ReadIt1st: Don’t Let the Movie Spoil the Book

ReadIt1st is a new project created by one half of the Vlogbrothers, Hank Green that urges people to read a book before they watch the movie. The project is his way of re-igniting a love for literature in Americans and the world.

He thought about creating the website after discovering that five of the top 10 movies of 2010 were based on books and that most of the people who watched those movies had never read the book that the movie was based on.

The concept of the website is simple; anyone can go onto the website: and sign up for the newsletter and every few months or so, they will receive a newsletter with a list of books to read in anticipation for the release of the movie.

This isn’t the first project that Green has created. In 2007, he and his brother young adult fiction novelist, John Green, created the Brotherhood 2.0 project. For an entire year, the brothers vowed to not communicate to the other by text; instead they made videos dedicated to the other and posted them on YouTube under the channel name; ‘Vlogbrothers’. After a while the videos began to build a fan base and four years later through their videos, the brothers have managed to build a community of dedicated followers who call themselves ‘nerdfighters’.

Over the years, the Vlogbrothers, along with their loyal ‘nerdfighters’ have endeavoured in many different projects from humanitarian projects to ‘nerdfighter’ gathering where other ‘nerdfigthers’ can meet, socialise and collaborate on projects. Their aim is to ‘cure world suck’.

Hank Green revealed in a YouTube video in which he posted a day after the launch that he had had the idea for the website the previous year.

He said about the website; “…it promotes something that I love, reading… through advertising it could potentially employ a writer and I would love to be responsible for a writer having a job…”

“…this isn’t something that I created for ‘nerdfighters’, I created it for the world. What I did was create it with ‘nerdfighters’…”

In this economy, many small publishers are rapidly closing down; big publishers don’t want to invest a lot of money in unknown writers anymore. Instead they produce some generic celebrity’s auto-biography that was clearly not written by the celebrity because it will sell. This makes it seem like being a writer is more a curse than a vocation. A website like this has the potential of influencing the direction of publishing in the future. If people read more literary novels, publishers will invest in writers that write that way.

Besides, it is no secret, regardless of the director, the actor or the quality of the script, very few films can be held close to the same esteem as the books they were based on. In a way, the books are prequels, the films are sequels and everyone knows that sequels are never as good as the original. Despite knowing this, people would still rather watch the films which are like an unabridged audio book than read the literature.

Most people will never read a novel again after leaving mandatory or higher education. For contemporary writers like myself, this statement is both alarming and heart-breaking for two reasons. Firstly, I write to be read by more than just myself, my friends and my family. Secondly, I believe a world where the names Hemmingway and Salinger and Bronte and Pound are forgotten is a sad world and I refuse to be a part of it. That is why today, I have pledged to readit1st because I too have watched the film and neglected to read the book and I want to change that.

Urban Woman

When did you really last sit down in between juggling your career, reading your child’s report, checking in on your neighbor, taking the dog for a walk, filling in your tax returns, renewing your car insurance, arranging your student finance and actually congratulate yourself with a big pat on the back for being just about incredible. Yes, the Myth of the Urban Woman is alive and she’s appropriately breathing fire in the Chinese Year of The Dragon.

According to author Laura (Riding) Jackson in her piece The Word ‘Woman’:

“Woman is the universal character. She is the balance point of various being and the crucial law of preparation in an increasingly complex world.”

Our experiences within and without are direct ‘proof’ of where we are in our individual personal and cultural journeys. These journeys can be viewed as action performances or a social/spiritual drama if you like. And like all good dramas and plays they rely on a set of instructions, characters and props to empower and illuminate them. Thanks to women’s natural talents the Myth of the Urban wise woman is no longer a legend but a reality. Wise women abound in this century like never before and are more than an able match to those who would attempt to influence and curb her natural instincts and countless talents.

As well as mental strength, modern woman possesses a playful spirit and a heightened capacity to know what is naturally good for her. She will not tolerate being infantalised with baby talk and simply being treated as property or a trophy being hunted for her beautiful hide! She can smell out social exploitation a mile off and has her solicitor’s number readily stored on speed dial in her cell phone along with that of her personal trainer, plumber and accountant. She refuses to walk around with narrowed rose tinted vision and live in a Prozac induced daydream living on yesterday’s memories counting calories. Rather she enjoys each day for itself in its truest sense knowing what her Soul needs in order to really thrive.

