Occasionally, but not all that often, I come across someone whose writing I love so, so much that I scour the web and bookshops buying up everything I can find that they’ve had published.
Curtis Sittenfeld was the first person whose writing I fell for. I read her first novel, Prep, during my first year at university and as someone who had just survived her teenage years at a pushy girls’ school, the book spoke to me in an alarmingly clear peal. I’ve since read her two other novels, The Man of My Dreams (nowhere near as horrifyingly chick-litty as it sounds), and American Wife, which is one of my most favourite books ever and the first on the list whenever I’m asked to recommend a book to anyone. The news that she has another novel, Sisterland, out in June has all but made my month.
My second literary love affair was more recently, with Alan Hollinghurst. Quite how I’d never read anything of his before I’m not sure, but I picked up Line of Beauty on a whim to take with me on the train journey for a weekend away in Edinburgh at the end of 2011. Again, it’s up there in the list of my top two favourite books. The prose is sublime: it’s utterly meticulous – there’s no word on a page that’s there by accident – as well as being evocative and textured, it’s just, frankly, awesome. I’d finished the book before we got on the train to come back home again. I’ve since read The Stranger’s Child, which I loved, and The Swimming Pool Library, which I enjoyed, albeit slightly overwhelmed by all the penises.
But I’ve not yet read any h’actual books by the object of my current literary crush – Simon Rich, whom I sort of fell across by accident.
Since meeting The Writer (whose work, it goes without saying, I adore – almost as much as the chap himself), I’ve become a more regular reader of The New Yorker, and their Shouts and Murmurs section is a particular favourite. Over the course of several months, they’ve printed a few pieces that I’ve fallen in love with. But with subjects as diverse as the life of a condom; a time-travelling pickle-maker; and a love-sick caveman, it didn’t strike me initially that the Shouts I’ve enjoyed the most were all by the same person.
I’ve since found out that he’s devastatingly young, and something of a prodigy. He’s the second-youngest writer EVER for Saturday Night Live, and part of an Emmy-nominated team. He was at Harvard. He’s just published his fifth book – film rights for his third book have just been optioned by Jason Reitman (Juno, Thank You for Smoking; Up in the Air). Oh, and he regularly writes for the New Yorker. All of which is quite enough to make you hate the man with an enormous fiery passion before sticking your head in the over.
Except… that’s all trumped by the fact that Rich’s writing is brilliant. It’s warm and witty. It has enormous heart. It’s gorgeously crafted, with sparing prose. I’ve just taken receipt of his most recent book, Last Girlfriend on Earth, and wholeheartedly anticipate that I’ll have read his entire back catalogue before the year is out. I’d urge anyone else with even a passing interest in words and their crafting to do the same. I just might weep quietly whilst doing it.