10 March 2010

Weekly Geeks: Authors We Love

This week's Weekly Geek is all about authors: 

Tell your readers what is it about "an" author that you are most passionate about, that have you coming back for more from them, following their every blog post – literally blackmailing people to read their books? 
Who are some of your all time favourite authors? 
And what is it about them that makes you keep going back for more?

Diana Gabaldon is a writer who has never let me down. Outlander was one of the books that got me excited about reading sagas - I've always been a reader but until I was in college I shied away from those books that were super long. I don't even mind waiting the two or three years between installments in the series, because since the books never disappoint I am always really excited to read them again.  Ken Follett is another epic writer, and Pillars of the Earth and World Without End are two of my all-time favorite books; I have given Pillars of the Earth as a gift many times, to men and women with the same level of enthusiasm.  I could read Pillars time and again, and it's always a book that I love to return to when I'm in a lull. I've recently discovered Frank Delaney, who is a remarkable storyteller. His characters feel alive, like I could reach out and hug them. When I finish his books, I immediately want to open them again, because they are just beautifully crafted and I'm not done with the characters.

Of course, I'm a grad student, which means that I read for a living (or whatever you want to call it), and my relationship with some authors is a bit different. I'm always intrigued by Italo Svevo, one of the quintessential Modernists in Italy, and I think that I could read La coscienza di Zeno (Zeno's Conscience) again and again - I have, in fact, read it many times for different classes and exams, and I always find something new and interesting to do with it. I always walk away with something from these neurotic, self-conscious protagonists. Working on my minor, I really and truly read James Joyce for the first time - I'd read him before but without understanding or appreciating much. He does things with literature that are so special and different, there aren't even words to describe what he did for literature; Ulysses really is at the top of the list of all-time books for a reason. 

So now I'm done with classes and I'm working on my dissertation. It's a difficult thing, deciding on who - or what - you want to work for the next few years (and to what you might possibly dedicate a significant part of your life's research). And I don't take that decision lightly, so I'm writing on Primo Levi and Italo Calvino. They were my first favorite Italian authors, and after four years of intense studying, I came back to the same two writers. Italo Calvino's Cavaliere inesistente (Nonexistent Knight) was the first book that I read in Italian, during my first Italian literature class in Italy - it was a major accomplishment for me, reading the short, fantastical story of a suit of armor that doesn't have a knight inside.  Calvino's narrator is almost always aware of his or her own role in the story being told, and he plays with the reader in unexpected ways. Primo Levi's "Canto of Ulysses," one of the chapters in Se questo è un uomo (Survival in Auscwitz) is beautifully written, and really highlights the power of books and language, especially for Levi.  I've read the works of these authors more than any others. I must admit, it's not just because I'm writing about them - they're just brilliant, poignant, beautiful and heartbreaking; not all of these things at once, but all of these things at different times and for different reasons. 

I'm afraid my answer might have been a bit too long. But, hey, that's what I do.

1 comment:

  1. I loved Gibaldon's Outlander series...and I agree that Follett is an amazing writer (Pillars of the Earth was a great read for me). Thanks for the fun post!