Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What Inspires Me

Greetings from Key West, Florida.

Been here for three days now, performing nightly with my band at Sloppy Joe's Bar, the alleged place where Ernest Hemingway tied quite a few on in his day.  But if you eavesdrop on one of the tour trams that pass every now and again, you learn that the original Sloppy Joe's, and Hemingway's liver, have remnants further down the block in an entirely different location.  But I digress.  Key West has gone off my radar as far as rants go.  It is what it is, and I'm here first on business, and second, to get lost in my imagination for a solid week.

Which brings me to this post, which was inspired by a Twitter feed in which a fellow writer blogged about their influences.  I'd never thought to do that myself, usually reserving that information for when I was a drinker and would talk many an ear off about literature and writing and the best of both.  But those days are gone, and with it went the bravado of a loud drunk.  Nonetheless, I'd like to take this time to mention the latest book I've read (pictured above), which I found very inspiring for reasons I'll explain, and then say a little something about what influences me as a writer.

First and foremost, I have to mention the Queen of the Damned herself, Anne Rice, my surrogate mother of letters and inspiration to this day.  Her contemporary fiction is what put me on the path of the novel as my primary means of storytelling, and I admit it without shame that she has been most all I've read in that field to date.  I can't remember the last book I've read (fiction, mind you) that she hasn't written, with the exception of one (again, pictured above).  I just recently saw a YouTube video of her in her little office in the California desert, and it made me think about perseverance.  Anne used to live quite the extravagant lifestyle in New Orleans, but apparently lost all of it due to bad investments and a crashing real estate market.  That information came from a separate interview I read recently, but when I put it all together, it made me think, "I can and will write everywhere."  Anne used to write in a Garden District mansion, and now, by the looks of it, she writes in a small room in a suburban California condo.

Now, before I go further off track here, let me mention The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson (that's right, pictured above), a wonderfully written and structured book that inspires me in its simplicity.  I'm sure Mr. Davidson himself would not be so kind with my calling his work "simple," mainly because according to the background information on him, the novel took seven years to write.  But the book is simple only in the fact that it manages to carry two story threads framed in a plot-space that is really uneventful.  Without reviewing the book, I just want to make the point that it showed me how less can absolutely be more, and Davidson is very much akin to my approach.  It's vivid, beautiful, and internalized in the Romantic tradition.

Back to what inspires me, I have to mention the very same Romantic tradition, more specifically, the English Romantics of the eighteenth and nineteenth century.  Even more specific would be the second generation led by Byron, Keats, and Shelley.  It would be downright weird for me to claim that as a novelist I was influenced by them stylistically, being that they were poets.  But their philosophies are what molded me, and the study of their time and work is what gave me the Promethean flame that I write so much about.  That flame, in my opinion, was carried centuries later as the writers of the Beat Generation -- another great influence on my work -- internalized their passions and made the written word like new, post-World War II monuments of expressive achievement.  William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg truly believed they were changing the world, like the English Romantics before them, and in a way they did.  Only it was the world inside.

Yes.  The world inside.  Writers can't move into any other words unless they're satisfied with the one inside.

That is what inspires me.  What inspires you?