Rescue Me, Literature!

Ask anyone; I am notorious for administering active euthanasia on a weekly basis.

Oh, gosh, no! On books! Not people.

As far as I can remember, it’s always been this way. I’m terribly fastidious — about everything. Usually, I put on hold an amount of no less than three books; that way, when one is a stinker, I can move right into the next. Lately, though, this hasn’t been working so well. Last week, I was thrilled to see the “pick up” notification pop into my inbox. When Dear Michael arrived home from the library with two freshly unread books tucked into the crook of his arm, I got that feeling. You know the one I speak of, yes? Magic. That all over tingling sensation at the anticipation of potential greatness and inspirational prose. The deep pull in the pit of your stomach as you lift the binding to your nostrils and breathe deeply, hoping, praying, that what’s printed inside speaks to your heart and soul, but if not both, let it be at least one, please! Please!

It didn’t happen.

I tried. Really, I did. I forced myself to read three chapters (Normally the quota is 100 pages.) and shifted uncomfortably the whole way through, like fire ants were infiltrating my breeches or something. When I could endure it no longer, it was with a lugubrious heart, I offered a silent and final goodbye as I laid the book to rest in the coffin, er . . . on the nightstand. R.I.P.

Though I hope it isn’t always so, there remains to be only two writers capable of holding my attention throughout an entire novel. Oddly enough, their writing styles couldn’t be more different. Or their genres, for that matter. One writes Historical Romance, the other Magical Realism; however, they both write with color; with a stunning array of textures and dimensions, with a prowess that makes me weep with celebration tears.

This, I say to myself, is how good I must be.

So, just who are these woefully wonderful writers? My ardent love is split equally between the non-quantifiable talents of Mrs. Diana Gabaldon, and the story-weaver provocateur Ms. Sarah Addison Allen.

~ Outlander

~ The Sugar Queen

Diana’s Outlander series has forever ruined reading for me. It is only my opinion, but before encountering her canonical works, never had I the pleasure of reading anything with such depth and devotion. I can say, without one iota uncertainty, that I know her characters better than I do a few member of my own flesh and blood. Every line is vivid, every description complete; sights, sounds, smells, tastes — she gives you all of them, copiously. Overwhelming at times, Diana imparts an arbitrary authorization that often times leaves you wanting to shout “Mercy!” for the sake of gallant Jamie’s viciously bruised body. When she’s not putting one of her characters into imminent danger, she is spellbinding you with an intimacy that leaves no desire unmet, no sensation unfelt. I do not mean this strictly in the lascivious sense; though, none is more qualified to curl your toes and send prickles roaming up your spine than Diana. I simply mean, she is candidly heartbreaking, opulently bestowing on you real, carnal emotions. She saves nothing for the imagination. I love this. This may come as a surprise, but I have a terrible imagination. And . . . you’re . . . a writer? Well, yes, but — reading and writing are not the same things. Anyway. My desire, purely as reader, is to be offered all seven courses at once. Lay it on me. I don’t want to have to squinch my eyes and search out the description in my sleep-fogged state. Thrill me, woo me, and sate me. I don’t want to work for it.

Have you read anything of hers? If so, I would love to hear your opinions.

Now Sarah is less flamboyant and overt in her strategies for captivating an audience; she comes at you at angle not quite familiar. You almost want to hold the book a few inches away and read askance until you can be sure she’s not about to do something horrible in one devastating line. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that lines such as “And then he died.” are frequent patrons in her books. “Wha? . . .” You kinda sit there and goggle stupidly before deciding you’ll keep reading even if you are angry incredibly cross with her. At times, Sarah gets to the point rather quickly; however, she somehow manages to enchant you with the simple but uniquely whimsical details. Other times, she drops a bit of clue here, a dollop of hint there, all to come together blissfully at the end of the story. Every one of her characters has “a thing”. I can describe it no better than that. You’ll just have to read and see what I mean.

I know I’ve enjoyed myself when, after completing a book, I delay in moving for a moment, wanting to prolong the ephemeral content for as long as possible. All too soon, I know that I must emerge from the bathwater gone tepid, with only the hope that another skin prickling submersion into decadence will take place soon.

