Hi everyone! Sorry for the radio silence, I’ve had a tough week that isn’t quite over yet, even if Friday is almost here. (And it is here for some of you!) But I saw this question and thought it’d be a nice break to think about my answer and post it. Hello to anyone stopping by for the first time. Please feel free to check out my Show Me Your Teeth Blog Hop Giveaway or my 100/300 Follower Giveaway or both. Thanks to Parajunkee’s View and Alison Can Read for hosting Follow Friday!
Q. If you could write yourself a part in a book, what book would it be and what role would you play in that book?
This one was pretty easy for me. I would write myself a part into the world of the Dirk Gently books by Douglas Adams. Unfortunately, there are only two books–Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul–but the stories are so amazing and epic that doesn’t really matter. I’d very much like to be someone who helps Dirk with his cases, a consultant of some sort. I’m thinking maybe a tabloid writer of weird, magical stories that people dismiss but are actually real. Think something like John Schuyler Moore in The Alienist meets the tabloids in Men in Black. Except, I’d be the guide to the seamy magical underworld rather than aliens or real-life mobsters. Yeah, I think I’d like that.
Well, I’m sure we’re all tired of seeing giveaway posts… (Are… are those crickets I hear?) I’ve decided to start a new feature on the blog, which you can see is called “Flashback Review.” Basically, I’m going to give brief reviews of (more memorable) books I read before I started the blog. These reviews are going to be different because the books aren’t as fresh in my memory (we’re talking from last year to as long as a decade ago… maybe even further back). I’ve decided to do this because there are a lot of books out there just waiting to be read, and I think they deserve hype once in a while, too. Consider these glorified book recommendations, of a sort. I’ll do my best to recall the reading experience, but you’ll have to bear with me.
First up is a favorite book. Not just because I plowed through all 600 pages (I had the mass market paperback) in one weekend, but because it really helped shape me as a writer. Here goes…
Blurb from Goodreads:
The year is 1896, the place, New York City. On a cold March night New York Times reporter John Schuyler Moore is summoned to the East River by his friend and former Harvard classmate Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, a psychologist, or “alienist.” On the unfinished Williamsburg Bridge, they view the horribly mutilated body of an adolescent boy, a prostitute from one of Manhattan’s infamous brothels.
The newly appointed police commissioner, Theodore Roosevelt, in a highly unorthodox move, enlists the two men in the murder investigation, counting on the reserved Kreizler’s intellect and Moore’s knowledge of New York’s vast criminal underworld. They are joined by Sara Howard, a brave and determined woman who works as a secretary in the police department. Laboring in secret (for alienists, and the emerging discipline of psychology, are viewed by the public with skepticism at best), the unlikely team embarks on what is a revolutionary effort in criminology– amassing a psychological profile of the man they’re looking for based on the details of his crimes. Their dangerous quest takes them into the tortured past and twisted mind of a murderer who has killed before, and will kill again before the hunt is over.
Fast-paced and gripping, infused with a historian’s exactitude, The Alienist conjures up the Gilded Age and its untarnished underside: verminous tenements and opulent mansions, corrupt cops and flamboyant gangsters, shining opera houses and seamy gin mills. Here is a New York during an age when questioning society’s belief that all killers are born, not made, could have unexpected and mortal consequences.
Okay now I’m kind of embarrassed because my thoughts are gonna be waaaay shorter…
I think I own two copies of this book. One is the mass market paperback I bought when I was in high school, on a friend’s recommendation. The other is a hardcover I bought years later at a library’s used book sale because I wanted a “nice” version of the book. I don’t usually go around buying two versions of a book, so that’s one sign that it’s pretty darn good.
This book is one of The Books for me. I loved it from the moment I finished the first chapter. John Schuyler Moore’s voice as a narrator is so strong and distinct and alive that this was actually the first time I really, truly noticed Voice in writing. It was by emulating this voice that I learned how to create characters from the mere detail of what a character sounds like. (It’s probably thanks to this book that most of my stories and novels are in first person.) Not only is this good writing, but the voice is totally appropriate for the story it tells. The lush worldbuilding, especially of the seamy underbelly of New York, really put me at a time when yes, people talked like that and people probably did those things.
The characters are really cool, too. For some reason, I remember the side characters more strongly than Dr. Kriezler, which is actually a testament to Carr’s characterization. Sara Howard is a cool cat in more ways than one. There’s Stevie, a badass street urchin under Kriezler’s wing, who actually gets to tell his own story in the sequel. And, of course, there’s good ol’ Teddy Roosevelt. Come on! Teddy Roosevelt is in this book! And I love every page he’s on, even if he’s not on many of them.
The story itself is pretty dark. Like, really dark. I was pretty immune to it because that’s the way I am, but for those with weak stomachs or delicate sensibilities, even if you love mysteries or historical books or really good writing… this may not be the book for you. It is about the dark psychology behind really gruesome murders, and Carr does not hold back on the gritty, gory details. Don’t worry too much about the actual psychology, though, I don’t remember getting bogged down in science. (It wasn’t too much of a science back then, so…) There are heartbreaking revelations and twists, too.
I don’t remember much about the weekend I sat down to read this book maybe ten years ago. I just remember that reading this book was pretty much all I did during those two days. (You all know how slow I am!) I was a totally different person when I finished it. I got a step closer to being a Writer after I closed the covers. I couldn’t ask for anything better from a book.
Q. How has your reading habits changed since you were a teen?
Well, this is an interesting question. I didn’t really know what I liked when I was a teenager. I pretty much just read whatever titles happened to fall in my line of sight, and I liked them all. I read Catcher in the Rye in seventh grade just because I’d heard it’s supposed to be good. I loved it, of course, even though I didn’t really get a lot of the adult themes at the time. I read The Alienist by Caleb Carr on a friend’s recommendation and that turned out to be good for the budding writer in me. I also read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy because it stuck in my brain. Don’t remember how I heard of it, but glad I picked it up. So I was pretty scattered.
I’m also willing to admit that I used to read a lot of fanfiction. Yes, it’s true. But you know what? I don’t regret it. I read all sorts of stories, whether they were humor or drama or action or whatever else. And to be honest a lot of the fanfiction I read was in a fandom that had high caliber writing. We’re talking Jaida Jones, here. Now that is some good stuff, if I may say so.
But now… interestingly enough, I’m into the YA scene. I do still read adult books as well (love Neil Gaiman), but I seem to have gravitated toward YA. One of my graduate professors is puzzled as to why this is. As if there might be something wrong with me. I don’t think there is. I just happen to think a lot of the cool fantasy is in the YA section. That’s another thing: over the years I’ve come to realize I’m a fantasy fan at heart. I still like other genres, but it’s fantasy that really gets me excited. Which is funny because the fanfiction I used to read didn’t have fantasy elements.
So that’s my first Follow Friday! FF is hosted by Parajunkee’s View and Alison Can Read. I thought it would be fun to post my answer to this week’s question. I’m looking forward to the future questions.
And, yes, don’t fret. Giveaway this weekend for sure! Keep your eyes peeled!