From modern dating advice to the existential – or are they the same thing? – MCA staff share their latest reads.
Head of Communications & Marketing
I recently came across The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman at my local library. What a beautiful, heart wrenching story. This is fiction, but inspired by historical events. Set in Nazi Europe, The Lost Wife tells the story of the secret resistance of artists in the concentration camp of Terezin outside of Prague. Although far better than Auschwitz, the conditions within Terezin were horrific. Starvation, severe crowding, and disease were all widespread. Yet, somehow, there was a tremendous amount of cultural activity within the ghetto. There were musicians who managed to perform, operas staged, and even a clandestine newspaper. It was amazing to read about the risks people were willing to take to quench their visceral need for self-expression – and how many people actually lost their lives in the camp doing so. That story kept me thinking about the power of art long after I finished the last page…
This is a beautifully crafted and excruciating work. A book has never made me cry so much.
Digital Marketing Coordinator
Have smartphones made us the most non-committal generation ever? Aziz Ansari’s witty investigation into modern dating says yes. Consulting old folks in retirement villages (whom most of met their life partners living in the same neighbourhood and some in the same building), Lotharios in Buenos Aires, Parisienne couples (affairs are de rigueur), sexless Tokyoites (rice cookers as online dating profile image? No joke) as well as social anthropologists, and online dating site owners, Modern Romance bares the contemporary conundrum of dating in a world swamped with options.
I like this book because it’s hilarious, oh so relatable and the sociology of dating is endlessly fascinating to me. Like Aziz, the paralysed-by-choice problem is something I face on a daily basis. So often am I on the quest for the best gelato/ankle boot/yoga studio. According to the book, this makes me a “maximiser” rather than a “satisficer” (I envy their peace of mind). Modern Romance also reminded me that a person is more than just a bubble on a screen. They are your friend, your mother, a nice gentleman who wants to buy you dinner. So next time you get that text message: “brunch Sat?”, treat it as if the person were standing in front of you.
Assistant, Audiences Engagement
I have just started reading Please Kill Me and have thoroughly enjoyed Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s insightful understanding and passion for the punk movement. They have weaved oral recounts, archival material and personal opinion into a thrilling read on a cultural revolution. There’s no better way to keep warm in winter than reading a book that gets your heart and soul dancing.
The Vegetarian by Han Kang, which is so beautifully translated from Korean to English by Deborah Smith, tells the story of a woman Yeong-Hye becoming a vegetarian after a bloody dream and then follows the devastating consequences this has on her personal and family life.
This novel appealed to me in the same way The Outsider by Albert Camus appealed to me. Both Kang and Camus share the underlying thought or philosophy that shapes the attitude of their novels, existentialism. There are great synergies between the protagonists: Mersault in The Outsider and Yeong-Hye in The Vegetarian.
The most attractive thing about these characters is that they both belong to truth. Their own truth. Their failure to conform to societal conventions alienates them from the world around them, yet they don’t seem phased by this. And that brings me comfort (and a cheerleader type encouragement).
Whether it’s not eating meat, not wearing a bra, choosing to bask naked in the sun, feeling a guilty detachment from your child and wife, obsessing over a forbidden body, or simply thinking you are a tree – all of these things allude to how as humans we all have different desires, thought-processes and ways of communicating and maybe we should just try to accept that and belong to our own truths. In the end it will be the only thing that matters.
Anyway. I got too deep. Just read the book, it’s good.
You can see artist Emily Floyd’s interpretation of The Outsider currently on display as part of Telling Tales: Excursions in Narrative Form.