Greek Mythology: Narcissus

Here we go again, with another analysis of someone in Greek Mythology. This time I am going to be talking about Narcissus, son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liliope. I have recently become more interested in psychology, which led me to explore the connection between Narcissus and the narcissism. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a narcissist is someone with ‘too much interest in and admiration for [their] own physical appearance and abilities. They are usually someone lacking in empathy and are ready to exploit others for their gain. By exploring the myth, I hope to gain and provide a clear understanding of who Narcissus was and how he relates to modern-day narcissism now.

The Myth of Narcissus

In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a hunter from Thespiae and was most known for his beauty. Narcissus was proud, and his disdain for those who loved him caused some problems. It was written that some had taken their own lives, to prove their devotion to his striking beauty. There are indeed multiple versions of his myth, But I will be talking about the classic version as featured in Ovid’s book 3 of his Metamorphoses. This is the story of Echo and Narcissus. It’s quite a sad story, though I wouldn’t rank it in the top 10 most heartbreaking Greek mythologies.

Narcissus was taking a walk in the woods, when Echo, an Oread (a mountain nymph) saw him and fell deeply in love with him. She then proceeded to follow him, and Narcissus noticed he was being followed and shouted ‘Who’s there?’. Echo, being an ‘echo’ repeated ‘Who’s there’. I find this quite amusing because had it been probably anyone else, they would have been able to answer the question without the echo. Echo eventually revealed her identity and attempted to embrace him. He stepped away and told her to leave him alone. She became heartbroken and spent the rest of her life in lonely glens until nothing but an echo remained of her. This myth sounds eerily similar to some of my friend’s tales of woes at university about unrequited love. Apart from the last part about becoming an echo for all eternity. To continue though, Nemesis (as an aspect of Aphrodite), the goddess of revenge, noticed this behaviour and decided to punish Narcissus. This myth seems to be full of recognisable modern-day English words; nemesis, echo etc. Nemesis decided to punish Narcissus by, one time during summer after he was getting thirsty, luring him to a pool where he leaned over the water and saw his reflection. He proceeded to fall deeply in love… with his reflection. However, each time he bent down to kiss his reflection, it seemed to disappear. Narcissu grew ever more thirsty, but would not leave the pool for fear of losing sight of his reflection. In the end, he died of thirst, and in his place grew the narcissus flower. There are other endings to the mythology, in which Narcissus commits suicide at being unable to attain his true love.

The Interpretation

One of the suggestions you can take from this myth is to be wary of vanity and self-love. There is a danger with social media nowadays to appear overly confident. I am not saying that it is wronge to be confident, but humility goes a long way too. Sometimes we humans tend to get very caught up in our own little worlds, and in convincing ourselves of our worth in this world we go too far the wrong way. It can be argued in this myth that Echo had not enough ego, where Narcissus had far too much. It’s about finding the perfect balance. And if you do find yourself in contact with someone who you think loves themselves a little (I mean a lot) too much, then my advice is to stay away. Narcissists will never have a good impact on your life. Echo would have been better off had she stayed away.
Until next time,

January TBR

I’m starting this a little late in the month as I took a bit of a break over December and didn’t want my last posts to be only my TBR list. But this post needs no big introduction, so without further ado here is my list of books I will be reading in January:

  1. The Gift by Vladimir Nabokov
  2. The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope
  3. Candide, or Optimism by Voltaire
  4. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

I’m hoping that I will get these books finished this month, but as most of them are on the heftier side I think I might end up spilling over with this list until February. Let me know what books are on your TBR list this month!

Until next time,


Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

As you can see from the title, this post is going to be a book review of Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. This was one of the books on my December TBR, and I have to say that I have mixed reviews about it. For anyone that hasn’t read the book, this review will contain some slight spoilers. They aren’t big spoilers that will ruin the enjoyment of the book if you find them out, but spoilers none the less. I would also warn that this book is about a paedophile who falls in love with a 12-year-old, so if this is something you’re not comfortable reading then I would click off this review.

