The deeper an influence is, the more it defies description — the roots go places you can’t easily see. Even a simple roster of influences is bound to be incomplete. Memory is imperfect and no readable list can be long enough to encompass what the world has contributed. But here goes anyway.
When I finished the last paragraph of Moby Dick (it was New Year’s Day; I was twenty), I thought — the closest I’ve ever come to a true epiphany — I want to write something as beautiful as this. That was a long time ago. Turns out that Moby Dick is a hard standard to live up to. I know some people are irritated by Moby Dick and never get through it. To each his own. Without hyperbole, I can say that it changed my life.
Whenever I begin to slouch creatively, Leaves of Grass is the book for correcting my posture. I’ve had many desks through the years, and the same picture of Walt Whitman has ensconced itself on every one (a very Whitman thing to do). I also have a postcard that Whitman wrote to a friend. My Dad “obtained” without ever explaining how (a very my dad thing to do).
Novels that influenced Beheld despite the inexplicable absence of mythologized whales (listed alphabetically by author, with asterisks for the strongest influences): Behind the Scenes at the Museum* (Atkinson); Seize The Day (Bellow); The Awakening (Chopin); Heart of Darkness (Conrad);Moll Flanders* (Dafoe); Absalom, Absalom!, The Sound and the Fury, Light in August, and As I Lay Dying (Faulkner); The French Lieutenant’s Woman* (Fowles);The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald); One Hundred Years of Solitude* and Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Garcia-Marquez); Come Closer(Gran); In Our Time and A Farewell to Arms (Hemingway); Their Eyes Were Watching God (Hurston);The Haunting of Hill House (Jackson); A Perfect Spy (Le Carre); The Road (McCarthy); Song of Solomon and Beloved (Morrison); A Bend in the River (Naipaul); The Good Wife* and A Prayer for the Dying (O’Nan); The Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck); Dracula (Stoker); Winter’s Bone* and Tomato Red (Woodrell).
An egregiously partial list of non-novelists whose work influenced Beheld: Sam Beam, The Beatles, John Dominic Crossan, Devotchka, Emily Dickinson, Nick Drake, TS Elliot, Brian Eno, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Explosions in the Sky, Robert Frost, Jenn Ghetto and Mat Brooke, Henryk Górecki, Philip Gourevitch, Polly Jean Harvey, Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donnely, Adam Hochschild, Harriet Jacobs, George B. Johnson, Damien Jurado, Kabir, Charlie Kauffman and Michel Gondry, Philip Kaufman, Ben Kiernan, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Stan Lee, Sergio Leone, Richard Linklater, David Lynch, Terrence Malick, Jack Miles, Hayao Miyazaki, Mogwai, My Morning Jacket, James Nachtwey, The National, Amanda Palmer, Anita Pratap, Gérard Prunier, Rilo Kiley, Sigur Rós, David Simon, Surdas, Andrei Tarkovsky, Eric Weitz, Joss Whedon, Yndi Halda.