Hello readers! Welcome to the very first edition of the Literary Society’s Almanac magazine. First of all thank you for viewing our magazine and I very much hope that you enjoy this edition. It’s a fantastic opportunity for students to exhibit their creative writing and brings a student publication to life. It’s been quite an uphill struggle to get this magazine off the ground, but I’m so thrilled that we have a complete product to show the student body. When Rupert asked me almost a year ago to be the editor of the magazine, it was just an idea that Rupert had to pave the way for a student publication in-keeping with what the Literary Society stands for. Over the course of six months he was pretty persistent in ensuring that I was still interested in editing the magazine. When the magazine was finally given the go-ahead in January it felt like a massive relief and we could start making the vision a reality! I hope that this edition will be the first of many to come. I’d like to thank all who contributed to this edition, both those submitting content and those that helped put the magazine together. But for now, enjoy the great talent that we have on show here at Anglia Ruskin and keep on writing! Victoria Parrin
Hello everyone! Welcome to the first issue of Anglia Ruskin Literary Society's Almanac magazine. There is a part of me that cannot believe we actually got here! I never doubted the people I asked to help get the magazine off the ground, but was worried that people wouldn’t be interested in writing for it, or would not have time to write. I am very happy to say that my fears were irrational and that (hopefully) this will be the first of many issues. I intended the magazine to be a place for people to share their stories, poems and writings. Not just something to frame in portfolios, but something to look back upon and be satisfied with. In addition, I wanted something that would help to encourage creative writing outside academic courses. We have some fantastic writing courses here which give people the opportunity to stretch themselves, myself included as this year I will be applying for an MA in Creative Writing at Anglia Ruskin. That said, I think it's important for those of us who are budding writers to train and gain more experience in our craft. At the moment, this is the only place where students can produce creative work within the confines of the university. I can only wish that other societies will follow suit in years to come and perhaps even create their own magazine. Who knows? Maybe some of you will be the creative force behind ARU's first movie or music review magazines. Let’s see what the future holds. But for now, this is intended to pave the way for more exciting developments and I hope that you will continue to submit content for future editions. One final note, I would like to thank our editor Victoria Parrin, the members of the committee and all those who helped to get the magazine off the ground. Rupert Woods
Dear you, I’ll cut short on the welcomes as it’s page 3 and you’re probably already bored of them, as well as being exasperated from the wait for this magazine to be published. But it’s here now. We did it. As both Rupert and Victoria have already said, to have this magazine finished and published as opposed to simply being a committee pipe dream is an incredible achievement, not only for all those who helped to create it, but to all of you who have provided its content. I’m in my third and final year at Anglia Ruskin University, and during that time I’ve come across some fantastic creative writing from close friends and Literary Society members. The whole reason I am so passionate to have this magazine is because I feel that this writing should be shared with as wide an audience as possible, not only to those taking a creative writing module. It is also due to the fact that many, like myself, may not participate in creative writing classes, and simply have a passion for writing and literature that they may otherwise find no way of expressing with others. My hope is that, after this first issue has done the rounds, more people will want to share their work with our society and our readers, and possibly even be given the inspiration they needed to put pen to paper. As I’m sure all of you would have already experienced, this period of our lives at university really is the golden age of self-reflection, self-realisation and horrifying emotional breakdowns, and so it’s the perfect time to try and turn that mental rollercoaster into a piece of writing. Back to the society itself, the amount of work that has been put into both the magazine and the Literary Society events has been huge. Whilst we’re by no means perfect, members who don’t get to see behind the scenes would be shocked at the amount of hours of meetings, email conversations and forms it takes to get even the smallest seeming events off the ground. I’d therefore like to thank my fellow members of the previous committee for all their hard work, as well as our current committee who are trying so desperately to deal with their committee roles as well as their academic commitments. Special thanks goes to Sophie May, our Vice-President, for organising the Mark Grist event we hosted earlier this semester, and to Sophie Phelps for our second event with Rebecca Stott. Hopefully we’ll be able to bring you more and more as the year goes on! Anyway, enough from me, it’s time you actually read the magazine you’ve all been after. We’ve been haunted by bad luck and set-backs, but I hope you all enjoy it as much as I enjoy seeing it in its final form. And if you haven’t already contributed, I hope you’ll be doing so for our next copy! Lots of hugs and kisses, Kristof Wasmuht
Godwin Ekoriko – Beauty Sophie May – Wedding Blues Roshan Matharu – My Red Wine Rupert Woods - Music Hall Victoria Love - Ode To Gloria Swanson Godwin Ekoriko – Conscience Alex Atkin – Pandemic Panic Tom Johnson - Shutter Clock Tock Godwin Ekoriko – Journey Rupert Woods - The Count and the Pretty Boy
Jonathan Doyle – Beat Sophie May - Getting Rid of the Dog Mary Bongiovi – Jenna’s Choice Matthew McLaren – The Peasant’s Sacrifice Alex Atkin – Lawrence Knibbs Elizabeth Fern Harding-White – Night Sophie May – The Diary of Verity McCartney
Life of Pi (Review by Amber Gunn) One Day (Review by Victoria Parrin) The Selection (Review by Mary Bongiovi) The Silver Linings Playbook (Review by Amber Gunn)
Theatre Termcard Submissions
Godwin Ekoriko - Beauty The beauty that I seek Is one I cannot reach While chasing the wind I found myself pinned The answers revealed Yet botched by a force-field Created by my ignorance To the truth. I am held to penance While tripping on my roots Oh what blindness Burning like a madness It all becomes clear That am a wonder Created from beyond the yonder And my beauty Has been lost to my desire To be what I am not A figment of my imagination Or othersâ€™ indignation Like seeing stones In the midst of diamonds For no one knows beauty Or can describe it As beauty has been lost To everyone's eyes And can only be felt With our hearts.
