3 books to sleep with now

Maybe I am only writing this because I had three empty months (thanks uni) to do absolutely nothing, but at least that meant I picked up a book for the first time since Narnia.

That’s an exaggeration, but nevertheless it does feel like ages since I’ve had the time or mental commitment to sit down and invest myself in a good thick read. Ages since I’ve used the spare minutes before bed to prioritise something other than Instagram. Before I had enough low key FOMO to stop me spending the better majority of my weekends in a world in the pages instead of the one out the front door. Or before a compulsory reading of Lord of The Flies in grade 10 English almost ruined EVERY WRITTEN WORD FOREVER.

So in these aforementioned 3 months, I have one book that I finished a while ago and has stuck in my subconscious, one that is still fresh in my mind, and one the I’ve just begun. Let’s talk about them all. Three doesn’t seem too ambitious, I hope?

 

Orlando by Virginia Woolf

If you don’t want to read this book, just read Virginia’s Wikipedia page instead. It’s just as captivating. You may have heard of A Room of One’s Own, which is also great, but is an elaborated lecture. This is the narrative route to meeting Virginia.

Orlando is a man, born to nobility in the 16th century. He lives for a few hundred years, then one day wakes up a woman, and lives for a few hundred more. The saga spans continents, characters, societies and love triangles like there’s no tomorrow. Woolf’s voice will transport you (once you’re used the old fashioned tone). It’s a brilliant exploration of gender fluidity and roles, with zingers buried everywhere. If the concepts don’t seem super groundbreaking, just remember that Woolf was essentially the first person to make any of these observations, and moreover voice them from a position where people listened.

The Sydney Theatre Company put on a production of Orlando last year and man I wish I’d known sooner. Also, there’s a movie! It’s on Netflix! It has Tilda Swinton! And it’s bloody good!

Opening line: “He – for there could be no doubt of his sex, though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it – was in the act of slicing at the head of a Moor which swung from the rafters.”

Favourite line: “As long as she thinks of a man, nobody objects to a woman thinking.”

 

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

I’d like to thank my reading of this book to the various people who recommend I do. But also to the multitude more who had it unopened on their nightstand/in their suitcase/fresh in the Dymocks plastic bag. Everybody seems to have read or want to read Goldfinch, and have an opinion on it. Perhaps because of the Pulitzer Winner 2014 badge that comes with it.

The truly profound stuff is concentrated right in the very (very) last pages, however the saga contained in the other 864 is more than most of the pleasure. There’s nothing pushy and farfetched about the narrative, somehow, and it didn’t feel laborious because I genuinely wanted to know what will happen to Theo next. How he goes in life. Maybe that is where Tartt’s artistry lies; not burdening you with putting you in the position of somebody who loves him, somebody who hates him, or even himself. But rather the constant, invested observer; much like the relatively little-mentioned but vital character of his mother.

Opening line: “While I was still in Amsterdam, I dreamed about my mother for the first time in years.”

Favourite line: “A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don’t get to choose our own hearts.”

 

Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Okay, all done. That title was a novella in itself, we can go home now. In actuality, this book is very short. Even the words seem physically large, and the half-inch thickness of this book is very encouraging. Particularly if like me you just finished Goldfinch, which is a true brick.

Again, give Murakami a quick stalk before/during/after you read this book, because his name is the reason I bought it.

I don’t know how I feel about this book. I’m only a third of the way in, and I thought it was boring, but things just got very weird. All Fifty Shades of weird. While still in the lower-mood intro, I said to a friend, “maybe the translation is bad but god it’s depressing.” To explain; “Nobody has friends, everything is sterile and lonely and sad and methodical and just painful and has now made me feel all those things.” But then also, “So MAYBE that makes it a good/compelling book but like I don’t want to go through that shit.” Good little empathetic reader me. And finally, “But also it’s a book so I should chill.”

So, we’ll see. Despite myself I think I’m going to enjoy it. It’s abstract, but doesn’t shy away from being deeply philosophical, and is thankfully delivered with expert clarity that enables it to be both so short and so good.

Opening line: “From July of his sophomore year in college until the following January, all Tsukuru Tazaki could think about was dying.”

Favourite line (so far): “And yet Tsukuru still needed his younger friend. More than anything.”

Words by Greer Clarke
Photography by Tim Salisbury