30 Books For My 30th – Number 9

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img_4446Dear Wuthering Heights

(Set to the tune of Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush)
Sat on my dusty, groaning shelf
You sat between the rest
You had a darkness dipped in Gothic black
So mean, so moody
How could I like you
When I wouldn’t try the classics?
Expected to, just hate you, too
But you changed my mind
Would not see it so imagine my surprise
When closing my wuthering, wuthering
Wuthering Heights
It’s true, I do, I love you
I’ve come through, I’m now sold
You’ve let me in your covers
It’s true, I do, I love you
I’ve come through, I’m now sold
You’ve let me in your covers
Laura
P.S
You know that thing when you have an interesting idea for a post and it turns into a massive headache. Yeah, that. But what I was trying to say in my quirky way is, I’m sorry I doubted you for so long. You’d have thought someone who was born so close to Bronte country would have more respect for your writing but, when I was younger, I always tried to avoid any books that people describe as “must read”. I was a knob who thought I knew better. Turns out, you’re one of the greatest pieces of gothic fiction I’ve read yet. Yes, I hate all your characters and don’t understand why women fantasise about Heathcliff (it’s weird what some bookish ladies are attracted to). But you are one of the most unexpectedly fun reading experiences I’ve ever read. You’re definitely one of my favourites. So thank you… and I’m sorry to you and Miss Bush for butchering your song.
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30 Books For My 30th – Number 8

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img_4436Dear The Complete Sophie Stories,

I have so many fond memories of you. I adored your books when I was a child. My mother bought me your first hardback collection Sophie’s Adventures when I was about 7 years old. Or at least that’s what I’d assume by looking at the publication date. I don’t really remember much about getting you but I do remember that she wrote something to me inside the book. Not a huge essay but I’ll never forget that inscription. I’m not saying the connection with my mother caused me to love your books more but I’ve always linked the two in my mind.

Thinking about you has always been comforting. You’re tied up with nostalgic feelings about my youth and the warm, safe feeling of being home. You basically feel like part of the family to me. You’re the books I remember most fondly from my childhood. There was a period of time when you were my go to book for feeling better. If I woke up from a nightmare then I’d read you. I’d flip through your pages if I couldn’t get to sleep. Every time I was having a rough time I would turn to you. Even when I was far too old to do it.

Looking back I associate myself with Sophie because she’s a stubborn young girl and I’ve always been fairly stubborn. I can’t say I made those links when I first read you but I can definitely see similarities. At the time, we both shared a love of animals and, particularly, horses. I understood why you wanted a dog and why you would love to live on a farm. I understood being the youngest member of your family and being overshadowed by your siblings. It’s inevitable. I don’t think I appreciated how much you taught me when I first read you. But you did. You taught me a lot about being independent and head-strong. About doing what I believed in and sticking to my guns. You’ve probably influenced my life in more way’s than I’d imagine.

But, most importantly, you’ve always been a source of love for me. I always remember you. I always remember how reading you made me feel. I have so much to thank you for but especially for the hours of entertainment you’ve given me. You were the perfect first bookish obsession.

Thanks

Laura

 

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30 Books For My 30th – Number 7

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img_4430Dear Mary Wollstonecraft,

Today is International Women’s Day so there was really nobody else who I could write today’s letter to. Especially a few days after Jeremy Corbyn decided that it’s time a statue of you is built. You are Britain’s first feminist. You were the forerunner to the whole Suffragette movement. You’re the woman who started it all off. You stood up and demanded that women and men be equal. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is so stuffed full of wonderful quotes that I could just spend this whole post continually quoting from it.

I haven’t always been the best kind of feminist. Obviously, I’ve always been pro-women’s rights and pro-equality. However, I’ve experienced the kind of shyness that made it difficult to admit it. I’m painfully British so I didn’t want to upset the status quo. I didn’t want to make a fuss by going on about it too much. Even during my university years I openly tried to stay away from openly feminist literature just in case people thought I was stirring up trouble. Now? I don’t give a shit what people think. I’ve read your work so many times at this point that I had to learn something eventually.

“I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.” It’s your most oft quoted maxim and for such good reason. So many times do you find yourself having to explain to men too stubborn to listen that, no, as a feminist I don’t want to take rights from men but, instead, ensure all women have the same rights. I struggle to do it quite so eloquently as you did but I’ll always try. I realise that the feminist movement has moved on since you first published your responses to The Rights of Men but you’re still my inspiration. Having the strength, especially during the period in which you were writing, to stand up for yourself and your gender is something I can’t fathom. You continue to inspire me to be better. To continually fight. You’re everything we needed.

