This blog isn't the only work of...well, something that had an anniversary lately.
Back in 2006, I started writing a column for professional and aspiring-professional actors about the non-acting aspects of the business. Over time, it's morphed into more of a marketing column, but I still try to slip in little bits of helpful info I feel they might not be getting from other sources. Because for some reason, and this is a sad thing that makes me a little bit crazy, most actors will not consume anything unless it specifically states "MADE FOR ACTORS." Such a shame, because not only are there so many other equally, if not more wonderful sections of the bookstore to learn from (and I'm using "bookstore" literally and metaphorically), we often learn more and better lessons about our areas of interest from sources outside of them: less at stake means less noise means more room for the stuff to sneak its way in.
A few months ago, I wrote a piece about the five non-acting books every actor should read. In it, I tossed off a remark about how smart actors (the ones I really write the columm for) can learn about how characters are drawn and their place in shaping story by reading great fiction. One smart actor wrote to me (see? it works!) and asked for a list, as long as I could muster, but at least 10. How could I not oblige?
Here's what I shared with him:
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
- Diary of a Mad Housewife, by Sue Kaufman (the movie is also good)
- Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates
- Easter Parade, by Richard Yates
- The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon
- Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh
- The Long Secret, by Louise Fitzhugh
- A Handful of Dust, by Evelyn Waugh
- Sophie's Choice, by William Styron
- Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
- Lucky Jim, by Kingsley Amis
- Factotum, by Charles Bukowski
As a bonus-extra, I threw in some collections of short stories I particularly like for this exercise (and also because they kick ass):
- The Portable Dorothy Parker (all stories, esp. Big Blonde and Horsey)
- Nine Stories, by J.D. Salinger
- A Curtain of Green, by Eudora Welty (best: "Why I Live at the P.O.")
- The Angel on the Roof: the Stories of Russell Banks
This is by no means a list of all-time best fiction, although any of these could live there happily. This is a character-driven list, where characters are there not only as agents to move the story forward (magical realism, I'm looking at you!) but to illuminate certain aspects of the human condition that other tools of fiction might not. They're characters I find especially compelling and well-drawn, even though, or maybe especially because, in some cases, they reveal their clock springs slowly.
I figured that since it's NaNoWriMo, it might be a fun list to float out there. As Merlin says in his own pep talk from the sidelines, the important thing is not to let reading get in the way of your writing time. But to stay inspired? Hell, yeah, you should read!
Any other great characters out there that should be on the list (where the books themselves are also extraordinary)? Add 'em in the comments, and let's all commence to readin'!