Sunday, December 5, 2010

Writers (plus next morning editing)

It's late and I'm exhausted, so what am I doing writing about writers?  How would I know?  But a couple of FB and blogging friends tagged me for this one ~ 15 writers off the top of your head who've influenced you for life ~ and Joe at The City and The World has written his first post on the topic, which has got me procrastinating going to sleep (is that even possible?), and so, taking the opposite tack from Joe and confining myself to brief comments:

1. Mary Oliver: Introduced to me via my daughter's 11th grade English teacher, who gave those of us who stopped by on parents' night (seven years ago! ~ how is that girl not still in high school?) a mini class on "The Blue Iris."  Nature. God.  Grief.  Are there any other topics?

2. Emily Dickinson: Always my favorite.  I actually did an independent study one term in high school on Emily Dickinson's spirituality, although I'm sure my teacher and I called it something quite different.  Nature.  God. Grief.  Now that I think of it (next morning), we called it something like "Mysticism in the Poetry of ED."  It is fascinating to me (if not to anyone else) from this vantage point, that the 17-year-old me, an atheist product of  VERY religious Catholic and Protestant boarding school educations, would come up with a topic like that.

3. William Shakespeare: Macbeth is my favorite.  Or maybe King Lear.  Or maybe A Midsummer Night's Dream.  Or maybe Romeo in Love.  No, no ~ that's a movie.We'll stick with Lear in the storm.

4. T.S. Eliot: In my own 11th grade, after we had exhausted the curriculum for the year, our teacher asked whom we would like to study during the month of May, and one of my classmates, who had the most fabulous long red hair and seemed extremely intellectual and was from  Maine, all of which endeared her to me, suggested Eliot.  I had never even heard of him, but he is probably the poet whom I quote most often at random moments.

5. Harper Lee: TKM was my first adult novel.  I read it mostly with a flashlight under the covers in 5th grade, and then I re-read it many, many more times. It would be a long time before I would understand the racial element or alleged crime in question; for me (Scout) and my brothers (Jem and Dill), it was a coming-of-age story that closely mirrored our own.  Atticus reminded me a great deal of my own widowed father, our Mr. Radley was named Mr. Lampkey, and small town life in the midwest was not all that different from Maycomb, Alabama.

6. Fyodor Dostoyevsky: Moments in The Brothers Karamazov have a way of intruding into everyday life.  The Scriptural text for my son's funeral was Romans 8:38-39, but the real text was Alyosha on memory.

7.Jane Austen: Is there a novelist whose depiction of human nature is more humorously accurate?

8. Ignatius of Loyola: Like Joe, I first read the Autobiography and The Exercises in a class ~ sort of. Ignatian Spirituality was my third graduate class with that particular Jesuit professor, and within a couple of weeks he had agreed to help me make The Exercises, so for awhile I was doing the academic and the retreat simultaneously.  People often find that quite odd, but I intuitively created a Chinese wall between the classwork and the prayer and it worked out. I have been pretty much an Ignatius-fanatic ever since.

9. Louisa May Alcott: Because doesn't every strong-minded young girl get a push from Jo?  I read the entire series many times over.

10. Anne Bradstreet: First American poet, Puritan wife and mother, introduced to me in college.  I have loved introducing her to students of my own.  

11. Miroslav Volf: Took a course on hs work from Favorite Professor in my last quarter of seminary.  His work on memory and reconciliation has had a big influence on my efforts to address my own personal trials.

12. Stanley Hauerwas: Ditto for the recent introduction.  Lots to think about in terms of what the church is and does.  And how could I not love his journey from Texas to Notre Dame to Duke?

13. Dante Alighieri: I first heard of Dante back in that 11th grade English class, because of his influence on Eliot, and then I took a course on The Divine Comedy (in English translation) in college.  I don't think we ever made it out of the Inferno. That semester left a strong impression on me, and Dante has had a way of re-materializing at interesting points in my life.

14. Nicholas Wolterstorff:  He showed up in my basic ethics class in seminary, but for me he is the author of Lament for a Son, a book that I read and re-read in the latter months of 2008..

15. Anthony Bloom:  I've been reading his Beginning to Pray every six months or so.  I don't know how I happened on that little book, but I find that I need it like a drink of water every so often.

And now: It's quite a bit later and no one will make it through this post, but it was fun for me.  Probably more insomnia-producing, though.  For me.  It may put you right to sleep!


  1. I'm Bookgirl, so I made it through the post. I've only found Mary Oliver this year, but, wow! You have so many of the authors who have shaped me on here. I'm a Brit Lit scholar because I like the whole of it better (and I do the early stuff), but there are individual American authors like E.D. who illumine the world for me. And, of course, both sides of the Atlantic get to claim Eliot.

  2. Wendy, I almost included Chaucer and George Herbert.

  3. this makes me feel as though I have had a poor almost none of these writers have been introduced to me via school. I have read several of them on my own, but then missed the insight that comes from a learning environment. I first encountered Mary Oliver when my friend and mentor gave me a copy of The Journey following my internship with her and my ordination....

  4. Terri, that's how I feel when Michelle at Quantum Theology writes about chemistry or physics.

  5. Robin, Herbert is my favorite of the Metaphysicals and sometimes my favorite poet of all (sometimes that's E.D., sometimes Rilke, sometimes Eliot.)

    Terri, I feel that way about the Spiritual/Theological folks. I can read them, but I miss the insight that comes from the learning environment. Somehow, I don't think anyone would countenance my suddenly signing up for seminary classes right now...

  6. Hi Robin... link as requested