Although, despite all of this respect I can’t, in all honesty, say that I have loved you since I first heard your name. It wasn’t reading your political writing that caused me to truly embrace you. That came by getting to know you personally… I mean not personally, obviously. You’d been dead for a fair bit before I was born. But allow me to take some artistic licence for a second. During my postgraduate degree I read Letters Written During a Short Residence for one of my modules. Now I’ve always been a bit obsessed with reading other people’s letters: probably because I’m so bloody nosy.

What I wasn’t expecting was to completely fall for you. Your husband, William Godwin, once wrote the following quote: “If ever there was a book calculated to make a man in love with its author, this appears to me to be the book.” Never have I agreed with Godwin more, although I would change the word “man” to “person” for obvious reasons. Your letters are emotional, intelligent and beautifully written. You bared your soul and, at times, it was heartbreaking. Yet you hold yourself with such grace that’s impossible not to love you. Despite your psychological pain, you engage with your audience and create a gripping narrative. Making it absolutely impossible for a young woman not to fall in love with you as Godwin once had.

And it’s getting out of control. Having read Mary and discussed it in my postgraduate dissertation I felt confident enough to recommend it to a friend. I knew almost instantly that she wouldn’t like it but couldn’t help it. You’re writing has wormed its way into my brain and has taken up residence. Other people should find out how good that feels. I could carry on writing this letter and talk about how important you are. How influential a figure you’ve been in British history. How vital you were to modern-day feminism. I could talk about how desperate I am to thrust a copy of your writing into the hands of young women so they can have the kind of enlightening experience that I once had. I could but I won’t. I will simply say, there is no woman I would rather be celebrating here today than you.
The beginning is always today,

Laura

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Throwback Thirty – The Land Before Time (1988)

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landbeforetime_posterart5_star_rating_system_3_and_a_half_stars  One of the greatest things about this project is that I get to revist films I haven’t seen for ages. Of course, there is always the problem that, now I’m a 30-year-old, I will watch them again and realise how bad they are now. 80s movies aren’t all timeless classics unfortunately. Today’s film is one that I can’t say has stayed with me for my entire life but I certainly have memories of it. I have always thought of it fondly but not enough to sit and watch it again. It’s also entirely possible that I’m actually remembering watching on its many sequels instead. I’ve never had the greatest memory for stuff like this so I could even be thinking of Jurassic Park for all I know. Anything with a dinosaur in it. Hell, I watched The Good Dinosaur a few years ago, maybe I was just confusing it with that. Still, I love dinosaurs and I’ve always, sort of, credited this series of films. Dinosaurs are cool but adorable talking dinosaurs are way cooler.

30 Books For My 30th – Number 6

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img_4420Dear The Picture of Dorian Gray,

They say all women love a bad boy. Teenage girls? Phew, they can’t get enough of ’em. And you? You’re one of the biggest literary bad boys out there. I mean, you were once described by a magazine editor as containing a “number of things an innocent woman would make an exception to”. What kind of young girl could resist those bad boy credentials? Is it any wonder that I was obsessed with you? You were scandalous. You were immoral. You were going to turn my head and take me down a dark road. I couldn’t wait. And then I read you.

I’m not saying our first time was disappointing… it was just… not what I was expecting. You weren’t quite the bad guy I’d been lead to believe. Clearly you’d just read the ‘How to be a bad boy’ wikiHow page to get a few tips. Scandal? The only thing scandalous about you is how you maintained the reputation of being a dangerous book for so long. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t still like you. It was just like The Wizard of Oz; I’d pulled back the curtain to find nothing more than a rather tame novel that had gothic elements. Yes, there was something of a homoerotic undertone but it was nothing more scandalous than the volleyball scene in Top Gun.

What you are, Dorian Gray, is a wonderfully written tale that highlights the dangers of art for art’s sake. It is a tale that cautions against morality rather than promoting it. Any hints of Dorian’s immoral behaviour are hardly blatant and the suggestion of homosexual desire is pretty tame. You were not something for me to fear. You are story of a young man who goes to great lengths to preserve the only thing he cares about: his beauty. A man who wants to continue being the belle of the ball whilst being able to give in to his every desire. No matter how dark or sinful they were.

I still loved you but in a different way. You are classic Oscar Wilde. Full of quotable lines and wonderful witticisms. When I first read you I highlighted and memorised so many quotes. You know, cause I was a super deep and intelligent teenager. I got you. I got you more than anyone had when you first published and I, probably, got you more than anyone ever had. You were the first book I ever proclaimed to be my favourite. It was a bit of cliché and you were no doubt part of my attempt to create an image for myself as a creative and intelligent teen. But all teenagers are stupid.

Our first time may have been a bit rocky but we’ve found our rhythm. We’ve come to understand each other’s wants and desires. We’ve come to understand how we fit together. Maybe that initial spark has gone and you’re more comfortable and familiar these days but I still love you. Even now that I no longer have the desire to seem deep, well-read, and pretentious. How could I not? There is so much within your pages to feast upon. I always feel full and satisfied after reading. Even your truly horrendous film adaptation couldn’t scare me off. You meant so much to me that I named the fish I bought at university Dorian. Yes, I claimed it was partly to do with Finding Nemo too but, let’s be honest, I was a pretentious English literature student. Nobody saw through my bullshit.

