Because I knew you

This week’s Discover challenge is:

Tell us a story about a piece of music that stayed with you.

I still remember the first time I became aware of the musical, Wicked, even though it was just a feature in a newspaper. It must have sounded interesting to stick with me, but apparently not interesting enough at first: when my family and I were in Toronto, we walked past the theatre every single day for one week and didn’t go. Now, that would never happen! (It probably wouldn’t matter what show it was, I would go out of interest.)

It had been out for a few years before I saw it featured on an episode of Ugly Betty. From this, I became obsessed with the song Popular and was in awe of Kristin Chenoweth. Then I started attempting to belt out Defying Gravity, and eventually I knew the entire soundtrack inside out. Stephen Schwartz is a genius.

Wonderful, performed by the Wizard, is a brilliantly clever song about how people can be remembered in completely different ways, depending on who writes the history books. (‘A man’s called a traitor or liberator; a rich man’s a thief or philanthropist.’) Thank Goodness is a bittersweet song about the realisation that getting everything you wanted might not make you happy. (‘Happy is what happens when all your dreams come true. Well, isn’t it?’) Dancing Through Life is about not taking life too seriously. (‘Dancing through life down at the Ozdust, if only because dust is what we come to.’) I think every song is fantastic, but the one that really gets to me is For Good.

As you probably know, Wicked is the story of Oz before Dorothy landed there, back when the Wicked Witch of the West and the Glinda the Good were actually best friends. For Good is the song in which they say goodbye to each other, and essentially thank each other for their friendship. I think it is the most moving song I’ve ever heard.

I have been lucky to have had lots of good friends in my life, and they’ve always been hugely important to me. As in the song, my friends have undoubtedly helped me to learn and grow, probably in ways I don’t even realise. One thing I do know is that in seeing the boldness of many of my friends, and how they are unashamedly themselves, I have become more confident myself.

However, life takes you different places, and I can’t deny that many of my friendships are different now: we’re all a bit more scattered, we have jobs and responsibilities, and no, we aren’t as close as it was easier to be in school, or even at university. There’s a very gentle drifting apart over time, until you realise you’ve gone from knowing everything about each other to catching up once every few months.

I’ve just finished reading And a Happy New Year? by Holly Bourne, the sequel to her Spinster Club series, and I cried through almost the entire second half of the novella. (Potential spoiler: These wonderful characters, who reminded me so much of my own friends, found they might be moving apart from each other, and it felt so honest.)

It’s a very bittersweet thing – as the quote (often misattributed) says, ‘How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.’ It can be very sad to realise how much has changed, but the fact that we feel we have lost something means we had something special in the first place.

‘For Good’ perfectly captures those feelings of friendship, love and loss.

So much of me is made of what I learned from you.

You’ll be with me, like a handprint on my heart.

And now whatever way our stories end,

I know you have rewritten mine by being my friend.

 

Once Upon a Time is taking over my life

Yes, I am the idiot who became addicted to a TV show that was on season five by the time I started watching it.

This is good, in that I don’t have to wait a week – or, god forbid, a year – to find out what happens from one episode, or season, to the next. However, the fact that I have made my way through four-and-a-half seasons, one hundred episodes and approximately sixty-seven hours of television in under four months means that my productivity in my free time has reduced to around zero. (Incidentally, I only just realised when counting that that was the hundredth episode – I had been thinking it was especially good, though.)

It’s not great, but it meant when I sat down today, determined to write a post, the immediate topic that sprang to mind was the things I love about Once Upon a Time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sure the writers know where the show is going (apart from season one, which had a clear direction); there is the occasional deus ex machina, and sometimes it’s like they have a hat full of the names of fairytale/Disney characters and they just pick a new one every few weeks, but I really don’t care! It’s pure escapism.

So here we go – one for the fellow fans, or my recommendation for those who don’t watch it yet.

[Minor spoilers in terms of concept and characters that will appear.]

