07 January 2011

Why I Read Literature

Literary Blog Hop

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.  


  1. Like yourself I've always read, have absolutely no idea when i first picked up a book, or when I first learnt to read. I'm guessing I learnt to read the same I learnt to breathe, I had to!.

  2. hi -I stopped by via the literary blog hop-I am now very happy to be a new follower of your blog!

  3. I can almost remember reading my first word. It was on a cereal box and it was a guess...a lucky guess! A lucky guess that sent me off in search of more words that I could figure out....still doing that today....

    Here is my post for the Blog Hop.

  4. Question-I just read my very first work by Eudora Welty ("Why I live at the P. 0.)- should I just jump in an read all 41 of her stories or are there a few great ones only?

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  6. thanks for your response-you are right in that just because a writer is a Mark Twain expert does not mean he is an authority on all aspects of Grammar- I did look at a dozen places and all used the expression "Twain"-of course all could be wrong and usage over time does change and I admit I am the last person to claim authority on grammer and thank you sincerely for your comments-

  7. I always LOVE dropping by here and catching up with you.

    I wish that your bookstore was in my neighborhood. I would be in there every week for your input. Oh, well, luckily I do have the Maine Coast Bookshop in Damariscotta, Maine and they love and know books.

    I grew up on Jane Eyre, Chronicles of Narnia, Wuthering Heights, etc. I was lucky to get a paper foundation laid under my body by my Grandmother who was a teacher. She loved literature and infected me with her passion.

    Now, off to read The Sound a Wild Snail Eating. Another GREAT Algonquin book I can't live without.

    Paper dreams for you,

    Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

  8. just for sake of being interested and perhaps learning something-I checked to see how Professors from Yale, Harvard and Oxford refer to George Eliot and George Sand-all follow the usage of referring to them by their their assumed sur name-I am no expert on grammar for sure and perhaps there was a time when you were correct but I do not see the rule you mentioned being observed by anyone-

  9. I love the way you talk about your lifelong love of literature. I think I would have been that way -- but life got in the way, and I lost my love of literature. It's back now. Reading really does sustain me, and remind me that I'm not alone. (Not in a sad way, but in an uplifting way.) History! Is there in the pages, speaking back to me. So many people and ideas. It's humbling and magical. :-)

    PS - Georgia rocks Mississippi's socks. ;-)


Please, sir, may I have some more? (Comments, that is!)