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Don’t Run With Those Expletives

February 19, 2010

Profanity in music.  Frankly, I don’t see its purpose.  It’s base and crude, and is usually avoidable.  It’s lazy writing, and I am most disappointed when my favourite bands, with marvellous lyricists, resort to the effs.  I know many people consider profanity’s usage to be valid in different circumstances, so it’s only fair that I look at why I dislike cursing in songs where the usage varies.

Just to be clear, the songs I’m going to be looking at are all from artists I really admire.  Their music and their lyrics usually astound me, but the few exceptions here and there do irk me – particularly since the music itself in the following songs is fantastic.  Also, fair warning, all the videos I link to will obviously contain coarse language.  So here we go:

Pointless Usage: Walcott, Vampire Weekend

Walcott, fish the women from Wellfleet
Fish the bears out in Provincetown
Heed my words and take flight.

 There is not a single reason I can think of to qualify the use of profanity in this song.  The lyrics are a plea to a character named Walcott to flee Cape Cod and escape the impending, eponymous weekend of vampiric mayhem.  Despite this, it’s a quite upbeat, energetic piece, and such coarse language is jarringly out of place.  It is quite clear from the preceeding lyrics that Walcott really needs to get out of Cape Cod – resorting to such crude instructions is unnecessary.

And that’s omitting the inherent violence in the phrasing.  This is the only time that people are referenced as something to leave behind, and the choice to use profanity certainly has some questionable undertones.  Obviously, the song isn’t using the eff word literally, but in its more figurative sense, but that doesn’t entirely excuse it.  The word is harsh and purposefully derogatory, and is at its most unpleasant in the “eff you” context.  Using it so blatantly, and so casually, in this song completely undermines it – or at least, makes it unpleasant to listen to until that stanza has passed.

Contradictory Usage: Grace Under Pressure, Elbow

We’re in love, so fish you.

This is yet another song where the use of profanity baffles me.  The song is a sweet love ditty with musical glory that lends an epic, uplifting quality.  It is simple and yet elegant, calming yet empowering.  And then it reaches the chorus.  A recording of the crowd at an Elbow concert shout in unison, “We’re in love, so fish you.”  The unity and power of hundreds of voices gives the repeating mantra an anthemic tone and influence.  I want to join in – I feel compelled to add my voice to the army of chanting fans.  But then I check myself, and the words themselves, and it turns the uplifting song into an awkward experience.

It is the context, though, that really puzzles me.  To pair one of the nicest phrases in the English language (“We’re in love”) with one of the most unpleasant (“So fish you”) is bizarre.  The sweetness of the declaration of adoration is erased by the curse.  Instead of elevating the love song to a level of transcendence, it debases it to the place of those upstart ‘punks’ who hate society and all that it stands for.  It puts the song in the mouths of the ungrateful, which leaves a bitter taste on my tongue.

I’ve seen comments on the interwebs discussing how liberating the chorus is.  It exemplifies the freedom bequeathed by love – no matter what you may think, I love this person and I always will.  I have no objection to this concept.  It’s a tried and true narrative trope – we have it in Shakespeare, in fairy tales, in modern literature.  It is a vaild and usually applaudable statement.  Yet surely Guy Garvey (the band’s lyricist) could have found a more poetic way to say this.

Glorified Usage: Little Lion Man, Mumford & Sons

It was not your fault but mine.
And it was your heart on the line.
I really fished it up this time,
Didn’t I, my dear?

By far the most aggressive usage of the word on my brief list, I again found it uncomfortable to listen to the song.  Yet again I wanted to chant the chorus, but I was even more turned off by the sharpness of the phrase.  Musically engaging and inherently catchy (yet heavy and dark), Mumford & Sons’ angsty song of frustration certainly creates an appropriate mood for the use of the word.  In contrast to the decidedly upbeat nature of Walcott and the whistful dreaminess of Grace Under Pressure, Little Lion Man suits the ferocity of the eff.  It almost seems appropriate.

Yet the more I think about it, the more I feel that the song glorifies the word.  Its prominent placement in the chorus and the emphasis imparted on it musically make it clear that the songwriter wants you to notice it.  The folk-influenced melody locks in your brain and the stressed phrase sticks.  Instead of mulling on the overarching concept of the song – remorse at a relationship-endangering error – the listener focuses on the phrase of utter self-hatred.