  1. I love re-imaginings of fairy tales. I almost wrote an essay here about this – Shrek! Wicked! – but I have decided it might make a better post on its own. The basic gist was that I love the fact that the writers have taken characters we think we know inside out and put them in a different context (the ‘real world’, shock horror), as well as showing how they might link together.
  1. Emma is a brilliant main character. In so many TV shows, if someone suspected that a person was out to get them, they would organise some elaborate plan to discover what the person really thinks. In Once Upon a Time, if Emma hears that something (or someone) might threaten her or her kid, she marches right up to said person and asks what the hell’s going on.
  1. It’s full of fantastic female characters. I will steer away from the word ‘strong’ as it’s clichéd, but many of these are well-rounded, flawed characters, and they certainly are not waiting around to be saved. Turning the familiar, fairytale trope on its head, it is more often the women – Emma, Snow White, Mulan, Merida – who save the day…
  1. … constantly, because it’s just one curse after another in Storybrooke. Sometimes, characters in TV shows lose their memories. Sometimes, they lose them two, three, four times… I can’t remember… Yes, this gimmick is overused, but I find it funny rather than irritating.
  1. It has some great characters in general: Rumplestiltskin and Captain Hook to name two you’ll have heard of. Captain Hook is also very attractive, but that’s neither here nor there. Although if we were to take a moment to be superficial, the show is full of pretty people. It’s very easy to watch.
  1. Emma has been wearing the same jacket for approximately five years. Hook and Elsa are only two of the characters who appear to wear the same outfit every day. I guess after a couple of hundred years, you find the style that suits you.
  1. There are simple and complicated love stories. Despite the obstacles they had to overcome to be together, Snow White and Charming are presented as true love. Emma, on the other hand, has two main love interests, and I couldn’t choose between them.
  1. The main themes are love, hope and redemption, which are basically the best themes in a story. How love can lead to redemption, how it can lead to hope, but also how it can lead to far worse, like…
  1. Brilliant ‘villains’. And delving into their back stories provides explanation, if not justification, for how they became the way they did. Motivations! Who doesn’t love exploring motivations?!
  1. It’s not as simple as good and evil. There are grey areas, and people can change.
  1. ‘Magic always comes at a price.’ Rumplestiltskin’s favourite phrase leads to sacrifice and deals aplenty. And the idea that you don’t get something for nothing is a great lesson for everybody.
  1. The humour. It doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Captain Hook: You need a hand, love?

Emma: Is that a joke?

‘I almost married a minion of my evil grandfather, Peter Pan, so I know what you’re saying.’

Mulan: What’s it like? The other world?
Neal: Well, for starters, they think that this place is just a fairy tale. Like a legend, like we’re all just characters in a story.
Mulan: I’m in a story?
Neal: Yeah, they made a movie about you. It’s actually pretty good.
Mulan: What’s a movie?

  1. And it has lots of lovely quotes too:

‘I will always find you.’

‘People are gonna tell you who you are your whole life. You just gotta punch back and say, “No, this is who I am”. You want people to look at you differently? Make them! You want to change things, you’re gonna have to go out there and change them yourself, because there are no fairy godmothers in this world.’

(Funnily enough.)

‘And what exactly do you think fairy tales are? They are a reminder that our lives will get better if we just hold on to hope. Your happy ending may not be what you expect, but that is what will make it so special.’

*

Now, I’d better go; I still have about ten episodes left to watch.

Have a lovely Sunday!

Ten of My Favourite Literary Quotes About Love

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday at The Broke and the Bookish has come over all romantic with a Valentine’s theme, and when it comes to books and love there are so many things you could write.

However, why not leave that to the writers themselves? Here are ten of my favourite quotes on love from some brilliant books.

4996030244_11ab5d2a0b_z

Image credit: RebeccaVC1

‘I am nothing special, of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts and I’ve led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough.’

The Notebook, Nicholas Sparks

I find that often the film versions of Nicholas Sparks’ books are actually better than the novels themselves, but with this paragraph he can rest assured he has written something amazing. Love, in whatever form, is something we often take for granted; this ordinary man never forgets the fact that he found something extraordinary.

 ‘If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.’

Emma, Jane Austen

This quote always struck a chord with me – one for those who have some difficulty talking about that ‘icky love stuff’, to quote My Best Friend’s Wedding!

“Sometimes,” said Pooh, “the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”

Winnie-the-Pooh, A. A. Milne

I think this silly old bear has wise words on many topics! There are so many little moments and gestures that have more impact than even makes sense, and yet they are the things you remember. This goes for romantic love and friendship love!

‘He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking.’

– Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

One of the most epic, sweeping, romantic lines ever written?

‘I fell in love with him. But I don’t just stay with him by default as if there’s no one else available to me. I stay with him because I choose to, every day that I wake up, every day that we fight or lie to each other or disappoint each other. I choose him over and over again, and he chooses me.’

– Allegiant, Veronica Roth

I like this because it acknowledges we don’t fall in love and stay there because we can’t get out of it. Lasting love is a series of choices – is being with that person through the bad times still better than being without them?

‘When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night’

Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare

I know it is Shakespeare, so I should be saying something more profound, but this is really pretty!

‘I love you. Remember. They cannot take it.’

– Delirium, Lauren Oliver

Delirium is a young adult, dystopian trilogy, in which the government has decided that love is a disease. People are ‘cured’ of the ability to love at eighteen years old, but Lena remembers these last words her mother told her. It is a gorgeous, sad line.

