Archive for the ‘Memoirs’ Category

I read Emma John’s first book ‘Following On‘, which is on cricket, recently, and I loved it so much that I decided to read her newest book ‘Self-Contained : Scenes from a Single Life‘. This one came out just ten days back and so it is literally hot off the press.

The book starts with a party to which Emma John is invited. She appears to be the only single person out there. At some point someone asks her the inevitable question – whether she is single or has a partner. Emma John takes off from there and explores the single life from different perspectives – as a sister, as a daughter, as a friend who hangs out with guys, as a woman with many girlfriends, as a woman whose roommate and best friend is a guy who is gay, as an aunt who is single, as a romantic partner who finds it hard to settle down. Emma John is frank and honest when she shares her story and the story of her family and friends, and sometimes she takes an unflinching look at herself which must have required an incredible amount of bravery and courage. Sometimes it is frustrating to read about the things she does, but it is hard not to admire her courage in sharing it. Through the book Emma John highlights the good things that the single life has to offer, while also talking about the things that single people yearn for, which they don’t have.

I loved ‘Self-Contained‘. It is a beautiful, insightful, thought-provoking book. It talks about an unconventional facet of life which is becoming increasingly important in today’s world. I’d like to say that it is a celebration of single life, but I don’t think it is. I think it is a nuanced portrayal of single life in all its complexity. I’m glad I read it.

I’ll leave you with a couple of my favourite passages from the book.

“Some say there is a state of flow inherent to manual pursuits, a hypnotic effect that encourages a mindful calm, and it is true that you can’t act out your anger with a roller brush (at least, not without splattering yourself). That night was my proof, however, that you can both paint yourself into a corner and decorate yourself into a depression. The moon was high outside the window by the time I gave up.”

“I often had fantasies about living in the past. A privileged past, obviously; I wasn’t interested in the world my real ancestors inhabited, struggling to keep their dozen children alive in a Welsh mining village or blacking the stoves of an east London slumlord. No, my escapism was born from a heady mix of my two favourite TV shows: Poirot, starring David Suchet, and Jeeves and Wooster, with my comic heroes Fry and Laurie in the eponymous roles. Both aired on ITV during my highly impressionable teenage years. The lead performances were sufficient to colour me obsessed; the intoxicating production design evoked a universe of its own. I quickly applied myself to the books too, reading and rereading them long after the plots had ceased to hold any surprises. Then came Dorothy L Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey stories and Brideshead Revisited – both the novel and the Anthony Andrews version. From then on, I immersed myself in pretty much anything that involved aristocrats, monocles or spats. Whenever I was bored of my surroundings – which happened frequently enough – I wished, with a passion that outweighed reason, that I had been born into the pages of these golden-age stories rather than my dull, unglamorous real life. I reimagined myself as one of their characters: a sharp-tongued, shingle-haired socialite with a devil-may-care attitude and a cigarette holder poised seductively between her lips. Her outline was drawn from 1930s detective stories and shaded with the devastating hauteur of a young Katharine Hepburn. She had the wise-cracking wit of Dorothy Parker, the intemperance of Zelda Fitzgerald and the stylistic flair of Elsa Schiaparelli. She was the sum of everything I wished I could be but wasn’t.”

Have you read ‘Self-Contained‘? What do you think about it?

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