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This semester, I started attending my first conference class, which involves a small number of students and discussion-based rather than lecture-based teaching. During the first class, in order to ease us into a more casual manner of discussing, our professor asked us to present ourselves and to tell the class what our favourite book was. What was meant to be a casual, get-to-know-you assignment caused a bit of a stir around the table: while having very definite favourite things that you could list at will was normal for most as children, indecision, expanded knowledge, and variety have transformed this formerly easy question into a brain-raking task. I got out of it by adding the words "most recent" to "favourite book", although Truman Capote's Other Voices, Other Rooms is the book I have felt the most strongly about in a good two years.
I acquired Other Voices, Other Rooms with a gift certificate my boyfriend's mom gave me for my 23rd birthday last June. As the gift certificate was a birthday present, I wanted to use it on a book that would have some kind of meaning tying it with my new year, hoping that the book would have some significant repercussions on my 23 year-old self - those wishes were granted beyond all my expectations. While I originally chose Other Voices, Other Rooms over other options because it was published when Capote was 23, this novel moved me and shook me in a manner that transcends whatever plot description I could provide here. In my late teens, I had the habit of privately dismissing any author that did not appear to have a grasp on the elusive understanding of life I subscribed to; there is a sense of urgency to it, but it arises more from a gut feeling than from any rational notion. I would look for authors whose take on life would give me shivers, and abandon nearly any other that would let me down. Had I gone on this way, I would have passed over great novels, but I cannot help but have a special liking for authors in whose work I encounter this old feeling again. Like George Orwell, J. D. Salinger, and Patti Smith before him (in chronological order of my readings that is), Truman Capote has managed to put into words a desperation and urgency towards life that is difficult to grasp but from which an incredible sense of yearning arises.