‘As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.’

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green

For me, the structure of this sentence evokes the rhythm of someone reading aloud (geek), so I like it more. I also just like the metaphor.

‘All these years I thought a piece of my life was missing. But it was there all along. It was there when I sat beside you in your car and you began to drive. It was there when I sang backwards and you laughed or I made a picnic and you ate every crumb. It was there when you told me you liked my brown suit, when you opened the door for me, when you asked once if I would like to take the long road home. It came later in my garden. When I looked at the sun and saw it glow on my hands. When a rosebud appeared where there had not been one before. It was in the people who stopped and talked of this and that over the garden wall. And just when I thought my life was done, it came time and time again at the hospice. It has been everywhere, my happiness – when my mother sang for me to dance, when my father took my hand to keep me safe – but it was such a small, plain thing that I mistook it for something ordinary and failed to see. We expect our happiness to come with a sign and bells, but it doesn’t.’

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, Rachel Joyce

Apologies, Rachel Joyce, for using such a long quote, but I adore this and I didn’t want to leave any of it out. It sums up so much joy and tragedy that it makes me cry. This is a beautiful, beautiful piece of writing.

After all this time?

Always.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J. K. Rowling

What can I say? Sometimes simple is best.

*

Of course, one of my big loves is poetry, so I couldn’t not mention a few of my favourites, although because a few are still in copyright I will just link to them:

All You Who Sleep Tonight by Vikram Seth

When You Are Old, Yeats

Tonight I can write the saddest lines by Pablo Neruda. Just to be a languages student for one second, this is better in Spanish, but even in translation it is brilliant.

loveissoshort_zps155d538d

Poetry is an excellent place for love, says John Donne:

We can die by it, if not live by love,

And if unfit for tombs and hearse

Our legend be, it will be fit for verse

– The Canonization, John Donne

And finally…

this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart with me by e. e. cummings

Ten books that would be on my syllabus if I taught Humanity 101

Or, Ten Books that Make You a Better Person. Oh yes.

I seem to be able make the same books fit for every Top Ten Tuesday topic. I was trying to work out why I love them all so much when this week’s topic came up. When considering what lessons could be learned from many of my favourites, I realised this: they teach you how to be a better human. Bold claim! I tried to mix it up a little, but my very favourites are there again, as always!

harrypotterpygmy

The Harry Potter series

For teaching about love, friendship, courage and all-round goodness, there are few series better than Harry Potter.

It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J. K. Rowling, Bloomsbury, 2000, special edition 2015

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

A man meets five people whose lives were linked in a significant way with his own – even if he didn’t know it. I like to think this would make us consider our actions and their consequences a little more.

No story sits by itself, Sometimes stories meet at corners and sometimes they cover one another completely, like stones beneath a river.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom, 2004

haroldglasses

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Harold Fry is an ‘ordinary’ man who does something extraordinary.

He had learned that it was the smallness of people that filled him with wonder and tenderness, and the loneliness of that too. The world was made up of people putting one foot in front of the other; and a life might appear ordinary simply because the person living it had been doing it for a long time. Harold could no longer pass a stranger without acknowledging the truth that everyone was the same, and also unique; and that this was the dilemma of being human.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce, Doubleday, 2012

Harold makes an epic journey to repay a debt, meeting lots of characters with their own struggles along the way. It makes you think more about those around you – people who are bit parts in your life, but the protagonist of their own. Everyone has their own issues, and if we remember that, it helps us to be kinder.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Some people have very set views on certain issues without knowing very much about them. I don’t want to spoil this book for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, but I am sure this is one that has made plenty of people consider and understand the opposite point of view. We can always use a little more understanding in the world!

Do you know how hard it is to say nothing? When every atom of you strains to do the opposite?

Me Before You, Jojo Moyes, 2012

thehumans

The Humans by Matt Haig

Playing on both meanings of humanity here, but sometimes it takes the perspective of an alien to appreciate all the wonderful things about being human. And there’s a whole chapter full of good advice as well.

Kindness is always courage. But caring is what makes you human. Care more, become more human.

The Humans, Matt Haig, Canongate, 2012

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Yes, this is YA, and yes, there will be people who might be disparaging of this choice, but that’s why this is my syllabus! Our protagonist, Sam, has high school made: she’s popular, with popular friends and a hot boyfriend – until she dies at 17 years old. Then she is forced to relive her last day over and over, learning several lessons along the way. This is a novel about what seems important versus what is – and making the most of the time we have.

Maybe you can afford to wait. Maybe for you there’s a tomorrow. Maybe for you there’s one thousand tomorrows, or three thousand, or ten, so much time you can bathe in it, roll around it, let it slide like coins through you fingers. So much time you can waste it.
But for some of us there’s only today. And the truth is, you never really know.

