Book & Music Influences
The deeper an influence is, the more it defies description — the roots go places you can’t easily see, let alone trace. Simply to list influences is easier, as long as you accept the inevitability of incompleteness. Memory is imperfect and self-knowledge is imperfect and no readable list can be long enough to encompass what the world has contributed. But no novel can be perfect, yet I write. And no list can be perfect, yet here it is.
When I finished the last paragraph of Moby Dick (it was New Year’s Day; I was twenty), I thought — the closest I’ve ever come to a true epiphany — I want to write something as beautiful as this. That was a long time ago. Turns out that Moby Dick is a hard standard to live up to. I know some people are irritated by Moby Dick and never get through it (or never start it). To each his own. Without hyperbole, I can say that it changed my life.
I have a picture of Walt Whitman on my desk. Through the years, I’ve had many desks, but that picture has remained constant. I also have a postcard written by Whitman, which my Dad obtained without ever explaining how. When I fear that I’m beginning to slouch creatively or emotionally (is there a difference?), nothing corrects my posture better than Leaves of Grass.
Novels that influenced The Godling despite the inexplicable absence of mythologized whales (listed alphabetically by author, with asterisks for the strongest influences): Behind the Scenes at the Museum* (Atkinson); Seize The Day (Bellow); The Awakening (Chopin); Heart of Darkness (Conrad); Moll Flanders* (Dafoe); Absalom, Absalom!, The Sound and the Fury, Light in August, and As I Lay Dying (Faulkner); The French Lieutenant’s Woman* (Fowles); The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald); One Hundred Years of Solitude* and Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Garcia-Marquez); Come Closer (Gran); In Our Time and A Farewell to Arms (Hemingway); Their Eyes Were Watching God (Hurston); The Haunting of Hill House (Jackson); A Perfect Spy (Le Carre); The Road (McCarthy); Song of Solomon and Beloved (Morrison); A Bend in the River (Naipaul); The Good Wife* and A Prayer for the Dying (O’Nan); The Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck); Dracula (Stoker); Winter’s Bone* and Tomato Red (Woodrell); Mrs Dalloway and The Waves (Woolf).
An egregiously partial list of non-novelists whose work influenced The Godling: Sam Beam, The Beatles, John Dominic Crossan, Devotchka, Emily Dickinson, Nick Drake, TS Elliot, Brian Eno, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Explosions in the Sky, Robert Frost, Jenn Ghetto and Mat Brooke, Henryk Górecki, Philip Gourevitch, Polly Jean Harvey, Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donnely, Adam Hochschild, Harriet Jacobs, George B. Johnson, Damien Jurado, Kabir, Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry, Philip Kaufman, Ben Kiernan, Stan Lee, Sergio Leone, Richard Linklater, David Lynch, Terrence Malick, Jack Miles, Hayao Miyazaki, Mogwai, My Morning Jacket, James Nachtwey, The National, Amanda Palmer, Anita Pratap, Gérard Prunier, Rilo Kiley, Sigur Rós, David Simon, Steven Soderbergh, Surdas, Andrei Tarkovsky, Eric Weitz, Joss Whedon, Yndi Halda.