did Jessica steal from the wealthy Jew, and with an unthrift love did run from Venice, as far as Belmont.

JESSICA: In such a night did young Lorenzo swear he lov’d her well, stealing her soul with many vows of faith, and ne’er a true one.

LORENZO: In such a night did pretty Jessica (like a little shrow) slander her love, and he forgave it her.

JESSICA: I would out-night you, did nobody come; but hark, I hear the footing of a man.


it does everything. i mean, first of all, it’s shakespeare at his most musical: ‘in such a night stood dido with a willow in her hand upon the wild sea-banks, and waft her love to come again to carthage’.

i could take that line apart, but i really don’t want to.

there’s humour (‘i would out-night you’!). & it’s romantic, of course, but there’s an echo of tragedy- because all the stories referenced end in tragedy. & yet once you know the context- that jessica & lorenzo are the naive young lovers who never seem to be in any real body-or-soul danger, unlike the other inhabitants of merchant– there’s another layer of fun there. jessica & lorenzo know the context of these stories; they know that theirs is unlikely to end in death. & so they’re fantasising, they’re laying the ley-lined silk of literature over their own romance & glorying in the allure of it. it’s a love-scene between lovers of literature. it’s behaviour i certainly recognise; it’s behaviour that i imagine all bookworms who’ve ever been remotely lovesick ought to understand. i find that really charming. thanks a bunch, shakey.


shylock, domestic bliss, i am a degenerate

-my rosemary tonks presentation is undone, A Certain Project is languishing on 23k, & all our tea-towels are starting to smell funny. but i don’t care because i’m reading ada or ardor & it’s so dense & sumptuous & weird & i cannot. put. it down.

-finished king john; onto the merchant of venice! this play is fucked UP. the part where he’s an anti-semitic stereotype aside, shylock’s dialogue is so interesting- there’s layers & layers of ambiguity there. he’s not a caricature. he’s complex. & bassanio is way more interesting than i expected him to be (i think i was anticipating another antipholus)- he’s an enormous fuckboy & terribly reckless with money & also the only character who actually seems to respect shylock & then there’s… the whole… thing… with… antonio…

-also i LOVE gratiano. there are just no boring characters in this one, guys. well, i haven’t met jessica yet.

-despite the fact that i have about sixteen films lined up to watch that i haven’t got round to yet (hello princess kaguya, hello lost highway) i’ve ordered the 2004 movie adaptation already. whoops. it looks good! jeremy irons is the absolute perfect choice for antonio, joseph fiennes’ hair is giving me stitches, & i may just be a huge sucker for the whole crumbling-venetian-glamour thing. okay, yeah, i am.

-i’m trying to restrain myself from buying call me buy your name on d.v.d. also an ophelia t-shirt. & the new fleurs du mal translation. the government probably shouldn’t give me money. i bought perfume instead of new trousers the other day. so, you know, on the one hand i smell like jasmine & sandalwood, but on the other hand i’m wearing holey purple cords. which is admittedly a look. lucy thinks i’m appallingly vain & she’s right. we were late to squad breakfast at ziggy’s the other day because i took an hour deciding which of my four black chokers to wear.

-i have a grand total of sixteen days left in norwich. & then it’s back to the dark & savage north, & lighting tallow candles to read by, & galumphing around in untreated sheepskins, & stewing young children in pots, & communicating in a complex system of grunts & gesticulations. (okay, full disclosure, my mother’s house is about sixteen times as clean as this flat & candles aren’t allowed upstairs anyway. & it’s like, five minutes away from the library, which is nice.)

-the main question is how on earth to say goodbye to everyone i’ve met here. of course i’ll be seeing jo, will, lucy & jamie again within three months- our lease on the Beverage Cult begins august, & we’re thinking about going to see as you like it at the globe in july, if we can scrape up the cash- but still. & it won’t be as easy with some of my other friends here.

