Monday, March 29, 2010

The Querencia folks have a fun meme going: name the ten books which had the biggest influence on you. Influence is an interesting question, since influences are decidedly not the same as favorites. I think my list would have to run as follows (roughly chronological in my life):

J.R.R. Tolkein, Lord of the Rings: I'm not ashamed to be a nerd. And quite a lot of my personality is in there: philology, history, myth and epic, ethnography, poetry, Old English/Norse influence, a sense of loss of the old wonders, wilderness, mountains, rivers. I just re-read it and I still love it.

Hergé, The Tintin oeuvre: World travel, ethnography, archaeology and a great fondness for Britishness (yes, of course I know they're French).

Edward Abbey, The Monkey Wrench Gang:
Wilderness and the American West, anarchist sympathies, environmentalism without the sanctimony and pseudo-spirituality.

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World: Didn't spawn, but sharply amplified my discomfort with government and "progress."

The Kalevala:
If I were really pursuing the thread of influence here, I suppose the ultimate source is the liner notes on Seleniko by Värttinä. Weird folk poetry, epic, non-Indo-European tongues; I think this was my first awareness that there's poetry which really must be examined in the original. And that other languages are much more fun to learn than Spanish. And that that Anon. guy wrote a lot of really good stuff.

David Quammen, Song of the Dodo:
This is where I began to get seriously interested in evolution and biogeography. I believe I read Steve's review galleys.

Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa:
Travel, adventure and bloody good writing together, that's how to live!

Patrick O'Brian, The Aubrey-Maturin Novels: Again, contains a large percentage of my fascinations, and remains my ideal of English prose. There's a lot of how to live here too, even if you don't have Frenchmen to beat up on.

Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae: Not an approach I'd necessarily favor anymore, but she definitely got me fired up about reading the classics and exercising the critical faculties.

W.A. Mozart, The Magic Flute [score]: An odd entry, but no one can deny its influence on me. My relationship with music and general creativity, not to mention the inside of my head, has never been the same.
Interesting to note that only two (Huxley and Mozart) had anything to do with school, and Mozart is the only entry from the St. John's College program. Orthodoxy is notably absent, but not everything is about books; a few books were mildly influential there, but nothing was decisive. At least eight remain favorites, which is nice (might have to revisit Brave New World). All the other favorites wouldn't be favorites without these.

Honorable mentions:
The New World by Frederick Turner: sci-fi can be so much more than gadgetry. Also, David Roberts and Craig Childs: outdoor adventure for people whose brains outmass their other glands. And of course Bodio, though I had the good fortune to get him through spoken word and excellent dinners more than through printed pages. And I have him to thank for four of the listed ten.



smartdogs said...

I knew Hayduke

Steve Bodio said...

If you mean Peacock so do Peculiar and I. Libby and I saw him last month!