This week's Literary Blog Hop question, sponsored by The Blue Bookcase, leaves me a little baffled how to answer it: How did you find your way to reading literary fiction and nonfiction?
Because I'm just not sure. As I mention immediately below for the other blog hop, I've been an active reader from an extremely young age and there has never been a time in my life where reading wasn't a priority for me: I read to learn, to dream, to seek new worlds, and to escape my own world. To quote a character from the film adaptation of C. S. Lewis's life, I read to know I was not alone.
When I was younger, my mother would do her her best to weed out the "crap", so anything that would smack of being too much like The Clique books or the Gossip Girls would have been out. (I was naturally more drawn to The Chronicles of Narnia and Jane Eyre than I was to the Judy Blume books or Sweet Valley High books anyway. And reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time in high school was a revelation--literature could be funny!) In college I majored in English and religious studies so that I could read as much as possible--got a great grounding in the classics there as well as the literature of my newly-adopted state of Mississippi (and if you think there's another state in the union with a richer literary tradition from the 20th century, I'll arm wrestle you 'til you see the error of your ways!). After college, it was two years pursuing a master's degree, again in English. And since that time, I've been working in the book world, either as a bookseller or a publisher's sales rep, so I'm fortunate that any book that I think I might like, I can call up my sales reps and ask for a comp copy.
Admittedly, I read beyond my preferred areas for work: I have to be able to speak to customers about the latest thrillers, the more commercial books that fill the NYT Bestseller lists, the newest gardening book that's all the rage, and newest in the "lite" or "relationship fiction" categories. But modern literary fiction, particularly those novels that speak to the Southern, Caribbean, or African experience, are the books that fill and sustain me, and my passion shines through when I talk about them. Authors like Edwidge Danticat, Abraham Verghese, Zadie Smith, Barbara Kingsolver, A. S. Byatt, Jamaica Kincaid, Thrity Umrigar (and others too many to name) are the authors populating my shelves. Or to put another way, the ones I'm most likely to go out and spend my own money on instead of getting them for free.
|Eudora Welty, arguably America's greatest short|
story writer of the 20th century. A fabulous
writer from Mississippi.