I adore these women, and even though I purposely buy and don’t read their work until I’m so desperate for something that moves me, I know eventually I will run out of fresh stories to read.

Here is my request: what are your favorite fiction books? Favorite authors? Have you ever been so utterly engrossed in a story, transported to a place where the people are as real as raindrops, and you’re positively mournful when you must say goodbye to these fictional characters? This is the book I want to read.

Have a great day, everyone!

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68 thoughts on “Rescue Me, Literature!

  1. Sarah Addison Allen…….went through her books in about four days while on vacation in Florida..when I finished, I couldn’t describe what it was about them that had captivated me…My “go to book” when looking for something relaxing? Agatha Christie’s “They came to Baghdad”. 🙂

  2. I’m afraid I haven’t been reading much lately. I picked up a book at the library the other day and couldn’t get past the first few chapters. Disappointing, because I was in the mood for a good read. I will try these authors you love. 🙂

  3. Charles DeLint if you like Urban Fantasy. His Newford stories make me want to live there, lounge around in Jilley Coppercorns messy studio, or go listen to Geordie and other pipe and flute players at a gig, or go run with the Crow Girls, or hang out with the…faeries?..at the junkyard, or…yeah. You see what I mean. 😉

    For humor, Spider Robinson or Terry Pratchet. Spider writes books about people. Real people, in unique situations, and places and things you -=wish=- existed in the
    “real” world.

    Pratchett…well, he’s Terry Pratchett. His incisive word play and ability to take any subject and turn it on it’s head…and tickle it…and you…makes him a great writer.

    • Wow! Thank you, KC. Such a extensive selection you’ve chronicled! So many possibilities. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I have not heard of a single of these authors. I am terribly sheltered reader, with ridiculously picky taste.

      • Well then, I hope you like them. If you do, you have a wonderful experience in front of you, as all of them have quite a few books out… 😉 You can check google or amazon for reviews and excerpts, so you can see if you like them before you buy/library them.

        KC/KS

        KC

  4. You know the kinds of books that keep me up all night…that was a recent Friday Five I wrote! I’ve been in much the same boat lately. I’ve picked up so many books in the last month only to put them down again. Some are good books, great books even, books I know that given another chance at another time I would dive into with both feet. But somehow…they’re just not doing it for me right now. If you find anything to get you out of your reading slump, I wanna know.

    I just started re-reading Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I’ve read it twice, and every time I do I get super inspired and swear that I will ONLY COOK SEASONALLY from now on. Hit farmers’ markets, plan meals according to what’s growing instead of what sounds good…and that resolution usually lasts until the autumn squash give way to the nothing that grows in winter. Still, it’s a great book to get excited for the awakening of spring and ready for the bounty of fruit and veg that is summer, and as a tried and true I’m hoping it’ll get me out of my reading slump.

  5. So Cara,
    If you had to pick one book for me to read of your faves, what would it be? I am a classics guy and non-fiction for the most part. You can check my Goodreads if you like (although I have only noted a fraction of my faves). What of your inspirations is going to set me off as well? I will get the book immediately whatever you suggest.
    M

    • Oh, boy, Michael. You know, I will have to think on that. I am not sure how similar our tastes are regarding literature. And like I said in my post, I am incapable of finishing anything that isn’t written by the two women I lauded in the post. I am hoping for some great references in response to this request, and should they prove fruitful, I will be sure to pass them along!

      Okay, I’m confused. Are you traveling yet? I didn’t think you would be blogging much while you were on this “working” vacation. How are you enjoying yourselves so far?

      • We are still in Colorado. I will be putting out another call Friday for guest bloggers to fill my pages much like Rich did today while we are in Italy – May 8-31. I am now going to open it up to my favorite writers (you of course being 1 of them) and hope that it will be a big hit for everyone 🙂
        As for the book, I want to know which book (besides the Good Book) has shaped your style, passion, and goals as a writer the most. This can be something you read 20 years ago. If you were to ask me I would say Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast” this does not have to be something you think I will like so much as something that altered the fabric of your existence

      • Got it. I think I was confused by a comment left by Rich; something to the effect of traveling around Europe. I had thought you mentioned the trip being in May, but thought perhaps I was mistaken. Anyway . . . I’m sure the countdown has begun! Oh, goodness, that is just too much pressure!

