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John Steinbeck is My Homeboy.

So, I realised something today. It’s a bit awkward.

In nearly every post, I have either hinted strongly or stated outright that the author I’m writing about is my favourite author.

How many favourite authors can one girl have? As you might have figured out, I have plenty.

But in the interest of fairness, and in order to avoid finishing my final university assignment for the semester, I thought I would have a crack at figuring it out.

Favourite: [adj] preferred to all others of the same kind.

Let’s do this.

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After an afternoon of pondering this conundrum, I have come to at least one conclusion: there can not only be one. I actually felt sick at the thought of picking one above another, feeling that they would be disappointed in me, despite the fact that, um, they’re all dead. So I have been very courageous and narrowed it down to five, but amongst those five, I will never choose. In order to waste even more time I decided to do a little bit of research about my homeboy’s, because after all, there is a person behind a book (or so I’m told). I am listing these authors in alphabetical order by last name, purely so there is no arguing or jealousy amongst them.

I may need to get out of the house.

Bryce Courtenay (14.08.1933 – 22.11.2012)

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I cried when Bryce Courtenay died. I remember it distinctly, because my mum called me to tell me, and I didn’t believe her at first. I had to check the internet to confirm it.

I was given the hardcover version of Courtenay’s final book, Jack of Diamonds, for Christmas, a month after he passed away. It felt strange to read it, knowing it would be the last book ever written by this herculean author, I was almost reluctant to finish it yet I couldn’t put it down. It wasn’t the book itself that got to me, but rather what came after. Upon turning that final page there it was, a little note to us from Courtenay himself:

It’s been a privilege to write for you and to have you accept me as a storyteller in your lives. Now, as my story draws to an end, may I say only, ‘Thank you. You have been simply wonderful.’

With love and admiration,

Bryce Courtenay.

Bryce, you old devil, you got me good with that one. I am tearing up just writing it here.

Anyway, on to brighter things. I am starting to realise that I will natter on all day if I don’t give myself some strict guidelines, so I’ll make them up as I go along.

Five Courtenay Facts:

  1. He wrote his first story when he was seven, about the man in the moon, called The Moon is Black.
  2. He came to Australia because he was banned from his home country of South Africa, for starting a weekend school for African’s.
  3. He is responsible for creating one of Australia’s most famous adverts, The Milkybar Kid.
  4. He didn’t begin writing The Power of One, his first novel, until he was 53.
  5. Since then he has published 21 books in 23 years.

Why I love Bryce Courtenay (apart from his books):

He gave away on average 2500 book a year, to reader’s he met in the street. In the STREET. Why the heck don’t I live in Sydney.

Courtenay quotes:

  • Pride is holding your head up when everyone around you has theirs bowed. Courage is what makes you do it.
  • Besides love, independence of thought is the greatest gift an adult can give a child.
  • Always listen to yourself…it is better to be wrong than simply to follow convention.

My blog post about Courtenay’s book April Fool’s Day can be found here.

Ernest Hemingway (21.07.1899 – 02.07.1961)

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As with a lot of the most famous classicists, I was intimidated initially by Hemingway. I was worried that I would find his writing too dense and confusing, a throwback to a different literary time. I bought To Have and Have Not about 10 years ago, where it sat on my shelf looking grand but gathering dust. About a year after I bought it I decided to give it a crack, and thus began my love affair with this amazing man.

Five Hemingway Facts:

  1. As a young child, his mother used to dress him in girl’s clothes.
  2. He was an ambulance driver for the Red Cross in WWI.
  3. The FBI maintained an open file on Hemingway from WWII onwards.
  4. Upon waking he would drink absinthe, whisky, vodka, wine, gin, tequila, champagne and beer. Seriously.
  5. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954.

Why I Love Hemingway (apart from his books):

The man invented the mojito. I could bow down and kiss his feet for bringing this summertime dream into the world.

Hemingway Quotes:

  • If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water.
  • There is no friend as loyal as a book.
  • There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

My post about Hemingway’s Men Without Women can be found here.

George Orwell (25.06.1903 – 21.01.1950)

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Like 9/10ths of the rest of society, I was introduced to Animal Farm in Year 9 English. We pulled that poor book apart so aggressively to find ‘meaning’, that by the end there was no meaning left. I associated it so heavily with the scent of frustration and boredom in 4th period English that I didn’t read it again for about six years, despite having it in my possession the whole time. Then, late one night, I smoked a little Mary-Jane, settled down with the book, and subsequently had my mind blown.

Five Orwell Facts:

  1. George Orwell is the pseudonym for Eric Arthur Blair
  2. He was born in India but moved to England when he was one.
  3. His father worked for the opium department.
  4. He wrote the majority of 1984 in 1948.
  5. When Animal Farm was released, Orwell travelled from bookshop to bookshop moving it from the children’s section to the adult’s.