-there is also the somewhat high probability that, Mallet Moron, banshee taps & minor floods notwithstanding, i will miss mcc. i mean, we have a balcony, for god’s sake. a balcony from which you can see the cathedral spire, & a lamp-post that illuminates the falling snow in winter. we have a topaz-eyed courtyard cat that i’ve only just got to like me. we have a river that the lights fall on like copper etchings. i have a bloody enormous desk that supports, atlas-like, my entire world, i.e my laptop, my complete works of shakespeare, my nabokovs, & quite a lot of tea. also currently my right leg.

-so, yes, going up north is going to be something of a shock to the system. but there are people that i love there too. & forests that drip with blackberries in august, & little bohemian theatre-cafes where i’ve read at open mic nights, & deep, dusty library archives. that’s one thing about being a wanderer, i suppose- to some extent, you carry your world with you.

-&, oh my god, hills. when was the last time i saw a hill? i don’t remember. it’s been so long.

-lucy has returned from hiding. we have fallen easily back into our delightful routine, by which i mean that every so often we emerge from our bedrooms so that she can deride my “rabbit food” & i can pillory her ridiculous love-affair with gravy granules (for god’s sake), & she mocks me for nerding out over the richard ii beach scene, & i throw overripe soft fruit at her & challenge her to arm-wrestles. ah, domesticity.


‘Will not a calf’s-skin stop that mouth of thine?’

king john is a history play, a tragedy, little performed, much studied. you’d suppose it to be dry & dusty & maggot-ridden. as though the worst parts of henry vi part ii & two gentlemen of verona got smashed unholily together. you’d suppose it to be one of the low points of the shakespeare canon.

dear reader, it’s fucking hilarious.

this is mostly thanks to the bastard of faulconbridge, coeur-du-lion’s illegitimate son. he’s this sort of bluff witty teasing guy who keeps interjecting absurd little comments at INCREDIBLY SERIOUS MOMENTS & making all the angry nobles deflate like trodden-on flour babies. he way overshadows king john, who has some Deep Moral Conflict but when you come down to it he’s a bit of a boring old sod. (i know, i know, there’s more to it than that. he’d probably be a great role in the hands of the right actor.)

anyway, this bit made me howl. the duke of austria (think: pompous, puling coward) had promised lady constance his help. he’s just betrayed her by accepting king john’s peace offer/bribe/daughter’s hand in marriage. she’s understandably pretty mad (she actually has a straight-up magnificent mad scene later in the play) & rails at him for about half a page. we’re full-steam ahead for Political Mayhem. then…

oh, god, i love it.

CONSTANCE: Hast thou not spoke like thunder on my side?

Been sworn my soldier? bidding me depend

Upon thy stars, thy fortune, and thy strength?

And now dost thou fall over to my foes?

Thou wear a lion’s hide! Doff it for shame,

And hang a calf’s-skin on those recreant limbs!

AUSTRIA: O, that a man should say those words to me!

BASTARD: And hang a calf’s-skin on those recreant limbs.

AUSTRIA: Thou dar’st not say so, villain, for thy life.

BASTARD: And hang a calf’s-skin on those recreant limbs.

KING JOHN: We are not like this; thou dost forget thyself.


& so the matter is resolved. temporarily.

because the bastard just can not let it go:


ELINOR: Look’st thou pale, France; do not let go thy hand.

CONSTANCE: Look to that, devil; lest that France repent

And, by disjoining hands, Hell lose a soul.

AUSTRIA: King Philip, listen to the cardinal.

BASTARD: And hang a calf’s-skin on those recreant limbs.


he does it whenever the duke of austria says a damn word. by which point austria probably wishes he’d never been born.


KING JOHN: The king is mov’d, and answers not to this.

CONSTANCE: O, be remov’d from him, and answer well!

AUSTRIA: Do so, King Philip; hang no more in doubt.

BASTARD: Hang nothing but a calf’s-skin, sweet lout.


i can’t TAKE it.


PANDOLPH: The peril of our curses light on thee,

So heavy as thou shalt not shake them off,

But in despair die under their black weight.

AUSTRIA: Rebellion, flat rebellion!

