Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The Three Authors You Meet in Heaven

All art is theft, right? I'm thinking it's better to steal off a dead person than a living one, although my moral compass isn't exactly clear about it.

Anyway, the other day on the blog I was musing about how the five people I'd meet in heaven would probably be the people I least wanted to see (forgive me for coming over all Sartre there). And that made me think - what if I could choose? On the basis of wanting to learn something about how they did what they did? So I could become a better writer? Although, obviously, I'd be dead myself at this point and probably not likely to pick up a pen again.

Hang on, that raises another question - would it be heaven if I couldn't write in it? Or would it be heaven if the desire to write was taken away? Blimey. Too many questions. So here's the game.

Name the three authors you'd like to meet in heaven. I'm going for three because I can't spend all day on this. I'm writing a new book, you know.

Rule out Shakespeare. Shakespeare meets you at the gate, okay? In writer heaven, he's Saint Peter. So can you name three dead writers that you think could teach you something about your craft? Who would they be? Here's mine:

1. George Eliot. Because although I'm writing surreal crazy stuff at the moment, and have written crime before, all I actually want to write someday is Middlemarch. How did she create that town, and sustain it, and make us care for every single person in it? I have trouble making the reader really care for one.

2. Dylan Thomas. Because he had the gift of putting music in his poetry. And because Under Milk Wood has the best opening monologue of any play, and I include Henry V in that assessment. How do you write something that makes the readers hold their breath?

3. Graham Greene. Because he made the moral processes of the mind so clear to his readers, when I just get tangled up in a sticky web of emotion when I attempt that. Writing a clear psychological intent through a character without making it obvious, and without deviation - that's real skill.

So there you have it. Who would you like to learn from? And would it be heaven for you with or without the desire and the equipment to write?

11 comments:

Frances Garrood said...

Aliya, you can't have cared for Mr. Casaubon (hope I've remembered how to spell him)! But actually I agree with all of your three. I would add:

1. Anthony Trollope. I'd just like to now how he managed to discipline himself the way he did, how he thought up all those ridiulous but wonderful names, and we could talk horses, too.

2. Bernice Rubens, because her books have given me so much pleasure. And we both play(ed) the cello.

3. Evelyn Waugh, to find out if he was really as unpleasant as many people say he was. I doubt this, because I love Brideshead (although he did once send me a very rude postcard. Long story. Do you think it's worth anything now?)

Aliya Whiteley said...

Do you know, I do care for Mr Casaubon. He's a fuddy duddy. I like fuddy duddies.

I think you should blog about your rude postcard from Evelyn Waugh. I'm very interested.

Deborah Swift said...

At the risk of being totally unoriginal I'd have to say Dickens.(ducks as things are flung at her) At least he could give us a few instalments of his next penny chapbook.
I'd have to have Blake because he was just so much a one-off, and his illustrations are fabulous. Yes I know he's not a novelist, but perhaps he'd help me think outside the box a bit.
And Robert Louis Stevenson to teach me how to write just one bestseller!

Ann Weisgarber said...

Maybe heaven is the place where writers finally live the image of the writing life: sitting around with other writers, drinks in hand, as adoring fans gather nearby.

Here are my two top author choices. 1) Daphne Du Maurier because her opening line in Rebecca -- Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again -- still gives me chills, and 2) E. B. White because Charlotte's Web was the first book that I owned. It was a birthday gift when I turned six. That battered copy is still on my bookshelf and I make a point of reading it every year.

Doug Worgul said...

Charles Dickens
Ernest Hemingway
Robert Frost

Me said...

My three would be:

1. Alexander Cordell, who writes with insight and empathy about the world of the industrial revolution, especially the south Wales iron industry, in his historical novels.

2. Neville Shute, a teller of fascinating stories, some based on his own life experiences as an early aerospace engineer. A mind far in advance of his time.

3. Gerald Durrell, whose adventures as a collector of animals for zoos and breeding programmes never fail to make me chuckle, and who has the gift of seeing humour in almost any situation.

All three are lined up for my afterlife dinner party!

Ann Weisgarber said...

We have an interesting trend going on here. We've selected three women authors while there are eleven men.

I'm tossing in Agatha Christie. Maybe she wasn't the greatest literary author in the world, but how on earth did she write book after book, year after year, and make it look so easy?

Len Tyler said...

Interesting discussion so far.

I'd certainly like to meet PG Wodehouse (but perhaps best Not to Mention the War).

I'd also like to stage a drinking contest between Dylan Thomas and Scott Fitzgerald. (Since it's heaven, neither would hopefully come to any harm, or indeed have a hangover afterwards.)

Of the crime writers, I wouldn't mind meeting Sarah Caudwell. Not one of the better known names perhaps, but I enjoy her rather dry sense of humour.

Deborah Swift said...

I'm happy with my male choices. After all, I don't want too many other fascinating women about to hog their attention!

And who would want to dine with the Bronte sisters? Way too miserable. Or Jane Austen? Far too astute. Wouldn't want to end up in their heavenly books - "Pride and Paradise" for example.

Gabrielle Kimm said...

What a brilliant post! My three would be *pauses, scratches head, chews end of pen*

1. Jane Austen - such a brilliant sense of humour, such clear understanding of the human condition.

2. Rosemary Sutcliff - my first hist fic inspiration when I was a child. Loved her books so much!

3. Chaucer - wonderful imagination, fab (and delightfully vulgar) sense of humour

Not easy to choose, though.

Aliya Whiteley said...

I'm with you on the women writers front, Deborah. Who wants to have to share those delectable male writers with someone scintillating like Dorothy Parker? I'd never get a word in.