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  • From the depraved mind of Gloria Brame
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    Writers Who've Shaped My Life and Work

    Throughout my childhood and well into early adulthood, I turned to books to learn about life, love, sex, and the way the world worked. Here is a short list of key writers of literary prose whose ideas have traveled with me throughout my life, and the specific books which have awed me.

    I'll begin with the four biggest influences on my literary imagination:
    James Joyce

    Gustave Flaubert

    Ayn Rand

    Marguerite Yourcenar

    James Joyce

    People sometimes talk about the writers they wish they could've known. Since I have read so many biographies of writers, I know enough to know that it's infinitely better never to meet your literary idols and thus to preserve the images they project in their writing. James Joyce is the one exception: I would give anything to be able to travel through time and spend an evening with him, perhaps during that time when he lived in Ostende, working as a poor translator, and struggling with his magnum opus, "Ulysses." Joyce is at once maddeningly abstruse, cerebral, referential and complex; and earthy, vulgar, unpredictable, hilariously funny and profoundly emotional. He is, to my tastes, the one true genius of 20th century letters--a kind of divine monster whose impact forever changed the course of English literature.

    - The Dubliners (if you are new to Joyce, start with these amazing stories)
    - Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man
    - Ulyssess

    Biographical/Critical Books

    - Annotated Ulysses (the bible of Joyce scholars)
    - The Letters of Ezra Pound to James Joyce

    Gustave Flaubert

    Second only to Joyce in my literary life, the remarkable works of Flaubert have delighted and influenced me since my undergraduate years. Reading Flaubert in adulthood has revealed levels of emotion and insight in his writing that I could not even begin to grasp in my 20s. I regularly re-read some of his stories and novels, knowing that each time I do I will find something new. I've read "A Simple Heart" a hundred times, and "Madame Bovary" makes its way to the stack of books next to my bed every year. My enthusiasm has rubbed off on Will too--he also now reads the Thee Tales every year. Flaubert is a quiet pleasure, a subtle addiction, and also a writer whose sadomasochistic sensibility shines through even his most virginal tales.

    - Dictionary of Accepted Ideas (hilarious!)
    - Three Tales
    - Madame Bovary
    - Sentimental Education
    - Salammbo

    Biographical Books

    - Flaubert-Sand: The Correspondence of Gustave Flaubert and George Sand
    - Rage and Fire: A Life of Louise Colet

    Ayn Rand

    I am not an Objectivist, but Ms. Rand makes this list because, as a young girl, I simply couldn't get enough of her and am quite sure that, for better or worse, her social philosophies deeply affected me. Perhaps what affected me most of all is that she was a woman writer who wrote with absolute authority. As you might guess, that alone made her an important literary mentor to me in childhood. To honor the gift she gave me in those early years, I'm listing four Rand texts that kept me glued together in girlhood, and made me believe that a woman writer could be uncompromising in work and in life.

    - Anthem
    - Atlas Shrugged
    - The Fountainhead
    - We the Living

    Marguerite Yourcenar

    Yourcenar is to my adult life what Rand was to my youth: a woman writer I could admire without reservation. I don't so much wish I could have met her as I wish I could be her. Brilliant, solitary, sober, stunningly elegant, and intellectually imposing, her works are breathtaking feats of literary genius.

    - The Dark Brain of Piranesi
    (a slim volume of essays which changed my life: out of print but Used copies are available)
    - Dreams and Destinies
    - Memoirs of Hadrian


    - Inventing A Life

    Finally, in alphabetical order, writers who have profoundly influenced my life, my work, my moral, political, and philosophical outlooks, and even my sexuality. There will be a lot of usual suspects but I hope also a few surprises for you.

    James Baldwin

    Henry Miller

    Louis-Ferdinand Celine

    Vladimir Nabokov
    Anton Checkhov V.S. Naipaul
    Joseph Conrad Anais Nin
    Guy de Maupassant Flannery O'Connor
    Joan Didion George Orwell
    Dostoyevski Thomas Pynchon
    Henry Fielding Philip Roth
    Nikolai Gogol Marquis de Sade
    Thomas Hardy Bruno Schultz
    Nathaniel Hawthorne Jonathan Swift
    Hermann Hesse Tolstoy
    Franz Kafka H.G.Wells
    Primo Levi Nathaniel West
    Thomas Mann Oscar Wilde

    James Baldwin
    -Collected Essays (recommended!)
    -The Fire Next Time
    -Giovanni's Room
    -Go Tell It on the Mountain
    -Notes of a Native Son

    Louis-Ferdinand Celine
    -Death on the Installment Plan
    -Journey to the End of the Night (a seminal book for me)

    Anton Chekhov
    -Short Stories
    -Five Plays
    -Plays (Norton Critical Edition)

    Joseph Conrad
    -Heart of Darkness
    -Heart of Darkness (Norton Critical Edition)

    Guy de Maupassant
    -Bel Ami
    -Best Short Stories: Dual Language Edition
    -The Necklace and Other Short Stories

    Joan Didion
    -Slouching Towards Bethlehem
    -The White Album

    -Notes from Underground (another life-changing work for me)
    -Crime and Punishment

    Henry Fielding
    -Joseph Andrews and Shamela
    -Tom Jones

    Nikolai Gogol
    -The Collected Tales (I've reread these wonderful stories dozens of times)
    -Dead Souls

    Thomas Hardy
    -Jude the Obscure

    Nathaniel Hawthorne
    -Selected Tales and Sketches
    -Tanglewood Tales

    Hermann Hesse

    Franz Kafka
    -The Metamorphosis
    -The Complete Stories
    -The Diaries
    -The Trial

    Primo Levi
    -If Not Now, When?
    -The Reawakening
    -The Periodic Table
    -Survival in Auschwitz: The Nazi Assault on Humanity

    Thomas Mann
    -Death in Venice and Other Tales
    -The Magic Mountain

    Henry Miller
    -Sexus (Rosy Crucifixion, Book I)
    -Plexus (Rosy Crucifixion, Book II)
    -Nexus (Rosy Crucifixion, Book III)
    -Tropic of Cancer
    -Tropic of Capricorn

    Vladimir Nabokov
    -The Annotated Lolita
    -The Stories

    V.S. Naipaul
    -A Bend in the River
    -A House for Mr. Biswas
    -The Mimic Men

    Anais Nin
    -Delta of Venus

    Flannery O'Connor
    -The Complete Stories
    -Collected Works

    George Orwell
    -A Collection of Essays
    -Coming Up for Air

    Thomas Pynchon

    Philip Roth
    -My Life As A Man
    -Portnoy's Complaint
    -Zuckerman Unbound

    Marquis de Sade
    -Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom and Other Writings

    Bruno Schultz
    -Street of Crocodiles
    -Sanitorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass

    Jonathan Swift
    -A Modest Proposal and Other Satirical Works
    -Gulliver's Travels

    -Short Fiction (Norton Critical Edition)

    H.G. Wells
    -The Invisible Man
    -The Time Machine
    -The War of the Worlds

    Nathaniel West
    -Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust
    -Novels and Other Writings

    Oscar Wilde
    -The Complete Works
    -De Profundis
    -The Happy Prince and Other Stories (not for children only!)
    -Importance of Being Earnest
    -The Picture of Dorian Gray (the story of my life?)
    -Oscar Wilde's Wit and Wisdom: A Book of Quotations

    Copyright ©Gloria Brame 2001

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