From the euphoniously named Lady Sheherazahde’s Blog comes this challenge:
15 Authors (meme)
Fifteen authors (poets included) who’ve influenced you and that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag at least fifteen friends, including me, because I’m interested in seeing what authors my friends choose.
Now, I was not tagged by Lady Sheherezadhe. Would that I were! She has a congruence of spirit to mine that would make a fine friend. Nevertheless, I am going to attempt her challenge;
1) CS Lewis
Lewis is a bottomless pit. I just finished reading the last book of his to be published in his lifetime; The Discarded Image, and have reread several of the Narnia stories. I have to admit that some of the bloom is off the tulip when I read him now in my fiftes compared to when I discovered him in my twenties. He is nowhere near the fantasist that Tolkien is, nowhere near the metaphysician Williams is, and nowhere near as provocative a thinker as Barfield, but his Abolition Of Man is my favorite book ever, and his effortless command of the Western Tradition reminds of how much we have lost.
2) JRR Tolkien
JRR Tolkien is the King of Faerie. I discovered him in my fourteenth year and my enthusiasm for him has only grown through the years. I reread The Lord Of The Rings bi-annually and I can say that it has only grown with me. The Silmarillon does not do for me what the trilogy does, but surprisingly, Farmer Giles Of Ham and Smith Of Wooten Major contain the same magic. In fact, I consider the latter to be his best work.
3) Charles Williams
I agree with JRR Tolkien about Charles Williams. He is a witch-doctor, a shaman, and that is what I most appreciate about him. His thoroughgoing Nicean orthodoxy and his easy familiarity with the hermetic traditions encourage me that there may yet be, if not a reconciliation, at least a cross-pollination, of these two divergent pathways, which would open the door to a more vigorous and spiritually vital Christianity than that so prevalent in these dark times. One of my life’s goals is to blog a verse-by-verse commentary of his Arthurian poems.
4) Robert E. Howard
The creator of Conan the Barbarian is a much better writer than I expected. His prose crackles with a physicality and virility that more effete writers would do well to emulate.
5) Mario Vargas Llosa
Now that he’s won the Nobel Literature prize, I’m afraid Vargas LLosa will become a cottage industry in the same way that Garcia Marquez and Octavio Paz did. I’m glad I can read him in his original language, because Lituma en los Andes and Vida de Mayta gave me more goosebumps than anything I’ve read by Steven King or Clive Barker. Vargas LLosa’s Peru is a dizzying construct; as violent as Barsoom and even more alien.
6) Jorge Luis Borges
Even scarier than Vargas LLosa is this Argentine fabulist. He’s blind, but he’s also clairvoyant. Once you really grasp what he’s writing about, you’ll never pass a mirror again without shuddering.
7) Peter DeVries
DeVries is a hometown favorite; a Dutch Calvinist who grew up, as I did, in western Michigan. He mines the same lodes as John Updike, whom I also adore, but hits closer to home because the protagonists are Midwestern heartlanders rather than Updike’s constipated Yankees. He borders on the Rabelasian from time to time, but The Blood Of The Lamb remains the best piecce of religious fiction I have ever read.
8 ) Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Even though I haven’t read anything by him in years, Prince Mishkin, Stavrogin, Stepan Trofimovich, and Alyosha Karamazov will always be more real to me than many flesh-and-blood actual people. I chose him instead of Tolstoy because although I think Tolstoy is a better storyteller, I find Tolstoy a little too preachy and pretentious. Also, Dostoyevsky is a thoroughly Orthodox writer, and a good medicine for the illnesses of the West.
When I finally got around to reading The Iliad and The Odyssey in the Fitzgerald translations, I was gobsmacked by the richness of the storytelling and the depth of characterization. I can only imagine what it must have been like to hear the blind old master himself, perhaps around a campfire, reciting these lines from memory.
10) Neil Gaiman
For me, Gaiman is kind of the anti-Williams. He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of folklore and a familiarity with the hermetic tradition, but no Nicean orthodoxy (I believe his family is Jewish). Nevertheless, he shames everyone on this list, except maybe Dostoyevsky, Howard, and Homer, in his ability to spin a yarn. Mr. Gaiman has riven an artesian shaft deep into the collective subconscious, and his stories bubble forth like cold water.
11) Fritz Leiber
Fahfrd and the Grey Mouser are among the most vivid characters in all of fantastic fiction. I didn’t think there was anything I hadn’t read in this genre until in my forties I came across the brilliant story “The Snow Women” in a second-hand bookshop. I didn’t put the book down until I had finished the story. Since that story was the only one by Leiber in an otherwise lackluster collection, I didn’t purchase it, but it comforts me to know that the majority of this author’s work is still unread by me.
12) Madeleine L’Engel
Miss L’Engel is our own homegrown CS Lewis, but more autumnal and far less aggressive with her Christianity.
13) Shusako Endo
This Japanese Catholic writer knows all about being a stranger in a strange land. The Samurai, with its descriptions of Tokugawa shogunate Japan and colonial Mexico, is still one of my favorite books.
14) Zoe Oldenberg
Miss Oldenberg’s novels about the Albigensian crusades give a fascinating insight into immediate post-schism Europe when the Papacy was just beginning to extend its powers over the Western Church. They afford a glimpse into a West that could have been, but wasn’t.
15) Flannery O’Connor
Georgia’s own Euripides. Her short story “Parker’s Back” cured me of iconoclasm for once and for all. I think I’ve learned more about Christianity from Miss O’Connor than from all of the sermons I’ve ever heard.
So, there you have them. I almost added Jack Kerouac, Dante, and Ursula LeGuin, and you can be certain I will be checking out some of Lady Scheherezade’s suggestions as well.