The word is turned upon the narrator – he uses it to describe his own actions.  It’s harsh and brutal – perhaps apt for the emotion.  But the overt emphasis on the word makes it the centrepiece.  It detracts from the overall impact of the song by being too powerful in itself, and yet with every repetition of the chorus, the listener becomes desensitised to the curse and it becomes just another word.  Perhaps if it had been used sparingly in a verse it may have had the desired effect of showing just how furious the narrator is at his own stupidity, without turning the chorus into a near-celebration of the profanity itself.

‘Last Resort’ Usage: Some Riot, Elbow

‘Cause it’s breaking my heart, it’s breaking my heart,
And it’s breaking my heart to pour like the rain.
Brother of mine, don’t run with those fishers,
When will my friend start singing again?

Of the songs I’ve discussed, this is the one which I feel most appropriately uses the eff word, although I still ardently wish it didn’t.  This song of angst over a dear friend’s succumb to alcoholism is an elegy of despair.  It’s the last call, and hope dwindles.  Whereas Little Lion Man uses profanity to emphasise the angst, Some Riot seems to include the word almost as an afterthought, buried in a breath in the middle of the verse.  It doesn’t place the word as the pinnacle of the emotion that is expressed bombastically.  It is an anguished last resort – I’ve tried and tried to reason with you, but I’ve run out of things to say.

I personally feel that if profanity is ever to be given into, it should be used sparingly.  Only then does it retain its purpose.  If a curse comes from the mouth of a clean-lipped person, it has all the more effect.  And this is the sensation I get from this song – the melancholy music and the quiet lyrics give the impression that the word is deserved.  Perhaps it helps that it only appears once.

And yet, I still think the song would be just as effective, if not more, with the exclusion of cussing.  The song is one of the most lyrical of Elbow’s songs and contains one of the most beautifully poetic lines I have ever come across: Beautiful, quivering, chivalrous shambles.  The words just flow off the tongue, and in context of the opening verse, paint the tone of the song in an instant.  If such poetry can appear at the beginning, why can’t it continue?  With the establishment of metaphor, surely a more poetic phrase could have been devised to beg the dear friend to turn away from the drink and the drunkards.

In Conclusion…

In all four of these songs, the reasoning behind the usage of profanity is clear.  They are all logical arguments.  Yet they do not convince me that the intention justifies the means.  In all of these cases, I believe the omission of the eff word would not harm the meaning of the song.  Surely there are some less attention-seeking, less shock-value synonyms out there.

But what do you think?  Does profanity have its place in music?  Does it achieve what other phrases in the thesaurus can not?  Do you believe Mumford & Sons, Elbow and Vampire Weekend have made appropriate use of cusses?  Swear by your opinions in the comments!


Language and the Lunar Rebellion

February 4, 2010

I recently finished reading Robert A. Heinlein’s sci-fi classic The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.  It’s a brilliant novel, intricate and beautifully told, and I would recommend it to anyone with the slightest interest in science fiction.  Set in 2076, where the Earth’s moon (Luna) has been settled as a penal colony, the novel follows the Lunar revolution to gain freedom from the near-tyranny of Terra.  The revolution is orchestred meticulously by the wise Professor Bernardo de la Paz, computer technician Manuel Garcia O’Kelly-Davis and the rebellious Wyoming Knott with the essential aid of the moon’s supercomputer (affectionately known as Mike) who has developed consciousness akin to a human being.

There are an abundance of topics for discussion: the politics and strategies of the rebellion itself, the comment on society’s structure, themes of humanity, and so forth.  But what I was instantly intrigued by was the language of the novel itself.  I’ve avoided spoilers, so read ahead even if you haven’t read the book.

Narrated by Mannie, the whole book is written in the language of the fictional era, using its grammar and slang constantly.  The word ‘the’ is consistently ommited, as are some indefinite articles and other brief, ‘filler’ words.  The sentence structure is unusual, rearranged so as to eliminate unnecessary sounds while still getting the meaning across.  This is no doubt a result of the fact that Luna was originally colonised as a prison, and lesser education would have had a direct influence on the development of the language and slang. 

