Friday, September 08, 2006

Reading phases

Deborah's comment yesterday got me thinking about phases my reading has traversed.

In high school I read a few books of merit, but mostly I read--um--trash. One title was Swing High Sweet Pussycat. I suppose it was romance. Amazon doesn't list it so who knows. Toward the end of high school and in the years between it and college, I read essays (Paul Williams--the writer, not the singer), Jack Kerouac and the Beats, bought Swann's Way by Proust though I never finished it, and tried to read Rod McKuen but it didn't work. I read The Prophet and lots of books about California, especially Haight Ashbury. I wanted to travel to L.A. and do Primal Scream therapy, but I was too young. (Remember Janov?) I read books on gestalt therapy and read Jung.

At Goddard, I discovered Raymond Carver, the poet Stephen Dobyns, Michael Ryan (whom I later came to know), and the magical realists. Borge struck a chord. So did James Baldwin. I loved all of his novels, especially Giovanni's Room. I loved Margaret Atwood's Edible Woman and Surfacing. I admired Virgina Woolf and I believe I wanted to be her, though her writing wasn't my favorite. Henry James' Portrait of a Lady I liked very much.

Later, Terry McMillan's first novel Mama impressed me, and so did Clarence Major's first novel (he's mostly known as a poet), Such was the Season. Joan Didion.

Then writers like Amy Hempel and T. Jefferson Parker (my favorite crime writer) and Don DeLillo came onto the radar screen. And now....now there are too many to mention. I've made lists on my Web site, penonfire.com and at Readerville.com, on my author's page, but they are inconclusive lists because they just keep growing. I just finished Lolly Winston's Happiness Sold Separately and LOVED it.

I hate writing about my favorite books because as soon as I say what one is, another pops up.

What are you reading and how has your reading changed over the years?

6 comments:

Deborah said...

...and speaking of The Prophet, here in my town in New Jersey we have this autumn crafts fair. Sadly, not lots of nice stuff but the children get to walk up and down the avenue eating funnell cakes and feeling festive now that school has begun again. Last year I stopped at an antiques stall that had mostly linen and odd bric a brac but it wasn't anything special. Then something caught my eye - in an old ball jar were vintage knitting needles. Without hesitating or checking if they were matching sets, I bought them all. A husband and wife team were tending the booth, the wife did the bric a brac and linens, the husband, only did books.

They were both curious as to why I wanted the needles. I guess if you are in that business long enough and sit long enough hours, you take bets on what type of person would buy what and I suppose I did not fit the 'profile'. The husband came over and apologized for not having any craft books that would go with my needles. I took one last scan around the little stall, when there, in a corner, was The Prophet. I don't know what it was about my body language, but that too this couple must study, people's body language, because he picked up the book and began reading it aloud. I stood there, holding my ball jar in one hand and a fist full of needles in the other, and listened to this stranger read Gibran...

Leslea said...

I used to be able to bear a sad story of tragedy and sorrow a lot better than I can right now. Thusly, we read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy in our house, specifically the genre geared toward young adults. Perhaps it is the undertone of hope in these stories that attract us...? I dunno. I am not writing that kind of book myself--at least, I'm not writing for a young adult audience--but I would love to someday.

bigjay said...

Deborah - what the heck is a ball jar?

Deborah said...

... a Ball is the brand name for jars that are used to preserve fruits and vegies - like homemade jams and pickles. The old ones are now collectible and can be found in many antique shops.

Lacy: Who Needs a Hat To Sing? said...

My reading has come full circle, because I read a lot of young adult fiction now to try to keep up with trends. But I think young adult fiction has grown by leaps and bounds! It may just be my faulty memory, but back in the day, I can remember being bored to tears by the YA stuff that was new and popular, quickly moving on to adult stuff. Now, I can't get enough of sophisticated YA authors like J.K. Rowling, Cornelia Funke, and Libba Bray.

bigjay said...

Thanks, Deborah - I guess I know them as Mason Jars and if so, is that a regional difference?