Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Writer's Guilty Pleasures


As always, I'm on the road again. As is my camera, currently winging its way to a repair facility in Nebraska.  So I thought I'd share with you a handful of guilty pleasures whose satisfactions (for me) derive directly from my being a writer.

Here they are:

On Writing by John Gardner.  Gardner's books on how to write are unsurpassed in their seriousness and in how they portray writing as a holy chore.  Porn for writers, really.

Shakespeare in Love.  More porn for writers.  Tom Stoppard has always been weak on plot.  But he was brought into the project after the original writer had come up with a robust plot and given the chore of witting it up.  Which he did beautifully. But the core plot, which conflates romantic love with the desire to become a better writer, is what makes this movie.

Doorways in the Sand by Roger Zelazny.  Zelazny's work was always clever.  But in this novel, about a perpetual undergrad, spending his time climbing buildings and ducking graduation, who gets caught up in an interstellar power struggle, involving a viral gem, doodlehums, a condescending kangaroo, and really good whiskey, is an unending cascade of cleverness for its own sake.  It looks effortless, it won't make you a better person, and it can always be read again.

Hitchcock/Truffaut.  In 1962, Francois Truffaut interviewed Hitchcock about every film he had made to date in order.  Later published as a full-length book, it's the ultimate movie-geek look at how the movies were made and why they were made that way.  Chockablock with good advice (never kill a child; the audience won't forgive you for it) from a man who knew what he was doing.

The New York Review of Books.  A terrible waste of time that could be better spent actually reading the books being analyzed.  Entertaining, though.

And that's my list . . . 

What's yours?



robotcentaur said...

I wholeheartedly agree with the Zelazny recommendation, but my guilty pleasure from him would be Roadmarks. Not as clever as Doorways but so MANY ideas with a myriad of colorful mercenaries, Amber-like plane shifting, and combative Draconian archetypal cosmic beings.

Michael Swanwick said...

We have no argument. Possibly, it's ROADMARKS for those who want a lesser-known work in Zelazny's main sequence and DOORWAYS IN THE SAND for those who want that same cleverness in unexpected directions.

ROADMARKS, for those who (and I feel compassion for them) don't already know Zelazny's, is probably his most Gaimanesque fantasy. And an excellent entry point to the man's work as well.

Ed McDonald said...

I love Roadmarks also. Roadmarks and Lord of Light, each of those novels I have read three times. Zelazny's writing grabs me and drags me in.