Stephen King wrote: “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” Thanks Mr King, that is incredibly validating because I enrolled in my degree program to learn how to write. Reading great fiction seemed like the logical first step to learning how to write properly.
In my work I write all the time, and I write for fun too. Mr King’s remark feels very true to me today. For the last several days I have been immersed in work projects that kept me away from reading imaginative texts and writing for school and for fun. My ability to write creatively, and to write about creative texts, certainly feels impaired after its absence from my routine. Today it feels so very good to settle down for some quality reading time.
The last month I indulged in something of a Jane Austen binge. That indulgence, and missing my regular reading routine last week, started me thinking about whether or not I have a favorite author. Reading Austen is one of my favorite things to do, especially for the pleasure of her remarkably disciplined storytelling, but I’m not sure she can be called my favorite author. What would make an author my favorite? It occurred to me that many authors have ‘favored’ status on my reading list, sometimes for very particular reasons.
There are several authors I have really enjoyed reading over the course of my degree study. Many of them were new to me and came as wonderful surprises, like Isabella Whitney, and Aphra Behn. Others authors were familiar to me but my appreciation of their work increased with in-depth study, like Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Hardy, and Wordsworth. Still, it is difficult to decide just how an author might come to be considered my favorite.
I tend to appreciate certain things about different authors and return to their work to especially enjoy those points. Like Chaucer’s wit and his way with point of view, the sheer force of personality that seems to seep out of Ben Jonson’s work, Charlotte Bronte’s representation of a nascent feminism, or Emily Dickinson’s ability to render scenes so directly.
Visual art has always been a touchstone for me so I thought a bit about what constitutes a favorite work of art or artist. You can look at different works and appreciate them for certain qualities, for example, Ellsworth Kelly’s use of color or Piet Mondrian’s exploitation of line. For me, my favorite works of art are those that draw me back to them time and time again, maybe even every day. That creates a short list of Matisse’s ‘Ivy in Flower’ and Picasso, Braque, and Gris’s work in collage. Like visual art, maybe my favorite author, or authors for that matter, is the one that I turn to when there is time for leisure reading, whose work leaves a long, memorable impression, or that I will happily pick up and read regardless of genre or story content. Their mastery of writing is the anticipation, reward, and pleasure.
Yes, Jane Austen is on my list of favorites. Other authors whose work I read again and again include Salman Rushdie and his brilliant imagination and intellect, Octavio Paz, Seamus Heaney, Thomas Hardy, Herodotus, W.B. Yeats, Chaucer, Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf, Amy Tan, Maxine Hong Kingston, Homer, Shakespeare, Jonson, Marlowe, Mary Sidney, Dryden, and Aphra Behn. Please do not ask me to choose just one. It would be agony. I imagined myself on the proverbial desert island and still could not choose just one author or text. Do you have a favorite author? Maybe you share my predicament.
Caowrites is studying the BA English by distance learning with the University of London International Programmes.