The Player Piano: Music in Westworld.

Before I begin, I want to say this article contains spoilers. Please do not read this post if you have not seen Westworld and you do not want any of the plot ruined for you. I discuss some key plot twists.

Westworld is a show rich with philosophical debates, literary allusions, art references, and the discussion of science. All of the areas stated in the previous sentence are large topics the human race tackles – and will continue to tackle – throughout time. What makes Westworld such a revolutionary piece of TV is its many layers. It is a TV show within the sci-fi genre. It is a show about love. A show about villains. About the Renaissance man. About current developments in science. And so much more.

This blog post will focus on how music is used in Westworld. Music is an important element in the show and interweaves tradition with the contemporary. Music is the glue that holds multiple plots together and if the soundtrack for Westworld was not so well thought out, I would argue the show would not be as brilliant as it is.

In general we are reminded that the word heimlich is not unambiguous, but belongs to two sets of ideas, which, without being contradictory, are yet very different: on the one hand it means what is familiar and agreeable, and on the other, what is concealed and kept out of sight. Unheimlich is customarily used, we are told, as the contrary only of the first signification of heimlich and not the second. – Sigmund Freud, The Uncanny.

I want to start with a quote from the father of psychology – Sigmund Freud. The quote above explains the psychological term “the uncanny”. For something to be uncanny, it must make the familiar become unfamiliar and therefore eerie. Westworld plays on this concept insanely well as the soundtrack is full of instrumental songs by famous bands. What is interesting is that the creators have not only chosen popular songs by artists but slightly more obscure pieces that only fans of the bands would probably recognise. If you love Radiohead, you will notice they appear everywhere in this show. If you are a casual Radiohead listener, you will probably be able to pick up the change in music the player piano in the saloon plays from classical to a more contemporary sound.

One of the most iconic scenes in episode one of Westworld is the massacre by Hector and his gang. As the hosts are slaughtered, a familiar tune plays. Eventually you realise it is Paint it Black by The Rolling Stones. A popular song becomes alien due to the orchestral rendition and the added intensity the song carries when paired with this scene. Go and listen to the orchestral version of Paint it Black afterwards and you will find it difficult to disassociate the song with the scene.

Another example is in episode eight when the piano (which is a motif throughout the series) plays Back to Black by Amy Winehouse. As a contemporary audience, most of us will already have a pre-existing relationship with this song. We hear it on the radio when we drive home, it is in the background of adverts on the TV, we have the album on our MP3 players but hearing the song slightly altered (as a piano piece) and in a nineteenth century setting makes the song uncanny. Winehouse’s song juxtaposes the classical music played during the series. Despite not hearing Winehouse’s voice, you as an audience who is familiar with the original song can layer the lyrics onto the scene and relate the words to Mauve’s narrative. This shifts the scene being about a prostitute in the nineteenth century to a being facing contemporary issues.

The alternative versions of modern songs (House of the Rising Sun is haunting) work as signifiers to automatically grasp the audiences attention. Shifting the music to the unfamiliar familiar causes active viewing during key scenes, such as Mauve’s epiphany in the scene above. It emphasises the complexity of the show that it is not simply a period drama, or a sci-fi, or a hybrid of the two genres. Just like the timeline of the show, the music allows the show to float in time and space to create a sense of uncertainty of what is actually happening and where we actually are in both the story’s timeline.

Now for the big spoiler.

The two examples of modern music I have mentioned in this post contain the world “black” in the title. Analyse the lyrics and names of multiple songs on the soundtrack and a lot of imagery about darkness and night will become evident. Of course, this links to the idea of dreams – which are vital to the plot of Westworld and deserve another blog post entirely dedicated to them – but the repetition of darkness alludes to the big reveal in episode ten.

We follow Black Hat (played by Ed Harris) throughout the park in season one and only really know he wants to find a deeper story-line to the park. Episode ten reveals Black Hat is William and making the theme of darkness even more significant. Again, an entire blog post needs to be dedicated to this plot twist.

