The front page of the New York Times Book Review has a really nice review of Alice Munro's new story collection, Too Much Happiness. It's a book that I covet. And now that my birthday has come and gone, I have a couple of book store gift certificates that I can use to buy it!
The review, by Leah Hager Cohen, starts out saying something that I often talk about in relation to my favorite books--that sense that the author is speaking words you might speak, or at least is writing about things you've thought about. It's a wonderful feeling when it happens, and it happened to this reviewer when she read this book of Munro's. Cohen writes, "...the sensation, when reading, that your own mind is giving birth to the words as they appear on the page. Such is the ego that in these rare instances you wonder, 'How could the author have known what I was thinking?' Of course, what has happened isn't this at all, though it's no less astonishing. Rather, you've been drawn so deftly into another world that you're breathing with someone else's rhythms, seeing someone else's visions as your own."
I love when this happens. It doesn't happen for me with many authors, but with some. For me, it happens with Lorrie Moore, and Laurie Colwin, and Alice Munro. Raymond Carver, every once in awhile. Less so with authors who wrote before the 20th century, because their language is so different than that which I use myself, even though I may get caught up in the poetry of it.
Which, if any, authors do that to you?
I'm in the middle of Nicholson Baker's novel The Anthologist, which I'm really liking. There is a similar sensation reading this book. I think it's because it's a stream-of-consciousness novel to begin with, and Baker has been able to really draw me into his main character's head. He doesn't think exactly the way I do, but I like the way he thinks, and it makes the reading experience very enjoyable.
I would imagine that being inside the head of a character you don't like or relate to would be excruciating. I can't remember any reading experiences like that. Do you have any painful stream-of-consciousness reading experiences?