Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Five Books That Changed My Life...

Flicking through the Sun Herald over the weekend (something I don’t often bother to do), I came across a little segment I’ve seen in various forms over the years “5 Books That Changed My Life”. Basically they invite someone famous to write a little bio about 5 books that have inspired them. My train of thought went like so:

“Ohhh I wish someone would ask me to do an article about my favourite books. I love books!”
“You’ll never get the opportunity, stupid-head. They only get well known people to do that shit.”
“If only I had a blog where I could post it to the World without newspaper editors’ involvement...”
“See that’s why you’re a stupid-head: you already have a Blog!”

So without further ado; here is a list of 5 Books That Changed Missy’s Life (in no particular order...)

Captain Correlli’s Mandolin- Louis de Bernières

I recall reading this in my last year of Highschool with horror- horror because this book taught me more about WWII than four years of Modern History. The Australian History Curriculum really does suck ass. This is, hands down, one of the best written novels I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a lot!). Descriptive without being wanky; informative without being dull; romantic without being sickly. Anyone who hasn’t seriously considered moving to Cephallonia after reading this novel is an absolute heartless beast. Needless to say, I’ve not read any of De Bernières other work (No, not even Red Dog... Call me Un-Australian), for the fear of ruining my Godlike appreciation for his incredible skill in writing CCM.

This is how obsessed I am with this book- I own three copies (different editions); and have read it 6 times...

The Unbearable Lightness of Being- Milan Kundera

Ok, So the actual contents of the novel perhaps didn’t change my life; it was simply the catalyst to me seeking out more European Existentialist Literature, for which I have a great admiration for (think Cocteau’s Les Enfants Terribles and Camus’ The Outsider, etc). I feel a great affiliation with Existentialism, and not the watered-down pussy “Life is what you choose to make it” Existentialism of 80’s Philosophers, but the Romantic, Fatalistic, there-is-absolutely-no-meaning-to-life-and-it-only-causes-pain, ohso French Existentialism. Don’t ask me why. Probably because I’m a truer Atheist than Dawkins...

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe- Edward Albee

Ok, so the next two aren’t “Books” as in true novels, but plays, but I’ve read them several times in printed form as well as seen them performed- AND ITS MY BLOG DAMMIT ILL CHOOSE WHAT CONSTITUTES A BOOK!

Much like Unbearable Lightness; Who’s Afraid was not only important in itself (allowed me to peer into my future!), but it also opened my eyes to Theatre of the Absurd, which, you could argue, is the light hearted, performance cousin of Existentialism. My favourite Absurdist Theatre piece would probably be Waiting For Godot, but this was discovered a year after Who’s Afraid. For some reason (feel free to psycho-analyse me), I feel a great deal of comfort in works that view the World through a Framework of non-meaning.

Who’s Afraid will always stand in my heart as the start of a lifelong journey of enjoying non-narrative, non-sensical performance art.

Macbeth- William Shakespeare

I wish I could say I fell in love with Shakespeare the moment I began to study him. I remember feeling so grown up when, in year 7, we commenced studying ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. I had heard so much about how wonderful Shakespeare was, but had never been exposed to his work. Now I was at BIG SCHOOL and doing BIG THINGS like ALGEBRA and Shekey!!! I was bitterly disappointed. Bitterly. Disappointed. Why do they teach his comedies in High School? They’re outdated and a terrible introduction into his great mind (a great introduction into his opium riddled mind, however).

Anyway, so I hated Shakespeare at first. THEN came Macbeth, in year 8. So this is what everyone was talking about, huh? The awesome greed for power; the soliloquys while dying; the suicide! So intriguing! Back then I was still seriously considering a life on the stage (as seriously as a 13 year old girl can consider anything) and I decided it was my dream to play Lady Macbeth. I’d still jump at the opportunity!

Now I’m an old hand at Shakespeare lovin’, but still only really connect with his tragedies. The End.

We Need to Talk about Kevin- Lionel Shriver

I found this book impossible to put down, and all the while reading it, I was thinking to myself “I never knew I believed in Nature over Nurture, but this kid was borrn evviiilll!”. I just assumed other readers empathised with Eva, the mother of the high school student who commits a school massacre.

When I began reading reviews and critiques of the novel, and then of the film based on the novel, it was clear that the majority of the readership believed that Kevin’s actions were a result of neglectful/emotionally abusive parenting. I get that the novel is intentionally written to raise these questions, I was just surprised that I was in the minority of being “Team Eva”. Is it because I see myself in her? A woman, perfectly happy with her husband, forced by him and societal norms, to introduce a child into the World. I sure would be fucking resentful! This will be me one day, should I cave in to pressure and give up my long standing view that I would not be a good mother and do not want children. You’ve been warned...

That’s it, I’m getting a Tshirt printed “Team Eva 4 Life!”. Lit nerds will get it!