Novel November

Novelists I Should Read at Least Once

by Michael Channing

Heinlein busy writing
Robert A. Heinlein

There are three Big Names in science fiction, three writers who are considered founding fathers of the genre. Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert Heinlein. I've read plenty of Asimov, a handful of Clarke, but no Heinlein. Well, I've read a couple of stories, ("All You Zombies" is particularly memorable) but none of his novels. I've read a little about him. He started writing mostly adventure-type books for young adults, categorized as "Juveniles," in the Forties and Fifties then shifted to adult books later in his life, incorporating themes like personal freedom, free love, and even incest. He's often labeled as pro-military because of his stance on gun ownership and his favorable treatment of the military in his early books. He seems somewhat left-leaning to me, but the consensus seems to be that he's mostly libertarian. Are libertarians not part of the left, or is that just for liberals? What is the difference between liberals and libertarians? Maybe one involves more paperwork. Anyway, it's the pro-military talk that's kept me away. I haven't read Stranger In a Strange Land or Starship Troopers, the two main books Heinlein is known for. Some keepers of the SF flame might argue that means I haven't ready any science fiction at all. I can't let that be.

Hemingway at the typewriter
Ernest Hemingway

Like Heinlein, I've read a couple of Hemingway's short stories, but no novels. I should at least read "The Old Man and the Sea." Again, it's the an association with guns and violence--hunting and bull fighting in Hemingway's case-- hat has kept me away. That and the endless stories of Hemingway's drunkenness. But I've read an interview wherein he says he always writes sober. In fact, he lambastes authors who claim they need to get liquored up before writing. Your mind is your tool. Keep it sharp, he says. Hemingway is known for his minimalistic style, full of simple language and concrete images. While I do love rich, florid writers like Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison, I can get behind a more stripped-down approach. Drama is in the actions, not the adjectives.

Koontz and k-9
Dean Koontz

In the 90s, Dean Koontz was often mentioned in the same breath as Stephen King as one of the standard bearers of horror fiction. One of my favorite magazines, Cemetery Dance, had a column devoted almost exclusively to news about the two writers. That's something, to be so reliably prolific that a magazine can devote a monthly column to you and be reassured they'll have enough to write about. Koontz cranked out bestseller after bestseller, and I saw the books displayed on the same shelf as King, even at the library, but never picked one up. I'm not sure why. His concepts do sound a bit like King. Maybe I thought the similarities would be repetitive and I'd get bored. Or maybe I didn't want to find another writer who could match my beloved Stephen King. I should know by now that every author is unique. But it if turns out Koontz really is as good as King, why then I'll have more great books to look forward to.

Alan Moore looking spooky
Alan Moore (prose)

I've read plenty of Alan Moore's graphic novels, but none of his prose books. One just came out this year, a massive, sprawling, multi-generational epic populated with hundreds of characters and maybe as many plot lines. That's the problem with his prose. I've seen so much hyperbole employed in its description that I don't know if I'm ready to approach it. His books sound like dense, purposefully difficult cyphers intended to weed out readers Moore might find unworthy. Like he's trying to prove himself smarter than his readers. I always felt William Faulkner was like that, and I hate Faulkner. But when it comes to comic books, I've always trusted Alan Moore, and very rarely has he let me down. So maybe I should give his prose novels a chance. Only those unwilling to try are truly unworthy.

old timey typewriter

Some Novels I Have Read

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Chokes and Warbles
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Chokes and Warbles, a collection of essays and poems by Michael Channing