Dark & Moody

Or Books for Moody Teenagers

The universal cry of Not Fair! can be heard all of over the land wherever there is a moody teenager, usually accompanied by sulky looks and followed by petulant silence. Well, we’ve all been there; contrary to what moody teens believe, it’s a familiar territory for all of us. And like us, they will come out the other end, (hopefully as civilised adults).

In the meantime, perhaps we can try to make the life of our moody teens – and our own – a bit more tolerable. Reading is fun and can be a solace (not to mention instructive and character forming). So here are a few books to add to a moody teen’s library – all suitably full of dark and gloomy landscapes, sinister occurrences, brooding heroes, monsters, misfortune, madness, ghosts and star crossed lovers… the lot. If they show a slight feminine bias, it’s because, well, I’m a female and so are my children – the younger of whom is currently in the moody teen phase. (Moody Friend of the Elephants, this is for you!)

The Moody Teen’s Library

Dracula by Bram Stoker

For all the fans of the dozens of s***ty teenage vampire series out there, this one is a must. Read it on a stormy December night while the rain is lashing against the window and the wind rattles the panes, with the room in deep shadow outside the circle of light thrown by your reading lamp. Ensuring your parents are out for the evening adds to the atmosphere!

Then donate those s***ty teenage vampire series to the charity of your choice because you’ll never waste time on them again.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

You can’t have a better teenage book than one written by a teenager. If my memory serves me well, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was only nineteen, just to show to those stuck up men in her company – the poets Byron and Shelley – what she could do. Well, what she could do was to write a book that ensured that her name is at least as well known as that pair of literary giants.

You might not think of it particularly as a book for teenagers, but they will respond to the familiar theme of Nobody Loves Me! on part of Frankenstein’s monster. Besides, teens nowadays seem to be quite fond of the Gothic.

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

Talking about Gothic… why not read the original Gothic story that spawned all the rest? It starts with a sinister prophecy, followed by a sinister accident, and it only gets more sinister from then onwards!

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

A gloomy story of ill fated love, revenge and general misery set on the bleak windswept moors of Northern England. Classic teenage girls’ stuff, from the 19th century.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

…Followed by a similarly classic teenage girls’ read. You have to wonder about the Bronte family, was something wrong with them that they all ended writing miserable love stories?

Title character Jane Eyre goes from unkind relatives to a grim orphanage, and from the orphanage to a strange household with sinister happenings… where she gets entangled in a somewhat ill fated love affair. (That’s the Brontes in a nutshell for you.)

The Catcher in the Rye by D. J. Salinger

A book that should be on every teenager’s bookshelf: the classic modern (as in 20th century) story of teenage angst. To say more would be spoiling the story. 🙂

The Tales and Poetry of Edgar Allan Poe

Another author who penned both poetry and short stories in a Gothic and macabre vein. The Murders in the Rue Morgue is widely regarded as the first modern detective story, featuring the amateur detective C. Auguste Dupin, forerunner of Sherlock Holmes. If you want sinister, don’t miss Edgar Allan Poe.

The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

What happens when you let all those moody teenagers loose on a desert island without adult supervision? Well, nothing good, really.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

James Dean in the film Rebel Without a Cause [public domain via Wikipedia]
Not for the fainthearted, this family saga of troubled relationships is set in the Salinas valley in California, parallelling the Bible story of Cain and Abel.

Pair it with the old 1955 film version, in which teenage icon James Dean played moody Cal before he died young in a car accident aged only 24.

Forget ‘Young Adult’ – these moody teens are well capable of reading real books!
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Thirty Pieces of Silver

14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests,
15 And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.

(Matthew 26:14-15, King James Bible)

In case anybody is any doubt, this is not a religious blog and those who seek salvation, better seek elsewhere. Instead, here we are concerned with the famous story of Judas selling Jesus to the Jewish high priests for the now proverbial thirty pieces of silver; or to be precise, with the actual thirty pieces of silver.

Thirty coins.

And their legend, as told by Brother Felix Fabri in his diary of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

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Las verdaderas historias de… (The True Stories of…)

Hace unas semanas he escrito unas líneas sobre Alonso de Contreras, un soldado español del siglo XVI, cuyas memorias inspiraron la vida del capitán Alatriste, el conocido héroe de Arturo Pérez-Reverte.  Cosa que al parecer no le gustó a casi nadie (pero a mí sí que me gustó escribirlo). Si no lo has leído, puedes encontrarlo aquí:

Capitán y español (Las vidas de aquellos capitanes)

A few weeks ago I wrote some lines about Alonso de Contreras, a Spanish soldier from the 16th century, whose memoirs inspired the life of Captain Alatriste, the well-known hero of Arturo Pérez-Reverte. A piece that apparently almost nobody liked (but I did like writing it). If you haven’t read it, you can find it here:

The Three (Spanish) Musketeers

Bueno. Como mencioné en ese post, Alonso de Contreras no fue el único soldado español que escribió sobre su vida. Hoy os voy a recomendar dos libros más; porque, creed me, la historia es mejor que la ficción.