Sophie May – Wedding Blues Now look what I’ve gone And done. I fell in love And dove Straight in. Even though I’ve made it through And it’s over now, I will never know How to heal this wound. My heart’s so tightly bound, Restricted, forced back in place. I can only grimace And bite my tongue. The lace meringue, The heartfelt vow, The bridesmaid’s bow, Will one day be all for me If only I can learn to take it slower, Take a long cold shower, No rushed declaration Hoping he’ll pop the question. It’s all a little desperate. I need to learn to separate What goes on in bed And what goes on in my own head.
Roshan Matharu â€“ My Red Wine 14% V ol. The soft acid ity. Me llow tastes dance on my tongue; the deep, dark forbidden tones of the strong tart sharp & scented crimson-red wine! Poured in the big, empty glass, it has a tendency to... to swell and to bloom Its crisp and mature aroma lingers in the open, pale, yellow lit room
Rupert Wood - Music Hall
There's an empty stage, a place of forgotten laughter, where tears were rarely shed. Where feats of amazement would be performed, to cries of shock and awe. Where short men could walk tall, and a song about a garden could be quite risquĂŠ One man would shout "You lucky people", another saying "Now there's a funny thing!"
Here lights illuminated Stan Laurel, before he met Mr Hardy. People laughed cheered and sang along, with Champagne Charlie or Tessie O'Shea. It's the place where people saw Chaplin, before he became a tramp.
Crazy gangs and wacky walks, funny men and singing ladies; mad acts and bad acts, good acts and forgotten acts. All of these were here.
There was Eric and Erin, Flanagan and Allen, and the Maxes: Miller and Wall. Some had fame, others still sought it, though you could never get Miller to buy you a beer. But now the stage is empty, it waits for a performer. I wonder if they will come?
Victoria Love - Ode To Gloria Swanson Her face was a thousand evenings spent staring at a screen. Adored by many 'round the world, but scarcely ever seen. The public knew her personally, were there through rough and smooth. Gossip-mongers fed hungrily, wishing they knew the truth. A half-dozen times in her life wedding bells sang their tune. Brand new husband, but wayward wife, each marriage met its doom. Rumours whispered of thirteen men, illicit affairs and trysts. The glare of fame shone, even then, on every man she kissed. The gilded cage of Hollywood offered no protection for those she held captive who would gift her with affection. The silver screen, her silver veil parting false from truth. Her love life played out as a tale of what you should not do.
Godwin Ekoriko - Conscience I ask myself, Is there really a price on someone's head? Or is it worth the tears that a poor mother sheds? But that's the story of the “ends”, to others the ghetto. Boys reppin’ a postcode Like they’re gonna win the lotto. Guns, drugs and violence become their motto. Different ghettos, but the same photo: Children growing up next to the gutter having to fight for their own butter. Gunshots tearing us apart like mortar Tears forming in my eyes, as I reminisce about living next to the flies, while the world turns a blind eye to your daily cries. Feeling alone, powerless, and helpless as I watch my best friend die. Choked by the dirty slime and vomiting at the sight of the grotesque grime. Feeling less than a conqueror, Not wanting to be in this life anymore, Because of humanity’s decadence: The lack of conscience the constant pursuit of happiness the aspiration for ghetto images. One day we will all reminisce and count our sins what will your conscience say, while staring at your own picture, like Dorian Gray?
Tom Johnson - Shutter Clock Tock
A station of greetings, A station of goodbyes. Where dew drips from people's eyes And there are too many eyes for them to hide Their feelings.
The clock's shutter-like tock sends an echo That ripples like the drip from a tap to a drain, Rudely reminding people it's time to go home again, Let her go and get on the train That takes her home.
The rail is an electric river, The carriage, a cruel, heartless ship Which won't let me hold on or keep. But instead will take you And your warmth, leaving me to shiver.
Use your ticket, get on the train. I'll stand here and watch as you leave again. Walk through the gate, Get on the platform and wait Or youâ€™ll be late.
Alex Atkin - Pandemic Panic
People are dropping like flies (think epileptics under a strobe) apparently weâ€™re all going to die as the latest Black Death sweeps the globe.
Women scream and children cry because an old man wheezes apocalypse now, the end is nigh when a young boy sneezes.
Be it sheep, birds, terrorists or swine spreading this new cause for concern the symptoms include a bleeding spine your legs will explode then your eyes will burn.
So run to the hills or jump down a mine put your affairs in order at least fear the reaper who comes to dine for from your fear he maketh his feast.
Godwin Ekoriko - Journey The things in my bag: My clothes, my jacket and a chocolate bar. All the items hitting each other: a game of tag. Thinking why do I have to travel this far? The journey which I will soon embark upon Requires extensive preparation, Some female intuition, And a visit to the train station. Looking at peoplesâ€™ faces And the different races All embarking on the same journey as me, Makes me wonder about the fee. I find my mind racing To my destination before me. The train speeds up the next station Ashford and then Stratford: The journey to London Terminating at Kings Cross. The doors suddenly open And the air meanders in, coursing through my warm veins. Like an electric bolt, It passes through me, Making me shiver. I finally arrive At my destination. I suddenly thrive Under the pressure. My journey's completion, Granting me some recognition.
Rupert Woods - The Count and the Pretty Boy
Good evening sir, my name is Renfield. I do hope you enjoy your stay, at Hotel Alucard But please don't mention vampires. Shh! The Count might hear you sir
Once upon a time, vampires scared the hell out of you. Now, they are a bunch of pretty boys and posers. Shh! Don't tell the Count.
They ensnared young maidens with their charms and turned them into creatures of the night. Now, they avoid biting the girl and instead want protect them. Shh! Don't tell the Count.
They burnt in daylight and ran away from crosses. Now they....sparkle, like diamonds Really, don't tell the Count!
They murdered whole families and terrorized towns. Now, they have children and mortgages. For God's sake, don't tell the Count!
Renfield, who is Stephanie Meyer?