BASTARD: Will’t not be? Will not a calf’s-skin stop that mouth of thine?


he literally doesn’t stop until austria’s offstage death. i find it so damn funny.

screaming taps, summer madness, filibuster the small dainty unicorn

-today i went out shopping for laundry detergent pods. i returned with a horrifically expensive cuddly unicorn. jo named him filibuster. i feel like that sums up my uni experience pretty well.

-we are almost into our final fortnight at mcc. the taps have started making weird yowling noises, so clearly they’re already mourning our departure, & the kitchen ceiling drips whenever i go in there, so deep is its grief. if i suddenly vanish from the online aether within the next few days, assume that the building collapsed on us.

-according to wordpress, it’s been three years since i started this blog. which is nuts. it began as a place for my fifteen-year-old drama-queen self to vent, bit by bit, the inexpressible enormity of her supernatural obsession (i say, like a hypocrite), & then as the most exam-riddled years of my life swung into hellish focus my blogging became patchy at best. but i think i’ll manage to stay Back this time, now that i’ve branched out somewhat, even if a lot of it’s just bits of whatever poems are knocking me out on whatever given day, or silly life-updates like this. i’m starting to feel comfortable here again.

-the discerning attendee of cobwebqueen.com may have noticed that my blog title has changed. let me tell you: you got off lightly, lucky reader. rejected possibilities included ‘the place where childhoods go to die’ & ‘my sapling personality cult’.

-the State of the Leg update: i think it’s getting better! i can actually climb stairs like a normal person now. on the other hand i am going STIR-CRAZY. lucy, usually an old hand at taking my crap after seven months under a roof together, has fled to ipswich for the weekend. perhaps she got tired of being tickled with sprouted root vegetables?

-i started reading king john this morning. the bastard of faulconbridge is making me cackle. his reaction to being accused by his brother of illegitimacy, on the grounds that he doesn’t look like their supposed father: ‘If old Sir Robert did beget us both/ And were our father, and this son like him,-/ O old Sir Robert, father, on my knee/ I give heaven thanks I was not like to thee!’ i mean, come on, that’s funny.

-i’m starting to put together my plans for the summer. i need to write a ton of my novel, & obviously keep this page going as best i can, & keep up with my ongoing shakespeare & poetry projects, & whatever books i’m reading alongside. i’d like to try to rack up some more poetry, because contrary to the impression i gave out by posting elegy for nebulae the other day, i write maybe two poems a year. & of those, i actually like perhaps one. or one stanza of one. you get me. i’m a prose writer, really. & i need to get on with my music practice &, you know, get a job.

-whilst working this around lord of the rings sleepovers & getting drunk in public parks & keeping up my track record of inappropriate nightclub behaviour. notable events will probably include sheffield pride & my birthday.

-i also really want to start teaching myself russian over the summer. which i will flat-out not have the time for, but i’m going to have even less time for it when second year starts, so i should probably just go for it.

-also! i’ve got my classical lit project planned. starting with the fagles iliad & going through euripides, sophocles, aristophanes, plato, aeschylus, herodotus, aristotle, petronius (i admit i’m excited for the satyricon), ovid- sappho, though i can’t remember where she fits into the chronology-  & then the anglo-saxons (got that heaney translation of beowulf alllllll lined up) & then chaucer, malory… you get the gist. now obviously i won’t get through all that from june to september, but i’m going to attempt a Sizeable Dent.

-i do art stuff too, just fyi. i should probably try to work some ink drawings in there. god, i’m just into way too much stuff. don’t even get me started on my david lynch project.

-anyway! there’s a nice thunderstorm scent to the air. wait, wait, there’s a gorgeous line somewhere in rosemary tonks-

That hour when all the Earth is drinking the

Blue drop of thunder

god, rosemary, just slay me, why don’t you?

but what i meant to say is that it’s about time i went to huddle up on the balcony & write. so, you know, bye. how are all you guys doing?


fire-alarms, writing blues, borrowed gauntlets

-my greatest achievement so far this week: i threw a teabag at the bin in my room & actually got it in! never mind that there’s cocoa & coconut rooibos streaks all down one bit of the wall.

