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On Authors

June 2, 2008

Lately, Heather’s favourite authors meme has been circling the blogosphere. Additionally, Toujours Jacque (a relatively new book blogger, but one should definite go visit if you haven’t already, because his posts are always thoughtful and fascinating) started a new blog dedicated to his favourite author called Loving Iris. For its inaugural post, he asked a series of questions about authors as well. Both of these have gotten me thinking, so here’s my little author manifesto.

Starting with TJ’s, since it’s a little more intense.

1. Do you have a writer you love so much you wouldn’t mind spending the rest of your life reading/thinking/writing about her/him? (not to the exclusion of other writers necessarily, but as your sort of main “squeeze”)? And what makes this writer seem inexhaustible to you?
Jane AustenThis is a bit of a challenge for me to answer. I love Jane Austen, and I’ve reread all of her books than any other author’s, and if I were on a desert island I’d want that omnibus of her novels with me. In fact, I love her so much I could barely bring myself to read the last two chapters of Jane Austen: Her Life and Letters, because I knew she was going to get sick and die. And when I finally did, and I read those last two letters from Cassandra to Fanny, more than one tear rolled down my cheek. But I’m less in love with the idea of a “main squeeze.” Because I also am passionate about Neil Gaiman’s works, about A.S. Byatt’s and Anthony Trollope’s and Salman Rushdie’s and Leo Tolstoy’s and Kazuo Ishiguro’s and Naguib Mahfouz’s and Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie’s and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s and I suspect Virginia Woolf and Victor Hugo and Eudora Welty and Charles de Lint and Mikhail Bulgakov and George Orwell and Carson McCuller are all potential squeezes as well. I haven’t lived with any of these authors the way I have with Austen (I’d read all of her works by the time I was 13, and I’ve been rereading them consistently in the nine years since then), but I want to read all of their canons, and in some of their cases I’m already over fifty percent there. But Austen is certainly inexhaustible; I’m not sure why, though. Every time I revisit one of her books, something else jumps out at me. They grow with me, which I think is a sign of great literature.

2. Do you have a writer whose questions are your questions? whose answers are your answers?
A.S. ByattNeil Gaiman and A.S. Byatt both have a mythic sensibility that is very much in line with my own thoughts. Nymeth recently wrote a beautiful explanation of why Gaiman’s her favourite writer, and I agree with her one hundred percent. They both understand the importance of stories to the human experience. And Rushdie explores questions of belonging, and the border where cultures meet and sometimes clash, of what determines who you are that are very resonant with me. Every book I’ve read of his is full of wisdom and has layers and layers that could handle a dozen rereadings.

3. Do you have a writer whose entire oeuvre you’ve read? (okay 90%) and you’ve loved every bit of it (even the stinkers, the ones that miss the mark, that don’t do him/her justice?)
Neil GaimanUm, Jane Austen. I think that’s obvious by now. Neil Gaiman. I’ve read about half of Byatt’s fiction works and loved them all. The same with Rushdie. All of the others I’ve listed as being passionate about in #1, I haven’t read anywhere near half their oevres, but whenever I pick up a new work of theirs I expect to love it.

4. Do you have a writer whose work you’d defend to the death? regardless of literary climate change, declined or increased readership, critical raves or brush-offs?
Yep: Jane Austen, Neil Gaiman, A.S. Byatt, and Salman Rushdie. Funny how the same names keep popping up, isn’t it? On the other hand, if I see a book blogger saying they don’t like one of the authors, I’m not likely to get into an argument with them or anything. I think all of these authors can defend themselves, if that makes sense. But I’d defend to the death my own love and adoration for them!

5. Do you have a writer about whom you believe the following to be true? — if you could figure out why you love her so much and what it is you “get” from her, you would know at last (or at least a great deal about) who you are.
Salman RushdieYes: I think all four of the main authors here-Rushdie, Austen, Byatt, and Gaiman-are answers to this question. Especially Rushdie: it’s more difficult for me to vocalise my feelings for his works than for the other three.

And now on to Heather’s meme!
1. Who’s your all-time favorite author, and why?
Hehe: I think I’ve partly answered this one above. I hate having to narrow it down to one, but Jane Austen’s who I’d pick if I could only read one author for the rest of my life. Why? Well, her stories are funny and touching and wise and silly and just so human. All of her characters seem like real people, even the minor ones. And several of the major ones are good friends of mine. And even though I’ve read her books over and over, they always seem new and sparkling. My least favourite Austen is still a wonderful, wonderful experience.