As a lover of Russian authors, I find it very interesting that there is a difference in writing between those authors born and raised in Russia, and those Russian but spent large parts of their life in different countries. For example, Nabokov was born and spent his youth in Saint Petersburg, but then after the First World War, his family emigrated to Western Europe. He was enrolled in Trinity College, Cambridge and was trilingual from a young age (English, French and Russian). After spending some time in Berlin, Nabokov and his family fled from the German rule in 1940 to the United States. Nabokov, like all of us, is inherently a product of his surroundings. To me, Nabokov’s work has a different feeling than say that of Tolstoy’s. This is something I might explore in a later blog post, but I was curious if anyone else had the same feelings.

Lolita is a book written in the first person from the protagonist Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged teacher who has a fetish for young girls. His main conquest is a 12-year-old girl, Dolores Haze, with whom he falls in love and ends up engaging in a sexual relationship. His nickname for her, Lolita, is (obviously) the title of the book. In the early stages of the book, Humbert is wary of pursuing her for fear of being found out by Lolita’s mother from who he is renting a room. The mother eventually falls in love with Humbert, unknowing to his fetish. In her world, I think she cannot imagine that she would welcome into her own home, much less fall in love with, someone who was fantasising about her young daughter. After some events occur which enables Humbert to essentially have unfiltered access to Lolita, the novel progresses into following their life together over many years. The ending itself is not unexpected as the reader can guess that it goes one of two ways, either Lolita grows of age and continues in her affections for Humbert, or the pair parted ways permanently. There is one slight unexpected scene in the book, but I am not going to spoil that for you.

I had some trepidations when reading this book. Although it’s a renowned classic that I have heard mentioned by countless people, the actual theme of the book is something to be wary of. I didn’t know how comfortable I would feel reading about the sexual advances of a grown male onto a child. The book was written in 1955, but I can’t imagine that the sentiments towards paedophilia would be that different from what they are now. Apparently, from the late 1950s to the early 1990s, several paedophile membership organisations were advocating for the age of consent laws to be lowered or abolished, as well as for the legalisation of child pornography. They also wanted paedophilia to be considered as a sexual orientation rather than a psychological disorder. Thankfully this was met by the majority with disdain and these groups now mainly cease to exist. This does lead to my bigger query though of whether there should be some topics that are taboo to write about, or whether that inherently defies the freedom of speech that people are so keen to mention nowadays. Having taboo topics leads to problems like who makes the rules and decides what subject is taboo or not? Would a book like Lolita even be picked up to be published by mainstream Publishing houses? One disturbing thing I did come across was that the Guardian had written a review of this book and included it in its Children Books section. Unfortunately, the Guardian doesn’t have a comment section and so I was unable to see if anyone else found this as strange as I did.

Overall, if you’re not faint-hearted and like Russian literature then it’s possible to enjoy this book on its linguistic merits and writing style rather than on the actual subject.

Until next time,

December TBR

Though not a new series in its entirety, this space is going to be a place where I put all the books that I am planning to read in the month ahead. I think it would be so interesting for me personally to look back in a couple of years time and to see what sort of things I read and when. I also love reading other people’s TBR’s because I find it gives me ideas on what to add to mine. So without further-ado, here is my December TBR list.

  1. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  2. Heroes by Stephen Fry
  3. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  4. Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan
  5. The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance by Paul Strathern

Until next time,



As someone who likes to keep things organised and in a rhythm, this post is dedicated to the start of another series on this blog. Like my Greek Mythology series this is just an introduction, so people can read where the series is heading etc. I found this brilliant series idea on ‘The Literary Edit’ and thought that I would give it a try. Originally, my idea was to just do one post entitled ‘Three Books to take on a Desert Island’ which was inspired by a recent questionnaire I had to fill out for some work experience. The answer stumped me for a couple of days, as I was taking the question quite literally. 

I thought about which books I would take with me if I were to be stranded on a desert island, alone and for the rest of my life. Personally, I had to think in terms of which books could I read again and again a good 50 years without wanting to gauge my eyes out. My conclusion: The Bible, The Norton Anthology of Poetry and Charlotte Bronte’s Villette. I thought that this gave me a good balance of spiritual, romance and diverse reading. I might do a post later delving further into why reasoning for picking these books if anyone is interested. 

