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Technical difficulties stink.

Though, I could certainly be in worse straights, unlike my friend Shah Wharton.  Her blog-migration issues are being well documented here on her old blog: Words in Sync.  Let’s hope she  soon has her place here in WordPress-land.

And for me, I’ll just be happy to grumble a second and apologize for delaying your Book Review Monday

Today I had a review of four Torchwood books scheduled.   However I couldn’t get the books in time: my local bookstore claimed they could not order them, and I had lost half a week before finding that out.   I am delaying that post until next week.

Sorry.  I know how hard it can be to wait for Captain Jack (although Ianto is actually my favorite of the group–don’t get me started on how sad I was to see he died in Children of Earth, even if it was a really cool mini-series).

So, here are some Torchwood Season 1 Bloopers to giggle at: on Youtube (will open in a new window); oh, and here’s some Season 2 Outtakes as well.

Hope those tide you over.  Me?  I think I’ll be rewatching Season 1 on DVD until my books come.

Have a great week, and I hope to see you next Monday.

Trying to resume a regular pattern for this page, I have one of my “semi-regular” features for the day: Book Review Monday, which as you my remember, alternates weeks with Your Inspirations, a feature that highlights those creative sparks that “work” for people in the world.

Before I give my opinion piece on Diane Ackerman‘s One Hundred Names For Love, please allow me to introduce a little “house discussion” here. Read the rest of this entry »

Continuing on a regular feature here at the Garden of Delights, welcome to Book Review Monday which alternates with Your Inspirations twice a month.  Last time Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War was the feature piece.  Today, let’s enjoy something a bit lighter.

Knees Up, Mother Earth by Robert Rankin

Knees Up Mother Earth

If you’re like me, living across The Pond, you may have heard news stories about European “football” (rugby) teams and how violent and reactionary their fans can get.  And if you’re like me (or even if you actually enjoy sports), you have to wonder what all the fuss is about.

I mean, it isn’t as if seeing your favorite team lose a game once in a while is the end of the world!

Or is it?

Enter the Brentford United FA (Football Association) whose members have been contracted to win every single game of their season and achieve the coveted FA Cup, lest their football field be sold off to a land developer.  Since the team’s plummeting streak has held solid since the 1920’s, there seems to be little chance of saving their beloved club.   But the stakes end up being far more dire.  And even as the team acquires a new captain empowered to propel them to victory, member begin falling by the wayside, only to be replaced with members of a traveling circus.  Still, Brentford United must win, because the alternative is the end of the world.

Knees Up, Mother Earth came to my home by accident almost two years ago.  And once I realized what I’d bought, Borders refused returns on anything because they were closing all their brick & motor stores.  So I shoved it into a pile of ‘not dealing with this now’ books and magazines that monopolize the little bookshelf in our bedroom.  And there it sat, gathering dust while I worked through other books in my list.  Finally this January, I picked it up for my (failed) attempt at the Fifty/Fifty/Me challenge (I still haven’t watched another movie since V for Vendetta).  Oh, and yes, I’ve sat on writing this review for nearly two months now.

So let me first say that my initial reaction to this book was just above ‘negative’.  I’d perhaps heard Rankin’s name somewhere on a random webpage or in conversation somewhere, but it had meant nothing.  And the cover art, as you can see (although my copy has a different cover), didn’t give a real sense of its fantasy genre.  Indeed,  neither the blurb on the back nor the Wikipedia  description of the storyline nor even most of the characters recommended this book to me.  It was about sports (rugby no less, which I only know a pittance about) and hanging out in taverns, boozing…  Heck, the heroes are the town drunks!

I had trouble putting the book down.  I think I could have married Old Pete, wonderful curmudgeon that he was.

Oh, there were lulls,  and it wasn’t really a matter of the super suspenseful  story arc that held me….  Knees Up made me laugh.  I’m sure I missed over a hundred of the little side jokes Rankin included simply because I wasn’t familiar with his “world”, but that didn’t matter.  It is hilarious.  The writing was wonderful too.  Through Rankin’s writing, each character, each place in the story came alive and breathed with believability.  The details not only popped, but were beautifully written (Rankin KNOWS his stuff with words).  As frustrated as the characters made me with their total …humanity!  I couldn’t “hate them”; in fact, I began rooting for them right from the beginning.  I even cried a bit when The Campbell died (though he wanted to, so I must respect that).

The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse

I would happily read another book by Robert Rankin–particularly  when it’s noted that most do not consider Knees Up, Mother Earth to be one of his best works.  Perhaps next time, I’ll pick up a copy of  The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse.  Seems fitting for just after Easter.

And just as a side note: Rankin based his book (and according to the Wiki most of his others) in  Brentford, UK (and on their very real football team, the Brentford F.C.)  Looking over online details make Brentford out as a very interesting place too, though nowhere as intimate as Rankin makes it in his book.  I do get the phenomena from my brief time in the UK.  There is a very different feel to towns in the UK to town in the US., and I don’t mean this in criticism to either place.  But I remember sensing much more intimacy and awareness of community in most places in the UK, even larger “towns” which could be easily compared to small cities in the U.S..  (my closest example would be obviously Solihul since that’s where we stayed during our time in England.  Located just south eat of Birmingham, Solihul would easily be comparable to a small city size and population-wise here, but it felt more like a hamlet than anything more.)