        Well, twenty years ago I was probably reading Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree”. Have you read this one? The book which has shaped my writer’s soul? “Outlander” It taught me that it was possible to write as big as I can dream. To me, there exits no writing more beautiful.

      • He writes a great many things. You will like him. “The Giving Tree” is a short children’s book, and its story heart-melting. You might want to see if you can find something more comprehensive — a collection of works, maybe.

  6. Yes yes yes, Mike-sama! Shel Silverstein is awesome! Simple, funny, and deep deep deep in some. Where the Sidewalk Ends for example. The poem, not the book titled that. 😉 One of my favorite of the silly ones:

    “There’s too many kids in this tub
    there’s too many elbows to scrub
    I just washed a behind that I know wasn’t mine…
    there’s too many kids in this tub!”

    And all of them accented with his awesome illustrations. Simple line-art drawings, but perfect tor the poems! I highly recommend the two collections, “A light in the attic” and “Where the sidewalk ends”… ;

    KC/KS

  7. there’s nothing wrong with giving up on a book as long as you’ve given it a fair shot. 100 pages? okay, that’s fair. what’s weird about my reading habits is that my favorite author is also my least favorite.

    i read more stephen king than any other author, but i really don’t like his stories. well, not his novels. the stories don’t hold together well, and almost every ending is contrived and convenient and sometimes laughable.

    however, his short stories are usually brilliant. his sentences are terrific. his characters are alive. his descriptions don’t go overboard. he trusts the reader to figure things out themselves instead of him having to spell everything out for them. he allows you to fill in your own blanks. even if i don’t like the ending, i still seem to enjoy reading the words he puts together. can’t explain it, but it works.

    i used to read john grisham until he started writing the same thing over and over and over. i haven’t read much of mark twain, but i’ve been told i need to start.

    • LOL — Rich, that is strange, but no less strange than the many of us who eat foods we know might upset our stomachs or disrupt our bowels. There is something, even if it’s small and insignificant, that we enjoy about the process, and subsequently continue to partake in the activity.

      I have never read Stephen King, but I think I am going to give him a try . . . Obviously he has had success, judging by his strong following. I do know what you mean about everything wrapping up in a neat, tidy little bow. I happen to like that, though. Enteral optimist, here. 🙂

      Yes, I can see you being one of those readers who enjoys working for the answers, not being given the whole enchilada at once or being patronized by weak mystery. I am the opposite — call it my lack of imagination or what not, but I enjoy an author who can, with finesse, strong imagery, and prose, do the work for me.

      Ooo. Mark Twain, yes. I have heard similar things. I think I will add one of his stories to my pile of “to read”.

    • I hope you might give one of the authors I mentioned a shot to blow your socks off 🙂

      Well, my biggest fan — my Husband 🙂 — would agree with you, but the jury’s still out if the mass at large will espouse similar opinions. Either way, I thank you for the blessing of a gratuitous accolade. I toil and labor over the synopsis as we speak!

      Take care, friend!

      • Good your husband is a supporter, I think he sees what talent you have and you will soon have others reviewing your work I am very sure. I would love to give one of the authors a read, but I am slightly dyslexic and reading needs much more of my attention. So, in winter, when work slows a bit, I slink into a comfy chair by the fire with a good book. I will keep your post in mind. And maybe, I will be reading something of yours by then.

      • That sounds like a wonderful idea. Reading should feel like a short, blissful vacation, not arduous labor. I hope that time comes for you soon.

        Thank you for such kind words. They have given me a smile to go about my day with. I could hope for nothing more than what it is you’e said.

        Wishing you a lovely, lovely day. 🙂

  8. Your post is so welcoming and cozy….and inspiring! I haven’t been reading much lately because there never seems to be enough time. Curling up with a book is such a luxury these days. I do love historical novels and mysteries! I went through the Donna Leon mystery series set in Venice as fast as I could as I could get my hands on them. It’s fun to read books set in exotic locations where I’ve actually had the chance to visit. I am going to check out some of your recommendations, the Sarah Addison Allen books sound appealing.

