I’ve liked Dean Koontz since reading Relentless, where the heroes are a family of home-schooling survivalists. Take that, literary establishment! Koontz was the guest in the NYTBR “By the Book” feature, and his answers to a couple of questions give additional reasons to like him.
What book would you like every President to read? he was asked. He answers: “Every president, regardless of party, should read Intellectuals, by Paul Johnson. His portraits of Rousseau, Sartre, Edmund Wilson and others are sharply pointed but accurate, and at times darkly humorous. As long as presidents continue to appoint theoreticians instead of people with real-world experience and accomplishment, our country will suffer. People matter more than theories and ideologies, but for many intellectuals, ‘the people’ is at best an abstraction.”
And the follow-up: What book should every American read? Koontz’s response: “The Complete Stories, by Flannery O’Connor. No one has written better about the reality of evil. Few have written as well, with such sharp-edged compassion, about the weaknesses and follies of humanity, about the operation of grace in our lives and about the necessity of humility. Her stories — her intelligence and passion — can restore reason to minds unhinged by our fame-obsessed, technology-obsessed culture that by so many mechanisms isolates more and more people even as it holds forth the (false) promise of a universal community.”
And what he learned from Dickens: “He knew that sentiment isn’t sentimentality.”