First and foremost I’m influenced by the Beats, primarily Kerouac. His raw and sometimes nonsensical ramblings about the holistic beauty of things speak to me, and there are times I catch myself trying to emulate the essence of his spontaneous prose. Often when I sit down to write, the words hit the page and I end the night with a few pages of text that need more grammatical editing and formatting than content editing. I attribute this to Kerouac’s influence. “Something that you feel will find its own form.”
As a side note to that, I don’t think that Kerouac was a very good writer. He wrote a lot and opened a lot of doors, but his command of the text wasn’t particularly spectacular. His voice and style are what draw me in, not his supposed talent. Also he didn’t usually have a “standard” story structure, which I both love and hate.
This isn’t to say I only read the Beats. I’ve probably read more Faulkner than anything else, and I’d say that Haruki Murakami and Maxine Hong-Kingston are just a notch below Kerouac for me. Sherman Alexie, Gerald Vizenor, Cervantes, Charles Frazier, Joseph Conrad, Mark Twain – I’m not sure that there’s actually a better novel than The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn out there. I didn’t much like the Hemingway I’ve read, but I do appreciate the denseness of his language. The poetry of Wallace Stevens also profoundly affected me in my early college years, and I continue to branch-out and read stuff like fantasy novels, folk tales, non-fiction, etc.
I could probably go on and on about literary influences, but I’m gonna end it here.