Shelf Reflection is a monthly series where we delve into the reading habits of interesting Australians. This month’s reflection comes from playwright and Santa Clarita Diet and Homecoming Queens actor Liv Hewson.
What are you currently reading?
Right now I’m reading Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado, a collection of eight stories that play with genre and form, all circling themes of gender, power and women’s sexuality. I’m also reading Joanna Kevanna’s A Field Guide To Reality, which is excellent, and a collection of short stories about the apocalypse by different authors called Global Dystopias published through the Boston Review. I’m also working through some poetry: Alice Notley’s Certain Magical Acts and Maggie Nelson’s Something Bright, Then Holes.
Borrowed or bought?
Lending books to me is dangerous because you probably won’t get them back. I still have books that friends lent me when we were seven years old. I really encourage people not to lend me things that they’re attached to. It’s better for everyone involved if I’m let loose in a bookshop for a few hours with some recommendations and a hunch.
It’s better for everyone involved if I’m let loose in a bookshop for a few hours with some recommendations and a hunch.
What kind of reader are you?
I like to be reading a dozen things at once, moving from book to book depending on my mood. Sometimes I’ll finish a book in two days and sometimes it’ll take me six months, but I get there in the end, always with a few plates spinning.
I used to reread books a lot when I was younger, but these days I’m less likely to. Occasionally, though, I’ll come across a book I finish reading and then immediately start reading again.
I like to read outside, in gardens or parks. I like to read in swinging chairs or hammocks. I like to read in cafes. I like to read on planes and in cars. I like to read in the bath. I like to read in pubs.
I really like reading essays and nonfiction theory books, particularly under the gender studies and philosophy umbrellas. That doesn’t really surprise people from a personal standpoint, but sometimes people are surprised that I like dense academic writing, given I never had an interest in studying after I finished Year 12.
What does your book collection look like?
For the last couple years I’ve done a lot of living out of a suitcase, so my book collection’s been whatever I’m travelling with. The trouble is I keep accumulating books. Twice now I’ve had to buy an extra piece of carry on luggage to fit the books I’ve bought while I’ve been away. Twice! That’s too many times. I’m not very organised.
I much prefer owning paperback to hardcover because it’s easier to carry. I love buying second hand or local whenever I can. I like to read widely and I like to be surprised. Looking at what I own though, I do show a preference for magic realism and genre fiction, whatever that means. I like a book that’s hard to pin down.
I love buying second hand or local whenever I can. I like to read widely and I like to be surprised.
I think the book I had the earliest relationship with is The Man by Raymond Briggs. I guess it’s more of a graphic novel, but it left a huge impact on me. We had an audiotape that went with the book and, when I was maybe three, I would listen to the tape and try to figure out which words on the page matched the words being said on the cassette. I can still quote chunks of that story by heart. It’s a wonderful book and it’s one of the earliest memories I have of figuring out how to read.
If you had to pick one book to live in for the rest of your life, which would it be?
For more than ten years my answer to this question’s been Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. That’s cheating, really, because it’s a book all about characters moving in and out of another book. I stand by it, though. Inkheart made reading aloud feel magical, which I think it is, and told a story about reading being transformative, which I think it is. That’s probably the book I’ve read and reread the most. I’d either want to live there, or somewhere in the Walter Moers universe. I think The 13 ½ Lives of Captain Bluebear and The City Of Dreaming Books would both be amazing to roll around in for a bit.
Season two of Santa Clarita Diet is now streaming on Netflix and Homecoming Queens is now available on SBS On Demand. Catch Liv in the upcoming feature film Puzzle, slated for release in July, and ABC’s Back In Very Small Business later this year.