“I’ve Got All This Ringing in My Ears and None on My Fingers”

So what began as an innocuous invite to a pub quiz last night ended up morphing from a couple of hours of casual drinking and socialising to hours of Jäger-fuelled fun around the beautiful city of York. Certainly after stumbling into bed at approximately 4am this morning, having been roped into a journey of Homeric proportions from near-enough West Country cider (Heaven be praised for Old Rosie) to a Korean-Pop themed club night (no, that’s not a typo) to the Ithaca of York nightlife that is The Willow, I pondered just how these situations always seem to occur. Perhaps it’s my bad luck, or maybe, much as all objects have a tendency toward disorder (yes I paid the slightest bit of attention in sixth form Chemistry), so too must all roads lead to Willow as far as the entropy of alcohol consumption is concerned. Then again, these objects don’t disorder themselves: it’s probably fair to say that it’s all my fault, as I am often told by my best friend vis-à-vis most things that go wrong in my life. But I digress.

The point is, I do wonder sometimes why as a species we put ourselves through the – if we’re being honest here – hellish nightmare that is clubbing. Extortionate entry fees; all manner of sticky surfaces; music so loud that I’m still unsure as to when this temporary (touch wood) tinnitus will actually bugger off and leave me in peace: in short, it’s shit. It’s expensive, and it’s shit. In fact I’d go as far as to say it’s very shit. Controversial I know. At the same time, most of us do it. Some of us love it, some of us hate it, some of us are fairly ambivalent (lo and behold: it’s not Marmite). And despite my moaning, I did have a good time last night. One of the best nights I’ve had in a while, actually. So what is it about this frankly bizarre social ritual that we put ourselves through that lends itself to fond, if hazy, memories?

It’s not rocket science to be honest: it’s the people. I’m fairly sure I could go pretty much anywhere and have a good night out, but that’s not down to the location: it’s down to the people you share it with. Whether it’s a night in the pub with a small group of close friends, or like last night a larger event with mostly people you don’t know, it’s the people you’re with that make, or break, an evening: I think most people would agree with me here.

And this is why I love university. Since coming here I’ve met people from all across the globe, from a wide variety of cultures, backgrounds, and classes, and it’s brilliant. It’s a monstrous conglomerate of values, beliefs, attitudes, ideals: a blaze of mindsets and personalities which, when fanned by alcohol and late-night McDonald’s, erupts into a Bonfire of the Vanities that puts Tom Wolfe’s depiction of ’80s New York to shame. And all this from a group of adolescents barely old enough to blow their own noses. Not too shabby when you think about it.

When I first mentioned the possibility of staying on at York for a couple of years to do an MA, my mother joked that she often tells people that she half-expects (hopes?!) me to go to university and never leave. Whilst she is referring to my love of studying (and certainly that’s a factor), one of the main things that triggered my thoughts of further study was an event, held a few weeks ago now, that celebrated our year being halfway through our degree. Which is a very sad prospect. I’m not ready to leave yet. Maybe I never will be. Maybe I’m doomed to roam these corridors until the end of my days, slowly growing more and more decrepit and irritable until, one day, I simply vanish into the very pages of the books in which I immerse my mind. Part of the ship, part of the crew, so to speak.

On a completely unrelated note, and terrible Pirates of the Caribbean references aside, I’m off to nurse the mysterious headache that has been afflicting me since this morning. Can’t possibly think where the bloody thing has come from. Ciao.

“So this is what everybody’s always talking about! Diablo! If only I’d known. The beauty! The beauty!”

Heyo, me again.

First things first, I am pleasantly surprised by the amount of support I’ve received about this already, only one post in. From ideas for future topics to general messages of support and encouragement, I am incredibly grateful to everyone who’s contacted me about this so far. I’ll try not to let you down.

Amongst other things, one of the most common questions I get from people nowadays is “What are you reading?” It’s a fair enough question, I suppose, given that my degree is in several ways nothing more than a glorified book club, and that with six/seven contact hours a week, reading consumes most of the time I set aside to study, whether I’m in York or not. So I figured that today I’d talk a little bit about a book I’ve read recently that I’m now writing a paper on: a 2007 novel by Dominican American author Junot Díaz called The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and Díaz’s only novel to date, it’s probably the best thing I’ve read so far in my time at York, or at least top two. Which given how much I read makes it, to quote Anchorman (sorry), kind of a big deal. To me, anyway.

Oscar Wao follows the story of teenage nerd Oscar De Leòn over the course of his short life, as well as the lives of his sister Lola, friend/roommate Yunior (who narrates the text), mother Beli, and grandfather Abelard. This tapestry of Oscar’s family history is intertwined with an account of the regime of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina, one of the most brutal of the Latin American dictatorships of the 20th century (yeah, I didn’t know shit about them either), as well as countless references to ’70s/’80s nerd culture and science-fiction in the U.S,  and various stereotypes of the Dominican American diaspora. In short, it’s awesome.

The main thing I wanted to talk about, however, is Oscar himself, and how incredibly, wonderfully, miserably relatable he is. The fat nerd bullied at school; the teenage bookworm who dreams of being the Dominican Tolkien; the lonely human being clutching for something more than his terrestrial existence: I believe that everyone can relate to Oscar in at least one aspect of his character. His key struggle, and the main flaw which he attempts to overcome in the ‘Bildungsroman’ side of the novel is his complete inability to get laid. In spite, I might add, of his best efforts, this fat lonely nerd – for all the wonderful qualities he has – is unable to even kiss a girl after he turns 7. Which wouldn’t be a problem, if he weren’t such a hopeless romantic, falling in and out of love with pretty much every girl he walks past, and resulting in him being a depressive wreck at several points in his life, attempting to take his own life twice, and displaying a tendency toward self-destruction which ultimately leads to his early death.

