I read and admire books by authors I like (occasionally love), who tell me, sometimes in the text, sometimes later in interviews in magazines, newspapers, online, about other authors they revere. And mostly I have never read those authors they refer to. This makes me question everything.
Henry Miller, Clarice Lispector, Tom Wolfe, William Burroughs. I have never read anything by these people. How then can I ever grasp everything my author is saying to me, if I am unaware, other than from lip service, of the writing by these influences?
(A related example: sometimes I would admire the paintings of the artist Sean Scully, without ever really being able to get to the root of the why. And then I heard him talk of his love for JMW Turner. And pennies fell from my eyes like the cascades on the end of the pier.)
Eventually I gave myself the permission to not follow what others have read. It felt like a permission to be granted. Rarely do I like slash read books written before, say, the latter half of the twentieth century, with one or three exceptions. I don’t feel that I am particularly well read. In a traditional sense, at least. But you know what? I decided it didn’t matter. Doesn’t matter. Am I any worse read than someone else because I have read every word ever published by David Peace but have never read any Nabokov? Because I think Tim Winton’s Dirt Music is pretty much the perfect novel but have never read William Faulkner?
Read what you like. Like what you like. Don’t follow the crowd.
Read what you like.*
*this author reserves the right to read the short Clarice Lispector novel that he bought purely because David Keenan raved about her.