Opinion

Desert Island Picks: Meet the Opinions Team!

Elizabeth Reynard, Senior Editor

Book: I never used to have an answer for this, but since I read Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness, I can’t think of anything else. It’s not exactly cheery reading for my stint on a desert island, but it perfectly captures the constant melancholy and hope of coming to terms with and being rejected for one’s identity.

Music: I think this is cheating, but my Spotify playlist #6. It’s my driving/shower playlist, and I know all the words so it helps me stay awake by singing along. It’s got some of my favourites, from Stevie Wonder’s For Once in My Life, to Angèle’s Balance Ton Quoi and The Kooks’ Junk of The Heart. Good desert island material, I think.

Article: There was a brilliant article on Campaign titled ‘We don’t need another article on gender equality’. It’s essentially a blunt assessment of performative feminism and social incompetence in the wake of #metoo and other (countless) gender equality moments. The writer captured so much of how incredibly frustrating it is to watch progress pretend to be made.

Topic and discussion: This is difficult, because I have a million and one rants ready to go at all times (why I write for opinion, perhaps) but one I will never stop talking about is the need for day-to-day feminism, especially with younger girls. I’m a huge believer that schools/parents/other authorities focus on the ‘big important stuff’ if they talk about feminism, and while they’re important, it’s understanding how be feminist in tiny unimportant moments in your life that actually make the biggest difference.

Zaman Keinath-Esmail

Photo by Lilly Akhtarzandi-Das

Book: I have to go with Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. It’s not necessarily my favourite book (I am one of those people who cannot pick favourites) but I think there is nothing more fitting than Waiting for Godot to have on a desert island as I wait for rescue.

Music: I’d choose the Bach Cello Suites as played by Gavriel Lipkind (if you ask me to pick a Suite, probably the fifth). I don’t actually listen to them very often, but in the absence of my cello I’d need something to keep me company.

Article: This is a tie between three New Yorker articles. John Hersey’s ‘Hiroshima’ is a brilliant piece describing the horrors of the atomic bomb; Cyrus Grace Dunham’s ‘A Year Without A Name’ (which is actually a book excerpt) perfectly captures so many of the nuances of gender dysphoria and questioning that I constantly deal with; and Helen Rosner’s ‘How Apples Go Bad’ is the perfect response to anyone who uses the excuse (usually referencing racists, homophobes, etc) “they’re just a couple of bad apples”

Topic and discussion: I’m staying away from topics relating to human rights and other ‘controversial’ issues because I don’t want to have to prove that I, or anyone else, is human and deserving of rights—those discussions should not be needed in the first place. I’d probably want to talk to Kimberle Crenshaw about current social movements, and how she thinks we can best effect radical societal change: her analysis of intersectionality and critical race theory has formed the basis of so much of the change we have recently seen.

Annabelle Grigg

Book: Oleanna by David Mamet. It raises such fascinating questions about gender, particularly in an academic context, and never fails to evoke strong reactions with readers (even on the fourth or fifth read) so I am positive it would keep me occupied for a long time. Moreover, as it is based loosely on the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings, it blends fiction with politics seamlessly to satisfy a range of my interests. Be prepared to argue with people about it if you read it though – it will likely make your blood boil!

Music: I think I would pick anything from Kate Bush’s 1978 album ‘The Kick Inside’ – the kind of music you dance to when nobody is watching (like being alone on an island!). Her songs are also always filled with such lively characters and theatricalism that they double up as stories.

Article: ‘My blackness seemed curious, difficult to handle’: the day I ran away from Oxford University’ by Michael Donkor for the Guardian. He is a fantastic novelist and inspiring teacher, and I always find myself rereading this article at least three times a term.

Topic and discussion: I think the influence of the Kardashians culturally cannot be overstated. I would happily talk about them for hours, not because I am their fan, but because they are an accessible starting point to discuss so many crucial issues of today, from colorism to classism.

Oliver Bater

Book: I recently read A Pale View of the Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro. I am not sure if it is my favourite book; I don’t know if I have, or even should have a favourite. However, Ishiguro’s unreliable narration and the novel’s ending shocked me in a way that I think it deserves to be read at least twice. It also seems fitting choice for this week’s edition set in the Nagasaki five years after the atomic bomb was dropped.

With that being said, I don’t think anything can really top reading the Diary of Wimpy Kid series as a kid.

Music: I’m going to cheat by choosing Kanye West’s album “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” A powerful exploration of race, consumerism, wealth and excess in American society, but also just a series of really good songs, I can’t think of anything better to keep me entertained on a desert Island.

Article: I would ask for a copy of Lionel Shriver’s weekly column in the Spectator. It’s consistently brilliant, compelling and original.

Topic and discussion: As boring as it sounds, I love a debate about how much individuals should be responsible for themselves, and how much the state has a duty to intervene to ensure equality or at least a certain standard of living for all year. My position on the debate has fluctuated significantly. At one point a raging socialist that Marx himself would have become proud of, I then shifted to a full-blown libertarianism. I now am sort of agnostic, and not quite sure where I stand.

Adam Shewry

Photo by Adam’s dad

Book: Matt Ridley’s “How Innovation Works” would not only be a useful book to have on a desert island, but is also, much like the author, provocative and intriguing. The plethora of examples serve to illustrate his point in an interesting way, and is worth a read regardless of what you think of the crux of the book.

Music: whilst I’m tempted to say something niche like Ten Tonnes (George Ezra’s younger brother) latest album, I’d almost certainly want to moan dramatically about my fate with some musical theatre, most likely Les Miserables.

Article: The Case For Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates in the Atlantic. An absolutely fantastic and moving read, this was sent to me by a friend some time ago and I’ve read it 5 times since, each time learning more.

Topic: ‘The Long Reflection’ – an idea closely linked with Effective Altruism, that we should take a period, perhaps thousands of years, for humans to consider decisions of immense importance. Looking at just how much we have changed in 2000 years, it’s easy to see the motivation – and it’s something I’ve come to disagree with less every time I’ve discussed it.

Elizabeth Reynard

Elizabeth Reynard is the Senior Editor for the Opinions section of The Oxford Blue. She reads English Language and Literature at Trinity College and is going into her second year. When not in Oxford, Elizabeth spends her time in North Yorkshire and writing boring bios for herself and her editors.