30 Days, 30 Books That Shaped My Life – Day 4 NaNoWriMo

So, yesterday I made the claim that I preferred fiction to non-fiction, but if you were to judge me based on the first four days of National Novel Writing Month, you’d be right in assuming a preference for non-fiction. I have a really solid list of books that shaped me—in fact, I cannot wait to get into some of the juicier novels (sex, sex and more sex) that have shaped my life—but in the meantime, I’ll introduce the theme of sex v. love v. thinking about sex v. thinking about love with a terrific non-fiction book by Andrew Shaffer: Great Philosophers Who Failed At Love.

If I were to use a coy and colorful metaphor to describe myself, I’d borrow from the Baskin Robbins/Ani DiFranco line that I’m “32 flavors and then some.” If I were to apply the same method to Andrew, he’d be “50 shades and then some.” Andrew is witty and clever, especially when writing about (or parodying) the nature of sex and longing. Great Philosophers is far more entertaining than actually reading Nietzsche (of course, you may argue that no one reads Nietzsche to be entertained). But that’s my point: Andrew’s work can educate as well as entertain. He’s a fairly new author, but his writing harkens to older models, such as my favorite author of all time, Milan Kundera (did I mention that upcoming books would be talking about sex in literature?). I simply find it very interesting when a male writer tries to get into a female’s head and does it well. Several books that shaped my life,which I will mention later this month, offer such male-observing-female perspective, ranging from inexplicably obtuse (hello, Tolstoy!—who coincidentally is profiled in Andrew’s book) to remarkably intuitive (Tom Robbins, anyone?).

My affection for Andrew’s work goes beyond the written word, however. Andrew was the first real writer to encourage me to finish The Truth, which I am in the process of publishing (and currently available on Kindle). We met about a year before Great Philosophers came out; he was reading from his work, and I was one of a handful of “amateurs” who were getting up to read between his sets. His words of encouragement hung with me, even though it took an additional two-plus years to finish my novel. It sounds egoistic to say, “I’m a great writer,” but Andrew made me feel confident in my work at a time when I was utterly devoid of confidence. I’ve really struggled to find a circle of artists that would be a good fit for me in continuing my work, so Andrew’s casual friendship is all the more dear to me.

Read him, and he’s sure to be dear to you, too. (If you prefer the parody, well, it can be found affiliate-wise here.)

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