The best books to combat loneliness and quiet desperation

Robert David Crane Author Of Beyond Where the Buses Run: Stories
By Robert David Crane

Who am I?

I have always followed writer Christopher Isherwood’s words: “I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking.” I am most comfortable as an observer, a documentarian, someone who gathers details, tries to make sense of them, lays them down in a presentable order, noticing colors, light, sounds, people’s behavior. Trying to make sense of life. I come from a divorced family, my father was murdered, and my first wife died of breast cancer. Still, there was plenty of laughter. I’m interested in and trying to figure out why we’re here.

I wrote...

Beyond Where the Buses Run: Stories

By Robert David Crane,

Book cover of Beyond Where the Buses Run: Stories

What is my book about?

“The people we meet in Beyond Where the Buses Run: Stories are mostly working-class, battling betrayals, the sudden violence so often at the edge of American life, rising to the occasional triumphs. Here is a hunt for love, companionship, maybe just meaning. In other words, real lives being lived.” – Joseph B. Atkins 

The books I picked & why

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The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life

By John Le Carré,

Book cover of The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life

Why this book?

British spy novelist John Le Carre writes a rare non-fiction piece involving 38 tales of searching for the “human spark” – the reason we get up in the morning – and overcoming betrayal and disappointment. Le Carre meets spies, heads of state, celebrities, politicians, along his life’s journey but it always gets back to the heart, the humor, the “moral ambiguity” he finds in each individual that he transfers to his fictional characters in novels such as The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I loved this book because I travelled to locations and met people that will never be part of my personal experience. Le Carre despite his fame is a humble, obedient servant to the word and shares his innermost feelings about the success and failure of human beings.

The Things They Carried

By Tim O'Brien,

Book cover of The Things They Carried

Why this book?

Tim O’Brien’s twenty-two fictional tales of life and death, survival at all costs, friendship, service, and respect in the horror fields and mountains of Vietnam during a war the U.S. had no solid reason for promoting took me to a time in our history I never wanted to be part of. The illegitimacy of our government’s destruction of a people and place prompted me to stay in college – 2S Deferment – after watching a live draft on television of young men like myself picked to kill other young men in a foreign land. The number on the ping pong ball for my birthdate was 55. I was going. O’Brien takes me to the frontline to experience death-too-soon, trust, loneliness, self-hate, and being lied to by authority. I didn’t want to kill but I’d sure like to visit Vietnam now and apologize.

Nobody's Angel

By Thomas McGuane,

Book cover of Nobody's Angel

Why this book?

McGuane sure kicked it off for me in terms of seeing a way to write new fiction. Story is not a priority in his world rather observation of characters battling the odds of surviving each day. The reader wants to be like some of the characters and run to the hills from others but the sense of humor, dirt under the fingernails of these singular people we’ll never meet, relationships we’ll never be in, and locations such as Livingston, Montana or Key West, Florida we won’t spend much time in, draws me to McGuane’s page. McGuane, who wrote scripts for Missouri Breaks and Rancho Deluxe, writes like a filmmaker – the smells, the weather, the alcohol, the drugs – the reader is in the scene, the sun on your neck, the dust in the air, the sound of the ice-cold creek. McGuane is a travel agent.

Burnside Field Lizard and Selected Stories

By Theresa Griffin Kennedy,

Book cover of Burnside Field Lizard and Selected Stories

Why this book?

One of the joys of the Internet is meeting people – writers – who give the reader a kick in the ass, an unexpected journey down an alley or a dirt path where we spend time with a character who changes our opinion, our outlook on society. Meeting writer Theresa Griffin Kennedy was that kick for me. Kennedy writes non-fiction, reportage, poetry, opinion, and fiction. Burnside Field Lizard took me down back roads and introduced me to larger-than-life characters that stung me with truths and observations that felt more like a documentary. I love realism and Kennedy knows and writes about her town Portland, Oregon, like no other writer. These short stories smack of a reporter in the trenches of a foreign war zone. The characters are in battle with themselves. Kennedy is also an observant translator of sexual behavior that can, at times, be another kind of war, internal or otherwise.   

Day Out of Days

By Sam Shepard,

Book cover of Day Out of Days

Why this book?

Shepard, like McGuane, was a screenwriter and, unlike McGuane, was a playwright and actor. He thought small for the most part – one character, maybe two – sharing how people miss the brass ring, miss the obvious, miss connections. Two things about Shepard’s writing hit home with me – he is alone a lot, sometimes lonely, angry, sad, self-destructive, funny; he spends a lot of time on the road, driving his pick-up truck away from someone or, sometimes, toward someone. He doubts himself questioning lovers, family, or friends, never standing on terra firma. He’s on the run and manages to run head-on into himself in a lonely motel outside of town, his own worst enemy, a bottle on the nightstand, always searching for a pay phone. Shepard was certainly around people but his mistrust of himself built walls separating lovers, family, and friends from who he was, an observer, a detailer, a writer.

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