What is your favourite author criteria?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently; should it be because I love one of an author’s books obsessively, but feel indifferent towards the others? Or should it be that I enjoy all their novels consistently?
And, perhaps most importantly, should this author be a women?
In regards to the first two questions, most of my favourite books are ones where I’ve not particularly enjoyed the rest of what the author has written. Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, or Toni Morrison’s Beloved for example.
“It is just an illusion here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone, it is gone forever.”
“In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don’t love your eyes; they’d just as soon pick em out. No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ’cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you! And no, they ain’t in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again. What you say out of it they will not heed. What you scream from it they do not hear. What you put into it to nourish your body they will snatch away and give you leavins instead. No, they don’t love your mouth. You got to love it. This is flesh I’m talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved. Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need support; shoulders that need arms, strong arms I’m telling you. And O my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. and all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver–love it, love it and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.”
They may even spread over to two books, in the case of Ford Madox Ford – Parade’s End and The Good Soldier. Ford has written other books, but none as famous as these two, and I have no desire to read further. If I crown him favourite author, shouldn’t I have read everything he has written, or does that have to matter.
“The beastliness of human nature is always pretty normal. We lie and betray and are wanting in imagination and deceive ourselves, always, at about the same rate. In peace and war! But, somewhere in that view there are enormous bodies of men….. If you got a still more extended range of view over this whole front you’d have still more enormous bodies of men. Seven to ten million… All moving towards places towards which they desperately don’t want to go. Desperately! Everyone of them is desperately afraid. But they go on. An immense blind will forces them in the effort to consummate the one decent action that humanity has to its credit in the whole record of history; the one we are engaged in. The effort is the one certain creditable fact in all their lives…. But the other lives of all those men are dirty, potty and discreditable little affairs…. Like yours… Like mine…”
– Christopher Tietjens, Parade’s End
Then there are the authors where you’ve read every book – and at some point been obsessed with their work – but now enjoy them with a dampened pleasure. Oh Harry Potter, how I used to obsess over you! I am both very glad I have read Harry Potter and glad I read it at the age I did, I think if I read it now it wouldn’t have been nearly as poignant or meaningful. It came to me at a time of change and helped ease that difficult process, you can never fail to escape with a J.K. Rowling book. The Casual Vacancy was an okay reading experience and I enjoyed The Cuckoo’s Calling – but I don’t LOVE any of these books.
“Just because it’s taken you three years to notice, Ron, doesn’t mean no one else has spotted I’m a girl!”
– Hermione, Harry Potter
Finally, should my favourite author be female. I can hear your eyes rolling at this, but in all seriousness women tend to be typecast to romance novels or are merely underrepresented at best. Even down to cover design female authors are treated differently, there is a reason J.K. Rowling goes by her initials rather than her first name. Constant improvements are occurring in the industry and in the wider cultural and social sense, but I want to ensure I’m not falling into Patriarchal lines and turning against female authors unthinkingly . That saying, I don’t want to pick a favourite author on the basis of gender, I want to love their writing too.
With these ‘rules’ I really am limiting myself to Harper Lee as a favourite author, and as much as I adore To Kill a Mockingbird, I wouldn’t say it was my favourite book.
This is as much a discussion on the diversity of what I read as it is a discussion on who can claim my favour. I need to read outside the box, figuratively speaking, by reading books I may otherwise avoid or be unaware of. (I’d especially like to read more books by women of colour, so if you have any good recommendations please let me know on the Books Before 30 page!)
To conclude, I have decide that the position of favourite author should be a fluid one, where change can happen on a whim. I don’t have a single favourite book, I have a list of over twenty-five and why shouldn’t my favourite author be the same. Then I won’t feel I lack diversity or feel as if I am being snobby or crass – I’ll live contentedly knowing I can have whatever favourite author I like, whenever I like.