Sometimes I love a book because it takes me away into a world or a time I know nothing about, and I can easily lose myself in anything from ancient Rome to modern-day New York. But other times, I love a book because I can relate to it immediately, from the language to the locations to the time.
I’ve been a fan of Marian Keyes since her first book Watermelon came out in 1995 (along with millions of others), and when her first non-fiction title Under The Duvet appeared in 2001, I was desperate to find out more about her. I knew she was born in Limerick (like myself), raised in Dublin (I wasn’t, I am a ‘rural type’ as Marian would have it) and had lived in London. I’d moved to London a year or so after Watermelon and, along with great nights out with my lovely flatmate and the novelty of getting a train to work, I remember Keyes's fictional characters Claire Walsh and Lucy Sullivan fondly from that time, too.
But it’s Marian’s non-fiction columns that really make me laugh, and her latest collection, Making It Up As I Go Along, is a real treat. Her honest observations on life, from the serious (struggles with addiction and depression) to the more lighthearted (hostile hairdressers, selection boxes, her fascination with good chemist shops) to the truly wondrous (meeting Aung San Suu Kyi or visiting Antartica) are always presented with common sense and humour, and I can’t get through more than a few lines without chuckling to myself. It’s the same when she appears on the Friday panel on Strictly Come Dancing (she’s a huge fan); she never fails to entertain and offer funny insights.
I love that she uses words I’ve heard and used all my life but rarely hear in London. Lads, we should all be making more use of ‘yoke’, it’s a great word when nothing else will do.
I love her take on on bigger things like negative thinking and saying sorry, the importance of family and getting older, her reflections on travelling, the benefits of going walking in the countryside, and gratitude for good fortune.
I love that she’ll tell you about a time when something completely absurd happened regardless of how she comes out of it. From the Miranda-like episode about the endless exercise session with kettlebells, only to realise she had the No 4 bus passengers as an audience, to dismay over looking ‘like Bono’ in a certain pair of expensive boots (‘You know,’ Mam said, sort of squinting at me, ‘you have the look of him all right.’) I was giggling along. It’s like a friend telling you a funny story and you’re laughing with her, not at her, at the realisation that sometimes things are just a bit comical, and we are all really just making it up as we go along.
Marian, here’s to you!