Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: A Word From the Ministry for Learning People Things

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  • Craig Ranapia,

    Dyan:

    Small world. There was a biography of Assia Wevill a few years back -- and at the risk of sounding like I'm pissing on the grave of a deeply troubled woman, would anyone really give a shit if she hadn't been one of Ted Hughes many mistresses and part of his whole psychodrama with Plath? I'm certainly no fan of Hughes' work -- and from what little biography I've read, not sure I'd have liked the man much either -- but you've got to feel some sympathy for a man who saw the ugliest and saddest part of his life dug up and subjected to the most degraded and degrading form of biographical necrophilia for decades.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12034 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Robeson,

    Yeh, I read the Bell Jar. One of our enlightened English teachers gave it to us. She was great! It allowed me to have a much better class of depression.

    If you spent years 14-18 reading aspirational novels then end up on the outside you might want some chump change back!

    Seriously though she was a great teacher, for that reason. Sheeeesh if people didn't like 'dark' themes we could wipe about half to two thirds of all 'literature' starting with Greek drama...

    Since Feb 2008 • 87 posts Report Reply

  • 81stcolumn,

    Wings of Desire.....Yeah just another Berlin Movie

    Espedair St anyone ?

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 727 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    I also wonder if it's because Banks is getting a teeny tad preachy in his middle-age: transnational corporations are evil, though not quite as evil as their tame warmongering bitch of the KKKristian Reich Chimpy McBushitler.

    Really? I thought Banks was pretty good for that; Dead Air and The Business were quite good at talking about corporation without just saying they're evil.

    Use of Weapons isn't as good as Player of Games, though. I think I like the preaching, and somebody who wrote the Culture deserves to be allowed to preach about today.

    I am a huge fan of Banks, except when he allows the sci-fi to cross over (The Bridge, Song of Stone).

    Which is kind of funny, given that SF people think his SF is far better SF than his lit-fic is lit-fic.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1376 posts Report Reply

  • dyan campbell,

    and at the risk of sounding like I'm pissing on the grave of a deeply troubled woman, would anyone really give a shit if she hadn't been one of Ted Hughes many mistresses and part of his whole psychodrama with Plath? I'm certainly no fan of Hughes' work -- and from what little biography I've read, not sure I'd have liked the man much either -- but you've got to feel some sympathy for a man who saw the ugliest and saddest part of his life dug up and subjected to the most degraded and degrading form of biographical necrophilia for decades.

    Good god yes, sympathy for poor old Ted Hughes in that mess. I don't think he could possibly be blamed for either of their suicides, and as for Assia killing Shura, her 4 year old daughter with Hughes, well, I think that's evidence of her own mental instability rather than anything Hughes did. Plus she attempted suicide before, downing a bottle of asprin when she was still married to John Steele. But what an awful mess, I've other thought of Plath & Hughes's children, they would be about my age.

    But no, I don't think anyone would care about any of them if it weren't for the suicides and the murder of Shura. I don't think Plath would be half as famous as she was if she hadn't killed herself.

    But men certainly cared for Assia, that's for sure, they went mad over her. My poor teacher, he was still dying a bit every day, and Assia had been dead for years when I knew him, and his involvement has ceased pretty early on in the piece, long before she succeeded in killing herself. And Shura.

    But in terms of writers who portray depression well, I think for instance NZ writer O.E. Middleton, who is barely read here is a vastly superior writer to Plath, in both conveying a nervous breakdown (__Killing and Ocelot__ I think his novel was called) but also in being able to observe someone or something besides himself during the deepest sort of depression, as in his short story The Duchess and the Doss House. But O.E. Middleton is pretty obscure especially in the world stage, while Plath is famous. Like lot of creative fields, people become famous for all sorts of reasons, not all of them really related to their creativity.

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 595 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Parks,

    SF people think his SF is far better SF than his lit-fic is lit-fic.

    "lit-fic" ?

    Sounds vaguely... rude.

    Anyway, his SF is as literary as his "lit-fic" (and surely more literally literary than the aforementioned Watchmen).

    Wellington • Since May 2007 • 1156 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Littlewood,

    I read some article about Run Lola Run in a newspaper a long while back, that, IIRC, was one of those 'what's wrong with film these days' type efforts. The author decried Lola as an example of how countries weren't making films that were true to the nation any more. Lola didn't, he contended, say anything about Germany in particular; about what it is to be German in the modern world.

    Fuck off, I thought.

    Even if he were right, why the hell does every film made by a German filmmaker (for example) have to say something expressly about German identity or what have you? What if a German filmmaker wants to make a movie that addresses wider social, political or philosophical issues, but doesn't specifically need to relate to 'German' culture? I'm pretty sure his last line went something like: "Every film outside of Hollywood should be earnest, worthy, Politically Correct, and especially boring."

    Exactly. And one of the fascinating things about German cinema in the last decade or so is the number of big, international hits they've had which comment directly on the nature of its (relatively) recent history- Goodbye, Lenin! and The Lives of Others spring to mind, as do, of course, Downfal__l and __The Experiment(which both deal with the effects of totalitarianism and its ugly shroud it has on next generation, one more explicitly than the other, admittedly)- and how it's affected their present condition. While also, y'know, actually entertaining the audience.