This is just a brief analysis of music in Westworld. I could say a lot more about the use of Radiohead in the series or the use of classical music, but I wanted this to be a brief introduction to the contemporary music in the series. The music in Westworld definitely acts as a glue to keep the layers of the show together and allow complex ideas to be played with.

I am planning on making this the first post in an ongoing series about Westworld. It is such a complex show and has plenty of themes to analyse. I particularly want to talk about the use of clothing in the show. Let me know if you would be interesting in reading that!

 

Advertisements

Post-Truth: a response.

Welcome to the Post-Truth era, where facts no longer matter and emotion rules. Since 2016 the word post-truth has been an increasingly fashionable word littering online and print media.

The book mainly focuses on Brexit and Trump’s inauguration and also touches on legitimising conspiracy theories. D’Ancona discusses how the right-wing and extremist views on both sides of the political spectrum have become favourable. Emotion has a higher importance than facts. The Remain party in the UK Referendum in 2016  had all of the cold hard facts, but the word we should focus on is ‘cold’. The Leave party pulled on people’s emotions and that ultimately swung the vote despite the facts being questionable.

Slogans such as ‘Take Back Control’ and ‘Make American Great Again’ may have won votes, but are also insultingly hollow.

What does it mean to ‘take back control’? Control of what? The statement is vague and lacks a foundation. It means something different to each individual reading or hearing the statement. Maybe that’s why these statements won votes because they are attractive to a wide range of people yet it fails to give them a common, physical goal. Everything is abstract and up for debate. But that can be discussed after the party wins, of course.

Who needs university education when search engines have all the answers? D’Ancona discusses the idea of the ‘University of Google’ and how anyone can be so called educated on a matter because they searched it on the internet. The issue with relying on Google is all information is available at the click of a button, despite how factual it is. People want quick answers to questions and the top result is not necessarily the most informed webpage.

Using search engines must be treated like writing an essay for university. You would not use an article that was not academic to back up your argument; you would read articles from popular people in the field of research and check if the article had been peer-reviewed. Information from the internet should be treated the same way. Even when a breaking news story occurs. Check multiple sources and find the overlapping information from each website to find the difference between fact and fiction in these pieces.

Although it takes more time, it is the best way to filter out opinions. Reading widely reduces the censorship of information from a certain news source. News can be biased. Feeding the audience only certain information can manipulate an individual’s outlook to see an opinion as fact. With institutes putting research behind paywalls and the elitism of academia, it is difficult to receive facts on current issues such as how much Brexit will cost.

In saying many important academic articles are behind paywalls, or not accessible for many people, it does not mean to say the content is correct. It is very easy to be convinced by a charismatic speaker, take for example the popular extreme right-wing Youtubers, and facts without sources. Despite your education, any one can be fooled by what they read. Conspiracy theories in the past couple of years seem more convincing as the world becomes more absurd. A conspiracy theory can explain the strange occurences and give logic behind random acts. Matthew d’Ancona highlights holocaust deniers and the whole developed conspiracy theory behind the holocaust. They ignore facts and try and find a logic explanation behind an absurd events – and it seems the only answer is to deny the horrifying event in human history actually happened. It is sickening and insulting but some highly educated people believe this theory. With the world seeming stranger as the days go by, it is important to understand the absurdity of life and not everything has a logical explanation. Donald Trump is not a lizard (even though I sometimes struggle to believe that).

Overall d’Ancona’s book was a very interesting read in this current political climate. I would like to remain optimistic and hopefully return to this book in a decade’s time and see this as a beacon of hope and that we overcome ‘post-truth’. For now, we must watch the situation unfold and remain alert and active in our political interests.

For more information about resisting conspiracy theories, watch School of Life’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoYjIDwbzLY

Chavs by Owen Jones: A response. 

