Each month, we talk to one of our favourite Aussies about their personal libraries – the books they own, the books they love, the books they hate. This time around we spoke to 21-year-old Jamie Marina Lau, whose debut novel Pink Mountain On Locust Island is a new hard-boiled classic, available from Lifted Brow Books.
What is the most prized book that you own?
I don’t actually own a lot of the books I love yet: friends are always lending me their copies and I’m always reading at the library, but I’m in love with my copy of The White Book by Han Kang.
What was the first book that you bought?
Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. I remember just needing to own it because I thought of it as a sort of gallery or archive to investigate over time.
What’s the last book that made you cry?
So much of Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge really moved me. It unveils and exposes the process of smothering a history of really horrible racial brutalities. And how this ‘lack of historical knowledge’ is built into and continues to inform a racist system.
Every time I’ve read Less Than Zero it’s played out like a long movie or a hallucinatory state.
What’s the book you fell in love with when you were a teenager?
This giant edition of Dorothy Parker’s collection of fiction, criticism and plays all mixed up, which my drama teacher lent to me in high school often.
What books do you have on your bedside table?
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto, Beloved by Toni Morrison, China In Ten Words by Yu Hua, The White Album by Joan Didion, and Airships by Barry Hannah.
If you were trapped on a desert island, what’s the one book that you would want to have with you?
Less Than Zero. Every time I’ve read it it’s played out like a long movie or a hallucinatory state, so it would be a suitable distraction.
I can’t really stomach violence on film but I love it in books.
What’s the last book that you hated?
I’m really bad at hating books because I’m a slow reader and often don’t read on if I feel I’ll get bored. But I feel like the books I’ve read and should ‘hate’, I hate because of their dated ways of perceiving and representing. I don’t think its productive to hate a book for these reasons though – I think it’s an interesting way to inform my own work. For example, The Subterraneans by Jack Kerouac is filled with misogynistic, racist and exoticizing perspectives, and I was irritated when I read it. As a writer, reading these perspectives only extends my own, provides evidence that these perspectives were normalized and do exist.
What’s a book people might be surprised to learn that you love?
I love Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk but I’ve never watched the movie. People would be surprised because I can’t really stomach violence on film but I love it in books.
Who’s the writer that changed your life?
Toni Morrison with Jazz.
Read last month’s The Bookshelf column with Erica Dunn of Mod Con here.