A visitor to this page named Lizzi asked me this question the other day as a wall post, and I thought I would try to take it up here…

There are many, mind you. But my simplest response would be Hemingway and Dickens: my two writing fathers.

Hemingway, because I started reading him when I was about 14 years old, and found myself amazed that sophisticated writing made for adults could be so accessible, so direct, so available and inclusive. I think until that point, I'd always assumed that serious adult writing had to be difficult or opaque. (Joyce, Faulkner, etc) But Hemingway taught me the elegance of removal. I decided early on that I wanted to write in that manner, as well. I made a vow that anyone who is capable of reading can read one of my books — that all would be welcome. I still try to write that way — trying to get out of the way of the prose as much as possible, and just let the story be told. Curiously, I haven't read Hemingway again since I was young. I think maybe I don't want to spoil my perfect memories of discovering him in my malleable youth.

And then there is Dickens! Dickens, my generous, fearless, ever-abundant, literary sugar daddy. Dickens, who rightfully called himself "the inimitable". Dickens, the flat-out greatest storyteller ever. Dickens, who expertly takes you by the hand in the first sentence of each book and says, "Come with me, dear friend — we are about to embark on a very long journey together, but I know exactly what I'm doing, and if you just trust me and surrender to my tale, then we shall have the adventure of a lifetime." Dickens! (A man who, by the way, truly enjoyed being a writer — no tormented genius, he! Just a genius, period.) Dickens is the one who taught me this valuable literary lesson: Go big or go home. Tell a REAL story, or don't bother. Dickens, I read every year. I am constantly reading me some Dickens, and I never stop learning from him.

And then there are a hundred others. But those are my two founding fathers.

What about you all? Which writers have most shaped your minds?


via Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook Wall

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