General, The Reading Life, The Writing Life

4-in-1 Bedside Table Book Review: Atwood, Nemirovsky, Lumix GM1 manual, Urban Decay leaflet

Is “Manual” and “Operating Instructions” two different things?

By the time I am writing this post, I have read all already, except the manual which interestingly describes itself as “Operating Instructions”. Since when did the term manual become redundant for describing manual? Maybe it is now deemed sexist (fourth wave feminists, do you concur?), as it has the word “man” in it therefore may offend or upset those who get upset at the word “man” and have yet to realise it comes from the Latin mano meaning hand.

Lumix GM1 operating instructions booklet:

Since I am on it, I should review it first. Booklet is not really the right word for this thing. I have to re-read it over and over and I am still on page 24. It is written in ‘that’ way. Inhumane, robotic, does-not-make-any-bloody-sense way, just like a legal document but with technical symbols that look like washing machine symbols. I need an interpreter. You can’t say I am not a technical person. Strictly speaking I am a design geek, and broadly speaking an architect and a writer, therefore I am if anything, over-technical and over-over-obsessive and over-over-over-compulsive.

Cover wise: written and drawn by a robot in five languages, none of them comprehensible.

Urban Decay leaflet cardlet brochure:

I pick this beautiful piece of advertising artwork up to reset me. I study it last thing before I go to bed and first thing when I wake up. It helps me to restore a bad night and to clear my mind clutter of the day. The inside cover has a photo of a Laguna Beach bungalow where the first Urban Decay was home-made by an ambitious young woman in the good old days. This is a wonderful piece of architecture even if the photo is only an inch big and I have to use my magnifying glass to inspect all the details.

Cover wise: the colours are rich, gothic and intense reflecting what is inside: a nice narrative just in photos and it is a fascinating world they have created.

Irene Nemirovsky Short Stories:

I did not enjoy this as much as I thought I would. I really loved her novels. And believe me I have read them all. This is because the characters are too similar. There are 10 or 11 stories but the characters are poor little rich ladies and tight-fisted lothario blokes. This works in the novel context because you really want to know what happens to them. In a short story, it is difficult to turn it around quickly, because there seems to be a limit on what happens to rich people and the people they have affairs with.

Cover wise: you cannot beat this for coolness. The dust grey, the typeface, the classic design. Leave this book around to make you look smart or interior design savvy.

Margaret Atwood Stone Mattress:

This is a wonderful collection of macabre funny horror long short stories, with a tinge of the Ray Bradbury school of darkness, about middle-aged and elderly people. Two stories stood out: first being the titular story which in my opinion is the creme de la crime. It is so perfect I can’t quite fault it. Even all the little details have been thought through and taken care of. You would want Margaret Atwood to organise your ski trips. In this story, the middle-aged woman character (who has lived life with a bitter aftertaste since being raped by a boy when she was a teenager at a dance), seeks revenge on him when she recognises him and finds him again by chance. The second story that stood out was the Dead Hand Loves You. It really reminds me of the Addams family Hand. A jilted lover kills himself and chops off his hand. The hand comes back as a ghost to haunt the woman who jilted him. The denouement or closure of this story is really touching and superb. It took me by surprise.

Cover wise: this is the exact shade of mustard yellow of my new bedroom. Mustard is the nice word for dark yellow. It is the colour of cowardice, betrayal, egoism, and madness, caution and physical illness. The sources of yellow pigments are toxic metals – cadmium, lead, and chrome – and urine. The design totally reflects the cautionary, toxic and mad content of the short stories.

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