2. Who was your first favorite author, and why? Do you still consider him or her among your favorites?
L.M. Montgomery! Because of the entire Anne series; I reread all eight over and over again when I was little. I wanted to wake up and be in Avonlea. I will never watch any of the TV/movie adaptations, because my own imagined Avonlea is too vivid to be replaced by someone else’s. Yes, I still consider her a favourite: I reread Anne of the Island earlier this year, and I’m rereading Anne of Green Gables now. She’s still wonderful.

3. Who’s the most recent addition to your list of favorite authors, and why?
This is my chance to explain some of the names I listed earlier!
Carson McCuller: I just read “The Ballad of the Sad Cafe,” and the amount of story she packed into such a tiny novella, the amount of themes and questions explored, just stunned me. So now I want to go read a lot more of her stuff!
George Orwell: I read one of his essay collections and 1984 my senior year of college, and they both just blew me away. I’m tempted to go buy his collected essays and just hug them to my chest.
Anthony Trollope: I just read him for the first time last summer, but I’m in love. His books are teeming with humanity.
Kazuo Ishiguro: once again, I only started reading him last year, but his prose style is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever had the privilege to read.
Naguib Mahfouz: he manages to make me completely understand his characters’ points of view, even when they’re miles away from my own. I value that insight into such a different culture.
Victor Hugo: I’m still reading Les Mis, but I’m just stunned by how relevent many of the issues he discusses are to today’s life. If his other books are anywhere near as good, I think he’ll become a definite favourite.
Kate Ross: she’s a historical mystery writer, who unfortunately only wrote four novels and a couple short stories before she passed. But so far, both of the books are some of the best mystery stories I’ve ever read! And my mom says the third one is even better. :)
Ok-that’s probably enough for now. I could go on and on about all of them, though!

4. If someone asked you who your favorite authors were right now, which authors would first pop out of your mouth? Are there any you’d add on a moment of further reflection?
I have them all listed my genre on my about page. There are quite a few!

And finally, I’m reading Flannery O’Connor’s letters, and they are just enchanting. At moments laugh-out-loud funny, at other moments more pensive, sometimes full of day-to-day minutae and other times full of thoughts of God, I just can’t get anough of them. I checked them out from the library, but I’m pretty sure I need my own copy! Anyway, here are a couple short quotes I thought all y’all book bloggers would love:

I get lists from Peter Russell, an English 2nd hand place and I will pass them on to you if you would be interested. I am like the little boy who just liked to feel candy; I like to read booklists.


I certainly am glad you like the stories because now I feel it’s not bad that I like them so much. The truth is I like them better than anybody and I read them over and over andh laugh and laugh, then get embarrassed when I remember I was the one wrote them.

Expect much more O’Connor in the future! I have so many quotes marked, I have a feeling I could do a daily dose of her for the next year or so.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. June 2, 2008 6:09 pm

    So, you kind of like Austen, Byatt, Gaiman and Rushdie, right? Let’s be honest, here Gaiman is great to have as a favorite because he’s so darn cute. But, you know, other than that . . . okay, yeah, I confess. Stardust did me in. I guess I’m a Gaiman fan, now.

  2. June 2, 2008 6:11 pm

    Yay! More fun answers to read! :D

  3. June 2, 2008 6:54 pm

    I absolutely go with Jane Austen and Neil Gaiman!!! Enjoyed reading this post too! :)

  4. June 3, 2008 12:48 am

    I do love finding out more about bloggers’ favourites! I have to confess to having never read either Gaiman (although I have one of his books) or Rushdie. I can see I should! Not least because I adore both Austen and Byatt. Lovely answers, Eva!

  5. June 3, 2008 3:08 am

    I love Austen and Rushdie, and also have enjoyed Gaiman. Byatt I have mixed feelings about. I quite enjoyed Possession but then I attended a reading/talk by her at literary festival and she actually talked herself away from me, so to speak. Never felt like reading Byatt since. Beware meeting your literary heros!

  6. June 3, 2008 4:08 am

    I like so many different writers (at different times) that it’s really difficult to pick just one. I love Jane Austen and I like early Rushdie, and I really enjoyed the movie Stardust (which is the closest I’ve come to reading Gaiman). Will have to work on this. Thanks for the tip re Gaiman (and the link to his site) which I found through your incredibly organised reviews!

