Sweetbitter

‘You will develop a palate. A palate is a spot on your tongue where you remember. Where you assign words to the textures of taste. Eating becomes a discipline, language-obsessed. You will never simply eat food again.’

This is how we meet Tess, the 22-year-old narrator at the heart of this stunning debut. Shot like a bullet from a mundane past, she’s left a place that feels like nowhere to live in a place that feels like the centre of the universe. Living alone in a New York rented room, she lands a coveted job at a renowned Union Square restaurant and begins to navigate the chaotic, punishing, privileged life of a ‘backwaiter’, on and off duty.

As her appetites awaken – for food and wine, but also for knowledge, friendship and a sense of belonging – we see her helplessly drawn into a darkly alluring love triangle. A rich novel of the senses – of taste and hunger, seeing and understanding, love and desire – Sweetbitter is ultimately about the power of what remains after disillusionment, and the transformation and wisdom that come from our experiences, sweet and bitter.

sweetbitter

I have put off writing this review for a couple weeks because I had no idea how to do this beautiful book justice.

I read it slowly. I kept having to pause and reflect because sometimes Stephanie Danler’s words hit me so close to home, I cringed.

This book epitomises post-university, early twenties life.  The cluelessness and the certainty, the moments of blinding arrogance followed by days of crippling doubt. The desire to just run the fuck away.

‘I was never good at the future. I grew up with girls whose chief occupation was the future – designing it, instigating it. They could talk about it with so much confidence it sounded like the past. During those talks, I had contributed nothing.

I had visions, too abstract and flat for me to hold on to.’

There is an undercurrent of insecurity running across the four seasons of Sweetbitter. At the beginning, it’s the spontaneity of the thing. Tess got too bored and left home without a whole lot of preparation. When she arrives in New York, she doesn’t have a clue what she’s doing. It takes her a day longer to arrive than she was expecting. On the first attempt they wouldn’t let her in. She didn’t know about the tolls.

Then it’s busy restaurant life which her small town coffee shop job could never have prepared her for. It’s trying to learn in a busy restaurant kitchen without getting in anyone’s way – an impossible task. It’s the needing to know about wine when she’s never had any reason to know about wine. It’s the humiliating herself in front of customers.

Later it’s the boy who shows loves by bullying her. It’s the mentor who might actually be the devil. It’s the question of how much cocaine is too much.

‘Maybe you don’t have to compromise yet, but you’re going to have to choose between your mind and your looks. If you don’t, the choices will become narrower and narrower, until they are hardly even choices and you’ll have to take what you can get. At some point you decided it was safer to be pretty. You sit on men’s laps and listen to their idiotic jokes and giggle. You let them give you back rubs, let them buy your drugs and your drinks, let them make you special meals in the kitchen. Don’t you see when you do that, all the while you’re… choking.’

The narrative of this novel is relentlessly present. I have never read such a complex character who’s back story we learn so little of. Tess and her dad aren’t close. We know that Tess’ mother left the family and never came back. We see Tess do the same thing.

But she doesn’t dwell in it.

We don’t know what she studied at college, whether she has any friends outside of those she’s made in New York.

The present is only ever moving forward and it allows for you to have experiences in sync with Tess. There is no constant anticipation of events. There is only the time in front of you, as Tess tells it. This means that the weirdnesses of the novel, specifically Tess’ relationship with her newfound mentor, Simone, build so gradually that you don’t even realise you’re uncomfortable until as if from nowhere you want to toss the damn book across the room.

Simone manages to be both all you’ve ever wanted from a person – someone intelligent and well-travelled taking a special interest in your personal development – and a total nightmare who will abandon all you’ve built together when you become an inconvenience. Simone is a foil to Tess. She is confident, capable and mysterious to Tess’ insecure, lost, open book. Then, as we learn more about her she becomes hopeless next to Tess’ unbreakable velocity. Trapped by a past – and a place – Tess will ultimately shrug off.

There is also a temporariness to the narrative that appealed to me. Despite the moment-to-moment storytelling, the whole thing is written in past tense. Even as you first learn of them, you know that knows these people, this place, are not lasting pieces of Tess’ life. It is fleeting and kind of meaningless. But that’s okay. Life is pretty meaningless, in the end.

What struck me, reading Sweetbitter, if that if nothing we do matters, all that matters is what we do*. And Tess does. And though she ends up battered and bruised and in her words ‘fucked for a long, long time’, there is no doubt that she will keep doing, keep living, keep going.

