S.G. Browne

10 Books That Have Affected Me

There’s a meme on Facebook to list 10 books that have affected or stayed with you. You’re not supposed to dwell on your answer but just list the first 10 books that come to mind that have meant something to you for one reason or another. Perhaps they inspired you. Or terrified you. Or resonated with you in some manner that is personal.

I may have done this list previously. I’m sure it varies depending on my mood, or if I’ve read anything recently that became embedded in my DNA, so here is my current list of 10 Books That Have Affected Me (in no particular order):

*      *      *

1) Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk

2) Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

3) Lord of the Flies by William Golding

4) St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell

5) Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

6) The Stand by Stephen King

7) Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

8) The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

9) Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

10) American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

*      *      *

That’s my list. Feel free to share yours.

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L is for Lord, Lamb, and Lullaby

After struggling to find books for the last two letters of the alphabet, I have a glut of novels I’ve read for the letter L, including The Lord of the Rings (Tolkien), Less Than Zero (Ellis), The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Lewis), The Lost World (Crichton), The Lottery (Jackson), and The Little Sleep (Tremblay).

While the first two selections were never in doubt, I found myself having to make a tough call for the final spot. In the end, what it came down to was what I would pick up right now to read again, so I ended up leaving Lolita (Nabokov) and Life of Pi (Martel) on the outside looking in.

Lord of the FliesNumero Uno:
Lord of the Flies, William Golding
If I had to name one book to take with me on a desert island, it would be, ironically, this one. The allegorical themes of human nature and loss of innocence aside, the story, characters, and writing are unforgettable. SPOILER ALERT: If by some bizarre reason you haven’t read this book, I’m going to ruin it for you right now, so you might want to stop reading. I can still see the pig’s head on a stick surrounded by flies, Piggy getting killed by the boulder, and Simon’s body floating out to sea – which is one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever read. My favorite book of all time. I’ve got the conch!

Second in command:
Lullaby, Chuck Palahniuk
Had I not read this novel in October of 2002 while on a plane to Paris, I don’t know if I would have ever written Breathers. While I’d written short stories that were dark comedy, I’d never considered turning one of them into a full-length novel prior to reading Lullaby, which spoke to me in a way I’d never been spoken to before. Smart, dark, and at times laugh-out-loud funny, this is my favorite Palahniuk novel and one of the most influential books I’ve ever read.

Last but not least:
Lamb, Christopher Moore
If Lullaby is my favorite Palahniuk novel, this is my favorite by Moore. Subtitled as The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, it recounts the lost years of Jesus through the eyes of “Levi bar Alphaeus who is called Biff.” I found myself laughing, enthralled, educated, appalled, and thoroughly entertained all at the same time. You’ll never look at Christianity the same way again.

Book that made me eat more vegetables:
Lost Souls, Poppy Z. Brite
In 2000, while training for a sprint triathlon, I cut back on my consumption of meat because eating it weighed me down and seemed counterproductive to my training. After the triathlon, while reading Lost Souls, which contains scenes of vampires drinking wine bottles of blood, I cut into a medium rare steak, took one bite, and realized I had no desire to eat meat any more. (Though, to be honest, I will eat a double chili cheese burger from Tommy’s when I’m in Los Angeles. And bacon smells good.)

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Filed under: Movies and Books — Tags: , , — S.G. Browne @ 5:43 am

L is for Lullaby

Back in the spring of 2002, I was working on the re-writes of my second and third novels for submission to a couple of small press publishers in the horror community.  Each of the publishers had expressed enthusiastic interest for my novels and it looked like, after more than a decade of writing with the hopes of become a published novelist, I was finally going to realize my dreams.

But then a funny thing happened.  I started to hate what I was writing.

Both novels were of the supernatural horror variety, influenced by a steady diet of King, Straub, Koontz, and McCammon that I’d fed on as a teenager and young adult.  And although I was proud of both novels, the more time I spent re-writing them, the more I realized that I was growing to hate them.

What had once been fun had now become tedious, painful work.

So after struggling with the rewrites for several months, I told the two small presses that I wouldn’t be submitting the manuscripts and I kissed my opportunity to become a published novelist goodbye.

Then I stopped writing.

For the next year and a half I played a lot of golf and spent more time reading and playing with my dog.  I wrote a best man’s speech based on Hamlet (“To wed or not to wed, that is the question…”) and a 40th birthday poem for my wife based on The Raven (“Once upon a birthday dreary…”), but that was about it.

Sometime in the middle of all of this, I read Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk.

Although I’d seen Fight Club (one of my favorite all time films), I’d never read the novel or any of Palahniuk’s other books.  But for some reason, this novel resonated with me on a level I hadn’t previously experienced.  And when I was done, I had an “a-ha” moment.

While my three novels and four dozen short stories had all predominantly been influenced by my love of horror, I’d written a few short stories that were dark comedy with a supernatural edge to them.  But I’d never thought about writing anything other than straight horror novels.

Lullaby changed all that.

After finishing Lullaby, I began to think about turning a short story of mine into a full-length novel.  The story, “A Zombie’s Lament,” dealt with a group of zombies who attend Undead Anonymous meetings and yearn for civil rights.  About a year later, I wrote the opening scene for Breathers.

(Next entry:  M is for Maggots)

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Filed under: Breathers,The Writing Life — Tags: , , — S.G. Browne @ 1:14 pm