Thursday, April 06, 2006

It's a guy thing

And the winner is... Albert Camus' The Stranger. (Apparently, across the pond it's known as The Outsider... po-tay-to, po-tah-to.)

Yeah... check. That one's been an all-time favorite ever since I read it in English class in 11th grade. But the Big 3, the books that really reshaped my conception of writing, were Richard Adams' Watership Down, George Orwell's 1984 and Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Orwell, of course, gets the mention in the Guardian piece, but then again, he's a homegrown hero over there.
We found a strong sense of nostalgia among male readers as they looked back to their formative years; many had tended to lose interest in fiction in favour of non-fiction on entering into adulthood. One consequence of this was that several men admitted that they were reluctant to reread a book which had been almost painfully important to them at puberty. "I'm afraid I might find it mawkish now", "It might not live up to my memories", "It might read as dated now" became familiar responses.

Men also recalled a kind of "mentoring" by authors encountered as a teenager - the same word was used by a surprising number of those we interviewed. Having found an author who "spoke" to them, a man would have trusted them as a literary guide, reading all of their works, and also works quoted from or cited by them. Orwell, in particular, was cited frequently as having guided our male reader in his choices of author. This idea of mentoring had never cropped up in our survey of women's reading, though word-of-mouth recommendation by other readers regularly had (men mentioned word-of-mouth much less often).
I admit, I haven't reread any of the above books in many, many years, but not necessarily because I'm afraid of finding them to be lacking; it's just that there are too damn many other books I haven't read yet.

As for authors who've become mentors by proxy, well, I've read just about everything Stephen King has ever written, but I wouldn't necessarily consider him to be a guiding light. (Despite the fact that many of his books feature as a central character a screwed-up writer type.) I have, though, discovered authors and gone through phases where I read everything by them I could get my hands on; writers including (but not limited to) Richard Russo, Arthur Koestler, Don DeLillo, John Barth and T. C. Boyle have always left me hungry for more.

5 comments:

Veronica said...

I'm new to your blog, so I apologize if these are covered in past posts I've yet to discover.

What are your thoughts on the writings of Chuck Palahniuk?

Do you have a grammatical pet peeve?

Jason Comerford said...

I generally like Palahniuk, although his books have gotten repetitive; he has a unique, unmistakable voice, but his plots and characters are sometimes interchangeable, and all too often he coasts on one-liners. So often his stuff devolves into an assembly of arcane factoids and tossed-off observations; I sometimes think he'd be a much better standup comedian than a storyteller.

But I'll never, ever forget seeing "Fight Club" for the first time. It was one of the greatest, most galvanizing experiences I've ever had in a movie theatre.

Grammatical pet peeve? Pshaw... there are so many... misuse of apostrophes would have to be up there. Punctuation is always a thorn in my side, but then again, I proofread all day. I'll probably think of something else much later when I'm nowhere near a computer.

Veronica said...

I agree completely. "Fight Club" was a life changing movie for me. I keep looking to Chuck to do that to me again.

I've read some of Palahniuk's books. I can't get past his continual use of objective pronouns before gerundial phrases. This is my grammatical pet peeve. My two questions to you were connected. I had just thrown "Choke" across the room again screaming, "You disapprove of ME doing drugs?? You do not! You disapprove of MY doing drugs, dammit!!"

I could contain myself no longer; I had to write to you. (wink)

Seeing that grammatical error over and over goes through me like nails on a chalk board. It reads to me like an obvious blunder, and trips my concentration completely. It is as bad as "alls I know."

I love your blog and have linked it on mine.

I hope you don't mind.

Best,
Veronica


Best,
Veronica

Jason Comerford said...

I see grammar as a guide, not an absolute. Words are toys to a writer, and you should play with them as much as possible. Look at John Barth's stuff, for example -- reading him is like watching a sugar-crazed nine-year-old jump up and down on a trampoline. He invents words, smashes others together, throws punctuation around, and generally disregards the so-called "rules" of grammar altogether. Personally, I think that if you're nailing a writer on some minor grammatical rule, then there are other and bigger problems with their writing as a whole. Just my opinion, mind you.

Captain Mike said...

I smell a blog romance a brewin'! Watch out, Veronica. Jason is a hot-blooded apostrophobe.