What Your Favorite Author Says About You

1. Joan Didion

WASPS, gays, “cultured” celebrities, and intellectuals love Joan Didion. Oh yeah, and me. I fell in love with this crazy migraine-prone diva when I read her collection of essays, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, for a class in college. What intrigued me more than just her amazing prose is the fact that she’s kind of a nutjob. She’s a writer who has an unabashed bourgie lifestyle. She talks about her palatial mansion in Hollywood, dinner parties in Beverly Hills and her gaggle of famous friends without feeling uncomfortable about it, which is actually refereshing. So many writers find pride in being starving but not Didion. She was feasting on filet mignon before she even wrote her first book. One of my favorite Didion moments is in “Goodbye To All That” when she talks about being so poor in her twenties that she used to charge her meals at the cafe in Bloomingdale’s. I mean, isn’t that amazing? She has no money but she still insists on eating lunch in a cafe of a ritzy department store. Oh Didion! Fans of her work are usually nostalgic nightmares like myself who make no apologies for their life and also like to fixate on weird things like avocados and freeways.

2. Elizabeth Gilbert

I stopped reading Eat Pray Love in the middle of the eating part. I couldn’t go any further. Look, I know it’s trendy to hate Elizabeth Gilbert right now but she really does suck. I don’t mind the constant navel-gazing and #whitegirlproblems of her work (hello, look at the shit that I write) but I do find her victim-y tone and boring prose annoying. If I had to read another scene of her sobbing on the floor of her home in Connecticut, I was going to just…die? The people who enjoyed Eat Pray Love and Elizabeth Gilbert are the kinds of people who are searching for something in their lives. Maybe they’re in a rut and haven’t found quite what they’re looking for in the self-help section of Barnes & Noble. They’re people who cling to that awful book The Secret because they need someone to explain to them why they aren’t doing so well at this life thing. Elizabeth Gilbert fans post inspirational quotes on their Facebook and listen to Josh Groban.

3. Tucker Max

Tucker Max—the author to the unofficial guide to chauvinism, I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell—did something sort of smart and wrote a book for the kinds of people who don’t read books. I bet if you talked to 60% of the dudes who read it, you would discover that it was the only thing they read that year. They aren’t really into reading but a friend of a friend recommended this book to them and they thought it was so so funny and so so true. Tucker Max fans deserve to get lured into a book signing and then get locked inside forever.

4. John Grisham

If you read John Grisham, you are someone’s grandparent. Oh my god, old people have the funniest taste in books. They’ll read stuff like Memoirs of Geisha and The Help and think they’re being super progressive by reading about prostitutes and racial tension. Oprah’s tapped into old people. She knows what’s up. Her book club recommendations are perfect for weepy 70-year-olds in their golden years.

5. Kurt Vonnegut

True confessions: I have never read a book by Kurt Vonnegut. I know, I know, I really should just so I can write in the Books section on my Facebook: “anything kurt vonnegut.” So is this dude any good or is he sort of like Animal Collective—something that has instant cool cred but no one actually pays any attention to. Like do people read his books on public transportation to get the attention of cool people? Maybe I’m just being a total brat but I imagine Kurt Vonnegut fans to be pretentious goobers. I much prefer someone who lists their favorite book as If You Have To Cry, Go Outside by Kelly Cutrone because at least you know they’re being honest.TC mark

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.


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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    I laughed at the last one. Kurt Vonnegut. He's a playwright, right?

    • freddipass

      Don't laugh at Kurt. Angels cry or something.

  • andy

    The thing is Kurt Vonegut IS good,
    but I like Animal Collective too so…

  • VirtualKarim

    Kurt Vonnegut is what science majors read in times of their life when they wish they were a liberal arts major.

  • http://twitter.com/kyleangeletti Kyle Angeletti

    I think you could put Elizabeth Gilbert and Tucker Max into the same category. 

    But I actually love Kurt Vonnegut. There's a reason they teach him in high school.

  • http://twitter.com/ward_hegedus Ward Hegedus

    Gah! So many other authors you could have lampooned! I hope this was only the first in a series of 37.

  • Anonymous

    Reading Tucker Max says a whole lot more than “I don't read.” It says, “I am a huge fucking misogynist who needs to be brutally beaten and murdered.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/sasjam Sas Jam

      I suppose I understand if you have that feeling TOWARDS Tucker Max. He prides himself on being a douchenozzle, duh it's his schtick. But  that's most often what I feel the POINT of books (and other media) are- to give an outsider a look in. The stupid shit Max has done/written IS amusing, even if it is considered immature of misogynistic.

