I have often teased my wife that she is literarily promiscuous.
She’ll got to the library or bookstore and walk among the shelves, trolling for titles. She lets her eye flash across their glossy spines and read their promo lines, reaches out and gently tugs a book from the thousands of others and opens it and asks it, “How would you like to come home with me?”
And, next thing you know, she’s in bed with it.
She goes through about a book a week this way, sometimes reading two or three books at the same time. Sometimes, she’ll start reading a book and be two chapters in before realizing she’s already read it: “Didn’t I read you once before?”
I’m the exact opposite. I don’t troll. I don’t wind up in bed with a book unless I am willing to spend my life with it. I want to be in love. LOVE. Only a handful of books have sent me head over heels: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, Absalom! Absalom!, Light in August, As I Lay Dying, The Little Prince, the Bible, Bruno. At different times in my life, I have been intimate with each of these works, monogamously of course. I have known them, and they have known me.
Most writers aren’t like me. Most writers are literary impresarios, having hundreds of linguistic lovers and thousands of amazing experiences. Even my favorite writer, William Faulkner, encourages other young writers to “read everything,” whether masterpiece or trash, and “learn how they do it.”
But I can’t. When I read a book, I want to be in love.
A friend of mine says he has trouble at parties because he can’t make small talk. He only makes big talk. Philosophy, theology, history, psychology, astronomy. I’m with him. I want big talk.
And that’s how I write my books. They’re full of big talk instead of small talk. They’re full of “will you marry me?” instead of “will you sleep with me?” I am not a promiscuous writer, which may explain why I haven’t “gotten around” like other writers. But if you love me–I mean, really love me–I’ll be with you till death do us part.April 17th, 2009
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