Wednesday, September 23, 2009

T.C. Boyle - Thanks for giving me permission

by Sophie Littlefield

Which author, book, and/or movie influenced your work the most?

When I stumbled on an early short story collection by T. Coraghessan Boyle in the 1980s - not even sure which it was, though a quick search gets me thinking it might have been Descent of Man - I was riveted. I was in my first year or two of college, home for the summer, broke, bored, and trolling for something new at the local library. I was shocked that you could write in such an unvarnished way about human appetites and still get published.
There was also an element of emotional violence in Boyle's work that struck a resounding chord in me, one which, it turns out, later formed the basis for most of my own work. Also, some of the stories were also just so wonderfully, unapologetically, fantastically weird. I had certainly never heard of magical realism and, if I had, would have assumed it wasn't allowed in Missouri.

I wondered which of the librarians had test-driven the book - I was under the impression there was some round-table vetting process - and hoped I would not meet her eye by accident, because surely she would know: reading the book, I was convinced, had marked me forever.

In those days I felt deeply ashamed that I was so viscerally attracted to raw writing. A decade later, books like Mona Simpson's Anywhere But Here made me see that you could reveal the drama at the core of human relationships without necessarily having to introduce sex and violence into the story. Though damn if those don't make handy story elements.

** PS this post was lifted from one I wrote for my friend Patrick Shawn Bagley when he asked authors to discuss their "pivotal books." It fit so well I couldn't resist using it. Sorry to be un-fresh, but I can't be a genius every damn day. **


Jen Forbus said...

It's new to me Sophie, so thank you! I think I've experienced some of those same feelings. They didn't result in me writing, but definitely changed who I was and my outlook on life.

Unknown said...

I'll take honest over never-been-seen-before anyday!!!

Thank you for mentioning these authors!

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Great post, Sophie! Maybe you think you can't be a genius every day, but it looks like you're doing well from over here.

CJ Lyons said...

Sophie, I can so understand you being attracted to the raw and visceral--and I'll call you a genius any day!
PS: thanks for letting me know what the "C" in TC stands for, lol!

Pop Culture Nerd said...

"I can't be a genius every damn day."

This from someone who's simultaneously writing 17 series and posting at 58 different blogs while being SFA-RWA president.

Sophie Littlefield said...

Hee hee, I just got back from the *drudgery* portion of my day (that would be grocery, cleaning, cooking) and was glad to see some of my pals popped in here before I got get the little monsters from school. :)

I was thinking of having another kid just so I could name him/her "Coraghessan" or "Coraghessa" but dang, I got busy and 14 years seem to have gone by.

And hey Nerd, I'll be seeing you real soon, and I wouldn't be talkin', practicioner of eleventy different vocations and avocations!!

Pop Culture Nerd said...

Yay! Next weekend, right? We be Hos in WeHo! (Local slang for West Hollywood.)

Having 900 jobs is worth it since we can bond over medical vibrators. (Am I going to be banned from this site?)

Shane Gericke said...

Dear PC Nerd:

Hos? Medical vibrators?

You're not only not banished, you're encouraged :-)

The Seven

Sophie Littlefield said...

Oh Shane (et al) - just wait until you meet PCN! She is wonderful. :) And she ain't lyin' either. We really did bond over medical vibrators...but that's a story for the archives.

Pop Culture Nerd said...

Shane, you might regret encouraging me but...too late!

Sophie, if I wake up half as cool as you, then that would be a great day.