Shelfie with Katy Brand

Hi I’m Katy Brand and my book is called
I Carried a Watermelon and it’s partly a memoir about me and my life, particularly
as a teenage girl, and it’s also a love letter to the film Dirty Dancing which
is one of my favourite films of all time. I was obsessed with it between the ages
of 11 and 13 I must have watched it a hundred and twenty times over the course
of my life, most of those done in those first two years of my obsession but
several times since. And the book is really an analysis of the film itself,
all of the themes, the rite-of-passage story for girls, fathers and daughters,
your first sexual experience, how to trust people, how to stand up for
yourself, how to learn who you are independent from where you’ve come from.
All of those sort of things in the book. And also just some silly stories about
me. And what I’ve learned through Dirty
Dancing through my life and so it’s kind of, it’s about me through the prism of
Dirty Dancing and hopefully there’ll be a lot in it that you could maybe relate
to as well. I’m here in Waterstones Piccadilly and I would like to tell you
about three of my favourite books, the first of which is this one here: The
Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend. NowIi’m sure many of
you know this book and have read it probably at least once, maybe quite a
long time ago, but it is really worth a reread because I’ve reread this recently
and it is just as funny as I remember it. In fact I would say it’s funnier than I
remember it. And you know it’s about Adrian Mole, the frustrated teenager who
feels that his life is destined for greater things than really that he’s
experiencing in his family life. So he has the constant frustrations of his
family that he feels are holding him back from his immense career in poetry
writing and television. And it’s just a really universally I think relatable
book. I think we’ve all felt as teenagers that really were a bit more special than
our surroundings are giving us credit for, I know I did. And the jokes are just
fantastic, it is one of the funniest books you will ever read and what’s the
great thing about this is that it grows with you through life. So when I’ve
reread it as an adult I’ve laughed at different things than I laughed at when
I first read it as a teenager and I think that is the
hallmark of just a fantastic book. It’s a work of genius, it’s one of the funniest
things ever written. So the second book I’d love to recommend to you which is
one of my favourites of all time is this: Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth. It’s
not for everyone but I love it. It’s very shocking in terms of the sexual
content, it was his first book, or at least it was the book that really made
his name as an author and then became one of the greatest and most respected
authors in English literature. But this is about a young man who has what is
called Portnoy’s Complaint which is a constant need to satisfy himself
sexually, on his own if necessary, or in a bag of chopped liver on a bus if
necessary as the famous scene goes. And it made me laugh so much the first time
I read it. It is outrageous, it’s very funny, it’s actually quite different to a
lot of Philip Roth’s later work so I don’t always recommend it to people as a
place to start unless I know them quite well. But I know people have
difficulties with Philip Roth, particularly about the way he depicts
women, but I’ve never had a problem with that really because I’ve always related
to his main character even if it’s a man and now I’m not saying that I constantly
satisfied my own urges on the top of a bus but that sort of sense of going into
someone’s sort of slightly traumatized psychology and just finding what makes
them tick and their compulsive needs and how that may be influenced by their
parents and their life and their surroundings;
I think it’s a really interesting and vivid depiction and analysis of that
and it’s also really, really funny, so that’s my second recommendation. So my
third and final recommendation is this: Polo by Jilly Cooper. I could have picked
any of Jilly Cooper’s books really, particularly the early ones, but I picked
this one because it was the first Jilly Cooper book I read when I was about 20.
It was given to me by a boyfriend of mine at the time and I just hoovered
this up. I remember sitting in a bath in a house in Scotland and basically not
wanting to get out of the bath until I finished it so I got pretty cold but I
was warmed inside by how funny and witty and just sort of jolly her prose is. I
always felt like if I was feeling a bit down or a bit bleak
about life if I pick up a Jilly Cooper, if I pick up Polo and I start reading it
I just start to feel just better about things. You know there’s the people in
this fictional County of Rutshire and they’re all kind of having affairs and
they’re all completely insatiable and there’s rivalries and treachery and
revenge. And then obviously there are the horses which are more important to Jilly
Cooper I think than the people in some respects. And it’s just a really fun
bumptious world of glamour and sort of you know shepherd’s pie in old cottages
and competitions where kind of eventually the real hero wins and it
just sort of restores a natural sense of order to the world somehow. And I love
Jilly Cooper, she’s she’s got my heart forever

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