And yet..

Oscar never changes who he is. He is well aware that losing weight, dressing better, and perhaps not mentioning his absolute commitment to the alternative Genres of fiction as a conversation starter might well aid his attempts to garner female attention. But he can’t even change how he speaks. Whilst most of us shift style according to audience (you wouldn’t speak to your teacher in school the same way you’d speak to your dog, I hope!), Oscar’s ‘nerdery’ shines through in every word. When he tries to chat up girls by telling them he’d give them eighteen charisma in a role-playing game, it’s perhaps unsurprising that until the last weeks of his life, Oscar remains a virgin.

Despite this, he never backs down. In a Werther-esque display of commitment, he refuses to compromise his identity, or indeed tone down his passion for sci-fi, writing, or women, even when it is this last obsession which leads to his untimely end, at the hands of the jealous lover of the one woman who ever sleeps with him. In this, as in all things, Oscar is unmoving. Who he is; how he, and not others, see him: this is what makes him so wonderful. He is broken, fucked-up, flawed, lonely, lost.

And he is beautiful.

Oscar has moved me in a way that few other characters have done. And I think, even in the (hopefully) many years of reading I have left on this Earth, that there will always be a place in my heart, a space on my shelf, for Oscar Wao. Whilst Hobbes would have considered his life “nasty, brutish, and short”, Díaz’s label of “brief, wondrous” is far more fitting for the size of his heart, and the beauty in his soul.

“Hello,” I say. “It’s me.”

So, here I am. Here we are.

As someone who’s always dreamt of writing, I figured that with my teenage years all too suddenly coming to an end, now was the time to start if I was to ever achieve something. A few half-hearted start-ups; a school newspaper article here and there; university papers exceeded only in their mediocrity by their dryness: I always knew this wasn’t enough, and yet I always found a reason not to commit. I didn’t have the time; I didn’t have anything to write about; now wasn’t a good time: in short, I was too fucking lazy. I guess today that changed. Maybe.

A little bit about me, then, as I suppose is necessary. I’m a nineteen-year-old student, currently studying for a BA in English and Related Literature at the University of York in the UK. At this point in time I am considering continuing onto a part-time MA in English Literary Studies, though to be honest that’s all a bit up in the air. In terms of literature, my interests lie in postcolonial fiction and the contemporary American novel, though I like to think I can bullshit about anything from Homer to Chaucer to Shakespeare to Dickens to Díaz and beyond.

Outside of academia my hobbies are various: I am a keen musician, though sadly I seem to never find the time to do anything more than practice at home these days; I spend concerning amounts of money in coffee shops where I sit and read and look like one of those pretentious knobs that every day I find myself turning into more and more; I play running back for the University American Football team, the York Centurions; and I invest what I’m told is “far too much of my time” (Mother, 2000-2015) in video games (current FOTM is the online MOBA League of Legends, if anyone cares). Home for me is Torquay in South Devon (also in the UK, though apparently my accent has lead people to believe I am from Turkey on more than one occasion), where I am blessed (not, I might add, by a deity, in my opinion) with a wonderful mother and father, to whom I owe more than I can write in a single post, a brat of a brother whom I love dearly (though don’t tell him I said that), and the world’s worst trained dog (which is probably my fault, if I’m honest). When at home I study for university, work ridiculously long hours at my local supermarket for a stupid amount of money considering how easy the job is, and socialise with the few friends I have managed to stay in contact with regularly after college. I am often sarcastic, occasionally funny, quick to anger but quicker to forgive: in short, I am just your average student, your honest, down-to-earth, relatively normal member of the human race.

For me, this blog is potentially many things: the first step on an illustrious career as the next David Mitchell (the writer you plebs, not the bloody comedian); an outlet through which I can channel my inner arsehole; the best procrastination tool next to Facebook (I should be writing a paper right now, instead I’m laughing at pugs getting belly rubs – go figure). But most of all, it’s something I’ve wanted to do properly for a long time. Hopefully this is that time. It might all turn out to be nothing. This could be one of three posts I write before I lose interest, or think it’s shit, or think I’m shit, and before you know it this site is sent to the blog graveyard, to bleed out and die next to all the other corpses of wasted potential, from the ashes of which one day a reanimation might occur, but which in all probability will be swept into a dark dusty corner of the Internet to be forgotten. But hey, we’re not there yet.

I think that about does it for now. I aim to be posting about every two or three days, and hopefully I’ll be able to keep the topics varied. There will probably be a fair amount about what I’m reading, either academically or for pleasure (not that the two are mutually exclusive), maybe comments on current events (translation: things that piss me off), maybe things that come flying into my head at 2am when the lights are off but somebody’s home. Most of all, I just want this to be real. I want to go to one of my caffeine-serving haunts and write something that people might not enjoy reading or agree with, but they’ll at least believe. It might be shit, but it’ll be honest-to-god, authentic, goddamn real shit. The best shit money can buy. Maybe people will read this, maybe no-one will. I guess this is more cathartic for me than anything else so I’m not sure if I’m fussed. But I’ll still post this on my social media (i.e. Facebook, never really got Twitter), and any/all comments are welcome. Positive or negative, constructive or destructive: whatever pops into your head.

After all, that’s all you’ll get from me, anyway.