“A surge of right-wing populism, mass political alienation, cynicism and apathy could have devastating consequences for British democracy. It is not just the future of the working class at stake.” – Owen Jones

Before picking up this book, I knew it was going to be a struggle to read. Coming from a very working-class town, I am more than familiar with the chav stereotype. I read Chavs with two of my friends, Rachel and Lauren, and we all seem to feel the same political rage when we read each line of the book. 

Middlesbrough was crowned the worst place to live in an infamous episode of Location Location Location in 2007. In 2016 we were the worst place to live if you are a girl. Discouraging figures; yet where is the influx of support and finance to improve the town?

Both studies failed to highlight the growth the town is going through. It failed to mention the North does not seem to exist past Leeds. The 2016 study failed to acknowledge the achievements of women from Teesside. The girls who get into university, become scientists, run a business, learn a trade, finish school…the list is endless. Of course there are many alarming issues that need to be addressed but the media points the finger at the wrong people. How can you change your community when you barely exist in the eyes of the government?

Jones highlights the sheer inequality working class Britain face from middle and upper-class politicians. The class system apparently no longer exists yet we should all aspire to be middle class. We should laugh at the idea of council estates and assume everyone who lives on them is Vicky Pollard. 

The media’s portrayal of working-class communities is one of the most alarming and disturbing. Jones explores Shameless, Little Britain‘s Vicky Pollard, and Catherine Tate’s comedy sketches. I noticed in these programmes the aim is to laugh at you and not with you. As a working-class person laughs at the ridiculous caricatures, they remain oblivious to the mocking value these characters actually represent. 

Taking the case study of Middlesbrough, Top Gear visited the town to test if cars in an art gallery would attract more attention than the actually art. Instead of focusing on the art gallery’s assets, the show filmed a long ‘humourous’ piece where Richard Hammond is shouting people for directions by saying “excuse me, you in the tracksuit bottoms” multiple times. The show became less about cars and more about poking fun at the working-class or “chav” culture. As everyone in the film wore tracksuit bottoms, that seemed like plenty of evidence to suggest everyone in the town wears track suits as uniform. 

The working-class are essentially “poverty porn”. The endless amount of programmes about people on benefits suggests no working class person has or wants a job. Shows like these help fuel hatred and further alienate a class of people. 

“Rise, like lions after slumber

In unvanquishable number!

Shake your chains to earth like dew

Which in sleep had fallen on you:

Ye are many – they are few!” – Percy Bysshe Shelley

Conditions of the working-class are often compared to nineteenth century work houses in both the book and in current media. The fairly recent Sports Direct scandal was often described as a Dickensian work setting. Jones mentions how the working class are censored out of novels and if they appear in a nineteenth century novel they are usually caricatures. Although this statement is true to an extent, I want to acknowledge the works of Elizabeth Gaskell, George Gissing, and several of the Romantics. Many nineteenth century authors cared about the portrayal of class. George Gissing’s The Nether World is a glum account of working class living – arguably too tragic – but it attempts to highlight the harsh conditions people have to face to make ends meet. Gaskell’s Mary Barton takes place in working class Manchester. The romance plot overtakes the political plot at the end of the novel; however, Gaskell does give some of her working class characters the happy ending of a society figure in a typical romance novel. The issue is not authors creating two-dimensional working class characters, but those voices being silenced from the literary canon created by middle to upper-class critics. 

Moving away from media portrayals, Owen addresses the pay gap and how the loss of jobs make living near impossible. Job insecurity causes multiple issues from affording the rent, whether or not you can have a holiday, and the food your children eat. If fast food costs less than organic food and you have barely any money, you would feed your children the fast food. In some cases this can lead to obesity and other health issues but this is not due to laziness from the parent. Money, or lack of it, is at the centre of these issues. 

With wages not being enough to live off and the introduction of shop apprenticeships so individuals can be paid even less, the future looks bleak for the working class. It is difficult not to get angry when reading this text as you realise this “middle class utopia” is actually difficult to reach for many. Instead of allowing people a better quality of living – and by that I mean afford to run a family and have a bit of money to spare – they are mocked for not affording middle class lifestyles. 

