I completed the project, having read
Saul BellowOk, I bent the rules on selection a little. But only a little.
Pearl S Buck
William S Burroughs
John Dos Passos
F Scott Fitzgerald
Hunter S Thompson
What surprised me was how Southern I still am. You can take the boy out of Alabama, I suppose, but you can't take Alabama out of the boy. There was something about the Southern writers — Caldwell, Capote, Carson, Faulkner, McCullers, and 2x Wolfe — that I could identify with strongly. I knew the mannerisms and figures of speech of their characters, and I caught their references to Southern places and things and culture. Occasionally there were brutal references with respect to African-Americans, and I remembered those too. Southern Gothic is a powerful form, I think, to examine our deepest thoughts, emotions, fears, conflicts, inadequacies, and graces.
Who was my favorite author on that list? Truman Capote, by far. Reading a chapter of his work is likely feasting at a Michelin 3-star, listening to the London Symphony Orchestra play Bach, or looking at a Renoir for hours. Capote had a vocabulary, a pace and a style, power of observation and evocation, and a clarity and efficiency and deceptive simplicity. To write like that is such an awesome talent.
Among the non-Southern writers, my nod goes to Nabokov.
What's next on my reading? Five years of non-fiction that has accrued on my reading list, and then I aspire to re-read everything by Thomas Pynchon.