Hello and welcome as we take a journey into Another Year of Fiction. I decided to kick off this year’s experiment with a novel that was recommended to me by several people last year: Jim Thompson’s incredible 1952 crime novel The Killer Inside Me. Having received accolades from such luminaries as Stanley Kubrick and Stephen King, Thompson’s most famous book is a terrifying dive into the psyche of a normalized serial killer. The notion that depravity lies just below the surface of a small-town demeanor is one crucial theme of this novel, but there are some very important writing lessons to take away from it as well.
This was in my estimation a phenomenal book, and one of the creepiest I’ve read in some time. While I would recommend it, I’d direct that more toward people inclined to read crime/mystery or horror novels. But if you can stomach the dark vision of humanity and what lurks underneath, it would be hard to do better than this novel.
Next up: I decided a good antidote to the bizarre, misogynistic churn of our culture would be that most classic of feminist novels, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. (But mostly it’s because my wife has been asking me to read this one for years.)
Stay tuned for the next essay in Another Year of Fiction. And thanks for reading.
Hello once again readers and welcome as I wrap up the final title from My Year of Living (Actually Reading) Fiction. As with Reading Like a Writer, I wanted to bookend last year’s list with another tome on writing. I decided on Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, which had been recommended to me by a few people. The book itself was decent, but had some glaring issues I couldn’t overlook. Lamott is much less funny on the page than she seems to think she is, and I found myself stunned that her editor didn’t try to correct this irregularity. Despite this there were a few portions that did make me laugh, and there are many excellent ideas through the entire book. I want to turn to some of the main lessons I took away from this work:
While there are many excellent pieces of advice throughout this work, I am not going to give it my full recommendation to other writers out there. Lamott really could have used a stronger editor as the book weaves in and out of her rambling considerations of her own talent, her internal feelings, and how nerve-wracking the writer’s life can become. While I don’t doubt many of us have experienced these things, it’s equally if not important to find ways to break through the self-doubt. All of this being said, there is a reason why this book has been a massive bestseller for years and is routinely included among lists of “books on writing.” There is absolutely a lot to gain from reading it, so I certainly would say take a look if you enjoy her previous writing (and I must confess this is the first book of hers I’ve ever read).
This wraps up my first year experiment in reading nothing but fiction (and two books on process). Up next, I begin my foray into Another Year of Fiction. I have decided my first book will be Jim Thompson’s 1952 novel The Killer Inside Me. Stay tuned for an essay on that book in the coming weeks, and as always thanks for reading!
John Abraham is a published author and freelance journalist who lives in the Twin Cities with his wife Mary and their cats. He is writing a speculative dystopian novel and is seeking representation and a publisher.