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Amor Towles: ‘When I reread Ulysses I found it insufferable. Don’t @ me’

Amor Towles: ‘When I reread Ulysses I found it insufferable. Don’t @ me’

The book that made me want to be a writer
When I was in first grade living in the Boston area, David McCord, a writer of juvenile poetry, came to our class to read from his books. I was amazed by the whole thing: by his imagination, by his wordplay, by the manner in which the poetry reached its audience. I knew right then I wanted to be a writer. That night I began writing poems just like his, and from then on it was: read, write, repeat.

My favourite book growing up
At 13, I greatly enjoyed Ray Bradbury’s book of science fiction stories The Illustrated Man – which I had picked up at the school book fair solely based on its cover. For my birthday a few years later, my mother gave me his collected short stories. That was the first time I read through an author, moving chronologically across the decades of his output. Ever since, it has been my preference to do so with authors I admire.

The book that changed me as a teenager
Reading was always encouraged in my house. But when I was in my early teens, my father would occasionally offer me money to read a book he was convinced I would like but I was reluctant to pick up due to its length. The three books he paid me to read: JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, James Clavell’s Shōgun and Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. I loved all three, but One Hundred Years of Solitude opened my eyes to a whole new tier of storytelling. It remains one of my three favourite books (along with Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Melville’s Moby-Dick).

The writer who changed my mind
When I was in college, I followed a friend into a comic bookshop. I was not a comic book reader, and probably looked down on the form. But it so happened that the first issue of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns had come out that week. I picked it up and was immediately struck by its graphic invention, its psychological weight and its thematic intricacy. Needless to say, I read all four in the series. A few months later, the first issue of Alan Moore’s highly innovative Watchmen came out. With great pleasure I followed the development of the graphic novel to new peaks such as Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis.

The book I reread
The works of Homer are a well that never runs dry.

The book I could never read again
For 20 years, I’ve read with three friends. Meeting monthly, we pursue projects, taking up a series of novels by the same author, from the same region, or the same time period. A few years ago, we decided to revisit the works of James Joyce, which we had all read in our college years. I found Dubliners so inventive in its construction and use of language, so beautiful in its depiction of people; I loved it more as an adult than as a young man. But Ulysses proved to be the opposite experience. While I was fascinated by it as a youth, I found it almost insufferable as an adult. Don’t @ me.

The book I discovered later in life
Recently, my three friends and I read three loosely connected mid-century novels by Alfred Hayes: In Love, My Face for the World to See and The End of Me. His work was a revelation to all of us. He’s an underappreciated American master.

The book I am currently reading
We are reading Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, the Sea, having recently finished The Black Prince. None of us had read Murdoch before and we’re all delighted.

Source: theguardian.com