Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Everyman's Library

writer's bookshelf, the--a close-to-hand selection of books in the writer's work area; an idiosyncratic selection of reference guides and comfort reading the working writer will use; inspiration and edification between covers.

For some writers, the basic reference guides--The Chicago Manual of Style, an unabridged dictionary, Fowler's Modern American-English Usage--are enough; others still have titles related to a specific project in the works. Yet other writers have titles at hand to remind them of the cadence or vocabulary of a particular work. It is also possible that some works, discovered early in the writer's development--works such as The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-exupery--elicit a sentimental and inspirational connection. The important consideration: Past, present, and future reading are essential to the writer's continuous engagement with craft. The temptation to rely on easily accessible Internet references, the quid pro quo of you look, they tell, does not enhance retention where it matters--in the storage vaults of the senses.

The compiler of this lexicon keeps at close hand, in addition to CMOS, the (unabridged)American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language 3rd and 4th eds., Fowler, and The New York Public Library Literature Companion, Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi, Love and Death in the American Novel, by Leslie Fiedler, Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose, How to Read and Why by Harold Bloom, The Oxford University Press Classical Dictionary, Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel by Jane Smiley, The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler, Maps and Legends by Michael Chabon, The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. These titles gravitated through frequency of use to the bookshelf adjacent the writer's desk.

What are yours? On consideration, what do they say about you and what you write?


Anonymous said...

I don't know where else to post this question: does Sally know you have her listed under your 'FOLLOWERS' ?
I've seen her in action - she leads from behind!
-Karen D.

Querulous Squirrel said...

This is a great collection. I don't have anything exactly "at hand," I just know where everything is, all the writing books alphabetized in one area, all the short story collections in another, all the novels and short stories aphabetized in another and the to-be-read pile by my bed which I try to keep small so as not to overwhelm myself. I try to give lots of my books away to my children as I got older. One is a voracious reader and senior in college and I feel like paring down my collection to the essentials. For example, he got my Chicago manual, as he is now an editor and I am not. Everything seems replacable, unfortunately.

lowenkopf said...

How could I have forgotten Studies in Classic American Literature by D. H. Lawrence? Oh, how?