How great was Maeve Binchy?
Nearly 20 years ago, I took a road trip with friends and left my copy of Binchy’s Circle of Friends in their car. When I called looking for it a few days later, Shane – an avid baseball fan who never, and I mean NEVER, missed a game with his beloved St. Louis Cardinals – had not only found it… but read it instead of watching a crucial Cardinals game. He said he just couldn’t put Binchy’s book down; he had to know how Benny and her friends fared. This perfectly captures Binchy’s signature talent. As a storyteller who made readers care intensely about her characters, she was second to none.
How great was Gore Vidal?
Recently, I was straightening the fiction collection at the Central Library, with particular attention to the V-W-X-Y-Z shelves, which had gotten a bit jumbled. When I got to the V’s, a customer asked me for help finding a Gore Vidal novel. Now, I have in mind a (stereotypical) Gore Vidal reader: a typical intellectual effete, as Vidal was, dressed perhaps in a three-piece suit and a monocle, spouting Oscar Wilde witticisms. But this customer, a young man in his 20s, was dressed in worn denim, a t-shirt, and a ballcap. He told me how his sister, a U.S. history teacher, gave him a Gore Vidal novel and it made history alive for him.
Two writers, two very different styles and subjects, but they both shared a singular ability to connect with readers with their stories.