Don’t Judge an Author by the Books on the shelf (or lack thereof)

First off, thank you all for your kind words in regard to my last post.  I am still in shock as are hundreds of others whose life he touched.  The world will be short one wonderful man.  As sad as it is to say, the world still turns, bills are still due, and life goes on.  That is the saddest part of all … the world does not stop turning, because you decided to jump off.  So, to try and get back into the groove of things I have to start back up where I left off.

A few days ago I was told that I must love to read since I am a writer.  She asked if I read the classics, “For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and Frankenstein … things of that sort.”  I had to confess that other than whatever classics I was forced to read in school, I had not read many classics.  I admit, I tried my hand at Grapes of Wrath.  I gave a go at  War and Peace.  And skimmed through The Great Gatsby.  However, I am very, very unversed in the literary classics.  My first love was George Romero, then I read Stephen King, and was amazed by the madness of Poe.  You can see where my teen years were spent, but back then I was writing bizarre scifi stuff.  I spent my twenties raising kids and rarely read a book.  It was Nicholas Sparks’, “A Walk to Remember,” that brought me back into reading years ago.  Since then I’ve followed Patterson, Palahniuk, and cried at Marley and Me, and have enjoyed picking up books from first time writers.

So this person tells me that all the great writers have studied the classics, and I’m wondering how this person would know that.  Has this person studied on the life of great writers? And what constitutes a great writer? Is that her opinion of a great writer, a critic’s opinions, or the was there some Gallop Poll that I missed? My opinion of great classics are, “The Glass Menagerie, The Pearl, The Red Pony, and MacBeth.” Those are my humble opinions and would never push those on anybody else.  Opinions are free and freely given, but don’t necessarily mean it is the consensus of the masses.  How can someone make presumptions as to what makes a great writer? Do you have to have conflict with home? DId you have to be abused as a child? Must you be in constant conflict? A drunk? Divorced? Neurotic? Is she insinuating that a person who has lived a charmed life (not me) is unworthy of achieving greatness?  Should I give up on my dreams at the simpleton notions of someone not even in the literary field? Should I bury my head in the sand if a critic says I suck?

I guess the only real question to be answered is: am I a real writer worthy of greatness.  Of course.  But what constitutes greatness is a matter of opinion, just like what comprises a great writer.  My idea of greatness already occurred when an editor nominated me for an award, but more so than that it came when that person said he felt what I was saying was important, and that I had something to say that needed to be heard.  Still, more so, I felt greatness when I put the final period on my first book.  To complete, “When I Thought I Was Tough,” was the greatest moment of my life.  Yes, yes, giving birth to my kids was great.  Graduating nursing school was great.  But this is a different kind of accomplishment.  A feeling of self-worth to finish something I held so dear to my heart.  Something I did for me.  It was a feeling of pride.  Those who have put that last period on their novel knows what I mean, for those who haven’t gotten there yet, I can’t wait for you to know how I feel.  It’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  It’s the happy feeling when you see a shooting star.  I don’t think a person can be judged on who they read, or what their past held … a book can not be judged by its cover, or by its origins, it can only be judged by the contents.  If you want to judge me, then first know me … but don’t ask my family … they are just plain weird! And don’t judge me by the books on my shelf, or the books that aren’t there.  And by the way, I do own the classics, I just haven’t read them.

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4 responses to “Don’t Judge an Author by the Books on the shelf (or lack thereof)

  1. Oh so true…very well said…
    Hemingway once said: and don’t shoot me for paraphrasing;

    “writers have to have had a terrible childhood, or, at least think they did”…
    I personally believe the greatest of writers are those who have, as you’ve said completed a…

    So , there I was…

    You are a great writer…cause…you write…and that’s what writers do…
    Keep up the wonderful work..

  2. I agree. The words inside the book are what you should be judged by. I have a number of the classics but haven’t read many of them. I’ve just read The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde and it was hard work. I’m not sure what it told me that would improve my writing as it is from a different age.

    I do agree that you need to read as much as you can and that it will help your writing, but pick the books that interest you more. Otherwise you’re not going to enjoy the reading experience.

    Happy writing 🙂

    • i agree. i love reading, mostly to see other styles these days…but also to scope out the competition. its a learning experience either way. Besides, who did those classic authors read to make them so great? Aristotle?

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