How concerned should I be that I don’t know the favourite songs of most of the people I’m close to, but I have half their astrology charts memorised? Imagine it’s 60 years from now, and I’m planning my hypothetical husband’s funeral. “I don’t know what music he liked,” I would say to the funeral director, “but he had Venus at 13 degrees Capricorn”. It would be an awkward conversation, and an equally awkward, music-less funeral.
I spend so much time learning by observation, that I often forget to start basic “what’s your favourite—” type conversations, even with some of my best friends. And it goes both ways. It’s easy to deduce that my favourite colour is purple, but unless I explicitly tell you what my favourite song is, you would probably never know.
I spent my teenage years not telling people what music I listened to, what books I liked, for fear of them realising I was different/weird/all the things it’s taboo to be when you’re in school. By the time I was at university, my taste had evolved to be mainstream, and that came with its own set of problems. I study Film & Television, and most of my favourite films are romcoms. My taste isn’t highbrow, and for most of my degree I felt like I didn’t belong here, because I didn’t watch the “right” kind of films. (Then I learnt about how the mainstream is often associated with the feminine, and it’s actually sexism that is making people think I have bad taste). But the habit of not sharing my opinions had become so ingrained in me that I never quite grew out of it. This blog is me growing out of it. Art is subjective, taste is subjective, and if I want to wear pink pyjamas and listen to Taylor Swift’s entire discography and cry because the novels I read as a teenager gave me unrealistic expectations of my importance in the world and my chance of finding true everlasting love, then I will do so with my whole chest.
I don’t talk enough about the art I love, all the pop culture that built me. I hope one day enough people will read The Purest Form of Chaos that it will be common for people to ask their friends if they’re a Phoenix or a Persephone, the way my entire generation does with Hogwarts houses.
Art is such an important form of human connection. Every time I hear Lana del Rey’s “Doin’ Time” and “Cola” I remember dancing drunk with my friend in an empty hostel bar in Estonia, giggling maniacally and holding each other in our arms. I remember blonde hair, and laughter, and the taste of pear cider. When I listen to Lorde’s “Homemade Dynamite”, I am sitting on my sofa with my best friend, a couple of days before she unexpectedly moved back to Germany.
Sometimes there are overlapping layers of memory: In The Night Garden takes me back to August 2018, the last time I visited my sister in Wales, the week my niece turned two. Sarah couldn’t pronounce my name yet, so she called me “Dabba” and hit me with her little hand to get my attention. I had to read an In The Night Garden story to her ten times in a row. By the 7th time, I read it in a Russian accent to spice things up a bit. She did not enjoy this. Another layer was watching it in my TV Analysis class, the week we studied Children’s Television. I associate it with memes, and messages in the film class group chat, in-jokes and laughter. Another time, my friend applied Sartre’s philosophy to it, and it somehow made perfect sense. Now when I hear the title of that show, it takes me back to so many small moments in my life, so many things that may be insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but are part of the fabric of my identity, my memory, my relationships.
This blog is a small insight into all the favourite things that comprise my frame of references, my basic-bitch taste. I don’t believe in guilty pleasures; when I love something, I’m not ashamed of it. These are all my loves, a gateway into knowing me.
Favourite Television Series:
Grey’s Anatomy. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Grey’s Anatomy is a medical drama, and follows the lives of the doctors at Seattle Grace/Grey-Sloan hospital. Mostly it’s about their relationships, but there are also some wacky medical conditions and obscure diseases, and it often centres on the mystery surrounding these. I love Grey’s Anatomy because it’s super melodramatic, and all these people whose jobs deal with life and death are still ridiculously obsessed with their love lives. It’s over-the-top, but so painfully emotive that it’s easy to suspend my disbelief. Its characters are flawed and relatable, but also inspiring. Their friendships and relationships ring true, even when their storylines are verging on ridiculous. The character development is phenomenal – particularly Alex Karev (well, up until he was written out. He deserved so much better than THAT ending), who started off as such an arrogant prick, and evolved so much of the course of the show. Because it has so many seasons (16, and counting), there are so many cycles of characters who come and go. It is an ever-evolving community. What started out as a show filled with questionable work-place relationships evolved into an insightful exploration of gender, class, race, and other social issues (interwoven with the usual stories of people sleeping with their co-workers in supply closets).
