Grimes: The Books That Made Me
— February 19, 2016 —
Mercurial musician Claire Boucher, aka Grimes, has a taste in literature that’s as far-reaching as her own sonic universe. Here, she selects five of her most influential reads
Photo: Grimes for AnOther Magazine S/S16 ,photography by Craig McDean, styling by Alex White
Text: Claire Boucher
1) The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
“I really relate to the particular type of mental instability that Dostoyevsky describes in pretty much all of his work. A character starts talking, and things start getting out of control and become increasingly animated, intense and disturbing. It reads like an extreme version of how I feel whenever I have to interact with humans. The Idiot is probably my favourite of his works, because I love Nastasya Filipovna, Aglaya Ivanovna Epanchin, Rogozhin… I think a lot of my friends think I’m a bit like Nastasya! Anyway, it’s the most cartoonish and absurd of everything I’ve read by Dostoyevsky, and the best distillation of insanity as a virtue. A Baz Luhrmann-esque treatment of this book would make an incredible film.”
2) The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
“For some reason I became enraptured by this book as a teenager. It smelled really amazing and dusty. I think our copy was from the 1940s and the pages would crumble as I turned them. I’ve never been so careful while reading a book, and I think that really endeared it to me. I’m very calmed by methodical descriptions of farming. The images of opium addiction amongst the wealthy Chinese aristocracy, who ‘smoked the flesh off their bones’, always come back to my mind; it’s so decadent and horrifying.”
3) Solaris by Stanislaw Lem
“This book scared the shit out of me. I picked it up after watching the film adaptation by Tarkovsky, which is one of my favourite movies. Sometimes I feel like the only explanation for human life is that our planet is a terrible god. I like thinking that planets are living, sentient behemoths that we completely misunderstand. I’m horrified to think what it would be like if such an abstract sentience had no regard for us, or enjoying toying with us. The act of repeatedly killing a doppelganger or a loved one seems so horrific; how could anyone think of something so awful? Whenever people pour cream into coffee in a clear glass, it reminds me of this book, because that’s what I imagine the surface of Solaris to look like."
4) My Fight/Your Fight by Ronda Rousey
"I was so touched by this book. I relate to Ronda in such an intense way, like I’ve almost never related to anybody my age – at least in the media. As a female producer who won’t work with co-producers, sometimes I feel like I don’t have any peers. When I first discovered Ronda, I was so moved that she was literally responsible for women entering the Ultimate Fighting Championship; that she walked into a man’s world and made it her own, even though everybody acted like she was crazy and didn’t think she could do it, or claimed that she only got there because of her looks. Everything, from being constantly exhausted because of eating issues, to the shame at being considered too masculine, to having no coach or mentor willing to train you, is something I have dealt with being a woman in a man’s industry. I also completely understand the commitment to being an entertainer whilst simultaneously perfecting your craft, and the kind of vitriol that this inspires from people on either end of the spectrum. Her dedication to being an autodidact, and the degree to which she has to train mentally to deal with the long hours and exhausting work, really struck me as both instructive and deeply relatable. This book changed my life, and made me feel so much less alone. I think all girls should read it.”
5) The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire
“I’m not typically interested in poetry, but I discovered The Flowers of Evil in high school as I was just becoming a goth and getting into Trent Reznor – and everyone else was getting into the Beat poets, who I find comparably boring if we’re going to discuss druggy, surrealist poetry. This work is so visceral, filthy and gorgeously written. It feels like a distillation of the opium scenes from Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth, but more abstract and extensively documented. This one poem is just a disgusting, sexual description of a corpse that is permanently burned into my mind.”
This feature is extracted from the Document section of AnOther Magazine S/S16, guest-edited and illustrated by Grimes, edited by Hannah Lack.