However, this series will take the answer to the question less literally. I will be talking about books that I wouldn’t mind rereading for the next 10 odd years. I don’t know if that’s cheating, but I figured it’s my blog so I can bend the rules a bit. Throughout the series would love to hear anyone else’s desert island books. 

Until next time, 


Greek Mythology: Zeus

To understand a lot of characters in Greek mythology I should probably start by talking about the most powerful Greek god, Zeus. He was the god of the sky, lightning, thunder and justice. His father Cronus (the god of time) and his mother Rhea (the goddess of fertility, motherhood and generation) did not give him the earliest upbringing. His father, Cronus, swallowed his children as soon as they were born because he had heard a prophecy that foretold that one of them would overthrow him. Rhea eventually grew so desperate to have a child that when Zeus was born she hid in a cave in Crete, and gave Cronus a stone wrapped in swaddling instead. Zeus was then taken away and raised by a goat Amalthea. 

Once Zeus grew up, he and Rhea devised a plan by which to avenge the 5 swallowed children. Rhea fed Cronus a potion that made him regurgitate the children, and once he had, to then fall into a deep sleep. Zeus had planned to kill Cronus, but when he tried to pick up the scythe to sever his head, he couldn’t move it. That’s because Gaia, the mother of the earth, had made it for Cronus and Cronus alone to be able to use. The other 5 children of Cronus and Rhea (Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades and Poseidon) emerging as full-grown adults along with Zeus turned into eagles and fled away from Mount Othrys. The Greeks had a bad habit of killing each other, and so this story of Zeus’ beginning is not surprising. 

Zeus was the father of all men and the king of Olympian Gods. He was basically the big cheese of the Greek gods. Zeus was also the god of hospitality and fair treatment of guests. Whenever a stranger was treated badly, they would call on Zeus who would then set things straight. Zeus loved getting involved in anyone’s business honestly. Finally, Zeus was the god of oath keeping. If someone broke a vow, lied or traded dishonestly, they could expect a visit from Zeus. And the only way to get back in his good graces after that was to dedicate a statue to him in a sanctuary. It also explains why there are so many statues of Zeus that have survived, probably because there were more statues of him than anyone else. One thing that is interesting about Greek gods, in general, is that they had the strangest etiquettes and morals. For example, the Erinyes, also known as the Furies, were female chthonic deities of vengeance, that could be called on anyone who broke an oath. That could be something as simple as trying to murder someone that you had extended your hospitality to (The story of Bellerophon). 

Now, because Zeus is such an important figure there is too much to talk about in just one blog post. But what I have to mention is Zeus and his, how can I put it, uncontrollable libido? Zeus was a bit of a ladies man, and he ended up fathering A LOT of children. Zeus would pursue all women he found attractive, and because he was such an important figure there wasn’t anything anyone could do about it. If he wanted to have his way with you, then he would. He also loved a challenge. For example in one myth, a woman named Danae had been locked into a bronze prison to stop her from being able to have children. Zeus, not deterred by mere bars, turned himself into golden rain, made his way into the chamber, and impregnated her. She gave birth to Perseus, the guy who in my earlier blog post, would end up killing Medusa. In future blog posts, I will most definitely be talking about some of the other children whom Zeus was the proud father of. 

For me, when reading Greek mythology it is also important to consider their Roman equivalents. Zeus, in Roman mythology, is named Jupiter. Jupiter was the chief deity of Roman state religion throughout the Republican and Imperial eras before Christianity became the dominant religion. Also, except for Earth and Uranus, all the planets are named after Roman gods. Jupiter was the King of the Roman Gods, so it makes sense that the largest planet in the solar system is named after him. This is just an interesting fact I thought I would include. 

For anyone interested in Greek mythology, Stephen Fry has released two books one named Mythos, and one named Heroes that are a very enjoyable read. It’s especially nice having such a wide variety of mythologies in one place, you can expand your knowledge without having to spend hours looking at different sites!