      Jeez, I bet you think someone who watches something like Sunny in Philadelphia is a self-absorbed, unintelligent, (yet hilarious) scumbag who also NEEDS TO DIE.

      I hate to quote my teachers from the 90's but- Take a chill pill.

  • http://somuchtocome.blogspot.com Aja

    Kurt Vonnegut drew a picture of his asshole (which looked like an *)  in the forward of Breakfast of the Champions.  People like him because he's likable.  Not because it's a the “cool” thing to say.

    • FC

      Yep, and most of his writing/satire/humor/topics are still pretty “relevant” in this day…Breakfast Of Champions is a perfect example.


    i'll add my own. David Foster Wallace: for people who think they're better than you (and they are).

    • http://profiles.google.com/lpommers Luke Pommersheim

      I don't know if I'm willing to say that DFW readers think they're better than everyone else so much as they think they are better Readers than everyone else.  Dominating Infinite Jest (which I just did, actually)  makes you legit.  But only in the Literary-scene.  Reading DFW gives you cred –  means you aren't some Summer-Reading-Only-At-The-Beach kind of Reader, but a serious, devoted, and yeah, better Reader than anyone who hasn't read DFW.

    • http://fastfoodies.org Briana

      i have a DFW and william blake inspired tattoo on my arm. i literally wear my snobbishness on my sleeve.

  • Katgeorge

    Kurt Vonnegut is amazing. I'd as happily read the old Kurtster with the cover torn off on public transport as I would with it on, it makes no difference what other people think; he's the best either way!

  • http://www.facebook.com/CaseyJonesATX Casey Jones

    Aren't you a little old to have never read any Vonnegut?

  • Shannon

    Do they still teach Vonnegut in high school? I thought he was kind of off the radar. And no, his fans aren't pretentious goobers. He's not that kind of a writer. He's more like…a Beat with a weirder sense of humor, or Tom Robbins without the unbearable cutesiness, or PK Dick without the lapses into acid casualty rambling. That generation. I'm not sure if what's good or interesting about Vonnegut carries over into this generation though. I'd be interested to hear.

    • http://twitter.com/atlimbo Tina Stanton

      Some high schools still have Vonnegut on the banned list.

    • valentine_kitchenson

      I just finished the 10th grade and so far we've read Harrison Bergeron and the Slaughterhouse Five.

      then again, I go to a school where we call our teachers by their first names, so…

  • Kim

    I don't know if I've ever read Kurt Vonnegut on public transportation, but I vividly recall that I read a lot of Cat's Cradle in the bathroom of a cabin because I didn't want to disturb everyone by turning on the lights.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Timberman/922794 Steven Timberman

    You know, I'm getting tired of people trashing Tucker Max. Yes, he's a mysogynistic asshole. But it is fucking absurd that so many people who supposedly “know gender” don't read and regard his stuff.

    Look, I'm a far too educated male with a well-documented love of DFW, Plath, and Fitzgerald. But Max represents a very profound and genuine strand of male thought that needs to be talked about. 

    In a class full of aspiring writers, I'm always surprised to find that those reading Tucker Max aren't men. They're women, laughing at him.

    • Guest

      I know gender and I have read and critiqued Max's work. And women can be misogynists too, thus read his work and laugh at it.

    • Customconcern

      He always claims that like 50% of his fans are women. You're right: it's definitely more complicated than a bunch of douchebros laughing about people shitting during anal sex. (Although it is partly about that too.)

  • http://twitter.com/andeenero Andee Nero

    I'm kind of disappointed that you didn't have anything to say about Perks of Being a Wallflower and Catcher in the Rye.
    Whenever someone messages me on OkCupid and has those books listed as their favorites, I refuse to respond.

    • Danielle

      That sounds kind of excessive.

      • inflammatorywrit

        What, having standards?

      • Danielle

        There's a difference between having standards and judging people you don't know based on books that they, and thousands of other people, love.

      • inflammatorywrit

        I honestly don't think not responding to someone based on their favorite books is judging them. Judging them would be more like, “Oh, their favorite book is Perks of Being a Wallflower? That must mean they never advanced past a middle school reading level LOL!!!” I personally like Catcher in the Rye, but I understand the notion of thinking you are incompatible with someone based on their tastes in music/movies/books. I couldn't date someone who listened to Kid Rock, or loved Big Momma's House, or read a lot of Ann Coulter, for example.

    • lovesandliiiiies

      but doesn't perks of being a wallflower make you feel ~infinate~? ha

      • lovesandliiiiies

        infinite. i swear i can spell.

