I am not the writer whose backstory includes always having my nose in a book. Most author…
I like books by men who haven’t always had soft hands.
(Examples: Ed Abbey, Rick Bass, Wendell Berry, Raymond Carver, Dostoyevsky, Jim Harrison, Charles Bukowski, Barry Lopez, Gary Snyder, Jack Kerouac, Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, Henry David Thoreau. What matters is that the author has done some kind of raw physical labor, either in a negative context (Carver or Bukowski’s menial jobs, Dostoyevsky’s forced labor) or ‘constructive’ (Berry, Thoureau).)
The first ‘real’ book I ever read all the way through was Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Although I have little memory of the novel’s plot, I still claim it as one of my favorites. What I do remember is the name Sal Paradise, the weight of the pages, the feel of the back cover on the pads of my fingers. But only one short scene still lingers in my mind. “It was always mañana,” Sal narrates. “For the next week that was all I heard—mañana, a lovely word and one that probably means heaven.”
The book I was trying to power my way through—Thomas Wolfe’s You Can’t Go Home Again—was bumming me out, both because of the madly desperate fever dream quality of the prose, written by a man in the throes of fatal illness, and because, in a literal sense, I could barely focus on it. Whenever I would read more than a page or two, my vision would get fuzzy, I would feel unbalanced, I would have to close my eyes or squint before I could try to read another page.
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