Bye Dietland, wish it was good

 

 

They say that the hardest part of it is admitting to having a problem in the first place.

I didn’t think this was accurate, but then again, I don’t have a problem telling people things – this blog is a testament to that. Even if you say you have a problem, there is always a lot of hard work you have to put in to make yourself better. It’s the habits you have to reinvent, the relationships you have to reforge, the sense of self that you need to find. How is admitting to a problem harder than all of that?

I didn’t realise it until recently, how hard it is to make a genuine admission. Or how often you would have to make it.

*

 

I’m just going to put this out here: for a period of my life, I was not my best self.

The reasons for that are many and varied – I will never try to pin it down on one person, one happening, or one diet, (even if at points I did just that, in my head). A chronic overachiever with low self-esteem and a terrible penchant for people-pleasing doesn’t enjoy the most stress-free existence even without throwing a load of dieting and food rules into the mix. At the same time, I can’t help but wonder what would it have been like if I had been a different sort of person.

Someone more resilient.

Someone who did not rely so much on the opinions of imaginary others.

Someone who did not need to control everything.

*

Diet culture is pervasive and sneaky. Even after it’s had a wellness makeover, it holds the same values at its core – demonisation of one food group over others, an insistence it is the only right way, and that, should you not adhere to its rules, you will suffer eternal damnation… err, I mean, you’ll get fat. Or “unhealthy”, or whatever it is they’re calling it today.

People far better informed than I have written about the way we’ve shifted from “diets” to “wellness”; how, far from a simple alteration of language, we are now looking at a veritable cult to kale and organic food and living free from everything bad for us… even if nobody can tell for sure what that is.

Even more people have written about the fact that there is no such thing as a one-size-fit-all approach to dieting and sport. I won’t tell you how it’s all about trial and error and being kind to yourself and figuring out what works and what doesn’t and that there isn’t one food that is completely bad or good (unless you have an autoimmune disease or an allergy) because it’s all been said before.

I’m not a doctor. I’m not here to tell you how to live your life.

But when I tried to live by someone else’s directive, when I was constantly beating on myself for showing weakness and watching all my meals as carefully as I could, I did not become the best version of myself.

I was neurotic.

I was self-punishing.

I both looked down on my nose on everybody who didn’t eat like me, and I was jealous.

I wanted to make new friends and “spread the good word” and instead I got weird looks from my friends and colleagues.

I isolated myself. I started to punish myself for transgressions with exercise.

I wasn’t happy. I was training hard, and I was making myself sick.

*

Recently I went on an event where I met so many people I hadn’t seen in years. They could not recognise me. I could not recognise me to be honest. My body shape is still the same, and yet, despite all the suffering I lug around, I feel somehow lighter. More at ease.

I still have a lot to figure out. I still have to try and negotiate my eating and exercise. I’m lucky. I have good friends.

But I wish I never fell down this particular rabbit hole. I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time being miserable when I could have just enjoyed movement and what my body can do.

Painting StoriesWildwood Dancing

Painting stories is a series where I share my current works. Sometimes it is how they came about. Sometimes it’s more of a story I associate with them.

*

 

To tell her or not to tell her. The ent thought about it for a while, then cleared his throat. “Excuse me.”

The woman jumped as if she’d been stung. Then again, she had been leaning on him.

“I’m so sorry!” she cried, looking genuinely piqued. “I didn’t see you there!”

The ent nodded. This happened a lot too. Even in winter. Yet the simple statement was not enough – she went on to apologize and apologize, drawing the eyes of more and more people. He wondered if he ought to walk away – but then would he not seem even more rude?

“That is enough,” he said, when she paused for breath. “You made a simple mistake. No need to overdo it.”

Her face paled, then went bright red. “Why! I never!”

Bemused chatter surrounded him as she turned and flounced away. Had he done something to offend her anyway?

The ent sighed. He really preferred the parties back in the forest, but… well…

“That was mean of her,” someone said. He turned to find a dryad in a blue dress sitting next to him.

The ent had a fairly good mind, but it took him a while to catch up without context. He paused for a beat too long, then asked, cautiously, “What was?”

“Saying that she did not see you there, and then putting you on the spot,” she said.

“Ah.” The ent considered this. “What spot?”