    • Megan

      Have you actually read Catcher in the Rye or any Salinger?

      • freddipass

        I did and found it VERY overrated.

    • http://fastfoodies.org Briana

      yo, what about the people who list 'dr. suess LOL' (sic) as their favorite author. occasionally a dash of 'where the wild things are'. their cutesy wannabe puerilism makes me wanna barf, man. makes me wanna make up words, man. though those people, i think, are also of the tucker max persuasion who, as ryan mentioned, have probably not read anything else all year. 

      comma comma comma

  • http://twitter.com/SisterSoda Eva

    Ryan, please do read Kurt Vunnegut. Slaughterhouse-Five is nothing short of genius. I would hate to read it on public transportation because I would be interrupted too often. I promise I'll catch up on Didion in return, okay.

  • lovesandliiiiies

    i agree with everything except vonnegut because he was an exceptionally talented writer. his novels are the kinds of books i can read in one sitting.

    • spicegirl

      pretentious goober.

  • http://twitter.com/benhRjr ben Raifsnider, jr.

    read Vonnegut's short story A Long Walk To Forever! he's best known as a science fiction writer, but this story is seriously the sweetest, most romantic love story ever. it's the only love story i would ever admit to loving in public. plus, he's just a crazy genius and hilarious.

    • Mackenzie

      I agree.  Knowing how humerously cynical Vonnegut really is…reading that short story was refreshing.  Everyone has a smidgon of a romantic side…even though he probably wrote that story largely because he knew he’d get money for it…but whatever…still loved it.

  • SisterRay

    Aww, Ryan! Read Vonnegut! He is fantastically unpretentious and can make you laugh and cry and think about the tragedy and comedy of life all within the span of basically a paragraph. Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five are masterpieces, but most of his other work is also incredibly fantastic…the short stories in “Welcome to the Monkey House” are beyond incredible. Plus that includes “Harrison Bergeron” which I'm sure you are familiar with.

    I weirdly want to read Tucker Max now though, just to get a full grasp on the douchenozzle-ness of it all.

    • freddipass

      exactly! he is so NOT pretentious.

  • Ben Leach

    “If I were a younger man, I would write a history of human stupidity;
    and I would climb to the top of Mount McCabe and lie down on my back
    with my history for a pillow; and I would take from the ground some of
    the blue-white poison that makes statues of men; and I would make a
    statue of myself, lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my
    nose at Ryan O'Connell.”

  • Alex Porter

    Vonnegut is that good… I've never heard of someone picking him up just to look cool, but then again they probably wouldn't tell me if they did. He started his career as a screenwriter and it kind of bleeds into his books. They're set up in scenes rather than chapters… sort of. I don't really get the fixation with slaughterhouse 5. My favorites are the ones like Mother Night and Cat's Cradle, also God Bless You Mr. Rosewater.

    • http://twitter.com/crapface Hannah Foster.

      This comment all over.

      Slaughterhouse 5 was the first Vonnegut book I read, like most people probably, and I thought it was brilliant but it absolutely pales in comparison to Mother Night. That book blew my mind. Hocus Pocus is amazing, too.

      • freddipass

        A Man Without a Country

      • http://twitter.com/crapface Hannah Foster.

        Yes! I almost forgot about his essays. As a Brit there are a few concepts that are completely lost on me but they're all really brilliantly written – I've always really liked 'As a Kid' and the Prometheus/no tomorrow one whose name escapes me right now.

    • freddipass

      Yeah I think slaughterhouse 5 was one of his weakest, actually. God, I sound pretentious.

    • kaye

      Mother Night is my personal favorite too. His short stories are pretty awesome as well.

  • http://twitter.com/annamadeit Anna Dobos

    I'm surprised you left Chuck Palahniuk out. I was very into him in my teens, then after a few books his pastiche began to wear on me. And Vonnegut is just pure entertainment with the added benefit of being clever. And batshit insane.

  • Lou

    I wouldnt say Kurt Vonnegut is for pretentious goobers but for people who like their satires too obvious and clever; People whose foremost imperative is to have a comical and sardonic opinion on everything that they possibly can; Someone who prefers confusing someone over punching them in the face.

    • freddipass

      Abso-lutely!! Love this.

  • fjhg9
  • valentine_kitchenson

    Chuck Palahniuk is hands down my favorite author. What does that say about me?

    • Ellie

      you don't want him to answer that.

  • :)

    i'm sorry but, DAVID SEDARIS?!?!?!?

    • freddipass

      David is SO overrated.

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