If it’s true that it helps to love reading novels in order to become a great novelist, then I am certainly in the running. I love to read – not only novels – but most especially novels. I often can’t put one down for hours. I have always been a book worm, at least ever since my kindergarten teacher let me into this great world of fiction.
Right now, I am reading Fransisco Goldman’s The Divine Husband. I started it because I loved his fictionalized memoir about his wife, Say Her Name, but this earlier novel doesn’t have the zest and passion of Say Her Name. It has too many historical facts that I don’t care about, for one thing.
I love discovering a new writer and then tracking down everything they’ve written. I wish that I had a novel by Maggie O’Farrell sitting on my shelf, just waiting for me to finish slogging through Goldman’s historical world, but I think I’ve read everything the local library owns. If you don’t know her writings, you should explore them. They are dark treatises on love and death, with an unexpected warm, sunny side. She has a way of sneaking her characters into a scene and slowly placing them so that before you know it you are rooting for them.
I read After You’d Gone first. I found it at a thrift store, and loved the little bit I skimmed through, standing in the aisle in front of their meager selection of paperbacks. I often do this. It’s really fun to see what people have given away. Sometimes it seems easier to peruse a small random selection in a thrift store than to wade through the large selection in an actual bookstore. I often find a an author I haven’t read previously, or a novel I’ve been wanting to read by a favorite author.
For example, I recently bought We Were the Mulvaneys, by Joyce Carol Oates and Vinegar Hill, by A. Manette Ansay, for a dollar fifty apiece. They were wonderful, meaty reads, that pushed me into uncomfortable realms as they explored difficult topics. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t read anything by Joyce Carol Oates before.
I could go on and on with a long list of beloved authors, and maybe I will sometime. Great characters, difficult issues we all face, unusual ways of solving problems, and getting into situations I never considered all intrigue me and draw me in, so long as the story moves along. If there is too much attention to descriptions, I tend to skim, preferring to picture the world for myself, and impatient to find out what happens. I’m sure that other people love those lovely lengthy paragraphs about the heroine’s clothing and the bench she’s sitting on at that park, but I become impatient.