Even since Jones’ 2016 preface, the political climate of the UK has changed rapidly. Since Brexit, the world has seen Trump’s inauguration and the rise of far-right parties across Europe. As mentioned in Chavs, the far-right seems appealing to some of the working class because it supposedly addresses them. Take UKIP supporters in the 2015 elections. The news showed Nigel Farage having a pint in a pub but that doesn’t make him “one of us”. He is using the working class as a stepping stone to get where he wants. 

This was an amazing read and I could talk about the issues it addresses for days. 

We are thinking of creating a political book club if you would like to join. I’ll leave the details below when the group is set up. 

Follow Rachel:

Twitter- @rachelatkin_

YouTube – Rachel Louise Atkin

Blog – takeanotherbook.blogspot.co.uk

Follow Lauren:

Twitter – @Cooks_Books_

YouTube – Cook’s Books

Consumerism and Arcade Fire’s Everything Now.

The darkness of the modern age engulfs Arcade Fire’s music. Their latest album, Everything Now, seems dystopian – but it’s not. Everything Now presents a cold, hard look at the twenty-first century Western consumerist ideology. 

The first song, and album’s title, ‘Everything Now’ lays out the agenda for the upcoming tracks. ‘Everything Now’ has an upbeat tone but makes for an uneasy listen as the lyrics emphasise the need for consumption. The lyrics describe a world full to the brim. Our minds are landfill as we store too much information: ‘and every song  that I’ve ever heard is playing at the same time it’s absurd’. Everything is one click away and information is available 24/7. We ‘can’t live without’ it. 

The ‘cool kids’ of ‘Signs of Life’ echo the rebellious youths of a Godard film yet they ‘[spend their lives] waiting in line’ and become prisoners of capitalism. If you cannot fight the system, you must escape the system. 

Instead of celebrating a youthful state of being, ‘Peter Pan’ stresses the need to escape the ‘American Dream’. If the uncertainty of what the American Dream is representing adulthood, Peter and Wendy must fly away and find a new destiny. 

Youthful pessimism looms over media language. Arcade Fire observe the toxic storylines of the ideal lifestyle presented in media and show the nasty consequence of that language in ‘Creature Comfort’ and ‘Good God Damn’. The girl filling up the bathtub in both of these songs screams ‘God make me famous. If you can’t just make it painless’. The band write about a very upsetting matter yet highlight the damage media can have on mental health. 

Although portraying touching messages, the lyrics have been marked as simplistic by some fans. However that is an ill-informed argument to make as the repetitive lyrics resemble two things: the pattern of product placement and punk. It is ironic as the two ideas should be on opposite ends of the spectrum. The track ‘Infinite Content’ is short, catchy, and repetitive. It would fit alongside a Ramones song, who represent a transgression from societal norms, therefore Arcade Fire place themselves in the punk philosophy. In contrast the repetition also nods to the constant stream of advertisements surrounding us in the hope we will be brainwashed to buy a product we do not need. 

‘Infinite Content’ and ‘Infinite_Content’ are identical songs and the album has three versions of ‘Everything Now’. Some fans found this lazy when, in fact, it is genius. We are the fools for buying the album with duplicates of the same track. 

The entire campaign for the album has been incredibly meta – from the band spreading fake news about themselves to the Russian spambot account. The Everything Now encorp account managing the band and their merchandise and even creating dress codes for gigs. There’s multiple album covers depending on where you are in the world and they are all slightly different. There’s even a £100+ fidget spinner you can buy. Although it is all one big joke, people are buying all of this stuff. 

Purchasing the album is an act of ‘pledg[ing] allegiance to Everything Now’. I picked up my copy after work and received a free ‘Everything  Now’ tote bag. Wearing that bag makes me a walking advertisement. Handing over my money, I felt foolish as I am the message of the album – and so are you. ‘I need it. I want it. I can’t live without’. I bought it on the day of release as I didn’t want to preorder in case my copy didn’t arrive on time. It’s absurd. 

