What are you working on next?
Right now I'm finishing up the very last stages of the redraft for “Seize the Girl”, a third book that concludes the story begun in “Kiss Me”. The whole series is pretty epic, and after the sort of slow-burn, “Empire Strikes Back” kind of story hat you see in the second volume, “My Generation’s Lament”, the finale is where I get to make everything blow up. It's an exciting thing to be finishing.
And after that, I'll be writing a novel about pick-up artists, which I've already done a lot of planning for.
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Who are your favorite authors?
In a sense, my answering this question could be misleading, because a lot of these authors are people whose books I haven't returned as often as I'd like. I read very widely, and often in response to what other people are reading, which means I often don't get deep into an author's whole body of work.
For some idea of what I'm talking about, check out my posts on what I read in 2011: http://benhourigan.com/2012/01/02/2011-a-year-in-reading-elation-and-heartbreak-part-1-of-3/ I mean to put these together into an book someday.
But there are a few authors whose work has been really influential for me, and I can call these my favorites. Here's my top 5.
No. 1, no one ever seems to have heard of---the Japanese Nobel Prize winner Kenzaburô Ôe. Even when I was living in Japan, people there would tell me that nobody reads him. They should! He writes harrowing semi-autobiographical books that explore the darkest sides of everyday human experience, in particular the thoughts and motivations that we hide from others. But he does this without being misanthropic. I've read many of his books: my favorite is *A Personal Matter*, which is about the birth of his intellectually disabled son.
No. 2 is a new addition, and someone I've not read nearly enough of: Graham Greene. *The Quiet American* is a fabulous example of great short books can be, and it's a fantastic dramatization of the conflict between youthful idealism and aged cynicism. Also, parts of the film version with Brendan Fraser and Michael Caine were shot in Hoi An, which is currently my favorite place to escape to and write. *The Power and the Glory* is also magnificent, especially for being a warning against the kind of conspicuous moral superiority that social media now gives us so many opportunities to exercise. In reality, the people who speak most loudly about their own virtue and what others should do can be horrible, substantially driven by pride and hatred. The protagonist of *The Power and the Glory*, who is one of the few decent people in the book, thinks of himself as weak and reprehensible, and makes no attempt to convince anyone otherwise.
No. 3 is Milan Kundera, who again, I haven't read nearly enough of. It's such a cliché to love *The Unbearable Lightness of Being*, but Kundera's writing is beautiful and clear, and he's the best writer I know of when it comes to infusing a story with profound philosophy without making it too heavy. If I wished I wrote like anyone else, it would be Kundera. You might also notice a bit of Tomas from *Unbearable Lightness* in Lily from *Kiss Me*.
No. 4 is Tolstoy. I read *War and Peace* when I was fifteen or sixteen, to keep pace with a brilliant guy I was friends with at school. Though at times it drags---I found the “war“ parts incredibly boring---it's also the most impressive book I've ever read. It seems to include the whole of life. For a shot of Tolstoy that's relatively easy to get through, I recommend his later book *Resurrection*. It gives you a some of the grandeur and intensity of *War and Peace* in a much more concentrated form.
No. 5 is Charles Bukowski. I read him only after hearing Hank Moody's daughter, Becca, calling him a "poor man's Bukowski" in an early season of *Californication*. I can't imagine Moody being anywhere near as good as Bukowski, so it was probably a fitting insult. I read *Post Office* when I in a job I hated, felt I hadn't achieved anything, and was feeling lost and worthless. And it made me feel less alone, and like it might be worth hanging in there in life and at my artistic pursuits. Bukowski was *fifty* before he got out of his horrible job at the post office, but he got out. I'm very, very lucky, that I had the chance to get out at thirty-two. One of my greatest fears is that circumstances might one day compel me to go back. That's quite a motivator in terms of trying to make my writing and my business work.