Jonathan Doyle – Beat I was trying to find my seat. It was a damn long way from the toilets. I’d never been on such a long plane. ‘Are you lost?’ The stewardess was blonde. Her eyes bore into my brain and out through my skull. I almost collapsed. ‘Sorry, I think I am. I have no idea where I’m sitting.’ I smiled in the hope of making her do the same. ‘Well, follow me. V will know.’ We went down the aisle and I looked at the faces. I’m sure I recognised all of them, or something about them. The windows were all open but there was nothing but clouds; no one was looking outside anyway, they were all doing their own thing. ‘Hey, V.’ V was looking down at the food trays and it took her a while to turn around. All the time I was looking at the blonde girl, hoping to catch those eyes. ‘Hi. What’s the matter?’ V was incredible. She looked like a French girl but had an English accent. Man, she was some woman! ‘I lost my seat.’ I grinned broadly and she smiled. Hallelujah! ‘Let’s get you back, then. I’ve got to take someone his meal and then we’ll find your seat.’ ‘He’s still complaining?’ The blonde girl sounded tired. ‘He will never stop complaining,’ V replied. ‘What’s he complaining about?’ I was desperate to speak to them. ‘Well,’ V said, ‘firstly the sauce was too hot, and then the rice was too hot. Then he told us he was a vegetarian.’ ‘He sounds like a pain in the behind,’ I said, killing myself for saying something you’d hear at a mother’s meeting. ‘Indeed,’ said V, ‘let’s go over.’
V went up to the man and placed a tray in front of him. He looked a lot like someone, but I didn’t want to say who. He had slicked back, black hair, a moustache and dark, fiery eyes. ‘Nein! Nein!’ He didn’t like his food. Just then my friend Bill shouted my name. I felt bad for V and the blonde girl, but I had to go. Bill was talking to a guy across the aisle. ‘Hey! Jack! Come over here and read some of this poetry. This man is a genius.’ I took the page from the poet across the aisle. “My teensy Quincy. Carbuncles and uncles and the rest are in vain. The world and its fame, what a permutation!” I looked at Bill; he wasn’t smiling. ‘Yeah. I like it.��� A nervous looking man leaned over from beside the poet, ‘He’s working on some plays too!’ Suddenly the poet burst, he got a whip out from under his chair and started to punish the man. ‘You are not to speak!’ He spoke to us calmly, ‘He knows he cannot speak. I do not need a talking servant. He writes literary criticism for slices of ham.’ I was just about to lay one on this guy when Bill pulled me back. ‘That’s been happening all day, Jack. That guy Frank seems to enjoy it. Leave ‘em to it.’ Bill’s eyes, as ever, were bulging out of their sockets. I sat back down to read a letter from Neal, a great, long, sprawling opus detailing his week in Louisiana. Ah, to get off this plane, I thought. Bill’s table was full of cut up sentences and single words, he was rearranging them frantically. Just when he stopped to look at the words, the plane jumped. ‘Damn!’ ‘Why not just stop, Bill? Use a notebook.’ ‘I hate notebooks. They are a construct of Western civilisation designed to stop us from reaching the truth, that which we know but cannot write.’ ‘Where’s the toilet this end, Bill?’ I didn’t really need it. ‘At the back, there. Someone’s been on it all day though.’ I knocked on the door twice, and stood wondering what this guy was doing. He replied, with the greatest voice I’d ever heard. It was smooth but had something else in it, a croak. ‘Waid a minute baby. I god somethin’ cookin’.’ I waited but he didn’t come out, and I went back to my seat. ‘He’s supposed to be sitting behind us,’ Bill pointed behind.
The intercom crackled and a voice came through the line. ‘This is your captain. Mr Kerouac, to the cockpit. A stewardess will be over.’ The blonde girl appeared at the side of Bill and we started to walk. I asked her where V was but she didn’t know. I looked around and saw a steward who looked just like V, but it was a man no doubt, with a moustache and short hair. ‘Why are you and V on here? You should be doing something else. Not serving food to guys like me and Bill.’ ‘We don’t know.’ She sounded sad. Just then we reached the cockpit. The blonde girl knocked and entered. ‘Captain Hemingway. Mr Kerouac.’ ‘Thank you, Sylvia.’ The captain had a strong voice. ‘Mr Kerouac. Good to meet you. I will get straight to it. We have all been reading your work.’ ‘My work? Alright.’ ‘Yes. I wanted to tell you. I like your stories but you use too many words.’ ‘Well,’ I replied, ‘I think that’s a matter of personal taste. I’m writing in a Joycean kinda style; there’s so much I want to put down.’ ‘No,’ he took a pause, ‘You can’t put everything down. What you leave out will show in what you choose to put in. You must be concise.’ His brain was heating up. ‘I’m writing spontaneous prose, man. You wouldn’t understand.’ He started to go red, ‘Is your mind a garbage truck? You can’t dump everything on a page.’ At that moment I started to go red too. As I was about to speak, Sylvia rushed in, panicked, ‘Captain Hemingway! Robert Louis Stevenson is throttling T.S. Eliot!’
