Monday, January 18, 2010

Author, Author!

Ask anyone who reads voraciously what is most exciting to them, and they will likely say, 'discovering a new author to love.' The same goes for me. Finding a poet or novelist who affects, me to the point that I put off everything else to spend time with his or her works, ranks right up there with finding $20 in a coat from last winter and getting an unexpected vacation day.

OK, so it doesn't take much to get me going. But it's also difficult for me to find such writers. I recently discovered Westchester author Jonathan Tropper thanks to an interview I heard on public radio. Tropper was promoting his most recent novel, This Is Where I Leave You, and I found myself laughing out loud at the excerpts being read over the airwaves. I jotted down the title at a red light and later joined the long line of people on a waiting list to borrow it from the library.

It was worth the wait.

The book is a sharp, funny page-turner, but the characters have depth and emotion. Their family's dysfunction is award-level, yet they approach their relationships matter-of-factly, with frankness and humor. Early in the book, Judd, the main character, describes his brother Phillip:

Phillip is our youngest brother, born nine years after me. It's hard to understand my parents' procreational logic. Wendy, Paul, and me, all within four years, and then Phillip, almost a decade later, slapped on like an awkward coda. He is the Paul McCartney of our family: better-looking than the rest of us, always facing a different direction in pictures, and occasionally rumored to be dead.

Their father has just died, and Judd's sister Wendy says of Phillip,

"I've left messages at all his last known numbers. On the off chance he plays them, and he's not in jail, or stoned, or dead in a ditch, there's every reason to believe that there's a small possibility he'll show up."

Besides zipping through the book, I recommended it to several friends, added it to my shopping cart at, and reserved some of Tropper's other books at the library.

The best part about such a discovery is this: these books take me back to the wondrous world of reading I first experienced as a child, when I spent endless hours losing myself in books. Reality would fade away, and I'd wonder, worry, laugh and cry with the characters in my books. We'd find wrinkles in time, discover hidden worlds through wardrobes, unearth secret gardens. Anything was possible, and in my favorite authors' hands, I felt safe.

Such an experience is the epitome of childhood imagination. Finding it again as an adult is, in my mind, nothing short of magic.

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