You my teen love. My first real grown-up book love. You were an older guy, more experienced. But you treated me well. Better than I had thought you would have done considering your reputation. Unfortunately, I gained some insight and experience myself. I know more about the world and I’ve met books that satisfy me in ways you never could. It doesn’t mean I won’t always look back on you fondly. You were the perfect choice for my first favourite book. You were everything I needed.
The world is changed because you are made of ivory and gold

Laura

 

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30 Books For My 30th – Number 5

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dscn7086Dear Hard Times,

You can’t like every book. It’s a fact of life I’m afraid. The fact that I really hate you shouldn’t be a bad thing. To use an old cliche, it’s not you, it’s me. Except that it’s totally not me. It’s you. Although, it probably has something to do with my old English teacher too. It’s unfortunate for you that I was forced to study you at the age of 17 with the only teacher I have ever disliked. So, maybe, it’s him? It certainly makes a difference. If you’re taught a book badly then how can you ever like that book? It was all pretty unfortunate that in my final year of school I was moved into a different set and taken away from my favourite teachers. I didn’t like his style and he didn’t like mine. It was never going to end well.

Although, to be honest, it was always going to be difficult for us to get along. I don’t have a great track record with Charles Dickens. I’ve never understood his reputation as one of Britain’s greatest writers. I get that he has some value in terms of his social and economic commentary. But, really, it’s all a bit much. For years I’ve heard people rave about the hilarity behind his names. Really? Yeah, okay, there’s some word play there but meh. Loads of people have written funny names and not gone down in history. He’s so long and cumbersome. We all know that he was paid by the word because he’s so fucking obvious about it. So much unnecessary description. He puts Ann Radcliffe to shame.

I made it through Great Expectations without wanting to kill myself but I had a great teacher. I really like A Christmas Carol but that could have something to do with The Muppet Christmas Carol. You, Hard Times, were too much. Considering you’re the shortest of Dickens’ novels that is really saying something. You’re stuffed to breaking point with characters and plot lines. I could barely remember what was going on at the time let alone years later.

You’re also super preachy and negative. I realise that’s the point but sometimes you don’t want to be around such pessimistic people. You’re like those vegans who decide that, as well as changing their lives for the cause, they have to try to force their opinions on everyone they meet. Religious people who can’t accept that not everyone is willing to accept some sort of higher power into their lives. I don’t have room for people like that.

I respect your message, Hard Times. You were intended to show people the awful conditions some industrial workers faced. The problem is, you’re far too cynical. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. You aren’t the best novel Dickens has ever written and you definitely aren’t his most loved. You are so focused on the task at hand that you simplify everything and take things too far. Eventually, things become so pessimistic and sullen that you can’t see anything beyond it.

You’ve haunted me for 13 years. I’ve honestly never recovered from reading you. I’ve read books I didn’t like before but my short relationship with you was dreadful. It was toxic. I had such a ‘hard time’ reading you and had such a terrible time studying you. We’re incompatible. Different people. You can’t like everyone and you can’t like every book. You’ll sit languishing on my shelf. You can talk shit about me to your friends and I’ll talk shit about you to mine. I don’t need you in my life. I’m all about the fun.
People must be amuthed,

Laura

 

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30 Books For My 30th – Number 4

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dscn7078

 

Dear Alice in Wonderland,

Today is my actual 30th birthday. Yes, the single, insignificant (on a global scale anyway) event that I’ve been banging on about for months now has finally arrived. As this is the whole reason that I started this project I felt that I should pick an important and meaningful book for today. That book is you. Thinking about that, it’s a weird choice. Not because you aren’t an important book to me but because I can’t actually remember the first time I read you. I always remember you being in my life though. You’ve always been on the sidelines, watching me. You’re the book from my childhood I remember most fondly but not because I remember reading during my childhood.

It all comes from my middle name. I am Laura Alice Murdoch. I’ve always been drawn to you because we share a name… kind of. Not that I use my middle name ever or talk about it a lot. I just remember thinking it was really cool that I shared the same name as your main character. And I loved you. I loved the idea of you. A girl who grows incredibly large and incredibly small. A talking rabbit and a stoned caterpillar. What kid wouldn’t love that? Growing up I had framed pictures of your illustrations on my walls. Now I don’t know whether my love for you prompted the pictures to be out on my wall or vice versa but it’s doesn’t really matter. Even if I wasn’t fully aware of your story, I adored you. After all, I was Alice.

