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Long/Lost Loves

I’m sort of nibbling through this four-volume set of Paris Review interviews, a Christmas gift from my sister–a few pages while I wait for water to boil, a few more when I’m making a lesson plan, etc. One of the biggest things I miss about living in NYC is subway-reading, and these interviews would be great such material. Anyway, when asked “What writers have influenced you the most?”, Truman Capote answers that he’s “never been aware of direct literary influence,” and instead talks about his literary “enthusiasms”:

“Between thirteen and sixteen are the ideal if not the only ages for succumbing to Thomas Wolfe–he seemed to me a great genius then, and still does, though I can’t read a line of it now. Just as other youthful flames have guttered: Poe, Dickens, Stevenson. I love them in memory, but find them unreadable. “

He goes on to cite Flaubert, Chekhov, Forster, Proust, and a few others as being his “constant[s].”

I’m wondering: who are the writers that you love in memory, but now find unreadable? I have a feeling that my list may be quite long.

25 thoughts on “Long/Lost Loves

  1. That’s a nice bunch of constants. And yet, I’m no fan of Capote.

    I think it’s very normal and healthy to grow away from things you loved in your youth. To change in every way as we age is important and perhaps somewhat unavoidable. But just as great is finding people who hold up. I was worried Jean Rhys wouldn’t- but she did.

    Not that I’ve tried recently, but I think Herman Hesse didn’t hold up for me. And -I know this is near blasphemy- but I tried to reread Faulkner and it didn’t work. Lorrie Moore doesn’t interest me anymore- she once did, very much so.

    1. The idea of something still being beloved but of our past and no longer relevant is good stuff. I lived for Andy Gibb when I was 10. But I don’t listen to him now. It’s all good. Here’s something wierd- in my early teens I read everything Toni Morrison wrote-Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, The Bluest Eye- (this was before Beloved)- then loved Beloved in college, reread it in grad school, still loved it. But I did not like Jazz nor Paradise and now- I’m afraid to go back. Has she, like Faulkner, become unreadable to me? It makes me sad just thinking about it. Like losing an old friend.

      1. That’s a good point: I totally refuse to go back to authors too, for fear I wouldn’t like them. A few years ago I picked up New York Trilogy, for example, and after reading a couple pages, sensed that my opinion of the book would be damaged by continued reading. I promptly put it down. That book really made me happy when I was 16. I don’t want to lose that.

      2. Paradise was my favorite, but I’m a big weirdo, I think. I loved its multiple voices, complex web of characters and relationships, near-biblical scope and its focus on hierarchies and violence within and between marginalized communities, which is the shit I most care about when I’m not reading and writing.

        I haven’t gone back yet to read any of the folks I loved before I began reading more seriously as an adult person who writes. I read now far more attuned to language and form. Like Paula, I’m uncertain what I will find when I go back, if I will still find folks readable, although I believe I will still appreciate many of these.

        My list would include —
        the aforementioned Morrison
        The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
        The Grapes of Wrath
        Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
        The World According to Garp by John Irving

  2. Beckett. And I know he is great. But I think I read so much I just can’t anymore. I can’t even say, I can’t on, I’ll go on.

    Rick Moody.

    On the film side – Scorsese.

        1. I have not read any of her novels. I read Birds of America. I find her pleasures really… temporally bound? I remember being completely thrilled as I was reading, but the longterm imprint or reside is entirely nonexistent.

          1. Yeah, a few of the stories are great. A few are – ok. So what stories do you remember? Which keep coming back, even if you haven’t re-read them?

            For me I would say The Furnance by Lydia Davis. Progress of Love by Alice Munro. Pet by Unferth. The Bishop by Chekhov.

  3. I still like everything I read when I was a kid, I just like it different now.

    I adored Larry Hama’s G.I. JOE comics when I was ten. I thought they were the best things ever written—so Byzantine, so mysterious, so exciting (in a Hemingway/romantic sense). Even though I despised violence! But his G.I. Joe had little to do with actual /violence/, and much more to do with fetishizing sleek weapons (which were used as fashion accessories). And with lavishing attention on costumes and codenames, and exotic locations. And wearing masks. And having troubled pasts (and hideously scarred faces). And with being a ninja and able to scale walls effortlessly, silently…

    I still appreciate that comic for all of those things. Its limitations are also its strengths.

    Meanwhile, Hama’s NTH MAN: THE ULTIMATE NINJA remains the AS I LAY DYING of the comics medium.

    That all said, I haven’t had the courage to return to Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s DRAGONLANCE novels.

      1. It is both!

        When Hollywood announced that silly movie adaptation, some of my friends asked me if I planned to go see it, and I said “NAY!” Because I knew it wouldn’t be G.I. JOE, not really.

        Because G.I. JOE = GAY FASHION PARADE. I should think that obvious to anyone:


        That’s the movie they should have made! And it should have been directed by a team comprised of Derek Jarman, Ken Russell, Jack Smith, Robert Wilson, and Matthew Barney.

          1. Well, I disagree, but I think the movie could be amazing. Someday I will make G.I.JOE: GAY FASHION PARADE!


            1. Hahaha.

              I wish GI Joe: Gay Fashion Parade could be a double-feature with my live-action Jem and the Holograms (which for the sake of this conversation I will subtitle thus: JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: WOMEN WITH VIBRANT POLYCHROMATIC HAIR AND CLOTHING HANG FROM HIGH LEDGES SCREAMING HELP! HELP!), which I will not have to completely retool consider Brittany Murphy won’t be alive to play the “nice Misfit” Stormer, which character would’ve been the focus of my screenplay.

  4. P.J. O’Rourke, because the state of political ambiguity I was in during my early 20s when I enjoyed his writing has since veered far leftward.

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