My friend Steve recently tagged me on Facebook, challenging me to come up with a list of “fifteen authors who have been an influence and you’re confident will always stick with you.” It was intended to be a brisk, modest exercise. The instructions even insisted that as little time as possible be used in the construction of the list. So naturally, I thought about it a lot.
I didn’t agonize in the selection of the fifteen writers; I dutifully followed the instructions in that respect. But I did think about the list quite a bit after I shared it with my clicked-and-followed friends. Specifically, I thought about how little time and how few words I’ve expended in exploring exactly why these authors are the one who have been an influence, who I’m sure will always stick with me. I certainly have no hesitation whatsoever about expounding at length about every other section of the pop culture firmament that occuppies too much of my time. Yet when it comes to books, I typically relegate any acknowledgement of what I’m reading to a a jokey dismissal. I treasure great writing as much as any other sort of creative art I encounter, so why not dig into what moves me the most about it?
Beginning with each of those first fifteen names I tugged off the bookshelf in my memory, I’ll use the “My Writers” feature to consider precisely why these particular authors stick with me, what it is about how they smash words together that fills me with admiration and envy. Truth is, I’m not exactly sure where this will go–academic examination, nostalgic reminiscing, quoting madly like a zealot, tiresome gushing–but that’s sort of the point. In effect, it’s the point of everything I post in this digital space: making meaning out of the created culture that I shove endlessly, hungrily into my brain.
Finally, in an effort to fully adhere to my tradition of introductory posts that explain things that require no explanation, I’d like to acknowledge the direct influence of another friend in the titling of this recurring feature. Some time back, I had a long discussion with my favorite whale artist about why my various surveys of decades in film are posted under names that imply I’m making a definitive statement instead of offering a personal assessment. Without getting into my reasoning for that particular choice, I do want to note that the prominent placement of the word “My” is fully deliberate and intended to carry a particular meaning. It’s definitely in part to emphasize that these are the writers that speak directly to me, and I’ve no pretensions towards naming a new canon or diminishing a famed, beloved author through their exclusion. I’m not well-read enough to make such proclamations.
Beyond that, it’s meant to be a celebration of the mental collaboration that a reader undertakes with a writer. As strong as my personal connection is to certain songs and the performers that play them, or certain films and the directors who made them, it still doesn’t quite compare to the intense loyalty that comes from the naturally intertwined relationship with the person who shares the words they’ve put down on a page. A deeper sense of kinship grows with the writers that I love best. It goes beyond thinking these writers are good or respecting their work. These are indeed “my writers,” the ones I return to time and again (or at least have returned to time and again, in the case of those who’s hold on me has faded over the years, either because of changes in me or in them) because something in their sentences stirred me in unique, exciting ways.
And the process starts tomorrow with the writer whose name I instinctively, immediately wrote first when I made the list that inspired this endeavor.