I was struck by how quickly the language itself established the storyworld.  Heinlein’s imagination is extensive, and his detail of the Lunar culture and all its quirks is astounding – one could imagine he left out whole aspects of the world he devised when it came to writing the book.  But it was not these details that truly gave me the insight into life on Luna.  As much as I admired his breadth of creativity, I sometimes found the minute insights a bit too much or intrusive to the storytelling.  Alternately, once I got the hang of the strange grammar, it never bothered me.

Words are indicative of our personality and culture, and our way of using them only exemplifies this further.  By the way someone speaks, you can generally determine whether they are well-educated or street-wise, denizen or visitor.  It should be no surprise then that writing in a distinctive voice would assist the establishment of the setting.  The spartan prose of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road reflects the emptiness of his post-apocalyptic environment, Holden Caufield’s narration in The Catcher in the Rye is as spontaneous as his adolescent attitude, and so forth.

But in these cases, it is more the style of writing that sets the tone – the placement of words, the choice of colloquialisms.  There is still a familiarity within the foreignness.  But when whole grammatical rules are turned on their head, as they are in Harsh Mistress, it forces the reader to dive head-first into the imagined world.  There is no way that Mannie’s sentences could be mistaken for anything of this world – they wholly belong to the novel’s Luna. 

It is a property of the setting, just like the interplanetary catapault or Mannie’s collection of robotic arms.  If those objects were corporeal, and we could see them and touch them, they would make Luna, 2076 a tangible, believable, real place.  And the language has the same effect.

The language, the grammar and the slang shapes the storyworld not only because it is “proof” of the “reality” of the storyworld, but also because it is the corridor through which we enter Heinlein’s story.  The politics, the society, the characters are important and we invest ourselves in them.  But the words, sentences and paragraphs are inherent to our experience with the story – and its environment.  We cannot discover the story without them, and it is through interaction with them that we enter the world.

The language is how we define Luna.

I know that Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange utilises a similar technique, with the story narrated in the invented slang-heavy language Nadsat, but as I haven’t read it or seen the film, I can’t make a comparison.  If you have, I’d love to hear what you have to say about how the language affects the perception of the story.

And in general, is their any benefit to shaping a unique language with which to tell a story?  Does it alienate or engage?  Have I forgotten a key literary text that invests heavily in invented discourse?  Sound off in the comments!

Out of the Doorway, the Tentacles Stretch: 2009 in Review

December 31, 2009

So.  31st of December.  End of the month.  End of the year.  End of the decade.

Like everybody else on the planet, I’m looking back on the year and thinking about what I loved, what I didn’t.  So for anybody out there who has an inkling of interest, here are the things I reckon I’ll remember about 2009 in terms of movies, music, television, literature and culture in general.  And although it’s numbered, these aren’t in any particular order.


10. Prawns
Not real ones. I discovered those years ago. Rather, the prawns, or aliens, of the nifty sci-fi flick District 9.  I guess, in many ways, this has been the year in which I have fully embraced science fiction (more on this below), and one of my favourite forays into the genre was this low-budget, but fantastic, film.  From its unconventional storytelling method (pseudo-documentary which morphed into a straightforward action style as the film progressed) to the outstanding visual effects in a dirty, gritty environment, it really captured my interest.  It was an all-round achievement, in my opinion, and one of my favourite films of the year.

9. Catching the “Pollination Yellow Cab”
Vampire Weekend: upbeat, quirky, and… just a little bit weird.  My first new discovery in music for the year, they continually returned to my iPod playlist throughout the year, spreading their fun music and generally perplexing lyrics through my days.  Aside from being one of the first bands I’ve ‘discovered’ for myself, part of the reason I love them is that they’re so different from anything I’d listened to before.

8. G[l]eeking Out
I often debate with myself whether I would consider Glee to be a guilty pleasure, and in the end, I usually give up the argument and just kick back and enjoy it.  As a fan of musicals in general, having a weekly fix of singing and dancing is a real joy.  The show has its flaws, but it succeeds in what I take it for: light and inherently frivolous entertainment with some nice laughs, a feelgood tone and energetic show numbers.

7. Pretentious Russian Literature
After a one and a half year effort, I finished Tolstoy’s epic novel War and Peace.  I can’t be dishonest and claim I loved every page, but it was such a different literary experience.  The extraordinary cast of interweaving characters, the enormous scope, the attention to historical detail.  There is a reason this book is a classic, and I’m glad I stuck with it.  And I’d be inclined to read it again – give it fifty years or so.