This album is a work of genius. It’s message extends from the record into the wider world. Out of all of Arcade Fire’s albums to date, this one teaches us the most about ourselves and how we absorb our surroundings. 

Dove Cottage: one year on. 

A year ago I moved across the country for two weeks to do a work placement at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere. It was a really valuable experience and I want to document my experience here. 

In my second year of university I studied a Romantics module and we visited Grasmere (best trip ever). I had the most amazing time climbing Easedale Tarn and getting emotional in Dove Cottage knowing so many great writers occupied this space. 


On the last day of the trip, my friends and I returned to the Wordsworth Trust to buy some gifts and a member of staff told us about their internship programme. Flash forward to summer 2016 – and having that conversation in mind – I decided to see if the Trust had any volunteering opportunities. 


On the 16th July 2016 I moved into my room and on the 18th July I started my first day. I will admit, I was a little bit nervous. I walked around Grasmere alone on the Sunday not knowing a single person and getting very lost on walks. I didn’t have much mobile data on my phone so I felt very disconnected from the world. However I met some people on the night and after my first day I settled pretty quickly. 


My main duties were to work on the front desk of the museum and to give tours around Dove Cottage. As these were both public-facing roles, I met many people from across the world. Some visitors were huge Wordsworth/Romantic fans and others were not aware of the Romantic movement at all. Some people stumbled across the Cottage by chance and others were visiting for the nth time. It was heartwarming to have people come up to me and give such positive reviews of the place. 


One of the highlights of my experience was all the time I spent in Dove Cottage – William Wordsworth’s home from 1799 to 1808. It was here the famous Daffodils poem was written and where Dorothy Wordsworth started her journals. I could tell you the entire tour – I still remember it. My first tour was nerve-racking but my tour group were patient with me   and supportive. 

Before I started volunteering, I read Thomas De Quincey’s Recollection of the Lakes and the Lake Poets. In this collection of essays, De Quincey discusses his relationship with Wordsworth and how he was a huge fan of Wordsworth’s work. I had watched a documentary previously in which punk poet John Cooper Clarke visits Dove Cottage whilst researching De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater. A few of De Quincey’s items are in the Cottage so I used my research to discuss his objects in further detail. 


I cannot express how much I loved being inside Dove Cottage. Knowing William Wordsworth, Dorothy Wordsworth, Thomas De Quincey and Samuel Taylor Coleridge (to name a few) walked its floors was overwhelming. Being a massive history and literature nerd it felt surreal working inside an influential building. 

Speaking of history, I was lucky enough to be volunteering at the same time the Trust were celebrating the 125th anniversary of Dove Cottage being open to the public. I had the opportunity to dress up as a Victorian and feel like a celebrity with the amount of photos I had to pose for. It was nice seeing so many enthusiastic visitors and seeing people become so involved with the celebration of a former poet laureate. 


Grasmere is a beautiful place and gave me the opportunity to go on walks most nights after work. I went to Silver How and Grasmere lake most of the time because they are close by but thankfully I had company because I would get lost A LOT. One day I tried to find Rydal Cave without a map and ended up walking one hour in the wrong direction. I found the cave eventually and it was worth all the unnecessary walking. 


I would visit the Wordsworth family graves, like the good literature student I am, and limit my amount of visits to the village bookshop so I didn’t look weird. I caught the ‘Romantics bug’ and wrote a lot of poems and short essays in my spare time. Spending time outside of city life and barely using the internet cleared my head. 


My short two weeks at the Wordsworth Trust were incredible. I learnt a lot about the upkeep of such a valuable building and why the Romantics still influence us today. However the most valuable skill I gained whilst volunteering was presentation skills. After giving tours of the Cottage, I have noticed I am no longer nervous when speaking in public. In the last year I have noticed I don’t feel ill before interviews and presentations and my voice shakes a lot less. I also gained a lot more confidence and it’s incredible how much I changed in two weeks. I couldn’t be more thankful for my experience and I hope to return to Grasmere soon. 

Reading translated fiction.

