I’ve recently started using a term that I haven’t heard before: a literary crush.
I thought I had perhaps coined the phrase (I’ve always wanted to create a word or phrase that becomes widely used. I tried getting people to us escuss, meaning to discuss via email, but that didn’t work out.) but I googled it and I guess it’s common.
I do use it differently, however. The websites I found were discussing (or escussing!) characters they have a crush on. I use it to describe a strong connection with an author’s writing.
If an author writes a book that speaks to you so much that you feel a bond with the author, that’s a literacy crush. Here are a few of my literary crushes:
I read “Kings of the Earth” by Jon Clinch because he was going to be speaking at a book retreat organized by the Books on the Nightstand folks.
Briefly, it’s the story of three brothers in upstate New York who live and work together on the family farm. One of them dies and another is accused of killing him.
That is a sinfully simple synopsis of a complex and incredibly written novel.
When I started the book, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. I kept describing it as “bleak.” Their circumstances were bleak, their histories were bleak. It was sad and depressing.
But as I read on, I became completely involved in the lives of Jon Clinch’s characters.
I think I wrote previously about my over active sense of sympathy when people are disappointed or taken advantage of.
In a scene in “Kings of the Earth,” one of the brothers is being questioned at the police station and he’s not been off the farm much. They bring in McDonald’s food and he is really excited about it. I felt so sorry for him that I cried.
Later I read Jon Clinch’s “Finn” which is the story of Huck Finn’s father. It’s a very different book and, again, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it.
But, like “Kings of the Earth”, I became engrossed. “Finn” furthered my literary crush because how well crafted and written it was, but I wasn’t distracted by that.
I’ve read books that have been superbly written and contain sentences that are so good that they have taken me out of the story. I admire the good writing, but I don’t want it to distract me from the plot or characters.
With “Finn,” I was aware that it was well written but I was still engaged. It wasn’t until the end that I really stopped to admire Jon Clinch’s art.
In a totally different vein, I also have a literary crush on Christopher Moore.
Where Jon Clinch’s books are harsh and almost too painfully beautiful to read, Christopher Moore’s books are laugh out loud funny.
My hands down favorite is “Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.” The book is absolutely brilliant. There is no other word that I can use to describe it.
It starts with Biff and Christ meeting as children. Jesus is entertaining his little brother by letting him smash lizards with a rock and then bringing them back to life.
I’ve always loved books that show a different side of an old story and, ever since I directed a production of Jesus Christ Superstar, I’ve been interested in Jesus as a man, rather than as a religious symbol.
Christopher Moore does both extremely well. I can’t even imagine the bible-reading and research he had to do.
Biff is funny, human, irreverent and, most importantly, a caring friend to Jesus. My favorite scene in “Lamb” is the writing of the beatitudes. It’s hard to imagine the beatitudes as humorous, but I laughed until I cried!
Although ““Lamb is my favorite, I’ve enjoyed all of Christopher Moore’s book, as well as his blog.
He often includes recurring characters and little inside jokes for the folks who read all of his books. You’re not missing anything if it’s your first Christopher Moore book, but it’s a little something extra if you’re a fan.
Two of my favorite characters are a grim reaper named Minty Fresh and a dog who calls his human “food guy.”
One of my more recent literary crushes is Carlos Ruiz Zafon, a Spanish writer who wrote “The Shadow of the Wind.”
I read that book quite a while ago and remember that I really liked it a lot. I’ve not read a lot of gothic fiction, but that’s the description word that comes to mind.
I’m in the middle of “The Angel’s Game” right now and it too seems very gothic.
They are both set in Barcelona, Spain and feature characters who love books and words. It’s obvious that the author is passionate about literature. Plus they are extremely well written.
Actually, I’ve read both as translations and wondered how closely they are translated.
I wish I knew more about that type of work. They can’t just translate word for word because that would result in an extremely awkward book to read. There is obviously an art to translating a novel and I wonder how much of what I’m reading is the author’s talent and how much is the translator’s. When I stop to read a sentence again because it is so stunning, whose prose am I admiring?
I have less than 100 words left and I have to mention two more: Wally Lamb and Ian McEwan.
I don’t have the space to go into why I have literary crushes on these authors, but it’s odd because they are almost exact opposites from each other. Wally Lamb’s books are long, detailed journeys through a life while my favorite Ian McEwan’s books are short and stark, and almost allegorical.
All books make the world a better place, but the books these authors have written have meant something special to me.
If I could say anything to them, it would simply be thank you.