REVIEWING: The Newsroom

Its raining slowly, the sky is white with clouds and there is nothing better to do on a bank holiday monday at the end of August than to catch up with all those TV series I missed. However, after finishing the disappointingly short, depressing – yet entertaining – third and final season of Aaron Sorkin’s ‘The Newsroom’ I am struggling to bite into any more episodes. I was more entertained by the first season, less by the second and virutally stopped listening by the third. Its repetition of the idea of “good news” became boring and was emphatically highlighted with the contrast to reality: the righteousness of these characters does not exist in a real work environment.

And we are shown this reality, taught this reality, have it shoved down our throats with monologue after monologue after monlogue. I grew increasingly tired of the same agrument because each and everytime the effort is fruitless. The reality will not change. People of the news industry, of any industry, are driven by profit alone. No one does anything for nothing because the establishment would simply use that one for their own gain until their heart stopped beating.

Perhaps this is a cynical message to take from a fictional and idealistic story, and I know I am writing my own monlogue right now. But the depressingly accurate message is in your own lap before you can register. The news, today and yesterday and from years ago, has been ignored by the vast majority and misconstrued by many. The result? We are charging towards chaos. We are socially, psychologically and physically toxic to ourselves and this world.

‘The Newsroom’ grips you with an exciting and fast paced plot (the script sometimes a little too fast to keep up) but then drags you back down to the real world before its finale. A handful of righteous characters may not be able rewrite history, but the purpose of the series is very clear.

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A Review of ‘The Shock of the Fall’ by Nathan Filer

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I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.

The Shock of the Fall is a breath-taking debut novel that intertwines the threads of grief, guilt and mental health with the powerful voice of Matt Holmes, a nineteen year old boy suffering from schizophrenia. It is no surprise that it won the Costa prize for best first novel! With beautiful clarity Filer brings to life the narrator within the very first sentence.

“I should say that I am not a nice person.”

Every word of the novel is precisely chosen and carefully constructs the inner universe of Mathew’s mind. We are welcomed into his thoughts, his flaws, his understated acts of kindness, and observe the chaos that slowly takes hold of his life. Filer has cleverly positioned every chapter, piece of dialogue, revelation of plot, to masterfully portray an unravelling psyche and the ever-looming sense of guilt-ridden grief. The Shock of the Fall is a work of stunning skill.

My illness knows everything I know.

Filer thrusts upon you a sense of helplessness, anger, resignation – our role as reader is to realise the societal failures with respect to mental health. These failures, the cracks within the healthcare system and attitude of individuals which entrap the characters of this novel, are reflections of the shameful treatment that is begrudgingly offered to so many today.

And yet, despite the harrowing undertones of mental illness, kitted together with grief, Filer manages to coax out a laugh with his humorous language. Matt’s wit in the face of his own illness peels back the layers of tragedy to show perhaps the one constant light within the novel: the strength of humanity’s spirit.

Not making excuses, but I am a schizophrenic

Beautifully haunting and with refreshingly unique characterisation, I am tempted to reread The Shock of the Fall. There are too few novels which discuss the consequences of mental illness and its treatment, and certainly none with such finesse.

SCORE: 9/10
RECOMMEND: Yes!

A Review of ‘Fangirl’ by Rainbow Rowell

I really wish I could give a better review for a novel I should have been able to relate to. Rowell paints a portrait of a socially withdrawn young girl – Cath – who is absorbed in a world of fanfiction, entering the jungle of university with her twin sister, a passion for writing… This could be me! I thought.

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You’re not the ugly one… You’re just the Clark Kent

Disappointingly, Rowell’s portrait of a protagonist is nothing more than a finger-painting, smeared across a train wreck of tearfully boring plot. I may have been more forgiving of the frustratingly poor quality of writing had the author not thrown Cath out as a scholarship student on a Fiction Writing course. Perhaps this was intended to create an intelligent female lead? Instead, it works to reveal her stupidity, immaturity and naivety. For example, in one chapter Cath argues with her Professor about plagiarism after submitting a piece of fanfiction writing for grading. Her pitiful “I just don’t think you understand” might provoke a little sympathy for her embarrassment, and yet such a monumental error would surely not have been made by a supposed genius. To drive in the nail of embarrassment and contradiction a little further, the consecutive chapters following read more like a string of pathetic excuses rather than intelligent arguments for the celebration of fanfiction.

Do you really expect an elderly English professor to be down with gay Simon Snow fanfiction?

The fetishisation of a homosexual relationship by the use of fanfiction as a awkward foreplay is demeaning to LGBTQA individuals. And yet aside from these long scenes mashing together two stories, the romance is pitifully absent.

Rowell’s disjointed, repetitive writing style stalls the movement of the story on every page. Even the chapters are interrupted with snippets of the focal fandom: Simon Snow novels – a cheap reflection of Harry Potter. No conversation between characters is allowed to progress far without Cath’s outbursts of rudeness that are excused as social anxiety or the traits of being “a weirdo”. Overall the topic of mental health is roughly approached and poorly dealt with. Rowell throws in the father’s mental instability like an afterthought halfway through and fails to represent his condition accurately or with empathy.

Dad? Call me.”
“It’s Cath again. Call me.”
“Dad. Call me. Or call Wren. No, call me.

As a light read, Fangirl is a forgettable novel with predictable plotline and irritating, dislikeable characters. The scattering of sarcastic humour reads like a Tumblr dashboard, with just as much youthful angst and directionless written outpouring. Its only saving grace is the inside illustration of characters, these kept me occupied as I struggled to reach the end.

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SCORE: 2/10
RECOMMEND: Reading some fanfiction to find better quality stories.