I’ve recently read Madonna in a Fur Coat by Sabahattin Ali and it was beautiful. Without revealing too much, it is a story within a story as our narrator uncovers the story behind his colleague, Raif Efendi. It is about the 1920s Berlin art world and how a painting can change your life.

Maureen Freely and Alexander Dawe translated this Turkish text into English and Penguin published it in 2016. It has taken 74 years for this miniature masterpiece to be translated into English. As a person who is only fluent in English, this made me think about the importance of translated fiction.

Without the literature from non-English speaking countries, we wouldn’t have some of the great British and American writers as we know them. Would the Beat Generation be the same without the influence of Existentialism? Would Patti Smith’s writing be different if she had not encountered Arthur Rimbaud?

The works of Dostoyevsky, Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre are the cornerstones of existentialist literature – all texts are not originally in English. Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables influenced so many British writers and is referenced throughout pop culture. Going back even further we have Dante’s Inferno which has shaped a lot of the Western literary canon. Whether it is Jacobean playwrights or contemporary authors like Dan Brown, the accessibility of his work has been influential. 

As students, we read the works of Nietzsche, Freud, Lyotard and so many others who shape our literary and philosophical landscape. Where would we be without a translation of these works?

Moving away from the world of academia and onto pleasure reading, translated fiction teaches us about different cultures and history. The politics discussed in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and War and Peace are challenging. However, I came out of that reading experience with a tiny bit more knowledge on nineteenth-century Russian politics. 

I am really thankful for translators; some of my favourite works are pieces of translated fiction. The thought of me never reading Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita because it was only in Russian (which I cannot read) terrifies me. Translating work to make it accessible to as many people as possible across the globe is so important. Stories from different cultures enriches your reading experience. 

In saying that, the right translation for you is important. Some books, mainly classics, may have multiple translations. Some are old translations, some are new, and some are as close to the original text as possible. Unless you are studying the text, I don’t think it is vital to read the text closest to the original. Inevitably, some things will be lost in translation. Sample different editions of the book and see which version you prefer. 

There are a few publishing houses which publish translated works and can easily be found in bookshops. Penguin and Vintage books are a good place to find mainstream writers, such as classic European and Russian authors or more contemporary writers like Haruki Murakami. They also normally use different translators which helps for variety. Pushkin Press is also a good publisher for classic and contemporary works from across the world. Serpent’s Tail is not exclusively translated fiction, but it has some great lesser-known works available. 

I thought I would suggest a couple of books for people who do not usually read translated fiction and would like to start. 

1. The Vegetarian by Han Kang. 

I think this novel defines contemporary literature. It is a Korean novel which is split into three parts and centres around a woman who becomes a vegetarian. That is all I will say. 

2. Astragal by Albertine Sarrazin. 


I’m not going to lie I wasn’t too pleased with the translation and found several errors, but I am grateful to have access to this story. The semi-autobiographical piece written from a prison cell is about Anne who escapes from prison and breaks her ankle. She is picked up by a motorcyclist who is also on the run. It is a story about love and danger and is basically the book version of a Jean-Luc Godard film. Patti Smith also introduces the book so that’s a selling point. 

3. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami. 


Tsukuru Tazaki’s friends all have colours in their names. Tazaki does not. One day his friends stop talking to him and Tazaki is left floating trying to figure out what happened. It is a relatable piece about isolation but it is also so much more than that – it is a work of art. As the novel progresses, an eerie atmosphere looms over the events. As a reader you have to put a lot into the book and find the missing puzzle pieces but that is what makes it so fantastic. 

This post is limited to my personal tastes and I know I am leaving out some key genres and discussions about translated fiction,  but I want this to be a useful introduction for some people. 

If anyone has any suggestions of translated works they like, I would love to know!

My end of uni ‘to be read’ pile.

Last week I handed in my final assignment for my undergraduate degree, which is absolutely terrifying.

At the weekend I removed most of the books from my shelves and I am now left with a select few pleasure reads I have been impatiently waiting to get my hands on. I thought I would share that list.

