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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Who Are Your Writerly Crushes?

Writerly crushes, huh? This is an interesting question because my reading is so all over the place. And truth is, I have a lot of writerly crushes because in every book I love, I find something to admire about the writer.

However, in narrowing things down, the one that immediately came to mind is Anne Rivers Siddons. Specifically her first novel, Heartbreak Hotel.

That cover is what it looked like when I discovered it, hidden in the bowels of my high school library. I've since worn through about six different copies. I love this book and the way that Siddons writes in it, because it's so lush and alive. She brings to life within the first three pages a very specific type of heroine, that could have only existed in that place, at that time (being a college town in Alabama in 1956). It's very much a coming-of-age story, where Maggie, the heroine, learns about herself over the course of one summer, within the context of the bigger events surrounding her and what has always transported me into that world is the beauty and lushness of Siddons' language and cadences. (Yeah, I sound more than a little lovestruck, don't I?)

Another one of my writerly crushes is screenwriter Richard Curtis (Four Weddings & a Funeral, Notting Hill, Love Actually).

Even though the ending of Four Weddings completely annoyed me (I've long suspected that some American woman did bad things to him at some point, because he's not very kind in his portrayals of them, all the way back to his adaptation of Bridget Jones's Diary.) the reason I love him as a writer is because he's not afraid to make the hard choices and take the easy way out in every story he tells. He gets all of the nuances of love and humanity and isn't afraid to let his characters make mistakes. Big ones. That they can't always recover from. That's the sort of emotion I try to infuse my work with. It's a work in progress.

One more crush I should mention is Barbara O'Neal/Barbara Samuel.

And not just because she's got a great first name. She has such a beautiful command of her craft, both strong and ethereal, which is really quite a trick, when you think about it. Her lush, evocative use of language just makes me want to go back and practice until I Get it Right.

Oh, and because I wouldn't be me without mentioning some musicians, I love the stories that Sting and Mary Chapin Carpenter tell within the context of their songs. In four minutes, they can spin epics. I could go on forever, but I'll leave you with just one example from Chapin's latest CD, The Age of Miracles.

She has a song, "Mrs. Hemingway," that's an imagining of the story of the love affair between Ernest and his first wife, Hadley (about whom not much is known, comparatively speaking).

Two steamer trunks in the carriage
Safe arrival we cabled back home
It was just a few days before Christmas
We filled our stockings with wishes
And walked for hours
Arm in arm through the rain, to the glassed-in café
It held us like hothouse flowers

Just right there, in those few lines, she's drawn this lovely, poignant, vivid picture. I wish I could find a link to a recording, but there don't seem to be any, because the music really adds to the ambience-- just a lovely, gentle waltz that speaks to another time.

Okay, I'll quit waxing rhapsodic now and let someone else have a shot.


Eileen said...

Hmm. Lately, I think it's Lisa Gardner. Every book I read by her gets better. Characterization gets more focused and realistic and, often, heart rending. Plot gets tighter. Pacing gets faster. Dialogue is always witty and smart. Setting is so specific and evocative. I want to be that good.

Kathy Charles said...

Heartbreak Hotel sounds right up my alley. I'll have to track it down.

Barbara Caridad Ferrer said...

You know, Eileen, Lisa's not one I've read, although i think my sister loves her. I suspect with two women I adore recommending her, I need to pick one up.

Kathy, it should be easy enough to find-- they did a pretty big rerelease of all of her backlist a couple of years ago. And it really is a fabulous novel. Avoid at all costs, however, the film adaptation, given the unfortunate title "Heart of Dixie." It was TERRIBLE-- actually, it's the perfect example of a book to film adaptation gone horrible wrong. *shudder*

Barbara Caridad Ferrer said...



Not enough coffee today.

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

I'm also intrigued by Heartbreak Hotel and am off to track it down!