The Company You Keep
Since early spring, I’ve been keeping company with the work of some great writers. I began in early April by re-reading one of the great novels ever written (in my opinion)—Philip Roth’s Everyman. This meditation on aging and death was as rewarding the second time as it had been back when it was new. I chastised myself for not returning to it sooner, never guessing that Roth would die a little over a month later.
After that, it was back to another of my favorites, Larry McMurtry, to continue the Thalia series with Duane’s Depressed. This turned out to also be a meditation on aging and the meaning of life, and it was told with all the skill I’ve come to expect from this master storyteller. It was long, and took a while, but it was time so well spent.
Then came a surprise, a gift from a close friend, and it came in the form of nonfiction. I prefer fiction, but enjoy narrative nonfiction, and occasionally biography, and once in a great while, a book about writing. This was a book about life, about how each of us is born creative, with something to contribute that needs to get out, to bring us all closer to the world that God intended. I was astounded at the clarity of the message, and the writing, by Stephen Pressfield. The book is The War Of Art, and I can’t recommend it highly enough for everyone. It is short and quick and brilliant.
Last was a thriller, a break from my usual fare, a fun read that turned out to be a great pleasure for the writing as well as the story. It was my introduction to Peter Swanson, a writer that I’ll be happy to visit again. The story was exciting, and as usual, I didn’t guess the outcome.
And now, it’s back to Roth, in tribute to his gift that he left us. I’m reading his first novel, Goodbye Columbus, and his genius is there, perhaps not fully developed, but it’s there in a great story that introduced him to the world.
I’m not sure it needs to be books, but stories are good for our souls, whether in the form of movies, or plays, or music, or paintings. Like meditation, it only takes a few minutes each day, but do yourself a favor and spend the time with some great stories.
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