I wanted to follow-up on what I wrote the other day about my occasional insecurities about what I haven’t read. I’ve read plenty, believe me. Can I sit here and tell you exactly why I like certain authors? I don’t know if I could do that. I know I like Margaret Atwood because she has this fantastic ability to make her characters and settings so real, not to mention sympathetic, even in her science fiction/dystopian novels. She must do an enormous amount of research to make her stories authentic. I have liked every book of hers that I’ve read so far.
Joyce Carol Oates is another of my favorites. I have this feeling that she gets an idea in her head for a story and says, “That might be an interesting scenario. How can I make it believable?” Oates has been a hero of mine for years, just because she seems to write constantly–a behavior I’ve never quite achieved, as much as I’ve aimed for it and keep trying for it. I tell all writers that if they have the urge to write, just write. It may or may not be good, but you should get it out there.
I used to like John Irving a lot, and loved how he would take the most bizarre people, stick them together and usually make you believe it could happen. I loved his writing so much I named my first cat “Garp.” Over the last 10 or 15 years, though, I didn’t seek out Irving’s writing quite as much (although I still think he’s a good story-teller). I think maybe his literary habit of repeating themes was grating on me in the last few books of his that I read. And I had a harder time believing in the characters. I have to be honest and say the last book I read by him was published in 1998. His latest book, “In One Person” has good reviews on Amazon so I might check it out.
But I was reading John Irving at a time in my life where I was surrounded by friends who read a lot. I read a lot of Vonnegut then, too, and Hunter S. Thompson.
I was working at a newspaper and it was not unusual to have discussions about books in the newsroom, or late at night at the bar after work. I miss that. I do frequently talk books with my husband Paul. We don’t always read in the same genres but there’s enough crossover. We have good friends who live in Maryland (we don’t get to see them enough) and when we get together there is a lot of book talk. But they (and my husband) enjoy fantasy and science fiction a lot more than I do, so I’m frequently tuning out when they bring up novels I haven’t read. Yes, I should get around to reading the rest of the “Dune” series. … someday.
When I mention a book I love and people haven’t read it–smart people who read a lot–it sometimes feels lonely and weird. But I like what I like; I can’t explain it or convince anyone else.