Who Would Faulkner Be?

This was the moment I trusted my own taste.

The radio in my mother’s car only got AM radio.  It was the factory install on a 1973 Chevrolet Laguna and it would become my car in high school, with a much better radio.  Anyway, the car only got AM stations so my first musical memories are of John Cougar Mellancamp, Eddie Rabbit, and Juice Newton.  Then, the only FM station we could get at home with any clarity was a top 40 station.  The only other music I really listened to at home was my parent’s 60s and 70s R & B.  That tells you where all the musical likes I have alt. country, 80s pop music, old school R & B developed.  Over the years I added rap and 60s music to my musical loves.

However, that all became OK with those first moments of Vernon Reid’s guitar open to “Cult of Personality” on the Arsenio Hall Show.  Seeing four black guys on stage playing hard rock/heavy metal told me, “OK, you’re not strange.  It makes sense now.”

The bands that made me who am goes like this, Living Colour, Fishbone, The Black Crowes, Jimi Hendrix, Uncle Tupelo/Son Volt/Wilco.  These and the bands that have joined them in the forefront of my musical tastes all have in thing in common:  They are their own thing and moved out on their own limb to do what they wanted, damn the consequences.

The Mount Rushmore of music for my life is Living Colour, Fishbone, Jeff Tweedy/Jay Farrar (I can’t separate them), Jimi Hendrix.

What about the books?  Hmmm.  What books and authors made me fall in love with words?  First, Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time.  That is the first book I can truly remember reading and being affected by as a kid.  After that the next thing that really affected me was Red Badge Of Courage and then A Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.  It was soon after that I found The Great Gatsby.  Then I read Dubliners and that changed how I saw short stories.

What would my writer’s Mount Rushmore be?  This is where I’ve changed.  The music is still important to me, but the books are more important to me.  I have recently gone a binge of dead white guys.  Particularly of the American kind.  Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Faulkner, plus a lot of Shakespeare has been in my reading queue for the last couple of years.  Then there is James Joyce.  Probably my least read of this group, but the one who has affected me most.  For whatever reason, Joyce has become a romantic figure in my estimation of writers.  The guy who toiled endlessly to write how he wanted to write regardless of what the public or the establishment thought.  He toiled endlessly through obscurity and poverty to write one of the greatest pieces of art to come out of the 20th century.

I don’t think of writers in terms of Mount Rushmore.  I think of them more as basketball players.  Who are the basketball comparisons for my favorite writers?  Shakespeare is Bill Russell.  He has all the rings and helped create this world of writers.  Hemingway is Michael Jordan.  Maybe he was not the most naturally talented one, but the one who wanted greatness the most and worked everyone into the ground to get there.  Fitzgerald is someone like David Thompson.  The one who did have all the natural talent, but the drugs and the alcohol just got in the way too often.  Joyce is someone like Connie Hawkins.  Someone whose talent got its most shine outside the popular glare of most of the sports world, but whose legend grows with each passing year.

Who would Faulkner be?  That is a good question.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about a lot of this in the recent weeks as I get ready for Camp NANOWRIMO starting on Monday.  The questions of influence and style ramble around in my head while I’m trying to go to sleep with the countdown looming.  That is partially why this post is so rambling and kind of disjointed.  Not enough sleep. Off to do some more pre-work and to set up my writing schedule for the coming week.

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One Response to “Who Would Faulkner Be?”

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