the illiterate writer

For someone who calls herself a writer I am not exactly a well-read lady. Oh sure, I covered the basics straight outta the dead white dude canon in high school: the Chaucer, the Shakespeare, the Steinbeck, the Hemingway. Even a little Oscar Wilde. And I picked up a few bits and pieces of Toni Morrison and Margaret Atwood in my earnest young undergraduate women’s studies days.

But there’s a lot I have yet to digest. Or even chew. Or even taste, really. As a history major in college I missed a certain deeper strata of literary immersion, and I continued to overlook many classic and contemporary must-reads during my 20-something, Barnes-and-Noble, Bridget-Jones-piece-of-crap phase.

So now here I am, a professional writer and editor who can’t even pretend to be pretentious when my friends bring up their favorite Russian novelist. I’ve never read James Joyce, Victor Hugo, or Thomas Hardy. And while I devoured that goofy book by Elizabeth Gilbert, I shamefully confess that I have yet to crack the spine of anything penned by Silvia Plath or Virginia Wolf.

I admit that I love to curl up with good piece of garbage on the sofa after the kids are in bed (Twilight anyone?) but I’ve recently developed an urge to read more great works of literature.

I think this was inspired by one of those annoying Facebook notes that got passed around a while back. It has a list of the BBC’s 100 great books that everyone is supposed to read. You have to put an “x” next to all the ones you have already read and then share the list with your friends.

Of course one of these “great” books was The Da Vinci Code, but I gave the author of the list a pass on that stinker and shamefully checked too off too few of the others. This (ahem) lit (get it? lit?) a fire under my illiterate bum. I’m now ready to work my way through the BBC list and then some. I’m ready to dive into everything from Dostoyevsky to Murakami.

But where do I start? Do you have any suggestions? What are your recommendations for classic must-reads? Books that a writing mama (or anyone else for that matter) must definitely, certainly, absolutely read during this wonderful, poetic, literary life?

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2 thoughts on “the illiterate writer

  1. First, more Toni Morrison. Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Isabel Allende! You may love her. ALiceWalker’s “Possessing the Secret of Joy.” Barbara Kingsolver, esp. “Poisonwood Bible.” Contemporary classics.

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