Until next time, 


Image source:

A Tin Drum by Gunter Grass

Earlier this month I was looking around in Waterstones for a new book to take with me on holiday. Just by chance, I picked up this book, and thought it would be a good opportunity to expand my horizons in foreign literature. And honestly, I’m not sure I would have written a review on it had I not seen the film this week.  If you have not seen the film then I’m not sure whether I would recommend it or not. If you’re into weird films, with characters that act outrageously peculiar then this is the film for you. If not, then I suggest you give the film a miss. 

But let us start first by reviewing the book. It is interesting to say the least. The writing itself is simple, you aren’t hit with long sentences, or a confusing narrative. As for the main character, he’s like Marmite, you either love or you hate him. Oskar is born in Danzig, the sometimes German but mainly Polish town. His life takes place before, during and after WW2. To the clueless adults around him he is born with the cognitive faculties of an adult, though most people around think he is stupid. At the age of three he decides to stop growing. He chooses the life of being a dwarf in order to avoid working in his family’s grocery store. He does this by throwing himself down the stairs into the cellar to effectively stunt his growth. On his third birthday Oskar is given a tin drum, which he centres his whole being around completely. He lets out a glass shattering scream if anyone tries to take it from him. Apparently the tin drum is meant to be symbolic for the marching of the German armies, but I’ll be honest that I just found his incessant need to drum a bit bratty. 

Photo by Sylvie Tittel on Unsplash

The basic premise of the book is that Oskar is wiser than his years, and makes no secret of it. His character is arrogant in claiming to know better than anyone else. Throughout the book he commits multiple crimes, including many murders (direct and indirect), vandalism, theft etc. He’s vain, selfish, malicious, cruel and a compulsive liar. I would not want to get on the wrong side of him basically. The only thing I do like about characters like this is that you are obviously meant to dislike them. Grass doesn’t portray Oskar in a way that makes you feel sorry that he is a dwarf. And if I thought the character of Oskar was dislikeable in the book, well then I was not ready for the film. 

The child actor who plays Oskar is the creepiest little person I’ve ever seen. I’m even wondering whether he’s a fantastic actor, or is he really just that creepy in real life. It somehow made the book even more terrifying, when I had the image of this little guy in my head. The film was widely praised, and even won an Academy Award for best foreign film. It was seen to be taking a stand against war and nationalism, and in favour of the innocence of childhood. Having watched the film, some of the themes of the book become easier to visualise and understand. 

Overall, the book is well worth a read if you’re looking to widen your foreign literature reading like I was. If you have a wider knowledge around Germany/Poland in WW2 then it will help you enjoy the book far more. The Guardian wrote a review of the book naming it the ‘defining novel of the 20th century’. I don’t know if it is because I was born in 1996, and never fully experienced the 20th century but I cannot say that I agree with the above statement. It’s a good book for sure, but when comparing it to books written by George Orwell in this time period. Let me know if you find the film as weird as I did!

Until next time, 


The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

I am going to be reviewing the most highly anticipated and talked about book probably of the whole year: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood. More specifically, I am going to be discussing the issue in the modern Western world of the decline of childbirth, and relating this what Atwood’s book. 

Having loved the dystopian novel ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ written 34 years earlier, I like everyone else, had very high expectations of this book. But to me the novel felt entirely unnecessary as a sequel. Though it was undeniably a page turner, it followed an entirely different story line to its prequel. Probably like many others I was hoping for the storyline to follow along the story of the Handmaids or even the Marthas. But instead the story follows the life of ‘Baby Nicole’, and all those involved in bringing about the end of Gilead. The Handmaid’s Tale had dealt with themes of women in subjugation in a patriarchal society, and the ways in which they attempted to gain independence. The Testaments at a stretch can be seen to tackling these issues. The book includes female teamwork to overcome the predicament they are in, but they also portrayed consistently throughout the book in a quite negative light. The ending is predictable, and the characters (except for maybe Aunt Lydia) are nothing notable. The character development was also slightly all over the place, and for me there was too much jumping between the narrators.

Image result for the handmaids tale protest

One of the themes prevalent in both books is how the decline of fertility rates can impact on society. The current rate for children per families has now fallen between 2 for almost all Western countries except Iceland and Albania. The current UK rate is 1.7 which is similar to most European countries. Unlike the women in Gilead, women nowadays are less keen to have children either because of career aspirations or the impact of the growing population on climate change. The people of Gilead go to extreme measures to deal with the problems of infertility and the decline in population. For modern day women the right to choose whether or not she wants to have a child is fantastic. But there might be consequences of such choices. 

