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Mark

 I wrote this stuff.

Manchester-based and decreasingly ginger writer, bee enthusiast, father and nincompoop.

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I dreamed last night that I was driving two cars at once, using some kind of technomagical system whereby I pressed a button and was instantly transported to the other vehicle. This is not an ideal driving experience. Before I learned to drive, I had anxious dreams about it. They stuck around a long time, because I learned to drive quite late, but eventually I graduated to dreaming about driving while inexplicably stuck in the passenger seat or the back. As I grew more confident, I started dreaming about driving via some strange remote-control system, with greatly reduced control and visibility and feedback but all of the responsibility and consequence of normal driving. This stopped being scary about two dreams ago, when I realised that I could simply park the empty car up and refuse to engage any further. I’m not sure why I was driving empty cars around by…

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The film Titanic felt fundamentally broken to me. Here was a love story, not especially compelling but competent enough; now, crashing into it and holing it below the waterline, is a disaster in which hundreds will die, terrifyingly realised. The love story continues as nothing more than a distraction: too melodramatic to bring the loss of life closer, but not engaging enough to take centre stage.

Our Lady of the Nile is building to disaster, too—the disaster within the novel, and the greater disaster it prefigures. Against this, the everyday concerns of its schoolgirls could seem similarly unimportant. Instead, they underline the horror and the tragedy.

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I know very little about Spain or Spanish literature, so I have little of note to say about this novel, but I was struck by how Galdós alloys biting satire with humanity. His characters are ridiculed but always treated with a certain basic decency. Some of this is done ironically, but not, I think, all of it. Which isn’t to say Galdós is pulling his punches: the humanity sharpens the blade, so it cuts cleaner and deeper.

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A Life of One’s Own is plainly a book with a lot to offer, much of it up my street: literature; feminism; personal growth. But I wasn’t looking for anything in particular from it. I bought because it was coincidentally due for release shortly after I finally got around to Biggs’ last book, which I thought was superb. That doesn’t leave me with much of a measure of success, but handily, the book succeeds on its own terms, is plain about what those terms are, and makes a strong case for why they matter. A Life of One’s Own is a collection of eight essays on women writers’ lives and works, through which are threaded the author’s reflections on the reworking of her life that began with her divorce. Both elements are handled deftly, but they come together into something more universal. Early in the book, Biggs writes: I used…

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I didn’t write about this when I finished it a month or two ago, because I was pressed for time and because I didn’t know what to say about it. I enjoyed it a lot, but I’m not an experienced enough reader of comics or graphic novels to know how to talk about them. But I’ve recently been battered with adverts for Tetris World Tour, a microtransaction-pushing, power-up-laden mobile Tetris game, and it made me think of this page: I’m glad Alexey Pajitnov got paid, but I’m not sure Tetris World Tour is a better representation of the ideals Henk Rogers sets out on this page than the various lovingly-made free Tetris implementations that The Tetris Company has squashed over the years. I don’t read a lot of this kind of creative non-fiction, so I’ve never given much thought about the way it butts up against reality in places like…

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Children’s TV pitch: Grace Petrie’s Amazing Machines. They kill fascists, and they’re machines. This would by my son’s ideal television programme.

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