The modern woman easily manifests her inner thoughts, impulses and ideas with integrity. This ability to act with emotional intelligence is what empowers her and allows her to live in the moment both intuitively and logically. As such, she is constantly moving forward and is able:-

To FOREGO – leave alone and concentrate on her own life

To FORBEAR – to abstain from punishing and love herself

To FORGET – to avert from memory and visualize the future

To FORGIVE – to abandon the debt and be big hearted

As Urban Woman she can establish her own territory, be in touch with her own body with certainty, speak and act on her own behalf and live with dignity and consciousness. After all she does have the ability:-

To ANALYZEappreciate specifics and act accordingly

To ASSESSrecognize risks and manage them properly

To CONTRASTmake right choices that benefit her

To CONSIDERdemonstrate her knowledge effectively

Well done and VIVA ‘Urban Women’ everywhere!

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Happy Birthday Oscar Wilde

Today on City Connect, our Born This Day series celebrates the anniversary of the birth of inimitable playwright, poet and writer Oscar Wilde who was born on this day in 1854. Known for his biting wit, flamboyant dress, and glittering conversation, Wilde became one of the most well-known personalities of his day.


Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900) was an Irish writer and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London’s most popular playwrights in the early 1890s. Today he is remembered for his epigrams, plays and the circumstances of his imprisonment, followed by his early death.

Wilde’s parents were successful Dublin intellectuals. Their son became fluent in French and German early in life. At university Wilde read Greats; he proved himself to be an outstanding classicist, first at Dublin, then at Oxford. He became known for his involvement in the rising philosophy of aestheticism, led by two of his tutors, Walter Pater and John Ruskin.

Wilde also profoundly explored Roman Catholicism, to which he would later convert on his deathbed. After university, Wilde moved to London into fashionable cultural and social circles. As a spokesman for aestheticism, he tried his hand at various literary activities: he published a book of poems, lectured in the United States of America and Canada on the new “English Renaissance in Art”, and then returned to London where he worked prolifically as a journalist.

At the turn of the 1890s, he refined his ideas about the supremacy of art in a series of dialogues and essays, and incorporated themes of decadence, duplicity, and beauty into his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). The opportunity to construct aesthetic details precisely, and combine them with larger social themes, drew Wilde to write drama. He wrote Salome (1891) in French in Paris but it was refused a licence. Unperturbed, Wilde produced four society comedies in the early 1890s, which made him one of the most successful playwrights of late Victorian London.

At the height of his fame and success, whilst his masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), was still on stage in London, Wilde sued the father of his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, for libel. After a series of trials, Wilde was convicted of gross indecency with other men and imprisoned for two years, held to hard labour. In prison he wrote De Profundis (written in 1897 & published in 1905), a long letter which discusses his spiritual journey through his trials, forming a dark counterpoint to his earlier philosophy of pleasure.

Upon his release Wilde left immediately for France, never to return to Ireland or Britain. There he wrote his last work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898), a long poem commemorating the harsh rhythms of prison life. He died destitute in Paris at the age of forty-six.

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The Erotica Phenomenon for Modern Girls

Erotica is no longer confined to the pages of Mills and Boon, read in private typically by housewives and elderly ladies who live alone. With the arrival of the internet this once hidden past time has now found a way to reach the wider community with readers being able to pen their own fantasises anonymously on sites such as This access has lead to books such as Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey storming the literacy world and while academics are puzzled to why such poorly written novels are popular the answer itself is very simple.

It’s sex.

The purpose of erotica is provide its reader with a pleasurable fantasy in which for a few hours they can escape reality. Readers can switch off, and be turned on, by these sensual stories in the same way that many do by watching porn. The only reason why this “Mummy Porn” is so controversial is because people are no longer ashamed to read such things in public.

We as a species are embarrassed by the human necessity of sex, religion portrays it as sinful, culture dictates that it should not be spoken of and on a whole we are intimidated by the power of pleasure. Now that some people are comfortable with the fact that desire for sexual stimulation is a healthy part of human nature the rest of us are running round scared. Remarks about the written quality of such books are just desperate attempts to shame erotica back into hiding. Fans of the genre don’t chose these books for their depth or intellectual insight rather they chose them for their ability to satisfy their desires. Just because one enjoys the guilty thrill of erotica every now and again does not mean they are incapable of appreciating classics as well.

Twilight for many young girls, including myself, opened the doors to sexual fantasy. Though the story itself was poorly constructed with a somewhat abusive relationship it provided the opportunity to get to grips with the confusing desires that accompany puberty. For many teenagers this a is a difficult time period because they simply have no one to talk comfortably about the strange new feelings they are experiencing which increases the appeal to hide among the safety of books.

