The Book: William Goldman, THE COLOR OF LIGHT. Warner Books, 1984 (unsigned first edition). Book is in very good condition, with remainder mark; dust jacket has small tears and fading.
First read: 1987
Owned since: 1987
If, God forbid, I ever have to distill my library down to 10 books, this will be one of them.
Novels about writers exasperate me. They strike me as narcissistic and self-indulgent, and it's not as if writing is working at the brick factory (a point this book makes specifically). This book is the exception that proves the rule, and essential reading for anyone considering the writer's life.
My friend Gary was the one who called me, when we were both right out of college, and said, "You have to read this book." My copy may even have been a gift from him; I have a clear memory of buying multiple copies off a remainder rack in Alexandria in 1988, but those were gifts for other people. Shamefully, shockingly, the book is out of print, and I still buy copies whenever I run across them.
The Color of Light is a coming-of-age novel that turns into a thriller on almost the very last page. Charles "Chub" Fuller dares to be a writer, starting with short stories in college. His early success paralyzes him, and he is unable to finish his much-anticipated novel. Turning to work as a researcher, he marries the woman of his dreams and finds that that, too, is a mixed blessing. He meets a woman who shows him that art demands a willingness to be ridiculous, and an irrational belief in oneself -- and then one final, shocking event pushes him back into the writer's life as he realizes that "It's all material."
A character in a Stephen King novel (I think it's IT) cites William Goldman as the one novelist who went to Hollywood but managed to keep writing good novels. It's been much too long since we've seen a novel from William Goldman, but I live in hope.
And before I forget, a very happy birthday to my dad, with many more to come.