EW: ‘Suzanne Collins on the Books She Loves’

Entertainment Weekly interviewed Ms. Collins last week and asked her a few questions about “the books she loves.”

What did we learn? Well, for one thing, that Katniss’ last name is a hat-tip to Thomas Hardy and the heroine of Far from the Madding Crowd (Team Gale, take heart! The original Miss Everdene returns to her first admirer in the end).

Not too surprisingly, she reveals that she loved myth collections as a child-reader and that Wrinkle in Time and The Phantom Tollbooth were also favorites.

Her favorites? The books she re-reads frequently?

Here were some surprises: “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, 1984, Lord of the Flies, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Germinal, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and A Moveable Feast.”

And my day was made when she said she loves Dostoevsky and plans on reading The Idiot next thing.

Your thoughts? Has anyone read The Hot Zone? Any quick connections between favorite books and authors — L’Engle, Blair/Orwell, Hemingway — and The Hunger Games?

Here’s my off-the-top-of-the-head survey to jump-start the conversation:

Far from the Madding Crowd: Ms. Collins says Katniss and Bathsheeba “are very different, but both struggle with knowing their hearts.” I’m with her on “very different” but the heroine of Hardy’s classic doesn’t inspire much sympathy in her heart struggles relative to Katniss’.

A Wrinkle in Time: Young woman fights Central/Capitol to save those she loves with not a little religious artistry and meaning. Here’s a match.

The Phantom Tollbooth: The existentialist’s Pilgrim’s Progress in the guise of a children’s book, Tollbooth is not only drop-dead funny, well, punny, but also an immersion in the contradictions and madness of the nominalist age in which we live. It’s a critique of our times in a children’s fantasy novel, so there is a connection, but it’s a reach beyond that, no? Milo and Katniss are almost absolute contraries except being caught in a story they don’t understand.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: Coming-of-age novel of a young woman in some pretty nasty situations relayed in gritty detail — it’s a match.

1984: Dystopian classic and the nightmare of our times. The one book I think we all would have guessed was on this list.

Lord of the Flies: The horrors children are capable of, Flies is a nice set-up for the madness of the Hunger Games, in which, of course, the whole point is that children murder children.

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter: New to me — anyone familiar with this book care to draw connections?

Germinal: Now we know why Katniss is from an oppressed mining district. Look for a remarkably claustrophobic finale in Mockingjay, if it’s a Germinal knock-off, with Peeta, Gale, and Katniss trapped underground by a vengeful President Snow or even by an angry Haymitch.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle: [Shudder] Reading this is hard work; the thought of re-reading it is downright scary to me. And to do so repeatedly? Wow. If this book is a big influence on Mockingjay, we are about to have the “undependable narrator” experience of our lives.

A Moveable Feast: This one has me shaking my head. Ms. Collins isn’t very big on scene descriptions or detailed character profiles or long reflections. Is it the Hemingway terseness of language? You got me.

If I am ever asked to write Katniss Everdeen’s Bookshelf, I now know the titles in the table of contents. Thank you, Ms. Collins.

I look forward to reading your ideas about the Entertainment Weekly interview and Ms. Collins’ best-loved books.

Comments

  1. Interesting about Germinal. I’ve been meaning to read that for awhile since a friend read it earlier this year and loved it.

    I read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter so long ago, I can’t remember much about it, other than that I really liked it at the time.

  2. Louise M. Freeman says:

    The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is about a deaf-mute, who is typically described as simply a “mute.” His lip-reading ability means he understands everything people say to him, but no person (save one) can truly understand him, and that is his downfall. He could be an inspiration for the Avox, I suppose.

    The female main character is a girl with a boyish name (Mick). Like Katniss, she at times feels pressured into an adult role she is not ready for, and music hold special significance for her.

  3. Mutt-Peeta in Mockingjay is identical to Charles Wallace under the control of the giant disembodied brain (IT) in A Wrinkle in Time. Just as Meg must “love” Charles Wallace out of the control of IT, Peeta’s cure begins with a kiss.

  4. The odd omission I think is Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. She all but names the title in the Squad that enters the Capitol in Mockingjay, right?

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