The dryad gave him an appraising look. Would she be mad too? But all she said was, “You aren’t too fond of proverbs, are you?”

“On the contrary,” he said. “I am here because of a proverb.”

A raised eyebrow, then, “How so?”

So many questions, the ent thought. Compared to this, the parties back at his home were downright tame. Everyone knew everyone and communicated with minimal words. Here, everything was shiny and bright, a sensory overload. He wasn’t even sure if he liked this dryad or if she was just nice to answer to.

“The humans say you must try everything once,” he said, finally. “At first I thought it was just something they uttered before mating, but from my observations, it seems like it applies to any number of activities that appear unpleasant to the doer. Of course, that made no sense to me, so I thought I would investigate for myself.”

“I take it that this is an activity that is unpleasant for you,” the dryad said. Then she asked him why he had not simply asked the humans for more clarity.

“They seem very frightened of me,” the ent said. “I am not sure why.”

*

For a while, they sat and watched the revelry in silence. The ent did not make a move to leave, and neither did the dryad. Eventually, he stirred. “Do you not wish to dance?” he asked. “Or is it simply an activity for pairings.”

“Not necessarily,” she replied. “But people do tend to talk if you go out dancing by yourself. I mean… they gossip about you. Saying unpleasant things.”

Pause.

“So an activity for pairings then?”

“Yes. It is an activity for pairings.”

He thought that a very strange thing indeed. But then, his kind did not dance much. He wondered if he ought to ask her, out of courtesy, but he’d committed enough social faux pas for one night. He did not need another.

The dryad sighed and asked him, “I don’t suppose you’ll stay long. At this party, I mean.”

“No,” the ent said.

“It is very unpleasant, is it not?”

“It is. Why do you come?”

“The hostess invited me personally. And she tends to remember slights. Don’t worry,” she added. “You will not be judged if you leave.”

He said he did not care about that, and immediately his mouth filled with the taste of copper. He hated to lie.

Slowly, the ent rose to his feet. “Well,” he said at length. “I suppose I should go.”

She raised her face up. “If you suppose so.”

A long pause. “I find it hard to leave you here,” he said.

“You took root.” For a second, he wondered if that was an elaborate figure of speech, then he looked down and realized that he had, indeed, been sitting for too long. Little sprouts had found their ways out of his shoes and dug into the soil.

“Very embarrassing,” he said, trying to stomp himself free without drawing too much attention. The dryad offered him her hand to balance him out. A few good tugs and he was free.

He looked down at her. “I appreciate you help.” Then, “I don’t suppose you would like to dance.”

“You don’t have to.” But her body was already leaning forward, drawn towards the music despite her attempt to seem detached.

The ent was still holding her hand, and he gave a gentle tug. “Come. I am still unclear about that proverb – you can help me out.”

*

Wildwood Dancing is available on my Red Bubble shop. 

Painting Stories: Sea Rescue

 

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Painting stories is a series where I share my current works. Sometimes it is how they came about. Sometimes it’s more of a story I associate with them.

 

*

Some days, the muse and I are at each other’s throats.

Others (these days more often than not) it feels like she’s been dragging me on her back, out of some dark hole of despair, or a sea storm.

I don’t often acknowledge that, but I must now: I do not understand the ways in which my muse goes, but she is always there for me when bad things start to happen. Whenever I feel the stress and anxiety creeping up and trying to swallow me up, she swoops in for the rescue.

It’s not a very straightforward one. I get the urge to knit and paint and write fiction, and I sometimes feel incredibly furious with myself when that happens. I have no time for distractions! I have to get this done NOW!

Little have I understood that not all work can be done by me, and while other people finish their own pressing tasks, I have to find ways to occupy myself. The muse watches and watches and then hurls a volley of distractions.

Inktober. The secret project of summer 2016. These series of blogposts, which I’m writing at a feverish burst of speed at the eve of pre-grading, trying desperately to stay calm. It all saves my sanity, even if to me, it’s all another distraction.

So thank you, Daisy-muse. Thank you.

Fantastic Beasts

 

I must say, I have a love-hate relationship with J. K. Rowling’s works.

