“Theodore Weesner’s 1987 novel The True Detective is a book I go back to again and again. The story of a child abduction, seen through the eyes of those closest to the case, it’s got the velocity and compulsion of a thriller and the depth and compassion of a great literary novel. Weesner’s brilliant at moving from one character’s point of view to another’s while keeping the action moving. It’s been out of print for years now, and every time I see a copy of it in a used bookstore, I buy it to give to someone else.”
In this online exclusive we ask authors to share books, art, music, writing prompts, films—anything and everything—that has inspired them in their writing. We see this as a place for writers to turn to for ideas that will help feed their creative process.
“When I’m at my most creative, I call it being ‘sticky,’ and almost anything at all can help enrich the work. I’ve found a really simple, effective source of inspiration is to just go outside. I’ll settle into a big, old Adirondack chair in the backyard and try to enter my senses as fully as I can as I work. Writers spend their lives holed up at desks, so the ‘surprise’ of nature can be intensely vivid. Sometimes the details of sky, trees, stone will work their way into my narratives, sometimes they don’t, but the process always helps to move my writing forward.”
“Whenever I feel that I've lost sight of a story I’m working on, I return to one book in particular: Stuart Dybek’s The Coast of Chicago. I can open this book to almost any page, read a few paragraphs, and be reminded of why I wanted to start writing short stories in the first place. There’s such simple elegance in the storytelling, such honesty and clarity on every page. I’m sure that all writers have a book like this, a book they return to with such frequency that half the pages have fallen out. The Coast of Chicago is mine.”
"One of my enthusiasms of the moment is David Shield's great and overlooked book Enough About You: Notes Toward the New Autobiography, just reissued by Soft Skull Press. Shield's insights about the complex back-and-forth of fiction and fact in literature and our larger culture are remarkable. This new edition is introduced by documentary filmmaker Ross McElwee, so I went back and watched his hilarious and amazing film Bright Leaves. Also, I was surprised recently while rereading Langston Hughes's Best of Simple to see how much my new
“Richard Siken’s Crush illuminates the intersection of passion and violence with perfect clarity. Poems like ‘Little Beast,’ ‘A Primer for the Small Weird Loves,’ and ‘You Are Jeff’ capture the chatty, campy voices of real people in real time without ever losing the sweep and musicality of great literature. I've worn my copy into a loose portfolio of coffee-stained pages, obsessed with the simplicity and bravado of lines like, ‘Tell me about the dream where we pull the bodies out of the lake / and dress them in warm clothes again.’”