Saturday, May 12, 2012

Wish I'd Written That...

Not long ago, Terry Teachout posted a list of the ten American novels and the ten American plays he would most like to have written.  Patrick Kurp followed up with a few comments and a list of his own.  There was some overlap, but not as much as you might expect.

Terry Teachout's list is at and you can find Patrick Kurp's response at

It's been said that we can't know how even our closest friends experience music (can't recall who said that -- may have run across the comment in one of Joseph Epstein's essays...) -- sometimes I wonder if the same isn't true of the experience of art in general, of film and photography and fiction and all the rest.  The novel that I find trite and mawkish may move you beyond your capacity to express; the poem that I find heartbreakingly sad may leave you wondering just when I lost whatever critical faculties I may once have had.

It's also been said that the act of drawing up such "wish I'd written that" lists exposes you to the sneer of the critic, professional or otherwise, who looks over the list and says, "You like that?"

But drawing up such lists is a lot of fun.

So, in no particular order, here are some novels, short stories, and poems I wish I'd written.

William Goldman: The Princess Bride; Boys and Girls Together
Don Robertson: Praise the Human Season; Mystical Union
Theodore Sturgeon: "The Girl Who Knew What They Meant;" "Hurricane Trio;" "A Saucer of Loneliness"
Robert Heinlein: The Puppet Masters
Robert Silverberg: Dying Inside; The Book of Skulls; Thorns
Joe Haldeman: 1968
Stephen King: "The Body;" Hearts in Atlantis
John D. MacDonald: The Damned; "End of the Tiger;" The Executioners; The End of the Night
Evan Hunter: Sons; Far from the Sea; Love, Dad
Joseph Epstein: "The Goldin Boys"
Roger Zelazny: "A Rose for Ecclesiastes"
Donald Justice: "Men at Forty;" "The Tourist from Syracuse"
Dana Gioia: "Summer Storm;" "Unsaid"
Harlan Ellison: "Paladin of the Lost Hour;" "Shatterday;" "The Function of Dream Sleep;" "Jeffty Is Five"
Ray Bradbury: "Any Friend of Nicholas Nickleby Is a Friend of Mine;" "The Town Where No One Got Off"

That list is by no means exhaustive -- there's plenty more to be added to it, and it changes, and you'll have noticed it doesn't get into Hemingway/Fitzgerald/etc country at all (but, really, who wouldn't want to have written Gatsby or "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber"?)

One nice thing about running across lists like those of Teachout and Kurp is that you run across titles that you'd not heard of, or you're reminded of titles you'd meant to read but had simply forgotten to make note of.  But that also means that your to-be-read pile gets even bigger -- I don't know how you're doing with your TBR pile, but I don't expect to live long enough to finish mine, so I should know better than to look at such lists.  But I look at them anyway.  So if you've got a list of your own, pass it along or post a link in the comments; I'm always happy to put a few more titles on The Amazing Colossal To-Be-Read Pile.

Late to the Party Department: Robert McCammon's novel Boy's Life is a terrific read.  If, like me, you'd missed it, grab a copy immediately.  If you like Bradbury, or King's "The Body," or Dan Simmons's Summer of Night, you'll enjoy Boy's Life.  My thanks to Kealan Patrick Burke and the gang at his Goodreads group for steering me to this one.

And a brief commercial: I've got a new short story up at Amazon's Kindle store called "Saturdays That Might Have Been;" it's a short fantasy with (I hope) something of a Jack Finney/Twilight Zone feel to it.  It's free from May 11 through May 13, after which it goes back to 99 cents.  Give it a look if you get a chance and while the price is right.