What books (or writers) have been the most influential in your development as an artist? Can you discuss a favorite book or writer in terms of your own writing?
How do you single out one novel? Or even narrow the list to fifty? Or a hundred? Still … some titles leap immediately to mind. Henry Roth’s Call It Sleep and William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying bothmade an indelible impression on me. Of course, the Faulner book (especially) made an impact on writers worldwide. Do yourself a favor. If you encounter an author who doesn’t appear to know Faulkner’s work … or Proust’s or Joyce’s or Woolf’s … run. And never look back.
As far as horror titles are concerned, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Gustav Meyrink’s Der Golem were monumental in my development, in both cases because of their intensity, their brilliance. In terms of sheer passion in the art, Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren also inspired me. I’m still in awe of the genius of the man – the language, the vision. The first time I read Dhalgren, I was little more than a kid, starving on the Lower East Side. I wrote poetry for a couple of obscure journals and struggled through rehearsals of my first play (at a storefront “theater”). I was freezing and exhausted and despairing. This book changed my life. The sheer excitement of its being about writing set my mind on fire. Nothing else mattered. Nothing. Each time I’ve read it since, it has inspired me. That’s the mark of a masterpiece.