Of my five favorite teachers, four were my literature teachers. I remember each of their names and faces, well. I remember their passion. The youngest of them is partially retired now, but is among my Facebook friends. The three others, already vintage when I was in high school, are no doubt in grilling Hawthorne, Hemingway and Conrad as I write this.
Years later, I wish that then, when I had access to them, I’d had my current maturity and capacity for understanding. So much of the required reading went unread, and now, I plan to fix that.
“Writers read,” as my friend says. It’s true, studying the masters is the best way to learn your art, no matter what form it takes. Each writer has a list of their favorite influences. I wonder what that rarefied list will look like for me? Such a list should surely include Shakespeare, for Lady Macbeth, Proust, for his madeleines, Orwell, for his Victory coffee, or Flaubert, for Madame Bovary’s lovely shoes. And contemporaries, as well, which to my delight, my literary friends are suggesting faster than I can read them. Perhaps it will be one master for each literary device.
Whatever it looks like, it will be my list. It might even include books I hate, but understand are literary genius, nonetheless. Each writer has a list as individual as the route time takes across his or her face.
While, like Bukowski, I am very late to the literary party, I’m quickly becoming intimately familiar with the guests. I’ll try to spend every possible moment immersed in private conversation with each one, and maybe someday, I’ll hit a vein of genius and feel like even if for just a moment, I was, in fact, a writer.