And there’s something in that. What that something is, we get to decide for ourselves.

*totally a quote from Angel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YA: My Dangerous Fantasy

Over the past few days an article has been making the rounds on Twitter called Why young-adult fiction is a dangerous fantasy, by Joe Nutt. I recommend it if you’re in the mood for the thoughts of a superior, belligerent gentleman who thinks glancing at the YA section of the bookshop is the same thing as having actually read any.

My first thoughts (for, despite my love of YA, my brain has not entirely melted, as Mr Nutt’s assertion), are these:

  1. Don’t try and piss people off. It doesn’t persuade anybody of anything. All this article provides is – presumably – a short moment of catharsis for all those YA haters and an even shorter moment of irritation for everyone else.
  2. Berating people with intellectual elitism really only serves to push them further away from whatever it is you’re promoting. I at least, will now forever associate Voltaire with an angry man on the internet taking pot shots at his imaginary intellectual inferiors.

What Nutt’s argument boils down to is the separation of so called ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture. ‘High’ culture, for anyone who doesn’t know, are the few ‘cultural products’ considered to be good enough for what was traditionally speaking the aristocracy or intelligentsia. ‘Low’ culture, on the other hand, was for the rest of us. The disgusting masses.

Did you know you were part of a disgusting mass? Because according to guys like Nutt, you totally are.

I learned to appreciate artistic snobbery when I arrived at university and found that YA hate was the new sport (we were literature students and for some bashing The Perks of Being A Wallflower and that kid ‘whining’ about his childhood sexual abuse was the closest to exercise they got). I tried on cultural superiority for a little while but my heart was never truly in it.

There are several reasons for this, the most obvious of which is that culture is fluid. What’s considered ‘low’ and ‘high’ changes all the time. It really just depends on whatever the masses are reading. The intelligentsia are the original hipsters that way. These days Charles Dickins might be considered on the higher end of the cultural scale but when he was alive and writing? Not so much. Everybody was reading that guy. His serialised writings were as eagerly awaited as a fresh batch of think pieces on Taylor Swift. Ultimately ‘high’ and ‘low’ are arbitrary labels attached to works by a minority group of academic elitists – they really aren’t for us in the masses to be concerned with.

In addition, art influences art influences art to infinity. No piece of art of writing or whatever is truly separate from what came before it. It’s connected to a history of ideas people have been passing around forever. In YA, it’s just packaged differently, in a way that is intended for the masses, and I think it’s this more than anything that pisses guys like Nutt off. There is this idea – entirely invented by academic elitists – that there is a realm of thought only accessible to certain, deep thinking members of humanity. That theories of personhood, existentialism, God, etc can only be addressed in an intellectual arena – never in, say, a Patrick Ness book about a kid who commits suicide and wakes up in an alternate universe, or a John Green novel about the damage the imaginary girl wreaks on the real one. As much as guys like Nutt berate us for our supposedly ‘low’ ways, I don’t think they want a truly accessible ‘high’ culture – then what would be left to feel superior about?

I’m not saying there is no value to ideas in their purest form – of course there is – but that doesn’t mean we should allow them to be disregarded because they don’t look like the work of an 18th century white man in a wig.

I also find frustrating the idea that the cultural touchstones of the so called ‘masses’, whether that be the Kardashians or sexy teenage vampires, are meaningless. The overwhelming and continued popularity of the vampire is a result of our youth-obsessed society. The world is designed for the young, so the desire for eternal youth is an obvious one. To read about a vampire is to face on some level that fact that what we have now we won’t have forever, impossible as it is to imagine. As for the Kardashians? Their long-lasting success can be attributed to the heart of the thing: they are a family. Family ties, in some form, is something we all share. This single humanising element ensures our continued investment in their whole thing. To reduce these phenomena to ‘people are just stupid’ is to be the thing you’re hating on in the first place – a supposedly ‘thoughtless’ member of society.

Anyway, I’m getting off track.

I take particular issue with Nutt’s glib and frankly nasty tone toward books he says are ‘nothing more than gossip fodder, the endless recycling of petty anxieties’. Those petty anxieties he has already outlined in his ‘book pitch’ at the introduction of this tirade. This part of the article made me the saddest. It is pretty much of a universal truth at this point that it is important for people – maybe even especially young people – to see their own lives reflected in art. It helps people to feel less alone, to get some hope back, even. Stories can show people possibilities they had never considered for themselves. On the other hand, fiction can also show people lives entirely different to their own. The cliché is real: books open worlds. Most importantly, they inspire empathy, which we really need to combat the daily vitriol of the internet. I call that important – not some ‘florid expansion’ of a clickbait headline.