6. “Something More Manly… Like a Trident… Or a Beard”
I’ve embraced my inner (or, perhaps, outer) nerd this year, and a prime example of this is the web-series The Guild.  Centred on a group of online gamers, and featuring delightfully odd characters and abundance of quote-worthy lines, the show quickly established it amongst my favourite things of the year.  Oh, and there was a hilarious music video to boot.

5. The Zombie Apocalypse
Humans vs. Zombies.  4 day long game of tag with nerf guns, played out between classes on the university campus.  The awesomeness speaks for itself.

4. The Really “Shiny” Stuff
It’s practically criminal that I only got around to watching Firefly this year.  This space western instantly captured my imagination – its fascinating cast of characters, unique take on the sci-fi genre, quick wit.  It’s a shame its lifespan was so short, but I’m sure its 14-episode season will get much repeated viewing in the future.

3. Wielding the Chainsaw of Bloody Dismemberment
If you are so unfortunate as to have never played the card game “Munchkin”, you are missing out.  Marketed as ‘Dungeons & Dragons without all that pesky role-playing stuff’, the game sees you take on ferocious beasts wielding weapons such as the Mace of Sharpness and the Kneecaps of Allure.  One of my favourite things about the game is that it doesn’t take itself seriously, which makes slaying the Gazebo and the Enraged Potted Plant that much more fun.

2. “I am Haunted by Humans”
The namesake for this blog, Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief made an incredible impact on me this year.  Narrated by Death, and following the life of a German girl during the early years of WWII, the premise is intriguing.  It’s both harrowing and beautiful, heartbreaking and heartwarming, and it’ll haunt me in the best sense of the word.  It is Zusak’s unconventional style and ability to paint vivid concepts with straightforward words are what really made the novel one of my favourite books. 

1. “Beautiful, Quivering, Chivalrous Shambles”
Elbow.  This British group is probably my favourite thing of the year.  Their music is unique and evocative, and their experimentation with different styles and sounds is always exciting.  And as a lover of words, their lyrics, which border on poetry, were what clinched them as a frequent occupant on my Most Played list – and I have a feeling they’ll stay there for a long time yet.


So there you have it, my favourite things of the year.  Share any of my favourites?  Have any you think I have outrageously omitted?  Expound away in the comments!

Title credit: “The Bones of You”, Elbow

May the Eywa Be With You

December 27, 2009

It has been just over a week since I saw Avatar.  The James Cameron one with the blue people, and the three-dimensional innovations for two-dimensional characters.  And… well, it’s just taken a while to figure out what to actually say about it. 

When it comes down to it, the thing that still strikes me is how I can be in two minds about it.  If someone gave me free movie tickets, I’d be inclined to give it a second whirl and watch it in 3D.  If (who am I kidding – when) a sequel comes out, I’ll see it.  And yet, I couldn’t completely ignore the predictability of the plot and cardboard cutout characters.

Can you forgive a movie, a story-telling method, for a dodgy tale and clichéd characters simply for its jaw-dropping presentation?  In book terms, that’d be like saying that a badly-written story could be forgiven because the type-setting and book jacket is just really purdy.  Put like that, it sounds an easy answer.  BUT…

I did enjoy the movie.  The story, whilst nothing ground-breaking, was engaging enough.  The visuals, whilst a massive attraction, were not the only good thing the movie had going for it.    There was some great moments of humour, some impeccable design, some adrenline-inducing scenes.  So I guess I’ve been rambling to come back to where I started: for a big-budget event flick, it was one of the best I’ve seen.  But as a film that’ll be a landmark in cinematic history?  I’m not so sure.

The ‘webs have been throwing around the notion that Avatar is going to be our generation’s Star Wars.  To that, I guffaw, “I hardly think so!”  My reasons for thinking so are listed below, but step cautiously, for here there be spoilers.

Technical Innovations.  This seems to be a big point for the Avatar-as-the-new-StarWars crowd, but I don’t see it as a particularly valid argument.  I agree that Cameron’s advances in cinematic technologies are impressive, as, so I hear, were Lucas’ back in the day, maybe to the point of being comparable.  But that doesn’t make the films comparable. 

