Heart of the Original – review

Heart of the Original - review

What happens to someone who gets an original idea? What happens when they get the courage to share it? What usually happens, sadly, is that the idea is feared. It’s considered abnormal, dangerous, wrong. It’s condemned as absolutely not okay, seriously, what WERE you THINKING OF?

If the person who created the recipe for that idea decides to sprinkle in a bit of the familiar, a bit of theĀ  “seen it before in another form” monosodium glutamate that makes everything taste good, then mayyyybe the idea can be stomached. But if the idea is fresh out of the head-oven, with absolutely nothing familiar in the ingredients to make it easier to swallow, then society will probably view it as absolutely terrifying and throw it in the bin.

Why is that?

It’s an important question to ask. Sometimes a book comes along that has such a lovely strong sense of self. Heart of the Original by mischief-maker Steve Aylett (read our interview with him here) is a book that’s just doing its own thing. Doing one’s own thing is also what the book is about. Maybe that magical combination is why this book refreshes the parts that other reads sometimes don’t reach.

With tender fury (because yes, this book is angry) Aylett has a think about why society claims to love originality yet gets startled and confused when actually confronted with some. Is that a situation you’ve ever found your own self in, maybe? This book is a must-read for anyone who suspects they hide the bits of themselves they’d like to show the most. It’s less of a self-help manual, and more of an Avatar-esque “I see you”.

The book looks at some potentially uncomfortable things. Like how you can buy pinkĀ  hair dye in Boots, so pink hair may not be a sign of originality on its own. In fact, pink hair might be a sign that someone with ‘true’ originality in their spirit needs to disguise it and offer it to the world in a familiar way, otherwise their originality is going to be very hard to understand and accept and the person will be rejected. Maybe the person with the lovely pink hair – or this season’s must-have coat, or the head-to-toe outfit from GAP – has something so original to offer that they’re scared what might happen if that spark was truly seen…

Imagine seeing a person you don’t know with pink hair in the supermarket. Would you have any opinions of them, without knowing them? Would your opinion of them change if they had undyed hair but had wrapped a coat round their legs and had pushed their arms through their trousers, and seemed to be doing it not as performance art but just that’s how they were going out to shop for food that day?

We should point out that any thoughts about pink hair are not talked about at length in Heart of the Original. In fact they’re squeezed into a half a sentence, and that is what this whole book is like. Every sentence explodes with witty ideas squeezed into tiny words, and everywhere you look there are twists and turns and surreal side-quests to explore. The book is maybe less about getting informed and more about absorbing a feeling that life should be marked with risks taken and mischief managed. You may not always know what the book is saying, but to read it is to feel your brain on fire with possibilities. To read it is to feel like it’s important to promise yourself not to go through life half-asleep, or as a robot pushing buttons when society tells you to.

As Steve Aylett says in Heart of the Original:

“Some writing is less intent on what it says than on where your mind has to manoeuvre itself to understand it. Once in that space, forget the text and look around.”

Heart of the Original is available in all good bookshops and also on Amazon.

Read next: Our interview with Steve Aylett, including questions like:

  • Is there nothing new under the sun?
  • Why do people react to originality with disgust?
  • Can creativity happen on a small scale?
  • Can you kill your creative spark? Can you re-ignite it?