I loved the first three books of the Harry Potter series, but “Goblet of Fire” was too much for me (I was 11). I then ignored the books and movies until it was almost time for me to go to university, when I decided to be an opinionated shit and talk about everything that is wrong with the series on the Internet.

About seven years after it was all said and done.

Well… points for dedication?

I really do think there are a lot of things wrong with that series (HERMIONE DESERVES EVERYTHING!), but I have to say, Fantastic Beasts got it back on the love side for me.

The best way to describe this movie is that everyone except the wizards of the American Ministry is a poor little cinnamon roll and quite frankly, the most likeable cast is the one that is not human. (Seriously. Humans suck. Prepare to leave the theater either crying or seething with rage.)

On the surface, Fantastic Beasts doesn’t deviate in theme from Harry Potter, in that it talks about good and evil, the oppressors and the oppressed, and makes a powerful point for living in harmony and giving others the benefit of the doubt. Especially when those others are not as conventionally attractive and socially apt. When the hero is an introvert who gets along better with animals than he does with humans, and the villain is a charismatic, articulate manipulator, you know you have a good movie on your hands.

Even if it is infuriating.

And I can’t talk about it because all of the spoilers.

 

(I will say one thing though – the villain dynamic with this one other character was shady af. Also, that character is the reason why I hate the wizards in this movie so much – not only did they abandon them, they punished them for breaking a law they did not even know existed, and they left them to be influenced by an abusive keeper and a predatory motherfucker…. aaaaaaaaargh!!!!!!!!!!)

 

(The really sad thing is that this thing happens more often than it should. All the fucking time.)

Short version – this movie is awesome. This movie deserves everything, and I am feeling really positive about the fact that more are in the talks. I will happily see 14 of these, possibly twice each.

In cinemas now.

Painting Stories: The Understudy

Painting stories is a series where I share my current works. Sometimes it is how they came about. Sometimes it’s more of a story I associate with them.

*

They say the ghosts of failed dancers haunted the backstage, whispering poison into people’s ears and causing random parts of the set to tumble at all the inopportune times. Ballerinas, especially those in the back row, always said they felt cold fingers on the back of their necks during the performance, and more than once, sprained ankles and pulled muscles got attributed to the malicious spirits.

Angelina scoffed at all of this. But then, Angelina was always the star of the show. She worried about getting blinded by the overhead lights – not things that lurked in the dark.

Maria, on the other hand, was one of those dancers whose face the audience rarely saw, and she feared the ghosts. However much she wanted to shrug it off, however much she made light of it outside the theatre, she and her friends knew better than to tempt fate.

When your income rests on your two feet, you take no chances.

So however much she hated ridicule, Maria started to take precautions.

She left sprigs of rosemary and lavender at some choice locations around the stage – not so far out of sight so that the ghosts would not see them, but enough so that it didn’t get into anybody’s way. She muttered prayers right before and after general rehearsal, dress rehearsal, and during shows. Once, when a piece of decor swayed dangerously, threatening to fall down on someone, she even made a sign of the evil eye and then pretended it was part of the choreography.

None of it was lost on her fellow dancers, and especially on Angelina.

“You are making a fool of yourself,” she said to Maria as the two of them walked home one night. “And you’re making a fool of me, too. Alphonse actually asked me if I’m going to be bringing incense sticks and prayer cards next.”

“Alphonse has a reputation to maintain,” Maria replied. “And do you really want to be the one who has to be taken to the hospital with a chandelier injury?”

“And you say I’m dramatic.” And she leaned in for a kiss.

Maria pulled back as if she’d been burned. “Are you crazy? We’re still outside!”

Angelina gave her a long, hard look – the kind that usually preceded an epic fight. But then she turned and said, “Suit yourself,” before walking briskly on. Maria waited for a beat or two before following.

*

It was their usual dynamic – Angelina moving to her own rhythm, laser-focused on her goals, Maria shadowing from a safe distance. At school, it was no surprise who got the best parts and who always stayed at the back. It was also no surprise who got scouted first, and carried the other one across. You don’t get anywhere in life by being passive, her mother used to say, and Maria got as good as she gave.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

She paused, halfway to the rehearsal room, and looked around. The corridor was empty. The overhead lights were not flickering ominously, but that rarely meant anything. The ghosts manifested in all sorts of ways.

Just as she convinced herself that it was all okay, she heard the voice again.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

“What way?” she muttered. Her voice seemed really loud.

You don’t have to ride her coattails forever. 

Maria turned.

The ghost stood at just five feet tall, beautiful and dismal at the same time. She wore a costume from Giselle – similar, in fact, to the one Maria herself had to don for a performance last season.

The ghost was not smiling.

“I…” Maria swallowed. “I don’t understand, I’m afraid.”

Wouldn’t it be nice to be in the spotlight for once? The ghost cocked her head to the side. Wouldn’t you like to lead instead of follow?

“No.”

Not even off the stage?

Maria paused then. She didn’t know ghosts could travel outside of the theatre, let alone follow individuals around. Had she and Angelina been living in a haunted house, too? Or was it all just a freakishly accurate guess?

The ghost smiled.

We can help. 

“No,” she said. “No… I appreciate the offer but… no thanks.”

“Maria?”

She whirled around to find Alphonse looking at her. She swallowed hard. “Sorry. I… had to fix a stitch on my shoe.”

He raised an eyebrow, then he looked over her shoulder to where the ghost had stood. Had he seen her too? Had he overheard? Usually, their choreographer was the embodiment of “moody artiste”, yelling at them to embrace their characters and pushing them to their limit. But now… he looked suspiciously quiet.

“I’ll just go to the practice room….” She started to edge away from him.

“Maria…” he said, just as she was passing him. “Be very careful. They don’t always care about people’s wellbeing.”

She kept on walking.

To pause would be to acknowledge that something would happen soon… and she didn’t fare too well with change.

Painting Stories: Lilith’s Brood

Painting stories is a series where I share my current works. Sometimes it is how they came about. Sometimes it’s more of a story I associate with them.

*

Your mum just got home from work, and she’s asked you about your day. There’s a long pause as you deliberate telling her about the boys picking on you at school, and then you shrug and say “‘t was okay.”

This isn’t a new thing.

There are always boys and girls who pick on you, shove you off the swings, call you names, steal your stuff, and paint tits and penises over your drawings. Sometimes you snap back at them – call them pigs, or throw a punch, just to remind them that you can – but most of the time, you just put on a blank face while the insults sink deep into your skin, and embed themselves into your very soul.

Sometimes, you imagine yourself as some sort of monster – you must be, for them to hate you so. You don’t trust the mirror to show you a true reflection. Only they can see you. Only they understand.

*

You mum doesn’t understand. Whenever you do muster up the courage to tell her, she just shrugs and says that kids will be kids, and their opinions are not worth your time. It’s not what you want to hear, but it’s better than her lying to you. It’s better than coddling and it’s miles better than calling their parents.

It’s better than her saying nothing, and confirming what you suspect all along.

I wish there was an easier way to tell you, but your mum is right – their opinions are not worth it. It’s just… there’s no way to say it without making you raise your heckles.

Garden variety bullying is what you will encounter all your life: people with big mouths and small hearts who get forward in life by stomping on everyone who is weaker. You envy their guts, but deep down, you know that’s not right. It’s not what you stand for.

*

It’s not so easy to be yourself.

And you will spend many, many more years chasing the approval of these bullies before you ask for help in extracting yourself from that rabbit hole. It’s not easy. Every little bit of progress feels impossible, and you just want to drop back to the bottom of the pit.

Keep climbing.

Just keep on climbing.

*

Image: Lilith’s brood.

Painting Stories: Fortune Teller

 

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They said that she was never wrong.

Detective Constable Reeves tried not to roll his eyes whenever the topic of psychics came up, but it was an uphill battle. How many times had people gone to a fortune teller, or a wise woman, or a guru, only to find a scam artist with a really good accent? Far more times, he suspected, than those when he’d been called upon to fix the mess.

Shirley was the smart one, coming to see him so early. She lost a lot more than money on charlatains, but at least her testimony helped others.

“There’s a new one in town,” she told him without preamble, just as  he was coming in through the precinct door.

“And a good morning to you, too, Mrs. Davies,” DC Reeves said.

“Not so good, if a fortune teller goes out of her way to predict this.” And she turned her chair to the side, so that he could admire a new cast. “Not ten feet away from her trailer. There must be some sort of liability law for this, isn’t there?”