    Also, my motto about starting a new book is, if you’re not feeling it…stop reading it!

    Hope you are having a wonderful evening!

    elisa
    🙂

    • I am so glad you feel warm and cozy when you visit! That is just how I would want you to feel if you were to come over to my home. Kick up your feet, wrap your hands around a steaming mug of jasmine tea — or perhaps cinnamon apple? — and drape your shoulders with a chenille throw. 🙂

      Donna Leon . . . I have not heard of her; I’ll put this on my Goodreads. While I doubt I will ever visit the likes of Venice, this is even more reason to read book in which the setting takes place somewhere exotic and foreign. I need culture!

      Yes, definitely check her out! I can vouch for both The Sugar Queen and Garden Spells being wonderful reads!

      You are right, and this is my motto, too, for the most part. I guess, well . . . as a writer, I would be disheartened if my novel wasn’t given a fair chance to get started. There are some books, and these can end up being amazing stories, that are slow burns; you have to stick with them and fall in love with the characters slowly. So, I think this is why I try to give a book my all before deeming it a chore to read.

      Have a wonderful day, Elisa!!

  9. Nothing like getting lost in a good book! Thanks for the suggestions. They both sound good to me!

    I really enjoyed Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth, A World Without End, and Fall of Giants. Couldn’t put those down. I also really enjoyed the Other Boleyn Girl by Phillippa Gregory. Hated the movie, but loved the book.

    Another favorite writer is that talented Cara Olsen! Love her work!

    Happy Survivor Night!
    Beth

    • Thank you for the suggestions, Beth. I’m heading over to Goodreads to add these! Ugh, yes . . . The movie (The Other Boleyn Girl) was dreadful. I adore Natalie Portman, but that film left my stomach writhing.

      Made me smile with that last bit. Thank you, sweet friend. 🙂

      Hope you enjoyed Survivor! We were up to our knees in popcorn and American Idol!

      Xoxo

  10. I’ll tell you one thing: I haven’t even picked up a book since I began this blogging. I’m being swamped by words. Eyes glazing (yes, literally) by the end of the day from reading, reading … Climb into bed, a book is the last thing on my mind – just to close those eyes is all I crave. Perhaps the problem is computer screens? Perhaps I should throw them away and select myself a beautiful new book, crisp pages full of sparkling prose that transports me to another world, another’s life. Umm… Something exotic, I think. A trip to ‘Barefoot’ seems to be in order.

    • I do know what you mean; however, reading and writing remain to be vastly different experiences for me. The one, stimulates and exhausts, the other, relaxes and soothes. My mind is a pinwheel; constantly spinning in wind of thought. If I don’t force it to focus on something, I am liable to be awake until the sun comes up.

      Barefoot – is that a book store?

      • Reading relaxes and soothes? Oh Cara, I think I’d fall asleep! But I agree about finding the balance between input and output of creative energies – I look to achieve something like that one day …
        Barefoot? A creative place – hand loomed fabrics, crafts shop, cafe, bookshop, art gallery. My go to place for books – they strive to achieve a balance between ‘literature’ and popular fiction/non fiction.

      • For one such as me — an insomniac — “to fall asleep” is ALWAYS the goal 🙂 But, yes, I see what you mean.

        Barefoot sounds like a fabulous place to lose hours on end. 🙂

      • Oh, Cara, insomnia – poor you. My mother also, was an insomniac, so I know a little of your predicament, and guess you do a lot of your reading when the rest of us are sleeping. You’d adore Barefoot – well I do. If I’d had myself together 30 or 40 years ago, that’s what I should have done, set up a shop full of the things that feed the soul, but books mostly. Now bookstores seem to be a dying concept, which perhaps is why Barefoot is such a Mecca for us expats yearning for good writing in English.

      • Thank you for the condolences. Yes, it can be quite a despondent time, not sleeping when the rest of the world seems to do it so easily. For 10 years I had to medicate to reach even minimal hours each night. But with the strength and support of my husband, Michael, and through the Power and Grace of God, I was able to wean myself off, and am sleeping well these days! 🙂 I have Great literature to thank, as well.