1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.


I have already read 200 pages. Since reading War and Peace last year, I have been dying to read Anna Karenina. When Vintage brought out their new Russian classics collection, I had to get this edition and it has been sitting on my shelf since February.

Anna Karenina is a story about a married socialite woman and her affair with Count Vronsky. Vronsky instantly falls in love with Anna when he meets her and attempts to pursue her whenever she is out in society and wants her to leave her senior government official husband.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky described the novel as “flawless as a work of art” and from what I have read his statement is very true. I had watched the 2012 film when it was released but it took quite some time to get to the beginning of the film’s events in the novel. However, the chapters leading up to meeting Anna make sense to the story as multiple characters weave in and out of the novel to create a rich plot line like a grand tapestry.

2. Ross Poldark by Winston Graham.


I love the BBC series Poldark and my housemate was kind enough to buy me the books for Christmas. It feels like forever since I have read a series of books and I now have 12 Poldark books so it seems like a perfect time to make a start on the series. I am still debating whether to read ahead of the television series or watch the series first then the books they are based on because I have loved the surprises when watching the series and I am worried I will not like the series as much after reading the books.

The novel is set in Cornwall from 1783-1787. Ross Poldark returns from fighting in America to find his family life turned upside down and the woman he loves engaged to his cousin.

After studying the 18th century at university, I am really excited to read this and think about the historical context surrounding the novel’s events.

3. Golden Years by Ali Eskandarian.


I noticed this on the new fiction table in my local Waterstones and later picked it up during a student lock-in in February. The quote from the Observer says: ‘A scorching story powered by both politics and poetry, and seething with sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.’ Sounds like a great book.

The description on the back of the book is even more interesting as it reads:

In Brooklyn, New York, during November 2013, Ali Eskandarian was murdered alongside two members of his band, the Yellow Dogs.

I tried to do some research on this book and came back with very little. Excuse my ignorance, but from what I gather this is a true story with possible fictionalised aspects. If anyone has read it, please correct me. I’m looking forward to reviewing this as it was an impulse buy and I know little about it.

4. Madonna in a Fur Coat by Sabahattin Ali.


I saw this book in hardback last year and was intrigued. This year it was released in paperback and every time I was in a bookshop I would pick it up and sadly put it down. However, last month I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the book from Penguin as a thank you for completing a survey and I am so happy it is finally in my hands.

All I know is that the novel is about a Turkish man who falls in love with an artist in 1920s Berlin. 

I misread this to be a modern historical novel which put me off but then I found out this has only recently been translated into English. Translated fiction, the 1920s, the art scene … I’m in.

5. Tarantula by Bob Dylan.


I listened to a lot of Bob Dylan when writing my dissertation and I was so happy to see him win the Noble Prize for Literature.

I was so happy to find this discounted in one of my favourite local bookshops as Tarantula has an interesting history.

The publication for Tarantula was constantly delayed and for years only bookleg copies were available. Written in 1966, Dylan captures the turbulent times of the decade in a mixture of poems and prose.

6. The Call of the Weird by Louis Theroux.


I would like to use this platform to thank Louis Theroux for getting me through third year of university. Happy? Watch a Louis Theroux documentary. Sad? Watch a Louis Theroux documentary. Procrastinating but want to feel like you are learning something? Watch a Louis Theroux documentary.

Weird Weekends is my favourite Louis Theroux series and in this book Louis returns to some of the people he met in the series and dedicates a chapter to them. I’m just excited; it is going to be great.
And that’s all the books I have with me in my university room. I’m not sure if I’ll get through them all before I leave because Anna Karenina is nearly 1000 pages long but I hope to read a few of them. My collection is not very diverse considering half of the books are set in America but I will be able to read a wider range of books when I am reunited with my books at home.

After Anna Karenina, I think I will read Louis Theroux’s book for a bit of nonfiction. If you have read any of these books, or think I should read one sooner, please let me know. I would love to hear your thoughts!