I'm back at it again with the read round-ups! After a difficult couple of months, I'm here with four books that I read over March and April. True to form, I've got a non-fiction pick in the form of a memoir; a classic pick from the realm of the epic; a poetry pick from a modernist favorite; and a fiction pick straight off the big screen. Let's dive in, shall we?
THE HEROIN DIARIES BY NIKKI SIXX
I've been a big Cruehead ever since I was a kid; my dad raised me on all the 80's metal he grew up with, and for some reason that was the band that sucked me in. I loved their sound and their over-the-top, theatrical vibe. They were different, and a great deal of that was thanks to Nikki Sixx's vision from the get-go. He's an artist in the full sense of the word, and I believe this book proves that. The strength that it takes to bear one's soul so openly and so vulnerably is incredible. He takes his weakest moments, something most people would stuff into a corner and hope to forget, and lays it out for the whole world to see. He's done it through music for years, increased the intimacy by opening up his diaries in front of the world, and has gone on to help others show what makes them different and beautiful through his photography. He has an incredible mind, an incredible sight, and it's so interesting and awe-inspiring to get a glimpse inside his head.
I knew most of his history growing up simply because my dad was something of a rock 'n roll encyclopedia and would spew out fun facts while we listened to his playlists in the car, and I was excited when he told me that he heard that Nikki Sixx was publishing a new book. We listened to The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack together when it first came out, and discussed 1987 Nikki/Crue at length - this was also around the time that he took me to my first Motley Crue concert. I first read the book in spurts whenever I would visit Borders (which was often, until it broke my heart by closing), and returning to it ten years later - and seeing where Nikki is ten years later - was both nostalgic and uplifting. I adore this book, admire all that Nikki has been able to do, and admire his spirit and voracity for life and art and new experiences. There's a lot to be learned from him, and this book is a true testament to the power of second chances.
BEOWULF TRANSLATED BY SEAMUS HEANEY
This was a third-over re-read for me, after having visited this book in both high school and college. It was an upper level literature class in undergrad that first allowed me to appreciate this story and all it did for Western literature. Before that, either the mood of the class soured my mood of the book, or I was just too young and too involved in more modern fantasies to be bothered. I'm grateful for the professor who shed some much-needed light on the epic, and even more grateful to have stumbled upon a new copy at Barnes & Noble when I was looking for Gilgamesh (a re-read that will still be done, of course).
You can get everything you need out of this single poem: action, adventure, horrors, sorrow and loss, triumphs. Reading through it, you can see how Beowulf's story was shaped by its time - and also how it helped to lay the groundwork for many a modern masterpiece. The fact that these characters and their stories still resonate with readers centuries after its writing speaks volumes of its quality. The tale is truly timeless.
THE WITCH DOESN'T BURN IN THIS ONE BY AMANDA LOVELACE
Amanda Lovelace has a powerful voice, and is truly a force to be reckoned with. Her debut collection was full of fire and passion; reading it felt like being trusting with Lovelace's innermost thoughts. But where Princess burned, Witch seemed to sizzle - for me, anyway.
Lovelace's signature style still shined through this book, and her simplicity hammered home the many valuable lessons scattered throughout. There were many a page where I felt empowered and ready to take on the world, and for that feeling I'm grateful. Not all poetry can inspire that, and it's a testament to Lovelace's talent that this book can rile emotion and spark confidence. There was just something about it that left me wanting more; something about it that felt flat. I didn't feel Amanda's personality in this book the way I did in Princess. She felt lost in statements rather than at the forefront of her work.
This is still a book I would recommend to others. There's no doubt there's a power in it, and the potential to raise up many. This book offers a hand to hold for many women struggling to have their voices heard, and I feel that there's a lot to garner from these pages. But it isn't my favorite of Lovelace's work. I don't want to say that I feel cheated, because Lovelace still delivered some really powerful poems, but I do feel like as a whole the collection left something to be desired.
THE SHAPE OF WATER BY GUILLERMO DEL TORO & DANIEL KRAUS
This world - weaved by two minds, nurtured in two mediums, set forth in the world to conquer - is exquisite. It pulls you in like no other and leaves in a dream. For all the fantastical elements included, the story and its characters feel fully grounded in reality. It's pure magic.
I will say that I do feel the concept lends itself more easily to film. The visual elements incorporated in del Toro's award-winning feature are what drew me into The Shape of Water in the first place, and what kept me so firmly rooted in it. However, I appreciate the insights into the minds and lives of each character that the book offers. The book added so much depth to characters who were mere background pieces in the film, and I found myself having a greater understanding of and appreciation for each one as I read.
All in all, this is a beautiful book, and a beautiful companion to the movie. Each stands alone well, but together, they create a world so awe-inspiring you'll never want to leave.