        Oh, I know just what you mean. It saddens me every time I drive past a privately owned book shop, to see that it’s gone “out of business”. We must do everything we can to keep sacred treasures such as Barefoot in business! We have a place near us called “The Bookman”. It’s a discount bookstore, and I just love perusing the aisles for hours, sniffing shelves, and sifting through the weathered papyrus paper. Then they say, “Mam, if you could not sniff the books, that’d be great, thanks.” 🙂

        Maybe you still can? Set up shop, surrounding yourself with all the things you love. Shouldn’t that be your home? 🙂

      • Ah, here’s the rest of your comment – you’re so lucky to have weaned yourself off the drugs, and the cycle of sleeplessness before it became too entrenched. I think poor Ma’s fate was sealed during the war. She was a cypher clerk with the navy and you can imagine the hours they worked, decoding those transmissions.
        Now Cara, it’s no good sniffing those old books – if you’re to support The Bookman you’ve got to buy something:) As to me setting up shop now – not enough money, honey. A life of travelling doesn’t allow for much accumulation – there has to be some quid pro quo – unless one is a whizz at investing, or something. Having said that, these days with the internet, one could – should – be working from one’s laptop wherever one travels to. Unlikely you’d become a millionaire, but if you got into something you liked to do, and did well,you’d conceivably make more than simply travelling money.

      • Oh, and I had meant to say, too, Poor You! Although the burden (problematic sleeping) is primarily ours, it is a shared burden, for sure. It can make us quite indifferent to the pain and suffering we’re inflicting on our loved ones, forced to bear with us through the rough patches. I’m sure you dealt with your fair share of “moments” after a night of mother’s restive sleep.

        Barefoot . . . They don’t have anything to do with the wine, do they? One of my husband’s favorite makers.

      • Only in the later years, when I was looking after them. That’s when I took to Sudoko – impossible to get any sleep when she was restive so I taught myself to become a champion! When I was young Papa was in charge of the mornings – I was indifferent, it was incomprehensible, and Papa was much more fun to be with:). Poor Ma … So, how do you manage it? Do you try to sleep, read quietly when it becomes intolerable, or rearrange your life around a nocturnal lifestyle?

    • I am so sorry, my friend, that it took this long to respond to your question. I am in the middle of doing exhaustive research and suffering through endless tedium of finalizing a synopsis. For the last few days, I have avoided the comp as much as possible, needing some time away from “the screen” and its insidious traps. 🙂

      To answer your questions, I manage very well actually. 🙂 Luckily — and I don’t think if will ever lose that feeling of immense gratitude — I am in a position to be able to sleep-in, should I have a rough night. Just having that assurance takes the pressure is off, allowing me to enter a restful state just before bed. I then go about drinking literature like chamomile tea, and off to sleep I go. 🙂 There is, of course, tough nights — or days, or weeks . . . — and those can be difficult, certainly. I pray a lot; write if I am sane enough to do so. Other than that, I just try and remember that eventually sleep will come. I was blessed — cursed — with a brain that does not, even for one second, stop thinking. It turns and turns and turns at a high voltage 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I suppose this aids me as a writer, but it certainly does not as a human being who wishes only to shut the blasted thing off for a minute! Reading, I’ve found, is the only surefire way of quieting my thoughts long enough for me to trick them into refocusing, so I can slip into unconsciousness.

      Sudoko, huh? I never was any good at that . . . something about the puzzles befuddles me. Hooray for you, though!

      Anyhow, did you have a nice weekend? My husband and I took my mother to see “The Hunger Games”. I quite liked it, though she thought it was only so-so.

  11. I have a few favorite authors, but when it comes to characters that I’m really sad to leave, those are always the ones created by screenwriters.

    In that sense, I cite Aaron Sorkin (West Wing, Studio 60, Sports Night), Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls), and Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars) as my favorites – they’ve created many memorable characters that I was sad to say goodbye to when the shows ended.

  12. Hey, Cara! I love your mastery of words. Your posts frequently leave me with a “wow” factor because of word choice, cadence and message.

    I’ve read Diana Gabaldon and, yes, I agree she’s a master at her craft.

    I read so many genres, my brain won’t cough up a single memorable character. There are simply too many.

