21 October 2016
Thousands of readers write in every week asking for directions both literally and metaphorically, how to get where they're going or un-get where they done got to now, but not one has ever written in asking me about my influences. I find this personally offensive but will let it slide, I'm not particularly litigious and anyway I don't need to make up some stupid fake letters from readers just to talk about what I want to talk about, to wit: Who were the writers and thinkers who shaped my marvelous and really quite unique sensibilities?
For many years I steadfastly refused to read the writing of my contemporaries, mainly out of some vague fear of falling under their influence. But when I reflect on my formative years – growing up in Petaluma during the soi disant Age of Frobosity, sent to school at sea by a vindictive step-aunt, cast ashore at Harper's Ferry and called into the service of my country where I would rise to the rank of Adjutant Poobah and be awarded the Hercules of Honor Medal – there are a few men and women whose books sustained me, who provided me with the nourishment of hope and and the sweetened condensed mother's milk of inspiration, blah blah blah enough already, here goes nothing.
Sir William Penrose wrote poems, histories and biographies, political tracts, more than one but less than seven (inclusive) novels and any number of short stories, as well as what in his day were considered scientific monographs (but which today we might call 'blogposts'). His How to Write About Writing an Essay and Other Essays has been translated into eleven languages, albeit in most cases by schoolchildren or mental incompetents. His influence continues to make its influence felt in high school English readers in financially strapped counties of the heartland and condensed short stories in Scholastic, as well as on the dusty shelves of long-abandoned libraries. When I was maybe ten we spent a summer at a friend's cabin on some lake and there were only like twelve books in the house and four of them were The Complete Sir William Penrose Volumes 1 to 3, and 6 I think. I had never read anything like those books, and I never have again, but in some strange way they have stayed with me all these years. Sir William Penrose not only taught me how to write, and how to kill time, he taught me perhaps the most important lesson a writer can learn, namely that people will read just about anything if there is nothing else better at hand.
Vinnie Kookaburra-Slacktower is the author of an estimated 1500 paperback novels, a handful of which are notable bestsellers that someone in your immediate family has read or probably at least heard of (such as Death at Queenstocking, Ambergris at Dawn, The Vultures and the Titmice, Vodka Libre, etc.). Reading Kookaburra-Slacktower at his finest is like taking a kick in the ribs from Preston Sturges and then being run over by a Cadillac driven by Shakespeare. The final words of Saddam Hussein just before his execution were a quote from one of Kookaburra-Slacktower's lesser-known novels, The Scarlet Hustle: "Viva l’arrivederci! Let the sparks fall where they may!"
Richard Grimes Honglebury wrote nothing but poems, poetry, poesy, and poetical dialectics. This is in fact because he was created to serve as a name only for poems composed by your trusted narrator and his character has never been assigned responsibility for anything published here that isn't for whatever reason broken up into pretentious little lines. His works have almost appeared in An Anthology of American Literary Poetry for Poets and Writer-types, and Best of the Bauhaus Poets: Poetry from Back Behind the Bauhaus. His name has been handwritten into the blank pages at the back of such poetry anthologies as, Brown Butter Sorbee: An Anthology of Poetry Ostensibly in the English Language from Way Back When to the Present, and Wee Willie Winkie: The Poetry and Poems of Jack Kerouac Imitators.
Rosie Collingsworth writes a bi-annual column in Variety for Kids, and is the author of almost as many celebrity biographies as there are celebrities. Perhaps best-known among these is the rollicking, blistering tell-all tearjerker Jack Lord: Life in the 50th State of Being. She currently writes for Wikipedia and other top-tier websites such as Bigglebanger dot com dot net backslash creampuff dot html. She is the author of over seven hundred and fifty of those Buzzfeed quizzes that help to settle the nagging question of which character from a particular television program or work of fiction you most resemble. Like almost every living American, she has had an essay or two published on The Huffington Post. Known for her trademark flambacious style and unrestrained sense of enfants du plus, Rosie relentlessly drags her readers up mountains of hearsay before whimsically tossing them into the crevasse of moral turpitude. What can I say? She makes me cackle.
The Quest for the Extant Sextant by Richard Grimes Honglebury
What's Papular With Rosie Collingsworth
Sunday Conversation: Alice Phillips