I’m finally following up on an idea I apparently foisted upon a fellow blogger. I asked him in a comment about writers that inspired him, and his response was prompt and impressive. Being as I am someone with very little formal education – I just read a lot – I won’t be sharing some of his choices that are traditionally considered literature. I will read just about anything that is fiction, with the non-negotiable stipulation that romance novels are totally out of the question. (I found a Barbara Cartland novel in the trash when I was about eight. I was shocked that anyone could treat a book that way, and rescued it. I did read it, and that was enough for me to put it back into a bin.)
I’m also an American, so some of my choices might be considered too popular to be taken seriously. I am sorry if anyone does feel that way, however. Especially for my number one influence:
1. Stephen King. I love this man, I love nearly everything he has written, and I’m a collector of his work. A little history, bear with me; my parents were avid readers and did not censor what my sister and I read. Thank you, thank you. Mom volunteered at our library, and one of her jobs was picking new books for the shelves. She would consult with us girls, and we would know what would be coming in and when, and we would put our names on the reserved list. I clearly remember when King’s new books Firestarter and Cujo were bought as I was so excited to read them. They were released in 1980 and 1981 respectively – I was nine when Firestarter came out.
So, I have a love of Mr King’s work that is over 30 years old. He does inspire me, especially his book On Writing. I could go on and on, but I’ll shut up now. He will get a whole post one day, I do have a few criticisms as well as accolades.
2. C.S. Lewis. The Chronicles of Narnia, obviously. I wrote a lot of rubbish when I was a kid because of him. His religious undertone failed with me utterly, I just wanted talking animals to be real.
3. Dean Koontz. I’ve gone off him a bit now, he’s way too Christian for my tastes and it is getting annoying. But he’s on the list for sheer perserverance, meticulous editing of every sentence, and the staggering volume of his work. Lightning, Midnight and Watchers were the first three books of his I read, and I still think they are the best of his enormous bibliography.
4. Madeline l’Engle. She wrote for what would now be considered ‘tween-age’ girls, but she wrote about science, time travel, and history. Another one whose religious undertone failed to affect me – now I can’t even imagine how or why she could link god to a book that explains, quite well, the first through sixth dimensions. Sigh. On the list as she taught me you don’t have to write about romance and rainbows when you are a woman writing for girls.
5. Dr Seuss. I don’t know if I would love words as much without him having so damn much fun with them.
6. Charles Bukowski. Wow, what a drunken, hateful, misogynistic loser. Wow, what a mind that allowed him to spill everything on paper. An inspiration because I learned that nothing is too horrible to write about. I’ll even read his poetry. Not for everyone, but if you like my next entry, you’ll like Bukowski.
7. Chuck Palahniuk. He’s disgusting and creative with it. A quick and bizarre mind, he taught me that nothing is too strange or sickening to write about – very liberating.
8. John Irving. I read The World According to Garp when I was about 13, and despite being shocked by the infamous car accident scene, I didn’t really appreciate the novel. Much later in life I read A Prayer for Owen Meany and The Cider House Rules, and fell in love. I’ve not read all of his works yet, but will. I love how he is so adept at immersing me in the world he has created. A kind of ‘I’m not worthy’ feeling hits me when I finish one of his books.
9. Kurt Vonnegut. If Irving makes me feel not worthy, Vonnegut makes me feel as if I shouldn’t even bother. Not exactly inspirational, is it? He just blows my socks off: style, language, humour, story, technique. I am a latecomer to Vonnegut, and I am sorry we lost him recently because once I read everything, there will be no more. I parcel his works out to myself like rare expensive chocolates, savouring each one.
I’m sure there are tons more, but I’ve run out of playtime and need to get ready for my job interview!
4. Did she write ‘The Tesseract’? If so, she is one of my formative influences.
5. A major deity, in the pantheon of word gods.
I don’t think there was a book called The Tesseract, but she wrote about them. A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, etc.
A Wrinkle in Time….That was the one. Loved it. Maybe based on the other comments, you can see pretty much anything as a Christian or any other good vs evil analogy that you care to. Because of my particular mindset, for instance, I see pretty much everything as an exploration, not of good and evil, but the nature of existence (example: http://dailymandala.wordpress.com/2011/10/28/the-illusionist/ ). Our myths of good versus evil, order versus disorder and transgression / penitence are quiet universal. From Star Trek to Noddy in Toyland. I remember a lecturer at art college telling us that there were in actual fact only seven story models in most traditional legends.
I’m right there with you on Stephen King. I’ve noticed that a lot of people who scoff and sneer at his popularity haven’t actually read anything he wrote — at best, they’ve seen the movies. Which, as several critics have commented, can’t possibly capture the slow-motion, interior nature of his most vivid narrative. I don’t know anyone who captures better the true horror of what people, especially families, do to one another out of delusion, self-centeredness and stupidity, to which all slimy or ghostly horrors are secondary.
Dean Koontz has been hovering around the edges of my awareness for years and your comments simultaneously attract me and put me off — Christian preaching gets old for me very fast these days, though that doesn’t put me off Lewis, l’Engle or J. K. Rowling for that matter (she’s subtler, but it’s there).
After recently re-reading my l’Engle books, she is much heavier on the Christian stuff than I had remembered. Koontz has a huge volume of work, but the three I mention are earlier works and good fun. I’m thinking you’d like Lightning the best, from reading your blog.
Many thanks for the shout out, a bit more well inserted than mine!
“If Irving makes me feel not worthy, Vonnegut makes me feel as if I shouldn’t even bother.”
Epic, loved it! We have some definite similarities here, most appropriately the Wonder of Words Dr Seuss!!!
And good luck with the interview!
Great selection of authors here. Vonnegut is amazing.