I’ve been a Cormac McCarthy fan for years. For some reason – the alignment of the stars? – I read the review of All The Pretty Horses in the New York Times Sunday Book Review right after that book was released. I’m not a regular NY Times reader and I don’t have a clue how that august publication made its way into my hands that fateful week. I don’t think I have read a single review in it before or since, so my relationship with Mr. McCarthy must be something that was meant to be. I liked what I read in the review – that this was a coming-of-age story with fetching, sympathetic characters, a Western Odyssey, complete with guns and horses. What could beat that?
And so I picked up All The Pretty Horses, hardback, first edition. I struggled through the first few pages, not being used to that dense, poetic style, but before the first scene was over I was in love. Hypnotized . No other writer has so absorbed me – taken me so completely in. And I don’t know why or how. I read that book and then read it over again and then I read The Orchard Keeper and then Child of God and then The Crossing came along and I bought it and found myself enraptured as I had been with All The Pretty Horses. Since then I have read Cities of The Plain and The Road. I’ve got to say that McCarthy is my favorite fiction writer and the effect he achieves in his work is what I aim for as I write. It’s why I have one novel published and another on the way. To get to where he is. To do what he does.
My favorite non-fiction writer is C.S. Lewis. Less that a year out of law school a copy of Mere Christianity fell into my hands. It was the right book at the right time. Lewis took on the questions about life and faith that had bothered me for a long time and that no one else around me seemed to be concerned with. He took on the deep and difficult things, but he gave clear and satisfying answers. He never hedged or dodged or equivocated. He was never obscure. Since then I have read all of Lewis’s popular religious writings, his science-fiction trilogy, The Chronicles of Narnia and even a few of his more scholarly works. It isn’t too much to say that he has influenced me and my house more than any other writer. I read him to my children as we raised them and I am never long without re-reading or referring to one of his books.
These last few months I have been reading the third volume of his collected letters. It’s fascinating stuff. This book covers the time in Lewis’s life when so much was happening – his moving from Oxford, where he was overworked and under-appreciated, to a more prestigious position in Cambridge. His marriage to and later love affair with Joy Davidman.
As always, though, Lewis writes about literature – about what he is reading. And more than once he makes mention of Ray Bradbury. Lewis was interested in science fiction and he felt that Bradbury was one of the few writers who understood the opportunities the genre offered and took advantage of them. Bradbury, Lewis said, did not simply take the same old gangster story and move it to Mars.
He also said this: Bradbury “knows something about prose.” Hmmm. My appetite was whetted.
On Sunday afternoons I go running with my oldest son. I don’t do distance anymore, but the two of us head for the track after church and he runs a 5K while I do sprints, barefoot, up and down the grass football field inside the track. Great workout, but an even better time for conversation with my philosophical and well-read son. He knows of my enthusiasm for both Lewis and McCarthy and he has read some of my own work. On more than one Sunday, he has recommended Bradbury to me; particularly Something Wicked This Way Comes. My son knows that I am not a science-fiction fan (didn’t even like the first two volumes of Lewis’s outer-space trilogy) but SWTWC, he said, wasn’t really science fiction. It was a story about two boys in a small town.
To be continued.