Essex County star Molly Parker recommends 3 books that have had a lasting impact on her life
Essex County premieres on March 19 on CBC TV and CBC Gem
A lifelong reader, Molly Parker is also an Emmy and SAG award-nominated actress and director known for her work in shows like House of Cards, Deadwood, Lost in Space and Dexter.
Now, Parker is starring in the television adaptation of Essex County, based on the hit graphic novel by award-winning Canadian comic cartoonist and author Jeff Lemire.
Premiering in Canada on CBC TV and CBC Gem on March 19, Essex County follows the interconnected lives of two families in a rural Ontario community. The series explores how the effects of trauma, betrayal and loss can ripple through generations.
Parker plays Annie, a nurse who is caring for her elderly uncle Lou.
Ahead of the show's premiere, she sat down with CBC Books to discuss three books that have inspired her throughout her life.
The White Album by Joan Didion
"When I first moved to California in 1999, I was introduced to her work. You always think of her as a New Yorker, but she's from Sacramento, California.
"I love her voice and I love her. I mean, those essays are just so brilliant and funny. Somehow, I felt through reading it that I understood Los Angeles in a way that hadn't been clear to me before and wasn't what people talked about when they go, 'Oh God, you're moving to L.A.' So that book was important to me.
Somehow I felt through reading it that I understood Los Angeles in a way that hadn't been clear to me before and wasn't what people talked about when they go, 'Oh God, you're moving to L.A.'- Molly Parker
"It's an often-quoted thing, but she writes, 'We tell ourselves stories in order to live. (...) We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. (...) We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of narrative line upon disparate images, by the ideas with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria — which is our actual experience.'
"That idea is resonating for me lately in a lot of different ways. I'm an actor so I think a lot about what value there is in telling stories and what stories we tell. It's something that's really been on my mind in terms of how I want to spend my time and the things that I want to put my energy into — telling stories that I hope will be helpful to someone out there.
"With any job or vocation you have for a long time, it's like a long term relationship. You have to keep recommitting to it and you have to find ways to fall back in love with it."
The Sea by John Banville
"Anything by John Banville; I just think he is one of the greatest living writers we have. The Sea is maybe his best book. I haven't read it in years, but I really loved it when I read it. I then went and read everything else by him.
It's about grief and memory and how what we think we remember isn't really necessarily what happened. I can't do him any justice in even talking about his books.- Molly Parker
"It's about memory. It's about grief and memory and how what we think we remember isn't really necessarily what happened. I can't do him any justice in even talking about his books.
"Everyone should read him. He also wrote a number of mysteries, which he wrote under the pseudonym Benjamin Black. I'm not really a mystery lover but those are great."
Devotions by Mary Oliver
"Her book, Devotions, is a survey of five decades of her work, of her choosing. I love her poetry and its simplicity.
"She's a great poet, but it's more than that. She is interested in paying attention to the natural world; it clearly connects her to something divine, so they're almost praise poems in a way. That's a kind of religiosity I could understand and get behind.
"Having read other work of hers and some of it that's in that book, it goes to a much darker place about the trauma of her childhood. It's hard won. There was a rigour in the work she did as a poet.
She is interested in paying attention to the natural world; it clearly connects her to something divine, so they're almost praise poems in a way. That's a kind of religiosity I could understand and get behind.- Molly Parker
"I remember years ago going to see a show by Willem de Kooning. It was 30 years of paintings and it was a woman in a chair and then a woman in a chair, and then a woman in a chair and a woman chair. He painted it for years, revisiting the image and themes.
"I felt quite relaxed by it because it was like, 'Oh, right, you don't have to worry about doing and being everything. You can actually zone in on what it is that you know and really investigate that deeply.' I feel that when I read Mary Oliver's book because it has work from her whole life."
Parker's comments have been edited for length and clarity.
WATCH | Introducing the five-part limited series Essex County: