Saturday, September 02, 2006

Jodie FOSTER ... On Books and Reading

JODIE FOSTER, one of my most favourite actors, shared some of her thoughts on books and reading with Oprah Winfrey in the September 2005 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.

Jodie Foster ... On books and reading
“Books have always been my escape—where I go to bury my nose, hone my senses, or play the emotional tourist in a world of my own choosing. I’m a ‘head first’ person, really. Words are my best expressive tool, my favorite shield, my point of entry. One of my first memories? Hunching in the car with [Erich von Daniken’s] Chariots of the Gods (1970), waiting for my mother to drive me to school.

“When I was growing up, books took me away from my life to a solitary place that didn’t feel lonely. They celebrated the outcasts, people who sat on the margins of society contemplating their interiors. When adolescence got scary, I turned to books addictively: [J.D. Salinger’s] Franny and Zooey (1961), [John Fowler’s] The Magus (1965), [Fyodor Dostoevsky’s] The Idiot (1869)—just 50 more pages and I’ll call it a day; just 20 more pages and I can have dessert. Books were my cure for a romanticized unhappiness, for the anxiety of impending adulthood. They were all mine, private islands with secret passwords only the worthy could utter.

“If I could choose my favorite day, my favorite moment in some perfect dreamscape, I know exactly where I would be: stretched out in bed in the afternoon, knowing that the kids are taking a nap and I’ve got two more chapters left of some heartbreaking novel, the kind that messes you up for a week.”

What’s on Jodie Foster’s bookshelf?
1. The Flowers of Evil / Charles Baudelaire
“I went to the French lycée in Los Angeles, and, like every high school student in the French school system, I studied the work of 19th-century poet Charles Baudelaire. At 15, the height of brooding and dark self-discovery, I recited his poems by heart and thrilled to the exotic language, filled with taboo ideas and strange metaphors involving death and decay. It’s a must-read for any depressed adolescent.”

2. Song of Solomon (1977)/ Toni Morrison
“I wrote my senior essay in college on this book, specifically Morrison’s relationship to the African oral-narrative tradition. My favorite passage describes a water stain on a wood table—how that stain takes on new life and meaning with the passage of time and family history. I think Morrison has the most deeply poetic voice in contemporary American fiction, and I have never missed reading anything she’s written.”

3. Cathedral (1983) / Raymond Carver
Carver is the king of minimalism, and these short stories are some of his leanest. He writes characters who are completely unaware of their own motivations or the significance of their actions. They just live and don’t ask why. As an actress and reader, I love the discipline of spare characterizations. You soak up the few details offered and do the work to figure out the characters yourself.”

4. The Complete Greek Tragedies / Euripedes
“When I was about 13, I became very interested in classic Greek tragedies, and I think these represent the best of them. They combine what we’d identify as modern psychology with the concept of destiny. It’s impossible to forget these characters—Medea, for instance, who kills her own beloved children when faced with her husband’s betrayal. These are stories of such passion.”

5. Naked (1997) / David Sedaris
“In this collection of autobiographical essays, humanity’s wicked little details are seen through the eyes of a truly strange man. Sedaris’s observations are sometimes weirdly funny and unexpectedly moving—including his trip of self-discovery to a nudist camp. I read Naked in one sitting and then bought five copies to give to friends.”

6. Letters to a Young Poet (1929) / Rainer Maria Rilke
“This is a collection of letters that Rilke wrote to a poet who’d asked for his advice. It’s clear that Rilke wants to encourage the younger man, yet he can’t help betraying his own disillusionment with the world and his feelings of insignificance. I love how humble Rilke is—how beaten down by the creative process yet hopeful. I’ve given this book to a few directors and wrapped each copy in a silk scarf. When I feel like a failure or have doubts about my work, this is the sacred book I take off the shelf and unwrap, very delicately.”

Source: O, The Oprah Magazine


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