Writers together in a café, or book store, or together on the net, love to discuss the writers they love and the books they love.
Alas, I must admit that I am a most fickle lover. When I was first writing fiction I tossed my (writing) virginity aside for Raymond Carver. He was the writer I most loved then and the one who made my writer brain go pitty-pat. Carver took me through the abandoned places that had settled deep in his own heart. Here was a writer who knew exactly how to unearth all that was romantic about broken-down trailers, sagging furniture, characters who’d lost everything. Carver was the writer I most loved then.
However, time marches on and I found I was starting to become smitten by Hemingway and his magical island retreats with their hanging palm fronds and hammocks on porches of British Colonial style cottages. Oceanside. The ocean has always held me in its thrall and so I put up with Hem’s drinking and carousing, his running with the bulls, his hunting, the cigars and tough talk. Underneath all that male-male I felt a conspiring beating pulse. Conspiring with mine. I could be called Blaine or one of those Hemingway-woman names, and possibly drink him under the table. It invariably ended, but I never actually gave him up.
At that time I was teaching a fiction writing class, and the night before the last class, it was my practice to choose a unique “art postcard” that I felt somehow suited each student’s particular style of writing. On the card I would write the names of 3 authors who:
- Reminded me of the student’s particular writing style,
- I felt the student could benefit from reading,
- Might push the student way past their current limitations.
As I was writing out the postcards, alone in my porch, I was struck by the name Paul Bowles. I wrote it on one student’s postcard, then thought to myself: They should all read Paul Bowles. So that year it was 4 authors suggested on each postcard. Paul Bowles made it onto all 20.
The following morning, the Times ran his obituary. I was completely shocked. As if the spirit of Bowles had been hovering, and saw a welcome place to insert himself. A little piece of his heart now, baby. (This happens to be a true story). I saved his obit. Felt it was a crucial bit of my history, too.
From Bowles I moved on, fickle-pickle that I am, to Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I believe the Bowles episode pushed me in this direction. Marquez’s magical realism informed his stories in a way my former author loves had not. His fish were super-fish, his seas more roiling, his character’s fears and wishes were gargantuan. And again there was the lure of the sea, so extreme under the power of Marquez. He and I strung along for a while until the nets got holes and I felt in need of a drier climate.
And, so it goes. And, goes.
We are writers because it’s imperative to us that we inhabit imaginary worlds. Those we create and those created by who we love.
Susan Tepper is the author of four published books of fiction and a chapbook of poetry. Her current title, The Merrill Diaries, (Pure Slush Books, 2013) is a novel in stories. Tepper has been nominated 9 times for the Pushcart, and one time for a Pulitzer Prize in fiction. She is also a named-finalist in story/South Million Writers Award for 2014. FIZZ, her reading series at KGB Bar in NYC, has been sporadically ongoing for six or seven years now. Tepper writes the author/books Interview series UNCOV/rd at Flash Fiction Chronicles. You can find her online at susantepper.com.