The Instructions for this were: Think about the literature you’ve read—short stories, novels, plays, memoirs, and poetry. Any literature counts, from picture books to epic poems, and from romance novels to sci-fi fan-fiction. Answer each question, and explain your response in a few sentences.
I’m going to answer the questions, then, I’m going to list five lessons I’ve learned. Double your pleasure! Warning – I’m usually incapable of simple answers.
1. What piece of literature has stayed with you, even though you haven’t read it recently?
Anna Karenina for one. Discovering Russian literature and poetry was a highlight era, when I devoured the likes of Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, Pasternak, Solzhenitzyn, and a bunch of others less memorable to me. (I was 12-14 and that was a long, long long time ago…) Sophie’s Choice is another which still haunts me, as is the diary of Anne Frank.
2. What character or story has influenced something you’ve done?
Rather than name one work, I have to say that most of what I read has influenced me, both in helping hone my own writing style, as well as opening new worlds to me. I don’t like pulp stuff like romances, vampire stories, horror, (excluding the classics, of course) etc, I much prefer literature – which is vastly more comprehensive in scope.
Started out with Grimms Fairy Tales. Exquisite illustrated edition… loved it.
As a grade-schooler, I was given the classics to read – Dickens, Twain, Austen, the Brontés, R L Stevenson, Alcott, Fitzgerald, W Irving,… I wasn’t allowed to read kid books like ‘girl’ series and stuff. Which is fine with me. (lest you wonder, I was a superb reader in a highly dysfunctional, abusive household, and my escape was reading, endlessly reading.)
The Russians were probably the most influential on my world view because there were so many different types of people and places in them, characters, politics, romance, you name it they had a dozen versions of it.
And in the high school years, many! Kafka, Hesse, Hugo, Steinbeck, Melville, Goethe, Heller, etc. I actually liked reading the assigned books, along with whatever else I was gobbling up!
Later, the deeeeeeep and profound thinkers got me going inside – Sartre, for example, made perfect sense to me around age 16 or so.
I went through a science fiction dozen years, and most loved Bradbury, Herbert and above all, Asimov … who taught me again to be open to unexplained but rational possibility.
In the last 20 yrs or so, I read far less fiction and much more science. But fiction writers whom I adore are Haruki Murakami, Salman Rushdie, Loren Eisely (not exactly fiction), TE Lawrence (again, not exactly fiction). Also more contemporary writers … and poetry.
3. What character or piece of literature seemed to relate to a recent news story or personal experience?
We live in a Blade Runner world, it seems. More and more so each day… I wanted to BE Anna K for many years .
4. What character has make you wonder why he or she did/said something?
I can’t think of one, but in general, if I wonder why a character is doing something, I figure it’s due to poor character development. You should be able to accept a character’s actions as ‘real’.
5. Name something from a work of literature (such as a character, setting, or quotation) that you find beautiful or vivid.
The description of the white birch forests in Russia in both Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and War and Peace, and Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago has always stayed with me. I finally got my own birches (not white, but river which are shades of off -white through dark brown) just a few years ago, in my front yard, and I love them as much as I expected I would.
The five things I’ve learned, in no particular order.
1. The world is a huge place and every place has its own culture, ethics and morals. It’s arrogant to try and push your own beliefs on others.
2. Cruelty, viciousness and violence never fix anything.
3. Sanctimoniousness, pretension and self-absorption are replusive to everyone.
4. Let your imagination run free, because far more than you can imagine is possible.
5. Never step in front of a train, stay away from Nazis, never torment a big wild creature and live for today for tomorrow never comes.