Other favourite shows:
The Bold Type
Jane the Virgin
The Good Place
Thelma & Louise. I’ve almost completed a degree in Film & Television Studies, and I still struggle to name a favourite film. Overall, I’m more of a TV person. Most of my comfort watches are romantic comedies, but I classify Thelma & Louise as my top favourite film. I love it because the central relationship is a female friendship, and I’m utterly fascinated by that ride-or-die kind of love. It’s a passionate, painful, funny and tragic film. But maybe the reason it struck such a chord with me is because it’s realistic. As much as we want to ride off into the sunset with the people we love and leave our haunting pasts behind, there is only so far that we can run.
Other favourite films:
Bridget Jones’ Diary
You’ve Got Mail
When Harry Met Sally
Little Women (2019)
Don’t Delete The Kisses – Wolf Alice. The first time I heard this song, I didn’t like it. The lyrics resonated, but the sound didn’t. After listening to it multiple times, it began to grow on me. Don’t Delete The Kisses is the perfect favourite song, because it is simultaneously hopeless and euphoric. It tells the tale of an anxious love story, of fear and insecurity, love in a liminal space, always holding back. The title never appears verbatim as a line in the song, but the feeling of it is captured there. I think of it every time I refrain from putting a purple heart emoji at the end of a message, every time “I love you” comes out as “get home safe”. It’s a song about the excuses we tell ourselves instead of communicating openly. But the refrain “what if it’s not meant for me, love?” that comprises the chorus changes to “you and me were meant to be in love” at the end, and the hopeless tale becomes a victorious one. I also like it because the opening line is bookended as the final line; anyone who’s read The Purest Form of Chaos will know that I’m a big fan of opening and closing lines mirroring each other to represent the cycles we are all trapped in.
The Gambler – Fun. Plot twist, I have two favourite songs, because I can’t make up my mind. Don’t Delete The Kisses has been my favourite song for two years. The Gambler has only been my favourite song for a couple of months. If Don’t Delete The Kisses represents an anxious attachment style, then The Gambler is secure attachment. @astrologychef on twitter made spotify playlists based on Venus signs (Venus rules love, but also our tastes/aesthetics/comforts, etc), and The Gambler was on the Capricorn Venus playlist; it is a song about everything I want from love. It’s a story about a couple who meet when they’re young, and are together for their whole lives. There’s this line “I swear when I grow up, I won’t just buy you a rose, I will buy the flower shop, and you’ll never be lonely”, and that’s the kind of love I want – someone who goes above and beyond, someone who makes me feel secure, someone who won’t disappear (and, yes, someone who buys my flowers).
Other favourite songs:
It’s Nice To Have A Friend – Taylor Swift
All Too Well – Taylor Swift
You Are In Love – Taylor Swift (are you seeing a pattern here?)
Bros – Wolf Alice
Greek Tragedy – The Wombats
Tell Tale Signs – Frank Turner
Liability – Lorde
Writer In The Dark – Lorde
Cleopatra – The Lumineers
How To Disappear – Lana del Rey
Love Song – Lana del Rey
Ride – Lana del Rey
Ah yes, the perfect way to torture a writer. I don’t have a favourite book; I have a favourite bookshelf. At a push, I have three favourite books.
