Saturday, 18 May 2013

Texts that changed my life.

I've actually just realised that for a Literature student, I don't blog an awful lot about novels/books/scripts/plays, and I think I probably should, considering that some of my major influences are writers, novelists and authors. There isn't a feeling like it, opening a new book, carefully folding it's spine as not to damage it's insides, and revealing something spectacular. Ever read something that you believe changed your life? I have. I'm always reading things I think change me, for the best or the worst, but still affect me. I truly believe that a book that doesn't change or affect you in some way, isn't worth reading. There's only a handful of books I've ever started to read, and suddenly put down, thrown to the other side of the room, and not finished, ever. Not that these books weren't good pieces of literature in their own right, because of course they probably were, it's just, to me, they weren't what I look for in a book. I look for escapism, the ability to become so enthralled in a novel, that everything else goes out of focus. You can't think about anything else, you can't sleep or function until you find out what the pages are going to reveal. 

So, what are my favourite books you may wonder? I have quite a few, for obvious different reasons. I really do not have a genre I lean towards, well, not usually. I'm a bit of a sucker for a romance, but it has to be deep, capturing every one of your senses, nothing superficial or dull or overly lovey-dovey. I also tend to read what most people would consider very strange books. Anything with a weird storyline, something different, unusual, uncanny (to quote my supposed reading material for uni.) If someone asks me what my favourite book is, I tend to become cagey and weird. It's like I'm giving up a part of my soul, as some people will hear a title and either roll their eyes or begin gushing, and that may be fine, in one sense, but I don't like it. I don't like the fact that there are already made assumptions behind the identity of a novel or a particular writer. The judgements that no text can ever fully escape. Despite this, when I tell someone the names of my favourite novels, I want to grab them by their wrist before they have chance to walk away, and explain my reasons behind my choices. Slightly OCD, probably, but at least someone walks away knowing that I love a book for one particular quote, or a characters' identity, or the full circle of the narrative.

Let's reveal all. My ultimate favourites are as follows. Of course, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is probably one of the few novels I could read a million times and not get sick of it. It's 1920's glam lifestyle, wrapped in debauchery, riches and extravagance, including a very messy love triangle over a decade, some very questionable morals and a true, and perhaps, tainted, insight into what Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald's life was really like. The bright lights, the prohibition and the scarily-real underworld in the Roaring Twenties in America. Also, a must read for anyone and everyone. A novel to change your life. Discard any former judgements you have around J.K Rowling, all the stereotypical bullshit surrounding her ability to "only write for children" because, in fact, she may have been cleverly hiding behind such a persona for years. The release of her first adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, specifically intended for an older readership, excited me probably more than it should have. I was very intrigued to see how daring and bloody and brilliant this woman was, when it came to writing gritty novels. I won't include a horrific amount of spoilers, because I always kind of hate that, I'll just say, Ms Rowling did not disappoint. A book I bought on my Dad's kindle, and literally didn't leave my room until I'd finished every single page of it. It's blindingly wrapped in deception, but it's so painfully true it kind of broke my heart. A novel not for anyone looking for a sequel to the Harry Potter phase, because, I cannot stress enough, this book is certainly NOT for children. It's an eye-opener, so pick it up. 

Thirdly, another very different novel. Sarra Manning's Unsticky. A girly book if there ever was such a thing. A fabulously apt-named novel, probably aimed at adults, but I think I read it first when I was about 16. One young woman's journey from a job she hates to one she never ever thought she'd do, for reasons that become very obviously clear as you read on. A hilariously funny, heart-wrenching, sexy, brilliant novel, by a writer I have so much admiration for. Her best work, in my eyes. Girls, this is a definite one for you. Fourth would be a masterpiece, by the very well-known John Green. Actually sod it, it's two-in-one. You all need to read these. They are so different, yet have some tell-tale Green traits in them, secretly, buried in their crisp pages, strong topics and powerful characters. Between Looking for Alaska and The Fault In Our Stars (frequently stylized as TFIOS) I think I cried enough tears to put my house under water. Full of real emotion, with some brilliant characters and very carefully structured narratives. If you love a good cry, pick one (or both) of these up at your nearest Waterstones. Immediately.

Some other brilliant reads, are as follows;
Kevin Brooks' Candy and Black Rabbit Summer. Very gritty, very real, very very Brooks' style.
Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk about Kevin. Witty, pure brilliance meets pure evil. Life-changing. My A-level Literature teacher introduced me to this, and I was even allowed to abandon my coursework to finish it!
Sarah Dessen's Just Listen. Echoing the importance of love, life and sticking together like glue. Fabulous.
David Nicholls' One Day. The film was good, but the novel is the most wonderful thing ever. Em and Dex!
Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road. Classic. Passionate. Violent. Everything you could ever want. Wow.
Bram Stoker's Dracula. A novel I have just recently read for my Uni course, and to my surprise, was one of the wittiest, well-thought out book I've ever had the pleasure of feasting my eyes on. Slash your first impressions, it's an awful lot more than an eerie version of the Twilight series. It's deep stuff. (Check out my fave, Van Helsing!)
Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? One of the first plays I'd ever read, and was not disappointed. Albee's most famous and most recognised work in his entire life. Wonderfully hilarious, the fun and games hide a thousand dirty secrets, and some fabulous one-liners. One to make you cry with laughter. Also, I never say this, but the film starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor is epic. A piece of theatre that you'd think was wrote with Richard and Elizabeth in mind. It's their tumultuous relationship on paper.
Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest- a piece of theatre I loved from the moment I set eyes on it. The witty title, the overly extravagant characters, the exquisitely brilliant dialogue. You couldn't ever ask for more from a play. Wilde at his most hilarious and most astounding.

So, these are a few of my major inspirations.
What are yours? I'd really love to know. Any recommendations are obviously welcome.
Now, I really have to go and get ready. I'm off to see, (I can't believe I'm saying this!) finally! The Great Gatsby. Cue lots of grins, and even more tears. 

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