    From what you say about the piece, it seems the writer ignores the fact that often genres are merely a means to get a point accross, the content and the form are not necessarily one and the same thing.

    Think of the way Hollywood borrows from cinema all over the world and spits it back out again. And the trade isn't exactly one way either- to give a very recent example, something like Infernal Affairs, which inspired the Departed, owed as much to Michael Mann's Heat as it did to early HK action cinema (particularly the pre-Hollywood work of John Woo: Hardboiled, the Killer, etc).

    Today, Tomorrow, Timaru • Since Jan 2007 • 443 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    Deborah, even if you're not much into sci fi, Use of Weapons is a must. I think its his best book in or out of genre.

    I do read sci-fi, but Iain M Banks doesn't do it for me. Neither does Terry Pratchett, or the Discworld stuff (Larry Niven?). I tried Fearsum Enjin (sp?) but wasn't interested in trying to decipher all the oh-so-clever dialogue, and I thought The Algebraist was boring. And I just don't get the Culture at all. Not to my taste, as we tell our girls to say if they try some new food but don't care for it.

    Manawatu City • Since Nov 2006 • 1323 posts Report Reply

  • Max Call,

    I don't knowmuch about marking English exams but...
    could it be pure self-interest on the part of the markers?
    In that Shakespeare, Lord of the Flies etc have been written about a zillion times and they know it inside out, appropriate quotes and all so it's way easier to mark? I imagine that if you haven't seen a movie/read a book and only marking an essay on it for the first time (or even the first 100 times) it would take a heck of a lot longer.

    Fruit Bowl of New Zealand… • Since Jun 2007 • 153 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    And I just don't get the Culture at all.

    Who would have thought genuine post-scarcity societies would be... well, quite so dull? :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12034 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Hosking,

    It didn't matter so much (I'd just been offered my start in journalism), but I pulled a 49, which was quite pleasing.

    Hmm. Spooky.

    I did similar for Seventh form economics. Got the letter saying I'd been accepted for the journalism course the morning of the exam: told my mum I didn't need to go to any bloody silly economics exam but she had other ideas.

    There were only four of us in the class. Three of us walked out two hours into the three hour exam and went to the beach.

    I was a bit annoyed about this, because I had a crush on the one who stayed.

    She passed, I got 49. She now helps run film festivals.

    In general I remember very little about school exams but then it was rather a long time ago.

    I do recall two things: one was wearing odd socks, which started by accident but which became an exam supersition for me.

    The other thing was sixth form accrediting biology exam. I knew I wasn't going to pass, I was lousy at bio, and I'd also decided at the start of the year I could pass UE sitting.

    I had a bad head cold. About half way through the exam my handkerchief had absorbed enough microbes and slime to start a political party of its own. It was certainly past blowing my nose on.

    So I blew my nose on the exam paper and chucked it in the bin.

    Got 16%.

    In 7th Form the following year a couple of guys tried to beat that in the mid-years. One got 2% for Applied Maths, which is pretty damn difficult.

    South Roseneath • Since Nov 2006 • 805 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    In that Shakespeare, Lord of the Flies etc have been written about a zillion times and they know it inside out, appropriate quotes and all so it's way easier to mark? I imagine that if you haven't seen a movie/read a book and only marking an essay on it for the first time (or even the first 100 times) it would take a heck of a lot longer.

    This did cross my mind (though the markers I know are lovely people). But an indignant email I got today from someone who hadn't realised this was a satirical piece (something I did worry about when I wrote it) would indicate that markers get sick of reading the same essay over and over again and hunger for something original. So... swings and roundabouts?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4369 posts Report Reply

  • Kerry Weston,

    Can't remember what novels/plays we did for 5th/6th form, but around that time I saw two dark and terrifying films - Ken Russell's The Devils, with Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave, and Clockwork Orange. I still have a mental snapshot of Oliver Reed being burnt alive at the stake (for debauchery & sorcery), so the images certainly left a deep imprint on my developing brain.

    Never could abide Shakespeare - except when someone with a gorgeous voice and impeccable delivery is doing the talking.

    Manawatu • Since Jan 2008 • 494 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    Never could abide Shakespeare - except when someone with a gorgeous voice and impeccable delivery is doing the talking.

    Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan and Helen Mirren.

    They could make the telephone book sound wonderful.

    Manawatu City • Since Nov 2006 • 1323 posts Report Reply

  • Logan O'Callahan,

    This did cross my mind (though the markers I know are lovely people). But an indignant email I got today from someone who hadn't realised this was a satirical piece (something I did worry about when I wrote it) would indicate that markers get sick of reading the same essay over and over again and hunger for something original. So... swings and roundabouts?