“In dry weather? Probably not.”

Shirley’s eyes narrowed. “All the more reason why you should check her out, Marcus. She’s a bad one, I know she is.”

DC Reeves shrugged. “Many predict injury. It’s not exactly a threat.”

“I’m not talking vague mumbo jumbo about bad health, man. She described it in full – right down to the patch on the road where I’d fall, and the type of injury.” She leaned in. “Marcus, she didn’t stop there.”

“Did she break other parts of you, too?” he asked.

“She predicted that I would lose a lot of money soon. And that my husband would die. I’m not an airhead, and I know these roads. If she made it so that I twist my ankle in the middle of the morning, what will stop her from ransacking my account? Or putting a bullet into poor Gary?”

DC Reeves held his hands up.

The trailer park wasn’t that far, anyway.

*

They said she was never wrong.

Marcus had seen his fair share of psychic hangouts – from living rooms fumigated by incense sticks, to lavish tents at the local country fair. This one was among the less conspicuous – a small trailer parked between other small trailers, mud-splattered and weather-worn. The only guides for potential customers were a sign at the entrance of the park, announcing the arrival of Cassandra Mykos; and another one at the front window of the trailer, with the words: “Half-price on Fridays.”

Already, he could see why Shirley felt the appeal. But why would – he checked his phone – 109 other people go online to write about this person? If he filtered out potential sock puppets, that left about 84, but still…

I didn’t believe her, and then the next morning, the HMRC froze my bank account.”

My friend dared me to get checked out and the doctor found a tumor the size of a golf ball.”

My cat found a hidden treasure. Three years later, I still can’t touch it due to court disputes Cassandra described…”

Come to think of it, it wasn’t surprising there was testimony of some sorts: most of the people he investigated had had someone or another talk about their cautionary tale online. What he was surprised about was how only some blamed Cassandra directly. Most of her customers had not believed her… and then come to regret it.

Marcus was just wondering what kind of psychopath had come into his village, when someone spoke behind him. “Are you going to come in or not?”

He turned, and then looked down.

And down.

And down.

Shirley had warned him she was small. But this…

“That depends. Do you think I’m here to see your mother?” he asked.

“I doubt that’s possible, unless you are a friend of Hermes.” She blinked – or at least it looked like she did, her hair was so long it covered her eyes – and stuck her hands into her pockets. “If you’re here because of that lady, I warned her there were exposed tree roots. She cycled over them anyway.”

“She sees things differently,” Marcus said.

“They always do. If you want to arrest me, let me at least lock up. It  took ages to find a rug for that trailer. Or–” she cocked her head “–are you here to have your fortune read?”

“Does that surprise you?”

“Just that you’d wear your uniform for that sort of thing. But… whatever works for you.” And without waiting, she turned and went inside, learning the door open.

Marcus went in, slowly. Sometimes they greeted him with puffs of pot smoke. Others went for the direct, rugby bat to the head approach. This Cassandra was already at her table, shuffling a deck of cards. As soon as he sat down, she started laying out a row.

“What? Not letting me cut the deck first?”

“You’re not here to play solitaire,” she replied, laying another. “If you want tarot, there’s a lovely man coming to you next month, he specialises in that.”

Oh, this is a sitting duck, Marcus thought. He could probably hold her until they determined her age, if she didn’t give him any better ammunition.

“You won’t have time for him, though,” she added.

“How so?”

“You’ll be travelling the country with me.”

That, Marcus thought, was the funniest thing he’d heard all day.

*

 

 

Fortune Teller” is now available on Red Bubble.

Psst: It’s Black Friday weekend. RedBubble are sure to run a lot of fun promo. Maybe if you liked one of my designs, now is a good time to get it?

Painting stories: Reading Daemon experiment

Painting stories is a series where I share my current works. Sometimes it is how they came about. Sometimes it’s more of a story I associate with them.

*

What have you been reading lately?

It seems like I started my PhD, the number of books I’ve been going through has dropped dramatically. Not the academic stuff – not really – but things that I read for pleasure, things that bring me joy. Especially since the beginning of this year, I’ve began to regard my shelves not with love, but resentment, and most of that is targeted towards myself. Why can’t I just finish a book?

