Masters of Style: A List

Self is teaching a two-day class on travel writing this weekend.

The great thing about teaching is, it makes you ponder your own predilections.

Because unless you yourself are very clear about the kind of writing you favor, you will never, in self’s humble opinion, be able to communicate anything worthwhile to your students.

These are the writers whose books have stayed longest in self’s head and heart. Some have only written one book. Doesn’t matter. The point is, their names have become part of self’s font of inspiration.

Debra Ginsberg * Kyoko Mori * Chang-rae Lee * Annie Ernaux * Tim Parks * Ron Carlson * Alison Moore * Mo Yan * Thomas Lynch * V. S. Naipaul * Gish Jen * Deborah Digges * Paul Theroux * Kathryn Harrison * Jason Elliott * W. G. Sebald * Nina Berberova * Peter Hessler * Michael Herr * Ruth Reichl * Tony Horwitz * Elmore Leonard * Brian Hall * Nicholson Baker

(Aaargh, list is getting long! Perhaps she’ll do a Part 2 later)

Stay tuned.




Monday Reading: Crane Wife Everlark (Hunger Games/Fairy Tale Mash-Ups are Self’s Kryptonite)

It matters nothing if one is born in a duck-yard, if one has only lain in a swan’s egg.

— Hans Christian Andersen, “The Ugly Duckling”

(It’s Christmas Eve. The baker’s lame youngest son is sent by his cruel mother to the woods to gather kindling. There he finds a little duck)

*     *     *     *     *

When he entered the bakery with a partial load of pine boughs and a small shivering duck to show for his time in the woods, his mother shrieked her dismay. “At least we shall make a meal of the duck,” she said, and made to take the duck from him, but the boy clasped the little duck to him with both hands and limped back from his mother’s reach.

“You shall not!” he cried. “I plucked her for the ice, and I mean to save her.”

His mother shook her head, but the family had food aplenty for that night, and many nights to come. “Try and save her then,” she allowed. “But if she dies, it’s the stewpot for her, and no mistake.”

The baker and his elder sons exchanged grins and chuckles at her threat, for they knew well: once the youngest had the care of anything, be it a rosebush or a kitten or a pot of soup, it could not help but thrive, and he had taken a particular interest in this duck.


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