An Essay by Jonathan Moore
It’s traditional to start January with a bunch of sage predictions about the year ahead, so let me begin with mine: I predict that we’re about to embark on four years of amazing fiction, and that a lot of people are going to remember how great it feels to fall into a book and stay between those pages for as long as possible.
One of the benefits of reading and writing fiction is that it engenders empathy. If you think about it, fiction is the perfect mechanism for this. The price of admission to any novel is the requirement that you spend some time inside other people’s heads. And in a crime story—my preferred avenue of escape—that can mean spending time with all different kinds of people, with all their attendant baggage and motivations and destinations. So it’s at least arguable that hiding from the world and reading novels for four years is actually the socially responsible thing to do, because if everyone did it, we’d have a more empathetic and understanding nation. And right now, that doesn’t seem like a bad idea. Accordingly, I’ve planned a reading program that will get me at least to January 20, 2021 (and that’s assuming I don’t discover a pile of new books that haven’t even been published yet).
I’ll start 2017 with James Ellroy. I recently read Perfidia, set in Los Angeles at the beginning of World War Two, and it was beautiful. That made me regret not having read everything else he’s ever written, though I aim to rectify that this year. I have now finished The Black Dahlia (brilliant), The Big Nowhere (disturbingly brilliant), and am in the midst of L.A. Confidential (if you remember how good the movie was, imagine a book that’s even better). Since for some reason I no longer want to listen to radio news while I’m driving, I have plenty of time for audiobooks, and can blast through these in no time.
When I finish Ellroy’s oeuvre, I’ll need to switch things up a bit. Joyce Carol Oates should keep me busy for at least a year and a half. The last time I checked, she’d written forty-five novels, and I’ve only read two. I’m sure when our country’s founders met in Philadelphia in 1787 and came up
with the Electoral College, they never foresaw that their decision would result in me reading We Were the Mulvaneys, Blonde, and others in 2018. But, there you have it—actions have consequences.
Next up: my editor has been telling me about Blake Crouch, Lauren Beukes, and China Miéville. Somehow I’ve missed all three of these authors, and even if none of them writes another book between now and 2019, they’ve got twenty-two novels between them.
2020 is going to be a year for the literary equivalent of comfort food. You can re-read a great book as many times as you want, but nothing compares to the first time around. When your favorite novelist is dead, and you’re pretty sure his estate isn’t going to find anything else in his attic, it’s time to slow down. For that reason, I’ve purposefully avoided finishing all of Hemingway’s novels. But I think by 2020, I’ll be ready to indulge myself. So I’m going to sit down with a bottle of Rioja and a charcuterie board, and read To Have and Have Not, and The Sun Also Rises. After that, I’ll read every book Elmore Leonard ever wrote—and when I turn the last page in late January of 2021, I’ll take a peek out the window and see what the world looks like. I look forward to seeing all of you then.
JONATHAN MOORE is an attorney with the Honolulu firm of Kobayashi, Sugita & Goda. Before completing law school in New Orleans, he was an English teacher, the owner of Taiwan’s first Mexican restaurant, and an investigator for a criminal defense attorney in Washington D.C. He is the author of two previous novels, Close Reach and Redheads, which was short-listed for the Bram Stoker Award.
Written for Books Inc.'s January 2017 Newsletter