While driving home from Vermont, Alex and I were talking about some of the courses he and his friends had taken at Middlebury. Though he’s a history major, he dipped into the riches of English literature as well. As you can imagine, this warmed my writer’s heart!
During one winter term, he took an intensive on Graham Greene. For more than a month he and his fellow students read some of Greene’s best-known novels. Since many of them have been made into movies, his class also included screenings of the films and then discussions comparing them with the novels that inspired them.
What shined through in our chat was how much Alex enjoyed the chance to plunge himself into Greene’s work, to study him closely and begin to see the patterns of thought and stylistic techniques that he exhibited. Over a long and prolific career, Greene grappled with a consistent set of themes — and Alex enjoyed seeing how these played out.
All this reminded me how satisfying and fruitful it can be to us as writers to immerse ourselves in a single author for a while — to really study and analyze the works of someone we admire and feel we can learn from. It can be so instructive to compare the early writing of an aspiring author with his or her more mature work — often you can tease out emerging qualities and see how they blossom into greatness.
Alex has really sparked my interest in Graham Greene. Maybe I’ll borrow a few of the books from his course and dive into them. Who know what I might learn! How about you? Is there an author that you’d benefit from immersing yourself in? Write on.