One’s favorite book is as elusive as one’s favorite pudding.
***E. M. Forster “In My Library” pt. II (1949)
There's a discussion going on elsewhere--what's your favorite book? it's asking. And interestingly, although mystery writers/readers could all talk for hours about books we adore, and are thankful to have read, my favorite of all favorites was a winner by a mile. So I typed it in, and said, anyone else love this? I'd love to know. Days went by, and I didn't hear a 'Me, too' from anyone.
There were Jane Eyres (of course) and a lot of To Kill a Mockingbirds (who doesn't love that?) and a Shogun or two. And many more, of course. But I started wondering, if my favorite book is no one else's favorite book, why is that? And then, days later, a reply came in...Carol Shmurak of Connecticut says, she was just about to type in the same book. And I felt--let's have dinner! I just know I'll like her. The book is Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin. And if any of you have read it....
And doesn't it feel like a betrayal when a best friend hates a book you loved-loved-loved and recommended? I recommended one of my favorite books from last year, Joseph Wambaugh's Hollywood Station to several good friends and their response was tepid.
Well, you gave it to my darling husband for his birthday, and he's loving loving living it, I must say. So there's at least one soulmate. But yes, you offer a wonderful book, like a treasure you've discovered and want to share, and part of the fun is sharing the experience, right? Like in a book club. But then they look at you like, thanks but no thanks.
When it was my turn for book group, I chose Custom of the Country, my favorite of my favorite Edith Wharton. I went to the meeting, eager to share in a true reading delight. Instead I was hooted and booed. (Not really, but some of the group thought it was boruing and stilted.) The other half thought--as I do--it was innovative and thought-provoking and revealing and marvelous.
I've been in a reading group for over a year and a few months ago, I finally got to choose a book. I chose The Egyptologist, which I thought was clever, fun, smart, engaging, and original. Not my favorite book of all time, but a good read, as they say. People didn't get it, some hated it. I sat there and felt like I was from Mars. One of my favorite writers is Robert Hellenga (Sixteen Pleasures, Fall of a Sparrow.) And no one's ever heard of him. I keep waiting to mention his name and have someone say "Omigod, you like him,too!"
Everybody brings their own life to a book. Also the mood of the moment. When I was in my late teens I went on an F. Scott Fitzgerald rampage, reading and adoring every single one of his books.
Now I'm reading The Great Gatsby for a second time. Clearly the revered author's most highly regarded book, and a story that intrigued me the first time around. You know what I'm thinking? I'm thinking, geez Scott, this sentence construction is a little pretentious. And man, you could never get away with this melodrama today. In short, now that I've gone through my jazz-age fascination, I have less patience. But other favorites -- and less revered works -- that I've reread have only gotten better as a repeat. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry for one. I could read that book once a year and still enjoy it. And yet one of my very best friends, a writing buddy, couldn't stand it. It's all just all so personal...
Yes, going back is always interesting. Maybe it means there's a favoirte for each time of your life. (I read Look Homeward Angel about 6 times.) It means something to you then, lasting, sometimes, but sometimes ephemeral. I had a lavender hot pants suit once, I loved it. It was my favorite. (I will pause now, for the general hilarity.) And when I think about it in that time--I still love it. (I will join in, now, with the general hilarity.)
BREAKING NEWS. (Hank couldn't resist.) Just to remind you all that the pub date for my first novel, PRIME TIME is Tuesday June 12! Reviewers say "it's a perfect comimbination of mystery and romance." Here's a fun photo of some of the (very wonderful) people who came to Book Expo America last week and actually stood in line to get a copy. (That's me in the black and white checks. The chic woman in the ice green jacket is the charming and indefatigible Anita Sultmanis from Harlequin, who kept everything working perfectly.)
And it makes me wonder--might PT someday be someone's favorite book? At least for as long as they loved their hot pants?
Anyway. I hope you like it.
And looking back at our opening quote--does anyone actually have a favorite pudding?