    Great post.

    • You sure know how to make this lady swoon, Gloria. Likewise, when I visit your blog, I am enveloped by a warmth and authenticity that is purely Gloria. In every post you write, nothing ever feels contrived or less than 100% you.

      Oh, what a blessing to be able to enjoy so many authors and so many different genres. Every time I pick up a book by a new author, I promise myself I’ll give it a fair shot. Next thing I know, I’m 30 pages in and I’m the grim reaper, ending the life of another innocent novel.

      If you do think of any books you’ve fallen in love with, please pass them along!

      Have a wonderful day, my friend!

  13. Cara I adore Sarah Addison Allen! She’s one of my favorite Authors and I’m so hooked on her books. I’ve heard so much about the outlander series but I’ve never read them. Guess that’ll be my summer reading series 🙂 I just finished a Martha Grimes Novel. Great mystery writer but I have to be fully awake and coherent to read her books. So after a long day, it doesn’t make good before bedtime reading LOL! Thanks for the great post!

    • Yay! Another S.A.A fan! It’s amazing what you find out when you tell people what you like.

      YES!! You must, must, MUST give Diana’s novels a go — and yes, best to wait until summer when you can make the space both physically and mentally to devour every little (big — her vocabulary in INSANE) word. You will want to immerse yourself in the world she paints, and the characters she makes you fall in love with.

      Martha Grimes; never heard of her, but I will look her up definitely. 🙂 I do know what you mean about not reading deep or convoluted novels just before bed; it can often give you a migraine instead of lulling you into the black abyss of unconsciousness.

      Happy Friday!

  14. Anybody C.S. Lewis Fans? If you have not read his space trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength), it’s arguably his greatest work. Who knew someone could write about futuristic space exploration in 1938, and reading it in 2012 could provoke images you never thought imagining. The “philosophical parallels,” are intensely thought provoking as well.

    I wish reading was easier for me. I love books!!! But, all of mine have book marks about a third of the way through. It simply makes Cara sick 😉

    • Bubba! You decided to join the party, did you? I just love hearing your familiar voice tell me things I already know (no sarcasm implemented). 🙂

      Ah, C.S. Lewis — to have parented such a phenom . . . At what age, I wonder, did his mum and da turn to each other and say, “Well, darling, I think our boy’s just outlearned us.”.

      My love, I don’t think I will be reading this trilogy any time soon, I’m afraid. Feel free to coax my friends, though.

      Xoxo

  15. Thank you for visiting my blog and liking my post, Pooh Bear Mirror, Lemon Curd and 100! I love lemons too and have a couple of lemony treats to share at some point. I love the sound of your oatmeal lemon creme bars but can’t get Betty Crocker mixes here. I may have to ask my SIL to bring it over when she visits from Atlanta in July.

    I just love this post! I, too, read and read and I echo one of your responders about Follet’s Pillars of the Earth. I’ve just finished One Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamamda Ngozi Adichie about Nigeria – another very different culture – brilliant characterisation, compelling read.

    Must get back to sorting our supper of Duck Sausage and Lentil Casserole!
    Thanks – I’m now following 🙂

    • Oh, I can’t wait to see what sort of lovely lemon recipes you share! Where are you that you cannot get Betty Crocker?

      So glad you enjoyed the post! I will definitely have to put Pillars of the Earth on my Goodreads. I simply cannot get enough strong literature. One Half of a Yellow Sun sounds terrific as well.

      Duck sausage and lentil casserole? My, oh my, that sounds decadent!

      Blessings to you!

      • I’m in Cornwall, UK. Thank you for your likes on my posts.
        Decadent yes but very easy when you can get the lentils all prepared with thyme and porcini mushrooms and readymade duck sausages. It was indeed very tasty and somehow very French!
        All the best to you
        🙂

      • Oh, wonderful! I have never visited, and likely never will, as my phobia of planes keep me Earth-bound, but I have seen many lovely pictures of the area.

        French, you say? Isn’t that some sort of egregious faux-paux, what with you being English? Or is that feudal tension long gone? 🙂 The meal sounds divine!

        Have a lovely Monday,
        Cara

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