Anyway. As I mentioned in that post, Alonso de Contreras wasn’t the only Spanish soldier who wrote about his life. Today I’m going to recommend you two more books; because, believe me, history is indeed better than fiction.

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La Rubaiyat de Omar Khayyam

Read the English version

Lo que sigue aquí abajo es la versión española de un post sobre Omar Khayyam - también suele deletrear Omar Jayam - que escribí el pasado domingo en inglés. Versión, digo, porque la poesía no es el mismo que en el post inglés, por la razón de que Omar Khayyam escribió unos cientos cuartetos, y los cuartetos en la traducción española y la traducción inglesa no se corresponden.

Leí a Omar Khayyam en el baño anoche. Esto es siempre una receta para el desastre, pero a pesar de muchos años de práctica empapando libros, Omar Khayyam se conservó seco, probablemente porque me despertó. (Lo que no fue el efecto que pretendía en absoluto, pero estas clases de cosas suceden cuando te instalas en el baño para una lectura relajante antes de dormir. )

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The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

I read The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in the bath last night. This is always a recipe for disaster, but despite of long years of practice in soaking books, Omar Khayyam survived dry, probably due to the fact that he quite woke me up. (Which was not the effect I had been looking for but these things happen when you settle in for a relaxing read in the bath before going to bed.)

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The Dark Side of Life (In Nine Haikus)

It’s February, it’s cold, it’s dark, life is s**t for so many different reasons.

In other words:

It’s Time For Poetry

I could, of course, dig out something uplifting, like Odysseas Elytis painting an Aegean heaven. I usually do, at moments like this. But you know what, not tonight. After all, life is not all song and dance, and sometimes, just ever so often, you do have every reason to sit in a dark corner and howl. (Some of you might have a lot more reasons to sit and howl than others – rid yourself of the notion that life is fair.)

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Top (?) Ten

Lies, damned lies and statistics.

(Source disputed¹)

The quote – whoever it was who first came up with it – says it all: you should take statistics with a pinch of salt. (Even better, understand what they truly mean.) Nevertheless, if you’re a blogger, it’s rather difficult to ignore the statistics; and the other day I took a look at what posts were the most popular – that means most visited – in the past few years.

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The Three (Spanish) Musketeers

Leer esto en español

A murderer at the the age of thirteen, exiled from Madrid… what future would have had a boy like that?

Well, it seems that he had a pretty interesting future. So interesting that later he considered it worthwhile to write his memoirs. So interesting in fact that these memoirs gave life to a character in a well-known – at least in Spain – novel. And this character, in turn, gave life to a character in a TV series…

Do you know who they are?

The Surrender of Breda by Diego Velázquez [Courtesy of the Museum of Prado, Madrid]
If you have seen the original Spanish version of this post, you may have noted that it contains several quotes by Eduardo Marquina. They are from his play En Flandes se ha puesto el sol, The Sun Has Set in Flanders. Unfortunately, I was unable to find an English translation of this work, and I most definitely draw the line at trying to translate poetry. My apologies, but apart from a brief excerpt, you'll just have to do without.

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Capitán y español: Las vidas de aquellos capitanes

Read this in English

Asesino a la edad de trece años, desterrado de la Villa… ¿qué futuro habría tenido un chico como aquello?

Pues parece que tenía un futuro bastante interesante. Tan interesante que más tarde le valdría la pena escribir sus memorias. Tan interesante, de hecho, que estas memorias dieron vida a un personaje en una novela muy conocida. Quién, a su vez, dio vida a un personaje de una serie de la televisión…

Capitán y español, no está avezado
a curarse de herida, que ha dejado
intacto el corazón dentro del pecho.

(Eduardo Marquina: En Flandes se ha puesto el sol)

Te adivines ¿de quiénes se tratamos?

Las lanzas o La rendición de Breda por Diego Velázquez [Gracias al Museo del Prado]
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Beats Working in a Bank (Mejor que trabajar en un banco)

Or

Three Authors Who Escaped their Tedious Day Jobs by Becoming Writers

We start with the one who gave the idea for the title of this post: the one who did, in fact, work in a bank.