Why I Love Orwell (apart from his books):

The fact that he lived in abject poverty in both London and Paris, despite the fact that he could have sought help from his parents at any time, shows the immense depth of character this man truly has.

Orwell Quotes:

  • In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
  • Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.
  • The best books…are those that tell you what you know already.

My post about Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London can be found here.

John Steinbeck (22.02.1902 – 20.12.1968)

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I don’t know what happened when I first read The Grapes of Wrath. Something in my brain clicked into place, locked onto Steinbeck’s writing, and refused to let go. I simply adore the writing of this man, it is poetic and musical in ways that I can only dream of achieving. Since reading The Grapes of Wrath I have determinedly sourced Steinbeck’s books in any way possible, including stealing Of Mice and Men off my little brother. So crazed am I about Steinbeck that I actually own three copies of East of Eden…and I don’t care.

Steinbeck facts:

  1. His actual family name was Großsteinbeck, which his grandfather shortened to Steinbeck upon immigrating to America.
  2. He dropped out of Stanford University before graduating to become a writer.
  3. He was one of the first Westerner’s to visit the USSR after the Communist Revolution.
  4. After JFK was assassinated, Jackie Kennedy approached Steinbeck to write the official biography of the late president.
  5. Steinbeck has his own museum, The National Steinbeck Centre, in Salinas California. It is the only museum in America to be dedicated solely to one writer.

Why I Love Steinbeck (apart from his books):

Steinbeck shunned the limelight, despite gaining fame at a relatively young age. If I had the ability to write anything even an eighth as beautiful as The Grapes of Wrath you would be hearing about it, from me. Continually. Steinbeck wrote because he needed to write, not to seek fame but perhaps to seek some justice for the downtrodden he continually championed.

Steinbeck Quotes:

  • If you’re in trouble, or hurt or need – go to the poor people. They’re the only ones that will help – the only ones.
  • It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure on the world.
  • In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable.

My post about Steinbeck’s Cannery Row can be found here.

Ok. So I lied. I couldn’t pick just five, my fingers couldn’t even type the words. I am at a complete standstill in choosing between Oscar Wilde and F. Scott Fitzgerald, so whatever. They are equal favourites in my mind. I am not going to write about them in this post because my neck is getting sore, I have spent roughly two hours longer than I first expected delving into the lives of these wonderful men, and I’m sure you have had enough. Also, it leaves me room to write a new post about them, which means I can include my Highly Commended’s, Lewis Carroll and Ben Elton.

Hopefully no one has notice that my ‘five’ favourite authors has rapidly become eight, and will undoubtedly be more by tomorrow morning. I make no apologies. I just love these guys.

I am slightly embarrassed to point out something else. Something I’m sure you have realised.

All of my favourite author’s are men.

Yep, every one of them. I don’t know why this is. I certainly don’t believe that men are better writer’s than women, I own and adore many books written by female authors. I would like to be a female author myself. I didn’t actually realise that all my favourite author’s are male until I sat down and came up with this list, but now I guess the truth is out there. Please don’t think poorly of me. These boys are simply my homeboy’s.

I would like to end by imagining these four men in a bar somewhere, a small-town, broken-down hole in the wall. There is cobwebs on the windows and decades of spilt drinks staining the bar wood a deep scotch brown. They would all be swilling their drink of choice, Hemingway dominating the conversation in a booming voice as he waves his mojito and calls for another round. Courtenay would be throwing back beer with the best of them, sharp as a tack amongst these literary heavyweights. His quick wit and even quicker quips would have them all in stitches, Steinbeck smiling quietly to himself as he sips on his ‘Jack Rose’. He is taking in the scene with watchful eyes, perhaps writing it into some as yet unknown masterpiece about the lives of working men. Orwell would lend a lofty tone to the conversation as it switches from women to politics, putting forth his views with confident ease. His glass of cheap wine sits on the bar, a throwback to days in Paris where wine was the poetry of life. He is waiting until Hemingway is otherwise occupied, then he plans to ask the silent barman for a cup of strong tea. A cloud of smoke hovers above their heads as their cigarettes glide through the air, keeping tempo with the pace of the conversation as each man makes his argument. There is laughter and jeers, mocking and anger as the conversation swirls in the bar like brandy in a balloon. Wilde and Fitzgerald hover outside, sure of their welcome but not wanting to interrupt. Eventually they turn and leave, deciding to come back on a different day.

And there we will leave them, my literary hero’s, in an unnamed bar in an unnamed town, drinking as much as they can and smoking without fear of death. They have given their blood to the world in the form of their words, leaving behind legacies that will never fade. This is their time now, their time to take back their pound of flesh and reminisce on their halcyon days as wielders of pen and soldiers of truth.

