Friday, July 5, 2013

Odd Thomas

Even though I have admired him for a long time, and listened to countless interviews, I just finished my first Dean Koontz novel this week. Odd Thomas was one of the most original books I have ever read. The story is unique, and the characters are so likeable, especially Stormy and Odd. I found myself laughing every couple of pages, quoting hilarious lines out loud to whomever was near enough to hear, and risk spending the next day exhausted at work by reading way later than was healthy. Even though the ending wasn’t at all what I expected, or even hoped, I really enjoyed it. The only parts I didn't care for were the sections it got a little too graphic, but I guess it was necessary seeing as the story included a serial killer. For the most part, his humor made the images better.

I honestly don’t know why it took me so long to read one of his novels. For the past couple of years I have been stocking my bookshelf with his books for fifty cents each from the DI and library sales. And yet each one has been left to gather dust. When he interviews, you can hear the style of his writing echoed in his words. Even just listening to him for five minutes, it’s obvious that he is just one of those guys anybody would love to meet.

In the most recent interview I heard, the question was asked: what started your love of writing? He gave this profound story about how his father was a drunk, completely unfit to raise children. His stories reflect his negative attitude towards his dad with the father of the main character. When he was six-years-old, his mom got very sick, and was in the hospital for quite some time. Since his dad could not handle the task of taking care of his children alone, young Dean went and spent the time at one of his mom’s friend’s homes. Every night she would give him an ice cream sundae in bed, and read him stories. Here was the first place he was introduced to books, and the feeling of security they brought to him. From that young age, he began working towards a writing career that includes over 100 novels to date.

Whenever I hear a question like this, it makes me reflect back on my own answer to that question. Maybe that’s a bit egotistic of me, not that I will ever have a career even close to this literary genius, but I do want to be a published writer one day. For me, the spark that started the desire to write couldn’t have been more different from Dean.

Ever since I can remember, my dad has been obsessed with books of every kind. In his basement there are two rooms packed with bookshelves. I can’t tell you how many hours I have spent organizing those books, only to have him buy more and shove them wherever they fit.

 These are even pictures of the smaller of the two rooms. I'm not kidding, he could open his own library down there. It’s likely that he has at least two copies of every classic; I think his record is six copies of Moby Dick. I’m pretty sure it’s genetic because when we go to my uncle’s house, he has some of the greatest floor to ceiling bookshelves that I am extremely envious of.

I can remember going to library sales with my dad almost every weekend, whether that was to check the limited for sale section, or just to pick up his stack of holds, it didn’t matter. The library became an important fixture for me. I loved to read, but even more than that, I loved to write. I wanted to create something like what I had been reading for so long. With every author read, there were elements that I appreciated and tried to incorporate, while other factors I stayed far away from. I wrote many short stories. Some shorter than others, many were awful, but I kept trying.

Fast-forward a couple of years to graduating high school. I had no idea what I wanted to do when I went to college, or anywhere beyond that. The first year was almost a waste. Not that I didn’t take interesting classes, art history, linguistics, and the American Civil War were all fascinating to me, but I knew none of these were something I really wanted to do for a lifelong career. During my second semester, I took a creative writing class for fun, and realized what should have registered from the beginning. I had been too busy focusing on the wrong things. Realizing that, for me, there was no greater major than one focusing on reading and writing was such a relief. In some ways I’m sad I’m graduated and it’s all over, but on the other hand, now I can read and write anything I want.

I seem to have gotten off topic, but basically what I’m trying to say is: Dean Koontz is one of the best writers of our time. His writing takes dark elements, and turns them comical, mostly through the character’s voices. Anybody looking for a great read should pick up Odd Thomas today. I look forward to enjoying many more of his novels, and learning more about his characters.