Category Archives: Writing

Books that Changed My Life – Part Two: Young Adulthood and University


Aged 19

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Owen Meany, a unique and insightful little boy who is terribly bad at baseball and accidentally kills his best friend’s mother. Narrated by that best friend john we see their relationship grow from child to adulthood, the funny, dark and perceptive effect Owen has on the lives of the people around him.

This was my first introduction to John Irving and a bit of a curse as I still consider it his best work.  It took me more than a few years to be able to finish any of his other novels. Irving once said that he fills the lives of his characters with so much tragedy in an attempt to stop any of his own loved ones from suffering.  Owen Meany is a unique character who at such a young age is filled with a philosophy of one older than his years. But as the novel continues Irving somehow makes his insights fit exactly with his character and all you want to hear are more of Owen’s views and less of any other of the characters. We become greedy for Owen and his ‘wrecked voice’. My sister gave me her copy, it sits on my bookshelf to this day, I often read random passages, he is never far from mu side. I made up for it by giving my sister a signed copy of one of Irvings’s later novels when I had the good fortune to meet him.

Warning spoiler for A Prayer For Own Meany in the blog comments below.

Age 21

Frankenstein by Mary Wollenscroft Shelley

Victor Frankenstein relates his life and how his insane passion for the reanimation of the dead ruined his life.

By the time I began reading Mary Shelley’s first novel I had seen quite a few of the screen adaptation and was not quite prepared for the differences between those narratives and her own. Instead of mad scientists, humpbacked assistant, lightning and lynch mobs we get a story of blind ambition, an intelligent and sympathetic outcast trying to understand his place in the world and ultimately revenge. It was an inspiring read from a woman who thought up the idea at the age of eighteen and was published at the age I was reading. She imprisoned my imagination and carved a new genre in Gothic fiction which continues to inspire imaginations across the globe. I read it again in 2012 and have since created a twitter account for Victor’s Creation called @Thy_Creature so that he can stomp around that social network instead of just inside my imagination.

Age 22

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

Lemuel Gulliver tells the story of his sea voyages and the four fantastic worlds he encountered, each world serves as satirical basis for different parts of real society.

gulliverstravels

Published in 1726 was an immediate hit, “It is universally read, from the cabinet council to the nursery”, and no less a hit with me. It was one of the very first fantasy novels which in which society was shown itself a mirror enjoyed the comparisons. Again I had watched the animation which dealt with Lemuel Gulliver’s first voyage to Lilliput but when I read the novel I realised that he traveled to four separate worlds where Swift satirised different parts of society. Lilliput (The land of minutes peoples) was at war with Blefuscu and belittled the on-going wars between Britain and France. Brobdignag (the land of the giants) points out that perfection is relative, when you get close to people there will always be imperfections. The Floating Island of Laputa poked fun at the ridiculous nature of some of the work in the scientific community and The Land of The Houynhnhms shows us that any form of deceit makes a mockery of a society that calls itself cultured. Being neither musical nor mathematical in my skill this book gave me the connection between these two spheres and it mocked the idea of immortality. But most profoundly me a new appreciation for horses to the point that since then I have always stopped to take in their beauty and grace, my heart sinks if I have ever seen a badly tended horse, I have an appreciation of their speed strength and power and whenever I see one I remember how happy Gulliver was in their company.

What are yours?

Books That Changed My Life – Part Three: Adulthood to Now

Books that Changed My Life – Part One: Childhood and School

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Books that Changed My Life – Part One: Childhood and School


Aged 5-10 years old

The Adventures of Asterix by Goscinny and Uderzo

Two Brave Frenchmen take on the might of the Roman Empire and travel the world with the help of magic potion.

asterix

When I first plunged into the many Adventures of Asterix I couldn’t read properly. I only realised this some years after first reading the picture books that I had not been pronouncing the names correctly in my head. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the myriad of historical events Asterix and Obelix encountered. The idea that two men could influence the events in whatever countries they visited with the added thrill of using the magic potion to help them bashing various armies along the way was enough to capture my growing imagination.  The basis of Roman history mapped out through the picture books ended up being one of the reasons I chose to study Greek and Roman Civilisation for my primary University Degree.