Nutt goes on to argue that these ‘petty anxieties’ I mentioned earlier have prevented ‘several generations of teenagers from becoming literate adults’ (eye roll), but the worst victims are the boys, how have been pushed out of reading altogether (HARD eye roll). It’s an article about YA – a genre dominated by female writers – of course the lack of male readership was going to come up. I would argue that this – much like the whole high/low thing – comes down to marketing. A sexist world produces a sexist publishing industry, and it has always functioned on the assumption that although girls will happily read ‘boy books’, boys would never touch a title with a female lead character. Caroline Paul, author of Gutsy Girls: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure, wrote a great article about this over at TED. She argues that:

‘We read to experience a panoply of perspectives. We read to learn of people and situations outside and beyond ourselves, so we can deepen our connection and understanding. We read to prepare for life. It follows, then, that we are raising our boys to dismiss other people’s experiences, and to see their needs and concerns as the center of things. We are raising our boys to lack empathy.’

So. The lack of male YA readers may not be a book issue so much as a societal one.

Where does all this leave us?

Pretty much exactly where we were before. We already knew YA fiction was varied and complicated and wonderful. Mostly because we’ve actually read some. Much like Nutt, the most I have provided is an admittedly slightly longer moment of catharsis, but for us YA lovers this time.

Ultimately it boils down to this: Don’t tell us what we ‘should’ like. We don’t react well.

Single Mothers on TV

During this past season of The Mindy Project, Mindy had a baby. When baby Leo arrived, it became clear that the opposing lifestyles that made Mindy and Danny’s will-they-won’t-they so cute were, in the context of raising a child, a total disaster. It’s a testament to the writing of TMP that after three seasons of wanting it, I was left with the decisive feeling that Mindy and Danny should not be together by the end of the first half of its current fourth outing.

mindy and leo

Since returning from its mid-season break, TMP has hit the reset button. We have returned to the date-of-the-week format that Mindy popularised in season one. What’s changed however, is Leo. At the beginning of the show, a lot of Mindy’s determination to find her perfect guy came from the desire for marriage and family. She thought she found that with Danny, got engaged, had Leo, and then everything fell apart. Now she wants to reverse engineer the thing, while caring for Leo and starting her own business.

I actually really like the way that The Mindy Project has dealt with Mindy’s unexpected single parenthood. Is it realistic? Not especially. But it is a representation that we haven’t seen before: it’s mostly a positive one. Yes, Mindy feels guilt and sadness that her relationship with Danny didn’t work out, and worries what the implications for Leo could be, but she isn’t feeling shame. We aren’t presented with the fact of her single parenthood as a reason behind her mistakes and disasters. Nobody is judging her. The people in her life are mostly either supportive or pretty indifferent about the situation.

Even the attempted shaming of Mindy doesn’t really land. In Danny’s absence, the conservative viewpoint is supplied by Mindy’s latest sexy-but-disapproving love interest, Jody. His strict views are only ever used as a punchline – he calls himself an old fashioned gentleman while sleeping with 18-year-old college students and sometimes, his brother’s wife.

In Bernardo and Anita, a high point in the season and the series as a whole, during a dinner party when Mindy makes a joke about being an Indian unmarried mother, Jody responds: ‘to be fair I think parents of any race find that shameful’. Silence falls. Nobody at the dinner party is into Jody’s opinion. It’s deliberately awkward and said with the intention of making Jody, not Mindy, look bad. To prove the point, the moment is contrasted with another at the end of the episode: Mindy’s parents make a rare appearance to tell her how proud of her they are. Any remaining barbs from Jody’s remarks are neutralised.

This stands in pretty stark contrast to the single parents of TV history. I loved the show and I am awaiting the Netflix revival as eagerly as anybody, but throughout the seasons of Gilmore Girls, Lorelai Gilmore was consistently shamed for the circumstances of Rory’s birth. She had Rory as a teenager, and despite considerable pressure from her parents, made the decision not to marry the guy who knocked her up. That her parents disagreed with this decision defined their relationship throughout the show. No matter what she did – work her way up to a manager in the hotel she used to clean, get her business diploma, eventually buy and run her own inn, not to mention raising a successful, ivy-league-college attending kid – she was still a failure in their eyes.