*

It’s not that I haven’t been reading at all this year. In fact, almost every book I have finished, I have enjoyed tremendously. Oliver Sacks’ “A Leg to Stand On” and “On the Road”. Patti Smith’s “M Train”. “Art and Lies” by Jannette Winterson, and also “Art Objects”. “The Lie Tree”. “Polar Bears”. “The Gastronomical Me”.

In fact, hardly one thing I’ve finished in 2016 stands out to me as abysmally bad, or offensive. Which is a shocker, because just a few years ago, a good chunk of the books I read, I rated one or two stars on Goodreads.

What is going on here?

*

I don’t think my tastes have changed dramatically, although I must say, I pick up just as much nonfiction as I do fiction nowadays. A casual perusal of my to-read shelf yields Margaret Atwood’s “Payback”, Jo Walton’s “What Makes This Book So Great”, “La Vie Secrete de Salvador Dali” and Natalie Goldberg’s “Old Friend From Far Away” (the latter a gift from a dear friend.)

There is also the diary of Anais Nin, which is a big surprise considering how strong my feelings used to be about publishing people’s correspondence and private journals. (Largely thanks to A.S.Byatt’s “Possession” which, come to think of it, isn’t really an unbiased source.) I guess what makes Anais Nin’s journal special is, firstly, she was alive when she published it, and she took part in editing the thing. She had a say in what is made public and what isn’t. This makes all the difference to me.

*

So is it that maybe I know my taste a bit better?

When I first started off as a book blogger, I didn’t know much about marketing, the publishing industry, and my own taste and judgement, which sometimes led me to read and judge books that, nowadays, I just wouldn’t bother with. Would I have picked up “Wings” and “Halo” if they weren’t notorious in my reading circle? Probably not. Would I have read “Wither” and “Hush, Hush”? Maybe – the premise sounds interesting. (In fact, the person who recommended “Hush, Hush” to me really loved the book, and I expected to love it too… )

These days, I consider going back to Goodreads and seeing what is what in my old community, but quite frankly, the site nowadays reminds me more about the scandals of 2011-2013 than any of the good times I had, talking to other book lovers and swapping recommendations and writing stories in the forums.

But that hasn’t diminished my pleasure in browsing the aisles at bookstores. It hasn’t made me any less excited to read an interesting blurb and discover a good story. I still enjoy getting lost in a book – even if it happens less often than ever before.

*

There is a book I think above all others as I think about my reading list this year. It stands out as the most agonising thing I ever went over, and possibly the one with the least satisfying ending, but…

I don’t know…

“A Little Life” lingers.

I reviewed it in full on Bibliodaze, so I won’t reiterate what I said then here.

But it is a book that changed me.

And that is something I never really say.

*

Reading Daemon Experiment is available in print and other forms on Red Bubble.

Psst: It’s Black Friday weekend. RedBubble are sure to run a lot of fun promo. Maybe if you liked one of my designs, now is a good time to get it?

Painting Stories: Ariadne and Dionysus

Greek mythology was on my 4th grade literature curriculum. Don’t ask me why – even in the abriged version, those stories are not for the faint of heart. But, because my family never throws out books, I ended up going through our old, Titanic copy of the Myths and Legends. The one meant for adults.

For those of you who never heard of Ovidius and Homer, let me try and paint you the most flattering picture possible: A lot of shit happens.

The Gods of the greek pantheon are neither fair nor interested in fairness. In fact, many of them are as bad as humans, except… you know, they have superpowers. Being right didn’t really matter. Being on the gods’ good side… it sometimes saved you from a terrible fate, but not always.

Women (divine or not) frequently got the short end of the straw: Maya, Smela, Leda, and all of Zeus’ lovers eventually had to run from Hera’s wrath. Psyche basically had to go to Hell and back because Aphrodite didn’t like the way other people thought one was the earthly coming of the other. And don’t even get me started on Medusa. (Lucky me, there’s “The Deep End of the Sea” to fix that myth for me.)

Ariadne, too, is one who had to put up with a lot before she got a (sort of) happy ever after.

