Dodie Smith is best known for her children's book, 101 Dalmations, but I Capture the Castle is by far my favourite of the two. I first read this book when I was about 14 years old. I remember abandoning reality and diving into it every afternoon after school for as long as I could make it last. I have since re-read it countless times and I never tire of it. Hollywood finally took my lead a couple of years ago and made a film out of it, though of course I much prefer the version I see in my head when I'm reading.

It is the diary of Cassandra Mortmain, the daughter of a famous author who, after an unfortunate incident with a cake knife is sent to prison. Upon his release he is as calm and pleasant as can be, but can no longer write. From that point on, what had been a charmed life slowly falls into ruins. He moves his family from a charming house at the seaside and takes out a 40-year lease on a crumbling castle. Some years later Cassandra's mother dies and her father re-marries an eccentric and hauntingly beautiful artist's model called Topaz. Over time he becomes less and less sociable, eventually becoming a recluse. His family subsists on the dwindling royalties from his one infamous book, Jacob Wrestling. But somehow, through Cassandra's eyes, what could be a throughly depressing situation becomes quite charming. At times whimsical, at times humorous, the book is as much the story of her own ascent into adulthood and the disappointment that often accompanies it as it is the story of the day-to-day lives of her family.

As you may have noticed, I am a great believer that if a book has an interesting first line, it bodes well for the rest of it. This book has one of my top ten first lines: "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink." How could you not be intrigued?


THE SEVENTH OCTAVE - Saul Williams (For James)

I'm going to let this one speak for itself:

Excerpt from "Amethyst Rocks"

i be one with rain and stars and things
with dancing feet and watermelon wings
i bring the sunshine and the moon
and the wind blows my tune
i spoon powdered drum beats into plastic bags
sellin' kilos of kente scag
takin' drags off of collards and cornbread
free-basing through saxophones and flutes like mad

the high notes make me space float
i be exhalin' in rings that circle Saturn
leavin' stains in my veins in astrological patterns

yeah, i'm sirius B
Dogon' niggas plotted shit, lovely
but the Feds are also plottin' me
they're tryin' to imprison my astrology
to put my stars behind bars
my stars in stripes
using blood splattered banners
as nationalist kites
but i control the wind
that's why the call it the hawk
i am horus
son of isis
son of osiris
worshiped as jesus
resurrected like lazarus
but you can call me lazzie
yeah i'm lazy
cause i'd rather sit and build
than work and plow a field
worshipping a daily yield of cash green crops

your evolution stopped
with the evolution of your technology
a society of automatic tellers
and money machines
nigga what?
my culture is lima beans

Share Buttons