Posted tagged ‘John Hart’

recovery reading

September 24, 2018

Have you ever heard of a “recovery reading” or a “recovery writer”? I know I read about this somewhere, but I’m turning up no references. The idea is that after you’ve read something that wasn’t very good (for whatever reason, and there could be many where “good” is relative), you read something that you know is very good (again) as a way to “recover” from your “bad” reading experience.

Say, for example, you like to read Westerns but for some reason you picked up To The Lighthouse and all you can think about is getting back to Westerns you enjoy. The Westerns become your recovery reading; your favorite author is your recovery writer. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with To the Lighthouse, you concede, but it’s just not your thing, and you feel that you want to get back to where you once belonged.

That’s where I am now. I recently read the novel The Last Child by John Hart. I knew nothing more about it than what was blurbed on the back cover, and I picked it up at the used bookstore as something to read on the airplane coming back from Seattle last week. It turned out to be a police procedural thriller, filled with red herrings, tense cliffhanger chapters, and leading to a clever shaggy dog resolution. (Plus there were some well written images and word usages.) I don’t read in that genre, but it certainly seemed to deliver the goods. I was literally telling myself that I would read “just one more chapter” each night as I lay in bed, well past lights out. I did an eighty-page sprint to the end Sunday morning because I had to know how it all resolved. (It turned on an unreliable witness.) And while I don’t regret reading it, I don’t suppose I’ll read any more from this writer.

And now I’m turning to my recovery reading. I’ve started By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham. I had read his Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Hours, by fortunate coincidence not long after I had (re)read Mrs Dalloway, and the book connected with me. I was impressed with the three narratives and how they blended so well. And I reveled in the human nature insights Cunningham salted throughout. Not long after that I had listened to his re-told fairy tales The Wild Swan on a drive to/from my little Ozark cabin. After that I knew I would be reading Micheal Cunningham often.

I don’t mean to assert that Cunningham is a better writer than Hart. That would be like saying a baseball player is a better athlete than a football player (or whether a cat or a dog is a better companion). I only say that when I’ve ventured outside of my familiar (and am better for it), I am glad I have something to return to that works for me.

Do you have a recovery writer? (or any strong feelings on the dog/cat thing?)

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