  7. June 3, 2008 5:24 am

    I know what you mean about Byatt and Gaiman. They love telling a good story and they understand the mythic wonderfully. Have you read Byatt’s nonfiction “On Histories and Stories”? If not, I think you would really like it. And I have to ask, which Jane Austen is your least favorite?

  8. June 3, 2008 6:32 am

    This is such a fun meme! I loved your answers. Gaiman is one of my favorites, too. I also love reading his blog.

  9. June 3, 2008 11:49 am

    But you haven’t read Madame de Lafayette yet! I just posted about her.

  10. June 3, 2008 12:09 pm

    TJ’s questions are great–I’d have to ponder them a while before answering them, though! I’m glad you mentioned Kate Ross–it would be nice if her mysteries were still in print!

  11. dfrucci permalink
    June 3, 2008 12:14 pm

    Nice. I haven’t heard too much about the others besides Gaiman. However, I haven’t read a thing he has written, I’m shocked myself.

  12. June 3, 2008 1:00 pm

    Great choices! I love Austen too and Gaiman is fast becoming one of my favorites!

  13. toujoursjacques permalink
    June 3, 2008 2:23 pm

    What a great post, Eva. I love your thoughtful answers to the questions, both mine and the meme’s. I’m a big Rushdie fan myself, with The Enchantress of Florence on my bedside table as we speak, trying to tempt me away from present reading projects. Thanks for the links to my site and to Loving Iris. TJ

  14. June 3, 2008 3:40 pm

    That’s the exact same reason I love Rushdie. He seems to address many of the same topics/questions I frequently think about.

    I have a feeling Adichie may become one of my faves, I love both of her books, and I really look forward to what she comes out with next.

  15. June 3, 2008 4:35 pm

    Trollope, Ishiguro, Hugo, Mahfouz. Wow you’re spelling out my answers! I realize that for myself, my favorite author(s) is also the one whom I’ll never grow tired of reading, whose works I always come to defend, and whose life I’d always like to understand. I’ll have to snag this meme! :)

  16. June 3, 2008 5:24 pm

    Nancy, lol! He’s a sight cuter than Rushdie, that’s for sure. ;)

    Heather, glad you liked it!

    Melody, thanks!

    Litlove, I like finding out more about bloggers’ favourites too! It’d be interesting to see your take on Gaiman. :)

    JUxtabook, yep-I try not to find out anything about my favourite authors, in case they’re not likeable people. It took me forever to get up the courage to read Gaiman’s blog!

    Pete, it is difficult, isn’t it? Glad you appreciate the organisation, and thanks for stopping by!

    Stefanie, I haven’t, but now I’ll look into it. :D Sense and Sensibility is my least favourite Austen. I rank the others this way: 1)Northanger Abbey, P&P, Persuasion 2) Emma 3) Mansfield Park.

    Nik, are you going to do this one? You should!

    Catherine, as I mentioned on your blog, my library doesn’t have her, but I might make an exception to my ‘no buying books’ rule!

    Danielle, aren’t they? I had to ponder for two or three days. And I can’t believe Ross isn’t in print any more, her books are so good. Fortunately, I’ve alrady got 1-3 and the Crimes Through Fiction ss collection w/ her story. So I only need to get 4 to have all of Julian Kestrel!

    DF, you should! Right now! lol

    Jamie, yay for more Gaiman fans!

    TJ, I haven’t read The Enchantress yet, but I might check and see if the library has it.

    Alisia, glad I’m not alone w/ Rushdie. :) I’m about to read Purple Hibiscus (just waiting for it to arrive at my branch library), and I expect to love it. I can’t wait until she comes out with another one!

    Matthew, I told you we were reading kindred spirits. ;) That’s a great, great definition of favourite atuhors. Can’t wait to see all your answers!

  17. June 4, 2008 10:16 am

    Wow, what a great post, Eva!

    Both Rushdie and Byatt have the potential to become favourites of mine too once I read more of their work. There’s something about them that really speaks to me.

    I second Stefanie’s recommendation of “On Histories and Stories”, btw – I was particularly happy to see her say wonderful things about Terry Pratchett in it. And if I’m not mistaken, she speaks highly of Rushdie too. I think it was that book that made me pick up Haroun and the Sea of Stories, my first Rushdie.

    I recently discovered Orwell’s non-fiction with The Road to Wigan Pier and now I want to read all of his essays. The man is just brilliant.


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