I have been hesitating for a bit, but finally got myself a copy of Normal People by Sally Rooney today. This was because almost all of the ‘so far’ lists (for examples this, this, this, this, this, and this) would have it in one of the upper levels of the charts. So naturally I got intrigued.
Normal People tells of two young people, Connell and Marianne, who grew up in the same small town in Ireland. Marianne came from a wealthy family but she was not very well-liked at school, whereas Connell, whose mother worked at Marianne’s house, came from a middle-class family (in fact, it was only Connell and his mother) but was very popular. Along the years as they also made their way into the same college, their lives intertwined with each other as they waded through the challenges in their lives together. That is as far as I can tell, because I am only in page 66 so far.
At this moment, I am honestly still struggling to find my footing with the book. This is the thing about reading books that have received such high praises for me, granted I know not all books work for everyone — I already have high expectations of it and I want the magic to happen now. But it has been over 50 pages and I still haven’t found it. I told a friend it probably also has to do with the fact that I just returned from British-occupied Nablus, was still newly immersed in the Isabella Hammad’s beautiful and lingering prose (Rooney’s prose are exact and definite e.g. “Lately he’s consumed by a sense that he is in fact two separate people, and soon he will have to choose which person to be on a full-time basis, and leave the other person behind”), and was still recovering from a story spanning across multiple years — hence the problems in Normal People seem so individual at this point of time. Your previously read book has a significant impact on your next one, so it turns out.
But also, I am only on page 66, so I am really excited to read on and find out the appeal.
In another story, I just stumbled upon this amazing 4-piece gypsy jazz / waltz rock indie band from New Delhi called Peter Cat Recording Co., whose crooning music is reminiscent of Dean Martin, Peter Bjorn and John (in fact even better), and the psychedelic cabaret also reminds of a band of personal favourite, Beirut. My favourite tracks are ‘I’m Home’ and ‘Love Demons’.
I am reminded of these lines in Susan Orlean’s The Library Book:
In Senegal, the polite expression for saying someone died is to say his or her library has burned. When I first heard the phrase, I didn’t understand it, but over time I came to realise it was perfect. Our minds and souls contain volumes inscribed by our experiences and emotions; each individual’s consciousness is a collection of memories we’ve catalogued and stored inside us, a private library of a life lived.
We are all a library, I guess.