My Reading Life: with Jordan Page
What are five books you loved? For one of them, why did you love it?
The Stand, Stephen King
Songs of a Dead Dreamer, Thomas Ligotti
The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
The Road, Cormac McCarthy
Watchmen, Alan Moore
The Stand is one of the first novels I’d ever read. In fact, it was a gateway into other books. I’d always wanted to be a writer, but I had two false, misguided ideas about reading: a) that all books were boring and uninspired, and b) because all books were boring and uninspired, I could become a good writer without being a “reader” (which I know now is so wrong on many different levels: you must read if you want to write). The Stand was the first book that made me realize books can be about something, but can also have fantastical elements. It made me become a passionate reader and, by default, a better writer.
What is a book you didn’t like, and why?
Stephen King has written many of my favorite novels. But he has also written a very, very small handful of my least favorite novels. End of Watch very well might be my least favorite novel. Stephen King fans are very loyal and will accept just about anything, but I think my writing background (and me being a bit of a critic in general) disallowed me to overlook glaringly obnoxious character logic, unnecessary political commentary (in fact, there was a subplot in End of Watch that did nothing for the story; it was just King’s way of putting his two cents in on a heated, flavor-of-the-month political trend), and ridiculous dialogue.
What is a funny/interesting/unique anecdote about you as a reader?
I’m not sure if this qualifies as an “anecdote,” but I will almost always prefer a flat, uninteresting character with a crystal clear, plausible motive and driving force, over a cartoonishly quick-witted, smooth-talking, charismatic character regardless if the motive is good or bad. I prefer realism over an exciting character. Always.
How did you first fall in love with books?
My dad only read Christian books, my mom only read “real life books” (as she called them), and my siblings only read Harry Potter (even at a young age, my interest was always into subject material way beyond my years or intellectual capacity, so I thought HP was too juvenile—but how wrong I was when I finally read the series at twenty-two years old). So I didn’t really know what to read. Therefore I didn’t read. It wasn’t till I read I Am Legend by Richard Matheson that I really started to take reading seriously. When I finally read The Stand—well, as Bill Paxton said in Aliens, “Game over, man.”
What book or books are you planning to read soon?
This year I’m planning on reading the thirty Stephen King novels I haven’t read yet. But I might break it up by inserting novels from other authors. One book I’m particularly interested in is Jeff VanderMeer’s Dead Astronauts. For all the reasons people didn’t like the Southern Reach trilogy and Borne is the exact same reason why I love his books. I love weird. And he does weird very well.
What book do you always recommend?
Thomas Ligotti’s Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe. It was perhaps the greatest, most unexpectedly original reading experience I’ve had in years. It’s unlike anything out there.
What book/books changed the way you see the world and your place in it?
What was your favorite childhood book?
Do you have any favorite literary journals?
Have you ever read anything that made you think differently about fiction/nonfiction?
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, but specifically the second entry in the series, Authority. Its off-beat humor (and horror) and uniqueness as a sequel is apparently off-putting to readers, but I find it refreshing.
What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
It might be stubbornness, but I have yet to give an author I didn’t like a second chance. There are way too many books to read.
What book have you read that has most influenced your life?
Thomas Ligotti’s The Conspiracy Against the Human Race Race. But in a bad way. A terrible way. I had to go to therapy (kid you not; no exaggeration) because of it. It laid psychological eggs in my brain. The philosophy in the book is not compatible with how I view life.
Who are your favorite writers?
Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert McCammon, Cormac McCarthy, Clark Ashton Smith, Clive Barker, Jeff VanderMeer, Algernon Blackwood, Thomas Ligotti, Nick Cutter, Michael Crichton, and George R.R. Martin.
What do you read on holiday?
I always try to read more on holidays (and I try to read books appropriate for the holiday), but I never do.
Which author (living or dead) do you think is most underrated?
Clark Ashton Smith is the greatest writer I’ve ever read. I’m not saying he’s my favorite, only that—in my opinion—he is literally the best writer. Everything about his writing—from his prose to his unique choices of words to his sentence structure to his story structure—is truly breathtaking. If McCarthy wrote science fiction and fantasy, it might be comparable to Smith.
Which author (living or dead) do you think is most overrated?
Hands-down, Brandon Sanderson. I don’t understand the buzz surrounding him. He writes cliche characters and he focuses too much on world-building and not enough on effective storytelling. His characters are also too perfect. They always have quick, witty comebacks. It’s annoying.
What is your favorite book published in the past twelve months?
Did your parents read to you when you were young?
I wish. Maybe I would have read a book before I was twenty years old if they had.
Which book have you given most frequently as a gift to others?
The Dark Tower series is always my go-to. Not only is it one of the greatest fantasy series of all time, it also urges you to read King’s other books—like The Stand and It.
Which fictional character would you most like to have a drink with, and why?
Gandalf. Because he knows how to be a companion, knows the right encouraging words to say, he’s never arrogant or self-centered, and he knows to leave before he outstays his welcome.
Where do you buy your books?
In theory, I’d like to buy my books at bookstores. But, come on—Amazon is half the price. I’m not made out of money. As long as the writer makes his or her money, that’s all I care about.
What impact can a book have on the reader?
A book (or rather, written words—whether poetry, fiction, nonfiction, personal journals, etc.) is the closest thing humans have to actually being able to enter the minds of others. It allows for deep, personal connection.
End of Interview
Jordan Page is an aspiring horror writer from the Midwest who has been crafting stories in one form or another for most of his life, originally attending school for filmmaking. You can follow his exploration of the macabre on Instagram