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Who are in your top five?

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55 Comments

  1. I agree that if you love reading it’s impossible to have just one favourite author – or book for that matter. It would be like choosing between children if I had any.

    I also notice that my favourite author/book tends to change according to what kind of space I’m at in life.

    And I love Hemingway, Orwell, Scott Fitzgerald and Steinbeck of course. I’m not sure how you couldn’t love these guys – if not for their style and storytelling, then at least for the contribution they made to literature.

    • So true, it is kind of like choosing between your children, nearly impossible. And it does change, just like you say. I narrowed it down to these guys because they are all authors who I have been reading a long time, whose books I seek out (and plan to own them all eventually 🙂 ) and who I can pick up no matter what mood I am in.

  2. Thank you for sharing your top 5 (or turn to 8) favorite authors. I never read any books by them despite knowing some of them or thier well known books.

    For my 5 favorite authors (let say international one, not Thai – from my country):
    1. Haruki Murakami
    2. Roald Dahl
    3. James Herriet
    4. Agatha Christie
    5. Otsu Ichi

    • I love Roald Dahl and Agatha Christie too, but I haven’t heard of the other three! So I will be searching them out soon for a read, thanks for introducing me to some new authors 🙂

  3. Wow that you were able to narrow the list so succinctly! I don’t think I could attempt such a feat. But I must say, that I thoroughly enjoyed “Men Without Women”–a great and interesting read. There is so much unsaid in that book…

    • I’m so glad you liked it! Yes that is the beauty of Hemingway isn’t it, he says so much in so few words.

  4. Oh my that’s hard to pick my top 5: But here it goes,
    James Baldwin
    John Steinbeck
    Langston Hughes
    Tennessee Williams
    Jane Austin

  5. Great selection. I have to admit I haven’t read much Baldwin/Williams, and I have never heard of Langston Hughes! So thankyou for a few more great writers to explore. Also my boyfriend’s middle name is Langston, so I love that name, can’t wait to get to know the author.

  6. Fantastic blog! I’m going to be torn between reading books and reading ABOUT BOOKS on your blog. Thanks for the introduction to Bryce Courtenay; I’ve never heard of him or read any of his books. A new treasure chest to dig into!

    • I hope you like him, he writes a lot of Australian literature. His books are always ridiculously well researched, to the point where you begin to question if it is a true story! A mark of a great writer in my mind. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Really enjoyed your post and I look forward to reading more of them. It took me a while, but I came up with my favorite list:
    1. Edgar Alan Poe
    2.William Goldman
    3.L. Frank Baum
    4. Richard Connell
    5. Suzanne Collins
    6. Joshua Jacobs
    7. Piers Anthony
    Very hard to choose just five and my list isn’t necessarily in order. There are countless more. 🙂 But these are my favorites because they are my role models. When I read their work, I think, man I wish I could write something like that! They write with such insight into their readers feelings and emotions and they capture the essence of true life in their details, their characters. What should be mundane and boring is brought to life and made interesting. It’s just amazing.

    • That is a great list! There is a few there that I have never heard of, so now I’m really looking forward to checking them out 🙂 It’s interesting to sit down and really think about who your favourite’s are, isn’t it, because that then leads on to why…and I think you have summed it up perfectly!

  8. Excellent title!
    And, ah yes, the lit crush. Hemingway broke my heart in The Paris Wife. I’m still recovering.

    Cheers though,
    Persephone’s Step Sisters

    • I haven’t read The Paris Wife but I just looked it up. Seems like it is a must-read, thanks for the introduction!

    • Thankyou, sometimes I think it is nothing but the ramblings of a half-crazed mind…so I am truly glad you enjoyed it!

    • I meant to add earlier that you hit home run with the “homeboy”. The purrfect word. Enjoyed the Man of Heart post, how you tied in your experiences with the bk.

      • Thankyou 🙂 It actually popped into my head while I was gardening, so I belted inside to write the post before I forgot it!

      • Sounds like me. I wanted to tuck this into one of the recent posts, how I said to hubby w/ hair dripping out of the bathroom: “Honey, I need to unload my brain onto the computer. I was writing in the shower.”

      • Haha, I love it! Probably won’t be long until we can simply scan or upload our thoughts directly onto a computer, even if we’re nowhere near one!

      • I’d be honored if you took a look at my Unthreading Yeats and the finale to my writing series sometime. No need to respond. Xx H Wfr

  9. I knew I was hooked when I started reading sections of your blog out loud to my wife. (I kept interrupting a book she was buried in.) I’ve been to Steinbeck’s museum in Salinas three times. It is beautifully done. Each of your authors, except Courtenay, has touched my life at one time or the other. So I will check Courtenay out. I’ve definitely hit the follow button. Curt

    • I am so jealous! When I found out about this museum I immediately decided to put it on my literary bucket list. One day I hope. I really hope you enjoy Courtenay, he really is brilliant in my mind. Thanks for following, I hope your wife wasn’t too annoyed at the interruption!

