One of the unexpected side effects of declaring yourself a writer is that you are then expected to know something about writing and give handy advice to novice writers as if we are not all just winging it and hoping for the best. I have no real advice except this: finish your shit, work until it is done. Other than that, do whatever works for you, whether it is writing in the basement of a monastery at midnight or while driving a eighteen-wheeler across country or on the back of a damn dragon as it lays siege to the Impenetrable Fortress of Serious Impenetrability. Just work, and finish your shit, and then fix all your mistakes, and then give it to other people to enjoy and point out all the mistakes that you missed.
Another thing that I didn’t expect was that, as a writer, you are then expected to read and write reviews of the books of your friends and colleagues. You know me, I am supportive as hell. I love to lift up my fellow man as much as I can, so I wrote and shared my very first review of my pal Mike Hansen’s book When Life Hands You a Lemon yesterday while I was dicking around on my phone while the kids were at gymnastics, and I have to tell you, it went just swimmingly.
In the shower last night, I decided that I would do a series of reviews of several of my favorite books and post them up here because writing about other people’s writing is great fun, not awkward and terrible, that I really, really love to do, instead of writing anything new of my own.
Here are my reviews of some of my favorite books, though this is only a partial list and I will certainly have to revisit this idea when I come up with other great books that I forgot.
Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut
Dude, you seriously haven’t read this yet? It is only one of the greatest American novels ever written. Pull your head out and read it, dipshit. It’s good as Hell.
Catch-22, Joseph Heller
You might have read this one in school, and if you did, log on to Facebook and poke your elderly Lit teacher because its fuckin’ great. If you haven’t, read it. But don’t watch the movie, because it’s godawful.
A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving
Seriously, it made me cry at the end. For reals, its fuckin’ incredible. Read it, love it, bask in the beauty and pathos, and then thank me later.
Jingo, Terry Pratchett
This is an entirely arbitrary place to start with the Discworld, and I am only choosing this one not because it is my favorite of his, because it isn’t (that would go to Night Watch, probably, or Carpe Jugulum, or maybe Reaper Man). I picked this one because this is the first one I got, picked up at random off of a spindle rack at 6:30 in the morning after I got off the graveyard shift waiting tables full of fuckwads at Bumpers, a shitty ’50s themed restaurant in Longview WA. Read this one, then read everything else of Pratchett’s that you can get your filthy hands on, because he was nearly the perfect writer. Funny and smart and touching. Brilliant man, brilliant stories, and now I’m bummed because there are no more stories coming from the Discworld, since the man went to that great Library in the Sky. Godspeed, Sir Pratchett. Mind how you go, sir.
Neuromancer, William Gibson
Start here, because this is where Cyberpunk started, before that was even a thing. Gritty and fast and all around killer. This isn’t my favorite of his either (Pattern Recognition wins that particular award), but Neuromancer redefined everything, and if you haven’t read it, you probably hate awesome things. Don’t be that dickwad.
Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh
Danny Boyle did a pretty good job with the movie here, but the book is funnier, dirtier, more real and desperate, and captures exactly what Welsh is all about. Read this one as an icebreaker, then read Maribou Stork Nightmares if you feel like having your soul crushed out of your ass. Seriously if you read Maribou Stork Nightmares and you don’t think about it for days after and contemplate the darkness of the human soul, you’re probably some kind of heartless cyborg. Die, robot scum.
Geek Love, Katherine Dunn
An absolute mindhumper of a book, crazytown batshit fucking blow your mind out with depravity and unexpected heart. I’ve never read anything like it, and I’ve read a whole shitload of books in my life. Fucking rad all around.
American Gods, Neil Gaiman
Dude, if you don’t know Gaiman, you need to come out of the cave more often. Guy has written everything, comics and movies and novels and TV, and radio. Chances are you know something of his. This is my personal favorite, but I picked up Neverwhere off of that same spindle rack I got Jingo off of, and was blown away. Come to think of it, I would like to meet whoever stocked that grocery store paperback spindle rack. Seriously informed my reading tastes for decades.
Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton
Fucking dinosaurs, bro. Di. No. Saurs.
The Stand, Stephen King
This is the first adult-y novel I ever read, and it’s a monster. Come for the apocalypse, stay for the perfectly rendered characters, the humor and the horror and also the villain, who, not so coincidentally, shares a name with the main protagonist of my second novel, though my goofy story has absolutely zero to do with King’s amazing book. Homage, people, look it up. I haven’t read it in years, but I still remember Stu and Frannie and Nick, Larry, Flagg, and Mother Abagail, like I was hanging out with them yesterday. That’s how to write a character, folks, where they are so real that they seem like old friends.
Choke, Chuck Palahinuk
My favorite of his, filthy and crazy. Again, the movie is just ok, but the book is brilliant as hell. Fight Club, though it veers away from the text a bit, is an excellent example of a movie you could watch if you want the experience, but you hate reading. Though let’s face it, if you have read this far, you probably don’t hate reading.
Now I Know Everything, Andrew Postman
Nobody has read this book, and I have no idea why I did, but its a flippin hilarious romantic comedy. I don’t usually get down like this but I have read this a bunch of times and its still great.
Sharp Teeth, Toby Barlow
So, no big deal, this is an epic poem werewolf love story, which would be awesome, even if it sorta sucked, but it does not suck. You would think that given the premise, that it might suck, but you would be incorrect. It takes a deft hand to make something like this seem great, and he does it with fuckin’ aplomb. Aplomb, em-effers. Aplomb. Absolutely unique and just an all around killer.
I Know This Much is True, Wally Lamb
Seriously on most of my “best of” lists. A heartbreaker of a novel. Good as, it is good as, its… its fucking good, ok? Just read it.
That’s just a few, you know? So I guess I’ll never feel compelled to write another review eh? I just knocked out a bunch, and now we’re good, yeah?
On the reals, though, you dorks out there in readerland that want to know what you can do to help us poor scribblers? Write reviews, tell people if you like something, request it in your library. But most of all, keep reading. That’s why we do this shit.
Insert the usual afterword: on Twitter @ RDPullins, my book Antiartists out in May, like my Facebook page blah blah blah…