Batchelor, David. Chromophobia. London: Reaktion Books, 2005.
Artist and writer David Batchelor’s central argument is that a societal fear of corruption or contamination through color permeates Western culture. I am interested in symbolism tied with the physicality of color and this book helped take my close reading abilities to the next level. It also bridged the ways I approach visual art in relation to fiction.
Buber, Martin, and Olga Marx. Tales of the Hasidim. New York: Schocken, 1975.
Buber’s Tales of the Hasidim is a collection of stories attributed to the Baal Shem Tov and his followers. The structure of the stories is very simple (sometimes with no apparent point), but also eloquent and beautiful. I am interested in oral traditions and how different people understand or re-tell the same information in varying ways, with each interpretation still being true. The bee woman in my manuscript grew out of one of these stories.
Calvino, Italo. Invisible Cities. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974.
Calvino’s Invisible Cities consists of 55 different descriptions of amazingly fictive cities interspersed with dialogue between the traveler Marco Polo and the wearied ruler Kublai Khan. The descriptions of the cities illustrate the duel of ideas and attitudes going on between Polo and Khan in the work and fits with the engaged daydream nature in parts of my novel.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Blithedale Romance. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1996.
Hawthorne’s The Blithedale Romance is fictionalized account of the author’s stay at Brook Farm in 1841. It’s a great source of information about utopian experiments, and fits nicely with my research on Home, Washington. It gives an insightful window into social attitudes and the culture of this living environment during the period.
Hemingway, Ernest. The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. Finca Vigía ed. New York: Scribner’s, 1987.
In this collection of short stories I was interested in the way that Hemingway constructed scenes almost entirely out of dialog. Most of his character development happened through dialog, and this helped me approach my scenes in a new way. While occupying a loaded interior space, Hemingway’s characters are linked to a world of action and words. He is clean and concise in exactly the way I am not.
Hickey, Dave. Air Guitar. Los Angeles: Art Issues Press, 1997.
Air Guitar is a collection of Hickey’s essays ranging from popular and forgotten music, cartoons, mass culture, Donald Judd, Siegfried and Roy, the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, and even the world’s largest rhinestone. Hickey has a way of treating the subjects of art and culture as anecdotes to his personal stories. Hickey’s light and engaged tone helped me further develop my art writing.
Kawabata, Yasunari. The House of the Sleeping Beauties and Other Stories. Tokyo, Palo Alto etc.: Kodansha International, 1969.
Kawabata’s House of the Sleeping Beauties creates a mysterious and liminal space where the main character Eguchi relives elements of his past romantic life through the sleeping women who inhabit the brothel. The hallucinatory style of this book assisted my understanding of atmosphere, while creating a template for my character’s contemplation of objects and projection of ideas onto others.
LeWarne, Charles Pierce. Utopias on Puget Sound, 1885-1915. Seattle, WA and London, UK: University of Washington Press, 1995.
In this volume Dr. Lewarne explores the little-known history of communal living experiments that littered the Pacific Northwest between 1885-1915, including the town of Home (featured in my novel). This in conjunction with the interviews I did with LeWarne was essentially the inception of my novel in its earliest form.
Malouf, David. An Imaginary Life: A Novel. New York: Vintage Books, 1978.
An Imaginary Life is a fabulist story of Ovid after he’s exiled to live with the barbarians. The novel starts with Ovid unable to communicate his experiences as poet with those he now lives among. Language was the bridge that connected him to the world around him. This book was part of my long critical paper and helped me explore the use of color in fiction.
Martin, Douglas A. Branwell. New York: Soft Skull Press, 2005.
Branwell traces the tragic story of Branwell Brontë and composites it through the lives of those involved, from golden child and hope of the family to drunken dissolute. This hallucinatory narrative shifts back and forth, switches tense, shows us one reading only to challenge it later, and ultimately unfolds a tale embroidered of speculation, and suspicion, where one is never certain of the absolute truths. This blended method is something I’m exploring in my work.
Murakami, Haruki. After the Quake. New York: Vintage Books, 2002.
Each of the six stories in Haruki Murakami’s After the Quake is set against the backdrop of the 1995 Kobe earthquake in Japan. The stories deal with tragedy, loss, and trauma, and are permeated with a sense of mystical undercurrents and the absurd. This dreamy pop-ness is something I am interested in emulating.
Plato, G. M. A. Grube, and C. D. C. Reeve. Republic. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co., 1992.
Plato’s Republic features the allegory of the cave, outlining the concept of human consciousness inhabiting a dark cave, entranced by the movements of shadows on a wall. I like how this metaphor demonstrates the viewer shifting his/her attention away from the shadows to focus on the clay statues that are being manipulated to produce the show. In many ways this outlines the framework for the main character’s experience of the train ride in my novel.
Pressburger, Giorgio. The Law of White Spaces. New York: Pantheon Books, 1993.
These five stories are set in an unnamed Hungarian city and deal with doctors and patients, highlighting a bizarre and mysterious beauty. The stories are structured as the author’s summaries of conversations he had with a history scholar named Professor S. In these stories things happen for mysterious and unknown reasons, but they happen for a reason.
Robbe-Grillet, Alain. Jealousy and In the Labyrinth. New York: Grove Press, 1965.
Jealousy is a compulsive observation of interactions between the implied narrator/character’s wife A… and a neighbor Franck. The novel is set on a banana plantation and documents the narrator’s growing suspicion that A… and Franck are having an affair. The language focuses on extreme surface, chronicling objects, proximity of things, and disembodied individuals treated as bits and pieces; relational. Although different than how Robbe-Grillet approached dialogue, this novel changed how I structured dialogue and collaged it with events and objects in my novel.
Salinger, J.D. Catcher in the Rye. New York: Little Brown Books, 1991.
Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is set as a flashback and takes place over three days in which the protagonist Holden Caulfield is expelled from boarding school, decides to leave early and returns to New York to stay in a hotel, while becoming progressively disillusioned about societal roles and expectations. The structure of this novel was useful to my novel and writing in general.
Schjeldahl, Peter. Let’s See. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2008.
This collection of essays originally appeared in the New Yorker and explores how we see visual art. Schjeldahl’s style invites the reader into subjects even if they have no previous knowledge of the sometimes-obscure topics, but his approach leaves the ramifications of these posited notions up to the reader to discover. Through this enquiry my art writing paralleled work on my novel and helped me grow as a writer.
Weschler, Lawrence. Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees. Berkeley: UC Berkeley Press, 1982.
Weschler chronicles the life and work of Southern California based artist Robert Irwin. The work documents the evolution of Irwin’s early work as it congealed into Abstract Expressionism in the late 1950s on through to his later Conceptual work in the 1970s. Irwin’s idea of presence fits into how I approach writing and helped me immensely with my art writing.