Culture Editor Rebecca Moore shares the pieces of culture that have most impacted her and moulded her own writing in our very first ‘Culture Corner’
D.H. Lawrence – Sons and Lovers
Everyone wants to find that one book they absolutely love, the one they’ll be reading and re-reading throughout their life. For me, that book is D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers.
Sons and Lovers is a coming of age novel about an adolescent called Paul Morel, dealing with themes of love, loss, sexuality, and familial relationships. I had to read it as part of my Modernism module as an undergraduate English student. I dreaded reading it at first, primarily because it’s over 500 pages in length, but also because Lawrence has a reputation for being overly ‘wordy’ , causing a lot of people to dislike his writing. But, as an emotional 21-year-old, the book really related to me and I grew to love the way that Lawrence labours over seemingly insignificant moments. He tests the limits of language and questions whether it has the power to explain emotional epiphanies. If you’re feeling unsure about your future, feeling estranged from your family, or questioning what love is, then you need to read this novel. It has a way of making you feel better about shared, young adult anxieties.
I ended up writing my dissertation on Lawrence’s early novels and his influence can be clearly seen in my own creative writing. I have no doubt that he will continue to shape my writing throughout my life.
Simon Stone – The Wild Duck
After graduating, I spent a lot of time travelling from Birmingham to London to watch the theatre I’d learnt about in lecture halls. This included work being produced at the Almeida, the National, the Royal Court and (my favourite place) the Barbican.
Simon Stone’s The Wild Duck is an adaptation of Ibsen’s 1884 play of the same name. It tells the tragic story of the Edkal family who, through the course of the performance, slowly descend into ruin. Stone’s adaptation brings the play firmly into the 21st century, with the dialogue completely reworked, making it an extremely powerful domestic tragedy with a universal appeal today.
I went to see The Wild Duck in 2014 as part of a Barbican Weekend Lab, a two-day directing workshop with Simon Stone himself. The weekend lab gave me an insight into Stone’s adaptation process and I was completely in awe of his approach. His dedication to the original text is unwavering and he breathes a new energy into well-known, classical texts.
Sitting in the audience at that performance, with the glass box perfectly placed on stage and the lights flashing on and off to show a real duck walking around the stage, I really felt as though I was watching the future of theatre. His new play, Yerma, an adaptation of the 1934 play by Federico Lorca, received 5 star reviews from practically everyone – and you should believe the hype.
Jon McGregor – If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things
When I started to study Creative Writing at postgraduate level, I was relieved to hear that I would need to read a lot more contemporary fiction. Having completed an English degree, I felt as though my reading life had been dedicated to classics. As part of my Poem as Story module, I read Jon McGregor’s This Isn’t the Sort of Thing that Happens to Someone Like You and was deeply impressed by his genre-bending form and challenging of conventional fiction. I didn’t leave much time before picking up If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things and I don’t recall being as moved by a book since I had read Lawrence all those years ago.
If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things is a book about the community. Evolving around a traumatic incident that happens on a street, McGregor explores a series of characters, in turn, who live next to each other but rarely interconnect. McGregor is a leading writer of genre-bending prose poetry, writing in the form of traditional fiction but borrowing poetic elements such as heightened language and heavily emotive imagery. I read this book and thought, this is what I want to write, this is what I have been trying to achieve here.
I’m currently starting to brainstorm ideas for my MA dissertation and, writing in prose-poetry, I intend to use McGregor as an influence. His new novel, Reservoir 13, has just been released, to much critical acclaim. It’s at the top of my reading pile and I enthusiastically encourage you to add it to yours.