Your Favorite Author
First, I must apologize to the folks in my writing group for not having turned in my story for this month yet. Being an adult sucks. Plowing on…
At this point, I’ve decided that this survey thing is more for people who identify themselves as “readers” than it is for “writers,” simply because it seems to me that people who read and don’t write are far more able to declare their favorites without second guessing themselves. Or I could have my head up my ass, which is not out of the realm of possibility. Either way, this has provided me so far with a really nice platorm from which to speak about a lot of things regarding books. I just posted this little paragraph of prologue in order to excuse myself for the paragraph that’s going to follow this one. It’s going to be a lot more about how I as a writer agonized over my decision of who I was going to name as my favorite writer. Anyway, enjoy, if you can!
There were two writers who were immediately jettisoned to the top of my favorite writers list: Ken Kesey and William Faulkner. Now, the pains that I experienced in trying to figure out who was my favorite writer are probably completely necessary and sound overblown. Either way, it was painful trying to make my decision. Ken Kesey wrote my favorite ever novel in the world (I can’t say what it is without ruining the end of the list). On the other hand, William Faulkner wrote three of the other four books on my Top 5 Favorite books list. However, Kesey is from my native state, Oregon and spent almost his whole life there. He was also the bridge between the Beats and the Hippies, forging that counter cultural connection that inspired me during my adolescence (no, I’m not like 60 or anything…it influenced me 30 years after it happened). Kesey was the one who inspired me to experiment with drugs and broaden my perspective on things. He inspired me to rely on myself and to be proud of myself as the Fool. But on the other hand, it’s my opinion that Kesey didn’t pay the proper respect to the job of being a writer. Let me explain. Kesey wrote two of the greatest novels written in the 1960’s–he wrote the best novel written (in my opinion) in the last half of the 20th Century. Then he stopped writing. He went on a cross-country road trip in a bus with his friends and did copious amounts of drugs, which of courses isn’t bad in itself. But then he didn’t write again formally until he passed the age that most writers have their most productive years in. He did other things like writing children’s books and performing plays and doing acid tests–but when compared with the other writer on my list, Kesey did not hold a candle to the way this man kept putting words on the page day after day for decades. William Faulkner’s example is the one I would like to follow when forming my habits and decisions as a writer, not Kesey’s. Faulkner was one of the writers who turned American literature upside down. He experimented formally, thematically, and in pretty much any other way you could think of. He wrote every day. He worked like a dog. His are the words that I have strewn about my apartment to inspire myself and he is the reader I imagine sitting there listening to my words as they are put down onto the page. Some things about Faulkner that I personally love:
Faulkner addresses the themes that I would love to be able to tackle in my own writing–with The Sound and the Fury he tackled the fall of a family, the reasons for and against suicide, the results of shitty parenting and upbringing. With As I Lay Dying he made us wonder about who is right in a world where everyone is the star of their own story, the curse and blessing of family, the seemingly continuous collision between fate and will, and the slippery notion of insanity. In Light in August Faulkner makes us consider the notions of cowardice, alienation, solipsism, identity, determination, and love. And that’s just in three books! Is it any wonder that this guy is one of the greatest?
This is more about Faulkner’s being a writer as opposed to his writing. I love the attitude Faulkner had toward his writing, which was basically that nothing should be allowed to get in the way of it. A quote of his that always stuck with me was when he said, “The artist is not important. Only what he creates is important.” To this quote you may see a bit of an echo of my earlier post on taking the ego out of the story. Well, you would be right. And then Faulkner goes on to say that the artist’s only responsibility is to his art. What up and coming writer could stand not to love Faulkner’s encouraging and consoling words about letting so much go by the board in order to reach his vision of how he wants his work to go? Faulkner is a pretty huge inspiration to writers, even if you just read his quotes about writing and art in general. He’s got some awesome things to say and I encourage everyone to check him out!