As much as I loved the show, this drove me nuts.

This is the pervading representation of single parents of TV. They are the perpetual screw ups. They had a kid and then they broke up with its dad, and this apparent ‘failure’ is used as a reason and a magnifier for all the subsequent mistakes they make. Just ask Emily Gilmore.

I’m not saying that all of the drama is unjustified. Single parenthood is hard, and not most people’s first choice, but what frustrates me is its inextricable connection to the idea of failure – if you’re a woman, anyway.

The trend is apparent in Lauren Graham’s other seminal role as a single parent, Sarah Braverman in Parenthood. Sarah Braverman, at the start of the series, is undoubtedly the black sheep of the Braverman brood. After her relationship with her drug addict partner ends, she and her children return home to live with the grandparents. At the beginning of Parenthood, Sarah is characterised by her failings. She can’t afford a home, and can’t get a job, her children are out of control. She has none of the pieces of A Successful Life that the other Braverman siblings do and serves as a foil to her sister, Julia the successful married lawyer. Once again, single parent equals screw up.

I think a lot of it has to do with ingrained notions of what women ‘should do’. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the nuclear family – husband, wife and 2.5 children – is what we are taught to strive for. So when we’re presented with a woman who couldn’t keep that ideal together, who perhaps chose to leave it or never even wanted it in the first place, we assume there must be something wrong with her. We are stuck in a never-ending discussion of whether, as women, it’s better to stay in miserable relationships ‘for the kids’ or make the ‘selfish’ decision to leave, as the miserable relationship somehow doesn’t touch the lives of the children such parents are supposedly serving. The dialogue of shame is constantly fed.

Seeing The Mindy Project shrug all this off has been so refreshing. In her interactions with her friends and colleagues there is no sense of doom about Mindy’s life as a single parent or Leo’s future. It’s simply the next incarnation of her life. Yeah, it can be difficult, but whatever comes up, she and Leo figure out and thrive. It is my hope that in future television we see single mothers depicted as strong, resourceful and caring women without the need to shame them.

Lady Memoirs for the Soul

We are fast approaching the end of summer. Even though I am no longer a student, I can’t help but think of September as the beginning of… something. The thought of it makes me feel reinvigorated somehow. Does anyone else feel this way?

What I want, in periods like these, is to feed that sense of invigoration. For me, that means reading the thoughts of the people I most admire. So, books by women.

Here are a few to kick start your inspiration engine:

Lady memoirs

Yes Please – Amy Poehler

I thoroughly believe that everyone should read this book. I have the audiobook, and I listen to it whenever I am having a hard day. Amy Poehler is such a giving, open hearted writer. It pours out of her and infects you with its goodness.

“Hopefully as you get older, you start to learn how to live with your demon. It’s hard at first. Some people give their demon so much room that there is no space in their head or bed for love. They feed their demon and it gets really strong and then it makes them stay in abusive relationships or starve their beautiful bodies. But sometimes, you get a little older and get a little bored of the demon. Through good therapy and friends and self-love you can practice treating the demon like a hacky, annoying cousin. Maybe a day even comes when you are getting dressed for a fancy event and it whispers, “You aren’t pretty,” and you go, “I know, I know, now let me find my earrings.” Sometimes you say, “Demon, I promise you I will let you remind me of my ugliness, but right now I am having hot sex so I will check in later.”

The Art of Asking – Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer is a singer on an art mission. Her memoir chronicles her journey from human statue to record breaking Kickstarter legend.

The Art of Asking is a book about art and trust and love. Amanda’s is a life lived to the fullest reaches of vulnerability and fearlessness. It makes wonderful reading.

“There’s a difference between wanting to be looked at and wanting to be seen.

When you are looked at, your eyes can be closed. You suck energy, you steal the spotlight. When you are seen, your eyes must be open, and you are seeing and recognizing your witness. You accept energy and you generate energy. You create light.

One is exhibitionism, the other is connection.

Not everybody wants to be looked at.

Everybody wants to be seen.” 

Wild – Cheryl Strayed

Wild is a story of healing. After losing her mother at 21, Cheryl Strayed’s life falls apart. Her family disintegrates, her relationship with her husband implodes, and her relationship with heroin gets intimate.

Until one day she just can’t take it anymore. Until one day she picks up a guide to hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2000 mile track across America. Until one day she decides to walk that trail, alone.

