10 Books and Films to Help Students Start UniversitySeptember 30, 2021

Facebook is building an Instagram for kids under the age of 13, which your brother finds hard to believe. He wondered if Artemis Fowl was the inspiration behind it. You hardly listened to his rant, as you reminisced about your recent (Zoom) meeting with your coursemates. The subject was some comfort reading and viewing to take on campus.

You saw "Educating Rita" after your mother recommended it. (Your mother is a huge fan of Julie Walters.) Every student should be more like Rita, but you don't see her in your coursemates. Not even you. The university should encourage freedom of thought but often promotes conformity. You shared your thought during the recent (Zoom) meeting, and you were glad that one of them, who would like to be a filmmaker someday, watched it. Rita reminded him just how instinctive and exhilarating education could be. It was a lesson worth holding on to, he added. It led to what he would call "cultural prescription".

Don't Worry About Cool


"The Beach" by Alex Garland. Gavin was lucky to travel around Southeast Asia before the pandemic turned the world upside down. He argued that Alex Garland was responsible for turning that region into a backpacker's theme park. Full-moon parties, which he enjoyed at first. Finding the middle of nowhere, which turned out to be another tourist trap. And becoming obsessed with waterfalls. (Thailand is the promised land, he swears.) It could be the alternative to Europe, a Disney park for art and history lovers.


"2001: A Space Odyssey" by Stanley Kubrick. You dared your coursemates not to read Arthur C. Clarke's novel before watching Kubrick's adaptation. It was written during production. Kubrick asked Clarke, who wrote the screenplay, to publish the book after the film's release. You hardly understood the film, about how aliens helped the hominids from dying of starvation (and extinction). It prompted you to wonder if Khufu, the pharaoh who became famous for the building of the Great Pyramid at Giza, relied on "divine intervention". Or it was the alien, not the Sphinx, who promised Thutmose the throne if he freed the great statue from the desert sand.


"The Bojeffries Saga" by Alan Moore. Your coursemates' reaction was priceless after Kyle, a comics fan, described Alan Moore's work. The title refers to a peculiar family living in Northampton, England, and the members include a vampire, a werewolf, and an overweight girl who has a soft toy resembling Adolf Hitler. If you love British humor, then this comic is arguably Moore's finest. And Kyle prefers it over "Watchmen". Silence followed. And then your female coursemate cited another title.


"The Favourite" by Yorgos Lanthimos. Miriam couldn't understand why Yorgos Lanthimos, a Greek filmmaker, would alter the story of Queen Anne and Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough. Sex sells, but powerful women aren't less interesting. (Kyle thought of Wonder Woman.) She wondered if Lanthimos was hinting at something. (Is Kamala Harris the next US president?)


"On Her Majesty's Secret Service" by Ian Fleming. You were annoyed at Gavin after he described this spy novel, where James Bond became tired of the fast life after meeting Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo. He wandered off after recounting his meeting Emma, a French backpacker, in Luang Prabang. Everyone was waiting for his next word, but he changed the topic immediately.


"Dancer in the Dark" by Lars von Trier. Gavin wasn't a huge fan of Lars von Trier, a Danish filmmaker whose early films reek of anti-American sentiment. And "Dancer in the Dark", an unconventional musical (starring Bjork and Catherine Deneuve), was a strong indictment of America's judicial system. Von Trier's recent films starred Hollywood actors, and Gavin wondered if the controversial director took the viewers for a ride.


"Gulliver's Travels" by Jonathan Swift. If Swift were alive, he would be writing another novel. It won't describe his misadventures. (If he did, he would reveal his view on the plight of refugees.)


"Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" by Quentin Tarantino. Ben wasn't a huge fan of Tarantino, but he envied his knowledge of cinema. (He wouldn't be surprised if he saw every movie that was made.) He was puzzled at the director's choice of writing about (Polish filmmaker) Roman Polanski and his wife, (American actress) Sharon Tate. It was hypocritical of him. (And Ben is certain that there are juicier Hollywood stories that Tarantino pass up.)


"Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline. This bestseller reveals that the 1980s is THE golden age for tackiness. (You bet that Michelle Pfeiffer wouldn't like to talk about "Ladyhawke".) Addiction is not a topic that most would like to talk about, but it's not a hard pill to swallow (in the distant future). H.G. Wells would agree to it.


"Muriel's Wedding" by P.J. Hogan. Miriam became emotional, as she asked you (and your other coursemates) if they would remember this (Zoom) meeting ten years from now. You knew where she was getting into. (Your brother hates role-playing.) You reminded everyone that Australia won't endure more lockdowns next year. Wishful thinking, they said.

How Was It?

The (Zoom) meeting helped you in writing your next assignment, a Wilkie Collins novel that took you almost a week to finish. Your younger self would worry about it, but you managed your schedule. And you're thinking of what to talk about during the next meeting. Christmas by the sea?

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