Pick ‘n’ mix: Lies, it’s all lies

Cover of Born LiarsIs House right? Do we all lie? According to some recent books we not only do it, it is now the norm in our society. Personally I’m a bit sceptical that it’s a new thing, but here’s what they have to say.

The Post-truth Era argues that “Deception has become commonplace at all levels of contemporary life” and that in this world “borders blur between truth and lies, honesty and dishonesty, fiction and non-fiction.” Oprah might agree with the last bit after her stoush with the author of A Million Little Pieces, a memoir that turned out to be fictional and which the author defended as being “subjective truth”. He’s not the first one though, his is just one in long list of fictional memoirs, some of which made their authors a lot of money.

Born liars described by the BBC as being ‘erudite’ looks at lying as an evolutionary necessity, part of our need to deal with social interaction. I noted when watching Robert Winston’s series A Child of Our Time that he chose the ability to tell a white lie as a marker of pre-school child development. Therein perhaps lies the room for confusion, because a white lie both upholds the social system and apparently contravenes the same system’s rules regarding honesty. Where do white lies start and finish? Is lying on your CV now considered a white lie? Does that matter?

CoverWriting a review of the book for The New Republic Online, Gregg Easterbrook suggested that “whether something is believed has become more important than whether it’s true.” Possibly, but is that a new concept? – politicians has been at it for a long time.

In one of my favourite detective novels The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey uses her detective to expose the highly misleading bad name given to Richard the Third by the political lies of the Tudors. All history is lies, as they say.

In the end the point made by Dorothy Rowe in Why We Lie seems the most pertinent to me – that it is ourselves we hurt the most when we lie – a theme already endlessly explored through fiction over the ages.

Pick ‘n’ mix: Oh, the horror!

CoverI’m not a big fan of Halloween, to be honest – I don’t find the idea of sending your kids out to knock on strangers’ doors and demand things with the threat of violence in any way attractive.  I am also a wee bit of a wuss when it comes to horror at the movies – Hostel and Saw don’t really do it for me either; although I do have a great fondness for Asian horror movies, which have the ability to thoroughly unsettle me in a really enjoyable way, and without the so-called torture-porn approach of a lot of current Western-style films.

What I DO love is curling up with a book and a blankie and being scared silly by what I’m reading.  It’s hard to find good-quality horror writing (believe me, I know, I’ve looked; and I’m sure our library selectors would agree).  A lot of it is either silly, or rubbish, or really icky, and some is an unholy combination of all three …

So for those who want to get into the spirit of horror before Halloween, without having to resort to cutting holes in sheets and stocking up on pre-wrapped sweeties, here’s a pick ‘n’ mix selection of a few of my favourite horror writers.

FG Cottam is a recent find, and I particularly enjoyed The Waiting Room, which reminded me so much of one of my favourite episodes of Sapphire and Steel, it was like watching the series over again – a double bonus!  Beautifully written, with believable characters, Cottam’s books have the ability to unsettle and disturb while also being a great read, and I’m waving them at everyone I talk to at the moment.

Sarah Rayne’s Property of a Lady was another great read – I love horror books that feature houses as setting (and/or character), and I found this one really enjoyable too.  Clocks that wind themselves, mysterious rooms with heavy draperies, and unexplained footsteps in the attic are always good for a wee chill.

If, like me, you enjoy Asian horror, try Thomas Randall’s new series The Waking.  First in the series Dreams of the Dead is a genuinely creepy story of American teen Kara who moves to Japan with her father, and finds herself caught up in a supernatural mystery of missing girls, murderous school students, and Japanese demons.  Again, the writing is excellent, the characters warmly drawn and the authentic setting and atmosphere make these books a must-read, not just for teens but anyone who loves good horror.

And I can’t let you leave without talking about one of my favourite ever horror books.  Now over 50 years old, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House still has the power to keep me awake at night and disturb my peace of mind in the daytime. Don’t say I didn’t warn you …

Pick ‘n’ mix grows up: from Charlotte’s Web to An Education

CoverPosh literary types call them bildungsroman, publishers call them coming-of-age novels, and we – well, we just read them and love them.  We’ve all read at least one and often they stand out in our minds.

Sometimes they’re books, sometimes  movies, and sometimes they are the best of both.

In essence (and being screamingly simplistic), the coming-of-age genre works like this:

  • The main character is young;
  • Some stuff happens to him/her;
  • They grow up.

Clearly there’s a bit of actual physical aging involved, but usually it’s more about some sort of emotional, spiritual or psychological journey towards maturity.

The transition can be from child to teenager – think Charlotte’s Web, or Anne of Green Gables, or Labyrinth.

Or teenager to adult – The Catcher in the Rye, I Capture the Castle, Jane Eyre.

Coming-of-age novels often inspire great devotion in their readers, and those who love them read them again and again. They often translate exceptionally well into movie form – think of recent well-received films like An Education, The Kite-Runner, The Secret Life of Bees, and Never Let Me Go; or older favourites like Stand By Me (from Stephen King’s short story The Body), The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off …

But I’m waxing lyrical (again).  I made the mistake of googling ‘coming-of-age’, and now have a TONNE of new titles to find, and old favourites to re-read and re-watch:

If you’re interested:

And finally!  Tell me below all the mistakes I’ve made, the titles I’ve missed, and why I should read your fave coming-of-age novel next.

Pick ‘n’ mix: at the movies

Christopher Walken, y'all

Remember the olden days, when a 50cent pick ‘n’ mix lolly bag involved more than two choices, and they still sold Snifters (sob) and those coloured round ones that break your teeth? And there was a real intermission?  Yeah, me too.

Nowadays, it’s all about Blu-ray and home theatre, and when you do go out, the popcorn costs more than a small country, and no-one seems to know what they are about to see.  How many times have I sat behind tiny traumatised children at an animated movie, whose parents didn’t realise that not all ‘cartoon films’ are created equal?  Or equally G-rated?

Not only that (she whinged), but often, and especially in poor old ChCh right now, there’s just not the range of films to choose from.  What’s a girl to do?

Get to a library, that’s what.  Like a girl scout (although in no other way), I really like to be prepared for my movie viewing.

So here’s a few resources I’ve found handy, and you might like too.  Don’t tell everyone, though, otherwise we won’t be able to show off any more …


Empire mag is a particular favourite of mine, with heaps of pics, gossipy film info, snidely hilarious footnotes and photo tags, and a really great range of titles covered each month, in all sorts of formats from DVD to BluRay to classics from the vault.  The library subscribes to the British edition, but you can also find the Australian edition round town, and the Empire website is well worth checking out.

"Fwee Woger"


The Rough Guide series in particular is great for showing off!  It’s in a handy format, lists all the things you need to know, and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

And of course, the movies themselves – check the shelves at your local library, or search online for old favourites or new treats.