Monday, June 6, 2011

Favorite Authors

When we arrived for the wedding reception on Saturday, we were told that our table was "Bronte". One of the many creative touches set up by Justine and Joe was to name the tables after their favorite authors. That's not all: instead of some wasteful "party favor": in front of each of over a hundred guests was a paperback book to take away: mine was Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five". I had read this brilliant anti-war novel years ago, but we didn't have a copy at home.

This put me in a reminiscent mood. Over the years there has always been at least one author whose every book I have greedily reached for when available. I suppose that after my sister taught me to read at the age of four I began with Beatrix Potter, but soon I graduated to Thornton W. Burgess, a Canadian writer of children's books about wild animals. I think I had begun to enjoy the works of Arthur Ransome about children who camped out near the lake district, the first in the series being "Swallows and Amazons". These stories were based on real families he knew. For humorous reading, there were the "William" books by Richmal Crompton.

At my British-style boarding prep school (ages 8 to 13), I soon found the adventure stories of Percy F. Westerman, and read all those in the school library. At about this time I discovered John Buchan, thanks to an inspiring math teacher, who read "The Thirty-Nine Steps" to us in class after our exams were over, and finished it out of school hours. I then took hold of all the "Saint" books by Leslie Charteris I could find. They were formulaic, and I enjoyed the relationship between Simon Templar (the "Saint") and "Pat", with whom he cohabited but did not marry.

Soon I moved on to the works of Graham Greene, whose two suppressed youthful works I managed to read, years later, knowing that they had to have been in the Bodleian collection at Oxford. Then I discovered Evelyn Waugh, and read every one of his published works. I also read every one of Jane Austen's works while at Oxford--much more entertaining than "Beowulf".

As time passed, I began reading all Patrick O'Brian's great Naval adventures. John Le Carré attended Lincoln College, Oxford, a few years after my time there, and I have read every one of his books. I have read almost all of Anthony Trollope's works. I read all of Laurie R. King's books, and look forward to her future writings.

Sometimes I have used Recorded Books: the abilities of most of their readers make the printed word come alive. For many years, I have enjoyed the "Scarpetta" novels of Patricia Cornwell, about a woman forensic pathologist, although I was disappointed by her latest, "Port Mortuary".

There you have it: fifteen gifted writers of all sorts, who have given me enormous pleasure over the past eighty years. I have enjoyed many other works, but I have limited this list to writers whose every word has drawn me into reading. I encourage any persons reading this to send me their own list of favorite authors.

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