[ARTICLE] Literary Bloomsbury

LITERARY BLOOMSBURY

Given the title ‘Literary Bloomsbury’ and told to run with it in any direction we saw fit, I spent more time than I care to admit racking my brains for a topic. Before moving to London, I had never even heard of the apparently infamous Bloomsbury Group and my knowledge of the area only went as far as UCL (and probably Bloomsbury Publishing) being a part of it.

Turns out that Bloomsbury is home to more publishing houses than you can shake a hardback at. As part of our Publishing Contexts module, my class was given the incredible opportunity to nosy round Faber & Faber and meet some of the lovely people who work there. Inspiration hit.

I’ve loved Sylvia Plath since I first picked up one of Faber’s many editions of The Bell Jar on one of my regular angry teenage shopping trips. Stomping through Waterstones, I can’t imagine what attracted me to pick it up. At the time, I was almost exclusively reading manga, costing me nearly £10 a volume and devouring each one in a matter of hours. The Bell Jar was my first leap into the ‘literary’ or ‘classic’ genre, and I have yet to find another book that even comes close to it.

Sylvia, born in Massachusetts, came to the UK on a Fulbright Scholarship to study at Cambridge University. She had excelled in academics throughout her entire life and through her short stories, won an editorial internship at Mademoiselle magazine in New York. Her experiences there utterly exhausted her and later became the base upon which she built The Bell Jar.

Bell Jar OpeningDetailing in vivid imagery the crushing disappointment, resentment and loathing she felt in New York, The Bell Jar was the first novel I read that showed depression in such a raw and real form. Sylvia was repeatedly told how gracious and grateful she should be for such an incredible opportunity, that she should be having the time of her life. She simply wasn’t.

Faber publish The Bell Jar as part of their Children’s/YA list. Why? Everything about it screams mature, warning, parental guidance. The themes may be hard to swallow, but they’re real.

The number of 15 and 16 year olds with depression has almost doubled since 1980. And that’s only the ones brave enough to seek help. Young readers are experiencing these sudden extremes of emotion, squashed into boxes that don’t fit them by academia and society. Crushing down feelings of inadequacy and fear, teenagers are forced to compete against the projections of perfection endlessly plastered across Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

We are failing them. By maintaining this shroud of taboo around mental health and making it so difficult to talk about our emotions, we are not teaching these burgeoning adults how to cope with their emotions in a healthy way. The number of children admitted to hospital due to self-harm has increased by 68% in just ten years. And that’s only the ones brave enough to seek help. 

By publishing The Bell Jar in the YA list, Faber are speaking frankly to young adult readers and allowing them to take ownership of their education on mental health. We need books that create an open and honest space to discuss depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar and all the other labels we like to slap on each other’s foreheads. The Bell Jar. All the Bright Places. The Silver Linings Playbook. My Heart and Other Black Holes. Books like these allow young readers to identify their own difficulties, find solace in knowing they’re not alone, learn how to talk to people they’re concerned for and provide a springboard for seeking out more information. Mirrors and windows.

Carefully choosing to publish books that facilitate this discussion is a vitally important responsibility of our industry. 

Faber & Faber summarise Sylvia Plath’s brilliant life in just five key milestones – one being her birth and the other her death. Her first key moment? Meeting Ted Hughes. This incredible woman achieved so much in her life but is defined merely in terms of her romantic relationships. Clearly we still have a lot of work left to do there too, but that’s an article for another day.

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Charlotte x

(All statistics from Young Minds.)

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[BOUT OF BOOKS 14] Challenge 2: Scavenger Hunt

“The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 17th and runs through Sunday, August 23rd in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 14 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team”

Todays challenge is a good old scavenger hunt! I’ve searched through my shelves to find a book that fits each of the below categories. Let me know which ones you chose!
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1. A book that begins with “B”  (for Bout of Books!)
Okay so we’re not counting the ‘The’, right?
2. A book you’re planning to read/currently reading for Bout of Books
I’ve been TERRIBLE today and barely managed to squeeze any reading in at all. I’m currently in the final few chapters of the stunning SKIN by Ilka Tampke and I’m really looking forward to taking on this vibrant copy of ANNIHILATION by Jeff Vanderman next.
3. A book with a blue cover
Turns out ALL of my books for yesterdays challenge had blue covers! How weird is that?! I have an absolute tonne of books with beautiful blue cover art, but had to go for the gorgeous 20th anniversary edition of NORTHERN LIGHTS.
4. A book from my favourite genre
At the moment I’m moving out of my dystopia phase and I’m feeling some classic high fantasy. It was tough to choose just one book to represent this genre but I feel that a well-thumbed copy of Robert Jordan’s THE EYE OF THE WORLD sums it all up!
5. A book on my TBR shelf
I thought why not just take a picture of my whole TBR pile for you guys! There’s a good mixture of books I bought and books that I received for review. There are some started already and some that just keep getting bumped down the list the more I buy! This isn’t even the half of it… my mental TBR is never-ending!
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Charlotte x

[TOP TEN TUESDAY] Books that should be required reading

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My memories of required reading in High School extend to an entire anthology of poetry, a lot of Shakespeare and Holes by Louis Sachar. Hopefully nowadays kids are encouraged to read a wider variety of books in their English classes! In no particular order, here are my ideal picks for the modern Required Reading List.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – JK Rowling

One of the first books I independently read for pleasure, the Harry Potter series is fantastic for younger readers first breaking away from Primary School books and holds so many positive messages to carry through High School.

1984 – George Orwell

One of my favourite books, best for slightly older readers who can understand and appreciate the original dystopian fiction. Father of so many modern novels, programmes and ideas I think kids would really identify with the tone and themes of 1984.

The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

I adore this book. High School can be a tough time and so many teenagers feel alone and unable to talk about their emotions. The Bell Jar struck a chord with me as a 13 year old, made me feel hopeful for the future and showed the true power of a great novel.

Dracula – Bram Stoker

Real vampires do not sparkle.

Animal Farm – George Orwell

Animal Farm explained more to me in a much more enjoyable way than any history class ever did. It’s short but packed with strong messages that an English Lit teacher couldn’t help but love pulling apart.

The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

The father of all modern fantasy and adventure novels deserves recognition. Perfect for students graduating from Hogwarts, JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit is the perfect introduction to the original world of elves, magic and unsuspecting heroes.

The Help – Kathryn Stockett

Funny and powerful, Stockett vividly captures the two sides of life in the Deep South throughout the Civil Rights Movement. A history lesson and a great novel all in one, perfect right?

Slaughterhouse 5 – Kurt Vonnegut

I will never stop professing my love for Slaughterhouse 5. It’s completely stuffed with messages to decode, a strong anti-war declaration and the perfect scifi slant that keeps the reader guessing. It will be forever relevant and I will never stop recommending it!

Since I didn’t quite make it to ten choices this week make sure you comment below with your thoughts!