One of the questions asked in The Handmaid’s Tale is whether the needs of society should be allowed to become more important than the rights of the individual. The Gileadean society population size was declining, and acting under the idea of Utilitarianism; acting in the interests of the greatest amount of people. This question is highly interesting, and Atwood could have developed it further in the sequel.  

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash

The Testaments was joint in winning the Man Booker Prize, and was brought publicity with women wearing a Handmaid’s outfit (as seen in the television programme) in a protest for pro choice in abortion. Interestingly however, the reviews of the book have been somewhat average. There are some that even argue that Atwood was using the popularity of the TV series to make a cash grab. Despite this, just in the US 125,000 copies were sold within the first week and 250,000 in the UK.  Overall, I am glad I bought the book but it won’t be making it to my list of favourite novels.

The Independent published an article entitled ‘What Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments tells us about the state of feminism today’. The article mentions that Atwood ‘explores the insidious ways a society polices women’s bodies’, a notion found by many women in modern day society. I would be interested to hear if any men resonated with any parts of Atwood’s writing, and if so, which parts? Let me know your thoughts!

Until next time, 


Sources: (picture)

Origin of Books: Part Two

In my blog post entitled Origin of Books I ended at the date 1832 which was the invention of the book sleeve. I want to revisit the timeline and continue talking about everything that happened after that date. Basically, that is what this blog post is going to do. The first mass market paperback books in the UK were born between the years 1832 and 1860. There were two distinct markets these publications were aimed at, the ‘juvenile market’ with the story papers, and the working class adult which were known as the ‘penny dreadful’. 

These stories were printed on cheap ‘pulp’ paper, and featured stories largely in the Gothic thriller or Crime genre. In America these ‘penny dreadfuls’ were named ‘Dime novels’ and are thought to have begun with the Beadle and Adam’s ‘Beadle’s Dime’ in 1860. The Beadle series ran for 321 episodes, and was thought to have covered nearly all the conventions of genres. 

The years 1920-1938 saw the fall and the rise of the Paperback. By the beginning of the 20th Century hardback books were more common, and most considered paperbacks to contain trashy or lower quality content. Meanwhile, the Boni Brothers who founded the Modern Library (which eventually became Random House) , realised a book has more success in a mail order than if it is sold in a bookstore. They started sending out the ‘Charles Boni Paper Books’ for $5 a year, and received a book on the 25th of each month. Unfortunately, they were not able to survive the Wall Street crash, and closed publication in 1930. 

Then, on the 10th May 1933 in Germany, the historic burning of the books began. The Nazi’s wanted all the German history, culture, belief and ideology to fit with the Nazi regime. Over 25,000 ‘non-German’ books were burnt that day. 

Next, in 1935, came the publication of the very first Penguin paperback. This was founded by Sir Allen Lane, who rather than choosing to publish ‘low brow’ works, purchased the rights to 10 high class titles. He then ordered 20,000 copies to be printed, a risky move that actually paid off. Woolworth’s bought 63,000 copies, and sold out within 2 days. By March of that year, only 10 months later, Penguin had printed over 1 million books! In 1937 Penguin then bought it’s first imprint, Pelican which was designed to educate the public rather than entertain. By 1940 it had bought its second imprint, Puffin which was to be a supplier of children’s books. Because I’m talking about the history of Penguin, I just want to say I admire the company for being the first to offer paid work experience in 2017, and for abolishing the requirement of having a degree for entry level jobs. As someone who is currently trying to break into the Publishing world it was very refreshing to apply for their jobs by filling out a questionnaire rather than by submitting a CV and cover letter. Just a slight divergence from the topic, but just wanted to add that in. Anyways… 

One of the USA’s largest publishers of encyclopedias published a text only version of the Academic American Encyclopedia in 1985. This was the very first ever book to be published on a CD. Then in 1995 came Amazon. They were the first people to ever sell books online. Founder Jeff Bezos’ idea was to create an online bookstore that was not limited to the volume of books offered by traditional bookshops. The very first book sold online was called ‘Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought’. Sounds like a riveting book doesn’t it. From then on things stayed pretty much the same in the life of a paperback/hardback. It wasn’t until the turn of the century that things changed again. The birth of the e-book. I have mixed feelings about e-books, and I’m still on the fence about whether or not I like them. But that is a subject for another post.

