On Writers as Readers: A Brief Note of Appreciation for Ken Follett.
by Tim Kavi
You know most writers I know of are avid readers, both in their genres of specialty, and across all kinds of writing.
We do that for a lot of reasons. Although it sounds circular, many of us became writers because we first enjoyed reading good books.
My story is simple. I read at an early age. My oldest brother would often leave his books lying about and I would read them. My parents saw I liked to read and encouraged me to read more. I discovered I could be entertained, and learned all kinds of information. (I read many more books than my brother's, that were for my level).
Of course, reading my brother's advanced books, I discovered there were many words in them I did not know or could not understand. So I began keeping vocabulary notebooks where I wrote down every word I didn't know, looked them up, and copied down it's definition with an example of usage that I completely memorized. (My parents did not know I was doing this, but soon noticed I jabbered in big words).
One could say then that from an early age, I admired a writer's work!
Of course there are many people who like to read that are not writers. They read just to enjoy it. When I started out, I didn't read to become a better writer. However, by the time I was seven years old I announced to my parents I wanted to write as an author. They encouraged this also.
Readers are wonderful and the appreciative ones are those that writers like to write for. This is our audience. Fans too are generally wonderful, if a writer is lucky enough to have them.
Whole fields of literature are supposedly aided by "literary criticism"-- works of alleged scholarship that supposedly help us to understand written works by various authors. Still, to read the work and let it first and foremost speak to us,is one of our most valuable joys as a reader.
However, as writers, we often read, to both be instructed and entertained by our fellow writers. Then occasionally, we are held in awe!
Hopefully this awe is not a prison, but an encouragement for us to simply write more by inspiration. (Imagine if every writer read someone's work and said: 'there you go..it's so good, nothing remains to be written. I might as well give up writing right now!'). I admit I have sometimes thought this, but I keep writing.
I also admit that sometimes we writers are damned envious or jealous because of our reading ! heheheh
Occasionally as I read a fellow writer's published works, I am so appreciative of what I have just read that I feel like I have been struck with something so significant and strong, that it becomes utterly unforgettable.
Such is the case as I have recently been reading Ken Follet's "The Pillars of the Earth". This novel, is assuredly a mammoth undertaking by any standard, but is absolutely remarkable to say the least.
It is also instructive to the point of greatness!
Now, it is not my intent to provide a supposed scholastic reference of literary criticism, but I know it when I read something as a writer that I really like!
So, I am implored to tell you about Follet's significant use of a simile--in a way that I have not seen for quite some time.
According to the website: http://www.saidwhat.co.uk/spoon/similes.php -- A simile is the comparison of two unlike things using the word 'like' or 'as', e.g. an example of a simile would be as big as a bus.
Well, there I was the other day just beginning my read of this wonderful novel, when Follett used a simile that really hammered a passage home!
While describing the characters, he described a priest using the following simile: "He had an alert, dangerous look, like a black cat that could smell the nest of baby mice".*
Wow! When I read stuff like this, I am seriously taken to school as I am reminded that sometimes the act or writing is such an artistic and creative art.
I smiled so big when I read this! I knew exactly what Follett meant, and I learned a lot about the character he was describing.
Not only that, I am damned envious! :-)
Happy reading, whether you are a reader, or a reader and a writer!
* (This is from page. 13 of the Deluxe Edition published in October 2007 by New American Library ISBN: 978-0-451-22524-5).