If as society we more honest and accepting about sex these stories wouldn’t be such a big deal as we would be confident in ourselves and our desires. Even if that includes fantasizing about a 104 year old virgin vampire.

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Winter Wordfest: 50 Years of Private Eye

Charming, educating and amusing its audience with a diverse and colourful program, Winter Wordfest descended upon the ADC theatre on Sunday 27th November in a celebration of Literature.

New and established writers covered a whole range of exciting genres in one day, these included; Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling, who discussed his book, Back From The Brink, 1000 Day’s Living At Number 11, Gordon Brown and Britain’s financial crisis; Clare Tomalin with her new biography on Charles Dickens, published for his 200th Birthday; Peter Popham thrilled the audience by analysing his vibrant book ‘The Lady And The Peacock ‘, which illuminated the Burmese female Politician, Aung San Suu Kyi, who served a prison sentence for twenty one years; Indian poet, novelist and travel writer Vikram Seth, charmed a packed theatre on his love of Chinese poetry and his new book The Rivered Earth ; Columnist and author David Baddiel joked on stage about his fourth novel, The Death of Eli Gold, he also had to mention his love of football and stand – up comedy.

It’s not fair to say Ian Hislop and Adam MacQueen headlined the day, but due to their ticket sales it became very obvious they were the festival favorites, as they celebrated the 50th birthday of Private Eye Magazine, which also ended the successful event. The pair also agreed to do a second slot earlier in the day, as Diana Athill had to withdraw for health reasons.

According to ADC – ‘Tickets for Winter Wordfest went on sale to the general public last Friday (28th October) and it was our most successful opening day ever. In less than half an hour, our event with Ian Hislop and Adam MacQueen marking the 50th anniversary of Private Eye had sold out, breaking Box Office records at the ADC Theatre’.

Adam MacQueen

The virtually unknown Adam MacQueen and author of the book ‘Private Eye The First 50 Years’, has worked for the satirical fortnightly magazine for the past 14 years, written two novels, been part of the editorial team of (I’m not slightly embarrassed that I’ve never heard of this website before) and was acting editor of the Big Issue, so its obvious he’s very successful in his own right.

Without taking any credit away from Adam, it must be nice to know your book will be an instant seller before you write the first word. Having Ian Hislop to promote your book must be reassuring to say the least. Ian admitted ‘ The book was completely down to Adam, I had virtually nothing to do with putting it together’.

Wearing a pin-stripped suit that looked to big for him, and scrunching his face up like a public school boy as he laughed, it was obvious to see how proud Ian Hislop was of the magazine, as he answered questions from Adam about working at the Eye, and the ups and downs of the previous two and a half decades as the Editor.

‘ Do you like your job?’ asks Adam,

‘No I bloody hate it’ was the immediate retort, before the trademark smile and possibly only un-sarcastic comment of the evening, ‘No it’s great, of course I love it’.

Ian Hislop

Ian Hislop then told the story about Peter Cook’s (the late owner of Private Eye) ‘finest hour’. Ian explains, ‘ Robert Maxwell, the then proprietor of the Daily Mirror had got the Eye removed from newsstands over a potential libel, and was planning to print a million copies of a rival magazine called “Not Private Eye”.

Ian told how his loyal team set about sinking Not Private Eye, by sending a crate of whisky to the journalists working on it, which was ‘Cook’s ingenious idea’. Later they drove around to the Mirror’s London HQ to find all their journalists, ‘totally legless’ in Maxwell’s office.

Ian reminisced how he and his gang had grabbed a dummy front cover of the Not Private Eye, who’s front page claimed Ian had been, ‘approaching young boys on Hampstead Heath, which was totally untrue – it was Clapham Common’, he confidently joked.

Peter then orders a crate of Champagne from The Daily Mirrors catering and then phoned Robert Maxwell himself from New York, laughing down the phone shouting, ‘Hello Captain Bob, guess where we are’. Just before security threw them all out.

Whilst not claiming to be Private Eye’s number one fan, I have had a subscription for the past six months, as a way of learning and trying to impress my friends about Politics, Super Injunctions, The Leverson Inquiry and Rupert Murdoch’s mess, without being bored to death. Private Eye seemed a great and cheap way to do this, as an issue only costs £1.50. Nevertheless I have found on occasions some articles slightly long-winded and pointless. This is probably down to the fact I don’t have the strongest grip on British politics to understand where some of the jokes are. However this new book is an excellent way to see what scoops the magazine has covered, as they have specialised in gossip and mis-deeds of the powerful and famous over the past 50 years. I can see many of these books being animatedly ripped open from devoted Private Eye readers stockings this Christmas.

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