It’s an introspective, vulnerable, funny, heart breaking read.

“The father’s job is to teach his children how to be warriors, to give them the confidence to get on the horse to ride into battle when it’s necessary to do so. If you don’t get that from your father, you have to teach yourself.” 

I Was Told There’d Be Cake – Sloane Crosley

There is an essay in this book about how one time Sloane Crosley threw a very tense dinner party and one of guests shit on the floor of her bathroom.

Obviously a must read.

“Life starts out with everyone clapping when you take a poo and goes downhill from there.” 

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

Okay, so I guess this one technically isn’t a memoir. It does, however, feature stories from Liz Gilbert’s extensive creative life. If you care at all about creating, or if even a little part of you wants to make something, I beg you to read this book. It isn’t some art instruction manual, or a book about the morning routine that will make you write a best seller. It’s a simple exploration or creativity. It is about the joy of making something just because you want to make it.

It is not a book about success, in the traditional sense. It is a book that asks you to commit to creating because it’s what your heart wants. I think it is a book many of us bloggers would benefit greatly from reading.

“Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.” 

Brain Food

This Is Water, by David Foster Wallace, is one of my favourite essays about adulthood. I first read it when I was seventeen, and vowed that when I was an actual grown up, I would remind myself of it daily.

I also vowed to read Infinite Jest, Wallace’s 1079 page masterpiece.

To be totally honest, I haven’t stuck to either vow, but have continued good intentions toward both.

This is one of my favourite passages of This Is Water:

‘Because ‘here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.

They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing. And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving and [unintelligible — sounds like “displayal”]. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.

I know that this stuff probably doesn’t sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational the way a commencement speech is supposed to sound. What it is, as far as I can see, is the capital-T Truth, with a whole lot of rhetorical niceties stripped away. You are, of course, free to think of it whatever you wish. But please don’t just dismiss it as just some fingerwagging Dr. Laura sermon. None of this stuff is really about morality or religion or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death.

The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death.’

You can read the whole thing here.

Please read the whole thing. David Foster Wallace was and is an incredible writer. Finding your way into his work might be the best thing you can do for yourself today.

Harry Potter and The Cursed Child

I read Harry Potter and The Cursed Child a couple of weeks ago.

I liked it a lot and I have nothing but a big old eye roll for internet moaners who were expecting Deathly Hallows part III.

Ultimately, Harry Potter and The Cursed Child is a nice read, and after what J.K. Rowling put us through (Fred Weasley! Hedwig! Snape!), it was exactly the comfort read that I needed.

So, without further ado, here is a spoiler-ridden list of what I loved best about Harry Potter and The Cursed Child.

the cursed child
Yes. I am a book short. 

Scorpius Malfoy

Before I launch into my love for Scorpius, can I just acknowledge that I was totally shipping him and Albus? If J.K. comes out in like three years’ time and says they were actually in love I am going to be pissed. If the extensive fanfic hasn’t made it clear yet, J.K., know this: we are ready (begging, actually), to see wizards make out.

Anyway.

The thing that is true about both Harry and Albus, is that they kind of suck as people. It’s not their fault, necessarily. They wound up thrust into the middle of a thing with all this expectation on their shoulders, and they both got so caught in seeing The Big Picture that they were liable to miss the obvious shit happening right in front of their faces. Things like their friends’ lives – complicated parental dynamics, being secretly in love with each other for three entire books, etc – pass them by to an extent, because they are so focussed on the Thing.

It is a largely undiscussed truth that heroes are mostly sort of assholes, which is why they have sidekicks. Sidekicks are actual people, and they bring the hero down to a level on which we muggles can relate.

Scorpius might be my favourite sidekick ever. I think J.K., Jack Thorne and John Tiffany realised this too, because about half way through he pretty much replaces Albus as our MC.

Scorpius walks around with a black cloud of parental doubt hovering over him. Much of the wizarding world believes that he is actually the son of Voldemort. Now, some people would let this parental legacy overwhelm them (ahem, Albus), and give into people’s worst ideas about them, become them out of spite (ahem… you get it). But not Scorpius. That kid knows who he is in a way that Draco, Albus, at times even Harry, never did. And yeah, he makes mistakes, but he is the only character in the story who remains a good person throughout. Which is no mean feat when everyone – even Harry freaking Potter – assumes that you are not-so-secretly-evil.

I heart Scorpius.