Sophie May - Getting Rid of the Dog She was looking at him again. Ears pricked, mouth shut, tail still. Tonight. It was going to have to be tonight. Then he could relax. Maybe. Could she remember? How long can dogs remember? Even if she could, what was she going to do about it? Tell Betty? Any sane man would know that was impossible but Al was shifting further and further from sanity all the time. Especially with that damn dog staring at him like that. He stared back at Suzy for a long time. Eventually he stood up, asked if she fancied a walk and her tail finally began to move. He picked up the leash and told Betty he was taking the dog out. Yes, again. Just fancy the fresh air. Al bundled Suzy into the car and started to drive, still undecided as to where he was going. It would have to be someplace quiet where nobody would see him. He just drove. Time passed. He found himself heading towards Monk Wood. He pulled into the parking lot and shut off the engine. Suzy was sitting on the passenger’s seat and was staring at him again. He reached over to open the door on her side as he leant in towards her she let out a low growl. Al stepped out of the car and when he slammed the door shut Suzy jumped down and ran. He closed the passenger door, locked up and ran after her. It wasn’t like her to run off. But then, it wasn’t like him to plan to abandon a dog. A good dog. His best friend. He followed her out of the parking lot, out of the wood and back onto the empty highway. Suzy had stopped and was sitting at the side of the road, barking. So she did remember. Al hadn’t been back here since and as far as he knew, neither had Suzy. It had happened here three weeks ago. Well, two and a half. It was an accident but try telling the damn dog that. It really had been an accident: a stupid misjudgement on Al’s part, but definitely still an accident. He had spent the day hunting and drinking with his friends. When he got back, the dog wanted to go out so he had put her in the truck and driven to the woods. They’d had a good time. Suzy had gone swimming in the lake and he sat on a bench and drank another beer. When the dog had dried herself out Al decided it was time to head off. Maybe he’d make it back before Betty fell asleep. He hoped so. He pulled out of the parking lot and saw he was headed right for a deer. Without looking, he swerved the opposite way and heard a thud. So he had
killed a deer by trying to save another. Except, when he got out to inspect the damage to his truck he found it wasn’t just a dumb deer. It was a man. Al puked. Really puked. He hadn’t realised he’d eaten so much. He finished, wiped his mouth and noticed Suzy at his heels. She kept looking from Al to the man on the ground and cried. She kept crying for a long time. Al took hold of the man under the arms and tried to pull him from under the truck but found he was stuck under the tyre. He climbed back in and re-started the truck’s engine. The dog really started to panic then at the idea of being left behind. Al inched the truck forward, left the engine idling and got back out. Trying not to look at the mangled legs and heavily bleeding torso, Al got the man out and dragged him to the grass at the side of the highway. He puked again. Suzy sounded like she was losing her damn mind, barking and crying the way she was. Taking Suzy by the leash he tried to drag her away and back into the truck. It was a struggle. He finally got her in and climbed back in himself. All the way home Suzy had stared at him, crying. He did make it home before Betty fell asleep but the dog insisted on sleeping on the bed that night so it didn’t matter anyway. Being back there had set Suzy off again. She sat exactly where it had happened. She just sat there, barking and crying. She didn’t notice him walk away. That was going to make it easier. He went back into the parking lot and got into the car. As he drove onto the highway and passed Suzy she finally noticed him. She ran after the car, barking and yelping like mad. He put his foot down and didn’t slow down until he couldn’t hear her anymore. He felt relieved. The dog would only have given him away, somehow. He managed to convince himself she had wanted to be left there, that’s why she had run off and not noticed when he walked away. He had loved her once. It was a shame to see her go. He would tell Betty and the kids she ran off and he had searched but to no avail. They would be sad, for a while. Then this whole mess would be over and he could finally relax. He hoped.
Mary Bongiovi â€“ Jennaâ€™s Choice When I was small, my brother Joseph and I would play hide and seek. He always decided the game; whether or not I was 'it' was dependent entirely upon his whim at the time. I had found it more comfortable to hide, gradually I had become quite good at it. It got to the point where Joseph would give up and find something else to occupy himself with. Hours later, my father would find me, curled up asleep in a long forgotten trunk and he would pick me up and take me to bed. I never got much in the way of choices, but I was predisposed from an early age to play them close to my heart. I learned quickly that a woman must abide by the choices made for her. I am by no means bitter. My father was a kind man, and while my brother and I did not always get on, he was no ogre. When my father died, Joseph fairly divided our father's estate amongst us. I learned then that I must abide by certain rules, set kindly for the most part, but they were there nonetheless. I had to be good. And I was, overall. I had always been sober in demeanour; I tended my allotment of the farm well and carried out my duties as a good Christian woman does. I expected my life to take the course of any other woman in Mills Landing, with a cosy homestead and a loving husband with a brood of children. It would be a place to belong, even if it wasnâ€™t solely my own. But when the troubles came, I ran and hid. It seemed the most natural plan of action. There would be no wedding, no happy homestead and I knew instantly that there never would be. I was not a young woman anymore and the older one gets, the more foolish a young girl's dreams become, frivolous like satin ribbons for plaits. I had pinned all my hopes on him, my childish dream of finding a place to belong. There was never going to be a man in Mills Landing who would swoop me up and marry me. People on the mainland think there must have been a moment of great despair for me, but at the time I felt nothing. After that initial shock, I was inured to anything else. There was never going to be anything else for me beyond Mills Landing. I could see that every day I would have to get up and carry on, while everyone in town looked at me, whispering "poor Jenna". So I left. It seemed the only choice I had. At the time I didn't even think about it. It passed in a blur, my spur of the moment trip to my lawyer. I twisted Joseph's arm to take my land, and he did. Even
then I don't think he quite realised what I was going to do. He thought taking it would appease me, and when I came to my senses, he would return it to me and all would be well. He didn't think I would take the skiff and leave. After 38 years of living together as brother and sister, he didn't know me very well. On Shell Island, I was alone at last. I could rail and curse at God and there wasn't a soul to hear the damning words I screamed. Only the sea could hear me and it stormed along with me. When I returned to the house that first night, I was soaked and terrified, certain I would die, struck down by God himself though the sea's wrath. But in the morning, it had calmed and I had lived to face another day. I know there are people on Mills Landing now- fewer than there were in the past, as their memories of me fade- who still think of me as "poor Jenna". I know they fear for me when winter brings its chill, or the sea rages, and the rain batters my tiny house. They do not see how it is here. I live in reasonable contentment, as much as any woman can hope for. It is harsh here; I do not deny it. I take that as my lot, the good and the bad. Because there are good things here: the sunlight, the sparrows, the surf, and the sea. I have learned to work with my hands and take humble pride in the homestead I have made here. I pass my days amongst the air and the sea and my company is the birds who fly overhead. I had once thought that I would never be forgiven for that terrible time when I first came here, feeling utterly abandoned. As I grow older, I am more and more unsure if that truly is the case. I do not miss the mainland as much as I thought. I no longer think of this as some kind of penance. This island is my own place in the world. I have made it my own and I have decided to take this path. I made my choice.