Before I Fall, Lauren Oliver, 2010

handmaidstale

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

I don’t think it is possible to read these books and be unaffected by them.

I used to comfort myself with the belief that it was only certain individuals and their peculiar notions that spoilt things for the rest of us. But how many individuals does it take before it’s not the individuals who are prejudiced but society itself?

Noughts and Crosses, Malorie Blackman, 2001

Dealing with different types of inequality, these two novels paint very bleak worlds. I hope they would make us more ready to speak out against it.

Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood, Vintage edition

Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Children’s books that have meaning for adults have to be one of the best types of literature there is, and The Little Prince is a perfect example.

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

Le Petit Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1945

The Little Prince visits lots of different planets, meeting various characters along the way, before bringing his wisdom to Earth.

Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne

And in a similar vein, let’s finish with a not-so-silly old bear. Winnie the Pooh reminds us to appreciate the little things, whether it’s the excitement of what’s for breakfast or simply a new day.

“What day is it?”
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favourite day,” said Pooh.

Winnie-the-Pooh, A. A. Milne, 1926

Ten Inspiring Quotes from Books

Hello! No, I’ve not fallen off the face of the earth. I’ve been a little quiet, not because I haven’t had anything to write about, but because my head is a complete mess!

Since I can’t write anything decent at the moment, this post will be full of amazing writing from other people. I am responding to Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. This week is a free choice of topic, which is very convenient, because I started writing this before and never posted it. So, without any further ado, here are my…

Top Ten Inspiring Quotes from Books

(A little further ado: part of the reason this took so long is that I love books and beautiful writing, so I had a document full of quotes to whittle down and it was too difficult. Here are ten that are inspiring in the way that they just make me want to burst – with joy, into life, into tears, sometimes all of the above. I have excluded poetry, or it would be impossible.)

Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J. K. Rowling, Bloomsbury

When I read this, almost at the end of the final book of the most incredible series, I just thought, ‘J. K., you genius.’ And started crying.

 ‘Live each day as if it’s your last’, that was the conventional advice, but really, who had the energy for that? What if it rained or you felt a bit glandy? It just wasn’t practical. Better by far to be good and courageous and bold and to make difference. Not change the world exactly, but the bit around you. Go out there with your passion and your electric typewriter and work hard at… something. Change lives through art maybe. Cherish your friends, stay true to your principles, live passionately and fully and well. Experience new things. Love and be loved, if you ever get the chance.

One Day, David Nicholls, Hodder & Stoughton

I thought this was brilliant because I have the same issues with the quotation ‘Live every day as if it were your last’. That’s terrible advice! This is a much better way of expressing the sentiment. If a little less concise…

Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best!
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest!

Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.

Oh, the Places You’ll Go, Dr. Seuss, HarperCollins Children’s Books

And every single other word of this book. I first read it aged 24, and it was like a bolt of lightning. This is my life! He is one of the great children’s authors that is also speaking to adults – this one works for students in particular. It takes the things we tell children, and then tells the truth, yet it’s ultimately entirely uplifting.

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”

“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”

“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.

Winnie-the-Pooh, A. A. Milne

Appreciate the little things! I could have written a Top Ten list just made of quotes from Winnie the Pooh. For a ‘silly old bear’, he is very wise.

The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – that you’d thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you’ve never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it’s as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.

The History Boys, Alan Bennett, Faber & Faber

And this is one of these moments.

I miss her all the time. I know in my head that she has gone. The only difference is that I am getting used to the pain. It’s like discovering a great hole in the ground. To begin with, you forget it’s there and keep falling in. After a while, it’s still there, but you learn to walk round it.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce, Doubleday

This was so true that I have never forgotten the image. This book is very sad, but it is about recovery and redemption as much as struggling and suffering.

It’s no use going back to yesterday because I was a different person then.

Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

I just love this.

Your life will have approximately 30,000 days in it. Make sure you remember some of them.

The Humans, Matt Haig, Canongate

Reading this was like being hit with a hammer. Life really is short – you might have this number of days, this specific number, if you’re lucky. They are countable, they are finite, but you don’t know how many you’ll get. Make them memorable. I would quote the entire chapter ‘Advice to a Human’ if I could, but instead you should just read it.

I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green, Penguin

Well. That’s a bit romantic, isn’t it?

I am nothing special, of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts and I’ve led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough.

The Notebook, Nicholas Sparks, Sphere

This quotation is a celebration of the extraordinary in the seemingly ordinary. It is beautiful!

*

Well, it was a difficult choice, but what do you think? What are your favourites quotes from books?