Saturday, 24 March 2018

Adulthood and Other Abstract Concepts

This week I have developed a huge reading appetite. Some books just demand to be read as soon as possible. They refuse to close and keep one reading through a night. These kind of books also don't want to be left alone. Even though I know I won't have a minute to read a book during the day I will carry it with me in a backpack, just in case I have five minutes between one activity and other. At least when I open my backpack to get keys, phone, wallet, the book reminds of it's wonderful existence.

It doesn't happen with all books that I want to read all night. It becomes rarer the more I read. I am not very critical about books. I don't want to criticize. If I don't like some book I can leave it and choose another. No need to spread bad vibes. If someone can write a book and after that is brave enough to get it published and that way demand people to read it I give my highest respect. Especially the part to press publish button is the most difficult thing in all creative work. It is still relatively easy to create just for yourself and maybe understate your work if someone happens to see it. But to really expose your work to people's gaze and stand behind it is another thing. And I think every book has it's reader, the one who it is written for. Not every story can speak personally for all.

You know that special moment when a book you have just opened tells the tale of your life, in every detail, like you feel that it has been written of your life. Every word and phrase could be from your mouth. If given the same situation as the main character in the book you would act exactly like that. When I read Saara Turunen's first novel Rakkaudenhirviö over a year ago I felt it was the novel I had been waiting for so long. I had not heard about the novel when it came out and actually found it from a thrift store. It was easy to relate the main character's life story from early childhood to young adult because the world she lives in is so familiar. The novel gave a realistic picture of what it is to be a woman looking for a career in creative field and what kind of pressure comes with it. I felt all the insecurities she describes, ponderings what path to choose in life and how to make your own mind in the middle of expectations of the others, were easy to relate.

12/52 Saara Turunen: Sivuhenkilö (2018) novel continues the main character's story from the point that she has just released her first novel. Writing a book has been a big goal in her life and she has hoped that it would change her life and people's attitudes towards her completely. But nothing seems to happen and she begins to feel ashamed of her book and questions her book's worth. Instead of her book getting respect in her social circles she finds out how people have moved into so called adulthood. One way of adulthood that makes her feel outsider because she doesn't have a partner, kids, solid paychecks from work and pretty home. Still in these modern days there seems to be one ideal picture of happiness that everyone is supposed to achieve and if not one is a failure. Maybe we wish something grand and become surprised how mundane the world is. I would like to have croissants with jam, macarons, coffee and orange juice for breakfast when there would be silent classical music coming from the radio, I would love to travel more, attend to cultural happenings and collect art and antiques. And all this is actually possible, it doesn't even require huge amounts of money. I didn't say I would like to have a penthouse from boulevard. If I make a savings plan I can buy a trip, antiques table or art. The croissants are 49 cents at the grocery store and my heritage radio from the 80s plays music with the cost of electricity. But somehow there is a right way of doing life, a plot for everyone to live as written in advance.

If you step out of the plot your co characters will continue to live according to it and you are left out. Like the main character of the novel who waits publishing parties and ends up alone in her home receiving baby news from her friends and relatives every now and then. One would think life as a single would be an equal choice among others but it still has a stigma. It is connected to loneliness that is followed by some problems with cats, collecting too much porcelain or otherwise peculiar behavior. I like how the novel questions the ideal picture of human life, one that ends up in a happy family life. It also brings up the needed question if being single is not a phase before the ideal but the end of the journey. We are living in a time of feminism that questions many norms. Still in 2018 a person that approaches thirty easily confronts the situation where friends around you have disappeared to family life and you see them less and less. It makes one question the goals in life and if the decisions made have been the right ones. Like the novels main character I know how some people begin to assume favors from you because you are a spinster who has time (and especially if you a woman you should have an inbuilt will to serve others). It would be drastic to use that time for yourself (it is wrong when everyone else sacrifices so much for the sake of their family) so they give you tasks to make purpose for your poor single life. And in the end the single life you have, whether chosen or not, gets tones you don't want.

Being single and working in the creative field, keys for social exclusion? It was interesting to read how differently the main character, the people around her and society in general qualify her creative work. An artist has a need to express, people seem to have a need to know the worth of that expression in money and society in general seems to value certain kind of work that describes universal themes. Or as the main character points out, universal themes that men have written about through the history and that have gotten the status of great literature. This is a societal theme that deserves attention. It might be pointless to divide literature according to the sex of the writer. But there is a way of writing that backs from the history where men have been in better position and the word of men has been more appreciated. I remember reading that Virginia Woolf got feedback from her writing style, maybe she mentioned about it in some foreword. Stream of consciousness questioned the way of writing. Who is writing and to whom it is written. I was surprised how fluent and easy Woolf's novels are, I get to the stream I guess.

In Sivuhenkilö the themes of the book main character has written are questioned by the literature world. Is there a grand theme that everyone wants to read about and that deserves to be lift up? I doubt that. It is a question of equality that books talk about various themes. At east I have a need to read about characters that live a life that I can relate and have the same thoughts I am dealing with. It is no one to say that the theme brought up is not relevant because it is not about the life of the majority, or what is thought to interest the majority. And I also think it is healthy to respect others and read about people who live a very different life. I have read novels and stories about people who think very differently and who have very different experiences in life than I have ever had. It builds understanding to give a thought why someone thinks as they does or lives as they does. It gives a new meaning for what we think as given and universal. In a narrow way of seeing we can't notice how strong meanings we give to concepts that are actually quite abstract and many sided. Like adulthood we are pushed to achieve. It holds many unspoken meanings that we just feel and we also know deep inside if we think we have failed to fulfill the norm. If different perspectives are not respected we bury a grand part of reality and let one interpretation of the concept win. And that means there is no discussion or re-evaluation but the old myths are left to prosper.

This book is written in Finnish and not yet translated to other languages (correct me if I am wrong). If you can read it in Finnish I truly recommend!

Happy Weekend!


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