Matthew McLaren – The Peasant’s Sacrifice The Great Room had a living being in it for the first time in one hundred years. A young peasant bolted into the room, eyes darting around the room. A man and woman were slumped in their thrones, covered by years’ worth of cobwebs. The peasant ran toward them, and thrust a sword to the King’s mouth. The blade fogged over. The peasant sighed. ‘So, you are still alive? Your Majesty?’ ‘Hello again, my dear,’ purred the monster. The peasant turned and faced the creature. It slivered to the middle of the Great Room and stood there, its fangs bared in a grin. The youth lunged with the sword. The monster flicked its claw and the young warrior was swept to the floor. ‘Come on, my dear. You know as well as I do that you cannot defeat me; what happened outside should make you aware of that.’ ‘I got a bit of you out there, ma’am.’ The youth pointed to the creature’s horns; one of them had been cleaved off. ‘Yes,’ the creature admitted. ‘I presume you know what has happened?’ ‘I’m afraid the fairies have just come and filled me in, my lady.’ ‘My blasted cousins!’ the creature seethed, ‘I should’ve known. After all, one of them contaminated the curse that I had put on that royal brat upstairs.’ ‘Oh, do forgive me’. The creature’s eyes gleamed as it saw the youth’s face contort. ‘That was not a nice thing to say about your little friend. She is your friend, am I correct? Oh, that face,’ the creature commented with a pout, pointing to the youth’s furious expression, ‘and you were so happy sleeping. Why those stupid cousins of mine had to wake you up, I have no idea.’ The peasant just glared, sword at the ready. ‘You know, I could put you back to sleep very easily. All it would take is a snap of my fingers and you would be happy again. You could forever enjoy the merriments of childhood with no barrier of status and education. You could do what you want to do, go where you want to go, be with whomever you want to be with. You will be the King’s first choice as a suitor always. That’s what you want, isn’t it dearest?’ The youth’s grip on the sword loosened.
‘Of course you would, darling. Who would choose a world where love means little to anyone? Who would choose a world where love has to be kept a secret? If you succumb to my powers, then you can complete the mission my dim-witted cousins gave you in your head. Imagine it. I’m defeated. You kiss the Princess. She kisses you. You and her roll around like when you were children, sneaking out of the kingdom into the fields. The King will find out that only the Princess’ true love could break the spell. He embraces you. He denies the belief system that he holds dearest, and lets the child of the blacksmith marry his only daughter. You and she will reign over your own utopia. You will know what it is to grow old with her. Just let me put you to sleep and all your problems will be over. Your beloved in the bed will live her fantasy with you over and over again.’ The peasant’s eyes remained fixed on the creature. ‘If they wake up however, the Princess will go with the suitor who was visiting when the curse came into effect. She will be taken from you. You will be stuck here.’ The peasant walked toward the monster, which seemed to be slowing expanding. ‘The fairies said that if I kiss Ros-the Princess,’ the blacksmith’s child stammered, ‘everything will go back to normal.’ ‘Yes,’ cooed the creature. ‘Yes my dear, it will. They will wake up. Your heroics of the last hour will be ignored. And your love, the love that you’re not even allowed to call by name will be married to that peacock, cut off from you forever.’ The peasant looked up at the creature as it swelled, its teeth growing larger, its pupils dilating. ‘Come, little warrior,’ the creature growled. ‘One stroke from me and your worries will be over. Don’t you want that?’ ‘Yes, ma’am,’ the peasant said before rolling out of the monster’s reach, raising the sword. The creature tried swiping the peasant away, but the peasant jumped at its claws, slicing one talon off. The creature turned and roared, a great belch of fire travelling toward the blacksmith’s child. The lowborn youth ducked out of the way, and with a “Pardon me, ma’am” lunged at the demon, driving the sword into its belly. With a scream, the creature crashed to the floor with a loud rumble. Then the great body crumpled. The peasant glared as the evil creature became a puddle, which then evaporated with a squeak.
The young peasant dashed up the staircase. Turning a corner, a handsome man dressed in the greatest finery imaginable, lay snoring on the steps. The peasant scowled down at him. ‘I hope you’re a good husband to her, Your Highness. And please forgive my candour, but you do look like a peacock.’ The stairs at last spiralled up toward a door. The peasant pushed it and after several tries, the rotting wood budged. The youth walked into the room, observing the gilded mirror coated with dust, a wardrobe that expanded the wall, a dressing table and then... the youth’s sword clattered to the ground. There in the four poster bed, lay an angel in a silk dress. The peasant glided toward the sleeping woman. ‘Rose?’ The young lady grunted in her sleep. The youth chuckled, ‘that’s my Princess.’ The lowborn kissed her lips. Princess Rose’s eyelids pulsated. She groaned. And then her eyes opened. They turned to the peasant standing above her. Princess Rose beamed. ‘Your Royal Highness,’ said the peasant. ‘Margaret,’ breathed Rose, her head resting on her true love’s breast.
