Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Sunday Question

(Yes, I'm posting The Sunday Question on a Saturday. But it's Saturday evening, only a few short hours until Sunday. This will give everyone a jump on formulating their answer. I like it.)

What one book has been most influential your life?

When I posed this question to staff and sundry this week, most people didn't have to think twice. Everyone seemed to have their answer at the ready, as if the influential books in question permeated their consciousnesses, were as accessible as their addresses. I guess there's an analogy there. I certainly feel as if I do live in my most influential book, and it lives in me.

Mine is Jane Eyre. The first book I read other than horsey books. I was ten, and didn't even know how to pronounce "Bronte," never mind "Eyre." It was the mystery of it that hooked me, the fact that I didn't understand above half of it, had to look up words on every page. Yet the characters seemed alive to me, they seemed like real people who'd lived in the world. I loved the way Jane spoke to me, her Reader, as if she'd been waiting for me to tell her story to. It made me want to read every book in the world, and to write characters that fired a Reader's imagination as Jane did.

Emily Crowe's is Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time. "Meg Murry was a quirky, smart, math-loving girl, and for the first time I realized that girls like me could be heroines."

John says that reading Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment helped him to finally quit smoking.

(An aside: for anyone looking for similar inspiration, there's a character in Justin Cronin's The Passage, who smokes so creepily and pervasively -- she's the fat, smoking lady in everyone's dreams -- that just thinking about her would put one off smoking as well.)

Marika's most influential book was Patricia Wrede's Dealing With Dragons, which her mother would read aloud while Marika and her brother drew their own illustrations.

Nieves was inspired by Anne of Green Gables. "Why not use my imagination to its full extent?"

And Jennika, now on board to assist Joan with Local First, says her most influential read was Alex Kotlowitz's There Are No Children Here -- a non-fiction portrayal of the lives of two young brothers and their impoverished family in Chicago's Henry Horner projects. The book inspired her to get involved in the effort to make affordable, decent housing available to all families.

We're not all pleasure-seeking escapists, just wanting to loll around in our imaginations. Well, I am, but someone has to be.

Tell us the book that has influenced you the most.


P.S. -- Thanks, Nieves, for letting us know who we write like! I'm happy enough to know I write like James Joyce (although I think it's highly unlikely). But I'm a little envious that you write like H.P. Lovecraft, one of my all time fave creepy New England writers.

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