I know this isn't a romance, but when I heard last week that Salinger had died, I went to my bookshelf and pulled out one of my thirty some copies of this book (I'm a collector-- I have any number of editions of this book, in English and other languages, including a very beaten up, but very rare first edition that I just set on the shelf and look at).
Anyway, as I was reading it for what is probably the hundredth time, I was struck again by Salinger's incredibly evocative prose. "It was that kind of a crazy afternoon, terrifically cold, and no sun out or anything, and you felt like you were disappearing every time you crossed a road." There's something about this line that always gives me shivers down my back, that makes me realize that Salinger really understood life and the human condition in a way that few people ever do.
When you're a writer, your writing style comes from a lot of different places-- it comes from inside of you, where certain combinations of words just feel right. It comes from your professors, who help mold the way you think and express yourself. And perhaps, most importantly, it comes from the work of those writers you admire. For me, Salinger is one of those writers who helped me become the writer that I am. My love of the anti-hero comes directly from him-- directly from Holden Caulfield-- as does my interest in the gritty reality of a scene. Salinger never disguised his character's flaws, never hid them behind a bed of purple prose. Instead he celebrated them in a way few people can ever understand-- in a way few people can ever do with their own flaws. One of the many things that made Salinger so great is that he really understood that flaws should be celebrated. That they are what makes characters-- and people memorable-- much more than virtues ever will. That's just one of the many lessons I've taken to heart from Salinger through the years, but it is an important one and one that I remember every time I sit down at my keyboard.
So, how about you? Is there any one author or one book that has helped shape how you view the world and yourself?