Stephane Michaka is a gracious and thoughtful French writer whose novel about the complex relationship between Raymond…
I lived with my parents in Jackson Heights, Queens, and every morning, Monday through Friday, I put on a shirt and tie and rode the 7 train out to the Mid-Manhattan Library. Not the one from Ghostbusters, with the lions out front, but the other one, the smaller, grimier library across the street, where you could actually pull books off the shelves.
Carver has been an active part of my adult life and for the most part, the reason I’ve tried to become a writer. I like his people, they’re believable, and certainly more real than real, in most cases. Reading the Ann Beattie stories made me want to grab a Carver story, just to have it as a comparison.
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.”