Saturday, 20 May 2017

Q&A With My Friends!

Back in April, I attended the Bailey's Prize Book Bar with my friends Jessie, Dave, and Meg. Discussing books with them inspired me to start a new series on my blog where I interview the people close to me about all things bookish. Before we start, Jessie wrote introductions for everyone:

Jessie (pictured left) is an ex women's officer, English lit grad with a full time job in customer service and is a vegan with 4 cats.

Dave (pictured middle) is a trainee life saver with a passion for watching Lord of the Rings and saying 'weeeeee' when she drives round corners too quickly

Meg (pictured right) is a journalism and politics graduate currently studying a Masters in journalism and working as a temp, also a fiction writer.

1. What’s been the most influential book for you?

Dave: As cliché as it is, Harry Potter. I grew up with those books and JK Rowling grew the books as her audience did. Going from a fantastical story about a magical wizarding school that was at once a completely different world and highly relatable (no matter how cool quidditch is, they still had homework and detention and uncomfortable uniforms) to a pretty intense allegory for any rising dictator power and the dangers of acquiescence? Top notch stuff JK, top notch.

Jessie: Buffering by Hannah Hart. Hart influences me to be strong, proud and to look after myself. She's taught me that it's okay to admit when you're not okay, and to ask for help. She's shown me that processing loss and difficulty with parents is an individual experience for everyone and there is no wrong or right way to go through it. As she struggled with her Mum's mental health, I've struggled with my dad's alcoholism and she's shown me that it's not so much that there's light at the end of the tunnel, but more that one can support and love their family and still be successful in their own life.

Meg: In terms of fiction: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I connected to that book so much, I read it when I was like 9 and it’s one of my favourites to reread - I think this book really made me love characters, the first person voice is so strong and the characters feel fleshed out but you can tell what the protagonist’s interpretation of events is. In terms of non-fiction, it’s really hard. I read a ton of feminist-lit and everything I’ve read has educated me in a different way. Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates is great and Laurie Penny’s Unspeakable Things was eye-opening. Unfortunately, Laurie Penny’s been a bit shitty lately, but this book was solid and I do think it’s an important piece of reading. Off the feminism train, I read 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang 5 years ago and it’s stuck with me ever since. It’s a no-nonsense, easy to follow breakdown of the way capitalism lies and exploits people. I do not understand economics much, and this makes it so clear and was so interesting.

2. What do you think of the Bailey’s award? Is it necessary?

Dave: Representation in literature is always a good thing and I think recognition of women authors should be boosted. I mean, science fiction is still seen as a typically male area when Mary Shelley (arguably) invented the genre. So yeah, boost them novels, award those ladies, let’s celebrate.

Jessie: Of course! Awards and recognition are so important to highlight exceptional novels to readers and to give authors the platform to discuss their work and be recognised for it! Women's literature is extremely important as for hundreds of years men were the only authors being taken seriously and being canonised.

Meg: I love the Bailey’s. Literature isn’t well paid: fewer than 5% of all books published in the UK last year sold more than 3,500 copies and awards helps books to sell, create a buzz about books, and help some authors gain notoriety. Also, it’s important that there is an award for women in literature. Someone the other day was saying it shouldn’t exist because women’s literature shouldn’t be separated from men’s and I understand the sentiment behind that. Yes, of course we’re just as good and if not better than men, but there is still a prioritisation of men in literature. Most of the books I studied at school were written by men, and there is still the idea that stories about men are universal, whereas stories about women are for women. I think the Bailey’s Award helps level the playing field. Plus, Baileys is a great drink and I’m gutted they aren’t sponsoring it next year.

3. What do you wish to see more of in the bookish world?

Dave: DIVERSITY. It annoys me when people act as though diversity is something authors put in for the sake of appealing to liberals. Fun fact: the world is a diverse place, there are so many stories waiting to be told, so many opportunities being missed and it pisses me off when I read blurbs about Bland/Blandy Mayonnaise who is different yet simultaneously manages to be a white, straight, cis, neurotypical person with an accidental raging six pack/stunning figure, who doesn’t know how attractive they are, and will become a hero and save the world.

Jessie: Inclusivity and variety. It hasn't all got to be pale, male and stale!

Meg: I want to see better written characters in mystery/crime books. I love a crime novel, where there’s a decent mystery to work out, but oh my god, lately I’m finding it exhausting because the characters are so 2D I don’t care about them, and it might be a really good plot, but unless I care about the characters I’m not sustained for 300 pages. It’s a really annoying problem with the genre. So less 2D characters please. Also, I’ve really got into book blogs recently. There’s a fair few (including yours, obvs) that I read and it makes me hear about books and buy books, and I think the book world is the better for it. More of this.

4. What do you want to see less of in the bookish world?

Dave: I refer you to my comments about Blandy Mayonnaise.

Jessie: Elitism and Lena Dunham.

Meg: I think I kind of answered this in 4? But also less book snobbery. At my brother’s school I remember a teacher telling him not to read Harry Potter, that it was bad and he should be reading classic novels?! You don’t discourage a 12 year old from reading! But this happens a lot, people look down on others for reading certain things, and all books are gateways to other books, and reading needs to be encouraged. If it’s problematic then yeah, explain why that particular book in problematic, but don’t discourage someone reading just because it’s a ‘bad book’.

Keep your eyes peeled for more Q&A posts with my friends, as well as guest posts from them as well!