A Little Literary Tour of London

London is, unsurprisingly, steeped in literary and publishing history. Last week, I had the chance to go on a walking tour around some spots featured in various pieces of literature, or ones that were integral to the city’s legacy of publishing.

I thought I would share what I learnt with you! Before we begin, please put your seatbelt on and do not stick your head out of the windows at any point during the tour. First stop…

…the Free Word Centre, which describes itself as a hub for literature and free expression. Just nearby is 37a Clerkenwell Green, where Lenin published for a time.

IMG_571637a Clerkenwell Green (the red door)

Fun fact: The name ‘Clerkenwell’ comes from Clerks’ Well, where mystery plays were performed in the Middle Ages. The word ‘clerk’ comes from Middle English, and defines a literate person or clergyman. (All this was related on the tour, but can also be found on Wikipedia.)

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My Friends Matilda, Charlie, Danny and James

“Augustus Gloop! Augustus Gloop! The great big greedy nincompoop!”

I could recite pretty much the whole poem from memory. Like many people, I read Roald Dahl when I was a child but unlike most, I never really outgrew him. Some might have acquired a taste for the classics, others may have dived into the contemporary. But amongst all the books I have opened, all the pages I have turned, all the stories I have lived in, Roald Dahl’s remain my constant companions.

Why?

Well. Looking back at his work now, as an ‘adult’ (and I’m using that term loosely here), I’d by lying if I said my opinion hasn’t changed. I was telling my mother about one of my favourite parts in Matilda just hours ago – where Matilda puts superglue on her father’s hat. Saying it out loud made me realise just how strong her sense of vengeance is.

Fuelled by the occasional article skimmed online, I also began to wonder if books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Witches are sexist. Some characters’ punishments seem a lot more cruel in retrospection (seriously, how harshly are the children in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory punished?!). And the enormous crocodile and the Twits scare me much more than they did years ago.

But despite everything, I can never forget the feelings his words evoked. Reading a book of his was like listening to my grandmother spin captivating tales out of thin air. It was chatting with someone who’s always ready with a spine-cracking joke at the right moment. It was laughing about everything and nothing with my closest friends on a lazy afternoon.

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Shakespeare & Selfishness

April 23rd 2016 marks the 400th death anniversary of William Shakespeare (you might have heard of him). I was in sixth grade the first time I read Shakespeare’s work — Romeo and Juliet, to be specific. I still have the first part of the prologue memorised: “Two households both alike in dignity / In fair Verona where we lay our scene…” You know the drill. It was around the same time that I really got into writing. I’d already written my first poem years ago (it was a masterpiece called ‘The Cat on the Mat’), but it was in about sixth grade that English became my favourite subject.

IMG_46641
Almost as good as ‘The Cat on the Mat’

Fast forward to high school. When the time came to start applying for university courses, I already knew what I wanted to study. Since I want to be a published writer, English literature and creative writing seemed a good way to go. It wouldn’t necessarily guarantee me a job as a writer, but if I wanted to succeed at something, I needed to learn how to do it well. But a while back, I started wondering whether I made a selfish choice.

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