Thursday, 28 October 2010

Way Out West

Being a bookworm, I am often asked who my favourite writer is. The answer I give changes with my mood. But the two biggest hitters are Cormac Mccarthy and John Steinbeck.
These are hardly controversial choices. I am sure both feature in many modern readers' lists. But there is a specific reason for my choosing.

First off, I love escapism. It's a dirty word in literary circles. But then, who actually wants to be in literary circles anyway? The answer by the way is absolutely nobody worth knowing. This almost certainly deals with why I cannot cope with crime fiction, in almost any medium. I genuinely do not care how stylishly it is written, whether Agatha Christie or a well shot noir epic. With very few exceptions the chances are I will not be having a good time. It also perhaps exposes my predisposition towards the fantastic: Borges, Neil Gaiman, Gabriel Marquez.

But nothing grabs me more than the endless prairie of my favourite writers (even when in post-apocalyptic 'The Road' form).

I know what it is. I was brought up in a city with a sanitised life. It's fine, I know that my feelings are hardly unique. But I challenge anyone to read All The Pretty Horses or East of Eden and not lust after a simpler, harder but arguably more satisfying way of life. Romantic maybe.

Maybe it's because I have never been there either. The American west fascinates me, but it is not a place I have visited nor forsee going to any time soon.

Perhaps I view things differently because I am an ungrateful shit who does not realise exactly how lucky I am. I have a lot of things that I want. I have had a relatively good life. But I do not think that I am completely loopy in my invisaging of the worlds of Mccarthy et all as one of a more genuine happiness than found here.
Most people in cities, including myself struggle against the tide. The morning commute. The mesh of people. The tide that drags you not to the top or to the bottom, but for most of us a wash of mediocrity.

At least on your own you can build your own world.
And in your own world you are king.

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