Thanks, Joan (and Tavi…and Youtube)

On those evenings when I wind deeeper and deeeper into the annals of 2013-14 YouTube videos, I am rarely rewarded. Today, I was pleasantly surprised. After watching one Tavi Gevinson video (my quest started from Casey Neistat’s channel…??), I’d worked my way through quite a few until clicking on this one, in which she mentions Joan Didion’s essay entitled: ‘On Keeping A Notebook’. Naturally, I google this because I love keepin’ me a good ol’ notebook.

Joan Didion

I read through and then reach the bottom of the second-to-last page, and stop, trace my eyes back up a few lines, and re-read. Didion writes:

“I have lost touch with a couple of people I used to be; one of them, a seventeen-year-old, presents little threat, although it would be of some interest to me to know again what it feels like to sit on a river levee drinking vodka-and-orange-juice and listening to Les Paul and Mary Ford and their echoes sing “How High the Moon” on the car radio…

…The other one, a twenty-three-year-old, bothers me more. She was always a good deal of trouble, and I suspect she will reappear when I least want to see her, skirts too long, shy to the point of aggravation, always the injured party, full of recriminations and little hurts and stories I do not want to hear again, at once saddening me and angering me with her vulnerability and ignorance, an apparition all the more insistent for being so long banished.”

This struck me because lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my sixteen-year-old self. About how, even with my feet (almost) to the ground, I lived in my head. I thought deeply and boundlessly. The songs I listened to then, the films I loved, the blogs I followed were like another home. I occasionally throw myself back and listen to, watch and read those things, six years later (mostly because I’m ridiculously sentimental). Yet, like Didion, I sometimes feel that I’ve lost touch with ‘that person I used to be’. But I’m working on reconnecting. In a similar way, she continues:

“It is a good idea, then, to keep in touch, and I suppose that keeping in touch is what notebooks are all about. And we are all on our own when it comes to keeping those lines open to ourselves: your notebook will never help me, nor mine you.”

I’m pleased with the fact that I still keep a notebook; its details are not so distant that when I read through it, things don’t seem too out of context or tricky to follow. But I don’t want to  get to a place where I can’t remember what the heck I was writing about when I was eighteen. I’ll continue to grow and change, but I don’t want to lose touch with my formative thoughts.

I hope you’ve had a lovely weekend 🙂

 

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Books I Have Read This Year

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I am a lover of books although…not always a loyal one. In my defence, this is not completely my fault; during the term I can hardly devote time to anything other than feasting my eyes on my course reading lists. And as much as I enjoy reading ethnographies, I do think it necessary to take a break every so often and indulge in a book of my choice.

I generally find myself being drawn to three genres: fiction, self-help and smart-thinking; these are the types of books that excite me the most and stick with me a while after finishing them. Having said that, there have been a couple of books that I have ventured into this year in which a page – usually around the halfway point – remains dog-eared; the point at which I have thought ‘I’ve given you a chance, but I can’t go any further’. I decided to include them in this list anyway, for as much as I did not enjoy them, someone else may.

Here goes. In no particular order:

  • GHANA MUST GO – Taiye Selasi

This is one of my favourite books in general, not least because I find it so relatable. Set mainly in the US and Ghana, Selasi depicts the story of the Sai family – one composed of such different personalities, histories and identities. The style of the book is such that the storyline starts at the end point (the death of a family member), and rewinds to the family history leading up to that event.

Why I loved it: It was focused on personal journeys, it is very descriptive and I got a great sense of who each family member and character was and their complexities.

  • LETTERS TO A YOUNG ARTIST – Anna Deavere Smith

I ordered this book after deciding that I wanted to further explore and work on my creative side. It is a book filled with letters to the reader, and it is rich in wisdom and advice about possible situations one might face on the journey to pursue a creative career.

Why I liked it: It is a well structured book, divided into small sections, which makes it easy to refer back to. It also does not need to be read in a linear fashion, for each chapter presents a lesson separate from the others.

  • ALL ABOUT LOVE – Bell Hooks

I expected this book to be written in an academic manner – full of theories and references, but it wasn’t. It is an easy read and offers up thirteen chapters/lessons about different types of love: spiritual, romantic, self-love, to name a few. Each chapter begins with a page dedicated to a quote which matches its theme.

Why I liked it: It is insightful, reflective and applicable to everyday life and relationships.

  • CATCHER IN THE RYE – J.D Salinger

This has also become one of my favourite books – Salinger’s writing style is such that it sucks you into the story, and makes you feel as though you were accompanying the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, on his adventures. Due to the rich detail and eventfulness of the book, it is easy to forget that the entire story was set over three days.

Why I loved it: The storyline was easy to escape into and I enjoyed the sense of ‘journey’ that it took me on. I could very easily imagine the scenes in action in real life.

  • HUMANS OF NEW YORK – Brandon Stanton

I have been a fan of the HONY website for a while (who isn’t), so when my sister offered me the book as a birthday gift, I was ever grateful. It is a great looking book which features people from the website.

Why I loved it: Flicking through its pages can lead you to feel several different emotions in a short period of time. It also features beautiful photography (duh).

  • TORTILLA FLAT – John Steinbeck

I enjoyed reading ‘Of Mice and Men’ in english literature in school, and so having picked up Tortilla Flat over a year ago, I decided to start it only couple of weeks ago. It is a relatively short book, however I feel myself trudging through it. Sadly, I am not getting as much satisfaction out of this book as I expected, even though it can be funny in parts. Steinbeck tells the story of a group of men living in an area called ‘Tortilla Flat’  in the Monterey region of California, their fortunes, losses and hopes. I am currently just over halfway through, but it is taking me time to read and I am not immersing myself in it as much as I would like.

  • WORKS OF LOVE – Soren Kierkegaard

I won’t say much on this, except it is not necessarily a book that you can read to wind down. It carries many references to Christian teachings about love, and needless to say, is very philosophical and at times, repetitive.

  • NW – Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith is my literary angel. Forreal. I really enjoyed NW for the same reason that I like the Catcher in the Rye and Ghana Must Go: it follows the history and complexity of a relationship between best friends, who they have become, their relationships and their own realisations about themselves. It is very believable, funny and honest.

Why I loved it: It is quite random yet that in itself is representative of the place in which it is set – London. It is also hilarious and well written.

That’s about it, folks! Which books have caught your eye this year?

Until next time.