Greek Mythology: An Introduction

It is probably pointless to explain but Greek mythology is a large collection of stories started in Ancient Greece about the beginning of the world, and writes about the lives and adventures of gods, goddesses, heroes, and heroines. 

Greek mythology has twelve main gods known as the Twelve Olympians. They were Zeus, Poseidon, Hera, Hephaestus, Hades, Athena, Artemis, Apollo, Ares, Demeter, Aphrodite and Hermes. The Ancient Greeks believed that the world was in a state of nothingness in the beginning, which they named Chaos. Then from the light came Gaia (mother earth) and Uranus (the sky) along with other old gods (called primordials) like Tartarus (the pit of eternal damnation) and Pontus (the primordial god of the oceans). 

The Greek mythological ‘family tree’ is vast when you consider it in its entirety. I’m including a picture above for reference of the most simple one. The reason it is so confusing is because many of them had a lot of children, across a lot of different relationships. Some of the gods are less significant than others, which is why there is a simplified version of the family tree. Considering I’m just a novice in this topic I’m quite grateful for this more basic version. However, I am also going to include a link to a picture on Wikipedia of the entire family tree just in case anyone is interested.

In this series on my blog I am going to explore the different stories in Greek mythology, basically whichever one takes my fancy. Or if other people start to show an interest in this series, then ones that people suggest they want to talk about. It will be like a book review, but on Greek mythologies instead. At some point I will probably also compare the differences and similarities between Roman and Greek Gods so look out for that!

I hope you enjoy!

-S

The link for the entire family tree: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_tree_of_the_Greek_gods

My Thoughts on Rupi Kaur

Considering Rupi Kaur’s last book release was in 2017 I can admit that I am pretty late to the party by commenting on her work. However, after photos of her poems were making repeated appearances on my Instagram feed it made me think about the poetry of this generation and where it is heading. I would like to emphasise that my comments are purely my opinion on the literary quality of her poems, and not her as person. The success that she has made for herself is only admirable, and she obviously has worked hard to achieve it. That being said we can get on with the actual post.

Milk and Honey has sold 3.5 million copies worldwide, and has been translated into 40 languages. The Huffington Post dubbed her writing as ‘essential reading for women everywhere’ but I don’t know if I would agree with the use of the word essential. My opinion is that Kaur’s poetry consists mostly of Instagram captions disguised as poems. And while the short and simple writing can be appealing, when reading them I get the impression that they were written to sell well rather than because they are a true reflection of her thoughts. To me poetry isn’t about being basically four lines of texts that lacks in punctuation, but about a deeper interpretation within each sentence. 

It is obvious though why her poetry has gained such popularity, and it is because of teenage girls being able to relate to it. The themes in her poems range from love, sexism, family, racism, heartbreak and more. If you are, or have ever struggled with any of these, then you will find her poems engaging. And maybe I’m in the minority when I say this, but though I can relate to the subjects in her poems, they do not help to cope with any of the issues. My self-worth didn’t increase when I read her poem that sounds almost exactly like the phrase ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’. (See first poem below) But as a generalisation I have more of a problem with her short poems, as some of them seem almost pointless.

Undoubtedly, Kaur is the most popular young female poet at this moment in time. She is said to have made £1m from her last book alone which is almost unheard of for a female poet. The age demographic she appeals to is young women aged 13-14, who have become the biggest consumers of poetry in the UK market. This is fantastic news for the world of poetry, and I applaud Kaur for being able to excite poetry in the minds of young people again. That is something poems from the likes of John Keats or William Wordsworth would never be able to achieve.  There has been an influx in females opening their own poetry publishing companies to make up for the obvious gap in the market. The success of Kaur with young girls created a market for other women to appeal to. These are all wondering things, and for me the best thing that has come from Rupi Kaur’s popularity. 

Though I regard most of her work to be too plain I have to include some of her poems that I did enjoy and had all her work been like this I probably would not be writing this post. The poem above and below this text are two that I think articulated some of the important issues women face everyday.

In conclusion, I hope that this movement that Kaur has helped create continues to excel in celebrating and recognising more female poets. Below are links to some other poems from female poets that I think are worth a read. 

  1. Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

https://poets.org/poem/still-i-rise

  1. Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/49000/lady-lazarus

  1. Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

https://www.anythinklibraries.org/blog/poetry-picks-wild-geese-mary-oliver

  1. Remember by Christina Rossetti

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45000/remember-56d224509b7ae

  1. The House by Warsan Shire

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/90733/the-house-57daba5625f32

Until next time, 

-S

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

With the recent release of the film this month I thought it would be a good time to reread the book. I first read this book when it came out in 2013, and I was only 16 then. I loved it, and it was one of those books that I could not put down until I finished it. And then I read her other two books, The Little Friend and The Secret History. To me the books only got better and better.  But I wonder if it altered my opinion of the books as I had read her most popular one last, with her least popular one first. 

Having finished the book I was curious what other people had thought of it. I had never really heard of leaving reviews on Goodreads or Amazon back in 2013. I read what I picked up in Waterstones, and then if it was really amazing I gave my mum a verbal review of what I thought of it. There is however, 53,113 reviews for The Goldfinch currently on Goodreads. Most of the people who left reviews only left them to say why they did not like the book, and the ones that loved the book left only a 5 star rating without a comment. But now here’s my review.

