Author, Voice, Writing

Author, author, speak to me!

I cried last night … twice. Reading the final chapters of Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, did me in. The story was just that real to me. Throughout the book I experienced love and heartbreak, beauty and horror, fear and exultation because Hosseini is an excellent writer. And yet, not everyone agrees with me.

Engrossed reader.Have you ever experienced the shock of looking at the reviews of a book you loved and seeing that some readers hated it? Although more than 350,000 readers rated Hosseini’s book four or five stars at Goodreads, a shocking number gave it only one. Considering that the background of this novel is war-torn Afghanistan, I suppose some of those low ratings could be politically motivated. But what about the others?

I’ve loved all three of Hosseini’s novels. That’s not because I love reading stories set in Afghanistan or stories about the effects of war on people’s lives. So why is he one of my favorite authors? Why is Anne Tyler? Or Stephen King? Or Maeve Binchy?

Voice. It’s the author’s voice.

Often I open a novel that either a professional reviewer or a friend has assured me I’ll love, and I simply can’t read it. It’s not the subject, not the setting, not the quality of the writing that fails to excite me—it’s the author’s voice. That voice is not one I’m attuned to, which is neither my fault nor the author’s. And certainly, that alone is no cause for me to say it’s a terrible book.

The voices of the writers I prefer don’t all sound the same. I study them, copying whole pages by hand trying to understand what makes them sing for me. Word choice, syntax, tone, rhythm, etc. are all elements of writing style, but I think writers can have similar styles and yet the voice is different. There’s something more that defines voice. It’s an element lying below all the rest. Something that breathes life into the words. Something, I think, that can’t be learned.

Naturally, I wonder about my own writer’s voice. It’s still trying to struggle out of its chrysalis. I hope it’s on its way to being pure and honest and alive. Because then, someday, readers will count my voice among their favorites.

Linda

Author, Books, Fiction

What does this say about me?

Three weeks ago, the lovely author Darlene Foster tagged me to receive The Booker Award. The rules of this award say I’m to list five of my favorite books and then pass the award on to five other people. At first I read that as my five favorite books, which seemed an impossible job, but then I saw that little word “of”. I can do that.

Since then, I’ve paused at my book shelves many times trying to make choices. My reading tastes have changed many times through the years, and I don’t own a copy of every book I’ve read, so it’s possible I’m forgetting books I would have chosen. I found myself looking at some books and realizing I didn’t remember reading them at all, though I know I did. I considered choosing books to impress the literati, but I hate snobbery. So here are five OF my favorite books—and even more, five writers I admire.

For many years, I read everything Stephen King wrote, except the Dark Tower Series. I’ve read some of his novels more than once, but The Stand is my favorite. I’ve read it four times, including the uncut version.

When I read the description of this book, chosen for my discussion group, I doubted I would care much for it. War stories? Nah. Silly me. Tim O’Brien’s writing amazed me, and The Things They Carried has been on my best books list ever since.

I’ve read all of Anne Tyler’s books, even the one she wrote for children, and I’ve read many more than once. The first time I read Breathing Lessons, the main character annoyed me. But she also haunted me. So I read it again, and then I realized that I’d been annoyed by her because she was a bit like me. 🙂

For many years, I also read Maeve Binchy’s novels. I drifted away a time or two and then came back and caught up. Now, she’s gone, and I feel I should catch up again. I believe Circle of Friends was the first of her books I read. I became an instant fan of her talent for drawing the reader into her rich fictional world.

I’m a late-comer to Sherman Alexie’s work. I’d heard the name for many years, but I knew him only for his screenplay for Smoke Signals. I can’t remember how I ended up with a copy of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, but it sat in my to-read list for some time before I got around to reading it. Boy, was I sorry it took me so long. Alexie’s writing is magical. The voice in this book is one of the purest examples I’ve read. I’m now reading Blasphemy, his latest collection of short stories, and so far each one has blown me away.

I guess that’s an eclectic group of five, but that probably tells you something about me. Now I’m supposed to choose five people to pass the award to, but I rarely do that because often those I pick don’t care to play along. So if you’d like to share five of your favorite books on your blog, take the award and say I chose you. Or share on this page in the comments. I’d like to see your choices.

Books, Fiction, Horror, Musings, Reading, Reflections

How I read from there to here!

Recently, I’ve been thinking of all the books I’ve read in my life … not that I can actually remember them all—or even a third. Specifically, I’ve thought of different categories of books and when I read them. While waiting for my first son to be born I read the likes of Updike, Angelou, and Bradbury. By the time my second son was born, less than two years after the first, I used my reading time mostly to escape with Holt, du Maurier, and Clark.

They looked like angels.

Fast forward a few years and two more sons. As I recall, at that time, my tastes in reading seemed to fall mainly in two categories: horror and humor. Hello, King and Bombeck. This probably makes perfect sense to any mothers reading this.

By that time, I was also heavily involved in the church and that’s when non-fiction began to outweigh fiction. For the next 20+ years, I read far less fiction. Oddly—or maybe not—my fiction choices during that time were almost exclusively horror. I ended that period with two large bookcases, one filled with religious books and the other with King, Straub, Rice, Harris, and non-fiction books on the supernatural.

They might kill me for this one, circa 1993!

Then, my sons were grown and I rediscovered fiction. I eased in with Auel, Binchy, Gabaldon and then, I discovered my true love—Southern fiction—in the likes of Tyler, Reynolds, Smith, Walker.  When one future daughter-in-law recommended I widen my reading scope, I discovered books most of you had probably read when they were on the bestsellers list: Marquez, Russo, Hijuelos, Proulx, McCullers, and short story collections by O’Connor and Munro. The floodgates open, it seems now I discover a new favorite fiction author every week.

How about you? Has your adult reading path meandered or or been straight and sure?

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