Ben Nesvig @BenNesvig: What book have you reread the most?
In 1993-1994 I started reading short stories coming out in various literary journals all by this one guy, Denis Johnson. They were amazing. I’d scour all the literary journals out there to find more and more stories by him. I couldn’t believe how good they were. I was reading every short story writer in existence and somehow his stories were an order of magnitude better.
Then he finally came out with a collection. Jesus’ Son. I remember the day it came out. I ran into a friend of mine and he said, “what you got there?” And I said, “this is the best book that will ever be written”.
The other day I was reading an interview with Chuck Pahlaniuk, who wrote “Fight Club”, “Choke” and other novels. I like his collection of essays also. In the interview he said he must’ve reread “Jesus’ Son” over 300 times. I felt happy that his writer who has been such an inspiration to me is also acknowledged by another great writer who is an inspiration to me. I immediately went home and reread Jesus’ Son again. I’m probably not up to 300 times but I’m at least over 100 times.
One time I was looking at Fortune magazine. I saw that Denis Johnson wrote an article for them. I got disappointed. Why did he write for a magazine that I could probably write for. Why isn’t he in some heaven for magical writers.
But that’s writing. It’s hard to catapult yourself into outer space even if you are the best of the best, a writer’s writer, the one that everyone else reads. So use his book as inspiration, but figure out how that inspiration will get you to your dreams.