Reading is like dating

When I pick up a book, I’m looking for a long-term relationship.

How wonderful to find an author whose writing you love–to read the first few pages and feel like you want to read everything they’ve written. But what a commitment!

In life, I am monogamous. In reading, I am not.

Given the shortage of time, how do you sit down and read everything an author has written?

Too often, I’ll go out on that first date and then, as much as I felt swept off my feet, I won’t call back. Like when I read Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. I’d still like to read more by him, but I haven’t yet. I’ve had the same feeling reading Jess Walters’s Beautiful Ruins. And I love starting a Margaret Atwood novel, knowing again I’ll be well care for from a writing standpoint–terrified, yes–but with such stunning and confident skill.

Or sometimes, an author or an author’s work is like that cool person at the party–you’re shy about walking up and introducing yourself. What if you can’t understand what they’re saying? What if you aren’t smart enough? For me, that’s James Joyce. For years, I’ve imagined taking a summer off and reading Joyce, but it’s a fantasy–I’m not taking a summer off and I haven’t bought a single book yet.

Then, there’s the commitment of the trilogy or the series. I read Sea of Poppies and I want to find out what happens next, but I haven’t been able to go on that second date. I did show up for every single Harry Potter book and for the His Dark Materials trilogy.

Poets are easier to fall in love with, although maybe that meaningful relationship takes more attention. I have several, but not all, of Cole Swensen’s books (some of which I’ve returned to often), a shelf of Louise Gluck’s work (ditto). Plus Sarah Gridley, Sarah Vap, Oliver de la Paz, Nicole Cooley. And the delight of finding a poet’s work and then they bring out a new book!

This past weekend, I was in Manzanita, OR–which meant a trip to Cloud and Leaf Bookstore and picking up (among other books) Katrina Roberts‘s new collection, Underdog. On an earlier trip, I’d purchased her first three books there, so it felt kind of like a ritual. Then I took my new books home and sat out on the deck and read and got a little sun burned.

I returned home to a new issue of The Writer’s Chronicle and a new BPJ. So much to read!

Who are your go-to writers–poetry or prose? Who do you fall in love with? Who do you call back?

(And now that I’ve mentioned all these names, go read Kelli’s really fabulous no-list post.)

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2 comments

  1. T.Clear’s avatar

    Recently I got a rejection from BPJ in less than 12 hours — a record, hands down!

    I’m reading yet another Louise Erdrich novel, she’s one of my all-time faves.

  2. joannie’s avatar

    The BPJ fast-turnaround is actually a good thing. They respond to everyone within a day or two unless a poem makes it into the second round (which none of mine have managed yet). For me, it beats sitting in a slush pile for six months or two years.

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