Novel Ideas: Reward System by Jem Calder

This is a list of books that have inspired me the most when it comes to writing my own book. Payment system, a collection of related short stories. Each book became a guiding light on my way to finish my first job. Some of them provide stylistic and design inspiration for my work, others are a kind of mystical nudge in the right direction.

Middlemarch by George Eliot

Everyone keeps saying Middlemarch is great and it turns out they’re right. It would be condescending to praise George Eliot at the level of something technical, so transcendent is her writing. For me, the volume of his prose, his formal maximalism, is what is most interesting. Reading the minutiae of everyday life in a very large document is fun, and it’s good to remember that such a complex document is fun.

Liveblog by Megan Boyle

Liveblog is a Middlemarch account of Megan Boyle’s descent into the second world of wealth creation, copied and pasted directly from her online blogs. If anyone tried to pull this off, it wouldn’t work, but Boyle’s book is funny, sad, and often beautiful. He goes through his own minute-by-minute painstaking and attention-to-detail that is as worrisome as it is fun. Liveblog is electric and Boyle is one of my all time favorite writers.

The Easter Parade by Richard Yates

I’m late to Richard Yates, released by the Oscar-baity 2008 film Revolutionary Road. I felt guilty for leaving him for so long; His body of work is very creative. One of the best works of the rest is The Easter Parade, a short book that shows the life of two sisters in the middle of America. In particular, Yates’ depiction of the turbulent passage of time (the years go by faster and faster; people fall in and out of your life suddenly) is something that I tried to imitate my work.

The Eye Girl by Alice Munro

The definitive story-by-story. There is no Alice Munro book that I think is “better” than the others, but The Beggar Maid has been my main focus as I try to figure out how to fit it into my stories. The semi-longform track is a rarity for Munro, the only one that has been re-recorded in his other collections. Reading The Eye Girl, however, you don’t think so; The way his words ring so true and re-emerge in his wide-ranging story, you’d think he’d been writing his entire career.

Mrs. Hempel Chronicles by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum

Another type of story told in the form of a novel. These “chronicles” follow Ms. Hempel, a young school teacher starting his career. What I enjoy most about Sarah Shun-lien Bynum’s writing is spring; His explanations are full of levity and his dialogue is full of humor. He recognizes that a large part of good writing is beauty.

Regulations by Jonathan Franzen

I can trace my entire interest in the novel back to a long weekend I spent reading The Corrections in my teenage bedroom. Very few books I’ve read since have captured my attention with the same intensity. The best thing about The Corrections is that there are five separate stories (interspersed by two short chapters), which means that Hannah and her sisters episodic family – everyone will find their own stories are important. It’s lighter on its feet and more fun, I think, than it’s famous for.

Oval by Elvia Wilk

The kind of book that creeps up on you; I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed it until I was done. Elvia Wilk takes a big and strange approach in this book and we all enjoy what she does; Oval believes in free and unfettered in modern modern novels. The lesson here, I think, is to follow your script wherever it takes you.

Hello by Crispin Best

A few lines from Crispin Best’s poem have been stuck in my mind for decades. ‘When I was alive / I was the first to use sarcasm / everyone was confused / I either enjoyed the rice pudding or I didn’t’. Like an embedded piece of technology, his writing attacks the defenseless part of your brain. I continue to draw a lot of inspiration from his work.

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