Oh, and one other last note…  I have to add a “Thank you” here to Mr. Rankin, for had I not read his book and inspired to look up what inspired him, I would never have found out about the Syon Abbey Monastery.  Now little more than a ruin that is being slowly excavated, it was once the largest monastery in England.  I eventually must return to England just so I can visit Brentford.   I love this sort of thing.

And yes, I would recommend this book to a friend.

With many apologies to our guest, Janet Parfitt, for being a week late with posting this piece, I wish to offer her a warm welcome to the Garden of Delights as she shares one of her writing inspirations with us.  I especially enjoy reading things that Janet posts, because (barring becoming a rock star), we share so many common interests.  It always fascinates me to see the differences that occur even among common threads.

So, without further ado, please welcome, Janet Parfitt:

Cover of "On Writing:  A Memoir of the Cr...

         You only have to look in your local bookshop or go to Amazon to see that there are thousands, if not millions, of books about creative writing.  An amazing amount of people have written on the subject with a lot of conflicting advice.  There are those who tell you basically to just sit down and start writing and then there are those who say you should plan out every scene, character, setting and plot twist before you start.

You might wonder who all these people are and what makes them qualified to give you advice on writing.  But there is one guy who I don’t think anyone in their right mind would question because he is the best-selling writer in the entire universe and his name is Steven King.

King’s book entitled “On Writing” is the best book ever written about the process of creative writing.  I mean, what he doesn’t know can’t be worth knowing, right?  And, as you would expect, it’s very well written; part biography and part writing manual, it’s all good.  My favourite bit is the first sentence of the second foreword which goes “This is a short book because most books about writing are filled with bullshit.[1]”  You got to love the man for writing that!

He goes on to say that “If you want to be a writer, then you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.  There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.[2]”  This is not a book padded out with lists or the same writing tips given out over and over, just phrased slightly differently.  And it doesn’t have that school-marm slightly superior tone that says ‘I know better than you do.’  What he does is tell it to you straight; here’s another excerpt to show you what I mean.  “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends.  In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.[3]

Thank you Steven!


[1] Steven King – On Writing.  P. xiii.  Hodder and Stoughton, 2000.

[2] Steven King – On Writing.  P. 164.  Hodder and Stoughton, 2000.

[3] Steven King – On Writing.  P. 326.  Hodder and Stoughton, 2000.

On Writing

Now in her late 40’s, Janet Parfitt has filled her creative reservoirs with the labors of many crafts.  Diverse jobs such as filing clerk in a tax office, chamber maid in a hotel, vending machine maintenance in the (now closed) Kodak factory in Harrow and Wealdstone (UK) and sous chef in a restaurant supplemented her reading to inspire stories, poems, songs and dreams of becoming a rock star.  Led Zeppelin, animal welfare, words of beauty, the mysteries of the occult stir her passions almost as much as her family and lovely husband.  Raised in North London, she has a degree in history.  She runs a writing related magazine Writing With Fire, a blog Mrs. Bongle, and can be found on Twitter at @MrsBongle.  She is a practising witch.  

Bosna - modlitba

Last week, if you checked in here you found a lovely piece by my guest blogger, Elaine Stock.  As I noted “Your Inspirations” will run twice a month (1st and 3rd Mondays) and will feature thoughts and inspirations from guests around the web and beyond. I hope you will join me on March 19th for a visit from Mrs. Bongle, whose post about tea and writing inspire me to use language more effectively and gracefully.

Today’s feature revolves around a different style of inspiration.  Books!  Or in this case, book reviews….  As part of my trying to offer a semi-consistent schedule here at the Garden of Delights and to track the progress of my Bookmarks Challenge, I will be alternating book reviews with Your Inspirations (2nd and 4th Mondays).

And for the first installment:
Love Thy Neighbor A personal account of Peter Maass’s experiences as a war correspondent in the Balkans during early 1990s

It’s a catchy title Love They Neighbor: A Story of War, and Maass uses it well, more as admonishment than anything else.  Any story that highlights the tragedy of war and the politics that perpetuate such suffering can quickly fade into what Maass himself refers to as “warporn”, and occasionally a section of the novel pushes that barrier between informative and expressively pornographic.   More so at the beginning of the book where Maass is himself reliving the intensity of the things he saw in Bosnia and the causes of his determination to become a journalist there.  But most often, we are drawn into the human experience that made this conflict.  We see the victims as people with dreams and aspirations as real as our own.

And through Maass’s careful commentary, we see the aggressors in the same compassionate light.

At times Love Thy Neighbor almost pains the readers as much as it informs.  The grief seems so inevitable when read in the beginning of the book, but Maass toys with his readers delicately, introducing historical instances of violence in the Balkans, stories of the extreme cruelty that has erupted in the region over the past 400 years.  Yet,  in the same pages, he speaks of the many years of peace and of the multicultural paradise that had once been Yugoslavia, an in particular the city of Sarajevo.