-okay, real talk. i’m busy as hell. trying to juggle my uni’s literature conference, which for some godforsaken reason i’ve decided to actually attend, whilst on a twelve-day writing kick (whenever i need to turn up the heat on whatever project, i set myself to write 31k in twelve days. it is invariably a bloody nightmare). whilst also making my way through shakespeare & mallarmé & everything else i’m currently reading. & trying to eat things that aren’t pasta or nakd bars. & also, you know, having friends.

-i’ve nearly finished reading richard ii. holy shit, the deposition scene. the whole play is spectacular. as he falls from grace, king richard becomes a human being. the transformation is on the page- it happens basically before your eyes- & it’s exhilarating to read. (& to watch. the hollow crown!) he goes from the land of poetic cypher- a land where he doesn’t really have a singular identity, where he is the royal ‘we’- to, you know, the land of being an actual person who questions, who wonders about who went before him & who will come after, who feels hunger, doubt, pain, who perceives the irony & poetry & mythos in his own tale. of course the allegorical territory is rich as hell- never mind the narcissus/christ/mythological figure of your choice parallels- but there is nothing in the play so exciting to me as that slow unravelling.

-except maybe the bizarrely hilarious scene where aumerle gives & receives so many insults to various lords that he runs out of gauntlets to throw down, & has to borrow one. i do like that scene.

-the book i’ve been assigned for the uni literature conference is rosemary tonks’ poetry/prose collection bedouin of the london evening. it’s knocking me OUT. set in a heady nocturnal london where the centuries seem to cross & criss-cross- the yellow fog & opium-dreams of victoriana melting into stark lightbulbs, drowned leaves, desperation.

-i so nearly bought ali smith’s autumn in waterstones earlier. also neil gaiman’s norse mythology book, & a gorgeous paperblank, & a cuddly monkey toy. fortunately jo was there to drag me out once i’d bought bedouin.

-i’m trying to write a certain project but it feels more like horse-wrangling. it doesn’t help that the fire-alarm went off at three a.m today, cue half an hour of me, lucy & the other unfortunates of mcc shivering in the courtyard while i tried to see if i could fit my knees inside my jumper. i could, but that didn’t do much to alleviate the fact that, you know, it was three a.m & i wasn’t even wearing my spectacles & i just wanted to go back to sleep, dammit.

-it also doesn’t help that Mallet Moron is currently playing shitty 2009 pop remixes at tooth-rattling volume. Mallet Moron is the psychopath in the room above mine who hammers his chinese mirror-sculptures at one in the morning, plays horrible music at deeply inconsiderate hours, & once chased one of my flatmates down the stairs before hammering on our door for half an hour while we called the police & i eyed the kitchen-knives just in case. but, hey, i move out in three weeks.

-i have, technically, finished my first year of uni. which is insane. i don’t even know what i’ve been doing all this time. i mean, sure, i’ve been to lectures & written enormous essays on dostoevsky & eaten a horrific amount of peanut butter & stayed awake for days on the trot before passing out in front of my laptop & watched the moon rise from the balcony with a mug of pink lemonade & written thirty-six thousand words of space-opera Dreck & done inappropriate things in nightclubs & read roughly sixty-six books & met a bunch of people who inexplicably seem to like spending time with me. but what have i DONE?

-time to make more tea & crack on with writing, i suppose. sending love to anyone who makes it to the end of this post. you’re a trooper.



the run-down (+ digressions on spn, ben whishaw, ‘a midsummer night’s dream’ et al.)

-so, i’ve just been informed by the doctor that, due to an unidentified muscle injury, i can’t do any high impact sports for at least a week. which means no running. which kinda sucks out loud, because i’m a running junkie & it happens to be my only really clear thinking-space & there’s nothin quite like that high. but i’m limping everywhere & the doctor was making noises about painkillers & Seeing How It Goes, so i guess i’ll just deal.