Aged 13

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

A short creature called a Hobbit and named Bilbo Baggins is drawn unwillingly on an adventure involving a Wizard, Dwarves, treasure, a dragon, and a very handy ring.

bilbobaggins

J R R Tolkien is a milestone in my literary endeavours for two reasons. My eldest brother gave me his copy one afternoon, by dinnertime Mum had to tell me to put it down during dinner and later tell me on a number of occasions to go to bed. I waited in the dark until the house fell silent and gingerly switched my light back on again, I was sure that I would be caught but I ended up turning the last page deep into the early hours of the morning. It remains the first and only book I read in one sitting. It was the scope of the story that hooked me. It unfolded and told me  how a small and seemingly insignificant creature like this Hobbit could have an influence over such a huge undertaking. Bilbo Baggins used whatever skills he had and became indispensable to the adventure. It opened me up to the vast and intricate imagination of Tolkien that would lead me to Lord Of The Rings and taught me that stories could be about anything your mind could conjure. I began to make up my own stories in copybooks.

Aged 17

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

The impact a stoic foundling has on generations of two families who live on the Yorkshire Moors.

wutheringheights

We had to read Emily Bronte’s novel for our last year in school. As I ploughed through the narration by Nelly Dean and traced the interwoven lives of the characters in Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange I realised that the enjoyment of their tormented, tragic and complex existences was riveting. It occurred to me that writing exam questions about this book was going to be entertaining as opposed to topics in other subjects. I even went as far as writing a parody of the plot and substituting my classmates into the story and read it out in my English class. Even though I has already made up my mind to study English in University, Wuthering Heights cemented that choice, if I could enjoy a novel that much which was written 140 years previously I was going to be ok.

What are yours?

Books that Changed My Life – Part Two Young Adulthood and University 

Books That Changed My Life – Part Three: Adulthood to Now

Flash Fiction “Not Fishing” by Ben Moore


Every September they would find their spots while others navigate over unsteady terrain and explore dark uninviting crevasses.

intrepid explorers

The battle weary brothers of the shoreline had limited conversation, tackle, line strength, last weeks’ meager haul and sometimes sports.

A bigger one prepared his cast and some intrepid explorers paused to see how far he would reach.

Suddenly somebody struggled diverting all attention. Sand eel satisfyingly punched above their weight. Landed admiration moved on the tide, cool patience blew over them.

A Pollock here; another there. Intrepid explorers discovered new treacherous rocky runs.

It could have been mistaken for a particle of prismed sun beam or even the end of another’s line.

Fishing

The corner of an eye, one head turned but said nothing, he stopped breathing, a pause and suddenly tiny rainbows danced in his eyes. A war cry slipped across the waves.

“Break.”

Heads turned, horizon scanned for upset sea. Fast lines retreated furiously from all directions. Boxes rattled. Splashes spewed.

Small fry darted and made for the surface. Instincts were sharp, stronger, faster, cut them off at the pass, the shoal surrounded them, feeding frenzy. Hooks in fry’s clothing.  

Dalkey Sound

Intrepid Explorers downgraded to lowly Sherpas; sent back down the shore for extra supplies. With tide rising fish began to land. Tackle and sandwiches spill and mix. Two fingers under the gills and crack back the head to break the neck. Others arrived; the word is out.

Eyes widened as the shoreline was laced on a most magical scale. Sherpas slipped skillfully along the barnacled boundary between land and sea.

Braided seaweed between rocks became temporary fish nets, rock navigation made even more treacherous. The fry were chased up and down our shore for hours. Oily exhaustion

Neighborhood sinks overflowed.

House smelled of fish for weeks.

Story lasted for years.