You know it's Christmas when you have time to get stuck into a good book. To toss the to-do list, camp out on the sofa with a cup of tea and a battered copy of your favourite old novel. Christmas is the time to re-read Little Women, Harry Potter, Bridget Jones' Diary? To get a little lost in your favourite fictional world. I've compiled a short list of some of my literary recommendations for this festive season. Get a cuppa and get stuck into this.
I Love Dick - Chris Kraus
This book is something else. The novel is a semi-autobiographical, semi-fictitious account of Kraus’ actual marriage to Sylvere Lotringer and her subsequent semi-fictitious, semi-autobiographical relationship with Dick. The novel comprises a series of letters, phone calls, emails to Dick (Richard, don’t get too excited). Kraus’ novel is Butler-esque in its unashamed brand of feminism. The protagonist’s infatuation with her lover completely overrides the redundant passions within her own marriage. However, most crucially throughout the course of the novel, and her correspondence with Dick, Kraus comes to realise that her worth ought not to be equated to her relationships with either of these men. I adore this novel. It was first published in 1997, but has acquired cult status in recent years. Think Girls, think Fleabag, think Simone de Beauvoir. Read it.
This is something a little different. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love is a collection of short stories, published in 1981. Some of the stories were initially published in magazines/as part of serials. I love the short-story genre as it is immediately gratifying. Carver is master of this style. My favourite piece within the collection is the first one, ‘Why Don’t you Dance?’. These stories are more than their page numbers. You’ll be left chewing on these plots a long time after the book is closed, which is all we can really ask of fiction. This would be a lovely Christmas gift.
This Modern Love is another collection. Youtuber Will Darbyshire produced the book earlier this year. It’s a compilation of love letters, heartbroken rants, pleas for forgiveness, FU’s. It’s basically a patchwork of relationship ramblings that we can all relate to in some way or another; and it’s brilliant. There is a page for each of us. The book is beautifully put together and features submissions from teenagers and grandparents alike. It’s proof that love exists and that we are not alone. It’s a book I will consult after first dates, breakups, fights for a long time to come.
Becoming, by Laura Jane Williams (Superlatively Rude) is a book that I read in stages. I have consumed Laura’s blog for a year or so now. I now read her Grazia column like gospel, listen to her podcasts… I’m hooked. Her mantra resonates with me on a near spiritual level: “BECAUSE NONE OF US IS FUCKING UP LIKE WE THINK WE ARE, IS WHAT I'M TRYING TO SAY”. I didn’t gorge on Becoming in quite the same way. I read it chapter by chapter, with breaks in between. Partially, due to university assignments taking over my life and, of course, partially because I wanted to savour each detail. Laura writes about love, lost hope, messy relationships, how it’s okay not to know what you’re doing so long as you know who you are. It’s a book I hereby prescribe to every 20 something feeling lost. Put it on your Christmas list.
The Marriage Plot - Jeffery Eugenides
Last up is a book I picked up because i’m an idiot. I’m writing my dissertation on the evolution of the Marriage Plot, from Victorian tradition to sci-fi future, I want to understand the effectual breakdown of this tired and restrictive tradition. So I googled ‘The Marriage Plot’ and blindly purchased this book. Totally useless for my degree, but by happy coincidence, I bloody love it. Written by the author of Middle Sex and The Virgin Suicides (of Kirsten Dunst cinematic fame) the book follows Madeline Hanna as she cobbles together her undergrad thesis. The book tackles issues of love, breakdowns, spirituality, the pursuit of happiness. It’s an uncomfortable read, in parts, but it’s a torture of the sweetest sort. I’ll be reading it again.