Saturday, October 30, 2010

These Are a Few of My Favorite Writers

I've been asked by one of my favorite women, the writer, Kathleen Maher, to list my fifteen or twenty five favorite writers.  That's a hard one for me, since I've been reading gluttonously for a very long time and I tend to have categories of writers I love, so though all the writers I love in a single category might not be my favorites, I'm not able to discard them as "lesser writers."  There are writers I love who are long out of print, so will seem very obscure.  There are writers I love who are loathed by others for the brutality of their honesty, which isn't always pretty, but I prefer emotional truth to pretty or popular, though popular isn't necessarily a disqualifier.  I also have favorite writers who didn't write novels.  But that's another post.

For some reason the first writer to pop into my head is one of the Russians, and one of those who changed the course of the novel:  Dostoyevsky is my favorite of the Russians, and my favorite of his books are Crime and Punishment, The Idiot. The rest of his body of work position him as the leading edge of a group of writers to follow.  They aren't an easy read, but they're worth it.  Many of you would no doubt argue with me concerning my linking Dostoyevsky to this particular group of writers: James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Albert Camus, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Violette LeDuc, Andre Gide... I could go on and on with this list.  And to make matters worse I'm not sure I can tell you exactly why I see this grouping of writers related. I've left out a lot of writers in this group and some of them are poets.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez led me to Mikhail Bulgakov, then Isabelle Allende.  Can you see how this goes?  Is it starting to make sense to you?  I could give the groups a name but they have a beginning much earlier and they have influenced so many others.  And I leave out so many other clues as to the logic of my groupings.  Or if not the logic, the emotion.

I love Proust's Remembrance of Things Past (as it was translated when I read it in the 70s) and Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy for the same reasons, though they wrote in different eras and come from very different cultures and religious traditions.  I also love Gustave Flaubert for one book: Madame Bovery, perhaps the perfect novel and ground breaking in its sensitive and brutally honest examination of a woman of spirit and beauty caught in the narrow grip of her bad marriage and the constraints of her time. This is one of many books I've read over and over.  The writing is perfection.

I loved Thomas Hardy. And its hard to mention Hardy without including the Bronte sisters. Great reading for a broody adolescent girl.

I love Colette much more than Anais Nin.   I loved Henry Miller.  I think I read everything he ever wrote and found him perhaps the greatest of his generation.  He was a marvelous painter as well.  I have a small set of numbered prints.

I  have a love/hate relationship with Vladimir Nabokov.  If you've read my memoir/fiction you will understand.  I believe Lolita is "The Great American Novel,"  and the only really great book he wrote. but that's all it takes to make a writer a great writer.  I'm sure there are those who would argue with that...

I've read all the great Southern Writers and love them all, but these are some of the women who all seem to have something in common and part of it is their emotional honesty, their sense of history, their beautiful use of language, the ground breaking nature of their work: Carson McCullers (mostly for Ballad of the Sad Cafe), Eudora Welty, Harper Lee, who only wrote one novel, but what a novel, she, the childhood friend of Truman Capote... There are so many more.

So far I think we're up to 20 or so.  It's a start.

That brings my list up to the 1950s. And though it seems I might be something of a modern classicist, I assure you I'm not.  But I read very little that isn't considered literature.  My only literary vice is the occasional fondness for the good detective novel.  But even there, I have my standards.  So before you recommend Stephen King, he represents everything I hate about the horror genre. I'm not a fan of Romance, or SciFi, either, though I have read a good sampling.  I did like Ray Bradbury when I was a kid.  I also liked Somerset Maugham when I was a kid.  I read whatever was around.



I've barely scratched the surface and barely made it in to the middle of the last century.  So, to be continued...

10 comments:

Rastamick61 said...

This is a great piece of work, a labor of love so to speak but above all I love the sharing of these kinds of background notes. You can see sides of people through this lens that otherwise you have to guess at. I love Walker Percy as much for his unlikely circumstances as his vision of the future that always featured an oddly significant role Played by the Catholic church !

Utah Savage said...

The Movie Goer is one of my favorite books. That's Walker Percy, right? I read some of his other work but found The Movie Goer to be a small masterpiece, perfect in every word and detail. The other books somehow disappointed me since I'd started with his award winner.

The Catholic Church just keeps meddling away with it's natty little Nazi Pope. He's quite the Nancy boy in his lovely red Prada shoes. I covet his shoes. Have I said too much? Wonder what Percy'd have said given the current state of affairs?

I just think religion fucks everyone up. But then I'm certainly in the minority. Did Percy write an autobiography? I could do the research my self, but if you know off the top of your head...

I currently can't read. My cataracts have made it impossible. I get new actual lenses this month. At least we do the worst eye first. I got to choose which I'd rather have, good close vision and correct the far with glasses or vice versa. I didn't hesitate. I want to be able to read in bed again. I used to read at leas one book a day and as many as five. That's how I hibernate in Utah winters.

It's nice to see you here. I've missed your intelligent presence.

The Blog Fodder said...

Agree about Dostoevsky not being an easy read but certainly worth it. And understand your linkage of him to the group.

Rastamick61 said...

This is about as close as it gets to an auto I think : http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy/AiWP.html

He also wrote a quirky little spoof of self help books called Lost in the Cosmos which is in a way a self help book but its main message is to trust the things you've always trusted and don't be a wimp about it. Some of the options he explores are converting to Buddhism which he calls the eastern window and suicide which he rejects as simply a lousy idea. Where would you rather be, dead in a hole or sitting on a porch with a friend on a warm summer evening in Louisville ? he asks. Well now that you put it that way... I am happy for your coming lenses. We had lasiks surgery a few years ago and I am very grateful to my union for getting it ! Keep it coming, lady, it's great stuff.

Utah Savage said...

Suicide is my fallback position. But that might be that I'm bipolar and have spent my life weighing the cost of living against the hope it will get better if only for a little while. Genetics has got me in it's crosshairs and my fate seems sadly sealed. Vascular dementia is bearing down on me like a slow moving train in a dream where I can't run. All I can do is hope it's quick and painless. But vascular dementia is a real slow moving train and though you don't know your shitting your britches and it doesn't matter to you that you no longer have a memory. I took care of my mother through that hell, and it's too awful a prospect for me to contemplate. Suicide is the better choice. Glad I won't have to deal with religious guilt and I'm the last of the line, so no children to either be hurt by me or have to take care of me. It has a certain logic.

Fiddlin' Bill said...

Alice Munro.

Utah Savage said...

Yes, Bill, Alice Munro. She's in the post 1950s list.

Beach Bum said...

Harper Lee, who only wrote one novel, but what a novel, she, the childhood friend of Truman Capote...

I can't tell you how ashamed I was to go for so long not knowing "Dill" Harris was based on Capote.

Of course my favorite author is Pat Conroy. Peggy, by chance have you read his new one "South of Broad"? It was mind blowing reading about many of the places in late 1960's Charleston that I often went myself.

Utah Savage said...

Beach, cataracts have made it impossible for me to read lately. So no, I haven't read the new Conroy. One more thing to look forward to. This coming Tuesday, and I'm excited about being able to read again.

Agnieszkas Shoes said...

Damn that's a wonderful wonderful selection - Miller, Colette, CEline, Dostoyevsky, just wonderful