As a reader I could not question his words from experience here.  My one chance to go travel behind the Iron Curtain before it fell was foolishly squandered in chasing boys and avoiding schoolwork.  As rebellion was slowly fomenting in the East, it was being enacted with even less focus or sense on my own life.  But unlike the chaos that was about to rip apart the lives of hundreds of thousands, mine could be contained through introspection and patience.

Not so for the people of Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia.  Not in 1992…

English: An exhumed mass grave in Potocari, Bo...I confess I do not like (or agree) with all the political observations that Maass makes in his book.  Granted, we both have very skewed perceptions of the conflict and the external circumstances.  And even more important for the reader, I am neither a historian nor a political scientist (positions  that would allow me to make an educated opinion on why people can be convinced to kill a friend, a neighbor, even a complete stranger just by the manipulation of others).

But my distance has some virtue as well.  I also was not as directly affected by the pain and suffering of good people and friends.  Unlike Maass, I cannot make accusations of insensitivity based on political hopes being squandered because the President didn’t stop Serbia from invading and destroying the “safe zones” of Bosnia.  Maass  blamed Clinton, but he didn’t blame Bush Sr. equally for not seeing the stirrings of excessive nationalism being allowed free rein.  He blamed the Labour Party in England, the French, the appeasers as he calls them…

He’s right…  at least as someone who experienced so much of the diplomatic “we’re a peaceful people” stabs from various figures in Serbia and even Croatia can be.   Maass daily saw the homes of doctors and architects, of farmers and school teachers being destroyed;  he witnessed interment camps where Bosnian Muslims were turned from human beings into skeletons…

Maass, for a few years, lived where Bosnian Muslims were made aware they were Muslims and not Bosnians. …  Where the seeds of the present day Sharia law in the Balkans, and the increased strife in the world between Muslims and Christians and Jews may not have been sown, but were certainly fertilized on the blood of the innocent and peacefully integrated.  Maass saw that pain, and he knew too many of those people as people.  He could not afford to be unbiased.

And sadly, I can.

It’s interesting to note that just after I finished the book, I watched a few Castle episodes this weekend and had similar thoughts to Maass’s closing chapter on how quickly Yugoslavia fell from peace into hell on earth.  Even if you don’t like the show, the (two-part) episodes “Pandora” and “Linchpin” are worth watching…  For those of you who say “It would never happen here”.  Watch it.

And, while it is not a work of “Great Literature” and it is clear that the author has forfeited his journalistic neutrality with joyous delight, Love Thy Neighbor was a wonderful book.  There is enough eloquence and despair and love, to stir the coldest hearts.  But read it with both open eyes and an open heart.

First off, let me say a very warm welcome to everyone who chose to click that little “Follow” button–old friends and new:  Evan at The Better Man Project, Coral Russel at the Alchemy of Scrawl, Elizabeth Anne Mitchell at Leavekeeping, Shan Jeniah Burton,  Janeen at Words By Design, Natasha Guadalupe at My Novel Writing Adventures & Other Words, Miss Elsie at bowerdiaries, and Studio Brow.  Thank you!

Today I’m mostly in the mood to talk about books.   I just started one you see–Knees Up, Mother Earth by Robert Rankin.  I’m not sure why…I think it was because it was the only thing on my immediate shelves that called itself fiction, at least without me having to get out the key for my paperback collection.  (I use and old VHS tape cabinet for most of my paperbacks; CDs go in the doors; it’s an odd system, but it works for me).  I don’t have a lot of fiction anymore.  When we moved to our present house, I weeded down my book collection to my few favorites and the books I assumed I would need for research.  I thought I would use the local library more than I have.  I used University of Albany‘s library and the Albany Public Library regularly when I lived there.  It didn’t work out, and that’s a long story in itself.  Suffice it to say, I understand the passion books can incite in one, but a librarian should be more welcoming of the idea that people may want to actually taken them off your shelves and look at them; and the library should be open more hours than two days a week for three hours in the afternoon (that actually has changed in the ten years we’ve been here, but habits have become what they are, and I tend to get my books from other places now). Read the rest of this entry »

What makes someone an underachiever?

It’s not as simple as throwing a few descriptive terms into the pot and stirring; I know that much. In this recipe everyone has his or her own specialty, a seasoning blend that stands out, marking one as a true “master of the craft”.

Problem is…it gives everyone who tries it indigestion.

This is the first in what may be a series of posts on paths: the ones we choose and the ones we end up on despite all our intentions.  Nothing here is meant as a criticism to those who were involved in deciding my own path and/or helped direct me to where I am now.  If anything, it’s a living testimony that the things that often seem so very terrible when they occur are the exact things we need. Read the rest of this entry »


First Friday Photo

Something to inspire

Im Gegenlicht

All the Colorful Stories

Mount Kidd twilight

More Photos

obligatory “What I Allow”

Short Stuff

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