Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Writers I Owe

KeVin's post Writers of Influence got me thinking. It's difficult to pinpoint writers who have directly influenced my writing; over a lifetime of voracious reading I'm sure they are legion. What I suspect is that the writers I've enjoyed the most must have somehow insinuated their way into my approach to the craft, and maybe even influenced my choice of stories to tell. I won't attempt to analyze exactly how they achieved this, but I'll call them out and mention why they've had such an impact on me. (I'm drawing on a post I wrote on my Wordtryst blog three years ago.)

Richard Bach
Someone described his work as "philosophy lite". Call it what you will, his books captivated me decades ago, and his adventures in living his beliefs have helped to form - or at least validate - some of my own beliefs.

Arundhati Roy
I was fascinated by the legend of this Indian writer who submitted the manuscript for The God of Small Things to a London agent who, not long after, found himself on a plane to India, contract and six-figure advance in hand. When I read the book I understood. It's the writing - lyrical, heart-wrenching... That's the way I aspire to write!

Gerald Durrell
I read My Family and Other Animals when I was a child and was hooked for life. Durrell's accounts of his childhood in Greece, along with his adventures as an animal collector, zookeeper and conservationist, not only provided me with innumerable hours of high entertainment but also contributed to my development as a naturalist and writer.

Dave Barry
During my sojourns in Florida the highpoint of my weekend was buying the Miami Herald and reading Barry's column. Every Monday for the past five years or so, one of his classic columns drops into my inbox courtesy the Herald, and it's a great way to offset the start-of-the-week blues. The quintessential humorist and satirist, Barry is unsurpassed, imho, at exposing the hysterical insanities in everyday life.

William Shakespeare
During my last teaching stint a few years ago I met a fifteen year old boy who shared my passion for The Bard. I wanted to hug him. When I left, he hugged me. After all, how often do you meet a teenager who also gets goosebumps every time we read certain lines of Macbeth? Shakespeare's trenchant observations on every aspect of life have so influenced me that his words constantly find their way into my writing - and even into my everyday speech, much to the disgust of a few people who just don't get it.

Harper Lee
I've lost count of the number of times I've read To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee captures the essence of childhood while at the same time exploring very adult themes and telling a damned good story - a triple triumph I'd love to emulate.

Bill Bryson
After reading A Walk in the Woods I knew I had to get my hands on his other books. (Yes, KeVin, he does seem to have a jaundiced view of certain aspects of the American South but I'm not from there so I don't take it personally and the humour is undiluted by any perception of insult.) Bryson combines several of my reading fetishes, some of which I'm discovering are also my writing fetishes: humour, the natural world, travel, and social satire.

Edward Abbey
Here is another writer who speaks to the things I hold dear: conservation of the natural world, solitude, rejection of worldly values, the beauty and mystery of existence in all its manifestations. My tattered copy of Desert Solitaire is one of my prized possessions.

Others who have deeply influenced my thoughts and my writing, consciously and otherwise, I'm sure, are:
  • Maya Angelou, for her genius at making me cry, rage, and laugh out loud - sometimes all at the same time!
  • Erma Bombeck, for demonstrating that the most ordinary, humdrum aspects of living (what's funny about a housewife living in the suburbs, battling with spouse, spawn, cooking, laundry, crab grass, weight gain and her own expectations of domestic bliss?) can provide great fodder for humour.
  • Erica Jong, for empowering wonderful, libidinous, flawed, lovable feminist heroines!


Charles Gramlich said...

Edward Abbey and a bit of Shakespeare would be the only ones here to have much influence on me. Of course, the folks who influenced me, and those that influenced you, were probably influenced by some of the same people in their own lives so we get their influences second hand perhaps.

Liane Spicer said...

Charles, quite true! And it's possible that the influences I don't recall have been more profound than the ones I do.

Debs said...

Great choices. I'm especially fond of the Gerald Durrel books and remember seeing him at Durrel a few times when I was younger and taken to visit the animals.

Liane Spicer said...

Debs, I think I have his entire collection. I would so love to have met him just to let him know how profoundly his work affected a little girl (and her sister) in a far flung corner of the (former) empire.

I swear I'll get to Jersey one day!

Jewel Amethyst said...

Shakespeare had very little impact on me, but Harper Lee did. She didn't necessarily affect my writing style, but content.

Charles is right. We feel the impact of people who influence us directly. As an English teacher you probably have influenced more people than you imagine.

My first and second grade English teacher, Ms Bowry, had a great impact on my writing.

Liane Spicer said...

Jewel, I agree. I had a wonderful, colourful geography teacher for three years leading up to GCE exams (yay, Mrs. Rauseo!) and she's at least partly responsible for my love of all things geographic.

sage said...

Edward Abbey has influenced me more than the others (although there is a lot about Bryson and Dave Berry and Shakespeare that I enjoy).

Karen said...

I read and loved Gerald Durell years ago too, but could never get into Shakespeare. (Ssh, don't tell anyone!)

Liane Spicer said...

Sage, thank you for visiting Novel Spaces!

I came to Edward Abbey late, so he expanded the influence of other naturalist/environmentalist writers I'd read before.

Liane Spicer said...

Karen, LOL! I promise I won't tell about Shakespeare. But isn't Gerry a sweetie?