Kate S. quotes a Sven Birkerts essay in which he discusses his favorite novel, Humboldt’s Gift, defining “favorite” as:
[the novel] I visit most often in my thoughts, know most intimately, down to the structure of its cadences, and which fills me with the greatest covetousness and inspires me to emulation.
Kate then asks readers to cite their own favorite, according to Birkerts’ definition. Now, as I’m not a fiction writer and don’t aspire to be one, I can’t answer the question fully, but if I leave out the last criteria — the novel that inspires me to emulation — then I’d have to answer Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I wish I had a more original answer. Big surprise, right? But that’s the one that comes to mind first. It’s surely the novel, setting aside children’s books, that I’ve read most often; I don’t know how many times. It’s the novel I know best, one I re-read when I want something comforting and familiar but one that always seems new and newly interesting.
If I were a writer, my answer might be different, because I’m not sure I would want to try to emulate her, or that my style would be at all like hers — I mean, even remotely like hers, because, of course, it wouldn’t really be like hers, as she’s in a category of her own, I think.
Anyone else have an answer?