Saturday, April 23, 2011

Finding a Favorite Stick

Scott D. Parker

Yesterday, my family and I took a trek through some trails near my Houston home. Whenever I go for a hike, I always find that special companion with which to share my journey: a stick. This one wasn't a tall walking stick, my preference, really. It was short, about twelve inches long, thin, and weather beaten, all the bark gone. It fit in my right hand, with a little knot that separated my index and middle fingers. In some respects, it made me imagine a sword handle, a thin foil at the end of the thing and me the Musketeer. Throughout my walking, my hand learned the feel of the stick, becoming familiar with its shape, texture, and how best it fit into my hand. The wood become comfortable. By the end, when I neared my car, this inanimate object seemed like a part of me.

Then, as much as I loved holding that particular stick, I threw it away and left it in the woods. Next time, I'll find another one.

We're all readers here. We love books and the stories within them. We find a favorite author and devour everything he or she has written. If its a particular series, the joy we get when reading the latest exploits of the central character is like that stick I carried yesterday. It's comfortable. It's familiar. We love it.

But do you ever throw away the author?

Earlier this week, NPR Music ran a survey about bands with whom listeners have fallen out of love. You know what they're talking about. A band you absolutely loved, Loved, LOVED and bought anything and everything they ever put out. One day, however, something changed. Perhaps they did, perhaps you did. Nonetheless, you stopped listening to that band. You moved on.

Anyone ever move on from an author? Stephen King is one for me. I used to read everything he wrote and everything that was written about him. Somehow, gradually, I just stopped reading his stuff. My wife recently read--and loved--Under the Dome but it doesn't ring any bells for me. I will certainly watch the Dark Tower movies, however. Along the way, I've picked up new authors and I'm really digging them.

There are some, of course, that I picked up sometime in the past and they're still with me--Conan Doyle, Dickens, Burroughs--and I can't imagine I'll ever throw them aside.

Y'all ever pick up and discard authors?

Drink of the Week: Sun Tea. Now that it's 90 (!) in Houston in April (!), I can again brew sun tea. It's my absolute favorite drink for hot days. Sweetened, of course. Brew up a gallon. It tastes and smells like childhood.


David Cranmer said...

I will say the secret with King is to read the less hyped books. Example: His recent short story collection was a top read.

sandra seamans said...

I never was a fan of King's novels, but love his shorts.

I've given up on several series. I quit Grafton's at N because by chapter three I knew who did it and why so there was no need to keep reading. Sandford's prey series got real thin towards the end mostly because I didn't care about his house, the price of his furniture or the shoes he was wearing. But I'm loving his Virgil Flowers series.

I think sometimes with series they lose their freshness and you can feel the authors gettig bored with the work. When their personal life/what they're wearing is more important than the case there's something wrong. And if the author isn't enthusiatic about his story why should I keep reading?

Anonymous said...

I feel the same way about King. Haven't read any of his stuff in years. (Although I did read On Writing, which was pretty good.)

A couple days ago, though, I read a short story he has up at the Atlantic. I was pretty blown away. The man knows how to tick those words over, even while giving away the ending at the very beginning.

Here it is, if you haven't seen it:

Dana King said...

Robert B. Parker. I had the distinct impression he was mailing it in the last few years,, though I hear the quality had gone up again in his last couple of books. I'm still happy to pull one of the old ones out, but after about 2000 all that was left worth reading was the Hawk and Spenser interplay, and even that grew repetitive.

Kathy said...

I once loved the books of Patricia Cornwell and James Patterson, but now they are just pathetic.

I, too, love Stephen King's ON WRITING.

Scott D. Parker said...

David - My favorite King stories are probably the non-horror ones: Green Mile, "The Body," although he can scare the crap outta me with Salem's Lot. The last one I really liked was Bag of Bones.

Sandra - I think series characters are like That Song Artists Always Have To Sing in concert. Billy Joel used to hate singing "Just the Way You Are". I could write an entire blog on this topic, but I'll start with a statement. It seems funny that creators always try to find a hit (song, book, TV show) and, once they get it, become bored with it. What's up with that? As a creator, you have to either strive to find the hit and stick with it or find that hit and, with series (TV, books) know where the end is. "Lost" did this well.

Courtmerrigan - You have me intrigue. I'm off to check out that piece.

Dana - I'm looking forward to reading more Parker as I've only read the first Spencer and Hawk wasnt' in it.

Kathy - Ironic that I'm about to start reading Patterson. My wife loves Cornwell, but faults the lackadaisical entries.