Daughter of the king of Crete (I think) and sister to the Minotaur, Ariadne didn’t like how the people of Athens had to pay a tithe of 7 youths and 7 maids in order to keep her monstrous brother satisfied, and her father from basically ransacking the city. (My memory off the myth is a bit foggy, mind you.) She helped the hero Theseus to escape the Labyrinth, where the Minotaur was trapped, thus saving the tithes, but also guaranteeing the death of her brother. She then escaped with them at sea.

You’d think she then marrier Theseus, because that is how stories go. But homeboy actually got a dream from the gods that Ariadne was meant to become the wife of Dionysus, the God of Wine, and thus had to abanon her on the island where they were staying overnight. In other versions of the myth, Theseus just abandoned her without any divine intervention. Eventually Dionysus came to save her but still…

Imagine what she must have gone through.

That is what this Inktober illustration came from.

 

Psst: It’s Black Friday weekend. RedBubble are sure to run a lot of fun promo. Maybe if you liked one of my designs, now is a good time to get it?

Review: The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht

tigers-wife-2

Bit of fanart by me, my final installment in my Inktober 2016 series.

Winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction 2011! ‘Having sifted through everything I have heard about the tiger and his wife, I can tell you that this much is fact: in April of 1941, without declaration or warning, the German bombs started falling over the city and did not stop for three days. The tiger did not know that they were bombs…’ A tiger escapes from the local zoo, padding through the ruined streets and onwards, to a ridge above the Balkan village of Galina. His nocturnal visits hold the villagers in a terrified thrall. But for one boy, the tiger is a thing of magic – Shere Khan awoken from the pages of The Jungle Book. Natalia is the granddaughter of that boy. Now a doctor, she is visiting orphanages after another war has devastated the Balkans. On this journey, she receives word of her beloved grandfather’s death, far from their home, in circumstances shrouded in mystery. From fragments of stories her grandfather told her as a child, Natalia realises he may have died searching for ‘the deathless man’, a vagabond who was said to be immortal. Struggling to understand why a man of science would undertake such a quest, she stumbles upon a clue that will lead her to a tattered copy of The Jungle Book, and then to the extraordinary story of the tiger’s wife.

Synopsis via Waterstones. 

It’s been so long since I’ve done a book review, I hope I’m not too rusty. Here we go…

I’d heard, vaguely, about “The Tiger’s Wife” while I was still reviewing actively on Goodreads. However, due to the fact that it didn’t exactly fall into what I was reading most at the time (YA), and an unfortunate name similarity (with a book called “The Tiger’s Curse”, which… is not a very good representation of Indian culture, let’s leave it at that), I never really came to pick it up.

It wasn’t until a dear friend of mine sent it to me that I actually sat down and read it.

And read it.

And read it.

And then I kicked myself because yes, it is as good as everyone says.

If you are fan of Isabel Allende’s “House of Spirits” or Angela Carter’s “Wise Children”, this book is for you. (The fact that I picked one author’s first book and another’s last for this comparison is a coincidence. This book will please fans of “Eva Luna” too.) Family history entwined with stories and magical realism that keeps you guessing is a very long-winded description of what you will find between the pages of “The Tiger’s Wife”, but that is exactly what it is.

I grew up in Bulgaria in the 1990s and 2000s, but the reality of the Balkan wars skipped me entirely – as a child, my mind was elsewhere, and my parents did not discuss it. It was not until I went to school and saw maps from different times that I realised there was a reality beyond my city, and the few blocks between home, the park and the school.

I did, however, identify with young Natalia, her weekly walks with her grandfather to the zoo, the camaraderie between them and then the way they grew apart, while still loving each other fiercely. I’m not sure whether I would have appreciated this book earlier in life, but I do now – if only because I know what that distance feels like, and how much it hurts.

It’s hard to tell if the deathless man and the story of the tiger’s wife really happened – Natalia never witnesses any of it with her own two eyes. She learns about the deathless man from her grandfather and about the tiger’s wife from the villagers of Galina. For all she knows, it could all be fiction. But, as the book progresses, it becomes more and more clear that it doesn’t matter. Fact or fiction, through these two stories she learns about her grandfather – and through them, she finds closeness, even after death.

This – not to mention phenomenal writing – is why I love this book so much. It reminds me there is a magic in stories after all, even when it seems the so-called real worl lacks in it entirely. It reminds me there is hope.