I’ve been familiar with your film adaptation too, of course, but the first time I remember you as a book was when I was already an adult. I studied you during my final year as an undergraduate on a bullshit children’s literature course. That’s to say the course and its tutor were bullshit; not the literature. I must have read you before or, at the very least, had you read to me. I just never remembered. I’m sure my parent’s talked about you in my youth in a way that suggests I had a familiarity with the text. However, the memories aren’t there.

You are the book that I’ve been most familiar with in my 30 years but, from the looks of it, I took ownership of you without having any rights to do so. Having definitely read you now, I still love you and I still, secretly, think I am Alice. I forced my flatmates to see the Tim Burton adaptation for my birthday in 2010. It was the first night it was available and I loved it. Not as much but enough. You are one of my all-time favourite books and I feel an incredible connection with you. It’s just mad to think that the book I always thought of as being my childhood favourite is also the book I remember the least.

But, we’re all mad here,

Laura

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30 Books For My 30th – Number 3

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dscn6980Dear The Monk,

January 25th 2018. Mark it in your calendar, my friend. That was the date I openly said, for the first time, those three little words: “Is my favourite”. I don’t know what came over me to be quite so bold. I’m normally not good at making the first move but, after 11 years in each other’s lives, it felt right to make it official. You are my favourite book … for now at least. I’ve never been decisive enough to have a favourite before so I can’t exactly promise it’ll be forever. But it’s for now. And for someone as uncomfortable with commitment as me, that means something.

I have to be honest with you, this has come as something of a shock to me. Particularly because you didn’t make the greatest first impression on me. It was sometime in the academic year of 07/08. I was in my first year of University and you were part of my Romanticism module’s reading list. I was a typical undergraduate: too much fun and not enough reading. I also had a massive crush on my tutor so wasn’t exactly concentrating on the books for most of my seminars. I read most of you and, from what I remember, I liked you. I mean, I enjoyed you enough to write about you in my final exam so you must have made something of an impression on me. But not a huge one.

It wasn’t until my postgraduate degree some 3 years later that I truly started to love you. In fact, and I hate to tell you this, I don’t think it was completely because of you that I fell in love with you. I mean you’re great and everything but it was your history that interested me. I came back to you because of 3 pieces of criticism that were written about you or linked to you. The first, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, praised you and critiqued you in equal measure. The other two hated you and your kind. One, by Thomas James Mathias, was outraged that an MP and had published something so scandalous. The second, an anonymous letter entitled ‘The Terrorist System of Novel-Writing’, hated all books of gothic horror and related them to the French Revolution. (Incidentally, that letter is, by far, one of the greatest pieces of correspondence that I’ve ever read.) It is from those 3 pieces that my postgraduate dissertation was born and my love for you cemented.

You scared the shit out of people, man. How could I not love you? You were described as politically dangerous. You’re not even that good a book in the grand scheme of things! Yet everyone was up in arms about you. I adore you for that. I’m not sure what it says about me that I see myself in a book but I see myself in you. You’re melodramatic, misunderstood, and a bit of a mess. Just like me. You mean well, you’re fun, and you make an impact. A bit like me. I’ve never believed in the idea of a human soul mate but book soul mates? You’re the one I’d been looking for.

Yes, you’re a bit all over the place and there are bits of you that don’t make sense or simply don’t fit. Coleridge was right that you had more potential that you don’t quite live up to. Your language is as times poetic and brilliant. At others, it’s abysmal. But you’re clever; you just hide it really well. You have a great political message regarding the aftermath of the French Revolution and the scene where an angry mob storm a convent is mesmerising. I could have written my entire dissertation on that passage alone.

Reading you is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. You’re insane. These days, you won’t be as widely read, which is unfortunate. I’ve bonded with people over you better than I have with most books. When you meet someone who has also read you there is an instant connection thanks to memories of your “beauteous orb” and wanking monk. I’ve had conversations with an ex-colleague about you that have left our co-workers visibly scared and confused. We’ve a history of inappropriate Facebook posts on each other’s walls inspired by your pages. Not many books can do bring people together like that. But you can. I’m so glad I read you. I’m just sorry it took me so long to realise what had been staring me in the face this whole time.

You are mine, and Heaven itself cannot rescue you from my power,

Laura

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30 Books For My 30th

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dscn6959-1Question: if you could write a love letter to any book you’ve ever read which would it be?

Are you sick of me banging on about turning 30 yet? It’s already been 2 months meaning there’s still a full 10 to go. So if you aren’t now then I guarantee you will be. March, of course, is special because it’s my actual birthday on the 5th. I decided to mark the occasion by starting my biggest blog challenge yet. It’s something I’m already kind of dreading and I haven’t even started it yet. However, I’m equally pretty excited about it. It’s something I’ve been thinking of for a while and now seemed like the best time. It is also super fitting that I’m launching this on World Book Day. I love when life works out like that.