These aren’t necessarily my favorite authors (although several are) or the authors I read the most (although several are), but they’re authors who have had a profound impact on my life.
The Author I Have to Defend
Christopher Moore. Moore is an author many refuse to take seriously, which I get, to some extent. There’s no denying that he wrote the line “Blessed are the dumbfucks” in a book about Jesus. Yet, at the same time, he’s a soulful writer with an alarming humanity: “There’s a fine edge to new grief, it severs nerves, disconnects reality–there’s mercy in a sharp blade. Only with time, as the edge wears, does the real ache begin.” Don’t let titles like “Island of the Sequined Love Nun” or “Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove” scare you away. He’s been compared to Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams, for crying out loud. There are writers who make you laugh, and there are writers who make you think. Moore is one of the rare few who does both.
The Author Who Matured Me as a Reader
John Milton. In my first year at Saint Mary’s University I took a fantastic Literary Traditions course from the wonderful, inspiring David Heckerl. (It’s amazing what a good professor can do for you.) In our first semester we tackled Paradise Lost and it, quite literally, changed my life. I was set to be a kinesiology student when I enrolled at St. Mary’s, but at the last moment I switched my major to English (to the confusion of many). I never once regretted that decision, in large part to Paradise Lost. Once I read Milton there was no turning back. Most professors will tell you who to read. Heckerl, through Milton, taught me how to read.
The Author Whose Characters I Relate to
Edith Wharton. If you subscribe to the multiverse theory in which there are an infinite number of universes, each one slightly different from the last, then this one–the one that we’re all living in currently–might be the only one in which I’m not an actual Nick Hornby character. However, I’m going to have to go with Edith Wharton for this one, solely for Ethan Frome. Ethan’s emotional journey in this novel so eerily mirrors my own experience as I was nearing the end of my twenties, that I can’t bring myself to read it a second time. It was absolutely devastating, but in a beautiful way. The ultimate tale of unrequited, unachievable love. (Spoiler: my tale ended up being requited, achievable love, so yay!)
The Author Who Inspires Me
Richard Rohr. I like to think of myself as a spiritual secularist. I’ve been an atheist for as long as I can remember, but I grew up in a very Catholic home. I’ve always had (at least) an academic curiosity about religion, but as I entered my thirties I really tried to stop being so closed off and open myself up to new ideologies. Enter Richard Rohr, the most inspiring Friar alive today. His approach to Christianity is incredibly enlightened. He brings in the teachings of all different faiths, because he recognizes that they’re all just different paths up the same mountain. He’s written many wonderful books, but if you’d like a starting point, go with Falling Upward. He also releases his sermons in podcast form (in his 70s!).
The Author Who Hooked Me on Canadian Literature
Paul Quarrington. Ironically, I went to school for publishing without ever being a fan of Canadian publishing. At 24 I thought Canadiana was boring, stale, and too rooted in the survival/wilderness ethos. But that year I tried to read as many longlisters for the Giller Prize as I could, and this is where I discovered the gem that was Paul Quarrington. The Ravine is hilarious and heartbreaking, devastating and hopeful. The novel consists of the main character’s calls in to a crisis hotline, TV scripts, diatribes about the Twilight Zone, and a story about a childhood trauma coming to light. The Ravine, in many ways, is about how we tell stories. Quarrington showed me what Canadian literature could be–or what it didn’t have to be–and I’ve never looked back.
Thanks to Candy Palmater, who wrote about 5 authors who changed her life in a post last year.