I did not love it this time around. But I also did not hate it as much as a lot of people did. There were times that the sentences were overly long and convoluted, and there were so many occasions when I was tempted to skip sentences altogether. The plot, though not revolutionary, was interesting. Theo’s guilt over never having admitted to taking the painting after the bombing shapes his entire life. He develops an addiction to prescription medication, and when faced with the knowledge that the original painting had been stolen years earlier from him by his supposed friend, he confronts the idea of suicide. But then the redemption of the character comes at the end when he uses his reward money to buy back the fake antiques that were sold because of his lie. Throughout the book it was easy for me to feel sympathy for Theo; his mother’s death was brutal, and his father would not be winning any Father of the Year awards. He certainly did not appear to have the easiest life. It can be understood then why he would steal the painting, his last connection to his mother. But does that excuse keeping the painting hidden for years? For me, it almost did. Had Theo not experienced any guilt for his actions then I would feel differently. But his case was the perfect example of how it is not always the easiest to do the right thing. Sometimes doing the right thing is the hardest thing in the world. Also Tartt to me conveyed that there is a reason behind everyone’s actions, and we should be mindful of how people’s past plays into their future.  

So, would I recommend this book? Yes, but mostly to teenagers looking to expand their horizons away from Young Adult fiction. Tartt is said to be inspired by the likes of Dickens, and this book might be a good warm up for someone not quite ready to read something like the The Tale of Two Cities or The Great Expectations.

Finally, one of his mother’s last lines to Theo stuck with me. It reads ‘anything we manage to save from history is a miracle’. I find this interesting because in the modern day we are moving away from having physical objects to become history, to just having everything online somewhere. I think that this generation spends more time building online profiles than real life memories. So in a 100 years time what will be found to remember us by when everything is password protected on iCloud somewhere? Just a thought.

Until next time,

-S

Origin of Books

As this is my first official blog post I thought I would head back to the origin of books, and use this blog as an excuse to learn more about where they come from. My hope is to head into the publishing world soon, and where better to start than learning about what the whole of the publishing world revolves around? 

From my research I have gathered that the very first people to transcribe the written word onto move-able materials were an ancient group of people known as Sumerians. The group lived in Southern Mesopotamia around 3500 BC. They devised the ‘cuneiform’ alphabet, which was etched onto clay tablets and allowed to dry in the sun for as long as possible. Then in 2400 BC and originating in Egypt, the earliest form of Papyrus scrolls we know to date were written. This thick paper, named after the papyrus plant it was sourced from, was used for hundreds of years before the Greeks and Romans eventually adopted the technique. Obviously this is a very abbreviated version, but if you want to know more then there is a tonne of information on Google.

Next (and probably the most well known) comes parchment paper. Herodotus, a Greek man regarded as being the ‘Father of History’, describes the use of parchment as being common in his time. However, scrolls of parchment paper were not the most practical. Firstly, you would have had to use both hands to unwind carefully from the right, and to roll it back up to the left. Secondly, archaeologists have found evidence of scrolls being worn at the bottom from where it has spent time rubbing against clothing. The scrolls would have been too heavy to keep elevated for long periods of time. A modern day equivalent of this is seeing a worn out looking book on someone’s bookshelf, a clear indication the book has been read more than once.

I’m skipping over the invention of wax tablets next, because I do not find it that revolutionary. They are quite self explanatory, words were printed into tablets of wax. What comes next though in 105 AD is the Chinese eunuch. The process of this paper making involves making a mixture of fibres in water to form a suspension and then allowing this suspension to drain through a screen so that a mat of fibre remains. The very first book was printed in China in 868 AD. They used a block of wood that had characters carved in reverse relief. Ink was then placed on the block of wood to create a print in the paper. I think people then thought their words out more carefully than we do now, as there was less opportunity to just correct mistakes.

In 1439 AD -1490 AD the first move-able type is developed in Europe, by Mr. Johannes Gutenberg. This man’s greatest work is no other than the Gutenberg Bible, known as the first book to be printed using his method, and marked the beginning of the Gutenberg Revolution, the dawn of printing books. The year 1455 marks the beginning of the books sat on my bookshelf right now. Fun fact: according to a study in 2010 there are over 129 million books in existence. I’m not sure how many more have been printed since then, but just know that if you ever think you can’t find anything good to read, then just know that the options are endless.

Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press by the end of the 15th century had spread to no less than 236 countries in the world, with more than 20 million books produced. From here on the printing world was in full swing. Something I did not know until researching the origin of books was that the element chlorine, which was discovered in 1744 AD, is used in the bleaching of paper and without this we would not have the nice clean white look we have now. And so with the appearance of book sleeves in 1832 AD, this marked the very first books that most resemble the books that we buy now.

Obviously I have blitzed through this and have left out a lot of details. For me though it is important to know at least a bit of the history of something in order to be able to fully understand it. The history of books follows with the invention of the ‘penny dreadful’ and then (a long period after) the progression of the e-book market in the 2000s. I know this little blog post has not even scratched the surface, but maybe I will explore this topic deeper in later posts.

Until next time,

-S