-so you see that title was a pun! man i’m clever

-in the mean-time i intend to get absolutely killer biceps in order to beat lucy in our next arm-wrestle. (the tally currently stands at one point to each of us, but she was drunk the time i won. & she’s butch as hell. & i have noodle arms. i don’t like my chances.)

-i’ve been workin on a post about the picture of dorian gray. the decadence is a bit of a fixation of mine at the moment. somethin about decayed elegance fascinates me. & then of course there’s the side of it where i’m a queer who finds the wildly obvious homoeroticism hugely enjoyable. it’s so blatant!

-there’s a dead bat in the courtyard. it’s so tiny- a ball of fur the size of my thumb with little leathery wings. i always find it so strange, seeing dead things. like envoys from another world that barely touches mine. it’s because i’m a city kid who watches too many horror films; it gives you an unrealistic attitude towards death.

-blew twenty quid on two huge volumes of t.s eliot’s letters yesterday (‘yeah, jo, let’s go in city bookshop, whatever could go wrong?’). i’ve only flipped through so far but my god the guy had an impressive correspondence. jean cocteau, alain-fournier, virginia & leonard woolf, antoine de saint-exupéry, james joyce, alfred knopf, ford madox ford, wyndham lewis- you name ’em, they’re in there. it’s a testimony to the network of excitement that surrounded the literary community then- the sense that a huge upheaval was happening (an upheaval, remember, which paradoxically was born of disillusionment, ennui, the inadequacy of words in the face of what the world had seen). i’d love to go back & visit that time.

-just finishing the last act of a midsummer night’s dream. man, bottom is such a sweetheart. onto richard ii next- i’ve been looking forward to reading it ever since i watched the hollow crown production. which is a fucking masterpiece & probably the best onscreen shakespeare i’ve ever seen. it might be my favourite of ben whishaw’s performances- & i say that as a ben whishaw fan & someone who numbers bright star & cloud atlas amongst their favourite films. at the beginning he’s this alien gold-draped figure, sort of remote, like half of him’s looking down from a distant star- & completely disengaged with his political duties. (there’s a wonderful quote about the casting process from rupert goold: ‘i wanted someone who was poetically distant in their soul.’) & then the rest of it’s the slow unravelling of this persona- little cruelties, pettiness, kindness, despair. martyrdom & redemption & narcissism get completely mixed up, are often indistinguishable from each other. & there’s a riveting scene in the throne-room where i held my breath the whole way through.

-for the past few months i have been very slowly rewatching spn. i’m just into season six now. lucy & my other flatmates staged an intervention last time i watched an episode because i was laughing so loudly. it’s been good to come back to it- remembering why i got obsessed with this ridiculous show in the first place. i forget how good they are with character stuff sometimes- what a quality of realness, of predictable unpredictable life, is in sam & dean. & in characters like bobby & john & ellen & jo & charlie & even the ones who only last an episode, like madison. hell, even in jess, although by rights she should be an irritating stereotype- instead you really believe in her kindness, her goodness, that sam could glimpse a better world through her. i don’t know how they pull it off but they do.

-i’m two seasons behind on spn, by the way. i’ll catch up eventually. i’ve heard things about season twelve that make me want to bang my head against the wall, but i’m pretty excited to get stuck into season thirteen.

-i’m currently sitting surrounded by books, drinking coconut & honey kefir because apparently uni has made me into a giant hippie. also, despite already being in the middle of about six books here, plus two more that i left at my mother’s house (wolf hall & a new york winter’s tale, if you want to know), i started reading the dresden files earlier. they’re the kind of semi-trashy that really, really appeals to me. harry dresden is an irritating chauvinist git & i’m exasperated with myself for liking him.

-on a serious kaleo kick this week. morose icelandic rock is a Mood, frankly.

-me & the gang- meaning lucy, jo, will & jamie- are catching the train down to house-sit (read: sleepover!) at jo’s this weekend. cue studio ghibli marathons & banana bread-making. it’s gonna be a fun weekend. even if i can’t pavement-pound my Manly Inner Torment away. sigh.