An interview with Xandra from Fashionably Light
The sweet and sparkly Xandra runs the blog Fashionably Light, which is all about living a minimalist life. She’s also a huge book lover and recently wrote a great article on her visit to a literary doctor. You can visit her blog or follow her on Twitter @missxandrabee.
You’ve just graduated from Oxford University with a degree in English Language & Literature – congratulations! As a child, which books inspired your love of reading?
I was in love with reading before I can remember, but it was Harry Potter that sparked my love of literature – you know, reading beyond just reading for fun. At age eleven I was home-schooled and spent quality time in front of the computer scrolling through academic essays about Harry Potter and writing up my own theories. My family moved around a lot, and coincidentally, a new Harry Potter book was released over each summer that we moved. Magic! In 2007 I was taking a fantasy literature class as part of a summer program in Oxford when the final book came out. I finally got to read my beloved series alongside fellow fans rather than by myself in a new empty room. After a Potter send off like that, and a summer of reading Alice in Wonderland in Wonderland, Narnia in Narnia, and The Lord of the Rings in Middle Earth, no wonder I was determined to return to Oxford. Oh and I may or may not have chosen Exeter College because it’s Lyra’s Jordan College in His Dark Materials…
As an American living in London, is there a book that most makes you think of home?
Although I wasn’t doing an American literature module at Oxford I snuck into the lecture series on transcendentalism every week anyway. I’m from Boston, so I’m sentimental for the Concord writers. Thoreau and Emerson’s essays, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.
Classic American literature vs. classic English literature: what are your favourites and why?
American lit: The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye all the way. Full of American fervour, contemplating the question of what it means to be alive. Oh, I love it! English lit…oh gosh, I’m going to have to go with my heart: Shakespeare, Austen, and Woolf are my all-time favourites. I adore these writers’ priority for character and introspection, and also their awareness of medium – Shakespeare writes plays about plays, Austen writes novels in defence of novels (Northanger Abbey is my favourite!), and Woolf, well, it’s not as simple as that, but each of her novels pushes the limit of what novels can do. And let’s pair my love of the American transcendentalists with the English mystics. Julian of Norwich and The Cloud of Unknowing write fantastically about the self.
Which books are you planning to read next? Do you have any that you secretly suspect you’ll never get round to?
I’ve just read Zadie Smith’s On Beauty so am very excited to read more of her work after a recovery dip into some YA (currently reading Eleanor and Park. On Beauty wore my heartstrings out.). I think Harold Bloom’s Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human will remain a laptop prop for a while, however.
Are there any books you started but never finished?
I started Breakfast at Tiffany’s a few weeks ago since I wanted to read a book that took place in New York while I was there, but it wasn’t the right time. Maybe later.
Would you ever be interested in writing a novel? If you could have written any existing book, what would it be?
I’m reworking a children’s book that I co-wrote with my friend Erin when we were nine years old. It’s about two girls in a community theatre production, because we were two girls in a community theatre production. I’m also working on a travel memoir, and plan to delve into a certain kind of self-help – what I call “Anthropologie books”, the kind of beautiful, cherishable, and useful books they sell at Anthropologie.
I’m terrible for buying books and having piles of them lying around the house waiting to be read. On your blog, you write about living a minimalist life, so I’m guessing that doesn’t leave space for too many books! How do you prefer to read: are you a Kindle addict, library regular or a paperback collector?
When I first “became a minimalist” I made books my exception. As time has passed though, I realise that I don’t want a massive library. I envision a small, carefully curated collection of my favourite, well-read tomes only. Alas, I love the feel of hardcover books, but for the sake of travelling lightly my kindle is a must. I buy based on the book – I have a hard copy of Ulysses so I can write all over it, and although I purchased a hardcover copy of The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin I also invested in the ebook so I have the freedom of reading it whenever. While I’m a pretty tame shopper in all other areas, books are my weakness. I buy only from beloved indie bookshops, so that helps, but I do end up in said bookshops startlingly frequently.
I’m a bit obsessive about my books and keeping them as undamaged as possible. Do you have any pet hates about the way other people read or treat their books?
Just don’t burn them.
If you’re a blogger, writer or book lover and you’d like to take part in Space on the Bookshelves, get in touch! You can email me at amy(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)tenpennydreams.com