Saturday, August 9, 2014

Jon Keller

Jon Keller is the author of the novel Of Sea and Cloud. He holds an MFA from Boise State University. After graduate school, he moved to a remote stretch of the Maine coast and spent several years working aboard a lobster boat and writing for a commercial fishing newspaper. Now a clam digger, he divides his time between Maine and Montana.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Keller's reply:
I recently moved out of my house and onto a sailboat, so the books I’m able to have around have been drastically reduced. One week aboard and I’m already missing some—last night, it was Homer that I was missing.

Although I’m a fiction writer, most of the two dozen books that made the cut are poetry—Wright, Yeats, Neruda, Wordsworth, Ikkyu…

On the fiction to-read list are: David Copperfield, The Son, The Plover, and Forest of Fortune.

Notable among the non-fiction is the Autobiography of Mark Twain.

For several years now, I’ve had two books that I consistently go back to. The Stephen Mitchell edition of Song of Myself, and Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.

Song of Myself for the simultaneous complexity and simplicity, for its linguistic beauty, and for the insights that are consistently fresh and encouraging—the book helps me remember what is important, helps me see the world and its people in a better light.

The Old Man and the Sea: I’d read it years ago, and liked it just fine, then dismissed it. I went back to it three years ago, and thought it to be perhaps the best book I’ve ever read (before that, I would have said 100 Years of Solitude, which is still high on the list of greats, along with Anna Karenina and We, the Drowned and Love Medicine). The Old Man and the Sea is considered cliché now—everyone’s read it, everyone knows of it—but once I spent some real time with the book, I was floored. It’s a huge, grand book, not unlike a tale pulled from scripture, and line by line it’s some of the best writing I’ve ever seen. His syntax is beautiful to the point of elegance, long and intricate and wonderfully straightforward, as is every other facet of the novel.

On the shelf too are two John D. MacDonald novels (Travis McGee!), a pile of maritime how-to books, and a Mexican cookbook by Rick Bayless that I consider indispensable for both cooking and pleasure reading.
Visit Jon Keller's website.

--Marshal Zeringue