Your Favourite Author

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.” 
– Slaughterhouse-Five

“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.

Who’s your favourite author(s)?

Review: Letters of Note

When I was little receiving a letter was an exciting moment – especially when it fell outside of birthday season. I remember asking my Dad weekend after weekend if there was anything in the post for me, inevitably there wasn’t. I didn’t have the know-how or attention span for penpals, a regret I carry with me today.

I wish I had kept all the old birthday cards, the friend’s post cards, the occasional letter from a relative. To look back on them now, piecing together bits of my childhood, would be such a pleasurable experience. I have a tendency to remember bad events over good ones, and any written correspondence that could remind me of being happy would be a treasured one.

Sadly moving from house to house means superfluous paper is the first thing to go, and I have no reference guide to my youth. This is why Letters of Note; Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience is so important, it’s a door to a room you never knew existed – it’s our wardrobe to Narnia.

Letters of Note“Letters of Note is a collection of one hundred and twenty five of the world’s most entertaining, inspiring and unusual letters, based on the seismically popular website of the same name – an online museum of correspondence visited by over 70 million people.

From Virginia Woolf’s heart-breaking suicide letter, to Queen Elizabeth II’s recipe for drop scones sent to President Eisenhower; from the first recorded use of the expression ‘OMG’ in a letter to Winston Churchill, to Gandhi’s appeal for calm to Hitler; and from Iggy Pop’s beautiful letter of advice to a troubled young fan, to Leonardo da Vinci’s remarkable job application letter, Letters of Note is a celebration of the power of written correspondence which captures the humour, seriousness, sadness and brilliance that make up all of our lives.” Synopsis from GoodReads.

Of all the letters, my favourites were letters from the likes of Hunter S. Thompson, Kurt Vonnegut, Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf and Katherine Hepburn – to name but a few.

However, the best has to be this one:
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

Review: Bizarre London by David Long

Bizarre London: Discover the Capital’s Secrets & Surprises by David Long is my second non-fiction in my quest (but, not New Year’s Resolution) to read a wider range of books this year.  Combining two of my favourite things, fairly useless facts and London, Long took me on a gloriously trivial gander at my nation’s capital.

Bizarre London by David LongA charming gift book of the strangest and most intriguing stories of London.

A fascinating tour of London’s strangest and most intriguing locations. Ranging from architectural evidence of past incidents and stories of life beneath the city, to anecdotes of magic, mystery, and murder, this is a perfect companion for anyone curious about London. Synopsis from GoodReads.

Embarrassing confessions: this book has taught me how to spell bizarre. It never stuck before, I was convinced it should be bizaar; which, as it turns out, is an album by Insane Clown Posse.

Back to Bizarre London; while at times it felt a little long in a mostly snippets of facts format, there was nothing dull about this book. I wouldn’t, however, recommend reading it all in one go as I did. It is perfect to dive into or read chapter at a time, I found reading in one sitting to be overwhelming due to the sheer volume of interesting facts Long provides.

He covers a number of topics, from Gruesome to Esoteric  – these are a few of my favourites:

  • If you hear ‘Inspector Sands’ at the Tube station it is “a coded warning to station staff of an incident – possibly fire or a suspect package – somewhere at the station.”
  • Oswald Laurence for the Northern Line for 40 years, eventually being phased out. That was until his widowed wife requested it be brought back so she could hear his voice.
  • The Queen is a pigeon fancier, with over 250 birds – each as a leg ring marked with ‘ER’.
  • HM Edward VII (Queen Elizabeth’s grandfather) liked to watch buildings on fire.
  • The following things were created in London: Scotch Eggs, Tinned Food, Chicken Tikka Masala, Wedding Cake, Fish and Chips, Flushing Toilets and Twiglets. If you don’t know what Twiglets are, you’re missing out.
  • The term ‘Plod’ used for Policemen came from Enid Blyton’s village policeman. Literary fact for you there.
  • “Golf can be played on Wimbledon Common but only by individuals wearing a red outer garment.”
  • Bridget Driscoll was the first woman (in London) to be killed by a car. This happened at Crystal Palace, the car was going 4mph.
  • Kojak with a Kodak‘ is London Cabbie Slang for a “policeman hiding behind a tree or lamppost with a speed gun.”
  • MPs are forbidden from swearing in Parliament or from throwing personal insults.
  • One the last Sunday of February there is a Clown Service, this is in memory of clown prince Joseph Grimaldi. “The service takes place at Holy Trinity, Dalston, the official Church of the International Clowns’ Club, and costume and make-up are considered mandatory for those attending.”

These facts are just scraping the barrel of the fantastic facts you could learn!