Dracula’s Domain: A Visit to Whitby

Whitby

My recent trip to Manchester was followed by a few days in the sweet seaside town of Whitby. On the surface, Whitby seems like a strange place for a random visit: it’s a small seaside village on the east coast of Britain, and it’s not exactly the easiest place to get to. But Whitby did have one very attractive claim to fame that drew me there, despite a Megabus journey from Manchester and a two-hour, bumpy local bus ride: it’s reputed to be the birthplace of Bram Stoker’s late-Victorian ode to typewriters and phonographs (also it has a few vampires in it). I’m talking, of course, about Dracula. Continue reading

Two Days in Manchester: Plus, Mr Darcy Fangirling

Manchester Night

Welcome back to Lit Major Abroad, everybody, the segment where I post stories from my literature-inspired travels, usually about seven to thirteen months after said travels actually took place! Up next: an extremely belated description of a trip through Northern England. Warning: I will not divulge exactly when this trip took place. Suffice it to say that several seasons (as in, leaves falling to the ground, turning brown, and then growing on the trees all over again like those sped-up montages from the movies) have passed since this trip took place.

Like many readers of North and South, I had an idea of what Manchester would be like. Dirty and smoky, full of cramped streets and ugly factories that attested to a cruel age of economic power and social irresponsibility. I was influenced by things like the TV adaptation of Gaskell’s novel, and the experiences of family members who had been to the north of England (admittedly, several decades ago, when the English were considerably less on top of things as far as the aesthetic appeal of their cities goes). So when I decided to take a Gaskell-inspired detour through the north of England last year, I was sure I was heading towards a dirty, depressing industrial city. Continue reading

Lit Major Abroad: Great Scott! Abbotsford, Melrose, and Sir Walter Scott

Abbotsford ThistleFamous writers throughout history have often had their well-known quirks. Many of them have created work-spaces that inspire and surprise. They can be placed into all sorts of categories, from the mildly romantic to the Spartan. And amidst all these categories, Walter Scott’s Abbotsford ranks somewhere between ‘inspired’ and ‘downright mad’.

Scott, who rose to fame in the early nineteenth century as a writer of sweeping historical romances, is one of Scotland’s most famous writers. He helped romanticise Highland culture and brought the stories of Scottish heroes like Rob Roy to the attention of the world. In the early Victorian period, everyone knew his name. From Ivanhoe to Waverley to The Lady of the Lake, Scott was a medievalist extraordinaire. What’s more, he wasn’t content to simply write about the past. He was determined to live in it. Or, rather, to live in a re-created romantic ideal of the past. Continue reading

How I Became Less of a Grinch About Christmas

IMG_20151224_002447-1Now, I realise that this is not strictly a book-related post – hence my vague Dr Seuss reference. Consider this me branching out a little, one small step at a time.

I wanted to discuss something that I’ve discovered since I’ve been in the UK. Something I wasn’t quite expecting. It has to do with sleigh bells and turkey and Michael Bublé.

Yes, like the famous Dr Seuss character, I have found my heart growing two sizes (metaphorically, of course, or else I’d be having some far from jolly health complications) and embracing the spirit of Christmas. And I think it perhaps has quite a lot to do with setting, with the weather and general atmosphere of Edinburgh in early December.
Continue reading

Lit Major Abroad: Edinburgh – First Impressions

Edinburgh CastleYep. I know I’ve dropped the ball again when it comes to blogging (although, let’s face it, when it comes to my blogging habits, I have all the athletic skills of – well, of me, really). In my defence, it has been a crazy time: new city, new people, new bookstores to discover and spend way too much time in…. But now that winter has begun to sink its teeth into the city, and tourism seems distinctly less appealing in the biting wind (seriously, what is up with the wind in this city?) I thought I’d share some of my first impressions of Edinburgh. Because to be honest, I haven’t had all that much time to stop and reflect on my experiences here so far. Also, it’s essay-writing season over at the university, and I’m a tried and tested procrastinator.

So… where to begin with this famous city of literature? (And I’m not just saying that, by the way – Edinburgh really was named a City of Literature by UNESCO.) Continue reading

Top Ten Literary Places I’d Like to Visit

Scott Monument EdinburghThis week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt from The Broke and the Bookish is a freebie, and seeing as I’ve recently come to the UK for a year of study, I thought I’d use this opportunity to share my list of top literary places I’d like to visit while I’m here. Whether I’ll be able to visit all (or any) of these remains to be seen; but like all travelling bookworms, I dream big.

Top Ten Literary Places I’d Like to Visit (in the UK)

Continue reading

Lit Major Abroad: Istria, Home of the Famous Colossal Trousers

Porec StatueAustralians are a travel-hungry people generally, not content to sit on this hot, boring little island for too long at any one time. So we generally go overseas and sit on hot, boring little islands there, because it’s interesting and the people are fun and the food is better. Also we can collect those little bottles of soap and hair conditioner that you find in nicer hotels. Because, let’s face it, you never know when you might ten millilitres of runny, fifteen-year-old shampoo from a bottle that is older than all three of your children.

So in true Australian fashion, I have once again abandoned my home, and have headed to the home of my forefathers – Croatia – on the first leg of a year-long stint which will include plenty of travel, and a year of university study in the UK wedged in there somewhere (but let’s not talk about uni just yet, because it makes me terribly anxious, and also I haven’t bought all of my books yet). Continue reading

Challenging the City Slicker: Tracks (1980), by Robyn Davidson

tracks davidsonRobyn Davidson’s book is one of those things that challenges you because it describes something that is so utterly alien. And there’s more than a few reasons why, on the surface, I thought there would be little to relate to when I began reading her account of a trek across nearly two thousand miles of Australian desert. For instance:

  1. Despite the fact that I have lived my entire life in Australia, I have never seen more than a few patches of desert through a car window.
  2. My tolerance for hot weather peaks at about twenty degrees Celsius.
  3. I have a deathly fear of anything that clicks or slithers.
  4. I have never, nor do I ever intend to, sleep in a ‘tent’.
  5. Cleanliness is an issue with me; so much so that I am prone to anxiety attacks if I don’t shower at least once a day.
  6. Since the fourth grade, when we learnt about the dangers of melanoma, I react to sunlight in the same way that your average teenage vampire does: by slapping on three layers of skin-concealing shirts and scurrying into the welcoming shade of the nearest building/tree/bus shelter, arms held above my head like it’s raining locusts.

Continue reading

Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1812-1818), by George Gordon, Lord Byron

childeharoldThis book is #44 on my Classics Club list, and #2 on my Back to the Classics list for 2014.

Hands up everyone who, like me, thought that Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage was going to be about, oh, I don’t know, a young soon-to-be-knight tramping around Europe and going on grand adventures? I feel like there should be a big sign at the end of the book saying, ‘HA HA. Sucked in’.

Don’t get me wrong, Byron’s first major work is absolutely wonderful – just not in the way I was expecting. It’s been so long since I’ve read poetry that I had more or less forgotten the whole point of the Romantics was less about plot and more about Nature, the individual, the human mind with all its ingenious and imperceptible little nooks and crannies. So I went in expecting some sort of storyline, and found something completely different. Continue reading