      • Actually Peggy loves books and enjoyed the interruptions, Jayde. Have you ever read “Travels with Charlie?” For Steinbeck, it’s a light read, but it absolutely caught my wandering nature. And the RV he traveled in is at the museum. Curt

  10. No, I haven’t read that one yet! I will have to get my hands on it ASAP, thanks for the recommendation.

  11. i have a really hard time with things like this – naming 5 top writers because my likes and dislikes change with my moods,

    If my arm is twisted, hmmmmm. Hemingway, Shakespeare (Taming of the Shrew all time favorite), JRR Tolkein, Ray Bradbury, Bronte sisters (can we pretend they are one person)

    • Great list! Well done on including Shakespeare 🙂 You’re right it does change with your mood, especially for me as each time I finish a book I think ‘wow, this is my favourite author!’

  12. I’ve visited george orwells grave… You would love it!!

    His actual grave was donated by a french lady (i cant remember her name) as he was extradited and he now lies in france… Its a beautiful grave… And the mementos left from fans cover it… It is very touching… Its covered in lipstick kisses and such things… I dont know if i can post it to you if you are interested at all or ill just put it in my blog…

    • Wow I would love to see it! Blog it if you like and I’ll check it out, you have also just given me a fantastic idea for a blog post…famous authors graves…thankyou!

  13. Pingback: A sweet word | Completely Disappear

  14. Steinbeck would be in my top 5 too, along with Margaret Atwood, John Irving, Cormac McCarthy, Tim O’Brien, Joyce Carol Oates, Carol Shields…. can I have a top 55?
    Have you read Working Days, the journals Steinbeck wrote while working on Grapes of Wrath? It’s fascinating.

    • 🙂 I would very much like a top 55 too! No I haven’t read Working Days, thanks for a great recommendation! It sounds fantastic. I’m kind of itching to search online for it now…….

  15. jackie says

    Now the question is what do your top author choices say about you? Great post and thanks for the follow!

    • Haha very good question, I’m not sure if I want to guess what my favourite authors say about me! Probably nothing good 🙂 It’s a pleasure to follow your wonderful blog.

  16. Trying to think of my top five is a difficult task. Wow! I have to think about it. I definitely like the ones you have picked, but there are so many. I stopped by today to thank you for following my blog. I look forward to getting to know you better in the weeks and months to come. 🙂

    • Thanks again for stopping by both my blogs. It is really hard to narrow favourite authors down, isn’t it 🙂

      • It is for me! I just finished reading all of Maddie Cochere’s Susan Hunter books. She is a blogging friend, and her books are fun and sweet. I enjoyed them. They aren’t heavy like the ones you mention, but even “easy breezy” book have some psychological meat in them. I have had so much fun chatting with authors I have met on Word Press about their books, and the thoughts and stories behind them. Unlike you, I think I am becoming partial to female authors – at least currently! 🙂

  17. Thank you for visiting my blog today. I appreciate the time you took to stop by. May your day be filled with joy and peace.
    BE ENCOURAGED! BE BLESSED!

  18. Pingback: Paperbook Land. | The Paperbook Blog.

  19. Reblogged this on The Paperbook Blog. and commented:

    Something absolutely incredible happened to me today.
    I am keeping it under wraps until it is confirmed, but in the meantime, here is a hint.
    For those of you who are relatively new to The Paperbook Blog, you may not have had a chance to peruse my top five favourite authors of all time, otherwise known as my homeboys.
    This post is the reason for the incredibly exciting thing that happened today, so I thought I would share it with you again.
    Who are in your top five?

  20. I didn’t pick up this post first time around so I am so glad that you re-blogged it. It is brilliant – has made me think about my top five now, will have to give that some thought. I am thrilled with whatever the great news is and can’t wait to hear more about it! 🙂

    • Thanks Jade! Hopefully I’ll be able to share the great news tomorrow, pending a confirmation email 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  21. Brilliant Jayde! I have spent a thoroughly delightful moment reading this post. And to be clear, I seldom award the “brilliant” adjective… but this time it’s the only one that came up and fit.

  22. Pingback: NaNoWriMo, NovNov and A Month of Steinbeck. | The Paperbook Blog.

  23. Pingback: 2013 – Year of The Paperbook Collective. | The Paperbook Blog.

  24. Pingback: From Interesting Literature: Five Fascinating Facts about John Steinbeck | 1WriteWay

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