Archive for the ‘influences’ category

Leonard Cohen: a world of influences

January 5, 2010

As a follow-up to our last blog post, and in light of the recent “music influences” additions to the Infloox site, I thought I’d look into the influences of Leonard Cohen.

Since starting out as a poet in Montreal in the 50s, Cohen has lead a tumultous yet very interesting life.  He lived through one of the strongest musical periods that we’ve ever known, so it is no wonder that he was influenced by and in turn has influenced so many people.  His earliest works were poetry and prose, and here he found inspiration in the works of W. B. Yeats, Lord Byron and Henry Miller, to name a few. While some may assume that only musicians influence musicians, and likewise for authors of fiction, we can see here that it is not so. These literary  influences stayed with Cohen even later on, showing a strong impact on the unique song lyrics that he has come to be so well known for.

During the 60s and 70s, when Cohen started to make his mark as a singer-songwriter, he found himself spending more time soaking up inspiration from the other musicians and icons around him. Andy Warhol’s Factory Crowd became a new hang-out, and Warhol wondered once that the German singer/model, Nico, likely had a resounding impact on the music Cohen later went on to write. At the same time, he also had strong roots in the traditional European folk music that his ancestors had grown up with.

Around the same time, another songwriter was making waves: one Robert Allen Zimmerman, better known now as Bob Dylan. Dylan and Cohen had met each other and identifying with each other as they both came from strong Jewish backgrounds, found that over time they both started to influence each others’ work. So much so, that Dylan later covered a number of Cohen’s songs as a tribute to him.

Fast-forward to today and we can see that this massive mix of influences has definitely served Cohen well. With several awards and Hall of Fame inductions under his belt, he has certainly done well for himself. Perhaps we can all learn from this that influences do not necessarily have to come from just one source or one genre. Too often as writers, we get trapped in browsing through only the genre we’re writing. Head over to Infloox and lose yourself for a while by finding out where some of your favourite authors culled their inspiration from!

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Charles Dickens, Christmas and the power of connectedness

December 23, 2009

I recently came across an article online that talked about our social networks and how incredibly influential the people around you are, even if you don’t realise it. Here at Infloox, this is exactly what we focus on,  bringing these connections to light. More so, we dissect the influence of books (and even music!) on people, since these works stay around long after the creator has passed on.

Since Christmas is right around the corner, let’s take a look at Charles Dickens and his beloved classic, A Christmas Carol. Originally published quickly in 1843 to cover the expenses of his wife’s fifth pregnancy, the book went on to become one of Dickens’ most well-known tales. So much so, that it is this work that made the common phrase “Merry Christmas” popular in modern culture, as well as the term “Scrooge” to mean a miser and the catchphrase, “Bah Humbug!”. One historian even claimed that, “the current state of the observance of Christmas is largely the result of a mid-Victorian revival of the holiday spearheaded by A Christmas Carol.”

But where did Dickens himself derive the inspiration and influences to come up with such a unique story? As with many authors, a large part of it can be attributed to the books and stories Dickens read as a child. Even something as far removed as Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and Robinson Crusoe made its way in, as he brought in that influence in the beginning of his story. We learn that in Victorian times, pantomimes were extremely popular, and Dickens refers directly to this in his Christmas story.

For aspiring writers, take a good look at the books on your bookshelf, because chances are those very ones will somehow work their way into your own writing. Perhaps it might be subconscious, or other times deliberate, but as we can see, it isn’t only our social networks that guide and shape the way we develop, but also works of literature, no matter how old or new.

Crichton’s “Pirate Latitudes” set sights on silverscreen

December 1, 2009

Some time after Michael Crichton passed away from cancer late last year at 66 years, he left behind an unfinished manuscript that was discovered amongst his files by an assistant. Just when the literary world thought they’d seen the last of Crichton, readers are now thrilled to land their hands on a brand new novel by him. An additional author was hired to complete the work, and it has recently been published as “Pirate Latitudes”.

Perhaps even more interesting for mainstream audiences is that Steven Spielberg is now on board to create a film based on the story. According to Spielberg, “Michael and I have had almost two decades of solid collaborations. Whenever I made a film from a Michael Crichton book or screenplay, I knew I was in good hands. Michael felt the same, and we like to think he still does.”

It is not hard to imagine the tremendous influence that Crichton has had on people during his lifetime, but what of his own influences? A dig through the archives reveals that a lot of his favourite literary works are rooted in the classics, and of course a healthy dose of science fiction. He long admired authors like Mark Twain and Arthur Conan Doyle for their writing styles and techniques, often citing them at the top of his list of favourites. Alfred Hitchcock was also often favoured by him – no surprise since Crichton’s work has consistently displayed a strong cinematic quality.

While Crichton was an English Literature student at Harvard, he did not fare very well. So much so, that one day he tried an experiment. He submitted an essay written by none other than the renowned George Orwell. The professor returned the paper with a paltry B-minus – one step up from Crichton’s C average. Following this incident, Crichton mused, “I thought, if George Orwell only deserves a B-minus, this was vastly too difficult a field for me. I aspired to be Orwell, and he was just scraping by at Harvard.”

Are you a fan of Michael Crichton’s work? How has he influenced you or your writing?

Stephen King’s “Under the Dome” the next bestseller

November 13, 2009

You might ask yourself, “How far would Stephen King’s fans go to read his latest book before the publication date?” Well, his UK publisher asked themselves the same thing. Then they broke down his latest tome into 5000 pieces and seeded it across various fansites, inviting readers to a game of literary hide and seek. Some people took it to extreme lengths, even hiding snippets of the manuscript by hanging it from bridges and scribbling it on public walls, to hiding it in code online. It is predicted that while Under the Dome is no Lost Symbol, it will certainly hit the bestseller lists, and fast!

