If you click the “Restless” tab at the top of the page, you’ll find a link for Chapter Two – “We Accept You, We Accept You, One of Us!” somewhere toward the bottom. (For any who’re wondering, that’s a reference to a RAMONES song and also to the movie “Freaks.”)
Since I’ve been in “write” mode lately, I thought I’d briefly address my writing influences. Someone even asked me about that recently, and I hadn’t put much thought into it, to be honest. I just blurted out the first names that came to mind. Fortunately, after some thought, I think I agree with my initial blurtation (not a word). 🙂 I’ve put decades of thought into listing my musical influences, but this is pretty much the first time I’ve gone to the trouble of listing my authorial ones. To be honest, I actually feel a little pretentious doing it…but whatever.
In thinking about who influences my writing, I mostly have to ask the question of who I read and whose work I’ve enjoyed the most. It’s dangerous, though, to say that I write LIKE any of these people…but they’re who I find myself most often quoting or structuring my “process” (if any) after. So here’s the short-list.
- Frank McCourt – One of the finest books I’ve ever read is “Angela’s Ashes.” It’s beautifully written, but done in a way that is a little bit jarring at the same time. His sentences sometimes run-on. He uses colloquial phrasings and Irish terminology that are a struggle to follow sometimes…yet his point is clear and his stories are memorable. (Also “‘Tis” and “Teacher Man” are great reads as well…but if you’re only going to read one, it begins and ends with “Angela’s Ashes.”)
- Nick Hornby – My favorites of his works are “High Fidelity” and “A Long Way Down,” both of which I identify with on profound levels. Hornby is one of the few authors of the modern age who seems to disappear when you’re reading his work. He has very few “Hornby-isms” that are common to his writings. His characters are their own creations, each with a unique voice that can’t quite be labeled as “Ah…that’s where it’s Nick slipping through.” Nope. It’s Rob. Or it’s Maureen. Or it’s whoever’s voice he’s in at the time. (He also writes stunningly well as both a male narrator and as a female one.) I am no where NEAR being able to do that, but it’s something I certainly aspire to. (Seriously…read Hornby.)
- Kurt Vonnegut Jr. – (May he rest in peace.) I pale in his shadow and am not worthy to be mentioned in tandem with him…but he’s still a major influence. You can actually see it on my blog, I think. Like when I say things like “Long time readers of the blog (if any)…” that’s pretty much stolen directly from Vonnegut. He used to speak of his own death and say things like “When I die (God forbid!)…” I totally adopted that. Plus, he’s so dry and weird and Liberal…everything I dig. I don’t do him justice…but I’ll keep mentioning him as one of the finest authors of his generation until the day I die (God forbid!).
- Robert Lasner – This is a weird one. I don’t WANT to be influenced by him. I’ve only read one of his books (“For Fucks Sake” – sorry to those whose eyes are burning from reading a word that they have heard countless times but fail to accept) and when I read it, I didn’t enjoy it. I kept reading it thinking, “I hate everyone in this book. They’re all mind-bogglingly stupid and deserve everything they’re getting.” …but for some reason I finished it. Then, probably a year or so later…I realized that the reaction I had was exactly the reaction I was supposed to have. It was the POINT of the book. Sometimes you’re just stupid and you can’t/won’t get out of it…and you get what you deserve. I’m not sure I ever want to write like he does…but I do hope that someday I write something that has that kind of impact on someone…something that they have to live with before they appreciate it.
- Another odd choice…Kevin Smith (director of films like “Clerks,” “Dogma,” and “Jersey Girl.”) To be fair, other than one or two posts on his website, I haven’t actually READ anything he’s written. Mostly, I just cite Kev because I find myself using some of his terminology/inflection…at least in my head. (Like how often I use the term “right on” and how I call everyone “sir.”)
- Roddy Doyle – A recent influence. I really dug “A Star Called Henry” and “Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha” and I feel like he’s something of a kindred spirit in how he views the struggles of life (except I’m probably a bit more pro-church than he is). To be honest, I don’t think I’ve fully absorbed him into my writing style yet…but I think it’ll happen as time goes on, so I’m putting him on the list.
- Nicole Krauss – I pity anyone who hasn’t read either “Man Walks Into a Room” or “The History of Love.” Frankly, I even feel a little sorry for the people who’ve only read one or the other. They’re both incredible books. She’s one of the few fresh voices out there right now, and I’m virtually salivating at the prospect of a new Krauss book hitting the stands…but unfortunately, she has nothing announced. C’mon Nicole! Write!!! She’s one of the few female authors I’ve ever read that managed to capture the male mind fairly accurately in her works without being condescending or unfair. We need more of that, so others can see how it’s done.
So there ya’ go. Read the things those folks have written.
- “Falling Man” by Don DeLillo – It’s being hailed as one of the greatest works of fiction (so far) to incorporate 9/11. I’m about three chapters in (started reading it last night) and so far it’s pretty good. Kind of a 9/11 love story…but that sounds hacky and stupid, and it’s definitely not that. If you’re looking for that, read the end of “Forever” by Pete Hamill (which is an apt title, as it’ll take you FOREVER to get through it). “Falling Man” won’t make my All Time Top-10, I don’t think…but it’s pretty good.