Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I write mysteries, but I read just about everything. For the past month, I’ve been immersed in Pearl Buck. It started after a recent visit to the Pearl S. Buck International House. I read Pearl of China, Anchee Min’s fictionalized story of Ms. Buck’s life and the influence that growing up in China had on her. I’m sure no one who has read any of her books would dispute that. They are infused with the small details and rituals that make up everyday Chinese life and peopled with characters shaped by the wisdom of an ancient culture.

I went on to read Pavilion of Women and Dragon Seed. Reading these books is like studying a "how to" manual on writing well. The sense of place is strong and the characters totally believable. More than believable, they are women (and men) with whom I identify even though their life is completely different from anything I have experienced.

That, I think, is the test of successful fiction–the ability to transport a reader to another time and place and to show how much alike we are inside despite the variances in our outward circumstances.

I thoroughly enjoy reading the works of new and emerging writers, but there is something to be said for occasionally taking a step back to read classics–books that have lasted through generations and continue to be relevant. For me, there is no better way to re-charge my writing batteries. It reminds me what it means to be a writer.

How about you? Do you have favorite writers you go back to again and again to be regenerated? Or perhaps you have your own special way of "keeping it fresh". If so, I’d love to hear about it.


Elisabeth Rose said...

I've never read Pearl S Buck. I'll look for her on my next library excursion.

I have a soft spot for Anthony Powell's A Dance To The Music of Time. 12 books and I've read them twice and a bit. Britain between the World wars--not to everyone's taste but I love his characterisations and the incredibly detailed society he creates.

Sandy Cody said...

I'm not familiar with those books, but will look for them. I actually like that period between the wars.

Loretta C. Rogers said...

Pearl Buck was required reading when I was in high school. She and Earnest Hemingway have been long time favorites of mine. My copies of Pride and Prejudice, Little Women and Jane Eyre and Gone with the Wind are well-worn. Recently, I've tried to immerse myself in more literary works, but find they don't hold my interest.

Beate Boeker said...

I always go back to Georgette Heyer, L.M. Montgomery (the Anne series), and Mary Stewart. I wished they had written more books . . . From the more modern authors, I like Katie Fforde and Sarah Caudwell. Caudwell has a wonderful British humor.