An Absence of Icons.  The Na’vi were pretty cool, but that was about it.  Whilst the design of the planet and its wildlife is unique and fantastic to look at, there is not as broad a spectrum of individual icons.  Star Wars had Vader, it had the two droids, it had lightsabres.  Avatar‘s unique wildlife were too insignificant or too much alike to things we’ve seen before (ie. the pterodactyl bird-things that looked like, well, pterodactyls) to make a mark in that regard.  And in the same vein:

The Lack of Catchphrases.  SW gave us the unforgettable “May the Force be with you.”  Where is Avatar‘s line to be integrated so innately into popular culture?  At best, it would be the pithy, plain “I see you.”  For the amount of times it is repeated in the film, you can almost see the hope that it would catch on, but it doesn’t have the same immediate effect.  With  the SW quote, there are immediate associations to the film through the mention of The Force.  Avatar‘s quote has no direct connection to the film or its mythos.  That opens it up to being a more in-the-know, inside joke type of phrase, but I can’t see it finding its way into the cultural lingo in the same way.  But maybe Cameron’s trying to think up his own “No, I am your father” for the sequel.

The Difficulty of a Sequel.  And speaking of sequels, this is my big issue with the comparison.  There’s no doubt that Avatar could become a franchise, but it’s not so easy to see where it could go in terms of plot.  I’ve got several points for this one, so here we go:

The Deaths of Primary Characters. At the conclusion of SW, almost all the major players are still kicking.  Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, R2, 3PO, even Vader who’s spinning off somewhere in space.  Yet Avatar took the liberty of killing off the majority of its major cast.  Grace Augustine, Trudy, Tsu’Tey, Quaritch.  The only main characters alive, rearing for a follow-up, are Jake and Neytiri.  This immediately limits the possibility of expanding the storyline because a sequel will need to introduce new characters.  Because they’re new, we won’t already be attached to them and have the same connection to them as we would have had they carried over from the first film.  This is additionally frustrating because the characters were largely underdeveloped.  We hardly knew them, and as such, their deaths did not have as much effect as they would have should we have been allowed to grow to love them over the course of a trilogy.  Yet because of the extermination of many major characters in Avatar, the individual film had impact.  But in terms of being a set up for the sequel, it shot itself in the foot on this one.

Neatly Wrapping Up the Story.  SW did it to, but managed to pick up the story anyhow.  Yet Avatar concludes too cleanly.  The Na’vi win, humans are banished.  Perhaps most damning in sequel-terms, Jake gives up his own body to permanently inhabit his avatar.  As in, he no longer has an avatar.  Considering that is the titular idea, that makes Avatar 2 sound a little… well, not quite right.  But where would the plot go?  Would the humans come back with a vengeance?  That sounds like a repeat of film 1, more or less.  Would the Na’vi start warring amongst themselves…?  Simply put, I struggle to see a natural continuation of the story, which may be, in part, due to:

The Narrowness of Scope.  Yes, the film was a big-budget epic, but it took place on a single planet, and the threat to that planet (or more precisely, moon) was removed at the end of the film.  Pandora was the only focus of the film.  It’s all that we’ve come to know about, to care about, to learn about.  We know that there’s a greater universe, but we haven’t touched on it.  Star Wars, however, did.  We bounced through Tatooine, Alderaan, Yavin 4, the Death Star.  We got a bigger picture of the universe, and so it was easier to expand on and add to.  As we’ve only expanded on a single planet in Avatar, to move away from it in a sequel would distance it too much from the first film for it to be easily considered a sequel.  Thus an adventure on another planet seems a difficult road to take.

So these are my main issues with Avatar as the new Star Wars.  It’s possible that time will prove me wrong: after all, SW has had 30+ years to ingrain its catchphrases and icons.  It surely sounds like I’m panning Avatar, but I honestly enjoyed it.  It might become an icon in its own right, but all I’m trying to express is that I don’t think it’s a new Star Wars.

So what do you think?  Can you forsee people painting themselves blue for dress-up parties a few decades down the road, or quoting “I see you” to their friends? Is there an obvious route to a sequel that I’ve been completely oblivious to?  And I guess, most importantly: what did you think of Avatar?