King is a self-described voracious reader, and his influences span a number of genres and literary periods. Perhaps the most obvious is H.P. Lovecraft, who is even referred to blatantly in some of King’s works. From Bram Stoker, to William Golding and Tolkien, and the list goes on, there is no doubt that King is one to creatively use inspiration to create highly memorable stories. More notably, it is nice to see a writer of his stature keeping up to date with modern literature, even straying into realms outside of his expertise. While discussing the Harry Potter series, King said “The miracle of the Harry Potter series is that it keeps getting better. The genius of Ms. Rowling was her decision (probably never even seriously considered at the time) to follow Harry through his schooling. As a result, Harry’s fans have never left him behind. The question is whether Ms. Rowling will be bound to him for life, as Arthur Conan Doyle was bound to Sherlock Holmes.”

Have you read Under the Dome yet, or are you planning to purchase it soon? A note to the tech-savvy: the digital e-book retails at $35 and will be available on Dec 24th.

Watch this video to hear Stephen King talk about Under the Dome:

Maurice Sendak’s Literary Influences: Wild Things!

October 20, 2009

Maurice Sendak, now in his seventies, has long been a classic favourite figure in the world of children’s literature and illustration. His fame skyrocketed following the release of his book, Where the Wild Things Are.

Sendak was born to Polish Jewish immigrant parents in Brooklyn, New York. At a very young age, he was captivated by the animation in Disney’s Fantasia, and it was exactly that movie that inspired Sendak to become an illustrator. Over the years, he also expanded his line of work to include authoring numerous books, producing an animated TV series, and designed lavish sets for several operas and ballets, including the award-winning production of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker.

A voracious reader, Sendak cites a vast number of influences in his work, ranging from painters to musicians and authors. Possibly the earliest and most lasting influence was none other than his father, Philip Sendak, who used to spin fantastic tales about the ill fates met by relatives in the old country. Beyond that, he used to even embellish stories from the Bible, into racy versions that were quite inappropriate for children. More than once, Sendak was sent home for innocently retelling these stories at school.

As he grew up, Sendak discovered other sources of inspiration. He calls Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, “a genius”, while Emily Dickinson also ranks high up on his list for her passionate writing. Mozart also provides a great sense of calm, as Sendak explains, “I know that if there’s a purpose for life, it was for me to hear Mozart.”

Most recently, Where the Wild Things Are has been produced as a full-length feature film, capturing scores of young new fans across the world. The special effects and 3D animation stay quite true to his original illustrations, and it will appeal even to older fans.

Read more about Maurice Sendak’s influences on his Infloox page here, and watch an interview with him below:

This year’s publishing sensation – fairytales do happen

October 15, 2009

Although Audrey Niffenegger had originally published her first novel in 2003, she has found a whole new wave of fans this year following a movie adaptation of The Time Traveler’s Wife.

Originally an artist and a professor, Niffenegger had an idea to create a graphic novel that portrayed the tale of a simple man with a genetic disorder that causes him to time-travel, and his wife who has to deal with his frequent and sometimes dangerous disappearances. While thinking about it, Niffeneger realised that it was tough to convey time travel through images, and decided to write it as a novel instead. The inital release was relatively small, but once the book was mentioned and endorsed by a fellow author and family friend on The Today Show, Niffenegger’s name soared on the bestseller lists. It wasn’t long before the film production company owned by Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston picked up the rights to adapt the novel for the big screen.

So where does an artist derives enough literary influence from in order to create such a massively bestselling first novel? It seems that the answer is actually quite varied. Amongst her favourites, Niffenegger names Tolkien, Poe and Anne Rice as a few that she constantly returns to over the years. Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series is a delight for her “essentially atheist nature,” while authors like Richard Powers and Dorothy L. Sayers were crucial in influencing The Time Traveler’s Wife. More recently, Niffenegger has been working on a second novel, titled Her Fearful Symmetry. Set in the Victorian era, Niffenegger is grateful to the author Henry James, a key figure in 19th century literature.  Read more about Niffenegger’s writing style and influences on Infloox.

Inside the mind of Herta Muller, 2009 Nobel Prize winner

October 8, 2009

The 2009 Nobel Prize for Literature has been announced and the winner is… Herta Müller!

Wait, who? It’s a question that most readers across the English-speaking world have been asking today, accompanied by much head-scratching. The facts are that Müller is a 56-year-old Romanian-born German author, whose award-winning writing focuses on the hardships in living under the harsh dictatorship of Romanian leader, Nicolae Ceauşescu. If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard of her, keep in mind that while most of her numerous works have been published in German, only a mere five have ever been translated to English.

Müller spent over 30 years living in Romania. During her university years, she studied Romanian and German literature, and was a member of Aktionsgruppe Banat, a literary society that fought for freedom of speech. While German is her first language, Muller has also publicly stated that she finds Romanian to be a lot more poetic and poignant, and has derived much influence from its folklore and folk music.

In her working years, Müller had several scary run-ins with the Securitate, the secret police group of Communist Romania – she was threatened, slandered, captured, interrogated, critised by Romanian press and eventually banned from publishing in her own country. Later, she made the move to Germany with her husband, Richard Wagner (also a writer), where she was allowed to publish without fearing censorship. Of her novels, she describes them as “autofiction”, meaning that while the facts are based on her real life and real experiences, the stories are crafted as fiction.

Today, October 8 2009, it was officially announced that Herta Müller has won this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature, making her the 12th woman in 108 years to win this prize. The Swedish Academy commended her for her bravery and passion in relating the hardships suffered by an entire nation, saying that “with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose,  [she] depicts the landscape of the dispossessed”. The awarded prize is a whopping $1.4 million.

Learn more about Muller and her influences at Infloox.