Tuesday, September 24, 2013

O Authors, My Authors

I feel it's only right in a blog that is loosely centered around writing to include somewhere a shrine to my favorite authors.  Even more reason to broach this topic right now is the fact that this has been a stupendous year for some of my authors (yes, I call them my authors), with some of them having new books released.  So, without further ado, I give you my most adored writers:

1. Margaret Atwood
2. Mary Roach
3. Karen Russell
4. Joyce Carol Oates
5. Laura Hillenbrand

My first introduction to Margaret Atwood was as a freshman in college.  A friend introduced me to The Handmaid's Tale, Atwood's unbeatable dystopian novel.  From there, I was hooked. 

I got to meet Margaret Atwood once - a dream come true.  She was in DC a few years ago, promoting her book The Year of the Flood.  After a stage performance of a chapter from the book, I anxiously lined up for autographs.  I had her sign my beloved and well-read copy of The Handmaid's Tale, and it looks like this:

I re-read this book about every two or three years.  I think I'm about due. 

The thing about Maggie (sometimes I call her that) is her prose is so vivid but sometimes harsh in its brevity.  Somehow she maintains that delicate balance of description and succinctness that alludes me at all times.  If you're reading this Maggie, I love you.

I discovered Mary Roach when she published her first book: Stiff, the Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.  This woman's ability to sink her teeth into the bizarre and come out with something that is both enlightening and hilarious is so wonderful.  Writing non-fiction, her journalistic skills make for great reading.  I remember reading her book Spook on a flight from vet school to home for Christmas vacation and stifling laughs as she described struggling to pull out a specimen of "ectoplasm" in the basement of a library. 

The thing about Mary is although she's entertaining and her subjects border on preposterous, her sense of scientific curiosity keeps the books moving forward.  She's not just writing to write weirdo stuff.  She's writing because she wants to know more. 

Karen Russell is my most recent edition to Anna's Top Authors.  I read her debut novel Swamplandia! in February.  It was her second collection of short stories, though, that really blew me away.  Vampires in the Lemon Grove came out this year and hang on to your hats, kids, because this girl can write. 

The thing about Karen is the creativity packed in her short stories is unbridled yet honed to a sharp point.  The Barn at the End of our Term is my favorite of her short stories so far and I look to her stories for guidance as I struggle with my own.

Ah, Joyce Carol Oates.  You are a staple to any reader worth his/her salt when it comes to 20th and 21st century American literature.  I remember first seeing JCO's novel Blonde in the window of a bookstore in Covent Gardens, London.  A perennial fan of Marilyn Monroe, it caught my eye but it wasn't until sophomore year in an undergrad fiction class when we read a short story by JCO that I connected the dots.  Unlike my other favorite authors, I haven't yet read all of JCO's works (my god, that woman is a prolific writer!) but I'm slowly working toward that goal. 

Last but not least is the lovely Laura Hillenbrand.  Like any good horse lover, I dutifully read Seabiscuit which I probably would have enjoyed even if it was poorly written (which it's not).  The second time around, Laura's next book Unbroken confirmed in my mind what an engaging writer she is. 

Like Mary Roach, Laura tackles non-fiction, and has somehow dug up amazing stories left almost forgotten in history.  Piecing together interviews and research, Laura manages to piece together stories that read like water tight thrillers only better because they actually happened.  Oh, and to add to Laura's amazingness?  She suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome.  That's right - nearly paralyzed by exhaustion in bed, she still managed to put together not one but two New York Times bestsellers.  *commence standing ovation*

So there you have it for the record: my favorite author manifesto.  Which leads me to ask: who are your favorites?

1 comment:

  1. Good timing with Karen Russell -- did you see that she just won a MacArthur genius grant? That would be a pretty nice cushion for a few years of creative writing...