Alex Atkin - Lawrence Knibbs
It is said that some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them. Often forgotten are those who fall into none of these categories. As far as greatness goes they would win the ‘got out of bed on time’ award only because they would be the sort of people handing it out. It is here that Lawrence Knibbs resides, or at least he used to. This is the story of a pencil pusher who was violently shoved one shaving too far. Born in pre-war Alaska this unusual individual eked out his unremarkable existence from younger days straight into the postal service without making so much as a dent on the world (although he did amass a wonderful collection of designs through his favourite and only mail order catalogue, Cross Stich Quarterly). The bombs fell when he was but 24, on his way to visit a Canadian relative. Lawrence considered this frankly irritating as it interrupted an already shoddy train service. Being considered mostly worthless in any case Canada remained largely untouched, with barely any nuclear fallout entering the border. In fact it wasn’t until shortly after the initial volley that a geographically confused missile razed Vancouver city to the ground, partly to avoid embarrassing questions, partly for the look of the thing but mostly because it would be rude not to. And so, on the day the Earth stood still (or rather, ran around screaming) there was one very angry postal worker with a nervous tick and a grudge. It was morning, apparently. Fetid half-light generally implies the early stages of daytime at least, Lawrence reflected. He hadn’t hunted successfully in several days now and thus an observer might notice the anxious, flitting ballet of fingers searching for a purpose. There was something else. Markings distinctly abominable and hoof like abound, he mused. There could be no mistaking the general sense of mandiblerelated damage to his shelter either. Nothing enrages a man more than the destruction of his home, albeit a hastily cobbled together mess of corrugated iron, branches and general debris. In fact his shelter remained in much the same state as a car doing 100mph down a high street during rush hour: a bloody mess, although with mildly more background radiation. Nuclear cars are still, thankfully, a thing of the future. That Lawrence managed to not only sleep through this but also escape unharmed was a miracle, if you go in for that sort of thing. Lawrence didn’t. So they
had come in the night, with their mocking antlers and vacant expressions, agents of all that is evil and corrupt in the world. To a certain kind of person almost anything can become the great adversary, destroyer of worlds. But it takes someone of a discreetly intelligent and obsessive nature to find such antipathy in the common moose. A person at this stage of mental degradation would usually be interred in an asylum, but then that suggests some semblance of order or government. A situation where all men are equal but some are more equal than others could be considered the foundations of a good democracy. Add several highly destructive weapons to this mix and suddenly everybody is equally equal, so to speak. So it is that Lawrence roamed free in his angry and confused mental state, a ring binder without any pages to sort. So it is also that the shelter in which he had until very recently lived had been the last tether holding his mind together. Cut free by an inquisitive nibble his psyche was now free to flap about at random, a most destructive situation in which to find oneself. Lawrence surveyed the wood in which he had been camped. It seemed quiet enough, no evidence of illicit animals nearby. Although there were of course tracks. There were always tracks. Grabbing his gun (any man finding himself alone and partially insane in a post-apocalyptic wasteland should carry one of these) and specially reinforced glasses (another essential for the man about the wasteland) he staggered upright and was soon hot on the trail of retribution. It is generally accepted that moose do not number among the more dangerous animals in to be found, even during rutting season. Being vegetarian they will rarely pursue a human moving rapidly in the opposite direction and as such are not usually seen as predatory. This fact led to a look of mild bemusement on the behalf of an innocent young male, upon being approached by the cloud of rage bearing down upon it. Lawrence was lost for words, strangely. He could not articulate himself to more than a few vague noises and some gesturing. The moose, unconcerned, returned to eating a nearby plant with a distinctly offensive air about it. Lawrence aimed. Lawrence closed his eyes. Lawrence fired. Lawrence missed. This is not strictly true. It is also generally accepted that in order to shoot and kill something you need a gun and a bullet, the former being pointed (preferably) towards the target and the latter
being propelled towards and possibly even through the target, causing internal bleeding and (preferably)death. In his rage Lawrence had forgotten two of these points. He had left the bullets back in the pile of rubble that once represented his temporary home and, to make matters worse had not even managed to aim the gun at the moose. In fact the only way in which he shot at the hapless creature was that he was in fact holding a gun and had in fact pulled the trigger. It looked up at him briefly in disgust and defecated, before turning to walk away. He fell to his knees, convulsing partly with anger but mostly with embarrassment. His wide-brimmed hat went sailing through the wood, spectacle case following shortly after and causing a large dent in a nearby birch that had up until that point led only a vaguely immoral existence. Karma gets everywhere, and a branch from this tree fell down upon his now hat-less head, leaving him unconscious and possibly with a little less sense than before. When Lawrence came to it was with slightly more resolve and a calmer nerve. He picked up the possessions that had been thrown and returned swiftly to his camp, muttering only casually under his breath. He repaired the shelter distractedly and built a fire, hardly noticing much that happened. He was on autopilot, silently composing in his mind. He feasted on a meagre harvest of nuts and various fungal pickings, before picking out pad and fountain pen on which he inscribed the following poem: Witness the humble moose, Flitting from tree to tree. Like a breeze-stolen letter, So lost and evasive is he. No longer will that moose run further, With its enlarged phallic horn. I will hunt and slay it with fervour, Then the other moose will mourn. Iâ€™ll make shoes, a cup and some gloves, From its nose, ears and eyes. The moose must be destroyed FOR THEY ARE ALL COMMY SPIES!
The human mind is an interesting thing, both fickle and strong. Interestingly it is often the most orderly and â€˜saneâ€™ people that can be pushed, by a simple action, up to
far past the borders of sanity. Lawrence Knibbs lived a long life in the postapocalyptic wasteland, caring little for the sadness of a great civilisation reduced now to bones and occupying his time with a predatory series of campaigns against the humble moose. He never killed a single one.
Elizabeth Fern Harding-White - Night It was rare for me to go out at night; that made running through the maize field particularly exciting. I crossed the road, barefoot, and jogged into the field. The plants that surrounded me waved about in the wind and I sang very softly to keep myself entertained. Hiding was only part of the fun. I wanted to find the others, follow them, but not be found. Once I was hidden, I sat down on the firm ground. The lilies in the next field swayed, I could hear the plants brushing past one another and the reeds over there were tall and intimidating. I recalled the last time I had been in that field. I remember feeling that my body was lighter; it had felt like I was floating. I remember the rain was cool that evening but it had not chilled me. I remember when I went to the reed field; I had found a pool, completely enclosed. When I saw my reflection in the water, my face appeared round and bright as if I were a child once more; but when I looked back, my hair had taken on a grey tone and I felt weaker. Glittering gems littered the edges of the pool, but as I moved a skeletal hand to touch them, they all rolled into the water with a shudder. I remember being afraid and, as I left, I promised myself that I would never return.