Divergent. I read this book when I was 14, and it is responsible for a solid 70 percent of my personality/world view. The basic premise of Divergent is that in a post-apocalyptic world, society is divided into 5 factions, based on the traits people think are most valuable. I.e. bravery, selflessness, etc. When people are 16, they choose which faction to join, and (potentially) leave their family and community behind to stand by their own principles. It was one of many post-apocalyptic dystopian novels I read when I was 14, but it stuck with me for a number of reasons. Perhaps the first is that the inhabitants of that world have a choice. In The Hunger Games, if you’re born in District 12, you live your life in District 12. In Divergent, you get to carve your own identity. Tris, the protagonist, chooses the Dauntless faction, whose main value is bravery. They have to do an initiation, which involves facing their fears, and reading Divergent during my formative years has given me a life-long compulsion to face my problems head on. I do consider myself brave (or at least impulsive), and that’s a big thing for me, because I spent so much of my life feeling paralysed by anxiety. But the thing that really did it for me was the sequel, Insurgent, when Tris has to spend some time in Candor faction who value honesty. Tris does not view radical honesty as a particularly noble trait, but it hit home to 14-year-old Eliza, and it has been a cornerstone of my personality ever since. Particularly when, a couple of years later, I did Philosophy A Level and first came across my boi Immanuel Kant. I’m a little rusty on the specifics but Kant said something along the lines of: when you lie to someone, you’re taking away their free will. If you lie to someone, they don’t have all the information, therefore they can’t act freely. And that, folks, is why I’ve spent a good chunk of my life absolutely terrifying people by telling them exactly how I feel. Divergent + Kant = Eliza on a moral high horse.
Also bonus points to Divergent for being one of the few YA novels without a love triangle!
Jane Eyre. You know those books you read when you’re 17 and feel like no one in the world understands you, but that one book does? That was me with Jane Eyre. It’s full of passion and pining, and love that seems unrequited but actually turns out to be very requited and the man just couldn’t deal with his emotions like a normal human being (and also had a wife locked in the attic, but oh well, we all love a bad boy…). I would blame Jane Eyre for my questionable taste in men, but I already had bad taste in men before I read it, so unfortunately it only enabled my poor choices. That said, Jane Eyre incredibly encapsulates the nuanced interior world of women leading seemingly insignificant lives. The prose is beautiful, the romance is captivating, and, if nothing else, it unequivocally sends the important message that ugly people can have passionate love affairs too (which, again, gave 17-year-old Eliza false hope).
Uprooted. It may seem like I haven’t read any books since my mid-teens, but I read Uprooted a year ago, so ha! Come to think of it, it’s the last novel I finished reading, so that’s bad. But I was editing The Purest Form of Chaos for most of that year, whilst studying full time, so it makes sense I didn’t read much else. Uprooted has all the things I love: fantasy, a world that is clearly based on Eastern Europe, a male love interest who is not a nice person but is somehow a good person. My love for Uprooted crept up on me. At first, I couldn’t quite get into it, and then it was like a switch flipped, and I couldn’t put it down. The magic is innovative and unique, the character relationships are nuanced, and the cover is really pretty.
The Purest Form of Chaos. I know I shouldn’t say this, because it’s “egotistical”, or whatever, but I spent 7.5 years writing that bitch, so I have no qualms about saying it is my favourite book in the whole wide world, and if you really want to know who I am as a person, you should read it. Also, the cover is so beautiful, and every time I see my copy of it, I think about what an amazing artist my friend Sanni is, so it doubly brings me joy. If this blog is an insight into my favourite things, to know me better, then so is my novel. It’s partly set in Estonia – my favourite country I’ve travelled to. It’s based on a Greek myth, interspersed with feminism and sprinkled with thinly-veiled political commentary. It’s a story about an intense friendship between young women, an exploration of what it’s like to live with trauma. The Purest Form of Chaos is about the mistakes we have to live with, the loves that keep us sane, the community and connections and pain that tie us so strongly to our humanity. I would love it even if I hadn’t written it, but I am so proud to have been the person to bring this book into the world.
Other favourite books:
The Hunger Games
The Book Thief
My own diary (not in an egotistical way, I’m just fascinated by what a moron Past Eliza was).
Thank you to Flora for suggesting this topic!
I’ve set myself a challenge to write 15 blogs in 30 days, with the rule that they cannot relate to a certain global crisis that’s currently keeping us all locked indoors. As that’s more blogs than I’d normally write in a year, let alone a month, and there’s nothing of interest going on in my life right now, I’m looking for suggestions of topics to write about. If you have any topics you’d like me to cover, leave a comment and I’ll keep it in mind!