The Dreaded 30

It is impossible to pass through life in a university without hearing someone complain about aging. Almost every time someone announces their birthday it comes with a sigh and a disenchanted remark about the passage of time. Judging by the students’ expressions and words, you would think they had just been at a syndicated American political debate, a Russian herring cannery, or a late-night strip club in Paterson, New Jersey; not the comfortable streets of Amsterdam, full of people offering congratulations. Indeed, their reaction is the exact opposite of the elation, happiness, pride and expectation birthdays offered in their earlier days: they feel fear, dread, discontent and pain, as well as annoyance, exasperation and irritation. And the strange thing is that this abstract feeling seems to come with a definitive timestamp: the age of 30.

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The grimm side of fairytales


When hearing the phrase “once upon a time…” most of us already know that we are about to be told a fairytale. I don’t have any statistical facts on this, but I can say with a fair amount of confidence that most children love fairytales. Maybe it’s because of the desire that humans have towards storytelling. The magic of being enveloped in a story that is factually impossible but on the other hand intriguing could also be a part of this. Or, maybe it’s the idea that we are not encouraged to lie in our daily lives, but when it comes to fairytales there are no rules to making up the best of stories. Fairytales provide an endless world of possibilities, and all of this happens while the listener knows that the ending will be a safe, satisfying conclusion of “…and they lived happily ever after.” Continue reading “The grimm side of fairytales”

Warriors: Coming of age through cats


I get a variety of reactions when I tell people that the series I read throughout my childhood and early teens was one about cats. What’s so great about cats? How can you read book after book, thousands of pages about cats? What can the writer possibly still write about? I too wondered that after reading about twelve of these books. How could I still be hooked on them? How can they still be releasing books, over a decade after I started reading them?

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The Disappearance of the Hatchet Job

In 2012, review aggregator website The Omnivore launched the Hatchet Job of the Year award, given to the “the writer of the angriest, funniest, most trenchant book review” of the last year in Britain. The prize was a year’s worth of potted shrimp donated by The Fish Society. By now defunct, the award was only given out 3 years. DJ Taylor, in a recent column for the New Statesman, asked a question relevant to its death: “Book reviewing used to be a blood sport. How has it become so benign and polite?” It seems, he concluded, that the “hatchet job” simply has little place in the modern literary milieu. Continue reading “The Disappearance of the Hatchet Job”

One Hundred Years without Jack London

Jack London, who died exactly 100 years ago, was an American author mostly remembered for “dog stories”, as London himself termed them laconically. The Call of the Wild and White Fang are novels about dogs in the Canadian wilderness, bestsellers in their time that continue to be taught in schools and adapted into film and television; they’ve never gone out of print. Most are unaware London was far more than a writer of popular stories: in his relatively brief life of only 40 years he had been a child labourer, a San Francisco Bay oyster pirate, a fish patrol member, a ship crewmate, a vagabond, a prisoner, a gold miner, a candidate for mayor, an alcoholic, and a militant socialist advocating armed revolution. He was also one of the most prolific and influential authors of his age, with works ranging from popular stories to foreign political journalism, socialist tracts and a dystopian novel.  Continue reading “One Hundred Years without Jack London”

The Wide-Stretched Realms of Pride and Prejudice

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that every article written on Pride and Prejudice starts in the same way. Being a huge fan of the book myself, I have looked forward to sharing some of my views on the story for quite a while. Perhaps contrary to expectations, this will not be an article concentrating merely on the novel and the (I can safely say) most beloved BBC production featuring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. I decided to put my own prejudices on hold for a while, and to watch the cinematic adaptation of the 2009 novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I shall write down some of my thoughts on this adaptation in comparison to the original novel, the BBC series and the 2005 production of Pride and Prejudice featuring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. Continue reading “The Wide-Stretched Realms of Pride and Prejudice”