Stephen King’s On Writing is delightful and my favorite Stephen King book. Even when I don’t care for his work, I respect his ability to tell a story and make a lot of money, and make many people uncomfortably happy. But the parts actually about writing, minus the whining about critics and the heavy handed “you must do this” bits, are hard to argue with and fun to read. After reading several good authors who started as high school English teachers, I’m beginning to wish I could rewind to college, go down that route till I was disenchanted, then take the Publishing World By Storm! The best parts of the book are the Writing Tools and the recounting of the roadside accident where someone who could have been a character from one of his novels almost kills him. There’s also a lengthy memoir section that has good moments.
(Parenthetical editorial note–the more I write, the more I appreciate pragmatic advice and the less time I have for advice on getting in touch with one’s writerly feelings–which, I think stops most people in the land of the informal essay and meta-discussions about writing. Le Guin’s Steering the Craft is another favorite–she’s very disciplined and the exercises are difficult and helpful.)
Formidable CJ Cherryh’s Foreigner series has become another fiction favorite. Over the holiday break, I gave in to the insistence of an old friend, read the first two and have the third in the background (they are currently a 12 book series about the same main character, in four connected trilogies. So far, it seems almost as good as Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey and Maturin series I’m so damned fond of, although his human characters were easier to like out of the box. (Were they all human, aside from flora and fauna samples–maybe.)
I am avoiding reading anything that will also steer me off course with this current writing work on Balrogs and the derivative short pieces that I’m currently focused on, which I hope to pass on to second draft review friends soon. (Thankfully, Cherryh, for all her superpowers, did not distract.) With a tsumani-like post-Christmas nasal congestion flooding my head this past weekend, I spent most of my time reading another rec (my reading picks often rely on the kindness of friends), Sandman Slim, a hardboiled neo noir urban fantasy about a guy who comes back alive from Hell (after 11 years as a human gladiator) to play a little pickup ball with the heads of the Circle who sent him there. I love good hardboiled work that knows how to use the language and tell a story well, even if most of it feels familiar. Slim is like Charlie Huston’s gritty Already Dead, only, I think, grittier and a bit more high flying (read, show-offy) in its language and perhaps not as smooth in plotting. William Gibson called it a sweet dirty-ass masterpiece. Exactly my kind of downtime reading. There are inconsistencies–there are also inconsistencies and disappearing characters in Raymond Chandler’s beautiful work, but that doesn’t stop me from staying on the main road and enjoying the story.