Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Authors I am Thankful For

Yesterday I was browsing at Idlewild Books and decided I would pick up a short story collection or two.  There were many to chose from so I asked the (handsome) guy behind the counter if he was a short story reader. He said yes, much to my surprise, as I always hear that short stories are a dying form and collections unpublishable. 

He showed me a few titles that he was fond of and then asked what I had read recently that I had really liked. And let me tell you, dear reader, I had absolutely nothing to say. Seriously. It was embarrassing. I was silent and bug eyed as it slowly dawned on me that I had no idea who I liked to read. 

I managed to mumble that I was in school so I hadn't been reading much for pleasure lately. But the question rang in my ears: I'm a writer, how can I not have any favorite authors? How can I not know what I like to read? 

I've had friends go through MFA's in Painting express a similar feeling of discombobulation, the feeling that all you thought you knew has been ripped away and replaced with others ideas or empty spaces, like coming home to find that all of your furniture has been replaced and rearranged. But this was the first moment in which it had occurred to me that I was feeling this way. 

So, after some serious thought and home-bookshelf browsing I am able to articulate five authors that have inspired and continue to engage me as a reader and writer. 

1. Milan Kundera
2. Italo Calvino
3. Dorothy Alison
4. Emily Dickinson
5. Julia Alvarez

Which authors are you grateful for?


  1. Hum. I must say that I've never had a favorite anything. I couldn't name you my top ten of music, movies, desserts, or books. I just couldn't. It would have to be my top ten when I'm happy, when I'm sad, when i'm contemplative, when I'm braindead, when I'm bored, when I'm tired, when I'm giddy, when I feel badass, when I feel like rubbing things into peoples faces.... but I guess a good measure of something i like/love is if I own it. I don't own a book I don't like in some way - either I love to read or I love the author. There is no such thing as something unloved in my house.

  2. Well, I think there is some notion of "favorite" involved here- but I think I am really getting at books that have been instructive in some way, either the content or the form or some combination therein.

    My favorites, I think, tend to be things I have read more recently. And that were enjoyable, but perhaps not things I will go back to that often if ever. My "favorites" change all the time.

  3. PS- I love the idea that there is nothing unloved in your house. Such a beautiful sentence. Such a beautiful thought.

  4. I can completely relate to this! I was an English major for six years (BA+MA) and it wasn't until the last year that I finally learned how to read for fun again and choose my own books and authors and such. People would ask, "Have you read such-and-such?" and I'd feel that same embarrassment you mentioned and I'd say that same thing: "I've been in school. I'm still catching up." It's been three years since I graduated, and I'm finally starting to feel "well-read." Hooray!

  5. stieg larsson (the girl with the dragon tattoo, the girl who played with fire and the girl who kicked the hornet's nest)
    He turned in these 3 manuscriand then died a short time later

    he's a very good writer

  6. Thanks for the suggestion Bill. I've heard those titles before and definitely found them intriguing; glad to know the writing lives up to the titles!