There’s a pattern to my list, I’ve noticed. A lot of my favorite writers deal with explaining human nature through a sort of dark humor.
You can’t talk about that sort of thing without discussing Nick Hornby. He’s also a master of characterization, writing characters who are not in the least likeable, usually endlessly frustrating, but that you can’t help but root for anyway.
I like books where nothing really happens externally, but something great happens internally. This is how Nick unfailingly operates. I admire his ability to have nothing really happen, but everything happen, all at the same time.
I have yet to read his non-fiction, but I definitely plan on it!
I could’ve sworn I wrote about him already, but it appears I have not, so here I go.
Once, while he was editing one of my essays, my teacher laughed aloud and proclaimed “that’s Sedaris funny!” I took this as the highest compliment I could be granted, though I hardly think I’m capable of the hilarious yet thought-provoking humor that permeates Sedaris’s work. He flawlessly sheds light on the strangest and darkest parts of humanity, but it’s never dark or depressing because it’s laced with his perfect brand of humor. I am constantly in pursuit of this skill, no matter what my teacher thinks I can do.
I will never forget one of the essays David read at one of his appearances, about hoarding sea turtles in his bedroom and feeling like an outsider because of his sexual orientation. It just felt like the most perfect essay I’ve ever heard. The only thing I could ever ask for in my writing is to be that poignant and that hilarious all at the same time.
I must say this one is kind of embarrassing, but a good book is a good book, no matter its target audience. The Hunger Games trilogy is aimed at young adults, but it’s very entertaining. While it’s not exactly beautiful or inspiring prose, Collins does have a trait worth taking note of that is the key to the popularity of her books: the plot and pacing of the story is so pitch perfect. This is a lot harder to accomplish than it sounds. There are no dry, boring spots in her books; every chapter ends with an a new, intriguing development, but it never gets too hokey or feels like it’s trying too hard. It’s just good storytelling. That is sometimes buried in all the bells and whistles of young adult literature, but Collins is around to resurrect it. Plus, her sheer creativity is a priceless attribute, creating the most vivid fictional world I’ve read about since J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world (that’s high praise coming from me!).
Virgina Woolf influenced an entire movement in literature, so it’s not too surprising that she can still influence individuals today. I am the highest proponent of introspective literature and interior monologues. Short of mind reading, this literature is the only way to see into a person’s psyche, truly understand what makes them work. I think that process and sharing is essential to a fulfilling human experience, which is what ultimately drives my love of literature. When we read, we are just looking for something on the page that reminds us of us, that connects us to another person, even if it’s through decades and miles and thousands of printed pages. Virginia Woolf mastered the art of spilling the soul onto the page, combining social commentary, human commentary, the essence of human experience, and beautiful prose into a prolific canon of invaluable literary contributions.
I’ve only recently become anything of a grammar geek, though Mom’s awful use of a possessive apostrophe in the return address of our Christmas cards appalled me. Lynne Truss brought me to a whole new level.
She expresses many of the ideas that laid dormant inside me—the importance of punctuation I always knew, but the dramatic proportions with which she expresses it are so great. I especially enjoy the way she appreciates punctuating as an art form. I truly believe that skillful punctuation, and the ability to bend the rules to your own expressive purposes, is what separates good writers from great ones. Lynne Truss is an amazing articulater of such a vital concept.
I want to write better characters, and Anne Tyler is a great place to start. She writes beautifully human characters and gets them from all angles by switching narrators, but the characters stay consistent no matter the narrator. They’re just plain good. And she grows them up so well! Skills to learn…
I love satire and he is an amazing satire writer! There are many things I can pick up from his style. His sense of humor is very much like mine as well. His is one of the few books I’ve actually laughed out loud at, which is a good sign.
Simply this quote:
“Life is compost.”
“You think that a strange thing to say, but it’s true. All my life and all my experience, the events that have befallen me, the people I have known, all my memories, dreams, fantasies, everything I have ever read, all of that has been chucked onto the compost heap, where over time it has rotted down to a dark, rich, organic mulch. The process of cellular breakdown makes it unrecognizable. Other people call it the imagination. I think of it as a compost heap. Every so often I take an idea, plant it in the compost, and wait. If feeds on that black stuff that used to be a life, takes its energy for its own. It germinates. Takes root. Produces shoots. And so on and so forth, until one fine day I have a story, or a novel.”
I love that. Such an accurate description of my feelings, so nicely articulated.
I enjoyed this book because it is primarily a reader’s novel; it captures the beauty of books that only true lovers of them know. I want to write those kinds of books. Any other kind is hardly worth it.
While in my head, he sort of remains a kind of David Sedaris knock-off, but of course, it’s not fair to judge him simply because he happens to also be a self-deprecating gay memoir writer.
And there is something in his writing that keeps making me go back to him, and I think I recently figured out what it is.
He has the distinct ability to make the weird almost acceptable. He can write about the simply strangest things in such a way that he brings out the strange without making the material unaccessiable. I find this an enviable trait.
This might also come from the fact that I share his sense of humor in relishing situational irony. Either way, something to aspire to.
I usually don’t dabble to much in teen books, though I do have a certain soft spot for coming of age stories.
John Green is a modern master of teenage coming of age stories.
He cites his inspiration to write as J.D. Salinger, and you can feel the Holden-ness dripping in some of his passages, but there’s so much more to the modern stories John tells.
They’re witty, well-written, and relatable, but they also have a sort of throw-back feel to the greats. He often includes allusions that only the readerist of readers will get, and uses so much subtle and blatant allegory, characters I find are foregone in current literature. Especially young adult books.
John bravely writes books that are nerdtastic and meaningful and just plain enjoyable.
I would love to write with his awesome sense of humor, sense of purpose, and sense of fun someday. Thanks, John Green.