Nandi Rose Plunkett has never wanted to live life in a straight line.
Born to an Indian refugee mother and an American father of Irish/Swiss descent, she grew up surrounded by all manner of disparate cultural influences.
Drawn to classical composition at college, she always reached after an emotional connection with songwriting, taking her own music in some curious directions.
Using the name Half Waif as a connecting point for these ideas, Nandi's work has pursued a solitary but fascinating path, forever twisting into new shapes and forms.
New album 'Lavender' is out today, named in honour of her grandmother's practice of plucking fresh lavender and leaving it around her house.
A sensual delight that harbours hidden depths, the record is seemingly "an elegy to time, the pilgrimages we take, and the ultimate slow plod towards our end.
It is an examination of the way we fracture, inside ourselves and inside our relationships – the fissures that creep along the structures we build, the tendency towards disintegration."
Half Waif's lyrical word-play is part of what makes 'Lavender' such an intensely interesting experience, so we invited Nandi to explore the contents of her bookshelf in Their Library...
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What is your favourite book and why?
I wouldn’t say I have one favourite, but something that came to mind immediately is The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. Her style of prose is so sumptuous. It was many years until she published another book of fiction (last year) and so in the interim, I read it a number of times, wanting to lap up every droplet of her writing.
What other authors do you like?
Maggie Nelson, Rebecca Solnit, Lorrie Moore, Rachel Kushner, Nicole Krauss, Lauren Groff, John Berger, Joan Didion, Patti Smith...
What draws you to certain books?
Inventive imagery and insight on the human condition.
Have you ever discovered a real lost classic? What is it and why?
I’m not sure about a lost classic but I feel like reading The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante is like discovering a future classic. There’s so much incredible character development and depth in those books, it’s breathtaking. The story of the complicated friendship between Lenu and Lila, and how it unfolds as they move through the years, feels timeless.
Do your literary influences have a direct impact on your songwriting?
For sure. The title of my first EP, Future Joys, was a line from Madame Bovary. I glean so much inspiration from the books I read, whether it’s an image that sticks with me or a perspective that sheds new light. I keep a note on my phone where I write down lyrics or poems I’m developing, as well as quotes, cool phrases, and new ideas from what I’m reading. I like to alternate reading fiction and non-fiction, and I’d say that provides a healthy, balanced diet of inspiration.
What are you reading at the moment?
Anagram by Lorrie Moore, which is a cool collection of the same stories told by different narrators, and The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean, a non-fiction exploration of the elements of the periodic table.
What is the first book you remember reading as a child?
I remember that as a young kid, my two favourite picture books were The Mountains of Tibet and The Great Kapok Tree, about reincarnation and the Amazon, respectively.
Have you ever found a book that you simply couldn't finish?
I couldn’t finish Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace! I really wanted to be the kind of person who could, but it was just too dense for me. Maybe I wasn’t in the right headspace at the time? Now it sits on my bookshelf and taunts me.
Would you ever re-read the same book?
Yes, and there are some, like the aforementioned Roy, that I have read a number of times. But generally, I feel like there are so many books in the world, and more coming out all the time, that I tend to gravitate towards something new. It’s the same with music – on one hand, I love listening to my favourite albums, but on the other, I’m trying to stretch my arms out as wide as they’ll go to take in and absorb as much as I can from the world of art.
Have you ever identified with a character in a book? Which one and why?
The narrator of Bluets by Maggie Nelson is obsessive, dramatic, romantic, and morbid. I see elements of myself in that description.
Is there an author / poet you would like to collaborate with?
Before I collaborate, I first want to write a book of my own – part memoir, part collection of essays. It’s on my life bucket list. And when I do, I will be so indebted to the authors I’ve mentioned, for showing me what’s possible.
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'Lavender' is out now.
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