Sophie May – The Diary of Verity McCartney Twenty six weeks today. That's exactly six months. I still miss you so much, Mum. We observed the two minutes silence for Remembrance Day at school today. I couldn't think of all the people who had died at war like I was supposed to. I could only think of you. Does that make me a terrible person? It feels like it. I still wear your patchwork coat every day. I haven't gone a day without it since... To me, it still smells of you. I can smell your hair in the hood and your patchouli oil on the cuffs. Nobody else seems to be able to. They make fun of me and call me a filthy hippy. I walked past a group of them today. I didn't respond when they shouted at me so one grabbed hold of me by your coat. I didn't realise and carried on. The pocket came off in his hand. My heart broke all over again. I spent lunchtime in the library. I like it in there. The quiet is comforting and the librarian is always nice to me. I'm reading The Catcher in the Rye because I remember it was your favourite at school. While I was reading, (I can see why you loved it) I absent-mindedly rummaged through my pencil case until I felt the cool metal of my pair of compasses. I held them under the table and pushed the point through my tights and into my thigh. It hurt, but in a good way. It seems to make my mind clearer. When the bell went I dragged myself to maths. A scruffy shoe stuck out and I fell down the steps. Everyone laughed. That hurt too but definitely not in a good way. I looked up and saw one boy that wasn't laughing. He stood there looking at me. He turned away when I looked at him, like he was ashamed. I keep thinking about it. I don’t really understand. I keep trying to remember the expression on his face and work out what it means, but I can’t. I wish I didn't have to write all this in my diary. I wish I could talk to Dad about it but he's still so sad that he doesn't talk to anyone. I'll try to tell him I love him today. I think he needs to hear it.
One good thing happened today. They played our namesake on the radio. "Eight Days a Week". I turned it up loud and sang along. I remember you telling me you wanted to call me either Paula or Linda but you said that Dad wouldn’t let you. I remember when we used to play at dressing up in your lovely dresses that you said look like they were from the sixties. For those few minutes I felt happy. But it’s only a short song.
Yann Martel – Life of Pi Review by Amber Gunn Yann Martel takes us on an extraordinary journey in his bestselling novel: Life of Pi. The book tells of the intriguing and unique story of sixteen year old Piscine Patel (nicknamed Pi) who becomes stranded at sea with nothing but a Bengal tiger for company. The story begins as we are introduced to Pi (named after the ridiculously long mathematical number) who explains his childhood growing up in India and spending time with his zookeeper father at Pondicherry zoo. Pi describes in detail the animals’ behaviours and how his father warned him about the dangers of being in close proximity to certain animals, notably Richard Parker, one of the zoo’s Bengal tigers. In addition to this, Pi also describes his family’s dismay at his religious conversions to Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. Pi and his family, along with their zoo, plan to emigrate to Canada, however their journey is struck by tragedy as a storm leaves Pi the sole human survivor, alongside a zebra, hyena, orangutan and a tiger to share a lifeboat. In a battle fuelled by hunger and social hierarchy, Pi and Richard Parker are the last two standing and their 227 day adventure of survival begins. The remainder of the story tells of Pi’s determination of survival, including how to tame a tiger and encounters with meerkat-algae-ridden islands in the middle of the ocean, which turn carnivorous at night: turning its fresh water pools into acid and consuming any living thing which sets foot on its land. Martel leaves nothing out in this book including the somewhat disturbing and stomach-churning moments involving the lengths which people, or animals, may go to survive. On the other hand,
the book is beautifully written and is without a doubt a feast for the mind. The meticulous detail which Martel divulges into when describing the marine life and observations which Pi encounters is admirable. The third and final section of the novel describes Pi’s arrival in Mexico and the agonising moment when Richard Parker leaves Pi without as much as a growl goodbye. Japanese Ministry of Transport Officials question Pi about the sinking of the ship and we see the psychological evidence of Pi’s time at sea as the officials comment on Pi’s somewhat strange protective habits concerning food. The officials do not believe Pi’s story so Pi offers them with a horrific alternative in which Pi was actually adrift with his mother, a sailor and the ship’s cook. Not knowing which story to believe (and unable to prove which is true), the officials choose the original story. Of course, this also leads us to question which story is the real story. I truly feel that this is the beauty and appeal of this book. When an author makes a reader really think and question what they’ve read, that’s when you know you have read a brilliant book. Without a doubt this book deserves its five star rating and is one which I highly recommend.
First published on Female First Magazine’s website: http://www.femalefirst.co.uk/books/life-of-pi-287687.html
David Nicholls – One Day Review by Victoria Parrin Having recently graduated from university and finding that entering the real world loomed ever closer, this book instantly appealed to me. As the characters face the prospect of leaving the security of academia, I felt that the book immediately struck a chord as I too pondered upon what life after university would hold for me. The two main characters, Emma and Dexter have just graduated in 1988 from university and muse upon what the future holds and the paths that their lives may take. After four years of university and an infatuation with the handsome Dexter Mayhew, Emma Morley finally has a chance to be alone with him. But all does not go according to plan; Emma having bottled up her true feelings for Dexter for too long. With a large amount of optimism and a dream to do something that will change the world, Emma speaks of a passion and a dream to be involved in the creative arts; whilst Dexter, it seems, will meander through life, travelling and never really settling. Nicholls charts Emma and Dexter’s lives over the next twenty years, each chapter being set on the same day: 15th July – the date of their graduation, with a different year for each chapter. Emma’s initial hopes of changing the world by groundbreaking theatre or writing seem to fizzle out into a string of menial jobs, whereby Emma becomes the one searching for her path in life. Meanwhile Dexter, who at first appeared to be vague about his future, seems to have things more in order in his life. At first the book seemed to be a classic case of ‘will they, won’t they’ get together and a series of missed opportunities; but as I read on I soon came to realise that it was much more. Nicholls possesses the geniality of capturing a mere snapshot of a whole year in someone’s life in just one day. Yet as you read on, the characters in the novel become two people that you know as well as you would know your friends. It is a coming of age story, but one that is set over a much longer period of time. The book has its darker moments of death; alcohol abuse, drug problems and sordid love affairs, but these seem to weave into the tapestry of Emma and Dexter’s lives.