The Redemption of Draco Malfoy

So this review turned into a Malfoy love in, huh?

Yes, yes it did.

I love a redemption story.

MCs and their antagonists stumbling into mutual ground is one of my favourite fictional devices.

It takes Harry and Draco most of the story to figure out that they’ve found it: their sons. Who knew that all it would take was some intense fatherly love to get these guys on the same team? There are a great many parallels between the father-son dynamics of Harry and Albus and Draco and Scorpius. They all want to reach each other, they are all missing by millimetres.

I liked watching these two men accidentally find a connection they never expected to.

When Dumbledore said this:

“Harry, there is never a perfect answer in this messy, emotional world. Perfection is beyond the reach of humankind, beyond the reach of magic. In every shining moment of happiness is that drop of poison: the knowledge that pain will come again. Be honest to those you love, show your pain. To suffer is as human as to breathe.”

Every Single Second of Hermione Granger

You know when you were reading the books the first time and you couldn’t help but think about what an epic, ass kicking, terrifying, awesome adult lady Hermione Granger was going to be?

It totally happened.

Snape

This cameo made my heart hurt. I was not expecting it. But the truth is that in the world of Harry Potter, both Snape and Alan Rickman will always be in the room.

Snape is absolutely and wonderfully himself, making his sacrifice all over again for the good of a world he’ll never get to see.

The short scenes are a lovely tribute to the both of them.

That feeling

For a pretty long time now, there has been an entirely unique feeling inside of me that I can only call Harry Potter. I felt it for the first time in years when the trailer for Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them came out.

I felt it again the entire time I was reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

It is a mix of pure escapism, comfort and nostalgia.

It’s magical, and no amount of internet trolls are going to take it away from me.

A Library You Could Live In

Last week, I went to Dublin, Ireland. As anyone who has ever typed it into Pinterest will know, Dublin is the home of Trinity College, which has the Hogwarts-style old library most of us only dream of hanging out in.

It looks like this:

trinity

Trinity College alums include Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett and Jonathan Swift (ugh. Gulliver’s Travels was one of the few books in my literature degree I just couldn’t get through).

trinity2

There’s a lot of Beckett paraphernalia in the library. They asked you not to photograph them for copyright purposes (and I was the only person to actually abide by this rule because I am hopelessly obedient), but it’s possible to see some of his notebooks. Scribblings and drafts that would eventually becomes scenes of plays are sitting there for everyone to see. I couldn’t help but think about how I’m pretty sure I would literally die of embarrassment if anyone ever read my notebooks.

trinity3

The long room of the library (the bit the tourists walk through) was built around 300 years ago and keeps 200,000 of the college’s oldest books. There was some renewal project happening when I was there – I assume this meant cleaning and fixing the books. Historians must have such terrifying jobs. I would not be able to pick up one of those books for fear it would crumble away to dust in my hands.

(although I did, about twenty minutes after these pictures were taken, hold a gigantic millipede in the small zoological museum Trinity College also has on campus. Despite my terror there was something sort of soothing in the feeling of all those legs creeping around my fingers.)

trinity4

The busts in the library are also kind of a big deal. They are all of the important men who attended the college or did significant things in Ireland. One of them is Jonathan Swift (I think they were over that sort of thing by the time Beckett came along). Women are noticeably absent but then they weren’t even allowed to attend the college until 1904.

Things To Know

Get there early in the day. We arrived around 10.30am, and there was already a twenty minute queue. Part of your ticket includes a visit to the Book of Kells exhibit and they only allow a few people in at a time. You can buy fast track tickets online but they were more expensive, and if you’re anything like me, you’re just too cheap for that sort of thing.

I hadn’t heard of it before I arrived at the library, but it turns out that the Book of Kells is a big deal. It is a very fancy and very very old edition of the four gospels. It’s from around the year 800. It’s very impressive that it exists, and worth seeing whatever your feelings are about religion. Again, the idea that anyone touches this thing ever, even seasoned professionals, is terrifying to me.

Put aside some time for Trinity College. There is a lot more there than I realised. I went with my science-loving friend, and she took me to the Science Gallery, where art and science met and had fascinating babies. As of now, the exhibit is concerned with seeing and how our vision functions. It is a very practical application of scientific thought that my art-brain enjoyed immensely. My favourite piece was Mobility Device, a film by Carmen Papalia, a blind artist who replaced his white cane with a marching band as a means of getting around for a day.