By Ginny Padgett
Recently I was asked, “Who is your favorite writer?”
“William Faulkner,” was my quick, word-association answer. I do think that is always the most accurate answer.
Afterwards, I asked myself if that answer was really accurate. After a brief mental review I came up with my three favorite authors: William Faulkner, Lillian Hellman and John Cheever.
Then I asked myself if that list was accurate. (I guess I talk to myself quite a lot!) After all, it had been quite a while since I had read any of them. So I embarked on a reading adventure.
I began with what I thought to be my all-time favorite book by my all-time favorite writer, Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. Yes, it still tops my list. His writing and characters are as rich and fecund as the Mississippi land he immortalized.
I read The Sound and the Fury for the first time in my late teens. It was the experience that dropped me to my knees to worship at the feet of the novelist and his calling. The skill of transporting a reader through space and time to that of the writer’s choosing via a bit of ink and moldy paper seemed like alchemy. That first reading impelled me toward writing.
Next I read Pentimento: A Book of Portraits, by renowned playwright Lillian Hellman. Superb! Probably my all-time favorite passage comes from this book. It’s a description of what the word pentimento means, which is an artist’s alteration in a painting. If you’re not familiar with this beautiful language, I urge you to seek out this book to see for yourself what a prose poet Hellman is!
Then, I read all of John Cheever’s short stories, for which he is most famous. I began with a slim volume entitled Thirteen Uncollected Stories by John Cheever. I discovered the reason they had remained uncollected for so long! I next launched into The Stories of John Cheever, a 700-page tome of beautifully crafted, laser-sharp commentaries of post-WWII middle-class America.
The adage about the power of the pen is as true as ever. In my opinion, the exigency to write should be the eighth addition to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Seven Basic Needs. Man has been compelled to record his experiences and their impact on the world around him since prehistoric times. Writing is what makes us human; that’s why we have opposable thumbs, for goodness sake…to hold a writing tool!
Writers hold up a mirror for self-examination. Writers grind the lens to sharpen our myopic vision. Writers have the power to change lives. Writers are gods among mortals.
So, now I’ll ask the question of you, “Who is your favorite writer?”