I often get asked to name literary influences and favorite authors, and I’ve never quite figured out how to answer either question. Everything I read, experience, or witness influences my writing in some way, so it’s difficult to say something neat and predictable, like “My writing owes a debt to X literary movement.” And naming favorite authors is equally difficult because so few writers publish consistently significant books over the years.
One author whose books I often include in my ‘favorites’ list is J.M. Coetzee. I admire the breadth of his work (novels, criticism, translation), and it’s something I aspire to myself. I love his use of language (I don’t know if it’s because he was trained as a linguist (as was I) that I am so sensitive to his choices.) I like that he never forgets that the story should always come first. Each book of his is a reason to celebrate, as far as I’m concerned.
Recently, the New York Review of Books published an excerpt from Coetzee’s new book, Diary of a Bad Year (which will be released in December 2007, according to Amazon). The excerpt is, quite simply, incredible. I can’t wait to get my hands on the novel.