Saturday, September 13, 2008

Good Reads

Would you say that we should write what we like to read? If that is so, I'm in deep water and have forgotten how to swim. Lately, I've read Marge Piercy's Gone to Soldiers, a thick, detailed, at times horrifying account of WWII, beautifully researched and gripping. Then I read a short memoir by a park ranger who learned his ranger skills in Maine, Bear Dogs of Mt. Katahdin. Last night I finished Maeve Binchy's Evening Class, a character-driven web of how people in a community build and break down relationships. Trust Binchy to give us honorable characters and well-built plots. I love her habit of connecting one book to another; I feel like I know the landscape and the people. Next up in my stack is popcorn--Janet Evanovich's Fearless Fourteen. I definitely feel at home in Jersey with the familiar characters who change little from one adventure to the next. Humor and wild imagination drive this series about clumsy bail bondswoman, Stephanie Plum, with big hair, eye shadow, two sexy guys on her hands, and a supporting cast of wackos. I love these books like I love chocolate brownies.

So, you see my problem: I want the humor of Evanovich, the warmth of Binchy, the familiarity of that park ranger's setting, and the depth and wisdom of Piercy. That's a shopping list that could break my back or my bank account. The truth is, I can only write what I write, keeping one eye on my favorites, and the other on my characters, where they choose to live, love, die, fail, or succeed. It's hard work, and it's a grand game of chance. Just when I think, ah, I want to write a book like that one, another good read pops up, and I chase after another hero. Maybe I'll get a bead on my own books one of these days, maybe not. But what fun to fall in love with so many unique stories. When I get scared that we have too many books in the world, I think about the joy of variety, the pleasure of surprise and change, and I relax. Now, excuse me, I hear Stephanie starting her engine, hoping the car won't explode, though it always does. Later!

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