When Dexter falls from grace, it is always Emma that he turns to first and for a time this is how their friendship functions. Nicholls captures a sense of harsh realism here, yet these problems are subtle suggestions rather than explicitly described. Without giving too much away, the ending is quite surprising – well at least it was to me! It was somewhat disappointing, due to the readers’ connection with the characters that has been established by the end. But it’s not difficult to see why this great novel was adapted for a film – it has the makings of a rom-com chick flick, with moments of sadness. The novel itself however speaks so clearly of two interwoven lives that set out from university, fresh with ideas of an optimistic future and find that life is not always all you had hoped for.
First published on Female First Magazine’s website: http://www.femalefirst.co.uk/books/One+Day-275633.html
Keira Cass â€“ The Selection Review by Mary Bongiovi The Selection is a recent YA novel that features what's meant to be a dystopia, but instead appears to be merely dissatisfactory. In America's future, people are divided into castes. The worst outcome of this is that you end up with a job that's not so great and perhaps struggle economically, however no real hardship is ever shown. The stakes certainly aren't as dire as the Hunger Games and it was hard to get very up-in-arms about these things in The Selection, where the world building in this is sub-par. The author works a history lesson to try an explain things, but it just barely scratches the surface. Suffice to say, America isn't a democracy any more. Instead it's called Illea, and is ruled by a monarchy. The prince is an eligible bachelor whose bride will be picked through a process called The Selection, a competition where a young woman from each district must attempt to win the princeâ€™s heart on what is essentially a reality show. The protagonist, America Singer initially wants no part of this, but when her boyfriend Aspen breaks up with her, she's suddenly looking for an escape even if she has no interest in Prince Maxon. I found The Selection to be strangely addictive- I couldn't put it down, primarily because there were a few hints of plot depth that kept cropping up and I wanted to see how they resolved. It was pretty disappointing when I reached the end and realized that they went absolutely nowhere beyond that first mention. I felt extremely dissatisfied when the book ended abruptly and the plot was really no further than it was when it began. The book has this very unfinished quality to it. There were the hints of a rivalry between two characters in competition that were very briefly addressed, but it wasn't fully-fleshed out in a way that I would expect. Let's say it was no Draco and Harry. In addition, the romantic love triangle is pretty cut and dry. Only Prince Maxon is well-written. We can see his motivations and flaws. Throughout the course of the book, he shows himself to be a caring person. The other potential mate, Aspen, is basically a cipher. We're told over and over again that America loves him, but it's just that- we're told this, but never really shown it.
America isn't very well defined either. Like many modern YA romantic heroines, she's beautiful and just doesn't see it, and has occasional moments of head-slapping stupidity. Naturally, she becomes a populist heroine and the leading candidate for the princeâ€™s bride. So that's par for the course, I suppose. As mentioned previously, there were a number of plot points brought up that seemed to be pretty big and then were never concluded. There wasn't even so much as a hint as to what direction these points might be taking. I realize that this is just the first volume of a new series, but it should be able to stand alone as its own novel. Instead it just felt like an exceptionally long trailer for the next book.
Matthew Quick - The Silver Linings Playbook Review by Amber Gunn
Every once in a while you stumble across a book which you know will stay with you forever. It’s the kind of book which draws you in and keeps you up all night because you simply can’t put it down. Matthew Quick’s Silver Linings Playbook is one of those books. The novel confronts two people’s battles with mental health, never giving up on the one you love and draws on the philosophy that “if clouds are blocking the sun, there will always be a silver lining that reminds you to keep on trying”. Quick’s novel is told through the voice of Pat, who believes his life is a movie which is run by God. After being admitted to a mental health hospital and forcing to have “apart time” from his wife, Nikki, Pat is determined to become physically fit, practice being kind to people (even if it isn’t right) and educate himself emotionally by reading literature, all in preparation for when he is reunited with Nikki. Pat is soon discharged from the hospital and moves back in with his parents. At home the photos of Pat and Nikki have apparently been stolen when the house was burgled and no-one will mention Pat’s beloved Nikki. Pat’s dad won’t speak to him unless it concerns the Philadelphia Eagles, Pat’s mum is emotional and mollycoddling and Pat’s friends and his Eagles fanatic therapist are trying to set him up with the clinically depressed Tiffany who stalks Pat on his runs but never talks to him. As the story develops, we begin to learn more about Pat’s mental illness and the situation between him and Nikki: what caused “apart time” and why (unbeknown to Pat) they have a restraining order against one another. We soon learn that Pat’s “couple of months in the bad place” was actually a few years as he comes to terms with the fact that everyone around him has moved on with their lives apart from him. Tiffany gives Pat a chance at a silver lining by offering to exchange letters between him and Nikki on the condition that Pat does not talk about his beloved Eagles and
must dance with Tiffany in a dancing competition. Knowing that reconciliation with Nikki is possible, Pat puts all his efforts into helping Tiffany win the competition whilst also desperately trying to prove to his wife that he is getting better. Youâ€™ll be pleased to know that the book does end with a silver lining of its own. This novel is heart-warming and deals with the topic of mental illness in an intriguing yet sensitive manner. Pat is one of those characters which is easy to love. His naive yet positive outlook on life will make him wish you could either give him a hug or slap some sense into him. Certainly it is his way of telling a story which will have you laughing out loud and reaching for the tissues.
First published on Female First Magazineâ€™s website: http://www.femalefirst.co.uk/books/silver-linings-playbook-287679.html
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