I recently finished Stephen Koch’s The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop, and absolutely loved it. It’s one of the best booksÂ about writing I’ve read since Stephen King’s, On Writing. IÂ moved Koch’s book to a more accessible locationÂ on my desk (and, with the mess I’ve got going these days, that was not easy). I highlighted many great quotes, and this is one of them:
Read for love. Every writer ought to fall in love with some new writer or work with fair regularity, and the passion should hit with a fervor that makes each new book a hot date and every stolen fifteen minutes of browsing an intoxicating rendezvous.Â
For whatever reason, I seldom experience the type of “fervor” Koch talks about. A lot of time, reading feels more like a chore than “a hot date.” Perhaps it’s my choice of books. Or maybe it’s a commentary about the contemporary canon. Either way, something unusual happened this month: I finished two books that I really liked.
The first was Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas. Though Koontz was labeled early in his career as a horror writer, his books overlap several genres. Koontz’s universe is definitely a moral one, his plots are often unique, and his writing a cut above the standard fare. The main protag of Odd Thomas (who is named Odd Thomas), is a quirky, good-natured, short-order cook who can see dead people. I know, the seeing-dead-people storyline is now fairly pedestrian. However, Koontz’s strong writing, snappy dialogue, streamlined storytelling and sweet characters,Â make Odd Thomas an endearing, virtually unforgettable character. It’s no wonder the book has spawned several sequels. I found myself reading as much in appreciation of strength of craft as strength of story. Furthermore, I actually found myself caring about Odd Thomas, which for me is a rarity indeed. Even though the central conflict kind of fizzled, the charming characters won out. Yeah, IÂ enjoyed this one.
G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, was even better. I purchased a cool, used hardcover edition several months ago. Written in 1907, the book is a fantastic fable shrouded in the guise of philosophical musing and political intrigue. As this one unfolded, I found myself absolutely enthralled. Chesterton’s apologetic lucidity andÂ biting wit, coupled with snappy dialogue and a lengthy, rather bombastic chase sequence (from cart, to automobile, to fire engine, to elephant, to hot air balloon), had me rolling. I cannot recall laughing out loud, while reading a book, as much as I did reading The Man Who Was Thursday. Oftentimes, the laughter was due to the sheer joy of beautiful prose. While Chesterton was a Christian, and the book is supremely “christian” in theme, I cannot imagine the CBA, as it is currently comprised, publishing a book like this. Not only is there drinking and swearing (neither of which are tolerated in the CBA), but the book is far too literary for the dumbed-down, electronically anesthetized masses. What a shame. Nevertheless, The Man Who Was Thursday is a treasure; worth readingÂ for its philosophical articulation as much for the pure delight of storytelling.
So anyway, now I’m kinda bummed. After those “hot dates,” I’m afraid it’s back to boredom. Oh well, I’ll just keep on reading, hoping for another “intoxicating rendezvous.” What about you? Have you fallen in loveÂ lately?