    Maybe the problem is conforming views of the teachers, students and markers. Everyone knows what you are supposed to see in and say about the standard texts. If you choose something different you and the marker are both less constrained - much easier to diverge - and many/most secondary students aren't engaged enough to carry a fresh and coherent argument in an exam situation.

    15 years after the fact I finally saw the value and interest in studying and writing about literature and history. Sometimes I wish I could go back and do it again.

    Do any schools link study courses in English/literature and history. I would have loved to study some good relevant fiction alongside learning the social/political history. Eg: study the depression and the new deal in history and Grapes of Wrath in English. Or elizabethan england (history) and Blackadder II (English).

    That might have been enough to get me to read the texts. The metaphysical conceits of John Donne didn't do much for me at 16.

    Since Apr 2008 • 70 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Littlewood,

    I loved Rob Hosking's exam story. I always wanted to know whether those sort of things actually happened.
    It reminds me of a friend of mine who decided that the pre-Bursary exams weren't worth a damn as they didn't counted.

    Our English teacher, who was a wonderful woman, and with a pretty barbed sense of humour (no doubt cultivated by having to put up with pests like ourselves) responded in kind in her marking comments, after my friend tried to bluff his way through.

    "Reading the question helps"

    says her comments after the friend's first answer

    "Studying the material also helps"

    says her comments after the second answer

    "Actually knowing something really helps"

    says her comments after the final answer.

    In the end, he actually got a good mark in Bursary and is now doing his Masters at Uni, but he's kept the sheet as evidence of how his deliberate drivel clearly drove one marker over the edge.

    Today, Tomorrow, Timaru • Since Jan 2007 • 443 posts Report Reply

  • Logan O'Callahan,

    Really? I thought Banks was pretty good for that; Dead Air and The Business were quite good at talking about corporation without just saying they're evil.

    Use of Weapons isn't as good as Player of Games, though

    Loved The Crow Road, Dead Air was OK but didn't grip me the same way.

    I also liked Player of Games, which appealed to my inner gaming geek, more than Use of Weapons, where the twist didn't really work for me. Both great books though.

    Some initial hard work to get on top of bewildering names, places and scenarios, but once you're in, impossible to put down.Also common to his lit-fic.

    Since Apr 2008 • 70 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    I'm certainly no fan of Hughes' work -- and from what little biography I've read, not sure I'd have liked the man much either --

    While I'm sure he'd make a lousy imaginary friend, it was Ted Hughes's rather slight The Iron Man that inspired Brad Bird's delightful 1999 movie The Iron Giant. Probably the reason that the film's hero is named Hogarth Hughes.

    Are kids studying imaginative movies like this, for example Hayao Miyazaki's films since Nausicaa? There's more dark and challenging magic in the first ten minutes of Spiirited Away than can be found in the whole of The Shawshank Redemption.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3558 posts Report Reply

  • Eddie Clark,

    This thread makes me think we should have a nerdy Public Address book club. There seems to be a common enough core of interest (if Ian Banks is a decent touchstone), and if we can all have civil discussions about politics, why not about books?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 270 posts Report Reply

  • Kerry Weston,

    Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan and Helen Mirren.

    They could make the telephone book sound wonderful

    Yes, indeed. And Alan Rickman. Sigh, i suppose it's just some ancient, genetic thing that makes velvet-wrapped gravel voices so seductive.

    Manawatu • Since Jan 2008 • 494 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    Oh yes. I could leave home (were I not already quite happy, thank you very much) for a man with a voice like Alan Rickman's.

    Manawatu City • Since Nov 2006 • 1323 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    And while we're at it (men with luv-er-ly voices, that is), Jeremy Irons.

    Manawatu City • Since Nov 2006 • 1323 posts Report Reply

  • Kerry Weston,

    Do any schools link study courses in English/literature and history. I would have loved to study some good relevant fiction alongside learning the social/political history.

    Don't think so, but I might be wrong. I've run English and History papers alongside at uni - all this talk about Plath reminds me that we had Robin Hyde back in the 30s. It was indeed fascinating to study mid-20th century NZ lit and general nz history together, the two perspectives cross pollinate well, the art/lit practitioners really enliven it.

    Manawatu • Since Jan 2008 • 494 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    This thread makes me think we should have a nerdy Public Address book club. There seems to be a common enough core of interest (if Ian Banks is a decent touchstone), and if we can all have civil discussions about politics, why not about books?

    I'm very much in favour of the community here manifesting on relevant social platforms -- and also greatly in favour of me not doing it all.

    Pete Darlington has kicked off the PAS Rollers group on Last.fm -- is there a Last.fm for book fanciers?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18969 posts Report Reply

  • Kerry Weston,

    And while we're at it (men with luv-er-ly voices, that is), Jeremy Irons.

    God, yes. I refrained from mentioning Jeremy Irons myself becoz people often go "ugh, no!" But a few years ago, Kim Hill interviewed him and I was transfixed by this divine voice hypnotising me with tales of sailing - how Jeremy keeps himself balanced in the world, by jousting with the wind and the sea....

    Totally hooked.

    Manawatu • Since Jan 2008 • 494 posts Report Reply

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