On Other People’s Books
Sometimes – often – I read books that are less than. Less than the work I’ve produced. And I feel a kind of uplift, a soaring hope that if this tepid tea got published, so could I! Of course, at first I’m filled with scorn and a general dismay for the State of Publishing, a train of thought that’s not terribly nice or productive. Sometimes I think it’s better for my morale to read these kinds of books. But it’s not as satisfying as something like Paul Murray’s Skippy Dies.
I just finished Skippy Dies. Sigh. It was beautiful. I can’t explain it. It was all-consuming and sad and funny and all of my explanation sounds like weak sauce. Just read it. You have to read it to know.
If you traffic in words, you have to read. I can’t see any way around it. It’s the easiest way to learn and to get inspiration. But more than that, why wouldn’t you? I suppose you could be an artist who shuts her eyes to the entire world, too, but why would you do that? Why wouldn’t you want to roll in the nutritious, delightful mud of stories all the time? Why would you starve yourself amid such a banquet? Why not let others’ efforts jumpstart your own?
THERE’S SO MUCH GOOD STUFF OUT THERE!
IT MAKES ME DIZZY TO CONSIDER – ALL THE BOOKS I WANT TO READ!
I am jealous of Skippy Dies. Of Paul Murray. His ideas so big and lofty, delivered so earthily through his band of teenaged boys who talk about dick size and condoms and donuts. This is a kind of book that makes me want to set my own writing on fire and just become a dishwasher at Appleby’s.
I read a book like Skippy Dies – or The Knife of Never Letting Go, or Paper Towns, or Jellicoe Road – and I want to be a better person. A better woman. A better writer. Yes, I’m filled with scrawny, shameful thoughts about how shitty I am in comparison (what else is new?) But I’m also renewed with a mission – to be better. To pull that betterness out of myself.