One Pill to Rule Them All

December 15, 2009

Are you a struggling fantasy writer?  Is your imagination bursting at the seams with epic quests populated by elves, dwarves and halflings?  Are there snow-capped peaks that desperately need traversing, or underground evil dominions that are just waiting to be accidentally awakened by naive characters?  Is everything falling into place, except that crucial element?

What about the names?

How do you come up with names that are original?  Are the consonant-heavy names that you concoct unpronounceable?

If you answered yes to any of the above, I have a solution for you.  Just follow these five simple steps:

  1. Stand up.
  2. Go to your medicine cabinet.
  3. Select several bottles or boxes at random.
  4. Return to your aspiring-fantasy-novelist den.
  5. Select your names.

Still a little stumped?  Allow me to demonstrate:

The youth scratched at his pointed ears.  “I don’t understand!”  With a great sigh, he collapsed into the chair by the dining room table.  His mother’s gold-thread embroidery cushion did nothing to muffle the creak of old wood.  The youth reached for a conveniently placed pear.  Taking a large bite out of it, he continued with his mouth full.  “You show up on my door–” CHEW “–step, uninvited.  And then you go on about–” CHOMP “–the end of the world or some poppycock like that.  I was having a frightfully pleasant day until you came along, Nexium.  Now it’s just frightful.”

The aged man turned rapidly, his eyes burning intensely.  He had travelled far to warn his dear friend of the impending danger.  By his count, which was surprisingly accurate for he had always had a great aptitude for the mathematics, they had less than one hour and eighteen minutes before the small village would be overrun by the vicious Keppra.  He frowned.  “This is no time for jest, young Atacand!  If you do not act now, you will never be able act on anything again!  You must hurry!”  Nexium furrowed his brow to convey his agitation.

The youth rolled his eyes and took another lazy munch of the fruit he’d picked earlier in the day.  Atacand had always lived a life of peace in the tranquil farming village of Caduet.  He’d been more concerned about the capsicum plague spreading to his prized vegetables than about the warring elven tribes in the north.  He’d been more interested in what mulch produced the largest savlons, than which of King Oxilan’s two twin sons would take his throne.  And he cared far more about wooing the exquisite Lyrica than he cared about the ever-growing Empire of the Dusk.

“Your age had made you overtly worrisome,” answered Atacand, this time taking the time to finish chewing his food before speaking.  “Caduet has always evaded the eyes of the dark races.  It will always remain as such.  None care for our small valley.  It is not particularly bountiful nor beautiful, but it suits our simple tastes.”

It was Nexium’s turn to groan at the youth’s continued dismissal of impending tragedy.  “But it is not for your quaint little town that evil descends here!  It is for something far more sinister, and if you do not act quickly, young Atacand, there will not be a finger on which to place that engagement ring.”  The boy’s eyes widened and looked to the little box on the table.  He had taken special care to ensure the bow was symmetrical.

 Nexium did not stop for a breath, much less a glance to the giftbox.  “Yes, the Keppra will come, each mounted on a ferocious Gemzar, and they will leave behind them a burning village.  And they will take with them the stunning Lyrica.  Surely you cannot be so disinterested in world affairs as to be oblivious to the most terrible news of the month.”  The old man paused, savouring the tense silence before an inevitable gasp of horror from the pointy-eared Atacand’s mouth.

“The Dark Lord Zovirax lacks only three of his greatest desires: absolute power, world domination… and a wife.”

Walking the Tightrope: An Introduction

December 10, 2009

Would you do something for me, Liesel?  You told me about the goal, but I don’t know what sort of day it is up there.  I don’t know if you scored it in the sun, or if the clouds have covered everything.  Could you go up and tell me how the weather looks?


Words are one of our most prized possessions, perhaps second only to the gift of ideas.   And though the idea may come first, we need the words to make it real.


The sky is blue today, Max, and there is a big long cloud, and it’s stretched out like a rope.  At the end of it, the sun is like a yellow hole…


It is here that I plan to do just that: to put my ponderings, my overthought musings and my off-the-wall insights on books, movies, and life in general, into words – and sometimes illustrations (P=1000W, where P = picture, W = Word). 

I can hardly promise life-changing inspiration, but hopefully, like Max and Liesel, I can express things with a little more imagination. 


The Wall-Written Words of Max Vandenburg:
It was a Monday, and they walked on a tightrope to the sun.


Italicised quotes from “The Book Thief”, by Markus Zusak