Until next time, 


Greek Mythology: Medusa

Whilst most people in the world have heard of Medusa, and the legend of the look that turns men to stone, I’m less sure how many people know the full story. The most common interpretation of Medusa suggests that she is an apotropaic symbol, who is used to protect from and ward off the negative. Medusa’s name in Greek roughly translates to ‘guard or protect’.  According to Hesiod’s Theogony, she was one of the three Gorgon sisters born to Ceto (Keto) and Phorcy’s (Phorky’s) who were primordial sea gods. Primordial basically means ‘existing at or from the beginning of time’. They had three children; Sthenno, Euryale, and Medusa. The other two sisters were immortal, whilst Medusa was a mortal. 

Medusa was an attractive girl, distinguishable from her sisters as she had been born with a beautiful face and enviable hair. Ovid (a major Roman poet during the years of Emperor Augustus) describes her in the excerpt below: 

‘Medusa once had charms; to gain her love

A rival crowd of envious lovers strove.

They, who have seen her, own, they ne’er did trace

More moving features in a sweeter face.

Yet above all, her length of hair, they own,

In golden ringlets wav’d, and graceful shone.’

Now, the next part of the story has different versions. Some stories claim that Medusa vowed to be a priestess of Athena, therefore promising to live as a celibate. She then met Poseidon, whom she fell in love with and broke her vow of celibacy by marrying him. In other versions of the story Poseidon takes a liking to Medusa, and then proceeds to impregnate her by raping her in the temple of Athena. Athena, the virgin goddess,  became so enraged with this news that she transformed Medusa into a monster. She gave her bloodshot eyes, and turned her beautiful hair into poisonous snakes. Her face became so hideous that the mere sight of her could turn a man to stone.  

The myth of Medusa continues with her fateful encounter with the Greek ‘hero’ Perseus. The dishonourable king Polydectes sent Perseus on a mission to come back with the head of Medusa,  because Perseus had offered the king any gift he could name for failing to turn up at a banquet without a gift. Perseus had been provided with divine tools from the gods, and using Athena’s shield to view the reflection of Medusa’s awful face, he beheaded her with a harpe. As Medusa was pregnant at the time this caused the birth of her two children, the winged horse Pegasus and the giant Chrysaor. Pegasus is probably the most recognised creature from Greek mythology. After decapitating Medusa, Perseus (with Medusa’s head safely bagged) embarked on his journey home. Along the way he used Medusa’s head as a weapon in many different situations. For example, he met the titan Atlas, who he turned to stone after an argument, which thus created the Atlas Mountains of North Africa. Once Perseus had finished with the head, he gifted it to Athena, who adorned her shield and breastplate with it. 

But now comes the question why is the story of Medusa so popular? In the context of feminism the image of Medusa has come to be a symbol of female rage. The feminist magazine Women: A Journal of Liberation, in their 1978 issue, used the image of Medusa on the cover and explained that she ‘can be a map to guide us through our terrors, through the depths of our anger into the sources of power as women’.

Medusa’s image is used to symbolise the female rage at the patriarchal society of Western culture, she was a victim in the story because of the actions of both a man and a woman. Though it was Poseidon that raped her, it was Athena who punished her for it. Athena turning her into the monster that she’s known for is what then encouraged Polydectes to challenge Perseus to bring back her head. There is an argument that portraying her as a monster is the exact problem. Medusa was raped, cursed and then killed, and yet she is demonised for something she can’t control. It can be argued that it is wrong for the hero of the story to be Perseus, because killing an innocent victim does not make you heroic. Rather than being a story of heroism, this one is a story of tragedy. 

Thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts or comments please let me know! 

Until next time, 




Feminist Magazine Quote: Wilk, Stephen (2000). Medusa: Solving the Mystery of the Gorgon. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 217-218