Last month I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m usually reading more than one book at a time, and now is no exception. Last week, in the throes of writing my own novel, I found myself incapable of absorbing new fiction written in anyone else’s voice. I was desperately trying to keep my own novel’s narrator’s voice in my head. So I picked up two books I’ve reread many times before:Visit Jennifer R. Hubbard's website and blog.
Babbitt, by Sinclair Lewis. Lewis wrote this about ninety years ago, but nobody else captures the American societal conflict that we now call the “red-blue” divide as effectively as he does. I like to reread Babbitt and Main Street when I’m trying to make sense of my own political times—when I find the current names, personalities and issues too volatile, but I want to see through to the underlying structure. These aren’t just novels about Issues, though; the characters are fully fleshed out, in all their strengths and flaws.
The Dharma Bums, by Jack Kerouac. I’ve only made it through On the Road once, but I reread The Dharma Bums constantly. To me, this one is the quintessential road novel: the main character crosses the country twice, and then hitchhikes from California up to the Canadian border to spend a summer alone on top of a mountain. This is the book I wanted On the Road to be. It’s Kerouac at his best: free-flowing, with just the right balance of description and action, insight and movement.
A bookstore gift card enabled me to buy Julie Salamon’s Wendy and the Lost Boys, a biography of the late playwright and essayist Wendy Wasserstein. (I’ve been looking forward to this book, and I’m relieved to find that this nonfiction work is not interfering with the voice of my novel.) I’m a sucker for writer’s-journey stories, especially when the subject had as strong a voice as Wasserstein did; I regularly reread her essay collections Bachelor Girls and Shiksa Goddess. Wasserstein was also writing feminist plays during the Women’s Liberation movement of the 1970s, so there’s an extra excitement and historical resonance there.