Colo. authors harness jealousy to drive writing

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Photo: Book Club: Jones, Heller, and Thorpe
Colorado authors Lisa Jones, Peter Heller and Helen Thorpe.

“There is never jealousy where there is not strong regard.”

Washington Irving penned these words two centuries ago. And they still hold true for all artists who readily recognize that they are standing on the shoulders of giants.

For this month's edition of Book Club, a literary discussion series produced by CPR’s arts bureau, award-winning Colorado authors Peter Heller, Helen Thorpe and Lisa Jones discuss the authors whose works they most envy.

“I feel like jealousy is part of the daily brew,” Jones says. “It’s like caffeine. If you overdo it, it can be destructive, but just the right amount can be incredibly stimulating.”

Thorpe chose to discuss the novel “Annie Dunne” by Irish author Sebastian Barry. The book, set in late 1950s rural Ireland, recounts the story of a spinster who is suddenly asked to care for her young niece and nephew.

“It’s his use of words,” Thorpe said or Barry's writing. “The music is different. The cadence is different in Irish writing, and you can hear the lilt.”

Jones’s envy-inducing author is the English writer Edward St. Aubyn, whose autobiographical works, “Never Mind,” “Bad News,” “Some Hope” and “Mother’s Milk” are collectively known as “The Patrick Melrose Novels.” The books follow the main character’s story from child abuse through heroin addiction to recovery.

“There’s this wonderful combination in Edward St. Aubyn’s writing of this unbelievable laser wit and cleverness and mercilessness to the adults,” Jones says. “And then this kid. He can really take you back to who got hurt. I think he’s amazing.”

“Blood Meridian” by Cormac McCarthy is Heller’s pick. It’s a novel based on violent historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s. Heller takes inspiration from the book’s combination of the subject matter and poetic writing.

“It is just so relentless,” Heller says. “It’s ornate, it’s got gravity, and I just adore the seriousness and courage of this kind of writing.”

Lisa Jones is the author of the memoir “Broken: A Love Story”. She teaches private writing classes in Boulder and Denver.

Peter Heller’s latest novel, "The Painter," is just out, and he’s also the author of the best-selling novel "The Dog Stars."

Helen Thorpe’s non-fiction books include “Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America,” and “Soldier Girls,” which was released earlier this year.