This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Have you ever been so inspired by an author’s work that you wish you could tell them exactly how much they have impacted your life? In this series, Literary Love Letters, we do just that – share open love letters to inspiring authors. Today, The Dead Wife’s Handbook author Hannah Beckerman writes to Jane Smiley, whose new book, Early Warning (Last Hundred Years Trilogy), is published on May 7.
Twenty years ago, during a university class rather grandly entitled ‘Appropriating Shakespeare’, I pulled out of my bag a brand new copy of a book by an author I’d not previously read, a novel I was supposed to read alongside King Lear.
The novel was A Thousand Acres and the moment I began reading it that evening I knew I was embarking on a new love affair with words and with writing. That may sound hyperbolic to someone for whom reading isn’t a transformative experience, but I have a sense that most other passionate readers will know what I mean. The novel not only spoke to me emotionally – and oh, what emotion! – but there was a rhythm and a beauty to the construction of your sentences that felt like nothing I’d read before. The university course I’d taken was designed to understand contemporary fiction in the light of Shakespearean texts: what A Thousand Acres did for me was bring a whole new emotional and psychological depth to a play I’d read dozens of times before.Fast forward twenty years, and I sat down to read the first novel in your Last Hundred Years trilogy, Some Luck. I was immediately transported again into your unique world of language, of family, of epic storytelling told with such precision and economy that I found myself wanting to re-read sentences, whole paragraphs twice, three times, just to revel in the beauty of their construction. Because now, as a writer myself, I didn’t just appreciate the technicality of your writing: I understood just how much skill it takes to compose a sentence that says so much in so few words, and the vision that goes into creating a rich tapestry of characters in the shape of the Langdons, for whom the reader cares about as if they were their own family.
There are a handful of writers whose work I read and re-read whenever I’m about to start writing something myself: you, Maggie O’Farrell, Anne Tyler, Sarah Waters. I read you not because I think I’ll ever be able to pen a novel that even comes to close to the perfection in yours. I read your books to remind myself what writing can do when it’s at its very best.
So, thank-you: for making an eighteen year old fall in love with King Lear in a way I’d never have done otherwise. For novels that raise the bar for the rest of us. And for the wonderful Langdon family, whose lives will continue to resonate in the reader’s imagination long after the trilogy is completed.
With all best wishes,
Who would you like to write a literary love letter to and why?