Thursday, 13 June 2013

Five Writers that changed me.


 Five Writers that changed me.

1: I first read Portrait Of An Artist As A Young Man in form 5. I loved the book. Joyce was the beginning. I didn't know that I was going to write after reading him, but I knew I wanted to rebel and rebellion is a great place to start for any writer.

I have read a lot more of Joyce (though still have not managed to finish Ulysses - has anyone? - I start with the beautiful hardback book I have had for more than twenty years but I think the closest I have got to finishing was about a hundred pages from the end) and love the Dubliners but it is always Portrait that I come back to, that thin little novel that taught me my thoughts weren't mad, my desire to be different, normal, and that a love of English wasn't something I should be ashamed of.

2:  I found this book in a second-hand bookshop. It was a bit tattered but I had read Camus' The Outsider and the fact they carried the same title - The Outsider - and that it was written by Wilson made me curious. I bought Wilson's book and everything changed.

For many years I became an outsider. I wrote my poetry, plays and stories and I deliberately lived a life of an Outsider. To this day, if I see even just the word 'outsider', I am stirred by memories and by my powerful emotional responses to Colin Wilson's wonderful The Outsider.

3:  This is a writer so obscure that I have never met anyone who knew of her. I have only ever read 1 book of hers - yet that single paperpack, is one I have read at least 15 times since I first read it as a 20 year old.

It is not a great piece of Literature. In fact, it is a minor work in the genre of Science Fiction. It touches on evolution, robots, telepathy and dinosaurs and how the universe might end. It is also deeply human, even though its main protagonist is a robot called Tec, as its characters each undertake a search to discover "Who am I?". The novel is The Second Experiment by J.O. Jeppson, the second wife of Isaac Asimov.

This book gave me, perspective.

4: This is not a writer, rather it is a genre that changed my life. I first discovered it as a boy of about nine while visiting the local Glenroy library. The genre was Mythology. I started with the Norse myths and read everything that library had on Asgard and its heroes.

When I had finished the Norse myths I moved to the Dreamtime stories of the Indigenous Australians. I read the whole section of Indigenous stories and then I came to the Greek and Roman section and that took a long, long time to work through. Roman and Greek myths branched out into all the myths of the world’s ancient civilizations. Right up until my early teens, all that I could find, I read. The myths gathered by Robert Graves, myths from Joseph Campbell, and so on.

And this myth reading began to influence the fictional books I read. I found the Arthurian legends, the Mary Renault books on Alexander or the Henry Treece books. I lost myself in other worlds. The worlds of gods and men and the eternal struggle. the hero myths, the fallen myths and the myths about the end, The Rognorak’s, the end of Arthur or other heroes, and so on.

At around seventeen, I decided I wanted to be a writer but, really, it wasn’t until I had read books like the Golden Bough, the White Goddess or Campbell’s entire series of The Masks of God that I began to understand what that might entail.

In my twenties, I read every single Arthurian myth I could lay my hands on, then the Celtic myths and so on – along the way discovering Tolkien and a whole range of fantasy that drew their ideas from mythology.  My stories are a direct result of those earliest myths.

5: I was studying Literature at the time and I had taken a unit studying Elliot - specifically The Wasteland. Once I read that poem I knew I wanted to write poetry and I have been writing it ever since.

It was all so powerful, like a mind altering drug, yet these effects were not chemical - or rather they were brain chemicals being influenced by words, not alien chemicals added to the mix. The Wasteland convinced me that art has a place, that is necessary in society, that I was right to want to see where it might lead me.

In some ways my writing up to that point was about ego (about me and only me) but with The Wasteland ego was replaced with the desire to explore this mysterious, powerful, magical landscape of words. It touched my emotions, gave them a space to breath, a place to expand. The Wasteland glowed.

These books (and 1 genre) changed me. They gave me direction, gave me inspiration. It was from these writers, and their books, that idea of becoming a writer (even though I had no ideas what that entailed) first started to germinate.

Then I tried a poem or two, a story about an outsider, a dialogue between two serfs for a European History unit. The journey to write began.

No comments:

Post a Comment