Monthly Archives: September 2011

Damned by Chuck Palahniuk

So hell, what’s it really like? And what’s it like to be dead?

Chuck Palahniuk’s latest novel Damned is an updated vision of hell where you can bribe demons with candy bars and take a career in telemarketing or internet porn.  You can also get eaten by demons from every culture that has ever existed on earth, apart from Scientology.

Madison Spencer is a slightly overweight thirteen-year-old girl who finds herself consigned to hell after smoking too much pot. The daughter of a film star and a billionaire, Madison is the reader’s insightful companion on a journey through the underworld, and it’s advisable to take note of everything she says because Madison is one smart kid.

Brought up alongside adopted orphans from the third world and educated at the best Swiss boarding school, Madison epitomises the ‘kidult ‘ – the child who is perceived by some to have grown up too fast. Damned has references throughout to child stars and ‘kidults’ such as Lolita, Pollyanna, Shirley Temple and JonBenet Ramsey. But despite being the construct of insane celebrity status and insane amounts of money, Madison loves her parents dearly and she’s always worrying that she’s let them down because she’s a little bit fat. Continue reading


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Lily Greenwood: Queen of the Butterflies

The Manchester Craft and Design centre can be found at the heart of the city’s Northern Quarter. Housed in an old Victorian market building, the centre is home to 19 boutique studios where local artists and designers make and create bespoke craft items. When painter Lily Greenwood graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2005, she was determined to avoid the 9-5 routine of an office job. In this interview with The Poplar Tree, Greenwood discusses her career as an artist and how she creates her still life nature collages with their intense bursts of colour.

High on the second floor of the Manchester Craft and Design centre you will find Lily Greenwood’s studio, which she shares with fellow artist Kathryn Edwards. The first thing you’ll notice about this particular studio are the butterflies; there’s literally hundreds of them, all swirling about in mid flight, but where are they all coming from?

Lily Greenwood loves painting butterflies, she also loves painting birds, insects and the occasional cat. Originally from Cumbria, the area instilled Greenwood’s passion for nature from an early age: “I loved growing up in the countryside. Our house was amongst only four others and a few scattered neighbouring farms, so very rural. We often went out walking in nearby woodlands, and although my parents would probably say I complained a lot at the time (as small children do!) I wouldn’t go back and change anything. Growing up in such a quiet area has made me appreciate time alone or away from crowds – hopefully not to the point where I am reclusive or precious about it, but I certainly don’t shy away from those quiet times in the studio or at home when it’s just me and the painting.”

The canvases which hang in her studio are a stark contrast to the city outside which is famed for its industrial past and grey skies. But not even Manchester’s skyline can put a dampener on Greenwood’s passion for painting: “since adopting a city life even just the thick verges and hedgerows around there are fascinating to me. Manchester certainly has its grey skies, but then Cumbria probably has just as many, and there is no lack of colour in an area as vibrant as the Northern Quarter where I am based. My artwork certainly isn’t true to the gritty reality of nature – more like I’ve picked out a bit of its beauty and run with it! I am surrounded by my paintings in the studio most days, so having that element of nature (e.g. the butterflies) taken to an extreme – maybe it’s my way of bringing a bit of nature into the city. Not that there is a lack of nature in the city, it’s just a different kind.”

So what is it that Lily Greenwood finds so alluring about the butterfly? In Japanese culture butterflies carry a number of meanings such as symbolising joy and happiness, but for Greenwood the motif doesn’t symbolise one specific thing as she explains, “I don’t really have any grand symbolic explanations for the butterfly work. They are whatever you would like them to symbolise. Continue reading

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MLF 2011…

13 days +68 events  = the Manchester Literature Festival 2011:

1 lit quiz x 1 literary pub walk = a celebration of the best writing talents

4 competitions + 3 awards   = acclaimed in the city, the UK and beyond

The new Manchester Literature Festival brochure has been unveiled and The Poplar Tree is getting a bit hot under its leaves in anticipation…

The festival is now in its 6th year and continues to blend home-grown talent with acclaimed authors, poets and journalists from across the world. The MLF’s ability to cross cultures, genres and social groups is what makes the festival so unique, and with 22 locations, Manchester becomes both muse and stage for poetry, novels, competitions, awards, tours and theatre.

The MLF began 18 years ago as a small poetry festival organised by Cathy Bolton (Festival Director) and Jon Atkin (Festival Coordinator), who both manage the city-wide event, and the festival is quickly gaining a national reputation for its quality and originality with its eclectic nature separating itself from other literary festivals such as the Bath or Hay.

Every year the MLF is undoubtedly different, but the one question that remains pursed on The Poplar Tree’s lips is; how can it top last year’s Seamus Heaney recital at the Whitworth Hall? Well, where to start… a third of the events showcase international talent so maybe Europe is a good place to start with Nordic crime writers K O Dahl, Thomas Enger and Yrsa Sigurdardottir, or you could be transported across the Atlantic with Cuba’s leading contemporary writer Victor Rodriguez Nunez or Daniel Mordzinski with ‘A Look into the Soul of Spanish American Literature’. You could then take a flight in the imagination with Canada’s award-winning writer Allan Stratton, or if you fancy warmer climes there’s the celebrated South-Asian writers Tahmima Anam and Dipika Rai. Continue reading

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Filed under Books/Novels/Authors, Manchester Literature Festival 2011, Manchester Writing News, Writing Competitions