And loathed it.

O

Tres autores quienes escaparon sus trabajos penosos convirtiéndose en escritores

Empezamos con el que dio la idea para el título de este post: el que, de hecho, trabajó en un banco.

Y lo odiaba.

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Art, Word, War: Anglo-Saxon Codices

Orderly British queues, intellectuals discussing minute details of craftsmanship and content; teenage girls squealing in delight as if they just met a rock star – at the sight of the handwriting of an early 9th century bishop. (I wonder what school they go to.)

That was Art, Word, War, the current British Library exhibition about the Anglo-Saxons.

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Twelve Books in Twelve Months (2018)

For certain unfortunate reasons I don’t wish to detail here, I struggled to keep the blog going last year and, as you might have noticed, there were times when weeks went by without me being able to publish any other post than the weekly quote. Nevertheless, I still did manage to read a few books… so to start the new year off (may it be better than the last), let’s look back on some of last year’s readings.

Books you might enjoy – or you’ll want to avoid! 🙂

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Los héroes de Pérez-Reverte (The heroes of Pérez-Reverte)

Arturo Pérez-Reverte (1951-)

La semana pasada, a propósito de ‘Throwback Thursday’, hemos vuelto a leer  un articulo viejo escrito por uno de mis autores españoles favoritos, Arturo Pérez-Reverte.

Last week, on apropos of Throwback Thursday, we revisited an old magazine article by one of my favourite Spanish authors, Arturo Pérez-Reverte.

Así que hoy me ocurrió que quizás podríamos hablar un poco más sobre él y sus libros. O sea, que le permitimos que nos habla de sus novelas él mismo.

So today I thought maybe we could talk a little more about him and his books. Or rather, we’ll let him tell us about his novels himself.

Como mencioné anteriormente, Pérez-Reverte comenzó su carrera como corresponsal de guerra. Con el tiempo, se ha convertido en un escritor de tiempo completo y miembro estelar de la Real Academia Española (silla T). Hace un par de años, dio una entrevista larga a Jotdown.es, una revista cultural online. En esta entrevista, entre otras cosas, habló sobre de los héroes que pueblan sus novelas y sobre qué es lo que hace sus novelas convincentes.

As mentioned before, Pérez-Reverte started his career as a war correspondent. He graduated to become a full time writer and  a stellar member of the Spanish Royal Academy (seat T). A few years ago he gave an extensive interview to Jotdown.es, an online cultural magazine. In the interview, among other things, he spoke about the heroes that populate his novels and what makes his novels convincing.

Empezamos con lo último.

We start with the latter.

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Burns vs Petőfi: Or Whose National Poet Is More S**t?

As far as titles go, this is surely looking for trouble. I mean, I don’t even have to answer the question in the title to succeed in offending the entire population of Scotland and half¹ the population of Hungary. (That would add up to ten million, give or take a few hundred thousand; if you’re pedantic, you can look up the population statistics.)

As you guessed from the title, this post is going to introduce you to some awful poetry. You might be wondering why I want to write about awful poetry, even if this is a literature blog – well, ladies and gentlemen, I suffered Burns’ poetry while reading English at university and Petőfi’s poetry throughout my entire educational career (starting in kindergarten). Now it’s your turn.

Sándor Petőfi
Robert Burns

 

 

vs

 

 

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Are You Smarter Than a Robot?

Well, you’d like to think so. Sure, you can’t calculate the cube of 17,302¹ as fast as Siri but you’ve got a brain that’s capable of solving the kind of problems which cause a robot – your computer, your smart phone, your human shaped domestic slave (if you’re reading this in 3000 A.D.) – to freeze.

Shall we put it to the test?

Image by Geralt via Pixabay [CC0].
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The Guns Fell Silent

A hundred years ago, on the Western Front, effectively marking the end of World War I.

My great-grandfather was conscripted in World War I – was taken prisoner of war and survived. My grandfather was conscripted in World War II and disappeared without a trace, leaving his son born posthumously, out of wedlock. What about your family?

Listen to the moment when the guns fell silent and let’s remember all the victims of war – whether soldiers or civilians. (The recording was released by the Imperial War Museum.)

Florence, City of the Renaissance

Renaissance – rebirth – is the Medieval realisation that the classical world, in particular Greece, has something to offer us. One of the places where you can observe Renaissance best ‘in action’ is the Italian city of Florence, in Tuscany, a northern region of Italy. For all that it’s a famous tourist destination, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you do enjoy immersing yourself in the Renaissance – because apart from that, there’s not a lot else to do.

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