TLC ALERT: Tonight's the Night! The television premier of our very own Sarah Strohmeyer's "The Cinderella Pact" made into the movie "Lying to Be Perfect" on Lifetime! 9 pm EST - check your local listings - for more, check this link: SARAH's MOVIE!! Now back to our regularly-scheduled blog with the fantastic Laura Lippman - and thanks, Laura, for the space.
Laura Lippman has won every major mystery award. She's currently president of the Mystery Writers of America. Her latest novel, "Life Sentences," will be published in March. But Laura is not only a writer. She's also a reader. And readers can fall out of love with even the best authors.
By Laura Lippman
I don’t know if you heard, but Philip Roth and I broke up late last year. Or maybe it’s a trial separation. I’m not sure yet. All I know is that we had been together since I was a senior in high school. It wasn’t serious at first, but eventually he became The One. The author whose books I purchased the day they went on sale and usually read within a week of acquiring them. The writer who has practically his own shelf in the "good" bookcase.
Then, last fall, THE HUMBLING came out and I couldn’t stir myself to buy it. Pfft, just like that, we were over. I’m not sure why. Although I wasn’t crazy about the last two books – okay, I was completely ooked out by EXIT GHOST and thought INDIGNATION was an interesting exercise built around a fabulous metaphor – I believed they were worth reading. They engaged me, engendered strong feelings. They were interesting.
Still – Reader, I left him. With a lot less acrimony than Claire Bloom, but not a little introspection. The thing is, I imagine I will always re-read him – WHEN SHE WAS GOOD, PORTNOY’S COMPLAINT, the title story of GOODBYE, COLUMBUS, MY LIFE AS A MAN and ZUCKERMAN UNBOUND are all in my re-reading canon, an admittedly idiosyncratic list. So why can’t I go forward? Why am I spoiling my chance to be a Roth complete-ist?
As a writer, I am constantly looking to my own reading behavior – and book-buying patterns – to understand how others might approach my work. Just this week, I had a strong impulse to read GAME CHANGE, but decided it was a Kindle purchase, something I didn’t want to own in physical form. Interestingly, the Kindle version of GAME CHANGE won’t be available until late next month and my hunch is that the impulse will be gone by then, never to be recaptured. I worry that happens to my books, too, that people have a fleeting Lippman jones, much in the same way I had a yen for Cheetohs this afternoon and talked myself out of it.
Over the years, I’ve broken up with several writers. Sometimes angrily, with a feeling that I’d been betrayed. (Yeah, I’m looking at you, John Irving.) Sometimes I just wander away, distracted by newer, shinier pleasures.
And, yes, readers have broken up with me. Although in my case, this usually involves a rude e-mail that ends with the observation that I don’t look anything like my author photo.
I have been thinking about this break-up thing since Robert B. Parker died Jan. 20. Because as much as I owe Parker, as a writer of PI fiction, I had ceased reading him with SMALL VICES, the 24th book in the Spenser series. To me, it felt like the perfect end to a series that had given me endless joy. Parker clearly didn’t agree; he went on to write fourteen more Spenser novels. And you know what? I bet they were all good. But I had found my endpoint within the series.
Which means – readers will find their endpoint within my series, and it might not be the one I intended. I’m on the record http://tinyurl.com/lqte4v that it’s my intention to bring Tess back. She’s appeared in only ten novels and one novella. I don’t feel through with her, although she’s not going to show up in 2010 and I’m pretty sure we won’t see her in 2011. (I do hope the novella, THE GIRL IN THE GREEN RAINCOAT, will appear sooner rather than later, but that’s out of my hands.) This very pause may be the thing that leads some readers to drift away, in search of fresher, newer protagonists.
Meanwhile, I have a feeling I may buy a copy of THE HUMBLING, but only because I can’t bear for that one collection to be incomplete. Sometimes, when you’ve traveled so far with someone, inertia is enough to get you through.