Mercutio: I talk of dreams,
Which are the children of an idle brain,
Begot of nothing but vain fantasy,
Which is as thin of substance as the air
And more inconstant than the wind
Romeo & Juliet, Act 1, Scene 4
I’ll never forget the first time I saw Romeo & Juliet. I was young, and despite knowing the outcome of the tragic love story I was unprepared for the realness of the characters, the truth of their emotions, and the stark, gut-wrenching inevitability of the climactic scene which left me breathless and shaken to my core, unearthing emotions I hadn’t encountered in my short life but which, somehow, I understood.
For the heart, life is simple: it beats for as long as it can. Then it stops.
– Karl Ove Knausgård, Min Kamp
It seems, beyond all reasonable conjecture, that the latest literary sensation is not epic fantasy or young adult drama or even adult colouring books, but something altogether new and unexpected — a Nordic fictional memoir in six volumes.
You heard right. A six-volume memoir. Why, you may ask, would anyone’s life be worth six volumes of text, let alone someone who is only several decades into his life? And then, more to the point, why on earth would anyone want to read the whole damn thing?
Few movies have the boldness to be both utterly romantic and painstakingly realistic, holding our emotional response in some sort of excruciating stasis between hope and despair, made all the more raw by the immensely empathetic nature of the lives and thoughts and feelings of the two central characters. This movie came out in 2004, a year before I first visited Paris, and now the two are inextricably linked in my mind. I cannot visit Shakespeare & Co without imagining that heartbreakingly casual reconnection between Jesse and Celine, nine years in the making.
Let’s get down to it. If you want to be a writer chances are you’ve wanted to be a writer since before you can remember.
It was probably about the time you experienced your first really good story — you know, the moment when the hairs on your arms stood up and you forgot where you were and who was with you, and you got the feeling that there was a lot more to this grand old life than most people realised.