Every now and again I come across a piece of literature that is life changing. At any other time, these universally solitary pieces of art would fade into obscurity, but at a specific juncture they have the power to define a generation. For the noughties nihilists, films like The Room occupy that space. When it comes to literature, however, there can only be one true monarch: My Immortal.
For those unversed, My Immortal is an online, fan fiction, mini-series based (loosely, if at all) on J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. Although recommending it to fans of Harry Potter would be wildly unfair, as nothing about the series bears any resemblance to its apparent source material. What My Immortal does do, however, is genuinely make you reconsider the English language as a means of communication. To me, it changed the way I perceive language. If that’s not art, you’re a liar.
Oh Comely magazine
Taking their name from a Neutral Milk Hotel song, Oh Comely is the perfect source for all cool, cute counterculture in the UK. Showcasing work from a wide variety of creatives – illustrators, photographers, textile and jewellery designers, to name but a few – each issue follows a broad theme that encompasses an enormously wide range of creative endeavours. With fantastic design and gorgeous illustration (which can also double as low-cost but great-looking decoration for your bedroom walls) as well as thoughtful writing and a commitment to positive vibes, Oh Comely is the best summer reading you could ask for, a great purchase to flick through on a long flight or train journey or for leisurely, joyous beach browsing. If you find yourself in the airport WH Smith, looking for something to tide you over on an unexpected layover, I can think of nothing better.
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
Its bright, colourful cover could have told me before I started reading The Interestings that it would always be a book connected to summer for me. Read mostly on the tiny balcony (or rather, extended window ledge) of an Airbnb room in Paris, while my best friend was still sleeping, I was able to make the most of the book. This novel needs the time and attention only truly available during those long summer months, to allow you to get properly invested in the incredibly real and complex characters that populate its pages. Following six friends from the first time they meet at a summer camp for the arts, Meg Wollitzer creates a lifetime of a story exploring the meaning of talent and the role of class, art, money and power. Sounds pretty interesting, right? Yet most interesting are the human relationships, the building up and breaking down of friendships, superbly described by Wollitzer.
Autumn by Ali Smith
Ali Smith’s Autumn is a joy to read. Light and fresh as summer, bursting with colour and flavour, written in a language that flutters and is alive, jumping straight at you from the page. With the vote for Brexit in summer ’16 as a subtle background, Smith takes you on journeys into childhood memories of main character Elisabeth Demand. At the same time she explores Elisabeth’s peculiar friendship with her 80-year old neighbour, delves into his childhood memories during the second world war, and incorporates various dream sequences and detailed descriptions of works of art.
A surprising combination of a highly contemporary and simultaneously metaphysical work emerges. With references to the nationalistic tendencies in Britain, fake news, borders and increasing bureaucracy, it speaks of the uncertain and sometimes frightening time we live in. Yet Autumn is not a pessimistic novel. Rooted in time and the change of seasons, it tells us, perhaps, that all things will pass and transform into something else, something new. Impressive, inventive and inspiring, Autumn is the kind of novel that you read two, three, four times, taking something new from the dazzling narrative each time.